A stomping through the hall, on the other side of the closed door, drew Abagail out of the book she was reading. She had been sitting in the window seat of her room, her eyes flowing quickly over the novel’s small typeface, but she was pulled out of that world.
At thirteen, Gail sensed the growing anger in the house, aware of its flowing in and out, like a fog which had now rolled in and filled up the halls and rooms of their house. On this day, she was the only one of the three children in the house, and thus she lacked the insulation that the presence of others could provide. With them there, shouting was less likely. Her parents might not even realize now that she was still in her room and not out in the afternoon playing with her brothers. She tossed the book down.
Standing, she brushed down her skirt, stood before the mirror, pushed back her glasses, and put her hand gently on the door knob. She twisted it as silently as possible and pulled the old door open. The hinges creaked, but only a gentle creaking, indistinguishable from the general noises the old house made. In the dim hall, light came from her parents’ room at one end, and at the other a diffuse light came from the ground floor below. She was stepping silently down the hall, listening for the sound of her steps and trying to ignore the voices of her parents coming from their bedroom, when she heard her mother’s laugh. What could have been a light laugh at first impression, Gail could tell was full of malice. She was laughing in such a way as to injure someone. She was familiar with that laugh, with the accompanying head tilted to the ceiling, the hands slapping legs. Gail used the shelter of the laugh to dart downstairs and through the screen door that smacked violently closed behind her.
Gail recalled a day that winter when she’d left the house in similar fashion, retreating from the sounds of an overturned table, and had somehow skipped the steps from the porch and snapped her ankle when she landed on the icy concrete of the front walk. Though she knew it was innocent enough, she was humiliated. Not only could she then not escape, she had to lie there on the walk and cry until someone came to help. Hobbling on her cast for the next six weeks convinced her of the unpleasant nature of the home.
Outside, the day was stifling and she immediately missed her window seat, her book. She stood in the shade of a large maple across the street from the house and debated what to do and where to go. Her brothers had gone up to Jackson Park, but she didn’t like the idea of being with them. Harry, in particular.