Young, Gifted, and Black @applesnpb
First Ally

Five - First Ally

Karen dropped her bags the moment she stepped in the door. It was like walking into a Barbie Dreamhouse. Her dad's home was big on the outside, sure, nothing impressive. But indoors, she was greeted with a gigantic white staircase in the center and shiny white tiled floors. The doors on either side opened to huge living rooms with thick carpet and many couches. She could smell roast chicken from the kitchen in the back.

"Woah!" she said. "It's like a castle."

Her dad laughed. "I guess it is, princess."

A woman in a short purple dress appeared at the top. She had wavy black hair and dark brown lipstick. "Hello, I am Paola. I'm so glad to meet you, Karen."

At the bottom, the lady hugged Karen tightly. Karen was a bit unused to such friendly strangers, but she was relieved her stepmother didn't hate her. Her dad had been right.

"Would you like me to call you Paola?" Karen asked politely.

Both of the adults laughed.

"You can call me whatever you like, sweetie. Would you like to go meet Yasmina?"

Leah was led to the biggest living room she'd ever seen, including on TV. It was wide and circular. The carpet was a very light tan and the leather couches were a darker shade. In the corner was a long counter with glass bottles on shelves. At one wall was a large television on an entertainment center.

Sitting on the floor was a skinny girl, with the same light brown skin and black hair as her mother. She wore a very fluffy black dress and held a Malibu Barbie doll. Karen always wanted that one.

"Yasmina, come say hi to Karen," her daddy smiled.

The little girl didn't get up. "Hi."

"Yasmina is shy," Paola explained. "But you are both nice girls. Soon you guys will be the closest sisters in the world."

"She's not my sister. We don't have the same mom or dad," Yasmina said. Her face was blank, so Karen couldn't tell if she was trying to be mean or not.

"Yasmin!"

"Leave her alone, Paola," Daddy said, placing a hand on his wife's arm. "After that tantrum, she probably needs a nap."

Karen wasn't going to let cranky Yasmin get in the way of her being happy. Life was easier at her dad's palace. There was a chef who would cook whatever she wanted. If she didn't want to try lobster tortellini or mud carp, she could have spaghetti and meatballs or chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. No one yelled at her if she played outside and got dirty, and now there was a much bigger yard to play in, complete with a pool. There was a nanny, Betty, who gave her a giant afro puff every day just like she liked. And best of all, she didn't have to walk to school - there was a driver to take her there. (Though grumpy old Yasmin rode with her.)

She missed Charlie a lot, but Uncle Drew and Charlie called her often. The two of them even visited once and promised to bring Marta and Cara next time. Thankfully, Aunt Miranda stayed home. Paola and Daddy were strangers, but a lot nicer than she'd ever been.

The only bad thing about home was night time.

Her bedroom was magical - fluffy pink carpet, a canopy bed, and a walk-in closet. She was looking forward to the start of second grade and planning her first sleepover for her eighth birthday. Her cousins and maybe even Charlie could come. Her sister would be four and Karen was old enough to protect her.

But she didn't think night time was particularly safe in this house. At night, Karen would stay up listening to odd noises coming from downstairs. Sometimes she would hear a loud boom or a thump. Sometimes she thought she heard strangers laughing or glass shattering. She knew her parents had parties. So far they'd thrown three in the last month. Those would start around dinner, though, and Karen and Yasmina would be invited to stay downstairs and eat with the adults, at least until bedtime.

On one night, she heard a scream.

Karen had been starting to drift off when she jumped at the noise. It was long and tortured. It reminded her of an animal caught in a trap.

On instinct, Karen threw off her covers. Her clock said it was almost three in the morning. Tiptoeing clumsily, she creaked her door open and peered down the hall. No one was there and the lights were off. Her bedroom was near the end, so she had to be quick when slipping past the other rooms.

At the top of the slippery staircase, Karen peered over the rail. The lights were on, and she could see that the living room doors were slightly open. By now, the maids had finished cleaning and gone home. It couldn't have been them.

She sat on the top step, hoping she could blend into the thick bars of the rails.

A deep rumbling voice was speaking. "That's enough."

"Any chance you're ready to tell us the truth about where those supplies went?"

Her dad! What was he doing in there? Sometimes he was in his study at night, but not the main rooms.

A muffled noise echoed, as if someone was speaking around a mouthful of food. Karen giggled at the image. But deep down she felt a little sick inside.

The deep rumbling voice sighed. "Apollo?"

Her dad muttered something.

Then another scream, just like the one before. It was quieter, but strong and pained.

Karen froze. It was one thing to hear it in her room. It was another to sit on the step, listening and doing nothing about it. She found her body stuck clinging to the bars of the staircase. Still and waiting.

Finally, a man walked out. He was wide and tall, and white with greying hair. He wore a nice suit and had a surprisingly relaxed look on his face.

Behind him walked two younger men, also in dark suits. They were dragging along a man covered in blood and bruises. His t-shirt was torn and ragged, and his eyes were swollen shut. He looked youngish, maybe even a teenager. In the quiet night, Karen could hear his shaky breaths.

For a second, she thought they saw her, but the leading man only paused to pull out his cell phone. The four of them left through the front door.

She was almost one hundred percent sure that whatever horrible things that had happened to that guy, her dad had caused it.

But what could she do? What should she do? Get help? If her dad was in there, it meant either the person deserved the pain or they were being taken to get help soon.

A little voice in her head told her how dumb she was being. People didn't get dragged by their arms to the hospital.

So her dad had caused the pain because the person deserved it. She didn't understand what a young guy could do to upset her dad, but it sounded like he had been difficult. Maybe the guy was a thief? Maybe her dad was trying to protect their family and threaten him into never coming back?

Her head was starting to hurt.

She felt a hand shake her shoulder. Yasmina stood behind her, holding a Barbie.

"What are you doing here?" Karen hissed. She didn't want Yasmin getting in her business, even if she was scared right now.

Yasmin held a finger to her lips. She pointed into the living room's direction and shook her head.

Karen rolled her eyes. Yeah, she knew not to walk right in there. If Karen heard the screams, everyone in the house must have heard them. A person didn't just go running after scary noises.

Yasmin pulled Karen's arm, trying to tug her upstairs.

Karen started to shrug her off, but just then her dad walked out the room. He was holding something in his hands.

Both girls pressed their faces between the bars, trying to see.

Daddy was using a cloth, one of his nice checkered handkerchiefs, it seemed, to wipe the blood off of a knife. He didn't look sad or frightened. He looked empty, like he was watching a show or eating a sandwich.

Karen clumsily crawled up the top steps, nearly knocking over Yasmin in the process. The smaller girl squeaked a little but caught herself and followed after Karen.

They ran as quietly as they could back to their rooms.

Their father's voice floated up to them from the staircase. "Hello?"

They stopped in their tracks. Karen's breath hitched as she pictured her tall father with that empty, tired look, creeping up the stairs holding a knife.

Yasmin shoved Karen and threw herself on the ground.

Karen rubbed her (probably bruised) arm and sat up to punch Yasmin, but her stepsister was crying softly.

Their dad turned the corner and rushed over to them. "Girls! What happened?"

Karen stared stupidly.

Yasmin wiped her eyes. "I'm sorry, Daddy. I left my glasses in my room and I bumped into Karen in the hallway."

Daddy picked Yasmin up and checked her hurt ankle. "I think it's going to be fine. Let's get you girls back to bed."

Karen sighed softly. She couldn't see the knife or the handkerchief. It was like it had never happened. Maybe it didn't.

"Remember girls, you're not supposed to wander around past bedtime. You should know better, Yasmin." His voice was firm and reminded Karen of her aunt.

Karen spoke up. She couldn't let Yasmin get in trouble when she'd just saved them both. "It was me, Daddy. I wanted some juice, but I was scared to go by myself, so I woke up Yasmin."

Her father smiled. He looked more like his friendly self now. "It's alright, sweetie. Next time, call Betty to get it for you. I'd hate for you to hurt yourself walking around half-asleep. I'll go get you your drink."

Karen fell asleep easily that night, but she always found herself looking at her father's pocket, wondering if today's handkerchief would be bloody.

1. Firsts 339 0 0 2. First Loss 535 0 0 3. First Fight 858 0 0 4. First Revelation 1030 0 0 5. First Ally 1706 0 0 6. First Mentor 2787 0 0 7. First Job 2385 0 0 8. First No 4003 0 0 9. First Kill 4855 0 0 10. First Road Trip 4478 0 0 11. First Deception 4452 0 0 12. First Flight 3345 0 0 13. First Competition 3393 0 0 14. First Betrayal 3788 0 0 15. First Rescue 5674 0 0