The cake sat before them; the matchesher mother's excuse for candlessmoldering to ash. She hadn't gone to the store in a while because she didn't like people staring at her. The bruises themselves did attract a lot of attention. In fact, she hadn't even had the courage to go up to the local primary school to start Waverly in kindergarten.
"Make a wish, Waverly." Her mother whispered; the woman's voice was brittle beaten.
Waverly glanced up, her strange colored eyes unsure. What could she wish forher sister to come back? Her father to stop being so mean? It's not like she didn't see what was happening to her mother, or hear the guttural screams late at night after father had come home smelling of something awful and bitter. But, he acted so perfect around other people. Why did he act this way in the secrecy of their home? So many people liked him. Mother would never say a word, just smile and cover up the purple blotches with makeup. She focused on the matches and sucked in a deep breath. She'd wish for a miracle. Her sister had told her once that miracles are things that were gifts from God. That's what she'd wish for a gift from God. After she blew out the matches, the smoke curled and dissipated.
Her heart skipped a beat.
"Baby, I forgot the silverware in the kitchen"
"I'll get it mommy." Waverly smiled, revealing her missing front tooth.
Her mother offered her own smile, but something was wrong with it. Waverly's eyebrows scrunched together. Her lipsthey looked stretched "Thank you baby. Did I tell you I loved you today?"
Waverly bit her lip. "No mommy."
She reached out and grabbed her daughter's hand. "Well, I do. I love you more than anything else in the world." Her tone sounded like a wisp of wind on thin paper fragile.
"You love Li Na, too."
Her mother laughed, a broken rattle. "Yes."
"She's going to come back." Waverly grinned, so certain of it.
The woman's frown deepened. "I hope so, baby."
"She will." Waverly almost barked, aggressively confident. She'd never lose hope in Li Na. She'd come back, and she'd sing to her again. She'd teach her chess and how to wear high heels.
Her mother was quiet for a moment, the dullness of her chocolate eyes seeming to age her face. "Go on and get the silverware now."
Waverly felt a chill creep down her spine as her mother let go of her hand. She didn't like the sensation. It felt heavy, wrong... Swallowing the eerie feeling, she nodded and hurried out of the room. The cake looked too good to waste time not eating. Her stomach growled and, for a moment, she forgot all about the strange feeling.
Li Na would come back. Daddy would get better. Mommy wouldn't be afraid to go outside because of her cuts and bruises. Everything would get better because miracles are gifts from God and God was good.
The explosion of sound rang through her ears and vibrated along her bones, echoing in her mind as a thunderous roar. Waverly felt her knees nearly give beneath her and a heart wrenching fear wrap around her stomach, making her queasy. That sound? Unbeknownst to her, tears began to rim her eyes. She didn't know the sound, but it frightened her. It was damaging... harsh.
"Mommy!" she hollered as she hurried back to her room.
What she saw next made her mind freeze and her skin crawl. Dripping red liquid covered the bed and wall where her mother laid, part of her forehead blown open and jagged with frayed flesh. Disjointed, thick purplish and pink stuff surrounded her like some sick halo. Waverly took one hesitant step forward. Something silver glinted in her mother's hand. The familiar yet bizarre object was lean and shiny, dangerously beautiful Waverly timidly walked over to it and picked it up. It was sticky with the red gore. Her little mind instinctively registered itblood. She choked back a sob and dropped the destructive thing, her fingers suddenly feeling so very weak.
Dad had said its name before gun
Kneeling beside her mother, she reached out to touch what was left of her face. "Mommy? Mommy?"
The skin felt wrong She licked the tears from her lips. Her heart was pounding so hard her chest hurt. The tired frown on her mother's ruined mouth didn't change. She pressed her index finger into the bloody mush underneath the scattered part of her mother's skull. It made a wet noise and the child recoiled, disgusted. Somewhere in the deep recesses of her mind, she hastily began to reject this. Just a dream. She'd wake up and everything would be okay. Mommy would be singing the lullaby Li Na made for her tenderly, her mahogany eyes soft and tired but still very much there alive. Just a dream. Just a dream. Just a dream!
Her stomach lurched unsteadily as she curled up beside her. " Mommy "
Waverly swallowed. She'd go to sleep and everything would be okay. When she woke up, mother would be there. Everything would be okay, because there is such a thing as miracles just like Li Na said, and God makes miracles happen.
Unfortunately, God never brought her that miracle But, when her father came home, he gave her a few things a broken bone or two, some bruises, and a fierce will to defy.