Liar, Liar

by Sara Henry

I stare down into the pale yellow bedding, my eyes spotting the limp gray lump settled by the plastic red wheel. My hand creeps past the transparent walls of the cage until my fingertips graze the little body, a foreign thing for me to touch. After my hand lay on the still animal for a few moments, I recognize a cool, stiff feeling, and retract my arm from the cage, shocked. Twitching by my side, the venturing hand is aware that it has touched a corpse. I stand in silence by my white dresser, dizzy and unsure. Sunlight streams into my room early Saturday morning, dividing the gray shadows into linear shapes. My eyelids flutter downwards, and I begin to think. I do not cry. I do not yell and run to my parents’ room, safe in the warmness of my mother’s voice. Instead, I stand there and think. It’s early, just after seven, and no one else is awake yet. There is time to figure out what to do.
I decide to do nothing. The death of my hamster is unclear; I don’t know if I am to blame. I took care of him as well as any ten year old would, but he wasn’t that old, so his death is a mystery to me. How could I explain to my family why he was dead? I know what the right thing to do is, but I also know I would never be able to announce his death out loud; I am aware of my limitations, my weaknesses. Therefore, I choose to avoid the problem, and I take the nauseous worry and forcefully compress it, until it is just a creeping speck on the precipice of my thoughts.
It’s now eight, and I am finished thinking. My family rises, and the usual heavy footed sounds vibrate against the floorboards. John and Catherine, my brother and sister, drift downstairs for breakfast. I can tell it’s them by the unique sounds of their footsteps; my brother’s clumsy shuffle, and my sister’s energetic thumping. Stairs creak as my feet lead me down to the kitchen, to meet my siblings, sitting around the old wooden table and eating cereal.
Calmly, I put some whole wheat toast in the toaster for myself and take a seat beside my brother. His head turns towards me and his mouth begins to open and close, but no sound reaches my ears. A haze clouds my senses; the scene around me is completely blurred besides the one running in my head, the sight of my hand grasping my dead hamster.
Now both the eyes of John and Catherine are drifting over my face, and I fall into a panic. Thoughts hurriedly rush through my head. They know something. Heat rushes to my face; I know one of them will stand up and shriek, “I know he’s dead, you coward! You fraud!”
But no one stands up. John speaks to me, but it is not an accusation. He says, in a plain and young voice, “Can we play with Peanut today?”
 I can’t ignore this question and risk the unveiling of the truth. I don’t hesitate. My body takes over, and my mouth, hands and eyes move of their own accord, while my brain swirls incoherently. His question is answered positively by my voice, and the conversation moves on to cartoons. I laugh appropriately and naturally; I am surprised at how real it sounds. At one point I am sure they can see my true face, the horror that is disguised, but we keep playing the game, and I keep winning them over with jokes and grins. Boiling inside, I start wishing one of them would realize the truth, because above the sea of confusion in my head, resounds the unbearable words, you are a liar, you are a liar, you are a liar.
My mom calls me from upstairs in a clear voice, ringing with concern. I know she has discovered it, my secret. Her kind words reach me, and I run upstairs. She shows me the cage and says she’s sorry. Automatically, I put on a little show for her, to display the kind of sadness I think she would expect. The sadness I feel beckons me to collapse on the floor, to bend my spine and droop my head forward, to moan. But I do not act the way I feel. Instead, I hug my mom, and tell her I’m sorry too. 
© 2010 Sara Henry.  All rights reserved.   
Sara Henry is a young writer from Fairfield, Connecticut. She is currently a junior in high school with a consuming passion for writing. I have taken multiple creative writing summer courses and continue to write every day. This is her first published piece.