I was awakened by sun rays bursting through the sunroof window. I turned my head over to my right, Miles was still asleep, his muscular chest rising and falling slowly from each breath. It was the first time he had looked content. I turned my head back to look up. I stared at the blue morning sky and the white cotton clouds. Sylvie was right. The Love stage had changed my life. I lifted myself up with my arms, my body was sore, and moved the white canopy curtains away from my face. I stood up and walked to the bathroom, small steps and stiff knees. I sat on the toilet, dropping my bottom down first in slow motion. I wiped and there was still a little blood but nothing unbearable.
I still didn't understand what Miles was so worried about. Last night was just another form of love, compassion, and pain practice. Everything we needed to get us ready for The Light. This was why Freedom House was so special and so beyond everything on the outside. We understood the way to enlightenment, and we were going to change the world and change the mindset of everyone out there. I couldn't wait to join The Darius in The Love room. I couldn't wait to help others experience the same thing I had last night.
My daydreaming was interrupted. I heard a loud pounding sound but it wasn't coming from The Love room's door. It was faint, a little farther away. A muffled voice. I walked to the bedroom door, slow and steady as to not make a sound. My hand reached for the doorknob and I concentrated while I turned the knob and then moved the door open just a crack. I listened. Someone was knocking aggressively on the front door.
"This is the police. Anyone home?"
The police? Why were they here? What did they want? I had a lot of experience with police officers on the outside. Each month, the neighbors would call the cops on my mom and whatever boyfriend she chose to bring home to teach her a lesson. I remember one particular Friday night. I was watching TV in the living room. There was no ceiling light just an old dirty lamp that flickered in the corner of the room. We had one couch with a faded orange and white floral print, and it reeked of cigarettes. There was a small coffee table but no room to put down any coffee. The table was always a mess with ashtrays, cigarette butts that missed the ashtray, beer cans, and old food. The carpet was stained, and the hairs were worn all the way down. Hardly a carpet. I sat on the floor watching my show.
There was a small doorway that led into the kitchen but was never used for cooking. In the sink, dishes stacked high. A four-story luxury food condo for bugs. I never witnessed my mother clean the counters. There was grime build up in the crevices of each tile. Sometimes you could catch a glimpse of a cockroach running by. On this Friday night, it started out with a small argument. I could hear their voices getting louder. "I can go now." My mother slurred.
"You're always waiting till the last fuckin' minute. You're lazy." This was boyfriend number three, the mechanic alcoholic named Steve.
"I'm sorry baby, I'll go right now and buy some food." She walked out of the kitchen doorway, I looked over at her. Her eyes caught mine as she held a short glass half empty of vodka. She forced an innocent smile and looked like a child that just got into trouble.
"No you fuckin' won't." Steve grabbed her hair as she walked out of the kitchen and pulled her with all the strength he had. Her body flew back onto the kitchen floor like a rag doll. The glass shattered. "Steve, please, please not again."
"I told you so many times already." He yelled.
The neighbors pounded on the wall. I began to stand up slowly, my knees were weak and my heart pounded out of my chest. "You sit down." He yelled at me. I sat back down on the floor, not sure what would happen next. My normal Friday night thoughts began to pay a visit. Was he going to kill her? Was I going to get hurt? Would the police finally save me?
"Leave her alone Steve." my mother said with no conviction.
"Shut up." Steve stood over her and she lay there, her tang top strap hanging down her arm. He punched her into the floor. There was a loud pounding on the front door. I knew who it was.
"Police, open up now."
Steve got one last punch in before stopping. He grabbed a dishtowel that was on the counter and wiped his knuckles. He walked into the living room and threw the towel onto my lap. "Get rid of that."
My mom grabbed onto the edge of the kitchen counter to lift herself up. I walked over to her. "It's not a big deal Samantha."
I was beginning to hate her. I didn't understand what she was doing to us. She turned the water on in the kitchen sink and washed her face. Her left eye was swollen and the skin at her cheekbone was split open. I could hear Steve talking to the police officer through the living room but couldn't see them.
"We received a call about a disturbance."
"Nothing exciting happening hear officer." Steve said.
"Have you been drinking sir?"
"It's not a crime to drink in the privacy of your own home, is it?"
"Can we take a look around?"
My mother looked at me and raised her pointer finger to her lips, signaling me to not make a peep.
"If you don't have a warrant then I can't let you in."
"Then keep it down. I don't want to be called out here again."
"Yes sir, thank you."
Steve closed the door. He walked over to the couch and plopped down onto it. He leaned back and scratched his pot belly.
"Darleen, get me a beer."
"Samantha, just go to your room." My mom whispered to me.
As I walked through the living room toward the hallway on the left, Steve stopped me. "Sam, come here."
I stopped in front of the TV and stared at him. He gestured with his hand to go over to him. I walked over and stood next to him as he sat on the couch. He patted his knee. I sat on his lap. He smelled of cigarettes and beer. He put his rough hands around my waist. "You know I love you and your mother, right?"
"Yeah, I know."
"Then give me some love." He pointed to his cheek.
I leaned over and kissed it, rough with stubs of hair. I got up and walked to the hallway. When I turned the hallway corner, I stopped and leaned my body against the wall. I placed my palms against it, my fingers gripping for anything. A tear ran down my left cheek.
"I'm sorry Darleen. I just want you to be the best you. You know I love you."
I could hear their lips smacking together and I could feel the vomit rise up, burning the back of my throat but I forced myself to swallow it back down. I went into my bedroom and closed the door. I lied down on my mattress on the floor, staring at the dark, stained ceiling, wondering if I would ever get out.
"Ivy?" Miles was awake.
I placed my index finger to my lips, signaling him to stay quiet.
"Police, is anyone home?"
Someone was making their way to the front door. I heard the door open.
"Good morning Sir, how can I help you?" They had sent Sylvie, her voice friendly and welcoming.
"Good morning to you as well Miss. I'm Detective Salvino. You may be able to help me. A young girl, fourteen years of age, went missing about 5 months ago and we've been looking for her. Her name is Samantha Watson. She was last seen downtown on Broadway and 7th Street, about 15 miles from here. Here's a picture of her, have you seen her?"
"What a lovely name, Salvino. Well that is just devastating. I can't image how her parents are feeling. I've never seen her before. I wish I could be of more help Detective." Sylvie spoke slowly with a hint of flirtation.
"Thank you much Miss. If you happen to hear anything at all, please give me a call. Here's my card."
"Of course. I really hope you find her. There are so many bad people out there."
"What was your name again?"
"Oh, how rude of me. My name is Claire."
"You have a nice day Claire. Please reach out if you hear anything."
"Have a wonderful day as well Detective Salvino."
Claire? How did they find Freedom House and why did my mother even care if I was gone? My breath stopped for a moment. I didn't want them to find me here and take me back to the outside. Miles was standing next to me.
"Ivy, this is your way out, your ticket home."
"This is my home. I'm not leaving Miles so you can stop trying to convince me."
"What if that Detective comes back?"
"I will talk to The Darius. He'll know what to do."
Miles grabbed his clothes quickly, putting them on without saying a word. He opened the door, walked out of the room, closing the door behind him. He could be angry, I didn't care. I was more worried about this Detective. I walked over to my clothes and heard a knock on the door.
"Miles leave me alone please."
"Oh, come in."
Sylvie opened the door and carefully shut it behind her. She came over to me and handed me a small card. "Someone's looking for you."
I looked down and it read:
Santa Cruz Police Department.
155 Center St.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
"I heard. We have to go to The Darius right now." I said.
"That is the perfect plan. He has all the answers." Sylvie smiled.
"Let's get you dressed."
-Written by Sterp
All Rights Reserved
I am Sterp. I write horror fiction and have a very unhealthy obsession with disturbing narratives. I am the author of The Cult Called Freedom House: Sophia Rey Book One. My short story The Lost Tea Cup will be in Issue 26 of The Literary Hatchet in 2020. I am also a painter.
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