Chapter 12

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She closed her eyes to the shouts from downstairs. Cynthia and Tom had been shouting for nearly half an hour. He had come in drunk the night before again. It seemed that was the regular routine now. Her mother still worked at the hotel until midnight. She came home to find her husband not home. Then she dragged Sara out of bed, hurried her in dressing, and they trudged in the dark night to the closest bar. If he wasn't found there, they ventured to the next one and so forth until they found his sodden self.

Typically, he was lounging against the bar, using it more to hold him up before he slid to the floor sticky with spilled beer and whiskey and crushed pretzels. He'd be laughing and slapping himself, well trying to. He usually missed and swatted air. They'd enter the bar to find him and a few other men thinking they were the smartest and funniest men around. If the bartender was a woman, they'd be making lewd comments to her. Sara never fully understood what they said, but it sounded disgusting. She didn't like how he looked the woman as though he was a wild dog with its first meal.

Sara felt dirty just walking into the smoky dens. The air was so thick that it was hard to breathe without feeling like she was choking to death. Then the smell of alcohol finishes her off. While it all stinks, beer is the worst. For some reason though, Sara still turn her nose up at the whiskey and other hard liquors, but they at least had a warm smell that seemed more natural. Beer smelled like the outhouse. It took all her effort not to throw up on the bar floor.

The night before, she had found him in a compromising position at the bar down the street. The bartender was sitting on his lap, facing him. Her skirt was pushed up, and his hand was under it. Sara was mortified. Cynthia's face became a block of stone that breathed fire. She didn't say a word as she walked up to the woman and jerked her off of Tom. In fact, she jerked the woman so hard that she fell on the floor and slide a foot or two.

Tom just laughed. He even laughed as Mom shoved him off of the bar stool and out the door. Sara quickly followed, leaving the bartender still sitting on the floor in shock and the other patrons laughing at the whole thing. Wonder how they would have reacted if their wife had found them in such an awkward situation.

Tom hung onto both of them as they held him up by his arms over our shoulders. He babbled about how much he appreciated what they did for him and how lucky he was. Cynthia never said a word, even when he leaned over and gave her a sloppy kiss on the cheek. Her face was still stone.

When they wrestled him inside the house and into the bedroom, Tom was already snoring. Sara helped get him completely on the bed and removed his shoes before leaving Cynthia to deal with her husband. Sara quickly escaped to her room where she tried to think of herself living a life without a drunk stepfather.

Now the morning had come and gone. It was well past noon. They had all finished their chores before lunch, and Lily and Sara had the rest of the day to ourselves until dinner time when they had to help with the dishes. With the weather still warm, Sara had wanted to go outside and read in her spot up in the tree, but when Tom and finally crawled out of bed, Cynthia let into him.

Lily curled up in the corner of her bed and tried to read a book. Sara wanted to sneak up to the attic but couldn't find an excuse to give her for leaving the room when there was such a row going on downstairs.

"Why did she have to marry him?"

Sara turned to her sister. She sat with her eyes still on the book. Her dark hair was pulled back in a long braid. Both of them had on glasses at the ages of fourteen and twelve. She had such a serious look with her narrow face and pointed chin.

"I don't know." Sara seriously didn't. He seemed to more trouble than he was worth. He rarely worked which didn't add any income to the house.

Suddenly, Sara noticed how quiet it was. There was no screaming from downstairs. There was only the sound of the small town outside our open window. She heard children giggling as they played. She heard cars moving up and down the street. She heard a dog bark and then another answering him.

Taking a chance, Sara grabbed her book and opened their bedroom door. Still no voices. Sara decided it was worth the risk. She had just made it down the stairs when she heard footsteps in Cynthia's bedroom. The door opened, and Tom stepped out with a satchel in his hand. He paused when it saw Sara. His eyes did their normal lazy slide over her.

Sara found more and more boys and men doing that to her. She was becoming a young woman in young girl clothes. Cynthia still dressed me her like she was ten years old. That made her breasts more obvious as the clothes were cut to be tight against a flat chest. Sara wasn't large, but she was larger than most girls her age. But Tom's looks made her want to take a hot bath and scrub herself.

Now was no different. His eyes moved back up to her chest and lingered there. Then he moved a step toward her. Sara moved back a step and felt the bottom step against the back of her leg. He licked his lips.

"Tell your mom I don't know when I'll be back. Maybe when she stops treating me like her child." He looked down at her chest again. "Why haven't you been nicer to me?"

Sara blinked. "What?"

He stepped closer. She felt like she was a trapped animal. His breathing was heavy and hot.

"I've tried to be nice to you."

Sara felt anger rising within her. She thought she understood what he meant and didn't like it one bit. Narrowing her eyes, Sara answered, "Just leave. Make us all happy and leave."

He laughed. "I will...for a spell. Then I'll be back and had better find you being a little nicer to me, a little more willing to be nice to your father."

"You are not my father. You never will be. My father is dead."

With one last look, he shrugged. "See you later, kid."

She waited until she heard the back door close and the sound of his car start up. Only then did she release her shoulders and let them fall. Sara hadn't even realized she had raised them back and stiffened her body against his presence.

Where was her mother? She leaned back against the wall. What was to happen next? What would tomorrow hold?

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