“I know it’s a lot to take in,” he says quietly. “I know it is. I’ll take you home, but we need to talk about this tomorrow.” He turns toward me, looking at me with hardened eyes. “Sky, you cannot talk to Karen about this. Do you understand? Not until the two of us figure it out.”
I nod, just to appease him. He can’t honestly expect me not to talk to her about this.
He turns his whole body toward mine in the seat and leans in, placing his hand on my headrest. “I’m serious, babe. I know you don’t think she’s capable of doing something like this, but until we find out more, you need to keep this to yourself. If you tell anyone, your entire life will change. Give yourself time to process everything. Please. Please promise me you’ll wait until after tomorrow. After we talk again.”
The terrified undertone in his words pierces my heart, and I nod again, but this time I actually mean it.
He watches me for several seconds, then slowly turns around and cranks the car, pulling onto the road. He drives me the four miles back to my home and nothing is spoken until he pulls into my driveway. My hand is on the door handle and I’m stepping out of the car when he takes my other hand.
“Wait,” he says. I wait, but I don’t turn back around. I keep one foot on the floorboard and one foot on the driveway, facing the door. He moves his hand to the side of my head and brushes a strand of hair behind my ear. “Will you be okay tonight?”
I sigh at the simplicity of his question. “How?” I ease back against my seat and turn and face him. “How can I possibly be okay after tonight?”
He stares at me and continues to stroke the hair on the side of my head with his fingers. “It’s killing me…letting you go like this. I don’t want to leave you alone. Can I come back in an hour?”
I know he’s asking if he can come through my window and lay with me, but I immediately shake my head no. “I can’t,” I say, my voice cracking. “It’s too hard being around you right now. I just need to think. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
He nods and pulls his hand away from my cheek, then places it back on the steering wheel. He watches me as I step out of the car and walk away from him.
Sunday, October 28th, 2012 12:37 a.m.
Stepping through the front door and into the living room, I’m hoping to be engulfed with a sense of comfort that I’m desperately in need of. The familiarity and sense of belonging in this house is something I need to calm me down so that I no longer feel like bursting into tears. This is my home where I live with Karen…a woman who loves me and would do anything for me, no matter what Holder may think.
I stand in the dark living room and wait for the feeling to envelope me, but it never does. I’m looking around with suspicion and doubt, and I hate that I’m observing my life from a completely different viewpoint right now.
I walk through the living room, pausing just outside Karen’s bedroom door. I contemplate crawling into bed with her, but her light is out. I’ve never needed to be in her presence as much as I do in this moment, but I can’t bring myself to open up her bedroom door. Maybe I’m not ready to face her yet. Instead, I walk down the hallway to my bedroom.
The light in my room is peering out from the crack under the door. I put my hand on the doorknob and turn it, then slowly open the door. Karen is sitting on my bed. She looks up at me when she hears the door open and she immediately stands up.
“Where have you been?” She looks worried, but her voice has an edge of anger to it. Or maybe disappointment.
“With Holder. You never said what time I needed to be home.”
She points to the bed. “Sit down. We need to talk.”
Everythign about her feels different now. I watch her guardedly. I feel like I’m going through false motions of being an obedient daughter while I nod. It’s like I’m in a scene from a dramatic Lifetime movie. I walk over to the bed and sit, not sure what has her so riled up. I’m sort of hoping she found out everything that I found out tonight. It’ll make it a hell of a lot easier when I tell her about it.
She takes a seat next to me and turns toward me. “You’re not allowed to see him again,” she says firmly.
I blink twice, mostly from the shock in subject matter. I wasn’t expecting it to be about Holder. “What?” I say, confused. “Why?”
She reaches into her pocket and pulls out my cell phone. “What is this?” she says through gritted teeth.
I look at my phone being held tightly in her hands. She hits a button and holds up the screen to face me. “And what the hell kind of texts are these, Sky? They’re awful. He says awful, vile things to you.” She drops the phone onto the bed and reaches for my hands, grasping them. “Why would you allow yourself to be with someone who treats you this way? I raised you better than this.”
She’s no longer raising her voice. Now she’s just playing the part of concerned mother.
I squeeze her hands in reassurance. I know I’ll more than likely be in trouble for having the phone, but I need her to know that the texts aren’t at all what she thinks they are. I actually feel a little silly that we’re even having this conversation. When I compare this issue to the new issues I’m facing, it seems a little juvenile.
“Mom, he’s not being serious. He sends me those texts as a joke.”
She lets out a disheartened laugh and shakes her head in disagreement. “There’s something off about him, Sky. I don’t like how he looks at you. I don’t like how he looks at me. And the fact that he bought you a phone without having any respect for my rules just goes to show you what kind of respect he holds for other people. Regardless of whether or not the texts are a joke, I don’t trust him. I don’t think you should trust him, either.”
I stare at her. She’s still talking, but the thoughts inside my head are becoming louder and louder, blocking out whatever words she’s trying to drill into my brain. My palms instantly begin sweating and I can feel my heart pounding in my eardrums. All of her beliefs and choices and rules are flashing in my mind and I’m trying to separate them and put them into their own chapters, but they’re all running together. I pull the first thought out of the pile of questions and just flat out ask her.
“Why can’t I have a phone?” I whisper. I’m not even sure that I ask the question loud enough for her to hear me, but she stops moving her mouth so I’m pretty sure she heard me.
“And internet,” I add. “Why don’t you want me accessing the internet?”
The questions are becoming poison in my head and I feel like I have to get them out. It’s all beginning to piece together and I’m hoping it’s all coincidence. I’m hoping she’s sheltered me my whole life because she loves me and wants to protect me. But deep down, it’s quickly becoming apparent that I’ve been sheltered my whole life because she was hiding me.
“Why did you homeschool me?” I ask, my voice much louder this time.
Her eyes are wide and it’s obvious she has no idea what is spurring these questions right now. She stands up and looks down at me. “You aren’t turning this around on me, Sky. You live under my roof and you’ll follow my rules.” She grabs my phone off the bed and walks toward the door. “You’re grounded. No more cell phones. No more boyfriend. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.”
She slams my door shut behind her and I immediately fall back onto the bed, feeling even more hopeless than before I walked through my front door.
I can’t be right. It’s just a coincidence, I can’t be right. She wouldn’t do something like this. I squeeze the tears back and refuse to believe it. There has to be some other explanation. Maybe Holder is confused. Maybe Karen is confused.
I know I’m confused.
I take off my dress and throw on a t-shirt, then turn out the light and crawl under the covers. I’m hoping I wake up tomorrow to realize this whole night was just a bad dream. If it’s not, I don’t know how much more I can take before my strength is completely diminished. I stare up at the stars, glowing above my head, and I begin counting them. I push everyone and everything else away and focus, focus, focus on the stars.
Wednesday, June 23rd, 1999 4:10 p.m.
Dean walks back to his yard and he turns around and looks at me. I bury my head back into my arm and try to stop crying. I know they probably want to play hide-n-seek again before I have to go back inside, so I need to stop being sad so we can play.
I look up at Dean and he isn’t looking at me anymore. I thought he called my name, but he’s looking at a car. It’s parked in front of my house and the window is rolled down.
“Come here, Hope,”the lady says. She’s smiling and asking me to come to her window. I feel like I know her, but I can’t remember her name. I stand up so I can go see what she wants. I wipe the dirt off my shorts and walk to the car. She’s still smiling and she looks really nice. When I walk up to the car, she hits the button that unlocks the doors.
“Are you ready to go, sweetie? Your daddy wants us to hurry.”
I didn’t know I was supposed to go anywhere. Daddy didn’t say we were going anywhere today.
“Where are we going?” I ask her.
She smiles and reaches over to the handle, then opens the door for me. “I’ll tell you when we’re on our way. Get in and put your seatbelt on, we can’t be late.”
She really doesn’t want to be late to where we’re going. I don’t want her to be late, so I climb into the front seat and shut my door. She rolls up the window and starts driving away from my house.
She looks at me and smiles, then reaches into the backseat. She hands me a juice box, so I take it out of her hand and open the straw.
“I’m Karen,” she says. “And you get to stay with me for a little while. I’ll tell you all about it when we get there.”
I take a sip from my juice. It’s apple juice. I love apple juice.
“But what about my daddy? Is he coming, too?”
Karen shakes her head. “No, sweetie. It’ll just be you and me when we get there.”
I put the straw back in my mouth because I don’t want her to see me smile. I don’t want her to know that I’m happy my daddy isn’t coming with us.
Sunday, October 28th, 2012 2:45 a.m.
I sit up.
It was a dream.
It was just a dream.
I can feel my heart beating wildly in every facet of my body. It’s beating so hard I can hear it. I’m panting for breath and covered in sweat.
It was just a dream.
I attempt to convince myself of just that. I want to believe with all my heart that the memory I just had wasn’t a real one. It can’t be.
But it was. I remember it clearly, like it happened yesterday. With every single memory I’ve recalled over the last few days, a new one pops up after it. Things I’ve either been repressing or was just too young to recall are coming back to me full-force. Things I don’t want to remember. Things I wish I never knew.