I can’t breathe. My lungs hurt from the effort. Where is she? Where’s my daughter?
I’m shaking and full of dread and I absolutely can’t live if anything bad has happened to her. Please, God, let her be okay. Please!
My sluggish heartbeat turns to a pounding of adrenaline. I rush to the front of the house and burst onto the porch. The first thing I see is the dead raccoon that Pa left beside the house, now swarmed by flies. I spin toward where I know Mama will be sitting.
Beneath the long-ago burnt-out porch light—now a cemetery for moths—Mama sips at her tea. She’s cozy, all wrapped in her cotton robe as though nothing is wrong. The glow of morning sun catches the reddish hues of her graying blonde hair.
“Where is she?” I ask, grasping the doorframe to keep my weak body balanced.
Mama jumps. Her tea splashes as she shakily lowers the cup to her lap. “Oh, Rose. Please don’t do this.”
“Don’t do what?”
I’m met with silence. She shifts in the porch swing and lowers her gaze. Her face is all puffy, her eyes red.
I narrow my eyes. “Where’s Anna? You know. I can tell you do.”
Then I see it—that flash of a smile that is completely devoid of happiness. Her instinctual defense to hide whatever she is really feeling. But this time, even she can’t hold that smile in place.
I’ve lived on the wrong side of secrets long enough to know when someone is hiding something. And that’s exactly what Mama is doing.
I step closer, jabbing my finger in her face. “Tell me! I know you know where she is! What did you do to her?”
I’m shaking. My hands clench and my heart pounds in my ears. Ma stands, the teacup tumbling from her lap. She fumbles for it, then lets it go. She paces, then sits again. Her hands flit around, from her face, to smooth her dress, twisting in her lap. She’s coming undone, about to fall apart completely, and I don’t care one bit.
“Your Pa loves us,” she says finally, her words hidden behind her hand as she talks. “He’s protecting your reputation.”
“His reputation?” I say, incredulous.
She smiles weakly. “You’ll understand one day.”
I won’t ever understand. Mama had been good to me once, but ever since the Darkness came, she’s someone else. A woman stuck between denial and oblivion.
“Where’s Anna?” I ask again, but already I have that sinking feeling in my stomach. The pain of the birth ebbs, replaced by a fresh rush of adrenaline.
“It’s for the best.” Mama pinches the bridge of her nose. “We can be a family again, the way we’re supposed to be. Your Pa’s learned his lesson. We all make mistakes, Rose. The Lord implores us to forgive.”
Pa’s truck crunches over the gravel driveway and starts down the road, tearing away from us. He must have her. I can’t even think straight, can’t think beyond the thought that my daughter must be okay. That she can’t be hurt. That Pa can’t take her away from me. I’m sick with panic and fearing the worst. I can’t lose her.
The dusty blue truck kicks up dirt as Pa halts at the end of our road. He’s on his way to hide the evidence of what he’s done. He can’t stand to look at her, to be reminded of the monster that lives inside of him. He already tried to convince me to give her up. I considered it, but only for the sake of protecting her from him. But it wasn’t his decision. Anna was never his. She is a product of his abuse, of his drunkenness and Mama’s cowardliness.
But she is still my child.
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This review was originally posted on Bookish Things & More