“There!” Nina said, examining her work. “It’s all done.”
Emily admired her newly straightened hair in the mirror. Her hair was a lighter brown than Nina’s was and naturally curly. Nina had spent the last two and a half hours straightening it.
It was a warm Saturday night and their parents were having a date night. They did this every other Saturday. Usually, Emily would have a babysitter or she would spend the night at her best friend’s house. But Emily’s big sister Nina was home that Saturday. Any other time, Nina would be with her boyfriend Owen. But Nina broke up with Owen.
At first, Emily didn’t understand. Owen was her friend. He always called her his little rabbit. Even their parents loved Owen. She was sure she had heard her parents whispering about their wedding after graduation. When he suddenly stopped coming around and Nina refused to explain why, Emily lashed out. She screamed at her sister and said it was her fault. When Nina cried and finally revealed that Owen hurt her, Emily apologized and did her best to remove him from her thoughts.
“It’s almost as pretty as yours!” Emily ran her fingers through her hair. Nina used a new foam. Now her hair had a vanilla scent and didn’t feel dry or greasy.
“No, yours is prettier. Mine is too boring.”
With her hair finished, Emily and Nina sat on the bed. They were going to watch all four Scream movies and eat popcorn. It was the only time Emily could watch scary movies. Their parents forbid her because they were too violent and too adult for her. Nina thought they were being ridiculous. She argued that there was just as much violence and adult situations in the cartoons Emily watched.
Twenty minutes into the first movie, the phone beside Nina’s bed started to ring. She picked it up on the second ring. “Hello?”
Emily stuffed her mouth with popcorn and turned to her sister who was suddenly silent.
“Not now.” Her expression darkened subtly. “I said not now.” Nina hung up the phone and smiled widely when she saw Emily watching her. “What did I miss?”
Emily was not that easily deflected. “Who was that?”
“Telemarketer or something,” she shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. So, what did I miss?”
The phone rang again at the end of the movie. “Maybe it’s mom and dad,” Emily suggested, noticing how tense her sister seemed.
“Maybe. Hey, why don’t you go grab us some more sodas and I will load the next movie.”
Emily left the room and pressed herself against the hallway wall to eavesdrop. Nina answered the phone on the fifth ring. “Hello? Look, this is not the time to talk about this.” Silence. “No, no I…” Silence. “You’re not listening to me! I don’t want to talk about this any more with you.” More silence. “Fine! If it’s so important we can meet tomorrow for lunch. I’m going to bed now and I would appreciate if you didn’t call me any more tonight. Goodbye.”
From her place in the hallway, Emily could hear her sister pacing and muttering to herself. Emily hurried down the stairs and flipped on the light switch in the kitchen. She grabbed a Dr. Pepper for herself and a Sprite Zero for Nina. When Emily closed the refrigerator door, her eyes drifted to the window over the sink. Emily thought she saw a shadow move in the backyard. She took a step back. Her first thought was to tell Nina, but then she realized the neighbor’s dog probably got free again. Emily turned off the light and went back upstairs.
The previews were already playing when she came back in. Nina took her Sprite and popped the top. “What took you so long?”
“Couldn’t decide what I wanted,” she shrugged.
“We only have three brands.”
Emily opened her mouth to respond when Nina’s cell phone started to ring. “Who’s calling now?” she groaned. Nina read the ID and shrugged. “Bonnie. Probably calling to gossip.” She silenced the phone and put it inside her desk drawer. “I’ll call her back later. The movie’s starting.”
Halfway through the sequel, Emily must have fallen asleep because she awoke to Nina desperately shaking her. The movie they were watching had ended and the room was bathed in darkness. Emily sat up wiping the drool from the corner of her mouth with the back of her hand. “What’s wrong?” she yawned, her voice heavy with sleep.
Nina struck a match and lit two of her raspberry scented candles. “I want you to go to your room and lock the door,” she whispered.
“Why?” she asked, whispering too. “And why are we whispering?”
Nina turned back to Emily and stared down in her eyes. “Owen’s here.”
“So?” Emily didn’t understand what the big deal was. Owen would always come over when their parents were away. “Are you guys going to kiss or something?” she giggled, but Nina didn’t smile.
“Owen’s drunk, Em. He’s – he’s not himself right now. He’s right outside. He’s going to climb through my window and he can’t know you’re here when he does.”
“Nina, you’re freaking me out. Over nothing! It’s Owen!” she said as if that should have explained everything.
“Emily!” she whispered loudly, shaking her. “You don’t know him like I do. Just please go to your room, hide under the bed and don’t come out until I come get you.”
Something about the way Nina whispered, the bruising grip she had on her shoulders, and the fearful desperation in her eyes chased away Emily doubts. “No.”
“Emily, don’t argue with me!”
“I’m not leaving you!”
The steady crunch of leaves in the yard ended Nina’s arguments. The girls stood still, scarcely breathing as the steps grew closer and closer. His heavy boots thudded against the wood of the trellis underneath Nina’s window.
“He’s here.” Nina turned to her sister and pushed her towards the sliding doors. “Go. Go hide in my closet.” She pushed her into the closet forcing her to collide with the clothes and rattle the hangers. “Stay here and don’t make a sound. No matter what you see or hear don’t leave this closet. Okay?”
Emily was so frightened now. She could only nod. The sound was louder. Closer. Nina quickly kissed Emily’s forehead and shoved the door closed. Emily was left with little choice but to peer out through the ventilated slits. Nina turned around just as Owen’s head popped into view.
“Hey, babe,” he greeted, hoisting himself over the windowsill. “Miss me?” he drew himself up to full height and seemed to tower over Nina. He was dressed in black boots, black jeans and a t-shirt with his black leather jacket – his typical all black attire.
He was the most handsome boy Emily had ever met. He had dark windswept hair, a chiselled jaw and the darkest eyes and most intense gaze she ever seen.
“Where is my little rabbit?”
Emily felt her chest constrict. She still missed Owen terribly.
“At her friend’s sleepover,” she lied easily. “Why are you here?”
“So, then we’re all alone?” his large hands held her waist drawing her tight against him. “Just the two of us?”
“No,” she shook her head. “My parents will be back any minute.” Nina squirmed and pushed until she was out of his embrace. “Why are you here?” she asked again, folding her arms across her chest.
“I’m tired of fighting, Nina. It’s time for us to work this out.”
“I’m sorry, was there something unclear about these last three months? We’re not fighting. We’re over.”
Owen’s lips curled in his usual smirk. “What did I tell you about saying things you don’t mean?” he reached out to touch her face, ignoring the way she turned her cheek. “You still love me.” He said it in the softest voice.
“I do,” she admitted. “But not enough to accept what you did with Kat.”
Emily silently gasped. Nina and Kat had been friends for as long as she could remember. She used to have brownish blonde hair before she died it a bright red. Emily liked Kat because she was somewhat childlike in her behavior. It made sense now why Nina stopped talking to Kat around the same time Owen stopped coming around. Emily could remember when she was younger and Billy Carr had promised to only play in the sandbox with her, but when her mother took her to the park later than normal that following Saturday because the cable guy was late, she found him playing in the sandbox with Kimberly Etheridge and cried for two days straight.
“Nina,” he sighed, wiping his hand down his face. “How many times am I to apologize for that before you let it go? It meant nothing. She meant nothing.”
“She was my best friend, Owen.” Emily could hear the anguish in her sister’s voice. “She meant something to me.”
“Okay. I suppose I don’t understand your side of it.”
Emily didn’t understand very much about relationships. She had only had one boyfriend following the Billy Carr heartbreak and he only came to their town during the summers to visit his cousins. But as she looked at her sister who – as much as she tried to hide it – was obviously distressed and Owen’s carelessness, Emily couldn’t help but to think that she was suddenly seeing him clearly for the first time.
“But you don’t understand mine either. Nina, I didn’t feel like I had a girlfriend. I felt like I had a wife! You were practically attached to my hip. Telling everybody that you wanted to enrol in my college next summer. Thinking we were going to move in together.” With each example, his arms raised higher and higher to emphasize his points. “With Kat it was…”
“It was what, Owen?” Nina said quietly. “Better? Easier?”
“Yes. But it’s over now. I just wanted to see if it was worth going the distance with you.”
Emily held her breath as she watched her sister stand stock-still. When she spoke, her voice was as cold as ice. “You want to see what it’s like on the outside? Be my guest. There’s nothing left for you here anyway. I may as well see if your buddy Robert is willing to –.”
Whatever she was about to say ended in a startled gasp when Owen grabbed her arms and pulled her against him. “Don’t you dare. You will never touch another man, Nina.”
Emily didn’t recognize the look in Owen’s eyes. It was crazed, desperate, angry, and loving all at once. She hoped her parents would come home soon.
“You have no say in what I do any more Owen,” she said, trying to push him away from her. “Let go of me and get out of my house.”
She struggled to break free, but Owen only held tighter. “Don’t make me hurt you, baby.”
“Let go of me, Owen!”
Emily’s heartbeat boomed in her ears. Sweat fell from her neck and dripped down her chest and back. She could almost feel her hair frizzing. She bit her lip when she heard how loud her breathing sounded.
“You just need to remember how great we are together.”
Nina’s eyes widened in fear and her struggles renewed. What was he going to do? He picked her up as if she was weightless and threw her over his shoulder.
“Oh, god, Owen, don’t! Please!” Nina sobbed heavily when Owen dropped her on her bed.
Emily watched in horror as Owen covered her sister’s body with his. What was he doing? What was he doing? She could see Owen moving and hear Nina crying, but she couldn’t see what he was doing to her. She heard what sounded like tearing fabric and saw little pieces of Nina’s pajama shorts fall only a little larger than confetti to the floor. He used one of his large hands to capture both of Nina’s wrists. He drew her arms up tight above her head. Emily’s hands ached as her fingers gripped the inside of the closet doors. She shut her eyes tightly and there was more ripping. Nina’s sobs grew louder. An agonized scream tore through the air forcing Emily to open her eyes. Owen had his pants and underwear pushed down so that his pale backside and thighs were bare. He fell back and forth heavily on top of Nina who screamed the most horrific screams. Their candlelit shadows danced horrifically against the walls like shadow puppets ripped from a horror story. Emily pressed her hands against her mouth when she felt it rise in her throat. But she couldn’t stop the surge of vomit from gushing between her fingers and staining her beautifully straightened hair or Nina’s carpet. She frantically grabbed a fallen comforter and wiped her trembling hands and mouth. Emily was oblivious to the rancid odor and the tears and snot covering her face as her sister screamed and screamed.
It seemed to go on forever before Owen groaned almost painfully. Nina lay beneath him unmoving. Her eyes stared blankly at the ceiling before glancing over at the closet doors. Emily knew Nina was looking at her, begging her to help, but Emily could not make her legs work. It would be so simple. Slide open the doors and run downstairs to the neighbor’s house. Why couldn’t she move?
When Nina’s tearful eyes rolled back towards the ceiling, Emily felt like she could finally breathe again. Owen wrapped his large hands around Nina’s throat and squeezed. “I won’t let you leave me, baby,” she heard him say over Nina’s gasping breaths and flailing arms.
Emily opened her mouth to scream but she could not make a sound. And then the room filled with a loud silence. Nina stopped gasping and struggling. Her hand slid from his wrists and fell limply over the edge of the bed. Her dark eyes stared up emptily in his. Owen leaned forward and kissed her still warm lips. He pulled up his pants and ran a hand through his hair.
He stared down at Nina’s bare body and said in the softest voice, “want to come out of the closet now, little rabbit?”
Roya S. Hill lives in Alabama, is 24 years old and is an aspiring author. You can follow her on twitter at @Hill_Roya