“Do you honestly think I’m suppose to clean that?”. I looked down upon the cook shaking my head fervently. You really can’t find good help these days. The cook made a snappy retort under her breathe. I’ll have my dad know of her belligerence at once I thought, but then my mind began to wonder as it sometimes does. The brown marble was doused with brown sugar particles, each fallen in such a strange pattern. I despised days like this, stuck in the house with the help daddy hired. “Complain, complain. Is that all you people do?” If daddy was home he would have said, “Leila stop puffing up smoke, for if it wasn’t for me, you’d be just like the help!” He always said ridiculous statements like that. As if I could ever be like the help. They’re so pathetic in my eyes. Especially seeing as my dad owns half of New York City with his thriving cleaning businesses.
“Are you going to answer that?”, I screamed as I heard our doorbell ring. I knew dad couldn’t be home at this hour, seeing as it was only 9 A.M. Curious to who the visitor was, I began to follow the maid as she made her way to our front door.
As our white front door opened it was none other than James, my not so ex- boyfriend. “Well if it isn’t Lurch. Move please!” James was always giving the help a hard time. As he walked in the house with his tattered jeans, black screen tee, and visibly worn Converse, I remembered one reason why he was my ex. He had no fashion sense whatsoever. Immediately going into our living room, he plopped his feet on our glass round table, leaving footprints to be found later. “Get your feet off that before daddy kills me”. James sullenly moved his feet, complaining all the while. Finally he spoke, “Where ya been babe? I’ve been calling you for days”. Rolling my eyes I replied, “We are done. You know that, so why answer the phone?” James got up suddenly and walked toward the large grey couch I now propped myself on. James has a large build and often intimidating eyes. When he rose with such a start, it made me expect a similar situation of yesterday to arouse itself. I was running out of make-up to hide the bruises. “Fine, but I want my stuff back”. Just as James finished his last word, another ring came from the doorbell.
Eager to get away from the heated situation presenting itself in the living room, I ran rapidly to answer the door, leaving James there. “Wait, Lurch can get that! Come back here”, I could hear him scream from behind. Indeed the maid was headed for the door, but I blatantly pushed her away. I was hoping I would see my dad on the other side because surely he would see to it that James leaves, but upon answering the door, it was not my father. A heavily set man with stringy, brown hair gazed back at me with the coldest look. He had a package of some sort in his hand. “What do you want?” The man stared blankly and replied, “Is the man of the house home?” By this time James was at the door, but it didn’t look as if he was staying. He pushed past the man and yelled, “I’ll be back for my stuff tomorrow doll.” Doll? I simply hated that nickname. After each episode of me saying or doing one thing that James didn’t like, he decided to take his frustrations out on my face, ending the beating with, “I’m sorry doll”. I cringed as he said it, taking my eyes off the man. But what a mistake that was. All I remember is falling to the floor.
I awoke with a start, grasping for air, sweat dripping from my face. I felt around in complete darkness. “What happened?” I wondered aloud. Feeling around for something, anything, I soon realized I was in some type of room. This must be another one of James’ insane games I thought. “James, let me out of here immediately or I’ll have you arrested!” My command bounced off the walls, making a tiny echo in the distance. No reply. I began to scream for help, cry for my dad, but it all seemed in vain. “Okay, get a hold of yourself Leila. This is just a bad dream.” Yet, I knew this wasn’t true. My jumbled thoughts attempted to retrace the day, to find some explanation to where I was. I remembered James coming over, arguing with the maids, but the rest was a blank. Wait, there was something else. A man at the door? Was that it? “Oh I don’t know.” Frustrated, exceedingly panic stricken, I tried to rise to my feet, but something was prohibiting me from moving at all. My feet were tied to something I could not see. I began to scream with no avail. Suddenly, footsteps. Were those footsteps? A door opened behind me. I scrambled to turn around, to gain some answers to my current state, only to see a shadow. “Who’s there???” “ You have to let me out of here now! My father will be looking for me!” The shadow of a person simply said with his icy, stuttering tone, “You’ll never see your father again”.
The silence was deafening now. I felt numb, almost non-existent. The cold, hard floor seemed to melt into me. I was sure I’d only been here a few hours, but my sanity was slowly creeping away. I jumped with a start. I was beginning to doze off again. The kind of drowsiness when you feel your thoughts wondering, and reality dwindling, was taking over me. What am I doing? I have to get a grip and find a way out of this I thought, but what could I do?
The man who captured me hadn’t come back after the previous time. I could still hear his cold voice in my ears. I’d hoped my father would have reported me missing by now, but truthfully, it was always anybody’s guess when he would arrive home. The maids sure wouldn’t miss me. James! He had threatened he would return for his belongings tomorrow, but that was never certain, so those solutions were almost meaningless now.
My eyes began to scan the narrow room I was in. I really couldn’t call this a room. In my efforts to explore the area, all I could feel were cold, icy walls on all sides of me and some kind of marble pattern. The walls were wet, or should I say moist. I’d gathered my thoughts enough to assume that I was in some type of basement, but why was I here? What did he plan to do with me? Surely I would starve or die of dehydration if I my kidnapper never returned. I was desperate, yet hopeless at the very same time. I began to feel myself drifting off into a distant dream again of a man…slowly watching me die.
“Get up”. I just lay there at first, thinking the hallucinations must be setting in. “Oww”, I groaned as a felt a kick to my stomach leave me gasping for air. “Get up!” Startled, and somewhat confused, I rose to my feet. I was disoriented but still surprised to find that I could actually move my feet. I glanced around the small area I’d been trapped in. As the man pulled me up, I could see that my speculations had been correct. The place I was in was a small storage closet in some sort of basement. “Move”, was all he said. Now that there was more light, I found myself studying the man. He had sandy-colored hair, awfully dirty. His blue eyes were almost piercing and his raspy, harsh voice did not help. He seemed to be in his forties and wore a tattered, brown button down with all the buttons missing. His jogging pants appeared to not have been washed in years and his rotten odor reminded me of the trash the maids threw out once a week. I found myself wanting to vomit, but tried to contain myself. As the man led me up a worn staircase, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d ever see home again.
I could hear talking in the distance, voices almost shouting. Had I been knocked out once again? I was on a bed in a somewhat luxurious room. The bed was dabbed with flowers that offset the pink background on the bed spread I was sprawled upon. The curtains were pink also, matching the rug on the floor. There was a small window, but the burglary bars gave a tacky element to the otherwise, playful room. It looked like a young girl’s room. “No!” Then I heard footsteps and my thoughts shifted from the room to the door.
I pretended to be sleep when the door opened, expecting the worse. I heard something fall to the floor, quickly finding that it was a person after their groans reached my ears. The door slammed shut. I wanted to turn around and see exactly who or what inhabited the room with me now, but I didn’t know what to expect anymore. I crawled to the edge of the queen sized bed to peep over. On the floor lay a girl, about my age with long brown hair. She wore a yellow dress that appeared to have been soaked in mud. Her hair was deshelved and her shoes were missing, but other than that she looked unharmed. The bed creaked, and she turned around with a frightened gasp. “No, no, I don’t want to hurt you”, I found myself saying. The girl still looked uneasy, only looking at me out of the corner of her eye. At a better glance I saw that she was mixed, having the features of myself, but the color of an African American. “Who…who..who are you”, she seemed not to be able to get the words out. “My name is Leila Brooke. Who are you?” The girl began to rise to her feet and walked toward the window. She had the most distant look in her eyes, as her long dress seemed to almost float across the grey carpet. “I don’t know my name”.
Hesitantly, I got up from the bed and walked over to the mysterious girl. “What did you say?” “I said I don’t know my name”. I looked at the girl steadily. I was beginning to get frustrated with the entire conversation. Yet, the girl spoke calmly and still stared out of the small window. “How can you not know your name? How long have you been here? Where are we?” All these questions began to spew out one after the other. I almost wanted to shake the girl and scream, “I NEED ANSWERS!” The girl seemed to ponder the questions carefully. For the first time I noticed how awfully frail she was, almost like a corpse. She spoke softer, “The questions you have asked, you already know the answers to.” My facial expression must have been virtually incomprehensible because the girl looked at me and said, “You don’t know?” Before I could respond, the door opened.
“Dad!”, I screamed, running to his side. The strange girl tried to grab my arm, but I pulled away. But my father just stared at me; almost, as if I was a total stranger to him. “Step back Leila. He’s not your father.” I turned and looked back at the girl whose words had halted my entire world for the moment. “What?” My dad stepped forward. “Oh, sweet, sweet Leila, I didn’t want you to find out this way.”
Wait, halt, stop, pause, why, how were all I could think or do. “He’s a liar Leila!” “Shutup you ingrate! You never could keep your mouth closed”. He walked toward her and drew his hand back to strike her, but my screams stopped him. “Stop, what are you doing??!” He backed away from the girl and walked toward me. “Your just like your mother was, you know that. She was always strong-willed my precious Leila.” He reached out to touch my cheek, but I quickly dodged his caress. “What’s going on?” “Money is what’s going on. The world revolves around it and I need it. It’s how you’ve had such a comfortable life for the past four years. Where did you think the money was coming from Leila? The cleaning businesses? What cleaning businesses? There were never any. How could you be that stupid? You’ve never even been to one.” He sighed and walked to the bed. “Your mother, oh how I loved her, but much like you, she just became an inconvenience.” “What are you talking about? Mom died in a car accident years ago. Why are you lying and what was she talking about?” I said pointing at the girl, practically screaming my questions, apparently dazed and confused. “You’re such a fool. Did you ever wonder how the car accident happened Leila? You’re certainly not that clueless. I’d just fixed those brakes, so how could they fail a day later? I rigged them, as I will rig your death and hers”, he said glancing at the other girl. “But of course I couldn’t have achieved any of this without the aid of James”. James walked in the room with the same smug smile I’d seen so many times before. It always managed to sicken me. “What does he have to do with this cycle of lies?” “Oh it was all my idea sugar. I just introduced your good ol’ dad to the trade.” “See her?” He pointed to the girl in the corner, who was looking at him with an extreme level of hate. “Don’t point at me!” She spit in his direction. “Oh, but Lila, don’t you want to welcome your good old brother home?” She rolled her eyes and began to walk toward the door. “Whoa, whoa where are you going?” My dad jumped up and pulled her back to the side of the room. James continued, “You see, we run a very high profile business that just happened to involve selling women, girls, whatever the men prefer”. “You’re going to sell me!?” I screamed. My dad walked toward me, “Nobody wanted you, which is where you simply become an inconvenience.” “What are you going to do with me?” Before I could get the words out something must have struck me over the head because I fell to the floor.
I never believed in fairy tales. When my mother use to read them to me as she tucked me into my favorite purple blanket, I’d ask her, “Are fairytales real?” She’d smile at me and reply, “Only to very special people that dream big in the world”. Yet, I always understood that as a no. I decided my life was much better than a fairytale and I never wanted to dream. But ironically, now I wished my entire life were only just a dream.
“Snap out of it”. I recognized the voice of the girl whom James had called Lila. We were tied up, connected to each other and sitting in the middle of a hard wood floor. I didn’t recognize our new surroundings. It looked like a different place altogether. “What are you thinking about? Surely not that crappy father of ours. He’s going to torch this place like all the others.” Her words didn’t register with me immediately, but then I asked, “Our father?” “You haven’t put two and two together yet? Your father is my father too and James is my brother. Our mother was Black and after she found out what his successful business really was she was going to go to the police. Only, she never made it. There was some car crash and she was pronounced dead, says our father. I heard him and James talking one day about the business and about our mother. I tried to run and get help, but they caught me. That’s their scheme. Dad marries women with daughters of age as he puts it, so James can date them. After he’s gained their trust, he kidnaps them and sells them. Only something went terribly wrong with you. Now they have no choice but to get rid of you.” I looked at her, literally speechless for a moment. Then I said, “But you are his flesh and blood, while he is just my stepdad, even though I knew his as a father. Why would he want to kill you?” “According to the world I don’t exist Leila. My name changes from city to city as we move over and over. I have no identity, no dreams, no future, and no use to them anymore. They plan to kill us and start off fresh somewhere else.” I looked at her confused saying, “You don’t sound sad. How do you stay so calm knowing that we are going to die?” She glimpsed at me with a look of sadness in her eyes that I’d never seen before and said, “I’m not. What’s left Leila? We have no home. Our whole life has been a lie. I lived mine in a world of crime, accessory, despair, and treachery. I moved from city to city, not knowing where I’d be the next day or if I’d survive it. I cried every night for my mother, for myself. Who wants to live a life like that? And you, you lived in a glass house calling a man father who you never even really knew. So, you tell me, what joy could I get from staying here in this life?” I had no words at that point, so my mind began to wonder.
We heard footsteps so we fell silent. We appeared to be in some kind of barn or outhouse. Dad came in with the kerosene and spread it in a circle around our feet. I looked at him tearfully and said, “How could you do this? It’s all for the money? You were all I had. You were my father.” The stranger that stood before me just smiled, as he threw the kerosene bottle on the cement floor. “I was never your father Leila. I was nothing more than a baby-sitter until the time was right. But now your time is up.” The girl beside me shifted. “But say hi to your mother for me”. He walked out of the building and closed the door behind him, throwing the match on the floor.
The fire was hypnotizing. I thought we must be insane, committing suicide basically by not fighting to live. Yet, as the distant girl beside me had stated, there was nothing left. As the flames danced around us, in its teasing way, I thought about my mother. I would tell her that she was wrong. This proves that fairytales aren’t real because big dreamers become so consumed in their dreams, that nothing can stop them from reaching them, even deaths. So how can that lead to a happy ending? As if reading my thoughts, while the smoke began to fill the room the girl said, “This is our happy ending Leila; that we can finally be free from what was dealt to us. It’s our fairytale”. I pondered on her statement for a second and replied, “Fairytales don’t exist.” “How do u know that’s true?”, she asked. “Because only big dreamers do”. My last thoughts as the flames consumed the small building and danced well into the night.