The Story of Sledge


WARNING: Might Stir Your Phobias

Red and blue light danced across the brick houses on the street the little girl in the nightgown had fled down. There were no sirens, but squad cars were parked out front of the home Vanessa’s father had barged out of. He was under arrest, placed in the back of one of the squads, the crusted blood and sweat still telling half of the story on the side of his head.

The police were speaking to Andrea and Melinda, who had arrived due to the disturbance. Before they got to the scene, however, Andrea, physically charged and defensive from the night’s events, had racked her nails across Melinda’s chest. She would have none of her desire to take Vanessa away from her care.

A female cop was standing between them, her posture somewhat offensive towards the older woman. The impassive look carved onto her face was immobile.

“You say you want to take your grandchild Vanessa away?” she sighed, forcing herself the ask the questions she must for her job.

“Yes, she does not belong here.”

“You have other grandchildren living in this home with Andrea, correct?”

“Well, yes, Isabel.”

“Then why do you want to take one child away and not the other, if you think they are not safe here?”

Melinda, frustrated and hurt, the cuts on her chest burning from the nail wounds, replied as kindly as possible. “Vanessa, she does not live here with her father like Isabel does. She lives with her other grandparents and is not used to seeing this violence, and I will return her to them. She is not used to seeing this things here, with her father drunk.”

The cop pursed her lips in disbelief. “But she does have visitation rights with her father for this weekend, and that makes Andrea legally responsible for her, not you.”

“Do you see what she did to me?” Melinda motioned to her chest. “This is not a home where it is safe.”

Andrea and Melinda exchanged harsh words, but the officer insisted on sending Melinda away, siding with the woman with more blood on her shirt.

_ _

Vanessa was in someone else’s home…in an apartment complex Andrea took shelter in; with a friend or relative, she didn’t know. It was the middle of the night. Isabel and her were led into the place after the police left.

Her pulse had settled, heart slowed back to a normal pace, but she was cold now and felt almost naked, wearing only her nightgown. Tiredness was settling into her limbs and she looked for a place to sit. There was a crib with a baby fast asleep within it, what looked like a small bed, and a couch besides that, both occupied with younger toddlers lying upon them. She became aware of how small the apartment was, and how barren it was of “things.” The room layout didn’t make sense, since there didn’t appear to be designated rooms for sleeping. Even in the kitchen there were only a couple chairs and a table, right next to the room with the beds, and there didn’t seem to be enough to seat even the family they were now visiting.

She stood there, unable to understand the Spanish words flying overhead, and too tired to care. Isabel said nothing but didn’t seem to be nearly as upset by the night’s events as she had been. Instead of speaking, she kept her mouth shut, standing like a lamppost in the kitchen. She let her eyes go out of focus as she merely stared at nothing.

That’s when something stirred in her vision. She was seeing something moving…or many somethings, over in the sink where the white plates were sitting cleaned. She blinked, her eyes snapping back reluctantly into focus. She looked, and sure enough there was something moving on the dishes.

She stepped closer, but once the recognition clicked in her brain with what she beheld, she was instantly hit with a surge of adrenaline anew. Her breath sharply inhaled and held in place, her eyes unable to blink away, lungs burning for the need of air. She could see not just one but many roaches, all winding their way in and around the immaculate plates. They were in all sizes from nymphs to adults, and nobody seemed to see them except her.

She looked to the faces of the talking adults, even to ignorant Isabel, but nobody else shared her overwhelm. Surely they saw them too? She backed away quietly, her bare toes touching lightly as possible on the tile floor…where they also were crawling around. How did she not notice them before?

She wanted to sit - to climb - onto one of the kitchen chairs, but the roaches could climb too. She saw them scaling the legs with impunity. It was like something born out of nightmares. The floor patterns were moving. They squirmed around her, and on the walls they swarmed.

Her female instinct caused her to tuck her gown down between her legs, keeping one foot held atop the other with crossed legs. But there are kids in the next room, she thought. Do they crawl on them? There was no place to escape from the brown bugs with their searching antennas, and they had no fear at all of the lights being on or that somebody might mis-step.

Vanessa shut her eyes, wanting to shrink down and touch as little as possible anything around her. She wanted to leave, to be with her grandparents again, safe and tucked in her big bed with her Cuddle Puppy and Butchie Boy. If only she could will herself away with just a thought.




Shockingly…no. I realize how the writing might have made that sound like hallucinating though. It was real…it was just…“normal” I guess for them to see. I don’t know, it’s what I remember.


That’s absolutely disgusting



“Today we are going to be designing our own family trees.”

The teacher began handing out papers with a cartoony image of a tree. On the tree itself were branches designed in particular ways, with lines drawn on them to show where they were supposed to write down the names of their family members.

“You don’t have to fill in all of the branches, but you can put in your mom and dad, any brothers and sisters you have, aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins…” the teacher happily droned on.

Vanessa sat at the desk, staring down at the paper in front of her. She picked up her pencil and wrote in her grandparents and her mother, then paused. She looked around the room at all of the other kids scribbling things down with ease, then back at her own page. She didn’t know how to put in her sister, Jamie, that lived with her mother, who had a different father, nor Isabel whom had a different mother. And where would she put in her father, since he was not together with her mother to share the same branch? She also didn’t know how to write down her second set of grandparents, and all of those new family members that were half-this and half-thats, when all of the branches on the tree were connected, fitting nicely into place the way a tree should stand.

My family tree needs broken branches, she thought to herself.

The clock on the wall ticked away as the other kids finished up their trees and began to color in all of the leaves…but she sat there with her head tilted against her hand, sadly unable to fill in the blanks. Her hair draped down around her.

The teacher walked over and knelt down a bit to her level, “Is there something I can help you with?”

“Well,” Vanessa wasn’t sure how to frame her words. “My father doesn’t live with my mother, and my sister has a different father…and…”

The teacher smiled as kindly as possible. “Oh, that’s ok. You can just fill in whatever you can. You don’t need to write something in every line.” Possibly she didn’t want her to worry over an assignment meant to be for fun, or perhaps she simply didn’t want the conversation to get heavy, but she tried to reassure her with her glance and somewhat flippant air.

When she walked away to visit with another student, Vanessa decided to write her name at the top of the page and call it done. She spelled out VANESSA CORDERO and stopped on the “O”. Her eyes looked over the letters, the two names sitting side-by-side. She recalled her father telling her to be proud of her blood, and remembered his hurtful hands and vicious tongue. She could hear the Spanish rolling in her ears.

The pencil in her hand slowly spun around in her fingers, until she set the eraser-end down on the “C.” With light strokes she began to erase the name, and as it started to vanish off the page she got more zealous with her eraser, until finally she had to hold the paper down with her other hand, she was pressing so hard. CORDERO was eliminated, just like that, and she liked that it was gone. Instead, she put in her grandparent’s Italian name, and decided that she would not be a Puerto Rican anymore and would fill in no more limbs on the tree than her grandparents, mother, and sister Jamie.

Until the school informed her grandparents, and made her return to using her legal moniker, she continued to fill out her homework assignments as someone else, and not the girl with the Cordero name.


Signs of rebellion



This time a van pulled up to Vanessa’s house. Her mother had gotten something new to drive…although the interior was worn. She hugged and kissed her grandparents goodbye and took her weekend backpack, rushing for the vehicle.

“Where is Jamie?” she asked, not seeing her sister anywhere in the smoke-scented van.

“We just have to pick her up from her father’s house, then we’ll have some fun.” Her mother waved out the window to Vito. “Bye dad!”

After a while of driving, listening to music loudly blazing through the radio, cigarette smoke trailing out the downed windows, Cara turned to her daughter, “Hey, I have an idea!”

There was a pile of blankets on the floor in the van, and Cara suggested that Vanessa hide in them - to pop out and surprise her sister, whom didn’t know this was a weekend she would be visiting with her. Vanessa readily unbuckled from her seat and dug into the pile of fabric, burying in like a rabbit, sure to leave no part of herself exposed. She giggled softly inside the darkness of the blankets, excited to see the look on her sister’s face. Her mother was the most fun mother she could have ever wanted.

She felt the van come to a stop, and Cara told her to get ready as she left to pick up her sibling. She could hear talking in the distance, mostly her mother’s loudness…but then her sister’s voice. It was growing closer. After what seemed like more than just a few minutes, the van’s door slide open, and Jamie came in.

Cara started up the engine and started laughing in a lighter, sort of secret, way.

“What’s so funny?” Jamie asked, but her mother just smiled and rolled her laugh along as they started to drive off.

Vanessa was about to burst herself, but held back, waiting for the perfect moment…the wait wasn’t too long, since her anticipation couldn’t bare it. She threw off the blankets and gave her sister the shock of her life. Screams quickly transformed into hilarity.

_ _

They arrived at her mother’s house. Her boyfriend, Chris, was home, laying back on the couch, a Nintendo controller in his hand. He looked like Christopher Lloyd from Back to the Future, his hair was so white and wild about his head. He was playing a game of golf.

“Whoa, you have a NIntendo?!” Vanessa was in amazement and not just a little overjoyed.

“Sure,” her sister said, “Just got it! It’s great! Hey, can we play Mario?” she asked Chris.

“After this hole, ok?”

The kids ran off to her sister’s room in the meantime, talking about the other games they had besides golf.

“Man, golf is so boring!” Vanessa snickered.


Her younger sister could always be counted on to agree to her lead in poking fun of things or playing various games. Seeing her sister was like visiting a best friend…only she wished it could be for every day and not only a few scant weekends.

_ _

Later in the day, after playing Mario Brothers, where of course she had her sister play as Luigi, and cheating at Duck Hunt by putting the gun barrel only a couple inches away from the TV screen so the dog wouldn’t keep laughing at their misses, her mother pulled her away to the kitchen.

Her mother pulled up a chair and had her sit atop her lap. Her makeup was pretty, Vanessa thought, and her red hair did not distract from the wide smile which seemed permanently attached to her face. She could smell her perfume even through the cigarette smoke. Cara hugged onto her.

“How would you like to live with me and Jamie?”

The question crashed over her like a tidal wave, instantly sending her shivers of anticipation. Could it be true? She could live with her sister and mother like a real family?

“Yes!” she didn’t hesitate her response.

Cara threw back her head and laughed with delight. You’ll be sisters - sisters!” she sang out in their sing-song way. Jamie ran into the room and, once informed of this awesome thing, embraced her sister. They both jumped around with arms entwined, gleefully celebrating…until Cara held out a phone.

“We’re going to have to get your things, then.” She was thrilled, dialing Vanessa’s grandparents.

Vanessa’s jumping around came to an abrupt stop, as a great weight fell into her gut. The feeling was so opposite of what she had just felt mere seconds before, and it carried along with it a cold shiver.

“Yeah, hey dad!” Cara spoke over the phone. “Hey, guess what…I’m going to be keeping my daughters together. Vanessa wants to live with me.”

She heard the words, swallowing hard, imagining what was happening on the other end of the phone as the words were traveling through the cord that no doubt would crush people she loved. Did she really want to leave her grandparents? Cara handed her the phone, and in her hand it felt like a brick. Robotic-like, she put it to her ear, wishing the call was already over before it began.

“Vanessa, do you really want to live with your mother?” It was Vito talking, and his words were full of concern and surprise, with an undercurrent of hurt. “Are you sure you want to do this? Don’t let anyone else tell you what to do…it’s your choice.”

She barely heard her own answer, looking on at her mother and sister’s eyes watching her, burning through her own. They were all smiles, when inside she was crumbling like old Play-Doh. Suddenly she felt sliced into two, and was doing the wrong thing no matter what she said.

“I…I want to live here…with my sister.” Did the words really come out of her mouth? She set herself on auto-pilot, barely breathing, feeling as if her heart would tear apart any moment, at any word.

“Vanessa, are you sure this is what you want? Or are you doing this because your mother says so?”

The conversation was hitting walls. She could barely find responses, and any she did were said slowly and sparsely…and it was as if she didn’t even know what she said after the words got out. Eventually Cara took back the phone. There seemed to be some trouble on the other end, to which she laughed it off, saying she was happy to have her family together again and this is the way it should be…and oh well for whatever feelings the people had on the other side of the telephone wires.

Jamie took her shoulder and pulled her towards the Nintendo to play, but Vanessa’s spirit wasn’t in it. She looked at the Nintendo, wondering what she traded for it…who did she hurt to get it? Was it wrong to want to live with her mother and sister? Did she want to live with them after all?


WARNING: Disturbing Content

It didn’t take long before Wheel of Fortune, Duck Hunt, and even the classic Mario Brothers lost its glamour. Vanessa had become good at Mario, easily by-passing levels through secret tubes and knowing the infinite lives trick of bopping a turtle shell against stairs…able to finish the entire game and start all over again with new enemies set into the same levels.

Her mother wasn’t around much, and things were not nearly as fun as when it used to be only weekend visits. She assumed her mother had to work, but the nights grew late. Chris seemed to be home at regular times, more so than her, but he liked to drink and go to sleep on the couch. They had to see to putting themselves to bed on time, lest Chris catch them goofing off. To annoy him was to invite heavy yelling at the slightest provocation. One night when it was very cold, Vanessa slid down to the floor from the side of her bed to sit next to the heating vent for a while to warm up. It was at that moment that Chris decided to check on if the girls were asleep in their own rooms or not…and he did not see her in bed. When he stomped angrily away to her sister’s room, she quickly got back under her slim covers - which he heard. When he stuck his head back in the room, seeing her pretending she was asleep, he railed in his monstrous voice, telling her it had better never happen again. She was left shivering from more than just being cold.

Often, she and her sister would wander the alleys, chasing after stray cats or trying to find other kids to play with. They got dirty, and her mother’s own cats would often lay on their coats and clothes, leaving their scent upon them. When it would rain, it really brought out that aroma, making it impossible to make friends in the new school she was in. Even some of the bullies she missed from her old school. Here it was as if she didn’t exist or was avoided. For months she had nobody else to talk to other than Jamie. She also found herself being hungry a lot while living with her mother, when she had always been full at her grandparents.

Sometimes Cara took her sister and her to a babysitter, and then she would be gone for what seemed like forever. The other kids being babysat were younger, and the porch they were both made to stay on had only baby toys to play with, and wasn’t very large. It was also fairly cold. They were not allowed into the main house and forbidden to touch the pet cat, even if the cat should stroll up and touch them. They would arrive early in the morning, and not be picked up again by Cara until long after the stars came out at night, maybe even into the next morning. Other kids came and went, staying only a few short hours…but they outlasted them all. But worst of all was they would not be fed a meal.

“Your mother doesn’t pay me to feed you,” the sitter said angrily when asked for food.

Every weekend Vanessa’s grandparents would stop by her mother’s house. They would bring pre-packed sack lunches with things that didn’t go bad like granola bars, fruit roll-ups, and a box of raisins for the girls to take with them when they visited the sitter, since Vanessa told them about her over the phone. They did not like Vanessa’s condition, and they once even took a photo of her in the back of their car quickly for some reason. She did not know why. At least she managed to convince them to bring her all of her Ninja Turtle toys to play with, since she didn’t have much with her mother.

The babysitter let them have the sack lunches, but when Vanessa brought her Ninja Turtles, the woman took them all away, giving them to her own kids to play with, who were around her own age. She was not allowed to play with anything except the baby toys on the porch with her sister. The weather had gotten colder, and the screens did little to keep out the chill, and the days wore on so long that even falling asleep on the hardwood planks of the floor did little to shorten it. She taught her sister how to ration each raisin…to eat them over time to make them last, even though their bellies craved harder when their eyes could see more in the little red box.

That night it seemed like their mother would never show up. For whatever reason the babysitter made them share their sack lunches with their own kids, so they were hungry again when it turned time for supper, not rations to peck on. The babysitter’s husband had brought home bags of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Vanessa remembered the scent from living with her grandparents. She knew how good the crispy chicken skin tasted…and from the porch she could see the babysitter and her family in the kitchen, just a few tantalizing feet away, eating their dinner. It had been so long since she had a meal like that.

Although she knew it was breaking the rules, Vanessa asked anyway, “Can we have some too? We’re hungry.”

Of course the answer returned in the negative, and further requests went totally ignored…but seeing and smelling the food was simply too much, so she persisted. Finally, the husband got upset. The babysitter got up, took a few steps to the porch, and rather than give them some portion of food, closed the porch door in their faces. Maybe it was too much even for her to bare, having two children staring and pleading while they enjoyed dinner. She left them in the dark, save for the window on the door streaming the warm glow of their kitchen light, like a cruel tease hiding the deliciousness of what lied within that they couldn’t have. She could still hear them eating their meal, but at least the door shut out most of the smells.

She hugged her sister. “We’ll be warmer if we sit close together,” she said. Even though she felt tears filling her eyes, she shut them tightly to prevent their escape, not wanting Jamie to see. She was slowly learning to hold them at bay.

Eventually the porch door opened again, and the woman motioned for Jamie to come into the kitchen, allowing her to sit at the table. The table was cleared of the KFC, but the woman brought over a mostly full can of Spaghetti-Os.

“Here,” she gruffly said. “My daughter didn’t want this, so I guess you two can share it.”

The woman’s daughter was a surprisingly picky eater, but Vanessa was only too eager and thankful to have something for her belly. However, it was her sister’s turn to eat, while she had to remain on the porch until it was her turn. It was a shock the woman so much as allowed Jamie into the kitchen at all, so they tried to be on their best behavior to not ruin the opportunity.

“Jamie,” Vanessa whispered in a strained type of begged yell. “Please, save me some…remember to save me some!?” She was afraid Jamie wouldn’t be able to control herself and the can hadn’t even been full to begin with.

Jamie did leave her enough to get a few tablespoons. When it was Vanessa’s turn to eat in the kitchen the cat had come in to rub against her legs under the table.

“Don’t touch my cat!” The babysitter warned.

Vanessa put her legs far up so the cat couldn’t rub on her, despite liking the furry warmth of it’s feline caress. She wasn’t about to ruin her chance at finishing her meager scraps.

_ _

At some point in the night, Cara came to pick them up, exchanging some words with the sitter over money. Vanessa and Jamie had fallen asleep on the porch in their coats the sitter allowed them to have back, nuzzling next to each other for warmth. The sitter handed Vanessa back the bag of her toys. She saw one of her toys…the green and orange-striped He-Man tiger…had been broken, but at least her turtles were ok, though maybe missing weapons that she was meticulous in keeping in their belts when not in battle. She was too exhausted to feel anger anymore.


There’s something I didn’t quite understand. Your grandparents visited you while you were with the sitter, or did they visit you when you were with your mother, on the weekends?

Did you happen to talk to anyone else about how the sitter treated you both? Or Cara’s boyfriend? And for that matter, your Puerto Rican father?


Visited while with my mother. They didn’t know who the sitter where or where she lived since Cara would certainly not tell them. They would come by and give us the non-perishable lunches so we could keep them until we visited the sitter. I will clarify that in the story.

At this point in the story my father was out of the picture…he has been out of my life ever since that incident. I did talk of course to my mother and told her how hungry we were and we HATED going to the sitter but she didn’t care. Didn’t talk much to her boyfriend because it was only like he was there to watch us, not love us, though he was around far more than my mother was.



It was beginning to weigh on Vanessa, being away from her grandparents. Phone calls and weekend visits were just not enough. She often asked if her grandparents could just take her back home in their car, to which they replied that they couldn’t, even though they wanted to. Legally, she belonged to her mother, and it seemed there was nothing they could do to change this fact.

Her sister and her had come down with an infestation of lice. It seemed to Vanessa that her and Jamie were the only kids picked out from the school and sent to the nurse’s office…it could only be because they were so unclean, and so dirty, she thought with shame. They were sent home from school. At least in this scenario, her mother had to stay home to clean them up, and take care of their hair, or they couldn’t return. It was horrible to smell the treatment and deal with wearing chemical-laden products on their heads, but Vanessa did enjoy her mother’s touch, even if it was just to pick out nits. Why couldn’t her mother do her hair at any other time? Why only now?

_ _

Sometimes her mother would have people over, every bit as loud as she, to play Yahtzee. To watch her with company was to watch a person so full of life they dominated the room. It was the mother she used to know best. She would cook something she called “fly-fly” which was a mashed potato dish with spaghetti sauce and meat thrown in. It was something Vanessa and Jamie liked a lot. But the happy occasions with her mother around were fleeting at best. Even living with her sister, she often played alone in her room with her Ninja Turtles.

Hunger seemed to be an issue. She and Jamie would raid the fridge, finding nothing of interest. She came up with the idea to sell some of her more non-liked toys at school, like a couple My Little Ponies she could live without, in order to get a few bucks to go down to the corner store and buy something to eat…but the kids at school didn’t have any money - just like her, and weren’t even interested. The cats had a decent supply of hard kibble though, and even though Jamie would have none of it, Vanessa managed to choke some down.

“They don’t really taste like anything but cardboard,” she reassured Jamie.

While outside away from her sister one day, she realized it was October…people had pumpkins in October - pumpkins had seeds inside. She remembered carving pumpkins with her grandfather. They would scoop out the insides and then roast the seeds in the oven. Somewhere in her mind she realized you wouldn’t have to cook the seeds in order to eat them, but she would need to break somebody else’s pumpkin.

She went a few blocks away, finding a non-carved pumpkin sitting out on someone’s porch for decoration. She snuck cautiously up to their home, checking to make sure nobody was watching. She grabbed the pumpkin and went back into the street, apologising in her mind…she hoped the people wouldn’t be too angry, and threw the heavy thing down into the street. At least if it was in the street, they might not have to clean it, she thought to herself. She knelt and quickly picked through the pumpkin guts, but found little to no seeds at all.

_ _

Always at the end of school she had to wait for her mother or Chris to pick her up…and once again they were late. Jamie was off visiting with her father, and she was alone. Did they forget about her? She stood and waited outside the school until all of the other children around had long gone. Chris had probably had a drink and passed out on the couch.

There was a sudden downpour of rain. It fell over her shoulders and soaked down through her coat. The smell of the cats permeated her nostrils again…that sickening urine-like stench she could never get off her clothes and reared its ugliness most when wet. She was too embarrassed to go back into the school, smelling like an ammonia-dipped hairball, and even though she knew it was better to not get drenched…part of her stopped caring; part of her even wanted it, to let people see her suffering in some outward way.

The rain continued until she was saturated from every hair tip down to her shoelaces. She stood silently like a light-pole, head bent down, feeling as if this was the best life could possibly offer her now…why did she ever choose to live with her mother? The rain masked the tears, and every drop seemed to comfort her in a way nobody else could.

At some point somebody from the school ran outside and ushered her into the building.

“Why are you out in the rain?” the woman asked in a stunned manner, unable to see the hidden torment within the child.

“Just waiting for someone to pick me up,” Vanessa responded blankly, not looking up to even see who it was that made her come into the cold air of the school.

“Well, you can wait inside, not out in the rain, silly.” The voice laughed and went away, back to its business.

She sat quietly, watching the rain fall outside the windows…wishing she was back out in its sheets rather than shivering from her sopping clothes.



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What a bitchy woman that baby sitter was.


To this day I can’t imagine someone being so callous and cruel as to not feed children something all day, and to even eat in front of them. You’d think the least one could do, even if you were poor, would be to spare some bread or a can of soup or something cheap…cookies, crackers, whatever. The only reason we got the Speghetti-o’s was simply because her daughter was so picky and didn’t want the chicken. She ate only a few spoons from the can so the woman allowed us to have the leftovers.



The school did little on Vanessa’s behalf. A counselor visit or two, with Vanessa giving them whatever answers she thought they wanted, and things returned back to the status quo…for a little while; until one day Cara picked the girls up from school early and headed home. When they arrived there, Cara’s keys would not work in any of the door locks. Chris and his car were nowhere around.

“Why won’t the key work?” Jamie asked.

Cara laughed it off as if it was some joke she expected. “Ah, don’t worry. We don’t need a key. Come on, lets try the bedroom windows.”

They went to the back of the house and Cara hoisted Vanessa up to her bedroom window, which was usually kept unlocked. It was easy for her to climb through the small window opening, stumble down onto her dresser, and run to the front door to unlock it. As she went she saw the inside of the house completely changed…there were black garbage bags piled everywhere, in each room.

Cara and Jamie came in, and her mother told them to grab all of their things quickly…anything they didn’t want left behind. Vanessa didn’t know what was happening, why everything was bagged up, or where they were going, but she grabbed her Ninja Turtles, Cuddle Puppy, and Butchie Boy first before anything else. Jamie and Cara looked through the heaped plastic bags, carrying out to the car whatever was theirs.

“Why is everything in bags?” Vanessa asked.

“I dunno,” Jamie said, going with the flow.

“Is Chris coming too?”

Cara muttered something with a chuckle, then smirked, “No.”

When the car was packed to bursting, they drove away from the house and never returned.

_ _

Cara had a different man in her life, and he owned an apartment complex that had only a couple of floors…the same type of building Vito used to own back when Vanessa was just a baby. In fact, this building was just across the road from her first home, and she could see it out of the ground floor window, and remembered growing up there.

She and her sister weren’t going to school anymore, and during the day they were left alone in the apartment. At night Cara and Larry, the new man Vanessa hadn’t seen before, would sleep together in bed, leaving her sister and her to sleep on a bunch of blankets and pillows on the floor. Only Larry’s mother resided in the apartment upstairs, and she was elderly and must have been a bit hard of hearing as well…she never left the building due to being wheelchair bound from polio, and didn’t complain about any noise Vanessa and her sister surely must have made during the day.

The kitchen was attached to the living room, which was in turn attached to the bedroom, like a totally open floor plan. The two would play hide-and-seek, tag around the house, bounce super-balls against the walls, and jump on the bed…and occasionally get hurt while rough-housing.

“You wanna hear something funny?” Jamie whispered one night while nestled next to Vanessa on the living room floor. She crept closer to cup her hand around her sister’s ear before speaking, so Larry and Cara wouldn’t hear, if they were still awake. “I saw Larry naked once.”

Vanessa’s eyes widened. She held back a verbal gasp with her hand. “What!?”

“Yeah, I got up to go to the bathroom and he was up too, and when he saw me he wiggled his thing around and said ‘you want a piece of this too?’” She quietly bust out laughing.

Vanessa giggled despite herself, compelled by her sister’s own laughter…and yet it was a scary thought at the same time.

_ _

The hunger during the long days was placated by American cheese, one of the meager food items kept in the apartment fridge. Vanessa showed her younger sister how to peel the plastic back, then fold, fold, and re-fold the slices into the smallest of squares. They squirreled these away, nibbling one tiny piece at a time during the day, even though it was difficult to resist eating whole stacks of squares. They wouldn’t get to eat anything else until whenever it was their mother came home with her lover.


There are many evil people in this world, and they come in many kinds. However unfortunate, this is something that I can expect. But what I don’t know is why your mother would not listen to what you and your sister had to say about the lifetaker. I mean, caretaker. This act of neglect seems to be representative of her character in handling her children, from what some of the portions of the story indicate. That, to me, is the most unfortunate thing.


…like I said such a bitchy woman.



  • To view the content of this next installment, please send me a PM to be part of the private message group (unless you are already part of said group). A few entries, including this one, are too explicit for the open forum.
  • Please note that this entry is extremely graphic. It was the most difficult to write, is the longest, and will not be easy to read.




“Has he ever…done things to you…before?”

Vanessa’s words were low, in a whisper that wasn’t necessary, sitting next to her sister. Jamie was combing the hair of a doll and paused as if to think.

“Well…he was on top of me once.”

“On top?”

“In bed. But, he didn’t do anything but touch. I mean, he’s a nice guy…but sometimes on the couch…”

The room was quiet for a moment, and it seemed understood that neither of them had to say anything more. Vanessa gave a pained expression to no one but herself, wincing from the thoughts being replayed on the movie screen of her mind…over and over…even when she begged for it not to play again. With her eyelids closed, she could still see it. Even touching her own body, she re-lived it. She felt like she couldn’t be clean of it. The thoughts took over any others save for the one also replaying in her mind’s eye…that of her mother calling her a liar, the one time she wasn’t laughing anymore.

“So, he comes over now and then,” she finally said in defeat. This wasn’t the first time.

Her sister nodded, confirming her fears.

This will happen again.

There didn’t seem to be an escape without adults somehow being involved, and now she didn’t know what to do, or where to turn, because the adults she should have trusted had failed her. How could her mother not believe such abhorrent things? Who would lie about such? Why didn’t Jamie seem to be as affected by this as she, when it had happened to her more? Worse yet was the thought of how long it would be until she saw the man again.

They weren’t being taken to school anymore, so it wasn’t like they could tell someone there…and even so, what would they do? She didn’t trust much authority. They were useless even when she was so through with her predicament she sought out an exit from the world…and that was before what had even happened at the Field Museum. Even if she could find a way out, she had to get her sister safe too, even if this whole thing didn’t bother her as much as it did herself. It couldn’t be left to continue, but the despair was overwhelming.

When her sister was asleep, and she was alone in the dark, she sang softly to herself a song she remembered from a movie on TV, even though she didn’t know all of the words right.

“The sun will come out tomorrow…bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow…there’ll be sun…Tomorrow, tomorrow…I luv ya, tomorrow…you’re only a day away…”

_ _

A day or two had passed. She hadn’t spoken to her grandparents in a very long time. It’s possible they didn’t know where she even was living now, or maybe Cara would simply not take their calls and allow Vanessa to speak to them. She was reluctant to speak to them even if she could. What would she say she had done? Could she even tell them this dark secret?

Somehow though, her grandmother Melinda had called. She would still speak to Cara even though she and Reuben, Vanessa’s father, were no longer together. Being left alone as per the usual, she was free to speak to her father’s mother when the call came through, and when she heard her voice over the phone she started to quake inside from her embarrassment. She didn’t know what Melinda would say when she confessed, but her grandmother could pick up that something was very wrong on the other end of the line.

“Vanessa,” she said, “You have to tell what’s wrong. What happened?”

“I…can’t” she started stammering now, but was trying to hold back and be stronger. Every bit of strength was seeping from her body, holding in the story.

“There is nothing you can no tell me,” she assured. “You can always tell me what is bothering you.”

Quietly, between agonizing pauses where she struggled for breath, she told Melinda about Butchie and the Field Museum. She was ashamed of every word, and she tried to not say them in any real detail. The phone cord wrapped tighter and tighter around her arms as she fidgeted with it, Melinda pulling the truth out of her with as calm of words as possible…but she was horrified by every piece.

“Vanessa…oh my goodness…what you have told me…”

“I’m sorry!” Oh how she wished the call was over already, she felt like such a dirty thing. “I’m so sorry!”

“Don’t be sorry! It’s not your fault.” Melinda was almost in tears herself, but had to steel herself for the sake of the child on the other end. “Did you tell your mother this?”

Another painful pause. Finally, she answered, staring down into the floor. “Yes…s-she didn’t believe me. She said I was…lying.”

Her grandmother took a deep breath she could hear inhaled over the phone. “How could she think you lying over something so terrible?”

_ _

Eventually the conversation with her granddaughter ended. Melinda herself wasn’t sure what to do when the phone clicked into the receiver. While she knew she had to do something, she also realized that Cara still had legal rights over Vanessa, so even she was powerless to simply go and take her away from the nightmare she was living…and she knew it’s all Vanessa wanted freed from all along. Now this.

She went to find Reuben. Not surprisingly he had been drinking, but he was possibly the only one that could change the situation.

“Reuben,” she called to him. “You need to go get your daughter, Vanessa.”

The out-of-the-blue prospect hit him in the face like a brick-slap. After what had happened the last time he had seen his daughter, he knew he wasn’t allowed to be a part of her life anymore. He also believed Vanessa would have none of him, since he had himself abused her so.

“Why? She won’t have anything to do with me, and I don’t want to talk to Cara.”

“Because, you are the only one that can take her.”

“Let Vito and his upper-class people go get her. We lower class, and he has the money to do the things he wants.”

Melinda wouldn’t falter, speaking down to her son now with authority, speaking with her hands. “You are the only one that legally can go get her and bring her back to Toni.”

He took a swig from his bottle and sharply set it down on a table, anger rising precariously in his voice, “Why should I?”

At that moment Melinda hesitated. She saw the glaze in his eyes, and knew that while he was still not quite yet drunk, he would yet be dangerous. He was a knife’s edge away from violence at any time. The truth could cause problems she couldn’t imagine…but she was compelled to do whatever it took.

“Reuben, your daughter has been molested, and you are the only one that can get her away from there.”

The words stabbed into his ears and heart at the same moment. When he looked up at his mother and saw the veracity and distress mixed on her face, he knew it wasn’t a lie…and he knew somehow even though he had failed Vanessa before, he had a chance to undo some portion of it.

“Someone put their hands on my baby girl?” he sputtered in a wounded fashion, feeling a hurt push to the forefront of his mind. This quickly transfigured on his face, however, replaced by sheer rage as he rose from his chair with unrestrained speed.

“Reuben…” Melinda warned with her voice. It was one he had heard countless times before.

“I’m not drunk! I can drive!” He grabbed his car keys.

“Don’t you get to fighting…Cara…”

“Don’t you tell me what to do!”


Fuck yeah Reuben go fuck that guy up.

EDIT: Wait are your grandparents on your mom’s side or your dad’s side?