Charade (Chapter 2: Goodbyes)

Chapter 2: Good-byes

Their food was running out.

Derek saw the meager supplies they had. He saw how his mother tried to play down their lack of food, or that tonight they were only sharing a can of beans.

“Is this all the food we have left?” Kyle asked, his eyes asking much more than that.

Their mother tried to pull off an airy laugh. “No, of course not, dear. We’re just conserving our food. Making it last as long as we can. Just in case. There’s more – upstairs.”

Derek caught the lie. He put his head down and tried not to think about how close they were to the end. Tried not to think of how little it would take for them to die down here, trapped out of fear and uncertainty; how much they needed Kyle to survive.

Kyle didn’t believe his parents, this even Derek could see. Kyle was too sharp. He saw the tension, the fear. He noticed how his parents were never calm, how they never really slept.

“Okay,” he said, and their mother immediately relaxed a fraction. As long as he believed.

Although Kyle believed their lies, they couldn’t hide the fact that they needed to venture upstairs again. It was dangerous. There was the possibility of radiation, or, as their parents had recently discovered from peering cautiously out the windows, the machines.

So, they prepared to go upstairs, once more. Maybe they could find more food, or find out what was happening. That is, if they were brave enough to venture outside.

Derek watched his mother and father try to prepare themselves. Derek’s father stared at the floor in front of him, still a broken man. He watched his mother pace and wring her hands. Finally, they braced themselves enough and prepared to ascend the wooden staircase.

On a whim, as their father disappeared from sight, their mother turned and knelt in front of Kyle. “Kyle,” she said, her voice quivering, ever so slightly. “I love you. You know that, right?” she asked. “And you, too, Derek.” She glanced at her eldest son for a moment, before turning back to Kyle.

Derek nodded. “Love you, Mom.”

Kyle nodded, too. “I love you, too, Mom,” he said. He didn’t say what Derek knew they both desperately wanted to burst out – Why are you telling me this? Why are you saying good-byes?

Without another word, their mother stood and went after their father, gently closing the basement door behind her.

Kyle watched the doorknob turn as the door clicked shut with a final click. Then he turned and practically ran to Derek, seeking assurance that that was not the last time he would see his parents’ faces. He slumped down next to his brother, against the wall, clearly scared, his lips trembling and tears in his eyes.

Derek wanted to tell his brother not to be scared; everything would be all right. He heard the front door open and close, as their parents walked out, beginning their search for food and information.

“Kyle–” he started to say to reassure his little brother that everything would be okay – when he heard gunshots, and a telltale, desperate scream.

Go to: Chapter 1 or Chapter 3

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