Ashley Mae sat quietly in the living room watching Caillou on television as she did most Sundays. It was her favorite show, but today felt different than most Sundays. Something was wrong with her parents. During breakfast they didn’t talk to each other, but they did to Ashley Mae. Their smiles were not like real smiles, but more like the smiles Ashley painted on her pictures at school. She wondered why her parents were mad at each other.
Ashley wished Caillou’s voice were louder so it would drown out the angry voices now escaping from the kitchen. She grabbed Betsy close to her.
“It’s okay, they’ll stop soon, don’t cry Betsy.” Ashley Mae wanted to be strong for Betsy. Betsy had been with her since she could remember. Her mother told her that Aunt Carol had given Betsy to her as a Christmas gift. The voices grew heavier, angrier. Caillou’s small voice almost unheard now. Ashley wondered how it would end this time. Would she go to her grandma’s house, or maybe Aunt Carol’s? She liked to go to grandma’s, it was quiet there; she could play with Betsy and even watch television and hear all the words.
“Fine I’m leaving, but this time I’m never coming back!” Ashley was scared, but she was more worried about Betsy. She held her closer as her mother rushed into the room.
“Come on baby, we’re leaving.” Ashley didn’t want to leave her dad, but she didn’t want to make her mom mad. She glanced briefly at her father as she grabbed Betsy and rushed to keep up with her mother. As they jumped in the car her mother jerked it into reverse and they raced out the driveway. Ashley wondered where they were going. Her mother was driving in silence, but Ashley could tell she was angry, very angry. Her mother’s mouth was stiff like it was when Ashley did something her mother disapproved of. She didn’t recognize any of the streets or houses they were driving by.
“Where are we going mommy?”
“Don’t worry baby, we’re going to a safer place.”
Ashley wondered what she meant; maybe they were going to grandma’s house, but she knew this wasn’t the way to grandma’s. They pulled up to a house Ashley had never seen before. Her mother knocked on the door very quickly and loudly. Ashley still held Betsy close, as a man opened the door.
“Can I come in?” Her mother’s voice sounded relieved to find this man at home, yet tears flowed down her face.
“Sure, what’s wrong?”
“He knows about us.”
Ashley wondered what she was talking about. She had never seen this man before, but her mother seemed to know him well.
“This is Ashley.” Her mother said hurriedly without telling Ashley the man’s name. The man nodded his head briefly in Ashley’s direction and turned back to her mother. He put his arms around her mother and held her as she cried. Ashley wondered what he was doing with her mother. She had only seen her dad or Uncle Kevin touch her mother in this way. The man turned on the television for Ashley. He seemed to want to keep Ashley away from them. Again she sat watching and listening to Caillou. This time she could hear all the words, but her mind was thinking of her dad. She wondered if he had ever been in this man’s house. Her mind shifted to Caillou. What would Caillou do if he were in this house? Caillou was six years old just like Ashley Mae, but he would probably know what to do.
Her mother and the man had been talking in the kitchen for a long time, but their voices were low, so she didn’t know what they were saying. Suddenly Ashley felt hungry, she realized they hadn’t eaten any lunch and it was almost suppertime. She knew it was dinner time because her belly hurt and because Dora the Explorer, her second favorite show was almost over. Her mother began shuffling dishes around in the kitchen. Ashley felt different at this man’s house, not comfortable like she did at home or at grandma’s house. She just sat on the couch with Betsy, wishing her mother would come and sit with her, but she didn’t. Her mother just kept talking to the man whose house they were in. The pain in Ashley’s belly seemed to get worse. She felt like she wanted to throw up, but swallowed hard. Ashley didn’t want anyone to get mad at her, so she just sat and waited, swallowing hard to contain the sickness in her stomach.
A different show came on the television, it had puppets singing happy songs. Ashley thought this show was too young for her, but she didn’t want to ask her mom or the man to change it, so she just sat, clinging to Betsy. She heard a loud bang on the door. Her mother and the man stopped talking. Ashley thought they were answering the door. She called to her mother.
“Shhh!” Her mother said as she looked into the living room where Ashley Mae was sitting. Ashley didn’t know why everyone was so quiet. Who was at the door? The knocking got louder. Ashley could tell her mother was afraid, therefore she became afraid. She started chewing on Betsy’s arm, not sure if she would be able to stop herself from throwing up. The banging got louder and louder.
“I know you’re in there, open up, I want to see my daughter!’
Ashley wanted to go to her dad, but fear paralyzed her. No one said a word. The only sound was the banging on the door. Ashley thought the door was going to fall into the kitchen. She wanted to cry, but felt numb with fear.
After a loud thump, the door fell to the kitchen floor. Ashley ran behind the couch and hid. The next sound she heard was a loud bang; it was so loud it hurt Ashley’s ears. Then her mother screamed, but only briefly, then another loud bang. Ashley no longer heard her mother’s voice. She grabbed Betsy and stood up for a moment but couldn’t see her mom or the man, only her dad stood looking down, his face looked funny, not like it usually did.
“Daddy!” She tried to run toward her father but couldn’t. A sharp pain pierced her chest as she dropped to the floor, before being engulfed by the bright light.