“Ow!” Juliet cried out as her toe hit the edge of the table leg. Pain emitted up and down her foot, and she bit her lip, tears forming in her eyes.
“Aww, little sis, what happened?” Ewan knelt next to the six year old, scanning her body for sight of serious injury.
“I’m okay,” Juliet sniffed, wiping her nose on her sleeve. “I just stubbed my toe.”
“Yeah,” she nodded, desperately trying to put on a brave face for her older brother.
“Okay,” Ewan seemed to accept this answer. “Just give me a sec, I’ll be right back.” With that he disappeared into the kitchen, quickly returning with a bright red fruit in his hand.
Juliet grinned as he handed her the strawberry. This kind of gesture was a tradition between them and their older brother. The three siblings each had their favorite berries: James’ were blackberries, Ewan’s were blueberries, and Juliet’s were strawberries. Whenever anyone of them was hurt, physically or emotionally, it was custom for one of the other siblings to get them the berry of their choice.
The stubbed toe seemed like nothing compared to the injury Ewan sustained about a week later.
Juliet hadn’t seen what happened, mostly by fault of her own. She was reading in the living room when the fighting started. It wasn’t much, just a few raised voices between her parents and brother, but the noise was a warning sign for Juliet. Without a second thought, she raced upstairs to her room, where she could use the new portable tape player she had gotten for Christmas in order to drown out the yelling. She could almost pretend that the drumbeat coming from her headphones was the only sound in the world.
Juliet only felt safe enough to cautiously tiptoe downstairs about an hour later, after everything had gone quiet. Things were unusually quiet, actually. Only her mother sat alone at the kitchen table, with Daddy and Ewan nowhere to be seen. Naturally, Juliet inquired about their whereabouts.
Ignoring the question about her father, Juliet’s mother simply replied, “Your brother is up in his room.” Her voice was hollow, as if she was in shocked disbelief over something Juliet had yet to find out about.
Shaking it off in the present moment, Juliet headed upstairs again, with the intent of talking to Ewan.
He was laying in his bed, on top of the simple red and blue sheets, with his back towards his sister, almost intentionally.
He muttered something Juliet couldn’t hear, causing her to hesitantly step out of the doorway and into the room.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” Ewan’s voice sounded just as fragile as her mother’s had a few seconds before.
Determined now to see what was going on, Juliet rounded to the other side of the bed, and gasped when she saw her brothers face. Right under Ewan’s eye was a painfully swollen spot of red, which Juliet suspected would soon turn an unflattering shade of black and blue.
Why…? How…? Juliet tried to comprehend what she was seeing. Ewan was hurt, and he had just been fighting with her father, but… Daddy wouldn’t do that, would he?
“Julie…” Ewan sat up, obviously searching for the words to explain.
Juliet shook her head, blonde curls waving back and forth. She didn’t want to hear what he had to say. Without another word, she rushed out of the room…
...and came back over an hour later with a freshly baked blueberry pie.