Make Me Lie by C.R. Jane
Gabriela (CROSS OUT) Delilah (CROSS OUT) Aurora
The world ended for me, then started again in technicolor, on a Tuesday afternoon in fourth grade.
I gripped the doorknob of the back door to steady myself as I unlaced and pulled off my Converse. My adoptive mother hated when I wore my shoes into the house, but these high tops took so long to get on and off, and that made it hard when I was so desperate to get through the house to my room before my "brother" Lucas caught me.
The door abruptly jerked open, and I tumbled into the kitchen, landing on the pristine white tile.
Lucas leered down at me. "What are you doing out there? Come inside, Gabriela. We've got our chores to do."
"I'll do them when Mom gets home," I said. It was safer to wait until she was home so I didn’t have to be around Lucas, even though sometimes she'd get mad at me for waiting. If I made it to my room and locked the door, I could do my homework and read my books in peace. Even Lucas wasn't going to risk banging up the door to get to me when Mom's house was her most precious thing—more precious than either of us. Definitely more precious than me.
I edged sideways trying to get away from Lucas, but he pinned me to the wall. "Mom is going to be so mad at you. She told us both that if we didn't do our chores, she was gonna be mad, and you know what that means."
My stomach churned. "I'll get them done."
I tried to get away from him, but he grabbed my pony tail and reeled me against his body. Lucas was seventeen, and he stank of body odor as he pulled me close. I tried to wriggle free.
"Mom said I could spank you if you didn't listen to me."
"No, she didn't." I kicked against one of the cabinet doors, trying to get loose.
"She did, and you're gonna get it from her too if you don't listen." He tried to wrench me with him, and I struggled to get free.
The two of us slipped. I kicked out, trying to get away from him. I managed to land on my feet while he landed hard on his knee and let out a grunt of pain. I ran desperately for my room with no plan but to get the hell away from Lucas while he was so furious at me.
The two of us raced through the hall. He was right behind me as I reached my room. I swung the door shut, but he threw his shoulder into it, and it banged open, knocking me back.
I fell back and slammed my head into the drywall so hard that I couldn't breathe for a second. The world spun darkly around me.
"Oh shit," Lucas said, and now even he sounded scared.
I got to my feet and saw the crack running down the drywall. There was no way Mom wouldn't see that.
"You are so screwed," Lucas said, starting to grin. "Do you want me to tell her that it was an accident? That you tripped? Or that you had a temper tantrum and did it on purpose?"
None of those were the truth.
"Lucas," I said, stunned.
He shrugged. "Up to you, Gabriela."
He always said my name like it was a joke, but everything about my existence seemed like a joke to him.
"What do you want?" I asked.
"Nothing. Let's just get our chores done so she's not mad about that too." He slung his arm around my neck and squeezed, the sour odor of his body washing over me. The affection was confusing. "We've got to have each other's backs, little sister."
I hurried to do my chores, putting away the dishes from the dishwasher that had run while we were at school, vacuuming again, making sure the house was spotless. Lucas had less to do since he pretty much took the trash out and did chores around the outside of the house, but he came over and helped me finish cleaning the kitchen which was nice and unexpected.
When we were done, he pulled out a bag of chips and said, "Come on. It'll be worth vacuuming again before Mom gets home."
She hated for us to have snacks outside of meals, but he rustled the bag with my favorite kind of chips, and my mouth watered. "Where did you get those?"
"I picked them up from 7-11 on my way home. Lunch at the high school sucks. I've been starving all day."
"They're not from Mom's secret stash?"
He grinned. "Nope. But she really needs to get over being so weird about us having junk food when she's keeping Hostess cupcakes in her underwear drawer. Come on."
It was unusually nice of Lucas. The two of us ended up sitting on the couch, watching a television show and sharing chips from the bag. When the bag was empty, I ran and buried it under some trash in the kitchen to make sure Mom wouldn't find it. I sat back down to watch the rest of the show.
Lucas rested his arm around my shoulders, and I leaned into him. It felt awkward but even though he smelled bad, it was kind of nice to be close to someone, even if it was Lucas. Maybe things would be different from now on. Sometimes it seemed like he'd hated me since I moved in four years ago, when I'd been taken away from my first mom. Back then I'd cried all the time, but I'd grown up since.
Then Lucas slid his other hand down my leg. It felt like he was just petting me absently, but I froze, pretending not to notice. It wasn't absent at all. His attention was just as razor-focused on me, on waiting for my reaction.
"Lucas..." I tried to squirm away, and he grabbed my thigh, his fingers sinking painfully into my skin.
"Come on, Gabriela. Remember what I said about how we've got to watch each other's backs?"
"Lucas, please..." I didn't even know what I was begging for, but something about the way he was touching me felt so wrong.
I didn't want him to tell Mom that I'd had a temper tantrum and broken the wall. I didn't know how to fix the wall or hide it from her, even though I'd been racking my brain trying to find a way out ever since it happened. I was going to be in so much trouble, and my stomach ached every time I thought about it. Maybe if she believed it really was an accident though, she wouldn't be mad. Sometimes she could be really nice... just like Lucas.
He pushed up the bottom of my t-shirt and slid his hand into my leggings. Just rested it there, against my bare skin just under the waistband of my panties. I closed my eyes because hot tears were building, threatening to spill over. I'd been lying to myself when I thought I was grown up and didn't cry anymore. I felt small and helpless.
"Shh, Gabriela, it's all right," Lucas said, but I knew it wasn't all right. It wasn't going to be all right. He was just touching me lightly for now, but somehow, I knew it was just going to keep getting worse and worse.
There was the rumble of the garage door, and the two of us jumped apart. I pulled the hem of my t-shirt down, pulling it taut against my body. Lucas knelt next to the couch, trying to sweep up crumbs from the chips that I hadn't noticed when I got up before; they must have been hidden under his leg.
"Shit," he grumbled. "You better hope she doesn't notice any more crumbs."
I turned and ran to my room, afraid of being caught in the living room while he fumbled with the remote.
A few minutes later, as I was turning the pages of my Nancy Drew book and trying to pay attention, I heard a familiar shrill scream. "Gabriela!"
"Coming!" I shouted back, throwing my book down without even remembering to put a bookmark in. I raced down the hall to the kitchen, where my mom was livid with rage, holding the empty chip bag.
"Did you try to hide this from me?" Her voice was the kind of white-hot that meant I was in deathly trouble.
"It's Lucas's," I whispered.
"Right, because they are his favorite chips that he always gets for his birthday," she said, tossing them into the trash again. "Where'd you get the money? Or did you steal them?"
"I didn't," I said. "I came right home after school."
"I told her she shouldn't have them," Lucas said from the doorway, and Mom's irritated gaze snapped to him. Before she could bite his head off, he added, "And you should see what she did to her room when I tried to take them from her."
"No, no, no," I begged as Mom towed me by the arm down the hall to my room. Her face went white with rage when she saw the crack in the wall.
She slapped me across the face so hard my vision went red. "Really, Gabriela, is there anything you didn't do today? Lying, stealing, destroying our house?"
"I didn't," I whimpered, but I knew she wasn't going to stop as she dragged me across the carpet to my closet door.
She rummaged through the closet, knocking one of my dresses to the ground as she pulled out a wire hanger.
I caught a glimpse of Lucas in the door, grinning, before I couldn't pay attention to anything but the pain.
That night, I lay in bed, trying to sleep despite the terrible pain. My Nancy Drew book was still lying with its spine open on the floor where it had fallen, and its pages were probably getting creased. I finally managed to get out of bed and pick it up, trying to read by the street light that came in through the window because I didn't dare get caught with my light on. Every once in a while, a car would come down the street and my page would get brighter for a moment with their headlights; I'd read frantically, skimming the page as fast as I could. I put the book under the pillow next to me, raising it just enough to hold the page up so I could drop it and hide the book at a moment's notice.
It was only because I was still awake that I heard the door creak open. I went still, letting the pillow fall, pretending to be asleep.
Lucas came to the side of my bed. He peeled back the blanket and the sheets, and I froze, pretending I was still asleep.
How many times had he come into my room like this?
He didn't touch me again, just touched the front of his pants, then pulled his manhood out. I kept my eyes closed, wanting to scream as he jerked his hand up and down along his pale thing.
Then suddenly, he made a short, desperate sound.
I opened my eyes to see him frozen, one hand still gripping himself, his eyes and mouth wide with horror.
A bright red smile had been cut across his throat, and the man with the knife was standing right behind him. The man touched the knife to his lips, warning me not to make a sound.
Gently, he eased Lucas's dying body onto the bed beside me.
I scrambled back and off the bed, staring at the stranger.
"It's all right," the man whispered. "I'm sorry it took me so long to find you. But nobody's ever going to get the chance to hurt you again."
He reached out his hand to me. I wasn't sure what to do, but his eyes were kind.
"Who are you?" I whispered.
"They call me The Demon," he whispered back. "But you can call me Dad, if you want."
"Where are we going?"
A grin spread across his face. "That's my girl. Wherever you want, darling, that's where we're going. But first, we have to make one more stop..."
I took his hand. He frowned at the sight of the bruises on my body and said, "Why don't you pack a bag while I go have a talk with that woman who pretended to be your mom?"
"Okay," I answered in a trembling, but hope filled voice.
I was putting my books into my suitcase when I heard the faintest start of a scream, so quiet that I didn't think it reached outside the house. I froze for a second, then went on, getting my favorite t-shirts.
He came back in for me, and took my suitcase out to the car while I got dressed in real clothes instead of my pajamas. Then he picked me up, as if I were a little doll, and carried me out into the hallway.
"Don't look," he whispered to me. "Close your eyes."
But I didn't want to keep my eyes closed anymore, and I shook my head, wondering if he would hurt me like everyone else had if I didn't obey him.
But he just smiled.
He carried me into the hallway, where my mother lay half-in and half-out of her bedroom, the carpet stained dark with blood in the dim light.
"You were always only pretending to be sweet and helpless, Gabriela," he whispered in my ear.
"You forgot who you really were, sweet child, because you had to forget. That was the only way for us to keep you safe. But you've always been something more than anyone could realize. You've always been fierce."
I tried to understand what he was saying. Had I always known deep down that I was his daughter, that someday he would come back and claim me? That I was never really helpless, no matter how I felt?
I could leave behind Gabriela, the scared little girl who was locked in closets and beaten with anything handy. She was nothing but a ghost in the house that I was leaving behind, along with the bodies. She wasn't ever real.
The real me could never be hurt, broken...destroyed.
Especially not when I was with my daddy, and my daddy was the devil himself. I smiled up at him, and a slow smile spread across his face, as if he understood what I was thinking. He looked so handsome and strong when he smiled. He pressed a kiss to my forehead.
"My darling, precious, blade of a daughter," he murmured. "The only way anyone will ever see you as a victim again is if you want them to. And at any time, you can pull the blindfold from their eyes and show them you're always the one with the knife."