He wanted to cry. He had never WANTED to cry before, not once in his life that he could remember. It always just happened. But now, that's all he could think of - wanting to cry, and being unable to. Not now. Not when his dad needed him most to be a big boy. Not when he needed his dad most to be the hero. The comforter. The one who made the bad guys go away at night.
But they wouldn't go away.
And so he sat hunched, in silence, looking at his father, the strongest man he'd known for the last seven years. A man who, right now, couldn't even face his own son. So the boy looked on with pleading eyes that fell on blindness in the dark.
Every now and again, his teeth would chatter. He'd clench his jaw tight, not because it made too much noise, but because if his lower lip quivered any more, he'd be unable to keep from crying and they would hear him. They would hear him and find him and his father there, where they'd been for what felt like two days.
It was hard to tell exactly how much time had passed since they made their way to safety. Neither one slept for more than a few minutes at a time, and the only light he could see hummed and lightly flickered from the other room, like most old fluorescents do.
Like the ones the boy would stare at during school. Tuning out the rest of the world until the bell rang for recess. Waiting to see if he could catch it the next time it skipped and flittered - like a staring contest that he would always lose. This light didn't offer any escape. Its hum became a buzz that became a siren in his ears. The unpredictable flickering was not like a whimsical fairy darting about anymore, it had become an aggressor. A dog at the end of his leash, randomly, desperatley lashing out.
His teeth chattered again.
The cold had seeped halfway up his shirt. The runoff was up past his ankles and clung to anything it could grab, refusing to let go, basting his skin. His father was able to stay relatively dry. The wastewater barely touched the tops of his boots. Whatever luxury his size afforded in keeping him off the floor was quickly forgotten by the ceiling. Perpetually hunched, he was forced to take as little space as possible. Only one of two things he could actually do for his son at this time.
The son he couldn't bring himself to look at.
What started as a flood of uncontrolled thoughts churning, whirlpooling in the boy's head slowly fell into the wadepool of sewage below him. Only one thought remained. Why? Why had these men come for them? Why couldn't it have been someone else? Why hadn't they left yet? He coudn't bring himself to face the answers, so the question of why perched on his mind like a drop of water on the windshield. Slowly, sometimes jauntily dripping down, collecting with other drops, separating into new drops, gaining speed, changing course, gaining mass, then suddenly.
The wiper blades would erase it from his mind. Only to have it start again as a fresh drop at the top of the windshield.
He let this go on. This mind game to occupy his time. How long had it been? Two days? Don't think about that. Think about the drop.
Focus on the drop.
He did this to keep from facing the truth. He was only seven, but he knew the answer to the question 'why'. Why those men were there. Why they were interested in his father. Why he needed to hide, no matter how long, or in what conditions. He even knew why, when his father had been so wanton with his bullets during their retreat, why he made sure to save the one at the bottom of the clip.
He even knew why his father, the man who made the monsters under the bed go away, didn't look at him once in the last two days.
Or had it been three?
Think about the drop of water.