“Tonight, we’re going to play Russian roulette,” she said in a proud, august voice as she paced between us. I and my two sisters were kneeling and trembling as we waited. I was only four years-old, but I knew what Russian roulette was. I also knew what kind of gun our mother owned, and that you couldn’t play Russian roulette with a 9mm. You could only play with the guns that had spinning bullets.
My knees dug into the brown wooden floor. It hurt so bad that I wanted to fall over. That would be a mistake, though. My hands had to stay behind my back. My eyes had to look straight ahead, too, but they couldn’t. They kept glancing over at my oldest sister, Dessa, to make sure I was doing what she was doing. She knew how to survive Mommy’s moods. I didn’t want to mess up and make Mommy shoot me. Dessa had tears running down her face, but she didn’t make a sound. Her eyes look straight in front of her. She never glanced at me or our other sister, Faith. Mommy liked to take things away from Dessa, things she cared about. Maybe Dessa was afraid to look at her sisters, in case Mommy tried to take one of us.
Faith was kneeling, too. She wasn’t crying, though. She had the slightest grin on her face. Mommy never scared Faith. I used to think Faith had so many abhorrent things happen to her that nothing would ever scare her again. At nine, Faith was just 2 years younger than Dessa, and they had been through so much more than me.
I honestly still don’t know why Mommy decided she was mad at me, too. I think it was because I was Dessa’s and Faith’s favorite little sister. They always played in my hair, and gave me baths, and helped me eat. I was sick a lot, and often couldn’t hold my own spoon, so someone always had to feed me. If I didn’t eat my food, it made Mommy very angry. My sisters didn’t think it was fair for Mommy to be mean to me, I was too weak to be a bad girl, but that never stopped her.
Mommy walked up behind me. “Are you ready to play, Lia?” I felt hard, cold, steel dig into the back of my head. I took in a ragged breath. To me, if I died it was okay, because then I wouldn’t be in pain anymore. My sickness would be gone and my sisters wouldn’t have to take care of me. The only thing that scared me were my babies. I was in charge of my baby brother Jackie who was 3, and our baby sister Asia who was only a few months. I was the only one who fed them, changed them, and sang to them. What would happen to my babies if I lost the game? They might be next.
“I guess you win, Lia,” Mommy said in a cheerful voice. “Stay there.” My heart beat fast as I listened to her walk over to Faith. In my chest felt like a dozen frenzied beats between each of quick, loud steps. From the corner of my eye, I saw her black dress sway. It was patterned with countless, tiny pink roses and it cinched at her small waist. It was beautiful, just like Mommy. Mommy stopped behind Faith. She bent down close to Faith’s ear and in a mean, throaty whisper she said, “I really hope you lose this round.” In a flash, the barrel was pressed into the back of Faith’s head and she grimaced, but remained silent.
Mommy sighed. “Dammit!” She slapped the back of Faith’s head. “I can’t believe I have to deal with you for another day. That only leaves Dessa, and there are no more chances.” She tsked. “Faith. Lia. Cover your ears. This is going to be loud,” Mommy said in a sing-song voice and quickly put the barrel of the gun close to Dessa’s temple. I couldn’t help myself. I let out a sob as I plugged my ears with fingers. Faith just knelt there, her hands still behind her back.
No loud boom. No thump as Dessa’s body hit the floor. No sound of anything except the pitter-patter of my urine as it hit the floor beneath me. Mommy chuckled.
Mommy said in a teasing, but friendly manner, “Tricked you!” Then her voice turned cold again. “I guess you all win. Now don’t piss me off again and clean up your fucking sister.”