The mistakes of your past will affect your future. I’ve figured that out over the years of mistakes I’ve seen bleed from my parents. I don’t really know how to describe the consequences of those mistakes, because you can see them all over my body. You can see the bruises from the beatings and the pain flashing in my eyes. The moment you realize I won’t smile at you because you’re a man who could potentially overpower me and harm me… it’s heartbreaking for some people. I’ve gotten used to the belt lashes and the screaming and the crying and the rejection. So much so that when it was taken away, that scared little girl inside of me tore through my walls, and I broke. Yet, after all the crap I saw and the suffering I endured without the help of my parents, I realized I could handle it. I could shove away the terrified me and fight. I could fight for my friends, and for my sister. Maybe I’ll die, maybe I won’t. But either way, I’m going to fight to survive until I draw my final breath.
I was cooking dinner for my “lovely” family. I was cooking some sort of meat, I don’t remember. I just remember the TV buzzing about the news in the background. I stirred the pot of… collard greens, I think? I don’t know. My memories are blurring together into an endless sea of negativity.
My mom was sitting in the living room, trying to distract my younger sister from the racket upstairs. I knew dad was angry. I was just scared about what would happen. That’s when I heard the front door unlock and swing open. I knew it was my brother, most likely drunk. I gripped the spatula tighter as I poked the meat. My brother, Andrew B. Cornelius walked through the kitchen door and gave me a look.
“I wouldn’t go upstairs, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Andrew swore (I’ll leave out those words.). “*! He’s home already?!”
“He left work early.”
Andrew gave me a concerned look, making me think that maybe he wasn’t drunk.
“Look at me, Beth.”
I ignored him. Andrew was obviously not drunk, because he laid a gentle hand on my shoulder.
I didn’t look at him. He twisted my face around. My eye was swollen and turned black and blue. Andrew swore again and I punched his arm.
“Keep it down, will you?! Momma doesn’t know yet, and she won’t know as long as you keep it down!”
“Wait, you aren’t going to tell her?!”
I slammed down the spatula and wagged my finger in his face.
“She has enough on her plate. If she asks, I’ll just say I got hit with a baseball during P.E. today. It’s very believable, I swear.”
Andrew didn’t look impressed but didn’t say any more. The “concerned brotherly love” only went so far, as I have discovered. Andrew left the kitchen and went into the living room with my mom and sister. While they were relaxing, I slaved over a hot stove and set the table to my father’s liking. I called everyone in for dinner as I moved all the pots to the table. My mom hugged and kissed me, all while giving me the “we will discuss the black eye later” look. She gave me a tight smile.
“Where is your father?”
My father stomped into the kitchen and inspected the table. He looked at me with pure hate and contempt.
“Where are the rolls?”
I jumped at the sound of his voice. “We didn’t have any.”
I could practically FEEL his anger boiling over. He grabbed my mom by the shirt collar and yanked her up.
“Why is there no rolls?! I SAID TO GET ROLLS!”
My dear mom calmly said, “The store was cleaned out of bread. The baker wasn’t going to make more until tomorrow. I’m sorry, dear.”
My father practically threw her back into her seat. He plopped down in his chair and grumbled about the bread, somehow containing the anger he always expressed. My sister took my mom’s hand.
My dad glared at her. “No. I’m too hungry to pray.”
My poor little sister still couldn’t fathom her father being mean. It was beyond her comprehension. She kept a firm look at her dad.
“God wants us to pray. I don’t want to eat unblessed food! Please, Daddy?”
He lost it. “DON’T EVER CALL ME ‘DADDY’ EVER AGAIN! WE ARE NOT PRAYING!”
My sister trembled and started crying.
“NO CRYING! I WILL NOT ALLOW IT!”
My mom stood. “Weston, please…”
“SHUT UP, WOMAN! OR I’LL BEAT YOU BOTH!”
Our dinner was ruined, I already knew. I knew my dad would try to beat little Cassandra, my sister. Then my mom would stand up for her, but get beaten. Then Cassie’s bottom would get hit until she couldn’t sit for a week. It always happened, and none of us had the guts to tell anyone. I always thought of telling a teacher, especially when they did those seminars on how to stop bullying, but I was always too scared. Here’s one thing you should drill in your head, “Bethany is broken.”
I couldn’t watch this. I couldn’t stand this. I, Beth Cornelius, was going to stop this. I stood up. All eyes went on me. I froze as my dad’s burning stare fried my brain’s circuits. I melted back down into my chair and sulked down at my food while my mom, my dear, loving, gentle mom, got beat.
We all managed to get out of that alive and hungry. My dad threw another tantrum and broke the table and all that was on it, which resulted into the other four of us cleaning it up. Andrew left, and I figured he wouldn’t come back for a while.
Little did I know that that dinner would be the last time I would see him.
My mom came up to tuck in Cassie, who was on pain meds because of her spanking. My darling mom came in to tell me goodnight. She sat on my bed. I was on the floor, doodling while listening to the radio.
“Beth, he hit you.”
I managed to glance up at my mother, who was bleeding from cuts on her face. I stifled a whimper.
“Momma… I can’t live like this,” I explained.
My mom gave me a slight smile that was twisted up with pain and sadness.
“We don’t have a choice,” she whispered.
“Yes we do. Can’t we just leave?”
“He’ll find us. Don’t you think I’ve tried to leave, baby girl? I tried every time I had a child. I didn’t try with Cassie because I gave up. Beth, dear, I can’t leave.”
I slouched and finished my arm that I doodled. It had a razor that was connected to the skin, forcing blood to pump from the bodiless human. I had honestly thought about this many times, but I was a scaredy cat and I was too scared of the pain. My mom glanced down at it.
“Dad throws out all my other art.”
My mom stood. “Good night, Beth.”
She kissed me and left. I watched her leave. I knew, deep down that she truly cared. I knew that she would do something about this, but something was stopping her. Don’t ask me, I have no idea what it is. It didn’t matter anyway. Looking back on this conversation and day, it’s so irrelevant and pointless. But, at the time, I didn’t know what lied ahead for me and my unfortunate life.
I went to bed at 7:30. I never did my homework; my teachers didn’t care. I was tired, anyway. That day had been rough and exhausting. I crashed and dreamt about beatings and death.
I woke up at 6:49 in the morning. I jumped up. School started at eight. The school bus would be here in six minutes. I was toast, the burnt crispy kind you leave too long in the toaster and you feel guilty for turning it into ashes. I pulled on a flannel shirt and jeans as quickly as possible. I laced my Converse as I hopped down the stairs on one foot. I rounded the corner and slid into the kitchen in record time. My mom was cooking some sort of goop on the stove and toast. It smelled like our neighbor’s dog, D’Artagnan, who one time ate part of our toaster and had thrown it up over the stove, which had been cooking our dinner.
No, I have no idea how he got in the house in the first place, but that day was horrendous and I was required to clean it all up. Anyway, moral of the story, my mom sucks big time at cooking, like me. So, breakfast was always a struggle. I poured some of the ashes out of the toaster onto a plate and attempted to spread some butter and strawberry jelly on it. Cassie was trying to swallow the goop, and Andrew was nowhere to be found, like usual. I stood and threw away my food, plate and all.
“Good morning, Bethany,” said my mom, in her usual cheery tone, although the bandages on her face said otherwise.
I hugged her. “Good morning, Momma.”
“School bus will be here soon.”
“Yes I know.”
I grabbed my book bag and was about to rush out the door when she stopped me.
“I need you to get Cassie from school today.”
I gave her a strange look. “Momma, I can’t drive.”
“I know. But, she must be picked up and it will be your responsibility, no matter what, understand?”
I nodded, totally oblivious to the whole “no matter what” situation that was going down here.
“May I ask why?”
“Your father and I have to the doctor for a routine checkup. I won’t be able to get her and neither will your brother. I’m sorry.”
I nodded again and ran out the door, shouting, “Love you! Bye!”
I heard my mom call back, “Love you too! See you tonight!”
I began my sprint to the bus stop. Now, while we are in this stretch of a couple of minutes, why don’t I share some information about myself? Great! Hello, I am Bethany Cornelius. I am sixteen years old. If you’re wondering why I don’t have my license, why don’t you ask my father? I have brown eyes and long chestnut hair. I’m fairly tall, but short enough so that every, single male can be taller than me. I hate mushrooms and asparagus. I also HATE my dad. Now I have to go to school with a black eye, with the excuse that my sister and I got into a fight.
I was there, at the bus stop just as the bus turned the corner. I didn’t pass out from exhaustion, fortunately. If I had, the bus driver would have considered the bus stop “empty” and would have continued down the road, while the rest of the bus “ooed” and “awed” over Beth’s body on the ground in a ball. The bus driver was forced to stop and I dove into the bus. The bus driver found it funny to open the doors for five seconds then shut them. Well, it was not funny. I managed to make it in without losing a limb.
I resisted the urge to growl at the bus driver as I passed. What a jerk. I descended deeper into the horrible bus and tried to find a seat. You could say that I was friendless at this school, maybe because I was the one with the abusive father. So I blame my father for my nonexistent social life.
Well, school isn’t important in this story, so we’ll just skip that. So, I was walking to get Cassie from school. The elementary school was a mile from the high school, fortunately. I hitched a ride on some middle schooler’s bike for ten bucks. He was rambling on about his thoughts on the apocalypse that scientists were predicting. I had zoned out, because I had already heard about it. Everyone had, actually. The world was terrified and most people were freaking out and buying a bunch of stuff in preparation. Everyone was getting the vaccination that’s supposed to prevent it. Even though my parents are getting the vaccination, my dad thought it was a bunch of *. But, I had a knife by my bed and a bat with a homemade pouch to carry it in. I honestly didn’t think it would happen, but I wanted to feel safe.
The middle schooler waved good bye as I hurried to get to Cassie. She was sitting on a bench looking for me. When she saw me, she jumped up and ran over to me to give me a humongous hug. I hugged her back. We walked home together. It took a good hour and a half, but we managed to do it.
“Cassie, how was school?” I asked, trying to pass the time.
“Fine. My teacher got mad at me for not sitting down, but it hurt.”
I took her hand. “I’m sorry.”
Cassie looked up at me with her beautiful blue eyes. “Why does Daddy yell and hit?”
I cringed and gingerly touched my black eye. “I don’t know, Cassie. I wish I did.”
The rest of the walk was silent. When we reached the house, the rest of the world was oddly loud. There was a bunch of screaming and sirens. Mrs. York, our neighbor, was beating the road with a pillow and a shoe while her Yorkie was barrel rolling down the sidewalk. Cassie looked at me with confusion as I unlocked the front door.
“I have no idea, Cassie. We can check the news on TV.”
We rushed inside and turned on the TV. It was on the news. The news reporter was in the middle of a crowded street, full of people running around, attacking each other, and screaming. The reporter was yelling, but you couldn’t hear her. There were bold words running at the bottom of the screen.
“REMAIN CALM. STAY HOME. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOUSE. DO NOT LET STRANGERS OR PEOPLE WITH STRANGE EYES ENTER YOUR HOUSE.”
My eyes widened and I stepped back from the TV. I told Cassie to stay at the TV and I ran upstairs. I grabbed my knife and bat. I practically fell down the stairs trying to get back down. Once I reached the living room to be with Cassie, I pulled out my phone to call my mom. She would know what to do.
“Timmy doesn’t need to go yet. Timmy has to pay.”
“Momma?” Something wasn’t right. Who the heck was Timmy?
There was a slight scuffle on the other side of the phone and yelling. I heard my mother’s voice shout desperately,
“Beth! Board up the whole house! Don’t leave until someone comes to get you and Cassie! The eyes, Bethany! The eyes! I love you! I love you both so mu-”
There was a high pitched scream and a sickening crunch. I hung up immediately.
“Cassie, I need to go get those boards from the garage. Stay here, and if you hear anything other than me… hold on.”
I ran into the kitchen and pulled out two of the biggest knives I could find. I ran back to her.
“Use these, okay? No matter what. I need you to stay calm.”
Cassie nodded and gently took the knives, afraid. I crept down the hallway to the front door. I peeked out of a window beside it. There was no one to be seen in the neighborhood, which is good. I ran into the garage and began pulling in wooden planks that my dad was going to use to rebuild the fence. It took me a while to do it by myself, but I managed. I needed Cassie by the TV so we could figure out what was going on. I found a hammer and a bunch of nails and went to work. I began boarding up the windows first, since they could easily be smashed. I hurried to board up the door; because I saw more people begin to wander the streets and fight. I placed the last board on the door and began nailing it on. The sound got the attention of two men. They looked straight at my house and began heading over to it. I hit the nail faster as they neared. They began banging on the door, growling and yelling expletives. I finished the board and ran back into the living room, where Cassie’s eyes were glued to the TV.
The riots were getting worse. Bodies littered the streets and people continued to fight and yell strange things. I clenched the hammer tighter as the camera focused on a man running. His face was painted with terror and determination. He looked behind him and saw his pursuer catching up to him. I knew him. The Conspiracy Kid I got a ride with to pick up Cassie. He was running for his life. I bit my lip until it bled. The Conspiracy Kid tripped and fell flat on his face. His face twisted in pain and he held his leg. The news reporter whispered into the microphone.
“Here we have a child running from one of the insane. Let’s see what happens.”
I saw the man’s face before Cassie did. I yelled,
“Look away, Cassie!”
Cassie whipped her head away and covered her eyes. The insane man’s eyes were wild and strange. He held up an axe and cackled. I turned away. The news reporter gasped and yelled at the camera man.
“Run, John! We need to go!”
The camera dropped as the man approached the camera man and news reporter with great speed. The close up shot of the blood covered man’s face confirmed my fears.
That was my dad. And he was wearing my brother’s jacket. There was a hole, exposed the left side of his chest. I knew Andrew was dead as soon as I saw it. I turned off the TV. The world has gone insane, and I was trapped in my house. So many people were out there dying, and it seemed like Cassie and me were about to get the same fate. More insane were gathering at the windows and doors, banging on them and yelling wildly. We were trapped.
It was day five. Cassie and me were lying in my parent’s bed, trying to go to sleep. I peeked out the upstairs window. The people were relentless. They still banged on the windows. More were coming. We had to leave eventually. Food would run out soon. I heard Cassie stir.
“What is it, Cassie?”
“Where are Mommy and Daddy and Andrew?”
I cringed and said nothing. Cassie got up and padded over to me and looked out the window.
“They’re dead, aren’t they? The bad people killed them.”
“What will we do?”
“I don’t know.”
Cassie took my hand. “I’m scared, Beth.”
“I am too,” I confessed. “But, Momma said to wait for help to come.”
Cassie nodded. “The police?”
I remembered the bodies in the streets, and the police officers, obliterated.
“No. Just anyone who can help and isn’t like them.” I pointed outside.
Cassie nodded again. “Okay. I’m gonna go to bed now.”
“Good night, Cassie.”
“Good night, Beth.”
She went and got back in the bed, leaving me at my post. The next morning, I opened the pantry door and saw almost nothing other than beans and pineapple. Day five was gonna be rough. I glance over at the front door. The wooden planks had held, but I wasn’t sure how much longer they would. We had stayed quiet for this whole time, hoping they would give up and leave, thinking that there was no one here. But, that was not the case. More were gathering by the hour. I tiptoed back upstairs to Cassie, who was staring out the bedroom window. She looked back at me, upset.
“All the sirens stopped.”
I ran over to the window. “What?! No! They couldn’t have! We heard the police in the neighborhood next to us yesterday!”
“You mean that one?”
She pointed down to the ground outside. I saw two of the insane dragging a mutilated police officer towards our house. A couple of the other insane ran over, desperate for food. Over the course of the past five days, Cassie and I had noticed that the insane would work together. Like the two that brought the police officer to eat, they would work together to get what they needed. The insane were also deviously smart, like, it was SCARY. I had noticed four or five in the back yard CUTTING DOWN TREES and MAKING A LADDER. Eventually, we would have to leave, because they would either starve us out or take us. I couldn’t find a gun, but even if I did, I don’t think I could shoot any of them. They still looked… human.
The news had stopped. The emergency broadcast system didn’t even play anymore. But, we had figured that out before we turned on the TV. On day two, there was this ginormous crash in the middle of the night. I had jumped out of bed, ready to defend myself and Cassie, who had shakily pointed her knife at the door. But, my eye caught flames in the distance. I saw the TV station was up in flames and the broadcasting tower was missing. Well, it had fallen on the Thompson’s house, who lived across the street. That had freaked both me and Cassie out. It was crazy how quickly everything had fallen. I haven’t seen a non-insane person since the day I got Cassie from school. Cassie hadn’t asked about Momma or Dad or Andrew since that night. I hoped it would stay that way until I could come to terms with the fact that my dad was insane, my brother was dead, and my mom had met a horrible death.
I sighed as they tore away at the police officer’s flesh.
Cassie frowned and walked away from the window. She plopped down on the bed. I could hear her sniffling, trying to keep in tears. I went over to her and sat beside her.
“I’m sorry, Cassie.”
Cassie burst into tears. “Mommy… I miss Mommy!”
My stomach twisted and flipped around.
“I do too.”
“I miss Andrew.”
“I do too.”
“I want them back!”
“I do too.”
Cassie glared at me. “YOU aren’t helping!”
I looked down at her, shocked. “What?”
“All you do is mope around and stare out the window! I need you, Bethy! I can’t do this by myself!”
I stared at Cassie, still surprised. “Cassie- I-I’m trying. I’m trying.”
Cassie looked at her knives on the bed side table.
“We need help. We need someone else.”
I stood. “Unfortunately, we don’t. Everyone seems to be dead or insane.”
Cassie shivered. “Beth? When those people get into our house-”
“IF those people get into our house, will they eat us too?”
I shuddered at the thought. “I honestly don’t know. They might take us captive, kill us, or eat us. I don’t know.”
Cassie nodded. “Okay.”
I looked down at my knife strapped to my leg. I felt my bat comfort my back. I turned to Cassie and took her hands into mine.
“If they do get in here, we will fight, understand? We won’t give up. We will fight them until we die. We can’t give up. Momma and Andrew wouldn’t want that.”
Cassie sniffled and whispered, “Okay.”
I looked back out the window at the gathering insane. It seemed foolish to believe we would survive, but, hey, who knows? And, I might seem strong and brave, but on the inside, I was TERRIFIED. I knew I needed to up my game on the whole defense thing. I grabbed another knife that Andrew kept in his room and strapped it under my pant leg. I don’t know what will happen, but just in case I need a last resort defense.
I knew how to swing a bat around and hit people in the head (Don’t ask). I did not know how to stab and use a knife, but I figured that it couldn’t be too difficult, right? I mean, all you’re doing is thrusting your knife at bodies. I tiptoed to Andrew’s room. I pulled out a book on self-defense. Andrew had been studying up on something, because there were tons of these under his bed. My only wish had been that he could have been there to teach us.
“First, you have to look like you know what you’re doing.”
Cassie giggled. “But I don’t!” Her voiced cracked slightly, making the pitch shoot up.
I smiled. “Doesn’t matter. You have to be confident in yourself. I’m still learning that, but it’s okay. We can do it together.”
Cassie nodded and broadened her shoulders and straightened her back. She clenched her fists and gave me an attempt of an evil look. She looked like an angry puppy, which is not possible. I hold up my hands in mock surrender.
“Ah… I’m SO SO SO scared,” I joked.
Cassie crossed her arms and gave me a pouty lip.
“I wanna look determined, Bethy, but I just look like a little girl!”
“Well, that’s what you are.”
“BETH!” she said in a fake whiny voice. “I don’t wanna be a little girl. I wanna be a strong and scary little girl.”
I ruffled her hair. “That’s gonna be hard to do. But, we shall try as hard as possible.”
Cassie plopped down on the floor, sweat covering her forehead a few hours later.
“Beth, I’m tired and hungry and thirsty. And hungry.”
I smiled. “Okay. Let’s go see what we have downstairs.”
We crept downstairs and sifted through the pantry, trying to find something to eat and drink. We had a 12 pack of water bottles and a bunch of cans of refried beans and black beans, along with green beans and canned pineapple. We had rice, but we didn’t want to waste the drinking water. The last shower we had taken was two days ago. The water in the showers, toilets, and faucets had been emptied. I grabbed a can of black beans and the can opener. I poured the beans into two bowls after cutting the can open and gave one to Cassie. I poured half of a water bottle into a cup and handed it to her as well. We hurried back upstairs and ate our dinner. Cassie began zoning out on me as we talked. I had to nudge her a lot before she gave up.
“I’m going to bed, Beth. I’m really tired.”
She yawned and stood. I stood as well.
“Okay. I’ll probably stay up a while longer.”
“Good night, Cassandra.”
Cassie flopped into bed and checked her nightstand for her knives. After seeing that they were in their appropriate spots, she snuggled up under the covers and soon fell asleep. I practiced my skills until it was too dark. I, too, flopped into bed, checked my bat and knives, and went to sleep.
I lost track of the days and weeks that went by in that house. Maybe months had passed. I don’t know. At that point, both me and Cassie believed that there was no hope for our survival, and that the insane would win.
It was the slightest creak. I sat straight up in bed and narrowed my tired eyes. I tuned out the yelling and listened. There is was again! Fear hit my heart like a truck. Did the insane finally break in? I looked down at Cassie’s sleeping form, and immediately snapped up my head. There it was again. The creak, but louder. It was coming from the window in the study. I grabbed my bat and gently patted my knife strapped on my leg. I didn’t check for my hidden knife, just in case someone was watching. I gripped a flashlight in my left hand and the bat in my right.
It was about dawn, but the sun wasn’t up far enough to see clearly. I began my descent into the dark hallway, terrified. I flicked off my flashlight when I came upon the study. I set it down softly and held my bat with both hands. I was poised outside of the door, waiting. The creak! It was right next to the door, along with some whispers I didn’t understand. The door opened slowly, and I twisted my bat in my hands. A body stepped out, and turned towards me. They jumped back in surprise as I brought down my bat. A hand shot out and grabbed my bat. They yanked it, making me stumble forward. The man I attacked grabbed my left arm and cocked a gun in my face. I froze.
“Drop the bat. Now.”
I dropped the bat, terrified of the gun pointing at my forehead. He looked at the man who had grabbed my bat.
“Charles, pat her down.”
“*, man! It’s a little girl!”
“I’m sixteen!” I exclaimed, only to be silenced with the pressure of the muzzle of the gun.
“Charles, check her. Now.”
The man named Charles glanced down at my leg and saw my big knife. He swore again.
“*! This girl is armed, Hank.”
I prayed that he wouldn’t find my hidden knife, strapped to my side. He didn’t. He avoided my upper body all together. He took my big knife and tossed it beside my bat. Hank turned back his attention to me.
“Who else is here, kid?”
I kept my mouth shut. Charles tried a different route.
“We didn’t know you lived here, honest. We just have a sorta big group and need to feed them, ya know? I got my family. Hank’s got his wife and kids. Plus we got some homeless guys!”
I looked at him. “Then you would understand why I won’t reveal what I have or who is here. And consider both of y’all very lucky to have to feed all those people.”
Hank glared at me. “We aren’t lucky, little girl. It’s hard.”
I felt anger bubble inside of me. They didn’t know what tough was.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you had such a soft heart! Maybe next time, you shouldn’t rob a girl who has been stripped of her mother, father, and brother!”
Charles eyes immediately softened. “*, Hank, we can’t do this.”
Hank kept his cold, hard stare on me. “Yes, we can. My kids need food.”
“Hank, there’s still a bunch of houses on this block!”
I spoke up. “How did you get in here without drawing attention?”
Hank and Charles ignored me and continued to argue.
“Charles, We need the food, don’t think about this kid.”
I stomped my foot, indignant. “I’m sixteen.”
Hank snarled at me and grabbed my shirt collar. It immediately brought back memories of my father, and I began to tremble and cry.
“Please, please let go! You-you don’t understand!” I wailed.
I couldn’t stop thinking about my dad beating me and Cassie and my mom. I kept crying and trying to escape Hank’s firm grip. Charles smacked Hank’s hand away from my shirt collar and Hank dropped me, and I fell on the floor, still crying. Charles ripped the gun from Hank’s hand. Hank gave him an evil look.
“What’d you do that for, Charles?! We need this food!” He turned back to me. “And if you don’t quit your crying, I’ll make it stop forever!”
I began hiccupping. “P-please just leave. I-I don’t have m-much left to eat. We can’t s-survive that much longer-er.”
“We?” inquired Charles. “Who else is here?”
I slapped my hand over my mouth, realizing what I had just done. Cassie’s life was now on the line because of my stupidity. Charles kneeled down next to me. He looked into my eyes gently.
“Look, kid, we aren’t going to hurt you or whoever else is here. We just need your food.”
I looked at him spitefully. “What’s the difference? You’re just going to starve us and let us die here.”
Charles looked back up at Hank, who pushed him out of the way and grabbed me by the hair.
“Tell me who else is here.”
“Shut the * up, Charles. Tell me who else is here, now!”
I hadn’t noticed Cassie slip out of the bedroom and sneak through Andrew’s room into the bathroom behind us. She came out, her kitchen knife gleaming. She was trembling, I remember that now. Little, precious Cassie was terrified, but was standing tall, trying to look mean and scary. I tried to keep my gaze away from her.
“You better let me go. I know more about this house and it’s people than you.”
Hank reached for his gun, only to remember. He held out his hand.
“Charles, my gun.”
Charles bent down to pick up nothing. It was missing. Cassie disappeared back into the bathroom. Charles looked around.
“Hank, you didn’t pick it back up?”
Hank rolled his eyes. “Charles, why would I ask you for the gun if I had it?”
“I don’t know. It’s not here, though.”
“Are you * with me, Charles?”
“No way, man! There’s nothing here!”