Again, not editted, and this chapter has some flashbacks that might be hard to keep up with. Let me know what you think. Unless it’s to tell me that spelling/grammar is incorrect. I already know that part.
Chapter 8 – September 19th, 1984
“Ok, let’s play where you are the waitress and I’m the person ordering,” Charity said quietly to her sister. Both girls had been watching TV with the sound off, perched at the end of the sofa bed. Faith nodded her head and leaned forward to turn off the TV. The screen reflected back a dim fisheyed reflection of the room behind the girls. Charity hopped down from the end of the bed and made her way to the kitchenette and Faith was quick to follow her.
The kitchenette was slightly to the left of the front door of the bachelor apartment, and held a small two seater table, with chairs that were high off the ground. In the middle of the apartment, there was a large room where they watched TV on the sofa. A bathroom and closet door stood side by side to the right of the large room. On the floor beside the closet door, a small box of toys sat, inside where the few toys that Charity and Faith had; things their mother had found, or that have been given to them by various men their mother claimed were their uncles they had met briefly. A suitcase containing their clothes sat beside the box of toys. Charity and Faith sleep on a mattress on the floor while Chrystal and Uncle Chris sleep in the sofa bed in front of the TV. Sometimes Charity and Faith have to move their mattress into the kitchenette area because Uncle Chris makes too much noise in bed. The hum of the refrigerator helped Faith finally close her eyes at night.
Charity climbed up into the high chair, and sat up very straight. Elbows on the table, she held a make belief menu in her hand. She nodded and said “Hmmph” a few times as she pretended to read over the menu. Faith walked over to where Charity sat, pretend pen poised over the pretend notebook she held in her right hand.
“Um, yes, I think I’ll have the cheeseburger today.” Charity stated, while Faith pretended to write down her order. I’ll have fries with that, but no gravy. I hate gravy.” Faith finished writing down what Charity had asked for and looked up at her sister.
“Oh, right, a drink. Let’s see. Is the chocolate milk good here? I think I’ll have some chocolate milk.” Charity finished up her order, closed her make belief menu and handed it to Faith, who rushed off to get Charity’s order ready.
Chrystal, Faith and Charity had moved around many times since Charity’s hospitalization, never returning to their apartment after leaving the hospital. Chrystal led the girls through the hospital corridors until they reached an exit. The cool air of the evening chilled the bare skin of Charity’s legs and her flesh rippled and dimpled immediately, after walking out of the hospital into the parking garage. Chrystal held the blanket satchel over her left shoulder, and held her right hand down for Faith to hold on to. Charity held onto Faith’s remaining hand, and the two needed to run to keep up with Chrystal’s swift pace. Without shoes, Charity’s feet made sharp slapping noises against the pavement that echoed through the garage.
“Come girls. Quickly,” Chrystal said to the air in front of her, not turning back to the girls, and lengthened her stride slightly. Charity’s legs gave out from underneath her, tripping her. She held on to her sister’s hand tighter as she fell, pulling Faith loose from Chrystal’s grip. At the release of Faith’s hand, Chrystal paused to look back at the girls. Charity was on her side, a nasty abrasion on her left knee bleeding. Faith was trying to help her sister back up. Chrystal stood over the twins and looked down at them. The lights inside the parking garage acted as a spotlight on the tumbled twins. Chrystal’s grip on the satchel relaxed and it tumbled down her shoulder, arm, and then dangled from her hand momentarily before it hit the cement floor. Closing her eyes, Chrystal pulled her face upwards, allowing it to flop back towards her shoulder blades. She pulled in a deep breath into her lungs, pushing it out hard through her nose. Leaving her head back, she blinked rapidly at the overhead lights. One more deep pull of air.
“Up you get.” Chrystal said to Faith as she lowered her head again, and set Faith upright. Grabbing Charity’s leg just below the skinned knee, she dabbed at the scrap with the bottom of her own shirt. “You’re alright,” she said and lifted Charity to feet beside her sister. She turned to the makeshift satchel and grasped it again in her right hand and stood up fully. Both girls stood still and looked up at their mother. Chrystal bent at the waist to pick Charity up, hoisting her onto left hip with the satchel still in her right hand. “Hold on tight,” Chrystal whispered to Charity. Charity wrapped her legs around Chrystal as best as she could, her feet, black from the pavement, left foot prints on Chrystal’s shirt. She held Charity up with just her left arm, hip jutted out. “Faith, come hold Mommy’s pinky,” Chrystal said, moving the hand with the satchel down to her side, pinky finger extended as far as it could go. Faith held on to her finger tight, as the three made their way slowly out of the light of the parking garage and the night swallowed them up.
In the kitchenette, Faith tried to reach plates and cups to serve to Charity. Charity jumped down from her chair, and pushed it over to the counter, the legs making a humming noise as they vibrated across the floor. Faith climbed up the chair and then onto the counter, passing down a plate to Charity, and then a plastic tumbler with a faded and scratched logo of Lovelies, a local strip club, printed on exterior. It was a large tumbler and Charity’s hands were not big enough to grasp it completely, before it slipped from her fingers and tumbled to the floor, bouncing a few times before coming to a stop.
“Hey!” Chrystal said from under a blanket. She was laying on her stomach on the sofa bed, her left foot left stuck out from the blanket. Lifting her head from the pillow, and using her right hand, she moved the tangled mess of hair from before her eyes. “You guys need to keep it down. I worked really late last night,” she said sharply. The twins could clearly see last night’s makeup smeared under Chrystal’s eyes from where they stood.
“Sorry, mom,” Charity said quietly as she fetched the fallen tumbler. She put her finger to her lips as she looked to Faith, who shrugged her left shoulder in reply. Returning to their game, Charity and Faith pretended to be cooking burgers on the stove. They used spatulas and flipped each make belief burger with exaggerated motions, and giggled quietly to themselves.
The girls had met quite a few uncles they didn’t know they had had since leaving the hospital, but often they didn’t stay there very long. Often there was a fight that happened, and Chrystal and the twins would find themselves out in the night with their belongings, and not always knowing where they might end up that night.
Chrystal and the girls had been living with Chris for just shy of six months. They arrived when it was dark, as they always did.
“Chris is super nice. You’ll like him, girls,” Chrystal explained when she hit the buzzer for the apartment building. Faith and Charity brought the duffel bag with their clothes up onto the stoop together. A crackly voice answered back after Chrystal’s buzz.
“Oh, Hi! It’s us. We’re here!” Chrystal answered back. She shifted from foot to foot slightly. The door to the apartment building made a clicking noise and Chrystal moved quickly to pull the door open. She leaned her back on the door, while Charity and Faith dragged in their duffel bag.
“Let’s find the elevator. Third floor” Chrystal instructed.
Chris opened the door with a whoosh, when Chrystal knocked on the door. He swung the door open wide and stepped away from the door. “Come in. The games on.” he said, and walked out of sight.
Both the girls looked up at their mother, waiting to see if this had been their invitation to enter.
Unsure herself, she straightened her shoulders, shook her hair out of her face, and walked through the doorway. “Come on in I guess,” she said.
Charity and Faith stepped in, but stayed close to the door. Chrystal shut the door behind them. Slipping off her boots, she sashayed her way over to where Chris sat on the couch. He was sitting forward in his seat, elbows resting on his legs, finger tips taping together. Chrystal curled on leg underneath her as she perched herself on the edge of the couch, and extended the second one closer to Chris, her bare legs exposed up to the thigh in her mini skirt.
“Thanks again for letting us stay. We won’t be here long, just until I can get my apartment fixed up,” she said. With her right hand, she reached up for a tendril of hair behind her ear and twirled it around her finger, her eyes never leaving his face, a large smile stretched across her face.
“Yeah, yeah, it’s no problem,” Chris replied, his eyes never leaving the television.
Chrystal stayed posed as she was. The smile started to waiver from her face, and finally ended with a sigh.
Chris moved and slouched back into the couch. Catching Chrystal’s confused expression, he smiled quickly and patted her leg. “Games almost over,” he said and returned to watching the game.
Looking over her shoulder to Charity and Faith still standing at the door, she chews on her lip for a moment, before standing up and walking towards them. Flashing them her brightest smile, she takes the duffel bag from them. “So good of you guys to carry that for Mommy,” she smiles some more. “How about you two sit quietly at that table there until Uncle Chris’ game is all done.” The girls did as they were told, and quietly climbed up into the chairs. They both knew that their room and board often depended on their ability to make no noise and not direct attention to themselves.
Chrystal busied herself with fussing around the kitchenette. She picked up a few used napkins, and began a search for a garbage bin. When one could not be seen, she moved the trash she had collected to the far end of the kitchen counter. Next she moved on to dishes intent on putting them away. Failing to find a home for them, she put them back where she had found them. Opening and closing the fridge, she muttered to herself.
Chris appeared in the kitchenette and startled both Chrystal and the twins.
“Games over,” Chris stated. His voice was deep and smooth.
“Oh, you scared me. I was going to make you something to eat.” Chrystal claimed.
“I already ate. But I do have something for you two,” Chris said, turning and opening up the oven, he bent low to fetch the item inside. Both twins craned their necks to see what could be in the oven for them. Standing up right again, Chris turned to reveal a plate full of chocolate chip cookies and place them on the table before the girls. The twins stared up at him. He smiled at the cookies and then catches the twins staring at him, and the smile dips at the corners. “Go ahead, have one!” he says.
Charity looks to Chrystal who nodded her head. Taking one off the top, Charity looks at it closer. The cookie is an oval shape and the bottoms are darker than usual.
“I’m not the greatest of bakers, but they taste good!” Chris says, taking a cookie for himself. One bite makes half the cookie disappear.
Charity takes a small tentative bite of her cookie, and then takes larger bites till the cookie disappears. Reaching for the second one, Charity sees that Faith hasn’t taken one yet. Faith still stares up at Chris while he munches his cookie, her eyes wide, with tears pooling on the bottom rim. Chris looks down to see this as well.
“Oh, come on, they aren’t that bad. Here you go, give it a try,” Chris says and hands a cookie towards Faith. Faith leans away from the cookie, but never takes her eyes off of Chris.
“Fate, don’t be rude. You’re embarrassing me,” Chrystal said
Charity, reached up to take the cookie from Chris. “Here, Fates. It’s ok,” she said quietly in Faith’s ear so as not to turn Chrystal’s sudden anger on herself.
Faith hung her head down low and took the cookie from Charity. She held it in her lap for a moment and looked at it. She nibbled on it steadily.
“Sorry, she can be weird at times. I dunno where she gets her manners from” Chrystal apologize to Chris.
“You sure that’s what it is?” Chris said. He leaned against the kitchen counter, a half eaten cookie in her hand while he observed Faith, his eyes narrowed. Charity noticed Chris looking at her sister, and adjusted herself in her seat so as to block Chris’ view.
“She acts like she’s seen stuff she shouldn’t have, is all,” Chris said. He tossed the uneaten portion of his cookie in the trash. He pulled a pack of cigarettes from the front pocket of his shirt, pulled out a smoke and lit it in one fluid motion. He tossed the pack on the kitchen table beside the plate of cookies.
“There’s nothing wrong with her!” Chrystal said. Her voice was shrill again.
“I don’t mean that as in something is wrong with her, I mean damaged as in someone’s done wrong to her,” He pushed off of the counter and slumped into a kitchen chair across the girls. His elbow on the table, he took a long pull from his cigarette and blew the smoke out slowly about the girls heads.
“Yeah, well… he’s not around anymore…” Chrystal said, her voice trailing off, deflated.
On the kitchen table, an ashtray sat with a few butts filling it’s bottom. Two wings expanded from the round ashtray. Smoke had made the mirrored finished look yellow and rusted. With a pinky finger, Chris pulled the ashtray closer to him.
“Good, good…” Chris said, flicking the filter of his cigarette. Ash tumbled into the ashtray. “I’ll show you were everyone is going to be sleeping,”
Faith woke while it was still dark out. Charity slept on the mattress beside her. Moving slowly, then untangling herself from her sister, Faith left her side and crept toward the kitchen, where just a tiny light above the stove was lit. Climbing up onto the kitchen chair, Faith hoped to find more cookies. The plate had been put away, but the ashtray was where it had been before. She slid it closer to her, the glass making noise at it was dragged across the table. Two curved ridges came from opposite sides of the ashtray, like wings. Faith held up the ashtray, one ridge handle in each hand, and turned it vertically. The butts and ash filling the bottom of the astray fell onto the table. The smell stung her nose. She held the ashtray close to her face, and could make out her reflection in the mirrored surface. A shadow moved behind her.
“That ashtray belonged to my mom,” Chris said.
Startled, Faith let go of the ashtray, where it hit the table edge and bounced towards the floor. With one large step, Chris was able to reach out and grab the ashtray before it connected with the floor.
“Whoa! That was close,” Chris said, as he stood upright and replaced the ashtray on the table.
Frightened, Faith pulled her knees to her chest and buried her face with her folded arms.
“Hey, Little, that’s ok. Nothing broken here.” Chris said. He took the seat to the right of where Faith sat. “Yup, this ashtray belonged to my mother. And she told me that she got it from Elvis. Do you know who Elvis is?” Chris asked Faith.
Faith shook her head no, but did not lift it up.
“Well, he was a singer, who had this famous song about a hound dog, and when he used to dance, the girls would all scream.” Faith shifted herself so could look at Chris with one eye above her folded arms, but did not respond.
“Are you scared of me?” Chris asked. Faith did not move, only observed him. “Of course you aren’t scared of me. I haven’t given you a reason to afraid of me.” Chris reached for the pack of cigarettes on the table. A cigarette was moved to the corner of his mouth. A lighter appeared in his hand, lit the cigarette and disappeared again into the pocket from which it appeared. Leaning back in the chair, he pulled a short drag from the smoke, and the tip of the cigarette grew bright orange in the dim light for a second, dimming, and then growing brighter still when Chris took a second, longer haul from the filter. Holding the cigarette between the first two fingers of his mouth, he pulled the ashtray closer to him with his pinky finger, as he had done before. “No, I think you’re worried about what I could do. To you. To your sister.” He blew the smoke out over his head, and it swirled briefly in tendrils above his head. He looked down at his cigarette and rolled it between his thumb and index finger. Faith watched the thin line of smoke as pointed up, and then swirled in the dim light.
“Sometimes people do not do nice things, Little. Sometimes, bad people do very bad things. And that bad thing can stay with you for a very long time. But not everyone is bad, and as you grow older, you’ll learn how to tell the bad people from the good. I think your mom is still learning that part, too. I’m not a bad person, but I’m pretty good at spotting one because I have lots of experience in that department.” Chris paused and took a pull from his cigarette, and blew the smoke out from his nose as he sat forward in his chair and learned his forearms on the table. “So, how about it? Will you try to remember that not everyone is a bad person wanting to hurt you, I’ll keep a lookout for bad guys?” Chris looked over at Charity, who had raised her head up and was looking at his face. “Deal?” Chris said and extended his fist towards Faith. Faith looked at for a long moment, before quickly and tentatively grazing her own fist against his; returning to her original folded position at the chair. “That a girl!” Chris said, moving his cigarette to the ashtray to rest. The mirrored finished made it seem there were two glowing tips. “It’s pretty early, so how about you get some more sleep, and I’ll stay up to keep watch for a bit longer?”
Faith nodded her head. Laying down beside her sister again, Faith closed her eyes. The kitchen chair creaked up Chris when he shifted. The refrigerator clicked on and hummed. Small gasps of breath could be heard as her sister slept soundly. Faith fell asleep until the morning.
Charity and Faith moved to the kitchen table, and shifted their pretend game to a real breakfast. Cereal bowls were put on the table. Charity grabbed milk from the fridge while Faith poured cereal into the bowls. A rapid fire knock came on the apartment door, and startled Faith so that she dropped the box of cereal on the floor. Charity and Faith froze and stared at it.
“Girls, I said be quiet,” Chrystal mumbled from under a pillow.
“Someone’s at the door, mama,” Charity explained. She stood still, facing the door. Faith took three quick steps so she could stand behind her sister.
Chrystal lifted her head again, and jumped out of bed quickly. Wearing just a long t-shirt, she padded towards the door on the just balls of her feet. On tiptoes, nose pressed to the door, she looked through the peephole. “Who are you?” Chrystal said, her lips nearly touching the door as she spoke. She placed her right hand on the door knob, making sure it didn’t move.
“Chrystal? Is that you? Chrystal Champagne? I can’t believe I found you!” a man’s voice could be heard from the other side of the door.
Chrystal moved her head to the side slightly more, and pushed her right eye closer to the peephole. She took a sudden step back from the door with a sharp intake of breath, and stood frozen, her stance wider than usual, knees slightly bent. Her arms, bent at the elbow, were raised from her sides, as though bracing herself for an imminent attack.
The knock came again at the door. “Chrystal?” the voice said again. The spell broken, Chrystal stood up straight, both her hands moving to cover her mouth. “Come on, girl. I know you are in there,”
Chrystal turned around to the twins still standing in the kitchenette. “Give me a second, I’m not decent!” Chrystal said over her shoulder, and she rushed towards the girls. Putting a hand firmly on each of the girls shoulders, she turned and steered them towards the closet on the other side of the sofa. Without being told, the girls knew to be as quiet as possible. Reaching in front of the girls, Chrystal opened the closet door. She pulled clothes from the hangers rod inside, and let the clothes fall to the closet floor. Pushing again, she moved the girls inside the closet. They stood still on top of the fallen clothes while Chrystal disappeared momentarily behind the open closet door, and returned with the cardboard box of the girls toys, which she pushed to the right hand corner of the closet floor. She stepped out of the closet, and put her hand on the closet door handle. Bending low to eye level with the girls, she said in a forced whisper “Not one sound,” and looked both of them in the eye in turn before standing upright again. As she closed the closet door, she looked above the twins heads at the remaining clothes hanging in the closet, and paused when the door covered half of her face from the girls. She opened the door wide again, ripped the long shirt she had been wearing off, throwing it on the floor with the other clothes and grabbed a silk dressing gown. Naked, she turned her back to the twins, and quickly put on the dressing gown, her left arm getting tangled in the flowing fabric of the gown. Tying up the gown, she used her right foot to close the closet door behind her. Through the door, the twins could hear their mother’s quick steps back to the door.
Charity reached out to touch her sister with one arm, and found her sister’s shoulder. “Fates?” Charity whispered. Faith’s small hand was suddenly over Charity’s mouth, and a hand on her arm. Faith pulled her down to the floor slowly, making sure not to rustle anything within the closet. Charity sat on her behind, her eyes slowly adjusting to the limited light in the closet. A strip of light shone under the closet door, which was both comforting and eerie to Charity. Faith put the side of her head as close to the floor as possible, wiggling forward slightly so her left eye was as close as possible to the strip of light under the door, trying to take in the scene outside.
The knocking on the door was more intense now and both girls jumped at the sound of it.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Chrystal said, rushed annoyance in her voice. The jingle of the door chain lock and deadbolt were heard. The apartment door was swung open, and the shift in the air pressure of the room, rattled the closet door in its frame slightly.
“What’s going on?” Charity whispered. Faith sat up quickly, put a hand on each of the sides of Charity’s face, and pulled Charity’s face close to her own. Charity could barely make out the details of Faith’s face, but she understood when Faith shook her head rapidly back and forth. Faith knew no more than Charity did, except the need to remain quiet.
“Hey! Listen, this isn’t a good time,” Chrystal said to the voice at the door.
Heavy footsteps could be heard entering the apartment. The apartment door was shut firmly.
“Oh, I think this is a great time, Chrystal,” the voice said. It seemed much louder on the inside of the apartment, through the thin closet door.
“No, I really have to – Hey, how did you find me?” Chrystal asked, her voice waverly slightly at the end.
“Oh, it wasn’t really that hard to piece together. You talk a lot when you’re nervous.” The footsteps continued into the apartment, across the living room towards the closet door, at a casual pace, often with the scuff of a heel on the hardwood floors before the rest of the tread was brought down.
“Oh… I guess I was nervous. Say, speaking of drinking, that was sure fun last night, huh? I was pretty drunk!” Chrystal said, adding a tittering nervous laugh to the end.
“Yeah, sure. Except the part about you being drunk. I know there was nothing but soda in those glasses you were downing at the club. And I sure didn’t have any fun when I woke up last this morning.” The heavy footsteps stopped on the other side of the closet door, leaving two voids of blackness in the slice of light inside the closet. Silence filled the room. Faith and Charity held their breath.
The black voids shifted under the door, and the heavy footsteps switched spots, and shrank as they continued a slow walk back across the living room. “Now, the way I see it, you owe me.” the voice said; the pitch was lower with weighted pause.
“I don’t owe you anything. I gave you what you paid for last night.” Chrystal said. Her voice was smaller and further away. She must be trying to put as much distance between them by stepping in the kitchenette.
“I paid you, but I did not get what I paid for.” The voice’s footsteps moved quicker to close the distance to Chrystal. “What was it that you drugged me with, huh? One minute I’ve got a hooker in my room, and the next; the sun is up, my wallet is gone, and so is the whore. Were you working with someone? No chance you’re that smart on your own.”
Chrystal stammers, but is cut off by the voice. “I’ll find out who you were working with, and square up with them. Right now, my business is with you.” The footsteps continued.
“Ok! Ok! Maybe I do owe you something.” Chrystal said, her voice louder and shrill.
“I wasn’t negotiating.” The voice said.
“I’ll meet you at the club tonight, not charge.”
“I’m not stupid. You wouldn’t show. No, I’m going to take payment right now.” The voice said.
The twins could hear the sounds of quick footsteps, the heavy ones belonging to the voice, and the lighter ones of their mother.
“No!” Chrystal yelled. The sound of flesh meeting flesh.
Charity tried to stand when she heard the smack, but Faith gripped her tightly and forced her to sit down again.
Heavy footsteps and wrestling were heard, followed by a large crash a sizzle. The smell of burnt plastic wafted under the door. The sound of someone getting hit again, this time with more force; a hit that reached the bone. Chrystal screamed, the end of the scream becoming muffled. The springs of the sofa bed squealed loudly like something large landed on it. Rustling of clothes. A zipper. Another muffled scream followed by crying. The springs squealed in rhythm. Flesh meeting flesh. The Voice grunted. The springs rhythm increased, and heavy breathing was heard. Chrystal became silent. The springs reached a fevered pitch finally ending with two loud grunts from the voice, and a whimper from Chrystal.
“Well, there’s a partial payment.” The voice said. The bed spring creaked as weight was shifted. Clothing rustled. The sound of a zipper.
Chrystal moaned softly.
“A whore like you must have taken it like that before. Stop your bitching.” The voice said. The sound of a lighter, followed by a sharp inhale.
The air pressure shifts again in the room, the front door can be heard swinging open, and a footsteps.
“What’s this?” It’s Chris. He’s come home.
Chrystal can be heard crying harder now.
“Is this your man?” The voice says
“Chrystal, what’s going – jesus, what the fuck happened to you? Did he do this?”
“She deserved it. She ripped me off last night.” The voice said.
“I don’t fucking care, you don’t hit women,” Chris stated. His voice was reaching an escalated volume.
“Dude, this ain’t no women,” the voice chortled. “This, my friend is nothing but a common whore. And I’m not going to let some cheap hooker rip me off.”
Heavy footsteps were heard. Something else broke.
“No, Chris! Stop!” Chrystal shrieked.
Heavy thumps against flesh. A pause, and silence filled the closet. A clicking sound. And then a loud pop, so large the twins could not tell where it had come from. Their shoulders rose to their ears and their hands covered them. A second pop came, and the sound surrounded them, and as they huddled together. Something large hit the floor, and it shook beneath the floor the twins sat upon.
Silence filled the closet again, and the chemical smell, acrid and sour, broke through the fear of making any noise. Both twins sobbed into the other’s shoulder.
The heavy footsteps again, quickly across the room, and the apartment door slamming.
The twins could not hear anything more over the sounds of their sobs, their eardrums still echoing the sound of gunfire. Chrystal slowly climbed off of the sofa bed, her eyes moving quickly between the apartment door, and where Chris lay on the floor. Her gown was wide open. She approached him slowly and quietly, frightened that disturbing the silence may change the outcome of the situation.
“Chris?” Chrystal said quietly, she crouched beside him, on tiptoes, her finger tips splayed on the floor to keep her balance. When no response came, Chrystal reached her right hand out slowly, and placed it on Chris’ chest. She pushed down. Using the heel of her hand, she shook Chris. There was no response from limp limbs. “Chris?” Chrystal said again, this time above the volume of a whisper. “Chris!” Chrystal yelled, putting both hands on his chest and using her weight to shake him. His head bobbled at the neck. She fell forward, her knees falling into Chris’ ribs. She screamed his name again, and slammed her hands down on his chest. When no response came again, she pushed herself off of him, and landed with a thump on her backside. A deep hitch of breath caught in Chrystal’s lungs and tears fell down her face. She looked at her hands in her lap and let the tears fall freely from her eyes, landing on her hands and spreading dark spots on her robe.
She sniffed once before hearing the click of the closet door turn behind her. Her head sprung up to an upright position. “Don’t open that door.” Chrystal said flatly.
“Just a little bit longer. I’ll let you know when it’s ok to come out.” Chrystal said. She wiped her nose on the sleeve of her robe and scrubbed away the tears with her fists. Standing up quickly, she stared at the closed apartment door, and did her robe back up tightly. Nodding her head, as though coming to a decision, Chrystal walked to the sofa bed and pulled a blanket from its foot. Covering the body of Chris with it, she stood up straight to review her work. Noticing a fingertip could be seen from under the blanket still, she bent to pull the blanket over them, but paused a moment, the blanket still in her right hand. She put both hands under the blanket and rolled Chris slightly away from her, and then released him back to his previous position. Pulling both hands out from under the blanket, she now held his wallet in her right hand, and replaced the shifted blanket back into position. She stood and turned to the closet door. She opened the door to the closet and looked down at the twins huddled together on the floor of the closet, their faces upturned to look at her. They whimpered at the sudden break in the darkness and squinted and blinked their eyes rapidly while their eyes adjusted to the change in the light.
Chrystal straightened her shoulders and looked over the twins heads, to the back of the closet. “We have to go,” she said quietly. One of the twins sniffed. “Come on, Littles. We have to go,” she said and looked at the again, and nodded her head reassuringly.
Breaking their hold of each other, the twins crawled out of the closet, one to each side of their mother, and turned to seat themselves on the floor behind her, avoiding what may have happened behind them. Chrystal undid the robe and slid it backwards down her arms, catching it with her hands before it hit floor. She brought it around to the front and held it in her hands while she stared at it. “I liked this one,” she said quietly, before she let it drop to the ground, the silk slipping cooly between her fingers. Naked once again, she stood before the open closet and rummaged through its contents, pulling a few items that remained hanging, and then through the pile that was on the floor. Crouching low, the clothing she had chosen held closely against her stomach, she reached further back into the closet, and pulled out the familiar duffel bag.
“Mommy?” Charity said quietly.
“It will be ok, girls,” Chrystal said absently. Sorting through the clothes she held, she sorted through them, some of them tossed beside her, most of them ending up inside the duffel bag. When she had finished sorting, she turned to the pile beside her and put them on, quickly. Her blond hair remained inside the neck of her turtleneck, but she didn’t bother releasing it.
“Mom?” Charity asked again.
“I don’t know where we are going yet,” Chrystal didn’t look at the girls as she spoke. She stood, with a duffel bag in hand. “Girls, grab your bag,” she said and walked between the two girls, stepping over Chris’ body and made her way to the apartment door.
Reaching into the closet, Faith pulled a second duffel bag from this closet. The girls clothes always remained packed.
“Shoes on, girls,” Chrystal said. She stared down at her own shoes, not wishing to look at anything else in the apartment.
“Are we coming back?” Charity asked.
“No,” Chrystal said firmly.
Charity nodded and understood that they would never be returning here. She looked at her sister, who remained in the middle of the living room, looking down at the form under the blanket.
Chrystal moved to stand at the door, her hand on the doorknob. Wiggling her feet into her shoes, Charity moved to stand beside her sister, her back to the form on the floor. “We have to go,” Charity said to Faith. Faith, unphased by her sister’s statement, let her head tilt slightly to the right, still looking down at the form. Charity held Faith’s left hand and started to walk towards the door where Chrystal waited. The slack between the girls arms, finally became taught, and Faith was pulled into motion. She let Charity lead her to the door, walking backwards, retaining everything from the scene. Chrystal opened the door, and stepped through it. Charity continued to pull Faith through the doorway. Reaching the hallway, just before the apartment door closed behind them, Faith pulled her hand free Charity’s hand and ran back into the apartment.
“Wait,” Charity said.
Chrystal stopped in her tracks ahead of them. “What is she doing?” she asked.
“I think she forgot something,” Charity said.
A moment later, Faith reappeared, holding something against her chest under her shirt.
“What have you got?” Chrystal asked. She crossed her arms, and moved her stance so her right leg was in front.
Faith looked up at Chrystal, and then looked at Charity. Charity held her gaze for a moment. “It’s nothing. We can go now, Mom,” she said and led Faith forward by her elbow. Head down, Faith let herself be led.
Without understanding their reasoning, the three passed the elevator, and made the way to the stairwell, climbing down the three flights of stairs in single file. The heavy door at the bottom made a loud clanging sound as Chrystal put her weight into it.
“Where are we going?” Charity asked again.
After a long pause, Chrystal replied “I have to make a phone call,” She pulled Chris’ wallet from her bag, and looked rifled through it.