Hold Me So That I'd Never Drown

"What? You don't have anymore money left?" shouted my father. His face was red with rage and his hands were trembling.
My mother's eyes flashed. I had never seen her so angry in my entire fifteen years.
"Not like you're so rich yourself! What happened to all that money you supposedly had? You told me last month that you'd found a higher paying job! What —"
"Shut up!" my father exploded. Suddenly he lifted his hand and strike her hard across the cheeks. She flinched, but did not back down.
"So now you're using violence, huh?" she taunted. "What happened to Mr. 'Violence solves nothing'?"
I covered my ears, wishing that they'd just go away.
"You're calling me a hypocrite?" he yelled, outraged. "You're calling me a hypocrite?"
Angrily, I threw my pillow across the bedroom, knocking over a framed photograph of my family. The glass shattered into millions of pieces, almost equivocating how my family were now.
Above my bed I could hear my brother, Danny, whimpering softly in his.
Thoughts raced through my mind like a bullet. I thought about running away; I thought about yelling at the screaming couple who were supposed to be my parents; I even thought about killing myself. No, I couldn't do that, suicide wasn't the solution.
Outside, my parents were still fighting like there was no tomorrow.
I swore out loud, startling Danny.
"Chris?" he moaned. He sat up, got off his bed and stood awkwardly by my bedpost.
I stared at him; his face was so innocent, so full of trust. But fear reflected clearly in his penetrating blue eyes. He might be only nine years old, but he was mature enough to know that my parents had a problem.
I sighed. Not answering him, I looked around me. This dump Danny and I so happily called a room. It wasn't big; in fact, it could pass for a jail cell. There were only two beds, Danny's and mine. We shared one pathetic little vinyl wardrobe consisting of only one compartment. Clothes were threatening to spill out, but we had to take what my parents gave.
It was good enough that we, my family (my parents, three sisters, Katia, Kalli, Kathrin, three brothers, Johnny, Steve, Danny and I), actually owned an apartment, down under in Newcastle, Australia. My dad had been laid off from his previous million-dollar-pay job; he was embellezing money from his company. The only reason why he was here arguing with my mother instead of wasting his life away in jail was because his ex-company was kind enough not to press charges.
At least, that was what he always told me.
I had read enough books and watched enough television programmes to know that once you'd moved more than five times, you were either part of the FBI protection programme thing or you were seriously in trouble with the law.
My siblings and I were born and raised in Sacramento, California. Things were going really well, until three years ago, when my father got greedy. From then on, we were consistently on the road.
From Sacramento we travelled to Orlando, Florida. We changed our last names from Roberts to Cray. I changed my name from Chris Roberts to Wes Cray. There we stayed for a couple of months, until Daddy Dearest packed up and moved us all to Boston, Massachusetts. We changed our names again, and this time we stayed for four months. But good things will definitely pass; before long we were packing up again and hitting the road...again. we followed our father from New York to Michigan to Indiana to San Antonio. We covered most of the United States in a mere two years.
Then one fateful day Fred — I stopped calling him "Dad"; I call him by his first name, Fred — decided to move out of the United States completely. So we conquered half of Canada, until Fred told us, "We're going to Australia! Isn't that wonderful?"
"Yeah, it's so wonderful that we're running from the freaking law," I'd retorted.
I was fourteen, and already I could see through Fred's lame excuses ("Isn't staying in one place your whole life boring? Let's make life interesting!"). But he refused to admit it; he continued feeding our heads (with the exception of my mother, Michelle, his partner-in-crime) with lies, even until today, when we are staying in Newcastle.
Outside, my parents were still arguing. This time, their voices had gotten louder and louder.
Danny climbed onto my bed, out of fear I supposed. Seeing Danny this frigtened of my parents only made me angrier. I mean, he was only nine; nine-year-olds weren't supposed to fear their parents.
I hugged Danny protectively to myself, mentally warding Fred off, just in case he suddenly decide to take his anger out on us kids.
All of a sudden I heard a loud slam of the door. I jumped, my heart beating wildly. Danny was shivering in my arms, tears flowing down his cheeks.
"Leave, you shameless slut!" I heard Fred screamed, his voice straining with anger. "We don't need you here! Leave and never come back!"
Danny stared at me, his eyes round with fear. I could practically read his thoughts: Michelle had left us.
Fred suddenly pounded on our door, making Danny and I jump.
"Get out of there!" he growled.
Gently, I pushed Danny off my bed. Rolling my eyes in annoyance and fear, I muttered, "What now?"
Danny and I stepped outside. Our other siblings were there, too. Fred was nowhere to be found.
Judging from their faces, I assumed that my siblings did not know what was going on either. They looked frightened and confused, just like Danny...and just like me.
As sudden as Michelle had left, Fred appeared.
Kathy, my thirteen-year-old sister, widened her eyes in shock. I could hear gasps escaping everyone's mouths.
I took a closer look at Fred, and gasped too.
In his hand was a gun. No, not a gun. A rifle.
Fred looked at me, his smouldering cold and dead blue eyes burning into me. He stared at me straight in the eye, sending chills down my back. I saw something in his eyes, something dangerous, something wild; something which I'd never seen before.
Beside me, Danny gripped my hand tightly.
Fred pointed his rifle at me. Fear shot through my body and my mouth went dry.
Fred smiled crookedly at me. "Ah, Chris. Always the smart one, aren't we?"
"No..." I croaked. I found my voice, and continued, trying to disguise my fear, "Fred, no —"
"Don't call me Fred!" he snapped. "Who the hell do you think you are? I'm your goddamned father! Call me Dad!"
Ookay...Dad," I said, my voice shaking a little. I swallowed hard and continued, "Don't. Don't do something which you'll regret."
He laughed. A low, humourless laugh.
"Don't do something which you'll regret," he mimicked. Suddenly he turned, his rifle pointing at Kathy. He breath began coming out in short, frigtened gasps.
"Daddy, no —" she began.
"Good-bye, Kathy," Fred interrupted and fired.
Kathy fell limply to the floor, her life taken away from her. Just like that.
Impulsively I grabbed Danny and ran towards the door. I threw it open and slammed it shut just in time to avoid Fred's bullet.
Danny was now sobbing in my arms. Although I felt my knees go weak, I stifled back my tears; I had to be strong for Danny.
I quickly hid Danny and I behind a wall, just outside our apartment. I could vividly hear Fred's angry shoutings. He fired once, twice, thrice...and then fired two more times. With each gunshot I felt a smothering knot in my heart, as if I was the one receiving the bullets.
Then silence.
After what felt like eternity, when I could hear nothing anymore, I stood up shakily. I crept gingerly towards our apartment with Danny following closely behind.
Slowly, cautiously, I opened the door, being extra careful not to make any noise, just in case Fred was still around. I stepped into our apartment, the incriminating stench of gunpowder hanging in the air.
What I saw almost made me faint. Everyone was dead, including Fred. He had shot himself in the head.
I backed away from the gruesome scene, almost knocking Danny down.
"Holy —" I began, and caught myself. I should not swear in front of Danny. I should not let Danny see this. I had to protect him. I had to get away. Get away...
"What happened?" Danny asked in a small voice.
I blinked back tears, comtemplating what to tell him.
Then it hit me. Fred had spent three years hand-feeding lies to fill our heads. I could not do the same to Danny; I owed him the truth. Fred owed him the truth.
I took a deep breath, and answered. "Fred — Dad — is dead, Danny. Everyone is dead..."