Lian and Robbie had a strange relationship with the basement. The rule that it was off-limits didn’t cease their curiosity and questions in regards to the place.
Only one of the adults of the house would go down at a time, while the other would stay up and keep an eye on the kids. But on some occasions, Donna and Roy would head down there together, though it usually wasn’t for long.
Sometimes Lian didn’t care that the basement was off-limits. There were other things that she felt were more worthy of her attention, such as drawing or styling her step brother’s curly hair.
Same could be said for Robbie, as he found that his collection of toy cars was a lot more interesting than what went on below the cottage’s two stories.
But not every day was the same. Sometimes there was just nothing else to do with their spare time. The cottage was on the edge of the woods and was quite a walk from any sort of civilization. The only thing beyond them was the rolling hills of the country side. Both Robbie and Lian were a little too young to go exploring the area without an adult with them.
The place differed from the small, cramped, Manhattan apartments that both Lian and Robbie were used to, but it differed in a good way. It never hurt to enjoy the great outdoors from time to time.
On the current day, the two step siblings decided to put some effort into discovering just why the one part of the house was off-limits.
So instead of playing monopoly (which was pointless anyway since Robbie was four), the two younglings had wedged the basement door open just enough to peer inside.
It was hard to see what laid at the bottom of the steps. Curiously, Lian squinted and tried to make out what she could.
She managed to recognize a quiver full of arrows, something to be expected from someone like her father. The said quiver was leaning against a work bench, on which sat various tools and nuts and bolts.
Lian soon heard footsteps approaching. She took a deep breath and did her best to stay silent.
“You seem worried,” came Roy’s voice.
“That’s because I am,” replied Donna. “I don’t know how long we’ll be able to stay out here. It’s like the apocalypse happens every time we try to focus on anything else.”
“Well, if that’s true, then the apocalypse appears to be taking its sweet time.”
“I’m being serious, Roy.”
Through the slightly open door, Lian and Robbie could see Roy walk into sight. He stopped in front of the workbench with an arrow in his grasp, then he proceeded to grab a bottle of superglue to fit the fletchings on the thing.
Donna followed him shortly, taking slower steps. Although it was hard to see, she snaked her arms around Roy's broad torso and rested her chin on his shoulder.
“Do you ever feel like we’re just on vacation?” she asked him. Her voice wasn’t as loud as last time, it was softer, more gentle.
For a beat, Roy said nothing. He stopped fiddling with the arrow and reached up to touch Donna’s hand.
The two children near the door tried to lean in close, hoping to hear what Roy had to say. Had they leaned any further, they would have easily slipped and fallen down the stairs.
Soon, Roy responded as he deemed fit:
“Yeah... a little bit.”
“How do you think the kids feel?”
“I dunno, I never asked them. Have you?”
Robbie then sneezed.
Immediately, the two adults in the basement turned their heads and directed their attention up the stairs. They quickly noticed the two younglings peaking through the door.
As swiftly as she could, Lian tugged Robbie back and shut the basement door.
“Quick! Act natural!” she told him in a voice that sounded anything but.
Footsteps could be heard coming up the basement stairs as Lian dragged Robbie by his wrist. His tiny legs stumbled to keep up with her.
The two dashed through the halls of the cottage until they made it to the living room. Lian hopped to the couch and grabbed the book that was resting on the coffee table. Robbie sat himself on the floor and returned to playing with his little toy cars.
The basement door opened and out walked Donna. She headed towards the living room and peered through the doorway to see a four-year-old and six-year-old attempting to act “natural.”
“What are you two doing?” asked Donna, as she was quite sure that all was not what it seemed to be.
Robbie said nothing and bumped his toy cars together. He bumped one of them a little too hard and caused it to roll underneath the couch. Although slightly deterred, he crawled over and tried to reach for his toy.
On the other side of things, Lian flipped the pages of her book and pretended to be fascinated by the contents. “I’m reading,” she claimed proudly.
Donna raised an eyebrow. “Are you? You’re reading As You Like It?”
Lian blinked and glared at the page. Many of the words were things she had no hope of pronouncing, let alone understanding.
“Who’s the main character?” asked Donna, crossing her arms and looking both amused and suspicious.
“Shakespeare?” Lian guessed.
Donna let out a chuckle. “Okay then,” she said, nodding her head. “Enjoy your book, Lian, just make sure to stay away from the basement.”
Seeing that the gig was up, Lian shut the book. “What are you doing down there with Daddy?” she asked as quickly as possible.
“Working,” Donna explained, walking to where her son was. “It’s nothing to worry about, just boring adult stuff.”
Donna knelt down and reached underneath the couch. She grabbed Robbie’s toy car, shook the lint off, and handed it back to him.
Robbie took his car into his little hands, looking deeply into his mother’s eyes. “Is something bad going on?”
“Nothing bad’s going on,” Donna assured.
“So why can’t you tell us anything about it?” Lian wondered, slumping back on the couch.
“Because there’s nothing worth worrying about, Lian,” Donna simplified. “If there ever is, then I promise that I’ll tell you.”
Both Lian and Robbie nodded their heads. Robbie seemed to be just a little more accepting of things than his step sister, although it could have been from his lack of comprehension as opposed to actually being able to understand what was going on.
Donna stood up straight and wiped the dust off her knees. “I’m thinking of getting lunch started. Do you two want to help?”
Robbie nodded, then raised his arms upwards, which happened to be the motion he did whenever he wanted to be picked up by his mother (which was often.)
Leaning down, Donna wrapped her arms around him and raised him up.
“I can help too,” Lian offered, hopping off the couch. She started dashing to the doorway. “I’ll go get Daddy!”
“Not so fast,” Donna said, halting Lian by placing her hand on the little girl’s shoulder. “The only way you’re ever getting to the basement is if you get Robbie to lower you through the dumbwaiter. And we’re not going to go through that for a third time.”