December 21, 2009
Today was Kaliyah's eleventh birthday, and she was ecstatic!
"Come on, Mom," she groaned, pulling on her mother's arm as she dragged the older woman into the kitchen.
Her mother, Barbara "Barb" Lionheart, chuckled at her daughter's enthusiasm.
As the fourth of eight children, Kaliyah Harmony Lionheart knew that birthdays were special days. They were days that her mother paid attention to her and only her.
It didn't look like she was going to waste a single second of her special day on her mother's quiet exhaustion.
In fact, it took a keen eye to notice how Barbara's normally bright and lively blue eyes had dimmed,
and that her white hair that she had had since childhood seemed to have streaks of gray and silver mixed in with the soft pearly white that the children had come to know represented safety
Barb sat down at the counter with Kaliyah. "All right. What do you want to make for breakfast today?"
"Pancakes!" Kaliyah answered immediately.
Barb chuckled. "Of course. Do you want my help this morning?"
Kaliyah thought about it for a moment. "No. I think I'm good. Besides, doesn't Frisk need you?"
That was Kaliyah for you.
Arguably the kindest of Barb's children, she HAD noticed the exhaustion of her mother and didn't want to burden her single parent with something she could do all by herself.
It just wasn't her way.
She and Charity had taken over the home duties after their father had died two years ago so that their mother could work as a nurse in the local hospital to pay for the family's needs.
Barb sighed. "You're right. I'll... I'll go do that. But this was supposed to be a day for me and you, 'Liyah. I don't--"
"Up, bup, bup! You go spend time with your kids on your day off. I'll make breakfast. I'll be fine, Mom. Go." Kaliyah smiled, hiding her disappointment.
She had been looking forward to this day with her mother but knew in her heart that it would never happen. There were too many children in the house for that.
Barbara teared up. "Oh, thank you, my little angel.
What did I do to deserve you?" She kissed her daughter's forehead, then walked into the living room where the other seven children were playing together.
Ben and Jasmine were playing cowboys, the six-year-old chasing his sister around the room with finger guns, saying PEW PEW while the tween pretended to faint periodically.
Barbara grabbed her youngest son in her arms and asked, "Where's your twin, Benjamin?"
"Aliza's in her room drawing. Look! I'm a cowboy! Pew pew!"
"Oh no!" Jasmine cried. "You got me! Bleh!" She pretended to die on the floor, which made Ben giggle.
Fourteen-year-old Percius rolled his eyes at his younger siblings and went back to his book, muttering about their childish antics.
Barbara could hear her nine-year-old dancer Iridessa through the ceiling and chuckled. She was probably singing at the top of her lungs too.
Making sure not to get run over by Benjamin, Barbara went to sit by Charity, her eldest and the only child with the white hair of their mother, who had one-year-old Frisk in her arms.
She looked up.
"Hello, Mother. How are you this fine morning?" Charity asked tiredly. She had just stopped a fight between Frisk and Ben for what felt like the millionth time.
Those two never could seem to get along.
Barbara sat down next to her eldest daughter. She sighed. "I've been better. How are you?"
"Hello, Exhausted. I'm Tired."
Charity laughed. "Thanks. I needed that."
Barb watched the smile spread across her eldest daughter's face then fade as she surveyed the children.
Suddenly, Charity spoke. "They miss you. Every day they ask when you will come home, and I never know what to tell them.
Every moment you aren't home I have this petrifying fear that you won't come home, that you'll end up like Dad, on the...
" She stopped, unable to keep speaking without the risk of bursting into tears.
Two years before, Leo Lionheart was killed in a car crash after another driver pushed his car off the road and down a forested hill.
The authorities never found a body, just a mangled, bloodstained car.
Barbara placed an arm around Charity. "Well, I promise to let you know if I plan on crashing the car into any trees, all right?" Barb joked.
Charity smiled weakly, then it faded. She looked down at the sleeping Frisk in her arms and sighed. "They're just so young. Frisk won't even remember her father.
I don't think the twins understand exactly what's going on, but they can guess, the older three are dealing with it in their own ways, and Kaliyah...
Kaliyah has more responsibility than an eleven-year-old should. She takes care of the twins and Frisk most of the time, while I take the older ones.
We've been working together to make sure that everyone is happy. She's..."
"Absolutely amazing," Barbara finished for her.
"Yeah. She is."
"Breakfast is ready!" Kaliyah called from the kitchen.
"FOOOOOOOOOD!!!" Ben cried as he and the other kids stampeded into the dining room for Kaliyah's amazing cooking.
Even Aliza and Iridessa came rushing down the stairs at the mention of Kaliyah's food.
Barb laughed as she watched the other kids surround Kaliyah as she held the food above her head.
"Charity!" Kaliyah yelled over the chaos.
Charity shook her head with a slight smile on her face. "Coming, Kaliyah." She took the food from Kaliyah and placed it on the table and started breakfast, saving Kaliyah from getting trampled.
"Thanks. I swear, I can't keep up with them," Kaliyah said gratefully as she sat down at the table and accepted a plate of food.
"Any time, sis," Charity smiled and sat down next to her. "Now, let's eat!"
Barbara took a seat and took a waffle from her daughter. She was about to start eating when the doorbell rang.
"Now who could that be? I don't remember inviting anyone over today," Barb mused.
"I'll get it!" Ben exclaimed as he ran out of the room.
The others heard the door open and Ben speaking to whoever was at the door. "Hello! Who are you?"
"I'm... a friend. Is your whole family home?" answered a soft female voice from the door.
Barbara tensed as she heard the voice. "No..." she muttered. "It can't be... not here... not now..."
"Yep! We're having breakfast!" Ben replied.
"Good. May I... come in?"
"I... think so. Can't see why not!"
Barbara stood up from the table. "Stay here," she told the children. Then she left the room.
"Ah. Barbara," said the voice as Barb stepped into the entry hall. "It's been a while, hasn't it." It wasn't a question.
"Why are you here?" Barbara's voice was cold, barbed, even.
"Am I not allowed to visit an old friend and her family?" the voice asked in mock dismay.
"No. Now leave."
"On the contrary, I think I'll stay awhile. You have a nice place, Barbara, but it isn't really you, is it? Let's make it a little homier."
"Ben, run." Barb's voice was frantic.
"But Mom, what's going--"
"I said run, Ben!" Barbara roared.
He ran. Oh, he ran! He rushed right back into the dining room and under the table.
Frisk looked under the table. "Who was it, Benji?"
"I... I-I don't know. She wore a black cloak over a black dress and I didn't see her face. She's... some sort of monster or something!"
Charity stood up. "Kids, it's time to go upstairs."
Nobody questioned her when they heard the fighting in the living room. When they peeked in, Barbara was holding a double-edged battle-ax while wearing some sort of spiny armor.
The other woman, Calypso, had her hands ablaze as she was chanting spell after spell and aiming them at Barbara.
The kids quietly sneaked past them and up the stairs to Barb's room.
"Chara?" Frisk asked.
"Yes, Frisk?" Charity responded.
"Why is the mean girl hurting Mommy?"
"I... I don't know, and right now, I don't really want to find out."
Suddenly, screams echoed through the house.
"Mom!" six kids exclaimed. Everyone except Charity and Kaliyah rushed back downstairs.
"Wait! Don't--" Charity tried to warn them, but they didn't hear her. She turned to Kaliyah.
"Charity... what's going on? Who is that lady down there? Why is she trying to hurt Mom?!" Kaliyah asked desperately.
Tears streamed down her cheeks as she clutched the frying pan she had taken from the kitchen.
Charity wiped away Kaliyah's tears before squatting down and taking the little girl's hands in her own. "Kaliyah, I need you to do something, one last thing, for me."
"What do you mean? What are you--"
"Just promise me. Promise me you will do whatever I say."
"I... I promise."
She let out a deep sigh of relief. "Thank you. I just wanted to hear you say it." She looked Kaliyah in the eyes. "Kaliyah, when they come here, they will say we are dead.
I need you to remember that we are not dead. No matter what they say, or what happens, we are not dead, and you are not alone. Whatever happens, you have to keep searching for us.
Can you do that?"
"What are you talking about?"
Tears filled Charity's eyes. "Someone has to stay behind. Someone has to remember. I'm sorry, Kaliyah. I'm sorry I have to do this to you, but I promise, it will all make sense one day.
" She pulled her into a hug, and then shoved her in her mother's closet and locked it.
"Charity! What are you doing?! Let me out!!" Kaliyah banged on the door, tears streaming down her face.
Charity looked away. "I'm sorry, Kaliyah, but this is the only way."
"What are you talking about?! Just let me out! Please!"
"Goodbye, Kaliyah. Stay safe, and remember the broken bones. They will aid you in your time of need."
"Who are the broken bones?! Charity?! Charity come back!!"
But Charity was already gone. She had rushed back downstairs carrying a large black scythe to join the battle.
"Charity? Charity, come back. Please..."
But she wouldn't come back. None of them would.
A few hours later when the cops would finally arrive, they would be far too late.
All they would find inside the wreckage of the house would be a sobbing, terrified eleven-year-old girl, clutching a glowing green frying pan like her life depended on it.
And hundreds of broken bones...