Authors: Tessa Escalera
“You can do that?”
Travis gave me a look I didn't quite understand. “Not everything I told you about my life was a lie.”
“That's comforting,” I said sarcastically, taking another swig of the ginger ale before lying back on my cot, an arm thrown over my eyes to block out the glare of the light bulb.
“Master won't be happy with me if I let you lose his child. Whether you want to admit to your pregnancy or not, doesn't change the fact that it exists. And whether he cares or not, I don't intend to let
die either.” The chair scraped back and I was left alone in my cell as the door clanked closed.
They brought a new girl today.
I guess Annabelle really is gone.
Essie won't move from my side. She just sits there clinging to me, trembling.
I'm not feeling much better. The new girl is screaming, and pounding on the door. She sounds young. They put her in Annabelle's cell.
She sounds angry. That's probably a good thing. Maybe it means she has the will to survive. She will be hard to tame. I just hope it doesn't work against her.
When I woke up this morning, the light coming through my window looked weird. Apparently it snowed last night. All I can see through the glass is white.
Today while the new girl yells and rattles the bars on her door, I have been working on the plaster on my window. Essie cries if I she's not touching me so I've got her tied to my back in a weird sort of sling I made from my blanket.
I hope the new girl settles down soon. She's got to be exhausted. I'm not even sure she'd hear me if I tried to talk to her right now. She's making Hannah cry. It's usually so quiet down here. I'm not used to all this noise.
Reading that last paragraph I wonder if I really have gone crazy. I guess there's a point at which you've felt enough fear for a lifetime and you can't really feel it anymore.
I've got one corner of the glass free from the plaster. Just three more...and all the edges. At this rate, by the time I get the glass free, I'll be too big to fit through the window. Not that it matters anyway. Winter is coming. No shoes, no coat...I wouldn't survive half a day out there if snow is at all common here. I'm guessing it is, considering it's only somewhere around the end of October by my calculations.
But now I have a new reason to stay alive. For the next few months, anyway.
Yeah that's right. I've accepted what's getting really hard to ignore.
New girl's name is Sophie. She finally calmed down long enough for me and Jenny to talk to her. I want to warn her what's coming...I got toast and bologna for breakfast today so I know Master's coming. But I think Jenny was right about not telling me what was going to happen before it did. It would have made things that much worse, to have that fear and apprehension for hours or days before anything actually happened.
I can't believe I'm not telling a girl she's going to be raped. At least I was able to tell her that she's not going to be killed...as long as she cooperates. At least not right away.
One more day over. A few more particles of plaster gone. I'm still alive. Essie is still alive. Jenny and Hannah are still alive.
Thank you, God, for one more day. One day closer to freedom.
At least that's what I keep saying over and over, because the thoughts that I really want to think aren't nearly so hopeful.
Today I tended to Sophie's wounds. I bandaged the cut on her cheek, I put salve on her bruises. I told her how to apply it to the areas too private for me to touch.
She's probably the prettiest of us all. Her hair is fiery red and her green eyes are filled with an anger that never subsides. She says Master will pay for what he did. She has that hard edge of someone who has seen trials, someone who long ago learned to ignore fear. I hope it doesn't cost her life. Maybe it's the sort of attitude that will get us out of here.
I feel this strange sort of regret. My life has already been ruined. I will never be the same, even if I get out of here alive. Sophie still has a chance to be normal. She still has a chance to recover. Jenny and I may live, but we will never go back to what we were.
I wish I had someone to explain the Bible to me. I don't understand so much of it. Why would God let things like this happen to us? I know what it says, that we all have sinned and fallen short of His glory. But surely the little things don't really make us worthy of hell?? I can't imagine that a man like the Master is headed anyplace other than one of fire and brimstone. But me? I've always been a good person.
I guess that's not quite true. I know I've definitely done things wrong. But does talking back to my parents really make me deserve the same fate as a man who captures and beats girls? Who takes their children away?
I don't understand. I want to. I want to understand Jenny's peace and I want to have it too.
If I could get to that man, I would strangle him. That evil, twisted, wicked...that man described by words I can't make myself write.
She just had a BABY! Why would he do that?
I want to kill him. He deserves nothing but the deepest circles of hell.
I think Travis likes me. I know how stupid and crazy that sounds, considering the circumstances. But maybe if I keep him talking enough, I'll learn something useful.
I've got one of the short sides of the window free.
I'm starting to see my belly grow. Not much, but it's definitely there. I probably wouldn't even notice if I hadn't already lost so much weight.
Essie called me “mama” today. It about broke my heart. Should I have corrected her or not? Maybe I'm the only mama she has left.
I was sitting cross-legged on my cot, the tiny swell of my belly cradled in my hands. Essie was stacking her blocks on top of each other as I read the crinkled pages of the old Bible.
Travis came in to bring my lunch. After setting the tray down he sat in the chair and crossed his legs, regarding me solemnly.
I looked up and raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“A place has been found.”
“What are you talking about?”
“For Jenny's baby. A home has been found.”
I couldn't even process what Travis was saying. “I don't understand.”
Travis leaned forward and propped his elbows on his knees. “What did you think we did with the babies?”
“You take them away from their mothers. Isn't that enough?”
Travis laughed and shook his head. “We don't just take babies away for no reason. They go to new families, families who will love them.”
Some feeling I couldn't quite identify was coiling in my belly, a spike of icy cold foreboding. “What are you talking about? Jenny loves her baby.”
Travis shook his head. “Jenny and Annabelle and Sophie have never known love. They are incapable of loving. They have all lived in many different homes, run by those who knew them only as temporary children and never part of the family.”
“What? You mean foster homes?” At his nod, the coil tightened. “Just because they were in the foster system doesn't mean they are incapable of love. That's stupid.”
Travis's face darkened. “You don't know what you're talking about.”
“So what, they don't deserve to keep their babies because they were foster kids? What kind of crazy talk is that?”
“Master puts the children in homes that are able to provide everything they need. Not broken mothers from broken homes.”
“If they're broken, it's because he broke them!”
“A car that doesn't run is no more broken if two parts are faulty than if only one.”
Surely I wasn't hearing this. With a sort of sick horror, all of my hopes about Travis vanished. He wasn't a prisoner. He supported the atrocities occurring here.
Perhaps mistaking my silence for interest, Travis kept talking. “Whole babies are easier to love than broken ones. This is why Annabelle's daughter has not been bought. But a family has come forward that feels they can provide a good home for little Hannah.”
None of this made any sense. What sort of twisted logic was all of this?
“All of these girls would have been on the streets if it weren't for the Master. He gave them a home, and everything they need to survive.”
“Travis, this isn't living! This isn't a home! It's a prison!”
Travis shook his head sadly. “You don't understand.”
“Of course I don't! This is madness!”
With an attitude of long-suffering sadness, Travis rose from his chair and turned to leave. “You will understand one day.”
“I seriously doubt that,” I spat to his retreating back.
Only once he had left did the thought occur to me:
But what about me? I was never a foster child. My family was whole.
I don't understand how someone can be so deluded as to think that kidnapping, raping, and stealing babies is right! Travis seems so kind. But he's obviously just as twisted and evil as the Master. I don't understand how someone who appears so nice and normal can be so sick and twisted inside. I think this is more scary than anything else that has happened here.
They took Hannah. Hannah! That sweet, beautiful little girl is gone. Jenny won't stop wailing. I'm not even scared anymore. There's no room in my heart for anything but anger.
“Jenny?” I closed the door behind me, straining to see in the darkness. The light was off and it looked like she had stuffed a blanket into her window. “Jenny, where are you?”
I pulled the light bulb chain and the bulb flickered on, swinging erratically above my head. Jenny lay on her cot, wrapped in her blankets, staring unseeing at the opposite wall.
I knelt in front of her, blocking her view. Her eyes focused on me, but she didn't speak. I reached out and stroked her greasy hair back from her face.
“Oh, Jenny. I am so sorry.”
Her breakfast lay untouched on her desk, along with unused hotel bottles of shampoo. Travis stood just outside, watching through the bars on the window.
“She hasn't eaten in over a day,” He volunteered when Jenny didn't reply.
“I didn't ask you!” I spat in his direction. “If you want her to eat, then maybe you should give her back her baby.”
Travis sighed, shook his head, and disappeared from view.
I pulled the blankets away from Jenny's shoulders. She whimpered, feebly trying to draw them back up. “Jenny...no, Jenny. You need to get up. Let's get you a bath. You'll feel better.”
Jenny whispered something so quietly that I could barely hear. “Nothing helps. My baby's gone....She's gone forever....”
“No, she's not. If you ever want to see her again, you have
to stay alive. And you won't do this by lying in bed until you waste away from starvation.” I pulled her unwillingly into a sitting position, supporting her with an arm around her shoulders.
Slowly I helped her to her feet. She shuffled slowly alongside me, neither helping nor hindering my efforts. I sat her down on the closed lid of the toilet where she sat hugging herself, staring at nothing in particular. I turned the water on full blast until steam rose from the faucet, plugging the tub so that the water level was rising in the bottom. I went back into the main room and grabbed the shampoo bottles.
“Arms up.” I put her gown in the sink with some of the shampoo, scrubbing it between my hands. Usually we got a clean gown every couple of days, but Jenny had obviously been wearing this one a while. I scrubbed the days worth of dirt and sweat out of the fabric while Jenny soaked in the tub, not making a move to do anything for herself.
When the water from the gown ran clean I wrung it out as well as I could with my hands and hung it over the back of the folding chair to dry. I returned to the bathroom and washed Jenny's hair, scrubbing through the mats with my fingers.