“Girls, this is your brother,” the lady says, still holding your arm tightly.
You try to wave and smile, but it’s bitter. The grimace shows, you know, because the three girls reflect it back at you. You sigh and sag against the lady — a different home, the same old story.
It takes time for you to get used to it. The feeling of being the new kid in the house never really goes away, but in this one you feel like you’re the only one. The lady is never home during the day; she arrives late at night, just after dinner and you don’t see much of her. There’s no help — the girls fend for themselves and leave you to do the same thing. The girls are always studying or closed up in their quarters. The house is huge, and it seems like you’re the only one who wants to explore it. High ceilings, long hallways, locked doors. Your favorite place is the library, but one of the girls — the younger one — is always in there with her nose buried in medicine books.
Sometimes you wander farther. You’ve taken to explore the cellar outside the house and there you find another girl, this time the older one. She is woodcarving with an axe, an impressive collection of knives hanging from the walls. You stand there and stare. She stares back and says nothing.
“What are you doing?” you ask shyly.
“A chair,” she answers simply.
A shiver runs down your spine. You leave her there and walk as calmly as possible back to the house.
You don’t expect to find the other sister in the kitchen. You stumble inside and backtrack a few paces when you see her bent over the stove.
“Oh,” you mumble. “I’ll come back later.”
“Please, stay,” she says. You actually listen and stay frozen in place. She then fumbles and looks as uncertain as you feel. “Would you like me to teach you how to cook?”
You agree hesitantly. None of the sisters have made an effort to integrate you into their dynamic, she’s the first. You stand closer to her and she teaches you how to cook meat to perfection.
Slowly, but surely, you start to feel more like a member of the house rather than just the new guy. You cook with one of the girls, and the other two eat what you cook. You sit down in the library with the youngest girl and both of you read in companionable silence.
But the older sister is the one that you’re still wary about. She carries herself with confidence, with the knowledge of being the oldest, and wears the weight of that responsibility with pride. She imposes. She knows her place and makes sure the rest of you know it too.
One day, she’s gone with the lady. Both of them disappear for the day. However, it doesn’t feel like a normal day. There’s a tension in the air, a worry that the rest of you seem to be aware of but refuse to name out loud for fear of it becoming true. You don’t eat dinner. You sit silently at the table, the candles burning, and the wind howling outside.
The door bangs open and you listen as grunts and grumbles fill the house. Something is being dragged down the main hall and then down the basement. You don’t move. The three of you remain stoically in silence, staring at the table. The basement door closes with force and the noises die.
As if on cue, the girls stand up. At a loss for what to do, you follow them blindly. They lead you down the basement. It’s all dark and a fickle light burns at the bottom of the stairs.
You get there, the girls spread and circle a wooden chair where a man — battered, bruised, and bleeding — is sitting unconscious. The oldest girl grunts and you turn to look at her. Her eyebrow is split and there’s dry blood there. Your eyes scan the room for the lady. She’s standing at the back of the room, sheltered by the shadows, smoking a cigarette.
“My boy,” she says. “These are your sisters.”
You look at each girl carefully, slowly. You nod. They are your sisters.
You are their brother.