Thursday, September 23, 2010

Friday Fiction for September 24, 2010

Welcome, reader, and if you did not enter through My Back Door, Vonnie’s lovely down-home blog, then make sure you get over there for the Linky Tool and the host of Friday Fiction this week. Huzzah, Vonnie!

This is a bit of a long chapter from “Precocious by Consent” this week, but one that I really liked how it got me more into Katya’s mind. I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter 25

Wednesday late night

The bedroom was dimly lit by the glow of the neighbor’s backyard security light shining through the sheer curtains. The house was quiet, save for the normal sounds of the house cooling and settling. From time to time, Katya heard one or the other of the Adamsons cough, or snort in their sleep, and she wondered if such sounds would be comforting for a real child. When she had been young, she had shared a small room, little more than a cell, with her mother. They had one bed, barely large enough for the two of them, so the security of knowing her mother was near had always been a given.

The Fancie doll sat atop her dresser, visible as an almost fairy-like shape in the subdued lighting. She imagined what it would have been like to have been a normal girl, quietly getting out of bed in the night to play with her dolls some more before finally getting sleepy. Would I have enjoyed innocent fantasies about growing up and falling in love? I could have dreamed of being asked to the dance, and spinning around the floor with the most handsome boy in school. Mama would have helped make me beautiful, and Daddy would have taught me how to dance, and showed me how the right kind of man treats a woman, by treating Mama that way.

I should have had a Daddy that would have chased away the wrong kinds of boys, instead of being hired out to men who were even worse. I should have had the opportunity to know who my father was. She considered that, and a chill ran down her spine. What if my father was one of the men who trained us and hired us out as prostitutes?

She slipped from the bed and tiptoed to the window, pushing the curtain aside to look out across the backyard. Lord, is this some kind of cruel trick? Did You set this up just to show me what I missed? God, I already knew that my childhood was wrong. I didn’t need a chance to live like this, just to remind me all the more that I wasn’t given a chance to just be a kid.

A cat walked along the top of the wall separating the Adamson’s yard from the utility easement behind them. Partway across, the cat stopped and looked lazily around, before licking its paw and washing its face.

I could have grown up with a cat, or a dog, or both. I could have had real friends like Rikki, and we could have dressed up my pet and had pretend tea parties and sleepovers and all the other things that little girls do. She sniffed. Father, I want to go home. I want to quit pretending to be something I’ve never been, and never will be, and go back to being who I am. I want to crawl into my own bed with my husband, and feel his arms around me and his lips on mine. I want to forget that this kind of charade was ever part of my life.

She went to the desk and turned the speakers off on the computer, before booting it up. She first checked the e-mail account she had signed up for as Cathy Adamson, and considered sending Gary a note.

If you slip out of character, Powell’s instructions echoed in her memory, there is a real risk that this killer will spot it. His favorite way of letting us know we slipped up, is by killing someone. No matter how tempting it is, stay in character.

She had left notes for Gary all over the house, hidden in different places so he would find them over a period of time. If it worked the way she’d planned, he would get regular, unexpected reminders of her love during her absence, but there wasn’t a way for him to have done something similar for her. The luggage that had flown with her to Russia had been shipped back to Powell, to be stored until her undercover work was finished. She had traveled from Romania with only what would be normal for any child orphaned by the disaster. Gary had never seen any of it, let alone had a chance to stash surprises for her to find.

Though reluctant to do so, she logged out of her Cathy e-mail, and stayed away from her Katya account. Instead, she logged into Facenet, and found several friend requests pending. Most were from classmates and church kids that Rikki also knew, and she approved those without a second thought. Two others, though, were from people she’d never heard of, and listing no common friends. Play along, Powell had said. This guy will want to establish some kind of connection with you – he wants to get you to trust him, so that you’ll either go with him willingly, or else reveal enough information that he can abduct you at an opportune time. We’ll have discreet monitors on your account page, and will be working to track anything suspicious.

Play along, huh? She thought. Are there really that many girls foolish enough to blindly accept requests from guys they don’t know? Rather than following her gut instinct, which said to flat decline such requests, she opted for a middle ground, and sent a message back to both requests, asking where she might know them from.

Her door opened slightly. “Cathy, sweetheart? Are you all right?” Mom asked though the gap. “I thought I heard something, and saw some light beneath your door.”

“I’m okay,” she replied. “I just couldn’t sleep.” She closed her browser window.

Mom came into the room, wearing a plain-looking nightgown. She walked up behind the desk chair, and brushed at Katya’s hair. “You’re not doing something you shouldn’t on the internet, are you?”

Katya shook her head. “I was just checking for messages from my friends.”

“We raised four sons, and hosted grandsons,” Mom said. “You’ll have to forgive me if I get a little suspicious when I walk in to find you’ve cleared your internet from the screen. When the boys were teen-agers, they hid magazines in their rooms. The grandsons had to scramble to clear the porn site from the computer when we walked in.”

“I have no interest in porn,” Katya said. I know more about it than any woman should already.

“There are different risks for girls on the internet. Predators are always looking for young girls to trick into shameful things; you have to be careful.”

I know, Mom. What would you say if I told you that I’m here as bait for the worst kind of predator? What would you think of me if you knew just how much experience I have with other predators? “I know, Mom. I’m careful. I was taught about those kind of men, and I won’t be easily fooled by one.”

Mom knelt down behind the chair, and wrapped her arms around Katya. “I’m sorry if I seem a bit too worried, sweetheart. I know we haven’t known each other all that long, but already God has put you on my heart as if you had always been my daughter. There are so many bad people in the world, and I just want to keep you safe.”

“My real mother said something similar once.” Tears welled in her eyes. “Then she apologized, because she knew she wouldn’t be able to keep me safe from all the evil after all.” She was just as much a prisoner of the evil as I was – what could she do to protect me?

“Did something happen to you, Cathy?”

From the very moment I was conceived, but how could I tell you that? “That life is over, and I’d rather not talk about it or think about it now.” Tears dripped from her cheeks.

“Who hurt you, Cathy?”

Play the role. “Life hurt me.”

“Is this about your parents, and what happened to them?”

“My mother, yes, and the other girls I used to know.”

“It was a horrible tragedy over there, sweetheart, but we have to trust that God is in control.”

She nodded. Do you know how much of my tragedy happened within a short distance of your lovely home, or not far from this neighborhood where people can live with the illusion that such things don’t happen here?

“You can talk to me about it anytime you want, sweetheart. I don’t care what time it is, or what I might be busy doing – if you need to talk, I’ll listen.”

So, Lord, You’re going to remind me of one other thing I’m missing – a mother that I can go to when I need to talk about all that has happened. Where is she, Father? Why hasn’t she come looking for me, now that we’re all free? I need her, Lord – I need my mother in my life again. She wiped her cheeks with her hands. “I can’t talk about it right now,” she said. “Maybe someday, but for now, I just – can’t.”

“I understand, sweetheart.”

How could you understand, when I can’t completely understand it myself?

Mom stood up, and gently nudged her. “Why don’t you go back to bed, sweetheart? If you’d like, I’ll make you a glass of warm milk to make you sleepy, and sit with you until you fall asleep. Would you like that?”

She closed her eyes for a moment, and worked on composing herself again, before nodding.

“You shut down your computer, then, and crawl back into bed. I’ll be back up in a couple of minutes with some warm milk.”


Catrina Bradley said...

I wish Katya would just let go and enjoy the childhood she never had! (Easy for me to say.) Excellent installment.

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

So many young girls needlessly carry secrets and shame with them, even into adulthood. I hope Katya can deal with hers in a positive way, without getting hurt again. See? You made me care about this character! :)