Morgan gave Ellie almost no warning before dragging her and the boys out the front door at 6:08pm, Thursday evening. Ellie only had time to change from her pyjamas into grey jeans, an old hoodie and black Converse before she was swept out, against any free will she might've had.

The day had been dull and slow for Ellie, and to top it off she was late again this morning. Now her legs felt like jelly beneath her. She was just getting some rest when Morgan came in, unwelcome and unwanted.

"Where are we going?" Ellie asked now, wrenching her arm out of Morgan's death grip as she was pulled across the yard. She reached down and Roman reached up for her hand; she squeezed his fingers, silently trying to tell him that it was okay, everything was fine, Morgan wouldn't hurt him. God, how she hoped that was true.

"To dinner," Morgan said gruffly. She unlocked her car, a shitty old thing that was in need of one too many repairs that Morgan refused to accept from her husband, and pushed Ellie towards it. "Get in."

Ellie went in the back with Dan and Ro. She didn't want to be in the front, any closer to Morgan than she had to be.

The drive was silent. Ellie didn't know where they were going, and she could tell by the look on Dan's face that he didn't know, either. Their dad had flown across the country to Perth the day before, so there was no hope of finding refuge in him. Not that they would've, anyway. He never seemed to care much.

Morgan pulled up outside a house which was . . . nice. It surprised Ellie to see that. She was expecting that for 'dinner', they'd either end up at a crappy pub in the city's south, or at a rundown house where all Morgan would do was smoke, drink and pretend her children didn't exist.

The place was modestly-sized, smaller than Ellie's but ten times more welcoming. Morgan fixed up her hair in the rearview mirror and swiped on one more unnecessary layer of lipgloss before getting out. When the kids didn't move, she leaned in and grabbed Ro's arm, forcing him and the other two out after her.

The moment Ellie was out, blinded by rage at the sight of Morgan hurting Ro, she grabbed her mother and pulled her harshly back, not thinking. "Let go of him," she snarled, digging her own fingernails into Morgan's arm. It felt good, to give back what she got. "He's only ten, you bitch." When Morgan didn't move, Ellie repeated it, dragging out her words. "Let go of him."

Morgan did, shoving Ro away and letting him stumble into Dan, who took Ro by the shoulders and led him over to the front of the house, away from their mother. Once they were alone Morgan turned to Ellie. The anger and the hatred and the drugs had transformed her face into something horrible.

"How dare you speak to me like that?" Morgan hissed at her. "You forget who I am?"

"Do you?"

The slap hit Ellie hard across the face before she could so much as flinch, sending her head snapping to the side. The sound rang out across the yard, harsh and unforgiving, and the skin of Ellie's cheek stung with a thousand sharp pinpricks.

Everything was silent for a moment. Dan and Ro were watching, mortified, as Ellie raised a hand to her cheek and squeezed her eyes shut. Don't cry, she willed herself. Ellie Harrington, don't you dare cry.

"Come on," Morgan said, leaving Ellie alone and hurt on the grass as she walked away, up the steps to the front door. Ellie took a deep breath and steeled herself, taking her hand slowly away from her cheek and forcing herself upright. All she wanted to do was curl up and scream and cry, but she didn't. She would be strong. She had to be strong.

She followed Morgan to the front door, and took Ro's hand again when he and Dan reached her. "You okay?" Dan whispered. She just nodded.

Morgan turned around and forced a smile at them, sickly sweet. "Be nice," she told them. Beneath her tone you could hear the warning, the unfinished words.

She turned around and rang the doorbell. Ellie squeezed Ro's hand. She wasn't sure if she was consoling him or herself.

With a groan and a creak, the front door opened.


this is so short i'm sorry but i promise it's leading up to something good ok and i'll update soon i promise

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