“Crying won’t help you, just shut your damn face,” she screamed down the stairs without bothering to round the corner and check on the children.
This was not an unusual occurrence; in fact, the children had already spent their combined eleven years of existence avoiding their own trouble without the assistance of the mother who didn’t care whether or not they survived.
Christina’s spindly little legs quivered as she pushed the chair against the side of the counter with all her might. She was determined not to let her little brother Charlie fall. He was only concerned with whether or not he was going to be able to reach the Cream of Wheat, and determining whether or not the three of them would eat today.
Carlotta was almost two; she was the one hungrily crying the corner of the kitchen. Neither of the big kids had been able to reach any food yesterday, and their current father figure had yet to return from his latest ‘business trip.’
“Come down for a minute, Charlie,” Christina called. “I’m going to see if I can stack that phone book on top so you can reach it. Hold on, Carlotta, it’s gonna be okay, I promise. Here, Charlie, use my hand.” Christina was quite the director of schemes for only having just turned five last month.
Charlie stepped atop the phone book that Christina had discovered the night before, and his fingertips brushed the corner of the orange box. “I can almost get it, Chrissy. Almost…got it!” His voice overflowed with delight and pride. Christina caught the box when it slipped from his tiny grasp, and she sighed with relief that it hadn’t hit the floor and burst.
Charlie jumped down and danced over to Carlotta, who he swung up into the air with all the strength he had. “See, we told you it would be okay, baby girl.”
Christina was already filling their bowls with water and Cream of Wheat, prefatory to putting them in the microwave. She was still too young and inexperienced to wonder why the food would be locked away or placed too high for tiny hands to reach when the microwave and oven were perfectly reachable.
The creak of a footstep on the stairs, and all three faces dropped, their eyes widening in fear.
It was their mother.
“Well, isn’t this delightful?” She asked, rhetorically. “Who said you could have my cereal, you little shits?” She bent at the waist, leaning forward to sneer in their faces. “Because I sure didn’t. And your daddy’s still out with his whores.” She straightened back up and crossed her arms, angular elbows framing pointed breasts.
Carlotta took the moment of silence and began her wail anew. Christina’s eyes grew even wider, a nearly impossible feat, and she quickly reached over to cover her sister’s mouth.
It wasn’t soon enough, and their mother took affront as never before, swiping the box off the counter and tearing open the microwave.
“So you want to eat this? You want to eat, you screaming little bastards?” She swept the bowls from the microwave, smashing them against the cabinet door behind the children. The only saving grace was that Christina didn’t have the chance to start the microwave, so the bowls and their contents were still lukewarm .
Carlotta stopped crying, and Christina thanked the powers that be for that, at least.