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For Us, It Is

by wakingDown 11/21/12

The sun rose. Another long night behind him. Darrel was awake well before the sunrise, but had lain quiet until the first beams of light crawled across his window sill. It had been a quiet night, thankfully, but Darrel still hadn't gotten much sleep. He dressed quickly, then went to the bedroom next to his and peeked in. Lizzie was dressed, sitting on the edge of her bed, just as he knew she would be. She stood as soon as he checked on her and followed him out to the hall.

"'Kay, morning chores and then I'll fix us some food." He whispered, leading her out to the backyard as he did every morning. They set about their morning chores as always, without needing to be told what to do.

Liz fed chickens, fed goats, and pumped water into troughs. Darrel ran the main pump at the well, making sure there was water in the lines for Liz to pump and for the house. He was just a bit young to be doing this, but there was nothing for it. He stretched up as high as he could open the pump and heaved down with all his weight to prime it, doing this over and over for nearly twenty minutes to make sure all the water lines had been primed. After the last pump, he kicked the valve lever over to hold and walked over to the small tractor on the other side of the barn. Today was Tuesday, so today he had to drag two bales of hay and a bag of feed over to the pens. He started lugging over the first bale over to the sled hooked to the tractor as Liz came in and started pushing on the tractors primer button. She finished and went to help Darrel drag the second bale over.

"I got it," he protested, as always.

"I know," she answered, as always, and helped him anyways.

Together they wrestled a large bag of chicken feed onto the bales. Liz sat on the bales, her hands resting on the bag of feed as Darrel climbed into the seat and started turning the key and pumping the gas. After a while the engine gave up and grudgingly rumbled to life. A short drive back across the yard and they began hauling the feed bag up to the hopper outside the chicken coop and soon had it wrestled into position. Darrel ran his buck knife across the seam of the bag and as it began spilling into the bin, they went back to the tractor and hauled the hay over to the goat pen, and started spreading the hay around in the bedding shed.

When the hay was spread, the feed bag put in its bin with the rest of the empties, they rode the tractor back to the barn and Darrel carefully backed it into its place, following Lizzie's guidance. When it was parked, he shut it down and pulled the large barn doors closed and dropped the plank into the hooks, keeping it from swinging open again. As soon as it was placed, he turned and Lizzie hugged him tight for a moment, before turning and walking out the normal sized side door. Darrel followed and locked the side door behind him.

The hug after the bar doors were sealed was something she had started doing a few weeks ago, and Darrel didn't think much of it. He figured she just needed something like that as a reassurance, since Dad was getting worse. He didn't mind, a good hug every couple of days made him feel a bit better, too. They walked back to the house, holding hands.

Darrel went about frying up the eggs and bacon while Lizzie washed up and set the table. She had coffee brewing and was pouring water in all the glasses as Mom came in, looking haggard and worn out. Lizzie poured Mom's coffee and added sugar. She began pouring Dad's into his large Thermos when he clumped into the kitchen.

"Good morning, sir." The three of them chorused.

Dad grumbled something unintelligible in return.

The table was quiet except for cooking and eating. Dad was served first, and he shoveled his food into his mouth quickly. He was done and leaving the table before Lizzie had dished up Mom. Dad could be heard in the front yard, working on the truck and cursing under his breath. Mom soon set about the housework, after telling the children to try to stay out of sight.

"Your father took a bottle of booze out to the truck with him, so stay quiet and out of sight." She instructed before getting to work.

"Come on, Liz." Darrel said quietly, leading her out the back door.

They started across the yard; Darrel headed towards the trail intro the woods. Soon Liz took his hand. She was happy to be out of the house. During school, they were out of the house a lot and it was better, but summer had just started and they had to find ways to keep out of Dad's way unless they wanted a beating. The woods were a good place to hide, but it still made her a bit nervous. She was 18, old enough that the woods shouldn't scare her, but her and Darrel had gotten lost when she was ten, and she had been terrified that whole night, hunkered next to her brother, cold, hiding at the base of a fallen tree until daybreak. She still got goose bumps every time they stepped out of the grass of the yard and down the trail at the tree line. She looked up at Darrel, barely a year older, taller than her. He had Dad's dark, thick hair, but everything else was clearly Mom. He was a quiet boy; he had learned early that speaking out against Dad was not wise. The scar along his jaw was fading, but would still be clearly visible for a few more years. It went from his chin across his right cheek, where it forked, one split up the side of his nose, the other across his temple into his hair. The rough stitch work was still clear as rows of uneven dots and swirls along the edges of the scar.

Liz didn't even see the scar anymore unless she was looking at it specifically; it was just another part of his face to her. Darrel, however, didn't think it was just another part. He saw it as an ugly, stark, twisted chunk of his face. He felt ugly because of it. He figured others wouldn't want to look at him, if they didn't have to. He didn't blame them; he couldn't even stand to see it. He shaved as little as he could so he wouldn't have to look in the mirror. He always got ragged on at school about it, and he didn't fight back or argue, even though he knew he could whip the shit out of those that made fun of him. He figured if it was someone else, he might be one of the ones making fun.

They walked down the trail, Darrel taking lefts and rights though the network of trails with barely a thought. Since getting lost, he had forced his brain to commit the trail layout to memory so that he would not have to make his sister suffer through another night of cold and fear. He was heading to the stream, about three miles from the backyard. The stream was called Forkfinder's Run, but Darrel just thought of it as Forkers. He knew Liz liked to watch the small minnows and frogs and whatnot going about their business in the water.

"Why does Dad have a family if he doesn't want one?" Liz asked quietly as they walked.

"I don't know. I think we were accidents. I don't know why he hates Mom. Maybe he blames her for us coming along." He answered. They had had this conversation many times before, but he always went over it again, as it seemed to help Liz.

"Why doesn't he just leave? If I could leave something that I didn't like, I would."

"I don't know. Maybe he will someday. I don't see why he wouldn't." Darrel answered as he always dad.

"I wish he would." She almost whispered.

"Me too, Liz. Me too." He answered, not whispering. He hated his father passionately, and made no excuses for it. Liz was a little less vehement, actually a little ashamed to say that she didn't like him.

"Is it wrong to hate Dad?" She asked quietly. "I feel like it's supposed to be, but it's the way I feel." She asked quietly, with a little hesitation.

"I think it's supposed to be wrong. I think you're supposed to love your parents. But I also think that they are supposed to love you back. So I think for, us, it might not be wrong. Whether it's right or wrong, I hate him. I don't care what others may think about it. He hates us, he hurts us, he hurts Mom, so I hate him. If it's wrong, well, then I guess it's wrong. I'm not gonna let that stop me though." Darrel answered as they slid down the small embankment to the water's edge. Darrel sat on the log where he always sat, leaning against the spray of roots at the bottom of the trunk.

"So it might be okay for us, even if it's normally wrong?" Liz asked, sitting next him.

"Yeah, I think so. I think so." He said, watching the water. The frogs and minnows were neat and all, but he liked to watch the surface of the water. How it moved over the two large rocks that barely stuck out of the water, always splashing up in the same spot, but always in a different way, each moment different and the same, just in two different ways of looking at it. It soothed him.

"Okay Darrel. I hope you're right. "She answered, watching as three small minnows darted around in the small pool on the edge of the water, close to where her feet sat. She could watch them for hours as they went about their little lives, seemingly unaware of the creatures above them looking down. She liked to think that they maybe did know she was watching, and were dancing around in a small ballet just for her.

They sat in silence for a while, just watching the stream, letting their minds wander empty. Lizzie took Darrel's hand again and leaned against him, resting her head on his shoulder. She liked to feel him, whether holding hands, or against his arm, like this, or a quick hug in the barn. She simply liked the contact. He liked it as well, feeling like he was keeping her happy and safe. All he wanted was to protect her and make her smile.

After a while her breathing slowed and became regular. She had fallen asleep against his arm. He smiled a bit, and kept watching the water. Soon, she wriggled a bit and pressed into him a little more snugly. He worked his arm from under her, slowly, and easily, so as not to disturb her, and put it around her shoulders, his hand resting on her right arm. She snuggled in a little more and stilled again. Darrel thought he could sit like this forever, just holding her.

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