Authors: Tessa Escalera
“Are you okay?”
“I'm okay. The baby too. You saved us, Sarah.”
Hope—the most dangerous lie
Travis will let me go into Jenny's room twice a day, she says. I help her change dressings for her bleeding, help her take a bath, hold the baby while she eats.
I never knew having babies meant so much blood. Jenny says it's normal, but she looks so pale. Almost like a ghost. It scares me. What if she dies? What happens to the baby?
Travis says I shouldn't have gone against the Master. He says I'm lucky to be alive. Jenny says the same thing, and I want to hate her for letting this happen to me. If she hadn't told me to make the baby “imperfect”, I wouldn't have been beaten. But then I look down at that innocent little face, and I know exactly why she did it. And I also know that I would do it all again. I don't know what happens to the other babies, but it can't be good.
Now I know what the crying from Annabelle's cell is. It's her daughter. Annabelle cries too. She doesn't answer me anymore. She just sings nursery rhymes in a falsetto voice, and then she laughs. She sounds like a crazy person from an asylum.
I have to get out of here. There has to be a way out. Jenny says the only way out is to die. But there has to be another way. I have to find it...for my sake, for the sake of Jenny and her baby, and Annabelle and her daughter. There has to be a way out. Please God, show me the way out.
Jenny is holding on. She looks so weak. The baby cries a lot. I think it makes the Master angry. He went in Annabelle's cell last night, and she cried for a long time afterward.
I'm so tired. The cold is in my bones. It's in my soul. I have bruises on top of bruises. My body is a mosaic of pain. I want to go to sleep and wake up free. I want to sleep forever.
He tells me I'm worthless. He tells me no one wants me. That he is the only one who will care for me. He says my parents have deserted me, leaving him to waste his money on preserving my worthless life.
I almost believe him sometimes. No one is looking for us. No one has come to rescue us. And Jenny...poor sweet Jenny, who has been here for years. Surely she had a family, parents, people she loved. Why haven't they come for her?
God, why won't you save us? Do you hate me too? Is this my punishment for not believing in you?
It was my turn again tonight. I didn't fight. I didn't struggle. I didn't wipe my tears. I swallowed the screams. And he didn't beat me.
Then why do I still want to die? I used to think rape was just a violation of the body. I was wrong.
He has torn into my very soul. Is that why you won't save me, God? Am I too dirty for Someone like you to love? Maybe no one can ever love me again. I'm not sure I want them to.
Please, God, let this end.
Today I stood naked in front of my mirror. I looked at myself, and a stranger stared back at me. The places that used to be soft and round, they are turning into angles and points. Travis says I have to eat. But I'm not hungry anymore. I'm just tired...and cold. So, so cold.
God, please deliver us. Bring us out of evil. Set us free, God, or let us die. I can't live like this anymore.
The next day, I was cradling the baby while Jenny bathed. I stared down at the pink fat cheeks, one marred by the red track of the wound I had caused, the perfect tiny rosebud of her mouth. The baby grasped my finger with one chubby fist while sucking on the other.
“Does she have a name? The baby?'
Jenny appeared in the doorway to the bathroom, clad in the ever-present faded nightgown. “Hannah.”
I stroked Hannah's little cheek delicately with my fingernail, tracing the puckered mark where I had cut her. The cut was deep—even with stitches it wouldn't have healed cleanly, and sweet little Hannah would always bear the scar. But I supposed that had been the whole point...if the cut had been any less, Jenny would have lost yet another one of her children.
Jenny came and sat down beside me on the cot. I handed her the baby and watched as Jenny tenderly cradled her little one in her arms.
“Is she named after someone?”
Jenny reached over to her desk and picked up a book, which she pressed into my hands. It was a Bible, worn and faded from much use. “Hannah was a woman who could not have children. And she cried out to God, and prayed for a child. She said that if God would just grant her a son, she would devote his life to God's service.” Jenny leaned over and kissed her daughter's head. “I have prayed, and begged God to be allowed to keep my baby. Even though I had a plan, I couldn't know until the moment of her birth if it would work. If you would have the strength to do what I asked. And even then, Master could have taken her. He could have killed me for defying him. I begged God for my plan to work. And it did...He gave me a daughter, and her name will forever remind me of my joy that has come from my pain.” She looked up at me and her eyes were filled with tears. “You were braver than I. You claimed responsibility, though you knew the consequence. You have a strength that I will never have.”
“You mean a stupidity you will never have,” I said wryly.
At this, Jenny threw back her head and laughed. “Sometimes the two qualities are less different than you might think.”
I don't understand how someone who has seen so much pain can manage to find joy or happiness anywhere. All the pro-choice people that I have known, Mary, Ms. Sanchez at school, they argue that what about the women who have children because of rape? Shouldn't they have the option not to be reminded of their rapist every day of their life?
But what if you see your rapist's face every day? I have never seen such love on a face as I did on Jenny's as she looked at her daughter. She doesn't care about how her daughter was conceived. All she cares about is that her baby is safe in her arms.
How can you love something that came from such an awful act? How can you look at that tiny face, so innocent and perfect, and NOT love her, no matter where or who she came from?
I don't understand. I don't understand any of this. The Bible lies next to me as I write. Maybe it holds the answers. God, is this your answer?
That night, I fell asleep reading the Bible that Jenny had given me.
“Sarah?” Jenny was sitting next to me on the cot, watching me as I held Hannah.
She looked down and picked at a loose thread on her gown. “I'm sorry to ask this, but I think I should. You've been here for nearly two weeks. I know that Master has been to your cell. At what point should you begin to be concerned that you may be pregnant?”
The question stopped me cold. “What?” I looked at the calendar, ice growing in my stomach. “I...I'm not sure. Surely it wouldn't happen now...I know stress can affect these things....”
“I found out I was pregnant less than a month after being taken. It is possible.”
I thought back, trying to remember my life before the endless darkness of captivity. It seemed like I was trying to remember a book or a movie, not my own life—something I had seen but that wasn't quite real. My thoughts were in no way comforting.
Jenny must have seen the look on my face. She reached under her cot and pulled out a brown paper bag. “Take this, and use it when you need to. I understand if you don't want to know. But if you want to, you can.”
At that moment Travis returned to take me back to my cell. I took the bag and handed Hannah back to Jenny. Jenny hugged me briefly.
I was just starting to feel hope again. The Bible tells me that all things work together to those who belong to God. It tells me not to fear. I don't know if I belong to God yet, but I want to. I want to know the peace that Jenny has. I want some hope that someday this will all end, that I will see the sky and the sun again.
But this...this is too much. I put the test on the back of my toilet, and there it sits...taunting me. I won't take it yet. It's too early anyway.
There is a rug on my floor now. A couple of novels sit on my desk, and more paper. I have socks, and towels, and another pillow. Travis brings me new things almost every day, even if I don't ask. I look into his eyes and I hope to see...I don't know what I think I will see. But I have to think he cares. Maybe eventually he can be persuaded to help us escape. He is so gentle, and so kind. Except for the fact that he works for a man that surely must be possessed by a demon, for how else could one man be so evil?
I am scaring myself. Sometimes I almost relax, I almost start to feel like this is my home. It frightens me how easily I have gotten used to the horrors here. Is this God's peace, or is this some sort of death of my senses? Am I going crazy? Maybe I need to be crazy to survive in here. If I escape, will I even be able to live in the real world? Or will I be so used to the dark and the cold and the loneliness that I won't ever be able to truly live again?
The next morning, when Travis brought my breakfast, he seemed unsettled. I sat unmoving on my cot as I always did, holding my blankets tight around me. Once he had put the tray down he turned to leave, but hesitated and instead sat in the folding chair and turned it to face me.
He had left the door open. Travis began to speak, but all that I noticed was that my door stood wide open, as if beckoning me to freedom. With great effort I tore my eyes away from it, knowing that if Travis noticed my glance, my chance of escape would disappear. My heart was pounding so hard in my ears that I could barely hear what he was saying.
“Sarah. Butterfly, did you hear me?”
“I asked if there is anything you need.”
The stupid part of my brain took over and I blurted out what first flashed into my head. “Yeah. I need to get out of here.”
“You know I can't do that.”
“A phone then. Internet. Let me talk to my parents.”
Travis shook his head. “Why are you asking me for things you know I can't give you?”
“Why are you keeping us here?” I nearly shouted in his face. “Why won't you let us go?”
“You wouldn't understand.”
“Try me! Tell me what possible reason there could be for kidnapping, and
a bunch of girls and taking their babies away! Tell me why!”
Travis reached out and patted my hand, which I drew away. “It will be okay, Butterfly. Please don't worry.”
I shook my head, and stood. My heart was pounding so hard I thought it would burst. Now might be my only chance. “I'm going to the bathroom,” I told Travis breathlessly, praying that he wouldn't guess my real intent.
And I did, because the door opened in that direction and I would have a straighter shot coming back. Because maybe Travis would have let his guard down a little by the time I came back out. Because I wasn't quite sure if I could make it through the next thirty seconds without throwing up.
In the bathroom I stared at myself in the mirror and breathed deeply.
It's now or never. If you don't make it, you might never get another chance. Please God, let this work.