Authors: Katie Davis
Tags: #JUVENILE FICTION/Social Issues/Sexual Abuse
A Division of Diversion Publishing Corp.
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Copyright Â© 2014 by Katie Davis
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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First Diversion Books edition April 2014
She never knew police cars had such small back seats. Mackenzie's knees ached from being jammed into the hard plastic that separated her from the cops up-front. There was another black and white leading them around the pretty little streets of her neighborhood. The backseat was empty in the first car. At the stop sign Detective Smith twisted around and glanced through the bulletproof window.
“We'll be there soon.”
Mackenzie already knew that. She knew these streets, this neighborhood. Her father had bought the beach house when she was born, and she spent the last sixteen summers listening to him telling her how lucky she was to spend two whole months on Cape Cod every year.
What she didn't know was what would happen when they arrived. She didn't know who would be there. And she didn't know what they would find.
The first car pulled up to the house, but the one Mac rode in stopped across the street. The home was surrounded by a rainbow garden of flowers, though she couldn't differentiate the colors through the dusky light. The only discernable hue was the red and blue from the police car beacon swirling around and around, illuminating the white beach house, giving it a garish glow. She stared at the sign in front of the picket fence, transfixed.
“The Douglas Family” was painted in the center, vines and flowers encircling the words. Flickering, a bad home movie. Red, blue, red, blue.
Both officers got out of the car and hitched up their heavy belts weighed down with metal and bullets. The one who had driven opened Mac's doorâshe couldn't; there were no handles in the back seatâand leaned in.
“I'll leave the windows open 'cause it's hot out, but you wait here while we go see. Got it?”
He slammed the door shut.
The questions she'd been trying to avoid now pounded in her head.
Could anything be done now?
Was it already too late?
Could she have done something to stop it?
And the one she feared most:
Was it all her fault?
Three Months Ago
Mackenzie rode the few blocks home from school and stopped in front. She glanced at the house to the left. It was white but had a yellowed shingled roof that always made her think of a slice of bread with mustard smeared on top. On the other side was another big new place, also painted white, with a pale green door. The bread and lettuce house. In the middle was hers. A brown, pseudo colonial, with darker brown trim. Some fancy magazine declared monotones were chic, so of course her father had believed it. Mac thought the three houses looked like a giant sandwich gone wrong.
She slipped through the kitchen door, closing it with both hands to ensure she didn't make any noise. The house was bright, with lots of sunshine spilling from enormous, two-story windows. Each room led to the next through wide archways. Light, airy, open. Nothing like the people who lived in it.
Music was playing, and she peeked from the kitchen through the wide front hallway, and on to the family room. She could hear her father's deep, muffled talking and the responding little girl giggles from Lily. Made her want to bang the pots and pans around, but if she did, he'd know she was home.
Mackenzie went to the pantry, and, entering the huge closet, surveyed the rows of staples and canned veggies, lined up like soldiers awaiting inspection. After restacking the cans of tuna so the edges were flush and the labels all faced the same way, she grabbed a box of pasta and walked out. When the water was boiling, she dropped a handful of the spaghetti into the pot. She drizzled some extra virgin olive oil into a frying pan, chopped up three cloves of garlic, and tossed them in. The oil heated up, snaking the fragrance of frying garlic through the house.
“Kenzie! Kenzie!” Lily shrieked, running into the kitchen holding her blankie in the air like a flag, pigtails bouncing. “When did you get here, Kenzie? Me and Daddy are practicing.” She could not get close enough to her big sister and hopped around Mac as she cooked.
Mackenzie smiled at her. “Watch out, Brat, you're going to get burned if you're too close to the stove.” She stirred the pasta, then dumped small pieces of broccoli in the colander. “You want to get our meatballs?”
Lily skittered to the fridge and pulled open the heavy freezer door with both hands. She grabbed a Ziploc bag with squiggles scribbled in the white rectangle on the front. “I wrote a label for it so we wouldn't forget,” she said, handing it to Mackenzie. “I want you to eat mine and I'll eat yours, okay?”
“But, Lilybean, how will we tell them apart?” Mackenzie asked as she opened the plastic bag. She smiled to herself as she placed Lily's collection of lopsided and misshapen hunks of meat next to her perfect spheres and slid the plate into the microwave.
“I made mine
size!” Lily said, standing on tiptoe to watch them defrost. She hopped on each foot in time with the dinger as it chimed the last five seconds.
Mackenzie whistled. “Wow, Lily, you've been practicing your hopping, haven't you? You've gotten even better since this morning. I think you need a meatball kiss!”
Lily's eyes lit up as she ran over and angled her cheek up expectantly.
“No, you have to puff your cheeks out like you have
size meatballs in them, and then we squish our cheeks together. Like this!” Mac bent down, and they both followed her directions perfectly, making
sounds as they did.
“Hey, where's my partner? Lil, you leaving me to dance all by myself?” Mackenzie's father waltzed into the kitchen spinning his imaginary partner but slumped into the breakfast nook chair when he saw he'd lost Lily's attention.
“Look, Daddy! Kenzie's home!”
“Kenzie, you want to know a surprise? Because guess what? I know something you don't know! We are practicing something. And it's very special! And we're not telling until Mama gets home.”
Stan Douglas said to Lily, “Come here, Princess. Come sit on Daddy's lap.”
When Mackenzie didn't try to pry it out of her, Lily yelled, “This year I get to go to the dance! Kenzie, did you hear what I said?”
Mac smiled. “Yes, Lily. You get to go to the dance. How could I miss it? I thought you said they taught you all about inside voices at preschool?” She looked for hot pads to pick up the pot of boiling water.
Stan acted hurt. “Don't you want to come and sit with me, Lil? Daddy's all by his lonesome.” He sniffled.
Lily went to him and draped her special blankie around his shoulders, patting his back for an impatient second before running back to Mac's side. “Don't you think that's so great? I can go because now I'm old enough because I'm practically going to be in kindergarten next year.” She sizzled around Mackenzie like a drop of water in a hot frying pan.
Mac used the hot pads to pick up the boiling pots and headed toward the sink.
“Lily, watch where you're going!” Stan said.
“Don't yell at her. I do have a clue, you know.” Mac poured the water through the colander, cooking the broccoli at the same time. The steam floated up to her face, and she took a deep, hot breath. The pasta fell into the strainer with a plop, blanketing the broccoli. She turned to put the empty pot back on the stove and bumped into her sister. “Lily! Are you okay?”
Stan smirked. “Told you so.” He squatted, holding his arms out behind him. “Hop on, cowgirl, and I'll give you the best bucking bronco ride east of the west,” he said. “Let's go practice some more for the big night.”
As Mackenzie got out the plates to set the table, her father danced through the front hall with Lily on his feet and called out, “Barb's flight landed a while ago, but I checked the traffic and it looks clear, so she should be here any second, honey.”
Mackenzie got another plate out and thought again how lucky Lily was to have a real mom.
That makes all the difference. It's something to be grateful for, at least.
She reached for another place setting, plus a wine glass for Barb and a beer glass for her father. The Brat would use the old plastic princess cup with the peeling picture of a crown, and Mac put out a water glass for herself and placed her chopsticks on her chair.
She went back to the kitchen to toss the pasta and broccoli in the garlic oil, and as she ripped a bag of salad open and dumped it in a bowl, Barb walked in the front door.
“Hi, everyone!” she said as she came into the dining room, dropping her briefcase by the coat rack. Her curls caught the light, and the red highlights lit up her face. Pale freckles dotting her nose like burnt sugar made Barb appear kind of cute-ish, and the fact that she didn't wear much makeup took off even more years. It was easy to see why a lot of guys would like her. What wasn't as obvious to Mac was why in the world she would settle for Stanâwhat could she possibly see in him? It could be his money, but Barb had a good job. Grownups had their weird reasons, she guessed.
“The traffic up from JFK wasâ” Barb was saying when Lily ran up and jumped into her mom's arms, and they spun around in a gigantic squeezie spin.
Lily's fingers intertwined behind her mother, and she said, “I'm so big I can reach around you!”
Right on cue, Barb teased, “You're not so big. I'm so little!”
Barb always joked that when she started working she'd tried to save money by shopping in a store that sold business suits in the kid's department, but she just couldn't find anything that didn't have ponies on it. She nuzzled Lily's neck, then put her down in her chair and took the one beside her.
“Oh how I missed you, Punkin! How was school today? Why don't you tell me all about it?”
“My fourth-grade buddy came to my room today,” Lily said, crawling back off the chair. She spread her blankie on the seat and, after making sure every wrinkle was out, climbed back up. “She read me a story, and I made her a picture.” Barb got up to push in Lily's chair and raised her hand in a silent wave to Mackenzie.
When they were all settled at the table, Stan passed the bowl to Barb, but not before helping himself to a huge plateful.
Mealtimes were the hardest after Mackenzie's mom died. It seemed like every TV show had families sitting down to dinner together, sharing their thoughts, laughing, and talking over Important Problems.
Mac didn't have any Important Problems until her father started his visits. They ate alone every evening, just the two of them, and no one who overheard their conversations would've ever suspected a thing.
He only talked about it when he came into her room. The script never varied. She stopped listening after awhile, but the tape played in her head over and over. She tried to erase it, but it just wouldn't stop.
No one could ever love you like I do.
You're my little princess.
This is our special club.
We're the only members.
No one else will ever have what we have.
It's just for you and me.
By the time she was six, it felt like it had been going on forever. There was no beginning, and she couldn't see how it could ever end. He'd come in at bedtime, and she'd listen to his stories about princesses and knights. But being so little, she heard “princesses and
,” and since she was his princess, she understood: night visits were just part of being a princess. It wasn't until first grade, when she learned to read, that she realized there was another kind of knight. The kind that
princesses. When would
kind visit and rescue
She had tried to make it stop at the end of kindergarten, right after the fifth graders had their big spring fundraiser.
There had been a spaghetti dinner at school. Families were sitting in the cafeteria at tables decorated with white butcher paper, crayoned with red checkerboards, heaping plates of pasta in front of them, served by the fifth grade “waiters.”
Frankie and her parents had invited Mac along, since her dad had to work late that day. Frankie was in the middle of telling her parents about a bully in their class when Mackenzie realized they were talking about Important Problems.
“What are you going to do?” Frankie's dad asked.
“I could arrest him, Daddy!” Frankie said.
He smiled and told her only people who broke the law got arrested, and that didn't usually include five-year-olds. “Well, Mr. B. told us since he's our princi
that means he's our
and if we ever had a problem, we could tell him.”
“I think that's a great idea, honey,” Frankie's mom had said.
The next day at school, Mac saw Mr. B. on her way back from the drinking fountain. He smiled at her, and she decided to tell him everything. He would help her. He would tell Daddy to stop their special club.
She stood, frozen, in the middle of the empty hallway.
“Mackenzie? You okay, hon?” Mr. B. asked.
“I got hurt,” Mac had whispered.
“You what? Speak up!”
She took a deep breath. “I got hurt,” she said again.
“How?” Mr. B. asked, checking Mac's knees and elbows for scrapes. He wasn't whispering, and Mackenzie looked around to see if anyone could hear. She wasn't supposed to tell secrets. It was their special time. Only for Daddy and her. But she didn't like being in their club. She was working up the courage to tell him everything when he repeated his question.
Again, Mr. B. asked, “How did you get hurt?”
Finally, she told him.
“Daddy!” Mac wailed, and covered her face with her hands.
Mr. B. tsked, tsked, tsked. “I really don't think we need to bother your Daddy, Mackenzie. You look fine to me. Now go on back to your classroom.”
He patted her on the head and left her standing in the hallway.