The carpet smelled like cat pee and rust. Jakki exhaled and little black hairs wafted up from the floor, dancing in the rays of sunlight that shone through the dusty window over her head.
“Why are you laying on the floor?”
Jakki lifted her head; carpet fibers clung to her cheek. Ryan, her 4-year-old brother, leaned against the door frame, his favorite blue monster truck dangled from his small, chubby hand.
She lowered her head. “Get out of my room.”
“Wanna play cars?”
A tear ran down her cheek and dripped onto the carpet. “No.”
“Wanna make a snack? We could—”
“No.” More tears streamed from her eyes and she rolled onto her back, moaning at the stabbing prick in her ribs. Ryan hadn’t moved. She sat up, cringing at the burst of pain that exploded from her bruised side. “Get out!”
Ryan’s eyes widened and welled with fat tears. He clutched the blue truck tight to his chest. His bottom lip puckered and his small chin quivered. “Wanna. Play. Video. Games?” each word punctuated with a hitched breath.
Jakki gripped her side. Was she going to vomit? She closed her eyes. “Ryan.”
“Ryan, please get out. I don’t feel good.”
Jakki heard his footsteps retreat to the other room. She lay back down on the floor and rolled onto her side again. Her stomach lurched, and she was up, running to the toilet. Her side roared in agony as she vomited into the basin. She clung to the rim as her insides convulsed. The yellow bile filling the toilet began to sheen with a reddish hue. She dragged her face across her sleeve and saw that her mouth had left a bright streak of blood in its wake.
Little steps plodded on the tile behind her.
Jakki pressed her forehead against the toilet bowl and squeezed her eyes shut. “Ryan, I asked you to get out, right?”
“You don’t feel good?”
She cleared her throat and wiped her mouth again. “No, Ryan,” she turned to him, her side shot fiery bolts through her body and her stomach lurched again.
She swallowed. “I had a rough night. Someone—” she cleared her throat again, “someone hurt me.”
Ryan was still holding his blue monster truck, but he had gotten the yellow one too, her favorite.
“A bad guy?”
She barked a laugh that burned her throat. “I didn’t think so before. But yeah, I guess he is a bad guy.”
Ryan dropped his monster trucks and ran from the room. Jakki closed her eyes, leaning down, and pressed her face against the cold tile. Blood still coated her tongue. She scraped at it with her teeth.
She opened her eyes. Ryan sprinted toward her with a red, tattered cape velcro’d around his neck. A lopsided matching red mask was tied around his face.
He squatted beside her and touched his pudgy hand to her cheek.
“I’ll get the bad guy, Jakki,” he whispered.
She sat up and reached for him, not caring about the pain, and buried her face into his soft chest and belly and wept. He wrapped his little arms around her neck and squeezed.
Ashely Jenkins has published short stories with Zimbell House Publishing, Bewildering Stories, Castabout Art & Literature, The Raven Chronicles and the Cygnet.