Don is standing in the hallway outside and, at the sight of me, the corners of his lips curl into a smile. “Well, well, well. Don’t you look absolutely fucking perfect. Good enough to eat.”
I don’t reply but stare down at the floor.
“Look at me, Honor,” he says. “Don’t make me slap you again.”
I clench my jaw and force myself to look up.
He grins with satisfaction. “Now say, ‘I’m going to be a good girl, Daddy.’”
I mutter it with disgust, but it seems to satisfy him.
“And when my guests arrive,” he continues, “that’s how you’re to address me at all times, got it? You’re to be sweet and polite and compliant. Act out, and I’ll make you pay.”
My eyes must have widened at his words because I see him warm to the idea.
“You wouldn’t want me to put you over my knee and spank you in front of my guests, now, would you, baby-doll?”
“No,” I hiss.
“No, what?” he prompts.
He smiles again, and something about his face rings a memory inside me.
He’s looking at me as though he knows he’s won.
His expression launches me back in time, and I find the image of the morning my mother died playing through my head like a movie reel...
I’M SUPPOSED TO BEout for the morning, but I only get a couple of blocks away before I realize I’ve forgotten my phone. Not having my cell on me feels a bit like leaving the house having forgotten to put my top on, and I know I need to go back for it. My heart sinks. Don has the day off, and he’s still home. It’s one of the reasons I decided to head out for a walk, making myself scarce. I don’t really want to go back because then he might ask me what I’m doing and find some reason not to let me back out again, but I also need my phone.
I figure I’ll slip into the house via the back and hope he doesn’t see me.
I head home and let myself in through the back the door. It leads straight into the kitchen.
Don is standing at the kitchen sink, his back to me. For a second, I wonder what he’s doing. The end of his golf club is sticking out of the sink, and the water is running. The tang of bleach is sharp in the air, but there’s another scent underlying it–something I can’t quite pinpoint.
Curious, I take a few steps closer. There are splashes of red on the draining board, and more is diluted and swirling around the sink with the water.
Is it paint? Why would Don have red paint on a golf club?
He still doesn’t know I’m there, he’s so focused on the job at hand. There’s something strange about the intensity of his cleaning, how his shoulders are bunched, his head bent. Even from here I can see the veins protruding in his neck. The way he’s scrubbing is strange, his biceps bulging hugely from the effort.
What could possibly be so important that it needed cleaning with such zeal? Apart from anything else, it’s not as though Don makes a habit of cleaning anything, other than his car.
The last thing I want to do is catch his attention. It seems I’m living my life trying to do the exact opposite of that. More and more, I’m trying to make myself invisible, to fade into the background, to become so tiny he doesn’t see me. I plan to sneak past and slip upstairs to my bedroom and hopefully escape out of the door again without him noticing.
I edge toward the open archway that leads to the front of the house and the stairwell and freeze.
From the bottom of the stairs, my mother’s legs are sticking out into the hallway. They’re at a strange angle, her knees bent awkwardly, her feet skewed, and thenI realize they’re surrounded by a pool of something. It’s the same color red as I’d seen Don washing down the sink—shiny and wet.
Forgetting all about Don, I gasp. “Mom!”
I run to her, dropping to my hands and knees in the blood. I touch her arm, and her skin is still warm, but she’s just lying at the bottom of the stairs, unmoving, her eyes glassy, staring up at the ceiling.
I scream, “Help! Someone help!”