Her small feet made smacking noises as they ran across the hardwood floor. The house was dark, and the t-shirt she wore as a night dress whispered around her ankles. Her thumb was planted firmly between her teeth and she bore down, bit into the skin. The voices were loud and floated through the shadowy dining room to meet her. She stopped running and listened, working her thumb furiously in her mouth.
“Goddamn it, Darlene,” Daddy’s voice called out, followed by a metallic crash. Her eyes stretched wide and she stood like a statue, not even daring to blink, as her father’s footsteps pounded around the nearby kitchen. The floor vibrated under her bare feet and the dishes that were laid out on the dining room table jangled. Her tiny chest rose and fell violently under the fabric of her t-shirt and she sucked her thumb with furious focus.
“Is it that fucking hard to remember? I need these shirts pressed every Sunday.”
“I know, Clyde,” her mother gasped. Her voice was strange, strangled almost. “Please…” she said softly.
There was another loud crash and the stomping of feet made the dishes jingle again. The little girl knelt down on the floor in the shade of the dining room table, staring at the gaping, yellow rectangle through which the voices and a dim light came. She at once felt the urge to walk through the doorway and to run away. A long moment of silence was broken by the back door slamming shut. The little girl hugged her arms around herself as she heard her mother crying in the next room. She didn’t move for a long time, until the light in the rectangle went dark and she heard her mother’s footsteps moving slowly down the stairs. A few minutes later, the washing machine rumbled to life under her knees.