"Are you happy now? You know how to beat kids. You loser. I hate you!"
Steve backhanded her.
Pain shot into her eye and radiated into her nose.
"Now I am." His voice was a growling pronouncement of doom. "Don't plan to come out of your rooms any time soon."
Her body a coil of pain, Jolene helped her hysterical brother the rest of the way upstairs.
When Steve Parks had said, "don't come out your rooms," he didn't mean until morning. He really meant until he said so. The first time he punished them this way, they were unprepared. Never again. She'd hidden supplies in their rooms to help them endure what was probably a weekend lockdown.
"You got five minutes to get up there, before I give you another taste of respect."
At the top of the stairs, Adam looked at her with the saddest expression. "I think I'm going to throw up, Jolene."
A fresh burst of tears flowed down her cheeks. "It's okay, I got ya." She nestled his face in the cleft of her shoulder, while he vomited on her chest.
Sobbing and shaking uncontrollably, he muttered, "Sorry, Jolene, I hurt so bad."
"I know. It's okay. I'm not mad at you. I love you so much, Adam. I'm going to get us out of here. I promise."
She didn't have time to change clothes. Jolene took an old towel out of his sock drawer. Cupping his chin, she kept her voice low while wiping his face. "Remember what to do. The clothes bag is under your mattress. Put all your dirty stuff in that bag and keep it closed tight to keep the smell inside."
Her father's threatening voice echoed in the hall. "You've got one minute before I come up there to give you some more. I was just getting started."
She glanced over her shoulder. "There are some granola bars in your sock drawer and two Tylenol. Take the medicine with the water I hid under your sweatshirts." She stared into his heartbroken face. "Don't forget, okay? Remember how we do this. I have to go." She kissed his forehead. "I love you. You're going to be okay."
Jolene hurried to her room, shutting the doors behind her.
A minute later, heavy thumps on the steps signaled his ascent. His knees and ankles crackled as he climbed.
She felt her face contort into a mask of hatred. She prayed he would die of a heart attack before reaching the landing. Avoiding all the squeaky spots on the wooden bedroom floor, Jolene went to her door and listened. If their father dared touch Adam, she'd take him on again. All she heard was heavy breathing and scraping while he fumbled with the skeleton key in the lock.
A board made a popping sound under his feet when he came to her room.
She wished she had the courage to open the door fast and shove him down the stairs. With any luck, he'd break his skull wide open.
Instead, she heard guttural, drunken noises and the click of the lock falling into place.
Sometimes she wondered what would happen if the house caught fire while they were locked upstairs.