A dim lamp illuminates an otherwise dark room. A worn red couch with stains in various places resides in the center with a similar armchair beside it. MOM sits on the couch straight up, fidgeting with her skirt and bouncing her knee. DAD is beside her, his eyes shut and hands clenched together. A teenage girl, SHANTI, sits in the chair, her face emotionless as she allows the phone screen she holds to absorb her. A very young boy, CHARDY, kneels on the floor in the middle. He appears restless as he rolls around a couple of times, trying to get comfortable. No one will look at each other.
(MOM slowly looks at CHARDY and opens her mouth to speak, but her lip trembles instead, and her head falls to her hands silently.)
Daddy, I think something is wrong with Mommy.
(A gruff erupts from DAD as he turns his knees away from CHARDY without ever opening his eyes. CHARDY rests his head on SHANTI’s knee to get her attention.)
I was talking to her about Priya, and then she just started crying.
(SHANTI gets up frustrated and enters her bedroom next door. CHARDY scans the room, confused.)
When is Priya coming home? I want to play superheroes with her.
(MOM gets up and leaves the room. CHARDY looks around the silence before following SHANTI into her room.)
Shanti! Are you in here?
(The room is simple, with SHANTI lying on a twin bed. SHANTI rolls over when CHARDY enters to hide tears from her brother and continues on her phone.)
(over-dramatic sigh) I need you to tell me what’s happening because no one else will. I’m not a baby anymore. I can handle it. (pause) Come on! Tell meeeee. (pause) Fine.
(CHARDY turns to walk out the door but then turns back around.)
This morning I got to stay home because I was sick. But I wasn’t actually sick. (proudly) I faked it! But Mommy said a man came to school today, and that’s why Priya isn’t home yet. And I’m wondering if I should’ve gone to school today, too, to see the fun man. She never gets past that part in the story, though, and I don’t understand. (pause) And, today, she left me home alone, which was awesome because I got to watch so much tv. But she was gone for a very long time and hasn’t really said much since then. And nobody is making supper, and I’m getting hungry. Do you think Priya will be home for dinner? (pause) Shanti?
(CHARDY takes a step closer, and SHANTI places a pillow over her head. CHARDY retreats from the room back to the living room where MOM has returned and is now holding a blood-stained white t-shirt.)
Is that blood? Cool!
(MOM looks alarmed and hides the t-shirt. CHARDY rushes towards them and resumes his seat on the floor.)
Can I have it? I’ll use it in my game. I’ll be a policeman solving a murder.
(This breaks MOM, and she scurries out of the room, trying to hold back tears unsuccessfully.)
(snarkily to DAD) I told you something was wrong.
(CHARDY and DAD both notice MOM left the t-shirt behind at the same time. They both lunge for it, but CHARDY gets it first. He analyzes it, taking in the feel of the dried blood. He traces a small hole in the center.)
Isn’t this Priya’s shirt?
(DAD looks away, unable to explain the unspeakable to CHARDY and unable to watch as he discovers it on his own. CHARDY continues to stare down at the shirt.)
This will make the game even better: I’ll solve her murder! And I’ll start as soon as she gets home.
(CHARDY’s expression changes from childish excitement to concerned perplexity.)
But why is Priya’s shirt covered in blood? (pause) And why is Priya not home? (pause) And who was the man at school? (pause) And why is Mommy crying? (begins hyperventilating) And why is no one answering me? (yells to DAD) Where is Priya? (softly to himself) And why wasn’t I with her?
END OF SCENE