“Are you thirsty?” Leona asks Brady.
“Oh yes, please, whatever you have is fine with me,” Brady answers while fanning his face.
She hums all the way into the kitchen completely oblivious. Amelia quickly walks upstairs to get away from her. When she reaches the top, Leona’s deep voice rattles her bones.
“Amelia, can you get the boys and come down here, please?” she yells. Dammit! I was so close.
They descend back down and plant at the bottom of the stairs. Brady rises off the couch and goes into the bathroom, where he flashes them a smile as he closes the door.
“Listen, I’m going to spend the night with Brady. I won’t be back for a few days. If you need anything, you have my cell number. If I hear about anything crazy while I’m gone, you will answer to me. Do we understand each other?” she growls as she grits her teeth.
“Yes, ma’am,” they all reply.
She stares at Eli and Navid. “Did you find jobs?” Navid sadly looks down.
“I found one as a waiter at a local restaurant,” Eli answers.
“I’m sorry, Mom, but every place I went to wasn’t hiring. But on Monday morning I will find something,” Navid assures her. He doesn’t make eye contact and stares at the floor like a scared puppy.
Amelia can tell Leona wants to smack him, but she contains herself since she knows Brady’s close by. “You had better find something soon, or else,” she demands, pointing her finger. Without taking her eyes off Navid she says, “Amelia, will you excuse us please?”
Amelia nods and runs back upstairs to listen.
“You two had better watch her and make sure she doesn’t leave this house. She’s not allowed to go anywhere unless I’m with her. You got it?” she whispers firmly.
“Yes, ma’am,” they both answer.
“Okay, you can go now. Have fun. By the way, when do you start work, Eli?”
“Tomorrow morning. I’ll be there for eight hours.”
She rolls her eyes and exhales. “Okay, well I’d rather you stay here and watch her, but that’s fine. Navid, you better make sure all is good when I return,” she warns.
“I will, Mom, don’t worry.”
Amelia sighs with relief, happy to hear Navid will be there instead of Eli. She creeps into her room and closes the door. She can hear Eli and Navid coming up the steps like thunder. Once they go to their rooms, Amelia puts her ear to the door and hears Brady closing the bathroom door downstairs. She’s positive he was listening the entire time. Tap! Tap! Startled, she turns around and slowly walks to her back door.
“Amelia, let me in. It’s Navid.”
“You scared me. Why would you come through this way?”
“I didn’t want Mom to catch me in here. I just wanted to say don’t worry about anything. You know I got your back, and I don’t think Eli really cares,” he assures her.
“Oh I know. You’ve been really cool. Navid, I want to thank you again for being sincere and caring about me. I know it can’t be easy.”
His smile fades as he somberly walks into the room and slumps down in a chair. “Amelia, do you remember that day in the car when Mom told you we were moving to Missouri?”
“I remember it like it was yesterday. Why?” she asks miserably. I’ve been trying to forget about the horror of that day. Why is he bringing it up?
He ponders something before finally speaking with tears in his eyes. “When you opened that car door and tried to jump to your death, something inside me changed. I was sick and ashamed of myself and Mom. The fact that you would rather die than be in our company said a lot. It spoke volumes. It made me reevaluate myself, and I decided from that day forward I would be a different person, a person that you could look up to and trust. None of this is your fault. I don’t want to be like my mother anymore.” He wipes his face and stares at the floor. “No offense, but you’re just a child and you were innocent in this whole thing. And you certainly don’t deserve to deal with Mom’s abuse on top of everything else.”