It started with Cole. He came home with a reddened face, the whites of his eyes looked like bloody spiderwebs. I curled into him to try to bring comfort.
His tiny body was warmer than the oven after Mom's baking. I knew to never touch the oven, no matter how good it smelled. The tip of my tongue had been burned once when trying to steal a bite.
Cole shifts on the couch. My tail pounds the blanket in response. My boy.
Dad came into the living room. My eyes followed him but my body remained still, spare for the slight thump of my tail. He turned on the tv, voices raising louder. Scared people shouting.
He stepped over to the couch to touch Cole's forehead and pat my back. Then peered out the window between the blinds.
Is someone coming? I raise my head intrigued at the idea of a visitor. Who would it be? Grandpa with his treats? Becky to walk me? Or maybe someone else.
Dad stepped away from the window, but not before checking the locks. Then into the kitchen to whisper something to Mom.
I rested my head back on Cole's lap. He twitched. A bit of foam (or is it food) dripping from his mouth.
I lick his face to check.
No. Not food. A whine escapes my closed mouth. Uh oh. Mom rushes in pushing me away as she fusses over my boy's face.
I look to the tv as it switches to tonal sound. No more faces and screaming. The tone hurts my ears and a whine again.
"Stop it, Cinder." Dad scolds me. I curl into my own bed. Watching them tend to my boy.
I wake up awhile later. The house dark. I make my rounds through the house looking for my family or for scraps of food. Happy to find either.
Dad is sitting against the door of Cole's room. Head held up with one hand. I push my head into the free hand on his knee.
He sucks in the air hard. "Good boy."
I sniff at the crack beneath the door. There is a scuffle of two bodies, a sound like a cat and then pound. The door bounces Dad forward. He cries. I cry too.
"Stop it! No, Cinder!" Dad scolds me in a voice just above a whisper.
I sit. Looking from him back to the door. Something is in there. I can smell it. It smells like death. I want to roll in the stench.
But instead, I sit.
And I wait.