Lenora held her breath, trembling, in a closet barely bigger than a cupboard. She almost didn't fit but the adrenaline pulsing through her had warped her body. She made herself fit. The swiss army knife was clutched to her chest in a desperate attempt to be prepared. Laughable. How could she have prepared for this?
Maybe the signs had been there. It had been a horrible month in the Harris household. At 15 she was old enough to figure out what had happened. Between the hushed fights behind closed doors and her mother’s odd behavior it hadn't really been that hard. There was an affair.
Lenora didn't even know who the guy was, she guessed someone from her mom's work. She had seen him once, leaving a side door, when she was getting off the bus. It was stupid not to question it but her best friend had been hormonal that day and she had other things on her mind.
Dad didn't catch on for months.
It happened one day while the kids were gone, that's all she really knew. Dad had tried to surprise mom, he felt distant and thought he'd take a half-day on her day off. Pick up their favorite take-out, spend a few hours together without the teenager’s home.
A kid across the street said he saw some guy leave with a bloody nose and no shirt.
That was behind them all now though. Mom had been groveling, cooking all of dad’s favorite food, took time off work, she was sorry. It had taken so much time but dad was finally coming around. School was out and it was their first summer outing. They were being a family.
The drive to the harbor was filled with 80's music and sandwiches from the best shop around. Theo got mustard on his sailing shirt but mom didn't even get mad. Mom and dad held hands as dad drove.
The sailboat held all the best childhood memories. It was hard learning how to sail, sure, but once you learn it's therapeutic, you can go through the motions and suddenly you're out to sea. It was a big boat too, bigger than her friends’ parents' boats. That mattered.
The Pacific Dream set out around noon, all four family members doing their part to ensure a clean getaway from the dock. Hardly a cloud in the sky, a decent breeze blowing, it was the perfect day for sailing. Lenora settled on the deck to get a nice tan and read Wuthering Heights, the first on her summer reading list.
Mom and dad stood together at the wheel. It looked like mom was going through a guilty dip, they happened a lot. She stood with a hand on her husband’s back, cheek against his shoulder, not saying a word. Her face said it all. She had put her marriage, her happy family in jeopardy. How could she have been so stupid?
Dad looked fine, he loved the sea, the stretch of the ocean before him. Peace.
After a few hours Lenora, Theo, and their mother climbed below decks. Food was prepared, games were played, dad was left to his above-deck solitude.
"Gin," Theo crowed for the third time, causing Lenora to throw down her cards in dismay.
"Every damn time!"
"Lenora, language," Mom scolded. She gathered a plate of freshly made pasta and climbed the ladder to bring it to dad. There were murmurs above. They got louder.
"Are they seriously fighting again?" Theo asked. "We were having a good day."
"I know, bud," Lenora shuffled the cards. "I think it's getting better though. They aren't screaming at each other."
Theo shrugged and shoveled pasta into his mouth.
There was a thud almost directly above them. Not a completely uncommon sound on a boat, it just seemed a little louder than normal.
"Are they throwing shit at each other?" Lenora speculated.
"Language," Came the impersonation of their mother. If only she could hear how everyone talked at school, she'd be horrified.
It was silent again. They must be okay.
Theo had won several rounds of gin rummy and it was getting late, might as well see how long before heading back to the dock.
Lenora climbed the narrow stairs. Her dad still stood at the wheel, empty plate sitting on the chair beside him.
"Dad, are we going home soon?"
"Soon." His voice sounded odd.
"Where did mom go?" She came up to join him, looking out over the boat.
Lenora laughed. "Yeah, ok, where-" Her words stuck in her throat. Her father had turned to face her, revealing a spray of blood across his polo.
"Dad..." She looked down, now noticing a trail of smeared blood running across the boat, to the railing. "Daddy where's mom?"
"Go get your brother," He reached for something beside him, it glinted in the setting sun. Lenora didn't even give it a second look; she was already running.
"Theo!" She screamed as she stumbled down the stairs.
"What?" He sounded annoyed, what on earth was she screaming about?
"Hide," She collided with him at the bottom of the stairs, grabbing his arm and pulling him with her.
"Dad killed mom." Where could they go? The boat wasn't that big.
"Very funny," Theo was not amused. "Come on, let go."
His arm was jerked away, followed quickly by a sharp inhale of breath, a pained guttural sound that couldn't quite leave his lips. Dad was behind him.
The scream didn't even sound like it came from herself. Her ears were ringing, stomach contents threatened to reveal themselves, tears stung her cheeks.
Then adrenaline took over. Her father struggled to pull the knife out from her brothers’ ribs, giving her time to stumble into the next room. Down, turn, trip over something, run.
Where could she even hide?
The engine room was the last stop. There was nowhere else to go.
The cleaning closet.
That's where she was, inhaling bleach fumes, her whole body shaking. It was a boat. It wouldn't take her father long to look everywhere. What had happened? Why today, why now, why at all? They were getting better; they were figuring it all out.
Lenora pressed herself against the back wall, forcing something in her back pocket to poke her. Her pocket knife. Would that do anything against a grown man who had gone homicidal? Her own father?
Time didn't seem to matter. She might've been in there for 15 minutes or five hours. There was no amount of time that could prepare her for when dad finally opened the door.
"Lenora," He sounded resigned, sad even.
With an animalistic scream Lenora plunged her pocket knife into his gut, immediately letting go, sobbing.
"Oh my god," She sputtered, still pinned in the closet. Dad looked down at the small red handle sticking out of the right side of his beer-softened midsection. His only response was taking his own knife, much bigger, and raising it.
"Daddy, no," She cried, sinking to the floor, all strength leaving her. The blade came down swiftly, though where it stuck, she couldn't tell. She could only watch from the floor as her father’s footsteps stumbled out of the engine room.
Watch as her blood coated the floor.
Who would know? To the rest of the world their peaceful little ship was just another boat on the horizon. Maybe some little kid was pointing to them, enjoying the sight of the sails against the sunset. It was just a blip. Their lives meant nothing.
No one would see the blood in the water, frothed by the waves, bodies sinking into the murky depths.
It was just a nice day for sailing.
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