They know things we aren’t allowed to show them

They know things we aren’t allowed to show them. We sneak them in, back-alley ways, through the door they never check, the one they leave unlocked. They come up the stairs, feet pounding. We know she can hear their feet pounding. The walls are thin, and they echo with the reverberations of everything in this house. When they bound up the stairs, she can hear that they are coming, and we can feel her fear even from all the way downstairs.

She cringes, on her pallet bed in the corner of the floor with the long grey planks, wood that stretches until we see her at the other side, huddled against the wall. We stand in the doorway and whisper, and her eyes are wide as she stares back. We aren’t close enough to see the reflection of our own selves, silhouetted against the light of the hallway as we peer into the room, grey and painted but darker with shadows, lightless and grey with gloom. After a moment, we swing the door closed. We can almost hear her sigh of relief as it rustles from her, shaking the frail body we have just hidden from view, but we move on. We pull them down the hall, toward a room cheery and bright, with light streaming from a lamp in the ceiling, and we enter that room and sit. Once we are there, we can forget the things forbidden and unspoken, we can pretend that all the rooms in the house are this colorful.

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