Iris Kaiser thought it odd that everyone believed the empty words that spewed out of her mouth. Why can’t they see how I truly feel? Can’t they see that I’m not happy?
Her teacher had asked her how she felt today. She replied, saying that she felt happy, that it was a good day. In reality, she felt nothing. Iris was never too-happy nor too-sad. Anger was an emotion that she barely felt during her short time in existence.
She had always been taught to say only the truth. One falsehood and God would smite her – she would be sent to Hell. That was the fundamental rule that eleven-year-old Iris has always followed. It was the core of how her parents raised her. But now, as she stood in front of her fifth-grade class, she was left dumbfounded. The earth didn’t open its maw and swallow her into fiery depths, nor did lightning come crackling down from the heavens, striking her on the spot.
She could feel the iron-shackles that enforced her beliefs crack. The damage so miniscule, so light, that to the naked eye, there was no change at all. But to Iris, it shifted her whole world.
… [EARLIER THAT DAY] …
It was a mundane morning.
Iris slipped out of her baby-blue cotton sheets at exactly 7:00 AM, shuffling to the bathroom in a haze. Yawning and bleary-eyed, the girl slowly came to her senses. At the sound of water running, all her sleepiness disappeared with a jolt. The door was closed.
Shared between both herself and her sister, the bathroom was experienced with the spats between the siblings. However, these “arguments” never occurred in the morning. Especially not at 7:00 AM.
Iris knocked on the door. Her knuckles made a resounding rap as they connected with the sturdy wood. There was no reply. Frustrated, she knocked again. Same as earlier, there was no sound but the running water. This time, Iris gave the door a good hard kick, and for good measure, rattled the locked doorknob. Ha! That should teach her a lesson for using my bathroom time.
“Who is disturbing me?”
The voice that responded did not belong to her sister.
She heard the water stop, the hinges to the old faucet squeaking from the movement. Dread filled her chest. An ominous silence ensued. Then, to her horror, she saw the lock turning counterclockwise. The worn brass doorknob began twisting next, blissfully oblivious to the fear it caused.
Snapping out of her daze, Iris turned around and sprinted down the hall into her bedroom. Her sister, Callisa, was quietly sitting on her bed, completely immersed in a book. Iris didn’t have time to nod a greeting, instead rushing to her drawers to pretend to look for clothes. She internally yelled at herself for not realizing Callisa was inside their bedroom the whole time. How could she be so stupid!
Callisa shot Iris a quizzical look, arching one eyebrow dramatically – a comical attempt to be threatening. Iris only shook her head, making it clear that this was not the time to be questioning her actions. Both girls resumed their actions, looking woefully busy completing their morning routines.
The quiet that permeated the Kaiser household was interrupted violently by someone flinging open a hard, oak door. A shuffling sound ensued, growing louder with each second that passed. Iris could tell it was her mother coming. Her father had loud, bold footsteps, and he never shuffled.
Suddenly, a soft, sweet voice made itself known.
“Girls?” Their mother’s form loomed in the doorway. Though her physical body was small and frail, her presence was not. “I would like to know who was knocking at the bathroom door today. I know it was one of you!” She stood, hands on her hips, staring down her daughters. “Well? Who’s going to admit the truth?”
Iris took advantage of this opportunity, immediately confessing.
"It was Callisa." Three words with devastating effect.
She watched her sister turn and look at her. She continued to watch as a horrible gasp left her lips. The last thing Iris remembers of that day is the disgust and anger burning in Callisa’s eyes as she was dragged out of their bedroom, kicking and screaming.
This was the day Iris singlehandedly caused her sister to be beaten within an inch of her life. She wasn’t sad, but she wasn’t happy either. Just neutral. However, she didn’t regret any of it.
It was not a mundane morning.