Welp, it’s another light week, which means it’s time for a nice, pleasant writing prompt. This one is presented with only a photo of a flooded basement. Enjoy!
I meet Cesca in the hallway as I shut the door to the basement. Usually, she doesn’t care to stop when she sees me, but I guess I must have looked pretty harried this time. She pauses in her pompous, perpetually Valley Girl way, chewing a wad of gum and waiting for me to explain my panic.
I choose ignorance. “Sup.”
Her grip on my arm stings. She must have just returned from the beauty salon, because her curly, unruly mess of hair is properly defined and highlighted; her eyebrows freshly drawn, her lips lined dark and filled nude, and her nails — her lovely, healthy, lacquered nails — have been filed to points.
“Do you want me to tell Dad you were in the basement again?” she sneers. “I keep letting you off, only cuz I’m bored of watching you get punished.”
Yeah right, I think, but I wrench my arm free and rub it while I consider the consequences if — who am I kidding? when — I tell her the truth. What’s happened has happened, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
Scratch that. They can run.
Cesca gets bored and reaches out behind me for the doorknob. I’ve made my decision anyway, so I step aside to give her room. She pauses, obviously thrown by how quickly I’ve yielded, but curiosity ultimately leads her to open the door.
The sound from within, Cesca slamming the door shut and locking it with a speed I’ve never seen before — all of it makes my throat dump into the core of my chest. For some reason, it’s worse seeing the terror on someone else than feeling it myself. I’ve spent my entire life emulating the reactions of others, and I sometimes forget what should be my actual response in times of terror. At least now, I know I was correct.
Cesca backs away from the door, her hands pressed to her mouth. Her eyes, lined and mascara’d immaculately, are wide and glittering with unshed tears. If we were true sisters — and not just the tragic stepsisters we were — I know one of my first instincts would be to embrace her. Ah, woulda coulda shoulda.
Finally, she whispers under her palms. “Is that—?”
I grit my teeth in a grimace. It’s all I really can do—that and say, “Yeah.”
“But—” Now that she’s spoken, she’s chattering in a sort of stutter. “But–but, that’s a—”
“Oh, I know what it is.”
“But, how did it get there? Why is it here?”
“I don’t know! You think I went down there to ask it?”
“It’s got—its eyes. It tried to—”
“Yeah. They’ll do that.”
It’s one sass too far. Fear drains from her face and instead floods with rage and suspicion as she glowers at me. “You did it, didn’t you?”
She points at me again, venom in her eyes. “You did this. You know Dad just got the pool cleaned. He is gonna kill you!”
I was in a state of disbelief. “How do I even have the resources to that? Dad took away my phone; I’m not allowed to leave the house after noon. I’m not even allowed to open the front door to strangers!”
“Because of you pulling crap like this!” With inhuman, sinister glee, she lunges for me, her manicured mandibles stretching for my arm again. “Oh, he is gonna send you away for good now! This time, you won’t be able to talk your way back.”
It all happens faster than I can register. The counter steps I take that throw her off-balance; my free hand twisting the basement door knob; Cesca’s face as she stumbles through the open threshold; her screams garbling and failing under its screams. My own screams as I hold the door shut, struggling in vain until I remember that it has a push lock right under my sweating thumb.
When Dad comes home, he looks around. “Where’s Cesca?”
I shrug. If he wasn’t distracted, he probably would have gotten me for my sass. I decide to play on the safe side and actually answer. “She said she was going to a friend’s house. I don’t know how long, though.”
He sighs heavily. “You could’ve gone with her. At least I wouldn’t have to look at you.”
A hideous thought slithers into my mind. I bite down on my lips.
“Cop an attitude again, you’ll end up like your mother.” He pulls off his jacket and throws it towards the back of the couch but misses. “You know what? I think I’ll go for a swim. I didn’t put your college money to good use for no reason.”
I bite down harder but muster enough control to simply utter, “Have fun.” When he’s three steps beyond the threshold, I slink silently to my feet and wait for him to pass further into the darkness, before slamming and locking the door behind him.