I remove my socks and rub my feet along the floor. The blue carpet is smooth under my tiny feet. It is soft and thick because it is brand new. The men who installed it left hours ago. The walls are newly painted, so white they are almost blue. The walls and the new lighting create a brightness that is almost too much for my eyes.
There has been a closet built beneath the stairs to house my forgotten toys and games, but at this moment it is my sanctuary. I sit in the closet, my feet tucked beneath my body. There is no fear of spiders or mice as one would normally fear in a basement. This basement is too new. My mother is upstairs cooking spaghetti. I can smell the onions and the garlic. They ignite my senses and make me crave the dinner that is just moments from being ready. I can hear the news blasting from our tiny kitchen television set. It is never good news, but still my dad watches, faithfully.
I have brought a book into my secret hideaway, but with the door closed it is too dark to read. The Secret Garden will have to wait. I have found my own secret world. I can hear my parents begin to argue, about what I don’t know. It could be anything; the dinner, the bills, the house, or maybe work. It’s never the children. We don’t cause the fights, but we endure them all. Their voices grow louder, harsher and more uneven. It is easier to block it out in my tiny hiding place. I don’t have to watch his face grow red with anger. I don’t see him shake his fists or slam his hands down on the table. I can’t see her pleading with him to stop this behavior. I am safe under the stairs, it’s like I’m not even there.
I hear my sister’s voice now. She yells with a passion that can only come from someone who is still new to this, who sees anger as an emotion that hasn’t fully been explored. Her voice is high-pitched and breaking. She fights the way she has watched actresses fight in movies, dramatic and overblown. He ignores her and my mother rushes to calm her down. She knows that this isn’t right, that children shouldn’t be a part of this destruction. He is blind to what he has caused and aware only of how things effect his life.
My spot under the stairs is warm and dry. Light seeps in through the slats on the door and comforts me. It isn’t dark enough to make me afraid, it is just light enough to protect me. I am in a spot where no one can find me. I am alone but can still hear the voices of my family. They are fighting and I can be distant from it all. I can wait until the fighting subsides and I can return to daily life, to dinner and conversations about school. But for now I am happy in the nook I have created for myself. I have to remember to bring blankets and pillows down from my bed later in the night. I will create a tiny hidden room all for myself.
The ticking of the water heater and the rumble of the washing machine startle me. The dryer buzzes and I suddenly can’t hear my parents fighting or my sister’s high-pitched voice. I feel more alone and slightly frightened. I gather up my discarded socks and my book. It is time to leave.