Falling Apart

I slowly open my eyes to darkness. Cold and stiff from another sleepless night, I roll over and reach out for Chloe, my younger sister. Being the oldest child of six – well five, now – when someone has a nightmare, it’s always me they go to. And ever since Eliza died, the amount of nights when I don’t sleep alone has seemed to increase.

Eliza was newborn. She was going to be an addition to the family. She was born with a disease - one the doctors said she would overcome. Eliza fought it for the first three months of her life. Then, the battle was lost. Mother and Father went from they’re jolly, organised selves to ticking bombs – one wrong move and they might explode.

Chloe’s snores loudly, bringing me back to my senses. I slowly crawl out of bed and creep into Elis’s room. He’s only four and half, our little Elis. He’s sleeping soundly, so I go downstairs, my only care being what I’m going to have for breakfast. I grab some toast, a bowl of rice from last night, a glass of juice, and an egg. It’s not much, to my standards, but it will have to do.
Chloe comes downstairs, followed by Claus, and finally the two twins, Gabi and Abigail. Mother and Father used to get up early, make us all breakfast, and sit and read the newspaper while we were still sleeping. They never do that anymore.

Father comes into the kitchen soon after we finish breakfast. His eyes look red and swollen, but we’re used to that now. Mother hasn’t left her room since Eliza’s death, over a month ago. No one says much, not even Claudia, our maid.

I bring Mother a tray of food and put it on the bedside table. She’s awake, but she doesn’t take any notice of me as I walk by. Her eyes are blank, staring at the spinning fan on the ceiling. I sit on the edge of the bed, watching her, until father comes in and quietly but forcefully asks me to leave. In silence, I leave the room.

Downstairs, Claudia has started cleaning up breakfast, and my day begins. I tell the twins to stop fighting over who’s taller. I ask Claus to put down the book and go outside for some air. I take Ellis to the park so he can run around. I have a tea party with Chloe. I bring mother some lunch. I help Claudia around the house.

At around four, I collapse onto the couch. Not giving me any time to relax, Chloe jumps on top of me, asking if I want to play Families with Claus. She promises me that I can be the mother. Seeing the pleading look on her face, I agree. Gabi and Abigail join in. I guess Families is our way of pretending we still have a happy, healthy family.

Because at the moment, we’re a family. But we’re a family that’s falling apart.

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