Wednesday Briefs (Darkest Before Dawn #9)

It’s that time again! Wednesday briefs is a group of authors who write a piece of free flash fiction (between 500-1,000) words based off of either a visual or text prompt. I’ve linked the other authors, so if you could please go check out their stories and show them some support. The prompt I’ve used this week is: <strong>I got the short end of the stick.</strong>

This week I am continuing with Darkest Before Dawn. Rose is a twenty-two year old woman who has taken custody of her younger brother Ben. The duo are fleeing cross-country, with something terrible and shadowy on their heels. They’ve come to rest in a farmhouse that’s been in their family for years–seemingly abandoned. Rose will do anything to protect her secret, and the secret that her little brother is unknowingly harboring.

Bright sunlight streamed in through the open window, and the sound of birds and barking woke her from her sleep. Rose winced, unfolding herself from the ball that she worked herself into sometime during the night. She sat up stretching, joints aching, popping, her back screaming from spending the night on the hard wooden floor. Curious, she rose to her knees, despite her body’s protests and peered out the window, eyes level with the windowsill. The man was gone.

“I had bad dreams last night.” Ben’s voice startled her. Her brother stood in the doorway, sleep rumpled, clutching a blanket.

Bright sunlight streamed in through the open window, and the sound of birds and barking woke her from her sleep. Rose winced, unfolding herself from the ball that she worked herself into sometime during the night. She sat up stretching, joints aching, popping, her back screaming from spending the night on the hard wooden floor. Curious, she rose to her knees, despite her body’s protests and peered out the window, eyes level with the windowsill. The man was gone.

“I had bad dreams last night.” Ben’s voice startled her. Her brother stood in the doorway, sleep rumpled, clutching a blanket.

“They’re just dreams, they can’t hurt you.” Rose said. He entered her room and sat on the floor next to her.

“I wasn’t sure if I was awake or asleep.” He said. She adjusted the blanket and covered him up. “It was really confusing.”

“I’ve had dreams like that.” She ran her fingers through his hair, in an effort to get it to lay flat. “Want to know a trick that works for me?”

“What’s that?” He tried to pull the blanket up over his head, and pressed closer to her side.

“I get up, get showered and eat breakfast and then I start doing work.”

“I knew you were going to say that.” He muttered. “I always get the short end of the stick”

“I have a list of things that I need you to do.” Rose got to her feet, hiding her smile as Ben just slide to the ground on his side, looking up at her over the hem of the blanket. “Breakfast in twenty minutes.” She grabbed a fresh t-shirt from her backpack.

“Hey Rosie?”

“Yeah?” She paused in the doorway.

“I don’t think he’s bad.”

“Who?” She glanced over her shoulder. Ben had gotten up, the blanket draped over his shoulder like a cape. “Do you mean Darren? I know that, he just likes to poke at me.”

“No, I mean the old man. He was outside last night.”

Rose paused, the blood in her veins turning to ice. Ben’s room overlooked the back of the property. There wasn’t any way that he could have seen the man. The upstairs creaked and groaned, every footstep made audible simply due to the age of the house. “What do you mean Benji?” She fought to keep her voice even.

“The one who was watching for you. He said that he wouldn’t let anyone get to us.”

She turned to face her younger brother properly, her mouth dry, palms sweating. “You spoke to him?”

“Not really.” Ben said with a shrug. “He was in my dream. We were talking outside. He had a thermos of coffee and told me not to drink any, it would only stunt my growth. I saw you looking out the window, and told him you were worried.”

Rose stared, reading her brother’s face, trying to find any indication that he was lying. He had stretched the truth now and then when they were at home, but for the most part, he still clung to that basic honesty that kids had before they learned how to lie. “You were in bed all night, I would have heard you get up.”

“He’s Darren’s daddy.” Ben looked up at her.

“It was just a dream.” Rose struggled to keep her face blank. “Just a very vivid dream. Go take your shower. I’ll make pancakes alright?” Her tone was firm, making sure that Ben got that this was the last of the conversation.

She walked down the stairs, her heart in her throat, mind going a million miles a minute. Her limbs felt like lead, even the simple task of putting one foot in front of the other was arduous. She tried to think of ways that would make sense–make sense as to how Ben, who was asleep talked to the man who was apparently keeping guard. He had seen her watching the old man, but she hadn’t seen anything. He would have physically been outside if he had sleepwalked, and he hadn’t had any predisposition to that. Rose jumped when the pipes clattered to life, hearing the water start for the shower.

“It doesn’t make sense.” She muttered.

“You really should lock your door.” A masculine voice responded.

She shrieked, whirling and lashing out automatically, her fist connecting solidly with someone’s face. She felt skin and bone give under the force of her punch, the other person being forced back a few steps. She brought her hand back, shaking it, a little concerned that she didn’t have any feeling in her fingers. “Jesus Christ.”

“Darren will do just fine, thanks.” His voice was thick, nasal. She looked up to see him pressing a hand against his nose, blood dripping between his fingers.

“Damnit.” She forced out between clenched teeth. She stomped to the sink, wet a washcloth and took it back to him. Her hand circled his wrist, jerked his hand away from his nose, pressing the warm, wet cloth to his face. He hissed in pain, so she stepped on his foot. “The hell are you doing in here?”

“Your kitchen door was unlocked.” He muttered, trying to dislodge her hand and tend to his nose.

“Is it broken?”

“Don’t think so.”

“Pity.” She snapped. “What was your old man doing on my front fence?”

“What are you talking about?” Darren said.

She had seen it though. The flash of realization, and the guilt that for some reason they had been caught doing something. “Who the hell are you?”

“I told you who I am.” He said with a harsh exhalation. “You never asked who my old man was.”

“You said he was a farmer!” Her voice rose, and she stepped into his space. He sat heavily on a chair.

“Not now.” Darren said tersely.

“Now.” Rose said.

“I can’t.” He said. “Believe me, I want to tell you. I don’t know all the answers to your questions.”

—-

To be continued:

Read the other flashers here: Wednesday Briefs

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