Friday, January 14, 2011

Tess: A Fiction Friday Series V

[Fiction] Friday Challenge #190 for Jan 14th, 2011
Sometimes lies can have serious consequences. Describe a time
when a lie had major consequences for your character.

This series follows the character Tess Masterson. You can catch up by reading the other installments: I, II, III, & IV.

Tess: A Fiction Friday Series V

Tess looked down at the tin plate she was holding: Jane's meat sauce doused with a sparse covering of cracker crumbs. Something in the mixture caught the dim light coming from the single bare bulb. Tess stuck her finger in and pulled out a tiny speck of glass. 

"Come on Kadie. Are you going to pick at it or eat it?" Jane said. The dark circles under Jane's eyes and the way her skin was pulled taut across her cheekbones gave the woman an eerie skeletal look. Tess could see that the woman's patience was wearing thin.

"I'm not hungry." Tess passed the tin plate back through the opening in the bars. "And it's Tess. I haven't been Kadie for almost five years." She squared her shoulders and captured Jane's eyes in a hard stare. The older woman looked away almost immediately. Tess silently reminded herself of the strength she had gained living as Tess Masterson. She wouldn't give it up for anything, certainly not now that she was back under Daddy's roof. She would need it now more than ever.

"Fine, Tess, but if Harry asks you best tell him you cleaned your plate. I'm not taking the blame for you not eating. You can fight your own battles. I'm not gonna. . . "

The sound of tires digging into gravel interrupted Jane's tirade. She turned and hurried back up the basement steps. Tess hobbled back to the small cot, dragging the heavy chain behind her. She sat quietly and listened for the kitchen door to creak open. She finally heard the familiar sound followed by the hard thump of Harry's boots on the linoleum, and then the dull thud of his first step onto the wooden basement stairs. She watched as he ambled down the steps carrying something across his shoulders that looked like an burlap sack. 

Tess couldn't make out what it was until he opened the cage and carefully set his load down on the cold, concrete floor. He quickly slammed the cage shut and replaced the chain and padlock. Tess watched the bundle stir at the sound of metal scraping against metal. She hurried across the room and pulled back the rough fabric. It was a girl. Tess jerked her hand back and immediately felt her pulse begin to speed. The girl was barely conscious and so small. She couldn't be any older than ten. Long brown curls framed her porcelain face and she was dressed in a school uniform similar to the one Tess had worn at that age.

"Brought you a welcome home present, dearie. It's name is Abby." Harry put his hands on his hips and looked at the caged pair with an air of satisfaction.
"What? Why?" Tess couldn't think. All the fear and anger came rushing back. She might as well have been the child lying there instead of the capable adult she had become after escaping and managing on her own. 
"You should know. You're getting too old. Just like Jane."
"Then why'd you come looking for me? I wasn't going to turn you in or anything. I had five years to do that and I didn't. Why not just let me go?"
"You're mine." Harry squatted down and pressed his face up against the bars. "I could never let you go."

Tess could smell his familiar aftershave and she had to concentrate to keep herself from retching. The girl let out a mewing sound.

"You have your uses, Hon. Just like Jane does. For now it's your job to keep Abby calm."
"How am I supposed to do that?"
Harry stood up. His six foot frame towered above both of them.
"You'll do it or I'll come down here and do it myself. Understand?

Harry turned and stomped back up the stairs. Tess watched until she heard the door click closed. When she looked back down she saw the girl, Abby, looking up at her with glassy brown eyes. She scooped her up and carried her to the cot. Tess laid the girl on the thin mattress and then climbed in beside her, enveloping the child in her arms. 

"What's going on?" Abby said. Her voice sounded tired and far away.
"Nothing, sweetie. Go back to sleep. Everything's going to be fine. You're going to be just fine." Tess knew it was a lie. She knew every detail of what Abby's life would become and it wasn't going to be fine. The girl's eyelids drooped closed and her breathing evened out to a steady purr. Tess pulled the burlap sack up over Abby's small body and adjusted her left leg so the chain wouldn't chafe against her ankle.

"Everything's going to be just fine," Tess whispered into the silence.