“When can we go out again, Momma?”
Taylor was tucked under a big, heavy duvet. He was dressed in thick, wool pyjamas. Like all the windows in their house, his bedroom windows were barricaded and the outside world was forever shut out.
“Shh, Little Man,” his momma soothed, stroking his cheek. “You know you can’t go out. The blizzard is still going. Now, be a good boy and go to sleep, okay?”
Taylor nodded and waited for his momma to leave. He lay there, staring at the ceiling and listening as she finished her bedtime routine and went to bed. Hours ticked past as he waited, patiently, until he heard the low murmur of her snoring.
Quietly, he slipped out of bed; in the darkness, he almost tripped over the electric heater his momma insisted on keeping in his room to keep the cold out. He gingerly made his way downstairs and pulled on his thick winter coat.
Two years he’d been told he couldn’t go outside because of the cold. One day, Momma had said a big storm had come and snowed them in. Only she could go out in it for supplies, but he had to stay inside, where it was safe and warm.
She brought him food and they played games. Sometimes they played late at night, strange games that she said would keep him warm and make him a big boy, but he wasn’t allowed outside.
Taylor loved his momma. He trusted his momma. But he’d heard things; cars, sounds of laughter. When he’d mentioned it, Momma had gotten very upset. She’d raged, saying he didn’t love her, didn’t trust her. She’d insisted on playing their games differently that night and Taylor had learned not to question his momma.
But he had to see.
The door was locked; dead-bolted and padlocked, and he had no idea where Momma kept the key, but he’d been working on one of the wooden planks nailed over the window out the back. It was soft, soggy, and wearing thin and he was sure he could force it open and maybe slip out to see what’d happened to his friends and the world outside.
As he wrenched at the wood, hissing as splinters jabbed through his gloves, Taylor caught the faintest glimpse of light.
“What are you doing?!” Momma barked from behind him.
She was on him in a heartbeat, berating him, dragging from him the small gap he’d made. For the briefest of split seconds, Taylor had glimpsed the bright, bustling world outside, even seen the vague shape of someone walking past their house.
But now Momma was mad… and he had to play her game as punishment.
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