I’ve almost got it. Just need to step up on my toes and reach a little higher. Come on! Almost there. . .
“Scarlett! How did Little Scarlett get in front of your door?” asked my mother as she shoved open my bedroom door knocking my favorite doll to the side. “Has your brother been in here bothering you again? That boy! I’ve told him you need your rest. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of him. He won’t be coming back in here.”
Mother snatches Little Scarlett off the floor and places her in the crook of my right arm. Ugh! Now I will have to start all over. My eyes follow Mother around the room watching her adjust my figurines and wiping off imaginary dust. She steps into my closet searching for the perfect outfit for me to wear to dinner tonight. It is our nightly family dinner where my father, mother, brother, and I gather around the formal dining table dressed in our Sunday best to act like the perfect family. If we left the curtains open, anyone walking past our house would see the ideal scenario. No phones or TVs to distract us. Two children sitting attentively waiting for permission to eat and speak. Mother and Father smiling lovingly at each other while they enjoy the meal Mother prepared for us. From outside, we look like the American dream.
“I think tonight you will wear your red velvet dress and the matching hat with the bow. What do you think? Won’t you look so lovely! Your brother is wearing his navy-blue suit with the red and blue tie. You will match!”
I continue to follow Mother around the room wondering if she would leave soon. There are still five hours until dinner, and I need every minute. She needs to go.
“I’ll be back later to get you dressed and to do your hair. You are to nap until then so that you are well rested when Father comes home.”
She doesn’t wait for a response and strides out the door without looking back having confidence that I would never defy her. Why would she doubt me? For the last 10 months, I have done exactly what I have been told. She thinks she has trained me well because that is what I need her to believe.
When I hear the click of my door closing, I instantly relax and look down at Little Scarlett. We can do this. We must do this. We will do this.
Is she coming? Didn’t she say she would be here before dinner? I don’t know what time it is, but with the sun peering through my window, it has to be the afternoon already.
“John, it is time to get dressed for dinner. Your father will be home soon, and I need you dressed now so that I can then dress Scarlett and set the table. Let’s get Little John out of the way.”
Mother grabs Little John, my favorite doll who looks just me, by the arm and tosses him in the corner. Little John’s head falls to the side, and his eyes stare straight at me. Not much longer Little John. We can do this. We must do this. We will do this.
I look across the table to stare into John’s eyes willing him to not give anything away. He is nervous I can tell, but any out of the norm behavior will alert Mother and Father. Thankfully, when Mother came to get us for dinner, she was in too much of a rush to notice them gone, so we cannot ruin the plan now.
I can feel Scarlett’s eyes on me. She thinks I will do something stupid to get us caught, but I won’t. I am scared to death, but I know the plan will work. To keep my mind distracted, I rotate my feet and legs under the table. Slowly, ever so slowly to not draw attention. After being strapped to my bed since last night’s dinner (except for my scheduled restroom breaks), I cannot resist this simple pleasure.
I can feel John moving his legs. He thinks no one notices, but I have learned to notice everything. But, I can’t be upset with him. What I wouldn’t do to move my arms and legs freely! Since my “accident” where I supposedly fell down the stairs two years ago, I have been confined to my bed. That’s what I have heard Mother tell people over the phone. I used to fight it. I really did. After a year of battling to regain my freedom, I only earned the same straps for my brother and tighter straps for myself. At the end of that first year, I gave up and cried myself to sleep every night.
Dessert is served. It's time! My heart is pounding so loudly that I know Mother and Father will hear. I make eye contact with Scarlett, and we both close our eyes.
I close my eyes, but I can still see just as I know John can. I am tiptoeing up behind Mother’s chair so quietly that no one can hear my approaching steps. With one hand I pull myself up the back of the chair, and in one swift motion, the knife slides across Mother’s throat just as I watch the knife slide across Father’s throat at the other end of the table.
Scarlett – 12 months earlier
“Scarlett, I am so proud of you and John for finally learning to not be such problem children. Isn’t life so much easier now? Unfortunately, your straps will stay while you are in bed, but I have two surprises for you and John. Since you are more trustworthy, you both can start eating dinner with Father and me. Won’t you like that?”
I watch her without saying anything because I know she really does not want me to respond. She is hiding something behind her back that has me nervous. Her surprises usually involve a new way to bring me pain.
“I know you and John get lonely sometimes, so I brought you a friend!”
She whips her hand from behind her back, and I feel my body flinch on instinct fearing what is to come.
“Isn’t she perfect! I had Little Scarlett made to look just like you so that you can have the perfect doll just like I have in you. Make sure you take care of her, so I don’t have to punish you. Now, I’m off to give John the wonderful news and introduce him to Little John. You take a nap like a good girl until dinner.”
Mother places Little Scarlet in the crook of my arm, and I let the tears fall as the door closes.
Scarlett – 10 months earlier
I made it through another dinner, but John did not. He accidently dropped his fork on the floor which infuriated Father. John was jerked from his chair and dragged back to his room. I have not heard a sound from his room since I was returned to my bed. My heart is broken, and I wish there was something I could do. Thankfully, I still have Little Scarlett who I share all my worries and fears with every night. After the purging of my thoughts, I begin to drift off to sleep when I feel a tiny hand wipe my tears away and whisper, “My brother and I will help you.”