Authors: Missy LaRae
stomach grumbled in anticipation as we walked through the door. I heard Evelyne talkin’ in a low tone, and braced myself to meet her husband. I saw them at the table heads bent together as they spoke to one another. They turned towards us, and my stomach dropped. I felt the same icy fear as I had this morning clench onto the back of my neck. I stopped walkin’, and Tyler bumped into me. I was paralyzed by indecision. I couldn’t run away, but I couldn’t keep goin’ forward either. Who was he?
“Hi you two,” he said as he looked at us. He stood up from the table, and I noted in an instant that he was built the way I imagined a soldier would be built. His hands were big, and flexed as he walked towards us. He smiled, and I knew that his smile wasn’t gonna reach his eyes. He was wearin’ a pair a dark navy slacks, and shined shoes. Church shoes Mama called them. He wasn’t skinny, like Tyler, but filled out the way a grown man was supposed to be. He had on a button down cream shirt, with the first two buttons on the top undone, and I could see a white under-shirt peekin’ out from behind the collar. He was solidly built, and I wanted to turn around and run out of that house as fast as my feet could carry me. His chest rose up in front of me and I stopped breathin’ all together.
Tyler must have felt my fear because he quickly stood in front a me and held out his hand for Michael to shake. I pressed myself up against my brother’s back as tightly as I could, and tried to hide myself from Michael’s eyes. I felt nauseous. I wanted to run back up to that pretty bathroom and toss up the sandwich and snacks I’d eaten earlier.
“Hi, I’m Tyler. Don’t mind Lilybelle, she’s very shy. You’re gonna have to give her time to get used to you.” That was a total lie, but Michael didn’t know that. Tyler shook the man’s hand, and my heart thumped out a my chest. I prayed that he wouldn’t want to shake my hand, but luck wasn’t favorin’ me this time. I decided not to send her that thank you card after all.
“Don’t be scared Lily. I’m not gonna bite,” he joked. He put his hand on Tyler’s right shoulder and pushed him gently out of the way. I stepped out from behind my brother, and with my head lowered offered a limp hand to him for shake. Mama called it a fish hand shake, and she told me never to use it, but I just couldn’t grab on to his fingers and squeeze ‘em. My clammy fingers were grasped in his large, warm hand, and I felt death seep into my bones at the contact. I felt it gnawin’ at me to get in, and I slowly pulled my hand away from his. We couldn’t stay here. We had to leave. There was something seriously wrong with this man.
“It’s nice to meet you, sir,” I whispered. I needed to get away from him, but I didn’t see any way for us to get out of the house that night. We were both tired, and needed to sleep. Besides, Evelyne had made us dinner, and as much as I felt like throwin’ up I knew that I needed to eat somethin’. My stomach had churned so much durin’ the day that while I was takin’ my bath it’d settled enough for me to start feelin’ hungry again.
“Come, sit down here and let’s get y’all somethin’ to eat,” Evelyne ushered us over as she talked. As we sat down at the table I tried to find a seat as far away from Michael as possible. I could feel his black gaze on me, and I felt poisoned by the touch of his eyes. I wanted to wash again. I felt dirty; tainted by his touch.
I kept my eyes lowered as Evelyne brought a plate to the table for me. It made my mouth water, and I did what I used to do at Mama’s house. I waited until everyone was seated, and the adults started to eat before I picked up my fork. Dinner smelled delicious, and I tried to concentrate on what I was eatin’ and not the feelings I had for Michael.
The roasted chicken was delicious. I could tell that Evelyne was proud a the dinner that she’d prepared, and she had a right to be. I’d never seen that much food at one time on a table, and I wanted to remember how it felt to be served food instead of servin’ it. I tuned Michael’s presence out as much as I could, and I ate with stern concentration. The chicken melted in my mouth, and the mashed potatoes and gravy followed along soon after. There were sweet rolls, covered in honey, and fried okra and collared greens as well. I’d never cared for okra or collared greens, but I’d been taught not to complain, and to eat what I’d been given, so I ate everythin’ that was put before me with a thoroughness that surprised even me. I hadn’t realized how hungry I was until I’d started on my third piece of chicken, and I felt Tyler nudging me.
“Slow down a little bit, it’s not gonna disappear,” he warned. I knew he was right. I stopped eatin’, and put down the food, finally raisin’ my eyes up and lookin’ at Evelyne.
“Thank you so much for dinner. Everything is so good. I’ve never had chicken this good before. I’d be happy to eat all of it if you’re willin’ to let me have it.” I smiled as I said it. I was tryin’ to pretend that everything was normal, and I didn’t want to leap across the table and demand to know who Michael was. There was somethin’ wrong with him. I glanced over at him as he continued to eat his dinner. Watchin’ him tear his roll apart, and slather it in gravy before ploppin’ it in his mouth, was as fascinatin’ to me as watchin’ him fall on his steak knife with his right eye ball would have been. His every movement was catalogued and filed away.
“How was your shower?” Evelyne asked me as she took a drink of her wine.
“I took a bath, thank you for asking ma’am. I feel very relaxed. Dozed off a bit actually,” I watched her as I relayed this information.
“Well, Michael and I have been talking, and we’d both like you to stay as long as you want. I don’t want to have to send you home to your mother. It sounds like she was doing far more harm than good. We’ll give you the rest of this week to get used to being here, but then we’re going to have to enroll you in school. I don’t have the ability to home school you, and I do think it would be good for you to be with others your own age. Some social interaction wouldn’t be bad for you.”
I was undecided. I knew that we needed to stay, but I didn’t want to. One look in Michael’s direction was all it took for my stomach to clench again. I had to calm down.
“Ma’am, may I be excused from the table, please?” I looked at Evelyne as I spoke, and waited while she looked me over. My eyes must have told her somethin’ because she nodded yes to me, and I stood to get my dirty dishes together.
“Don’t worry about the dishes, Lily,” she admonished. “I can get those things.” I looked at her as I contemplated leavin’ them on the table. I didn’t know if this was a test or not, but I preferred to do what I’d been taught versus just leavin’ them there.
“It’s no problem, ma’am. I don’t mind washin’ them out. It saves work for everyone else, and I don’t want to make y’all feel like you have to clean up after me. I can do chores.” I picked up my dishes and scraped the uneaten food into the trash, and then rinsed them off. I saw where Evelyne had been puttin’ them in the dish washer, and I added mine to it. I’d never had the luxury of puttin’ my dishes in a dish washer before. It felt wrong, but I followed suit and did it anyway.
“I’m going to head up to bed, too, if it’s okay with you? I’d like to be excused from the table,” Tyler asked. I looked over at him, and watched as he gathered his dirty dishes as well. Evelyne nodded at him, and I took his plates as he brought them to the sink. I rinsed his, and put them in the dish washer too. We’d brought our dirty laundry down with us, and it was sittin’ outside of the kitchen on the floor.
“Ms. Evelyne, ma’am, we brought our dirty laundry down with us. We’d both appreciate it if you could clean it for us,” I asked tentatively. Tyler walked out of the kitchen and quickly came back in with our folded clothes stacked in his hands. We’d color coordinated it so Evelyne wouldn’t have to sort it, and looked at her hopefully as she rose from the table.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone bring in a stack of folded dirty laundry. You kids sure are well behaved. I’m sorry about what you’re mother’s done to you, but I can’t help but be happy that she taught you good manners.” Evelyne complementing my Mama’s parenting made me want to throw up all over her pretty white kitchen and watch her reaction. I shook my head at the thought.
I bristled at the compliment. The first time Tyler had taken unfolded dirty clothes to Mama she’d put washing detergent on his tongue and made him swallow it. He’d thrown up for an entire night. Both of us remembered that like it was yesterday, and Tyler’s lips creased into a fine line. I searched his eyes, and knew he didn’t want me to say anything about that humiliation so I kept my mouth closed and watched as he handed our clothes to Evelyne.
Michael stood and came over to me. I tensed as he came near, and it felt like the kitchen got colder by ten degrees as he walked up to me. “I don’t want you to be afraid of me, Lily,” he said. His hand came up to rest on my shoulder, and I wanted to push him across the room as hard as I could. “I know you kids have been hurt, but no one here is going to hurt you. We love you, and want you to know that you’re going to be safe with us.” I heard the words comin’ out of his mouth, but didn’t believe any of it. I wanted to spit in his face. I had a hammer drillin’ into my skull tellin’ me to back away, and I slowly pulled away from his hand.
“Thank you, sir.” I offered. I couldn’t actually call him Uncle Michael. I didn’t know what he was, I didn’t know who he was, but I knew that he was no relative of mine.
My soul cried out to me to run, and finally I couldn’t take it any more. I turned my back on him and walked out of the kitchen, Tyler closing the gap behind me. I reached a hand back, and I felt him lace his fingers through mine, and I ran up the stairs as fast as I could. I pulled him into my room, and I shut the door. I locked it. I pushed both of my hands up against it as Tyler just looked at me with worry and concern on his face.
“What was that? I’ve never seen you act like that, ever.” He touched my hair, and I turned around and laid my back against the door. I didn’t know where Michael was, and I wasn’t about to talk to Tyler about my fears, thinkin’ that he could be waitin’ right outside the door listenin’ to every word that we had to say. I put my finger to my lips, and pointed to the bed. Hurryin’ over we both got under the blankets, tossed it over our heads and leaned close.
“He’s evil, Tyler.” I could barely talk past the lump of unreasonable fear stuck in my throat. “There’s somethin’ about him. I don’t know what it is, but he’s pure evil. I had this feelin’ this mornin’ when we were goin’ into the train station that someone was watchin’ us. It was this icy cold feelin’ right down the middle a my back.” I stopped and took in a deep breath. “He scares me. It was just like that feelin’ only worse this time. I felt like I should end him, you know,” I stopped.
“What do you mean end him?” Tyler looked at me like I done lost my mind, and maybe I had.
“Just what you think I mean. Every single part a me wanted to take his steak knife and put it right through his evil eyeball. I don’t know what it was, but I just know he’s bad. There’s somethin’ wrong with him. I don’t know if I can stay here with him,” I shivered. I’d never wanted to do harm to another livin’ person in my entire life; not even Mama when she’d been as evil as ever to me. Mama’d never made me feel like she needed to die, she was just who she was.
“Well we can’t kill him, he’s our Uncle. I know he makes you feel weird, but I’ll be here right by your side, all the time,” Tyler reassured me. We pressed our hands together and put our foreheads together and repeated a prayer that Mama had taught us when we’d been real little.
“Where ever we shall run, where ever we shall go, in our heart we will always trust, that two is greater than one can be, in each other we shall believe.” The short prayer always made me feel closer to Tyler, and I pushed the blanket off of us. Tyler rolled off the bed and came to my side and sat next to me.
“I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but we’ll be in this together, I promise.” I knew he meant it. Just like this mornin’ I wasn’t afraid that Tyler would not fulfill his promise, but with this new threat came an uneasiness that I’d never felt before. Mama had been predictable. After years of livin’ with the same rules we’d learned how to get on without causin’ too many ripples, but this was different. This wasn’t just Tyler or me gettin’ the belt. It felt like it could be final. It felt like somethin’ was gonna happen; somethin’ big, and I didn’t know what it was. I needed to find out.
spoke into the phone. She looked out into the yard and knew that she’d done everything in her power to make sure those children felt as worthless and helpless as she’d been told to make them feel. As worthless and helpless as she’d felt all these years.
“I don’t know how long ago they left,” she answered. Every day that she woke and breathed air into her lungs had been misery. She ached inside from this imprisonment. She knew that she would never recover from this deception. Her body was not equipped to spend years away from Amatia Prime like this. She wanted desperately to leave this world and go home, but she couldn’t. She was forced to stay, and destroy the lives of two innocent children. Gloriously beautiful Syren children. She knew that the Sa’Chaelle would follow through on their threat to exterminate her home world if she did not obey their orders. She knew that she was merely a tool that was being used. She was neither proud or happy of her accomplishment. She couldn’t understand what the Sa’Chaelle hoped to gain from this deception other than her misery. It had been utter and complete misery. She had loved those children, and broke inside the entire time that she was forced to make them feel helpless, unloved, and unworthy. Although they were not her own children, she felt as though she had carried them in her own womb, and given birth to them herself. They were her sister’s children, and she knew that for as long as she breathed life into herself she would hate herself more than anyone else in her world could. She took the extra key to the basement out of her bedside drawer and walked to the kitchen.
“Am I allowed to leave now?” She prayed that the answer was yes. She knew that it was her duty to do whatever she could to ensure the survival of her species, and she had. The voice on the other end of the phone gave her confirmation that she was no longer needed, and she was allowed to leave at darkness. She’d been told repeatedly that if she tried to escape with the children they’d be hunted down and killed. She’d known they would never be able to outrun the Sa’Chaelle in the stars.