SHE BRUSHED HAIR OUT OF HER face. That small gesture of pretending to tuck a strand behind her ear, only to wipe a tear with the palm of her hand, brought sadness. The setting sun cast her profile in a golden hue and masked the red in her eyes. She turned in my general direction with a smile. The love in her eyes and smile shined through a world of her pain. I wanted to kiss it better, like all the times she had kissed me better, to take away all her pain.
“You’re a very special little girl, Blaire. Your dad and I have done many things we’re not proud of, but you’re the best thing that ever happened to us,” Ma said, squeezing my little hand. “But you must promise me, Blaire, no matter what happens today, you will move on. You will not look back. You will not make my mistakes. Now, no more tears. Forget the pain. Lift your head high, and move forward.”
I nodded as Ma gently wiped away my tears.
I don’t know how, but Ma always knew when I was sad. Even though she couldn’t see the world around her, she could still see me. Her and Pa always wanted the best for me and did everything in their power to help me get it.
My breath caught in my chest; the hairs on my body stood on end. Glancing around, I couldn’t see him but felt him. He was near.
Ma stared behind me with her clouded, damaged eyes—a faint pink circled the edges from crying, then, in an instant, panic flashed through them. She sensed his presence too.
“He’s coming back, Blaire. Run!” Ma yelled as she rose from her chair.
I ran back inside the house with Ma trailing behind me.
“The stairs, Blaire, go up the stairs. Faster!”
We ran hand in hand, taking two steps at a time. We reached her room, and she opened her closet door. With one hand, she pushed her clothing out our way, got onto her knees and pressed hard against the wall until I heard that familiar snap sound.
“Quick! Get inside. He mustn’t find you, Blaire. He can’t find you today. Stay hidden, baby girl, and don’t come out no matter what you hear. Stay here until someone opens for you.” Ma kissed my wet cheeks, wiped away my tears and gently pushed me toward the hidden compartment—my secret hiding place—where the monsters couldn’t find me.
I crawled in, turned around and sat.
Ma kissed her index and middle finger and blew me a kiss and closed the compartment door until it clicked shut.
I stared at that silver line between the compartment door and her closet wall. The light from her bedroom provided me with some comfort.
Scratching sounds alongside the walls echoed in the room, inside the closet, and in my hidden spot. I covered my mouth to muffle my whimpers. The tapping of his nails on the doorjamb felt like glass slicing down my back.
I squeezed my eyes shut. I could either block my ears or cover my mouth, but I couldn’t let him know I was in here. I had to be silent. I had to disappear. I had to be a ghost. He couldn’t see ghosts. I knew that. Even though he was a monster—a very bad one—luckily, some things he couldn’t see.
“I waited for you, Alice. You did not come to me like you promised. You forced me to come fetch you here,” he growled with a deep and commanding voice.
“I’m sorry, but I’ve already told you I can’t go off with you. We can’t be together.”
“Is it because of her?” His words were laced with malice. He couldn’t even say my name.
Ma whimpered, then she gasped—it sounded like he grabbed her.
“Please don’t make me choose.” Ma cried, her sobbing growing louder.
“You’re the only one I care about, Alice. It means nothing to me to kill her.”
“Please, don’t hurt her,” Ma said through tears. “I do love you.”
“But not enough?” he yelled.
“I’ll do whatever you need me to do. I promise. What do you need? We can go now. Come.”
“No!” His yell cut through my core. “If I can’t have all of you—”
I heard gasping and gah interjections then the sound of teeth grinding with force. After a few heartbeats, I heard a thump against the door and then another against the wall. They were struggling. But Ma wasn’t calling for help. She wasn’t telling him no. She wasn’t stopping him.
I heard one last gasp and then a loud, heavy thud on the floor. I opened my eyes and blinked as I readjusted to the dark of the cupboard and the bright light in Ma’s room. I saw her hand; her fingernails were ripped and bleeding—and … unmoving. She wasn’t getting up. I wanted to crawl from my hiding spot and go to her, to help her. I could help her, but she told me not to leave. I had to stay here. I had to keep quiet. I had to stay hidden from him. If he found me, he would hurt me.
Someone would open for me, that’s what Ma had said, someone was coming. Then they would help Ma.
I pressed my head against the side of the wall. I would rather feel pain, and it took my mind off Ma’s hand, that wasn’t moving. I covered my mouth with both hands to silence my cries, squeezing my eyes tight.
He was coming.
His deep breathing neared the cupboard.
He was near me.
His presence was just on the other side of the hidden compartment.
I heard his deep-chested exhales, like wind in a cave.
I smelled that strong odor I had come to hate—musk and sweat and something else I couldn’t quite place; it must be his animal.
All those times he pulled me by my arms and threw me to the ground, luckily, I’d never broken anything.
The metal from the hangers clanged against the closet rods as he shoved Ma’s clothing out of the way. The roughness of his actions launched her shoes against the wall. He grunted as he slammed his fist into the cupboard door, pulling it off its hinges.
“Where are you, little girl? I can smell you,” he growled. “The smell of fear has a bitterness I love.” He inhaled deeply, causing the hairs at the back of my neck to stand on end. He sniffed closer to the wall, near me.
My heart hammered in my chest, and my pulse thundered in my ears.
Please don’t let him find me.
Please. Please. Please.
Let me be gone. Let my abilities help me hide, help me to disappear.
Someone yelled from somewhere within the house.
A smack against the bedroom door as he hit it, and then his loud footsteps moved farther from Ma, farther from me.
The front door slammed shut.
He was gone, saved by whoever had called him away.
A loud exhale escaped my mouth.
I stayed in my hiding spot for three days before someone finally opened it and rescued me. I learned a lot about myself while I sat there, slept there, and cried there. That I would get through my loss, and when I was old enough, I would find him. And I would stop at nothing to kill him.
My name is Blaire Oona Thorne. I was only eight years old when the monster my ma trusted and once loved had murdered her and took her from me