It was mid-October and I was laying outside under the large oak tree reading a novel. The tree’s branches swayed in the wind, arms moving as if they were protecting the leaves and everything surrounding it. As I was flipping the pages, I shifted my weight under the crunch of the dead leaves. I had been reading for quite some time; the sun was starting to set and weave its way into the branches, giving me only a bit of reading light.
The yelling got louder inside my house. I could hear Dad as he slammed his bottle on the kitchen island, shattering it. Mother continued to screech at him. I pulled myself into a ball, concentrating harder to try and ignore the anger that floated outside from the house windows. My little brother Jayden ran outside, toy cars in his little fists, and dipped down beside me under the old tree. I wrapped an arm protectively around him and began to read aloud. The fighting began to quiet, and the light outside began to dim. The wind picked up, swirling the leaves around on the ground. It tore away leaves from the tree, and as they floated down to Earth they settled around Jayden and me, forming a blanket of protection.
Mother finally came outside. She had a matchbox in her hand and slowly shuffled over to the Jack-O-Lanterns we had carved a few days ago. It was the first time they had been lit, and their smiles sagged as the light poured out of them. Her back was turned away from us, shoulders heaving as she tried to wipe away her tears on her shirt sleeve. We had noticed every movement, barely peering over the book in fear that she would notice. Mother sat down on the front porch step, her eyes wandered over everything except for us.
Dad left through the garage door and slammed it shut. He had his work boots in his hand as he climbed up into his truck.
I tried not to take my eyes off of my book, even though it was too dark to read. Jayden squirmed next to me, running the toy cars along the leaves and dirt that protected that tree. We sat there long after Mother went inside. Our toes had begun to numb. We waited for him to come back and tell us to get inside for bed like he always did when we were outside for too long. It got so late that Mother came out, turning the front porch light as she went, and finally walked over to us. She picked Jayden up, half asleep, and motioned for me to follow her inside.
Dad didn’t come back after that night to clean up the shattered glass and the mess he made, leaving us in the blankets of leaves and newly forming October dew.