Silence. Complete, uncomfortable silence. I am used to it, at this point. Used to hearing absolutely nobody creeping around downstairs, used to not having the sounds of another human presence grace my ears. At least, not at this hour. Not when the light outside is still dim, not when the sun has barely poked its yolky face out from the horizon.
My feet swing over the bed. It's routine, and I smile as I hear the familiar sound of skin on wood as my toes touch the ground. The silence has been broken by the scream of the bedsprings and by the comforting noise of footsteps on floor, both sounds that rise up to greet my ears and blow the dust off my eardrums as I cross the room. It's all too usual, all too familiar.
Albus is sleeping. His breathing is much louder than mine, and swirls about the room in great mists of noise. He is never awake early enough to hear the silence in the morning. I fear everyday that he has woken before me, and that he, too, has heard what is nothing. It would frighten him, I'm sure of it, so I do not tell him of the silence in the morning. I keep it to myself, keep it tucked safely away so that neither sibling may touch it.
The stairs rise to greet my feet as I step down them, letting the sensation of footfalls echo shiver throughout my figure. Each step reverberates around the room, yet another sound that is usual in the morning. Foot on stair, foot on stair, foot on stair, all noise this makes curling toward my ear. I welcome them, wanting to rid the silence I hear when I wake, wanting to shake the dust from my ears as they realize there is nothing to be heard.
Their bed is empty. The sheets are crisp, lying neatly where my mother must have made them before she left. The bed makes no sound. This disappoints me, as it does every morning, as I long to hear the breathing of two adult forms tucked safely in their blankets. There is no such sound, as the pillows sit in still harmony with each other, silent as they were when my mother left them. Some days I stay here, and lean against the door frame listening for sounds that do not exist. Today, though, I am tired. I do not wish to torture myself while straining for something that is not there. I turn away, letting the footfalls sink into my mind as I always do.
The kitchen: empty. The sitting room: empty. The hallways: empty. Emptiness does not make sound. I make sounds for it, rearranging pillows so that I hear the rustle of fabric on fabric, opening cupboards and shutting them once more so that I hear the thumping of wood on wood. I mimic the sounds they would have made if they were here. I do it for them, because while being so far away, they cannot do it for themselves. They are the noises I used to hear in the morning, before the silence that makes me so uncomfortable crept into life. They are the noises I make sure my brothers hear as well, as it is what is best for them.
I forget myself for a moment, and sink against the counter. I allow the silence to invade me. My own breathing is not loud enough to reach my ears, and so it is the stillness of the plants on the windowsill and the paintings on the wall that I absorb. And then I break it, suddenly feeling the urge to wrap my fingers on the wood of the counter. It assures me that I am alive, that I suffer no loss of hearing. Without these simple wraps on wood, I fear I would lose myself in the silence that the house has come to be.
There are footfalls on the stairs, footfalls that are not my own, and I know then that my brother has woken. I will not allow him to feel the silence as I have, and so I reach for a dish and set in the sink. The clatter is not loud enough to reach my still sleeping brother, but enough to assure me that the quiet of the morning has been broken.
He appears in the kitchen where I stand, his eyes cloudy with sleep. I set another dish in the sink, and another, and another. I have protected him always from the lull that settles in the morning, shielded him from the noiselessness that occurs and breaks your heart in a million different pieces when it does. Dish upon dish stack together, as I determined to continue with the subtle explosions of sound I am creating for his ears to enjoy. And then suddenly, I have no more. There is a break in clatters, moments of silence that seem to span forever until I cannot keep track of them anymore. I say nothing, though my insides twist and scream in the uncomfortable peace that has woven itself into every fiber of the room. It is the thing I fear most: dead, lifeless silence in the morning hours when my siblings, who I have worked so hard to defend, are awake and conscious. I will him to say something, anything to break what has settled between us as I have gone mute. Horror floods my insides as he utters the very words I have sworn to myself I would never hear: “Quiet today.”