Playing Dead (Short Story)

This story takes place after “Jason.”

All seven children were reunited. But it was not the same house they lived in when they were together before, and things were not the same at all. Dawn had been hanging onto the hope that life would eventually go back to the way it was before her parents separated; the realization that life was forever changed was not something she wanted to accept.

Dawn was doing poorly in school, her teachers found her daydreaming frequently during class discussions. Staring at the blackboard with an immobile, stoic expression as if she was paying close attention, the teacher would ask Dawn a question, but instead of answering she would blink rapidly and give a curt nod away from the rest of the class. Sometimes Dawn would simply put her head on her desk and hope no one would bother her. She had very few friends among her classmates, not that she tried very hard to make any. Often during recess, Dawn would sit alone instead of playing on the swing-set or jumping rope with the other girls.

Everything in her life kept changing, and it was never for the best. She was now in the fourth grade, but it was her third school in just under two years. The other kids made fun of her because she dressed funny and smelled like a wood furnace. Dawn came to school dressed in hand me down clothes her father had given her and sometimes she wore the same outfit for days at a time. Aunt Krista didn’t have working dryer, so the kids’ father either took the clothes to a laundry mat or used the washer and hung the clothes around the house to dry, they didn’t have a clothes line to hang them outside, so their clothes had a faint smell of mildew.

Dawn hated being at school, but she was beginning to hate being home more. The bedroom she shared with her sisters had very poor insulation, and when it rained, the roof leaked. Sleeping in a cold, wet, room is hardly comfortable. But the girl’s sleeping quarters was the least of their troubles. Their father was hardly ever home because he worked nights. After school, Dawn dreaded going home to her babysitters, her cousin Damien and her older brother Jason.

Damien had briefly helped watch the kids after they had moved in but when Jason recently showed up unexpectedly needing a place to live, he took the responsibility for watching the kids after school in exchange for a roof over his head. Jason was only sixteen, but he was no longer in school. After moving in, his grandmother attempted to push Jason to further his education, or at least finish High School.

To her detriment, after enrolling him in school and paying for his books, Jason attended class for a short while then stopped going. His grandmother was thoroughly disappointed and even drove out to the house to pick him up for class when she learned he stopped going. She came into the house and looked down at Jason lying on the couch, and complained about the money she had spent on his books. Jason laid on his stomach, face down and hardly moved an inch, ignoring her completely. Eventually the poor woman marched out of the house, onto the porch and stood with her arms crossed, keys in hand, for a few minutes, giving Jason a final warning of silent protest before leaving without saying goodbye. Probably to refrain from vilifying her grandson.

So Jason stayed home in the morning during the week, and watched the two youngest children, Rafe and Lydia while the other children were in school. There wasn’t much to do at Aunt Krista’s house but watch TV and play video games. Jason didn’t read much, and had no particular hobbies except for occasionally meeting up with his old High School friends and play guitar. He and his friends had attempted to put a band together, but none of them had the ambition to make the endeavor go anywhere.

Jason did dress the part of a “rockstar” during that time, he grew his hair long and kept it that way, wore ripped up jeans, baggy t-shirts and sported a leather jacket when the weather called for it. Dawn had no particulars for the way Jason dressed, as she cared little for her own appearance. She was slowly beginning to hate the people left in her care as much as she hated being in school. She dealt everything by playing dead. Pretending the world around her didn’t exist. In her mind, she created her own world. A world where the kids at school didn’t exist and neither did the house she lived in. She learned quickly that playing dead was the best way to save her from further harm from the people watching over her.

The story continues in “Clean Up Your Mess.”

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