*Artwork by Elisa Peterson
This time, their argument began in the kitchen.
I sat next to my sister as my parents stood over us yelling and cursing across the blue Parson’s table. We all knew the kitchen was no place for yelling; The front door to our apartment was just steps away. Everyone heard everything on the fourth floor. I cringed knowing that our neighbors, Harriet and Mort, were home. I had heard their television on and now they were listening to the six o’clock news and my parents fighting.
My sister pushed past my dad and darted to her room. A door slammed. I stayed at the table staring at our dinner. My mom cooked all our meals on Sundays and as the pots cooled on the stove I’d sneak tastes from each one until she stacked them into the fridge. Every night after work she’d reheat a pot for us, saving the best meal for Friday. Now, the best meal of the week, mom’s chicken and rice, was on the table getting cold.
Still wearing her wool work clothes, her eyes black and angry, my mom yelled back at my dad. I slipped under the table and ran down the corridor to find my sister. I slid to a stop, ready to knock on her door. She was 12, two years older than me and I obeyed her knocking rule, but her door was wide open and she was not there. I looked under her bed and checked the bathroom. Then I crept towards her closet door and cracked it open.
“Get out,” she said.
I squeezed inside and pulled the door tight.
“Get out,” she said again.
I inched against the cardboard pile of games and puzzles. My arm was a hair from hers and I breathed her warm exhales. I listened to my parents move through the apartment, yelling in each room. Something glass crashed and then the front door slammed shut.
I stood in the dark quiet. My mom’s heels clapped on the wooden floors and she called out our names. The storm had passed and she was search and rescue. We waited a while for her to find us. When she opened the closet door, she took a deep breath. “I’m sorry girls,” she said. I leaned in for her kiss.
“You still sleeping at Rose’s?” she asked me. She eyed my face, wiping it with her sleeve. “Maybe you should cancel.”
“I’ll go,” I said.
At our front door, I stretched on my tip-toes to spy out the peephole. Seeing the hallway was clear, I beelined past Harriet and Mort’s and fled down the stairwell with my sleeping bag. My friend Rose lived in an apartment across the street.
It was fine, her parents were already divorced.