Read Part 1 – Awakening
Read Part 2 – Perfect
Read Part 3 – Elly
“Are you going to talk to me?” Grace asked, sitting on the floor across from her mother. Zadie stared at the wall, her lips a thin line, her eyes blank.
“What do you want me to say,” Zadie asked, finally, her tone defeated.
“I want to know why. Why did you let dad – Robert – lock me away? Why you let him hurt me?”
Zadie sat upright, drew her legs to her chest and looked out the tiny basement window. She stayed silent.
“Did he really hurt you too? When I heard you told the police that, I didn’t believe you. I talked to Noah…”
Zadie looked back at Grace at the mention of her son’s name. She hadn’t spoken to him in so long. She lied to friends and family, said that Noah needed time, that he was too raw after everything he’d witnessed in their home. How could she tell people her son hated her? What would they think of her?
“…and he said he never saw or heard Robert mistreat you. He doesn’t believe you. But if he hurt you mom, if he really hurt you, if he was just really good at hiding it…” Grace slid from her chair and knelt in front of her mother, putting her hand on her knee. “…tell me the truth. I’ll believe you. I’ll help you. Just look me in the eyes and tell me the truth.”
Zadie’s dark eyes met her daughter’s. “Robert never hurt me,” she said coldly.
Grace sighed and moved away from her mother, sitting back against the wall. “Then why? Why did you let him just…”
“It wasn’t his idea…to lock you away…” she whispered.
Grace stood slowly, her eyes widening. “What did you just say?”
“It wasn’t his idea,” Zadie repeated. “From the time you were a very little girl, your father…he…looked at you….the look in his eyes…he loved you so much…”
“More than you, you mean,” Grace whispered, but Zadie continued without reacting, as though in a trance.
“…and then when he started sneaking around…going to your room at night…I just…I couldn’t stand the sight of you any longer. When we moved cross country I asked Robert to…keep you hidden…I’m so sorry…”
Grace couldn’t listen any more. She rose from the couch and ran out of the room, slamming the basement door and swiftly locking it behind her. Zadie screamed behind the door, begging her not to leave her down there again, but it was just noise. Upstairs, Grace grabbed Elly and pulled her into her arms. She smelled sweet, like maple syrup and chocolate. She carried her out the front door, her head resting on her shoulder. Noah was waiting, his car idling at the corner, ready to transport them all to a new life. They’d never go back to that house.