Chapter One

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Chapter One*

The man is lying on his old wooden bed, no different from yesterday or the day before that. His arms rest at his sides as he faces the ceiling, his expression blank and unreadable.

I sit nearby, cross-legged in an old plastic chair next to the bed. Like always, I feel comfortable as I share recent family events with my father. There’s nothing too special to tell, but it’s always nice to catch up. Perhaps he’d be interested in knowing what Willie and I are learning in school, or what joke Bel has recently come up with. I’m sure he would be. Before our mother passed and our father was still speaking, he would want to know every detail about our day.

I get up and grab the curtains, which had permanently faded from a silky white to a dusty grey throughout the years, and pull them back, allowing the bright morning sun to illuminate the room. I smile sadly in response to his whine as I sit back down.

“I’m sorry, Dad. I just hate how you never get enough sunlight.”

He replies with a deep sigh. I think it, somehow, means he agrees. For the last six years he has stayed in this dim-lit room, lying on the very same bed. He's only ever gotten up to use the bathroom and oblige to his designated day in Check-up Week. Jacenta and I both agree on how extremely unhealthy it is. But there’s not much we can do to change it, so instead we’ve learned to live with it and do the only thing we can do about it: take care of him day after day.

Observing my father, most people would assume his age to be around seventy or eighty years old. Since that is how he acts and looks, I don’t blame them for it, but he’s really only fifty-two. That means he was born just two years after the Marphibian X Outbreak ended. I can't help but think about how awful his childhood must have been. It's a bit sad yet romantic knowing that growing up in such a destroyed land didn't affect him as much as losing the love of his life did.

The silence is interrupted with the creaking sound of the door opening as the familiar dark figure of my nine year old sister peeks in.

“Come on in, Bel.” I sigh.

I watch as she quietly makes her way towards me, her dark curls bobbing in her face. “Can I talk to him now?” She asks, beginning to climb onto my lap. I gently push her off me and get up.

"You can after we get back, but right now it’s time to go.”

We leave, saying good-bye to our father before we do. I quietly close the door behind me and keep my hand rested on Bel's shoulder as we walk down the long hallway and then down the stairs. This house was built when my father was around Bel's age, which explains its old, worn-out state. In the large kitchen sits my older sister Jacenta, who looks up as we step in. At twenty one years old, you'd think she would be looking young, fresh and better than ever. But the dark bags under her eyes had long sunken and her formerly full, luscious lips are permanently stuck in a thin straight line. I can even see a wrinkle or two forming on her face, making her look almost twice her age.

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