Part One: The Same Day
“Oh Clover, honey, I am so so sorry. I only left to use the bathroom.” Nanny, was in tears as we began the long drive home. Her staccato voice echoed in the space, “This is all my fault. I should have just walked away when Linda walked up to me. But I thought everything was fine and I hadn’t seen her in years! Oh my sweet girls, this is just all my fault.” I stared out the window watching the trees flash by my eyes. There was an ache at the pit of my stomach, like a hollow, empty pounding. I was barely listening to what Nanny was saying.
“Nanny! It is all Jesse’s fault! Not yours! He is a stupid-meanie-face and he knows I liked how he was with Trilly. He hurt her feels and I won’t ever be nice to him again, even if Trilly is!” Clover’s voice rose to deafening levels as her sadness grew. I hated when her voice did that but I did not have the energy to soothe her.
“Clover dear, we do not hold grudges. Life is too short.” Nanny said with a sniff. I rolled my eyes, who said I would ever forgive that piece of shit, he was dead to me now.
“I will hold all the garages that I want to! You can’t stop me!”
“Clover,” I sighed without even looking at her, “Let’s just stop, Bug. Let’s just stop.”
We were silent on the rest drive home from the park, everyone’s tears dried up and all that was left was Nanny’s sniffles. My finger was throbbing, turning black and blue with time, and the blood was still on my hands. I was unsure whose blood it was. The bully? Jesse’s? Mine? I glanced over to Clover who was seated in her three-point harness car seat and looking down at her small hands. She was copying my actions, though I do not think that she knew what she was doing, staring at the blood that would never be washed clean. Not that anyone died, this was not a ‘blood is on my hands’ death dealing, but something broke today. Something was forever changed in our little lives. I would no longer be my mother’s child; for once she found out, I would be written off for good.
The phone was ringing when we arrived home, but I didn’t even try to answer it. I knew who it would be. News travels fast when you are rich. Instead I ran up to the bathroom and turned the shower on as hot as it would go. I looked in the mirror as the steam began to build around me. My dark brown hair lost its usual enviable shine, and the green of my eyes was not longer bright but a dulled emerald shade. Pale skin looked back at me and accentuated my shrunken frame, showing my purple-blue veins with disturbing vividness. My hollow, sunken face stared back as I gazed upon the empty shell I had become. My life was no longer being lived for me but for my sister. I was here because of my sister, I got up because of my sister, I didn’t run because of my sister. That was all that mattered now, for who else would fight for her?
I undressed, grinding remnants of blood from my hands onto my shirt and jeans. The inky, rust color would probably never come out. I stepped into the scalding water and let the sting pierce my body. The heat traveled down my shoulders and through my spine. I watched the water turn brown from the blood on my hands as it was chased down the drain. For the second time in one day, I cried until the water ran cold.
Composed and clean, I went to the room I shared with Clover. I looked at her side of the room, littered with books filled with mysteries. We would read them together sometimes and try to guess the ending as fast as possible. Clover always won, not because I let her, but because she had a knack for figuring things out. She could get a sense from someone the moment they walked into the room and took in clues all around her. I would orchestrate little mysteries for her to solve when she was feeling down. ‘The Case of the Missing Cookie’ or ‘Who Framed Nanny’ were two of her favorites.
I went to my side of the room and plopped onto the bed, face down into my pillow. I inhaled the scent of my shampoo (coconut) and felt an instant calm. Curling over on my side, I reached down between the bed and the wall feeling for the journal I kept hidden there. I pulled it out, the purple cover providing me with comfort. When you feel like you are alone in the world, writing is the best way to keep your inner secrets. I knew that Clover would never read what I wrote in here, whether is was because she did not understand the significance of a diary or that she understood it too well, I did not know. All I knew was that this was the only place I could escape.
As I opened the page, a single photograph fell out. It was of Jesse, and he was standing there leaning against a tree. I stared at his crystal blue eyes that shined out from the grainy photo. How did I not know he was that cruel? How could I be so blind? I was smarter than this. My heart ached from his betrayal. But as I sat there looking at him, I began to wonder how he could have thought this plan would work. Why would be think that taunting my only sister, my sick sister at that, was the best option for us to run to his house and make out for a while? It didn’t make any sense.
I crushed the picture in my hands and leaped out of bed. Grabbing the small metal trash can from beside my desk and threw the picture into the bin on to of old tissues and scraps of paper. From the top drawer of my desk I pulled out a small box of matches. I opened them up and lowered my nose to inhale the scent. I could smell purification and cleansing from the sulfur. Opening the box I pulled out a single match and struck it against the side, lighting it up instantly.
“Nanny!” I looked up and saw Clover’s small frame in the doorway. Her voice was even higher and more panicked than normal.
“Don’t. Just don’t.” I said in a hushed voice as I shook my head slowly. But it was too late, I could hear Nanny rushing up the stairs to our room and the flame was almost to my fingers. Pressing my lips together into a tight line, I threw the match into the basket. “Fuck you Jesse.” The flame caught instantly as the old tissues acted as kindling.
“Trillium Montibuelar, what are you doing up here?” Nanny questioned. I didn’t answer, just watched the flames lick the side of the bin as they grew higher. “Oh God, Clover! Get back, behind me.”
“Why did you do that?” I could hear the fear in Clover’s voice, and Nanny bent down to pick her up as the fire alarm began to go off. The sounds were muffled in my ears as I listened to the blood rushing in them and my own staggered heartbeat. I still could not find the words to what I was doing, what I was feeling. But the liberating feeling from the flames filled me up and I knew that a change had to happen if I ever wanted to make something of my life.
“Trillium, we need to get out of here, I’m sure the firemen will -“
“I am in control,” I said with a growl. “As always, I have everything under control.” I pulled a blanket off of my bed and threw it over the trashcan, trying to snuff out the flames. Smoke billowed out from the sides and without thinking I grabbed the can. “Move!” I shouted as I rushed passed Nanny and Clover. Both looked pale and Clover seemed to be on the verge of tears.
Running to the bathroom, I threw the blanket and trashcan into the shower. I turned on the cold water and watched as smoke filled the small area. My hands were burned from the smoldering blanket, but I didn’t care. I could not feel the physical pain of this day anymore, just the mental injustice of my own thoughts. Opening a window, I watched the smoke suck out of the room in plumes of release as I sat on the cool bathroom floor.
Minutes ticked by and there was a knock at the door. Since my parents had a special alarm, dispatch sent out a team and they were here to assess the damage. I could hear the muffled voices downstairs and then footfalls on the stairs. I looked up as a large fireman arrived at the bathroom door. “Hello little lady, my name is Robert,” he said as he stepped over me and looked in the shower at the mess of ash and wet blanket with a giant burned hole in the center. “Looks like you are a hero.” Hero? Does he not know I am the cause of all this mess? The severity of the situation hit me then. I was a child who threw a tantrum and almost burnt the house down. The man bent down and looked at me, “Can I please see your hands? I promise I will not touch them.”
I nodded holding my hands up for inspection. I could see the skin was starting to blister pull against the skin and my broken index finger stuck out at an odd angle. Robert looked at my mangled flesh with concern on his face and I could tell that he was worried about my state of mind. He took my hands gently, “come with me child and we will get you all fixed up.” He helped me off of the floor and we went solemnly to the ambulance that awaited us outside.
The advanced medicine allowed my burns and broken finger to be taken care of in no time, no longer was a trip to the hospital needed for simple procedures. In my eyes, this was for the best. I knew my mother would be home soon and being at the house gave me the advantage of comfort and security against the verbal battery that I knew was going to come.
“Your mother called.” Nanny said matter of factly as she tucked Clover and I both in bed, a ritual that I told her I was too old for but she insisted on continuing. “She will be home tomorrow, and I am sure you both know that she will not be in a happy mood.”
“I am sorry Nanny. I should not have put you and Clover in danger like that. I know that does not make up for what I have done, but-” I struggled to find the words, how do you apologise to someone for almost burning down a house?
Nanny put her palm out to stop me, her frail hand with its gently wrinkled skin shook softly in the darkness. Was it nerves? Parkinsons? Maybe it was just age, but at that moment I was struck that my grandmother would not be around forever and I would soon have to go on taking care of Clover alone. “Trillium, what you did was dangerous and frightening for everyone involved. However, I understand and forgive you.” She kissed me softly on the forehead and stroked my hair. “Now, you two get some sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a hard day.”
Nanny closed the door behind her but the soft glow of Clover’s nightlight accentuated the room making shadows sprawl across the wall. “I forgives you too Trilly,” Clover’s small voice squeaked out into the darkness. “You are my favorite ever.”
I smiled at the dark room, “I love you Bug,” I echoed in the space and drifted to sleep soundlessly.
Part Two: The Day After
I awoke to the sounds of stomping and sat straight up as the door to my room flung open. “Trillium, what the fuck did you do?” My mother has used those words around me before, but they were normally not directed at me.
“Mother, I – “
“Get dressed and come downstairs, this room is too small to think in. You too Clover, I know this was as much your fault as it was hers.” With that she strolled out of the room and pushed past Nanny and Father, both of which had arrived at the scene. My father looked at me and gave me a sad smile and followed Mother downstairs.
“Well, you heard your mother, get up and get dressed. Here Clover dear, let me help you.” Nanny lifted Clover out of bed and began to dress her for the day. When Mother was home we needed to wear proper clothes and show we were proud of our family name. I was gracious for Nanny’s assistance with buttons as my hands were of little use this morning. Both throbbed and burned under the bandages. We both were dressed in button up shirts, skirts, and tights in less than 10 minutes.
“What is gonna happen down there?” Clover asked while Nanny brushed her hair.
“Well, I am assuming that she will first yell at me for what I did, then she will yell at you for what you did, and then she will yell at Nanny for what she did not do, all the while shrieking at Dad that she ‘raised us better than this’ and ‘cannot believe how embarrassing we are.’ After she yells for, what I guess, will be 15 minutes, Mother will then punish me and then try to punish you Clover. I will then tell her that I will take on your punishment which will leave me either grounded for the rest of my life or sent to boarding school. I am leaning towards boarding school.”
“No Trilly! She cannot take you away from me! Who will take care of me and, and, and-“
“Shhhh, my Bug. Shhh.” I took Clover in my arms and held her close. “Do not worry. We will never be apart. I will steal you in the night and we will go explore the world if she tries to send me away.”
“Come on now girls. Best not to keep your mother waiting.” Nanny stood and held out her hand for Clover who took it while giving me a shaky smile.
Nanny and Clover went down the steps first and I followed closely behind. When we entered the kitchen, our mother was pacing back and forth across the room chain smoking an eco-cigarette and I wondered how she was not wearing down the floor. Our Father sat at the kitchen table silently. I could see his eyes brighten a bit as soon as we walked into the room, but he was too afraid to show us any kindness for her wrath was much too great.
“Finally,” she stated coldly and she crossed her arms over her body and stared at the three of us, the accused. “What happened! Start from the beginning.” Her voice was like nails on a chalkboard and as I looked at her face I could see she had more work done, hiding her crow’s feet and frown lines. Her face was tight like she ate a lemon and the fake blond hair piled high on her head was in a strict bun.
“It wasn’t Trilly’s fault Mommy! The meanie boy was trying to hurts me and Trilly saved me! She is the bestest and we should be thanksing her!”
Mother left out a loud breath, “thanking her? First of all Clover, you need to speak like an adult. Christ, we pay enough for you to have that fancy tutor, start acting like you are learning something. Second of all, Trillium was not saving you, she was acting out against our family, against our livelihood. Are you hearing any of this Richard? Can you believe what these girls did?”
“Mother, Clover is not at fault here, this was all my doing. I saw a boy picking on Clover and I acted with aggression. I was wrong.”
“You are damn right you were wrong! You beat up the son of a senator!” her voice began to screech, “His dad called your father, we are lucky he is not pressing charges. You broke the boys nose and his orbital socket. Plus you knocked out five teeth,” she was walking closer to me now, getting in my face. I felt my blood pressure rise and my face heat up but I was determined to keep calm. She wanted me to cry, it was a drug to her. “Plus, you almost burnt the fucking house down.”
“I am sorry Mother, it was an accident -“
“And you! Where the fuck were you Mum? We pay you to watch these girls and all this happens!” she stormed over to Nanny who was keeping her head high despite the fact that her own daughter was screaming in her face. We were all used to this though. “Do you not care about Richard’s lineage? All that we have been working for?”
I could hear Clover sob behind me, broken down from my mother’s fury. I looked at my father, begging him with my eyes to do something, say something to stop this madness. “Stop Mother, just stop. This is not Nanny’s or Clover’s fault. I will take full responsibility for my actions. Punish me.” I stepped towards her, locking my eyes with hers, and daring her to take the next step.
I heard the slap long before I felt it. The loud smack of a hand against a cheek is one that makes everyone around jump and the person’s head that got slapped quickly twist away. The pain came quickly after as the sting traveled around my face and through my neck. I lifted my head to match my mother’s again. I did not cry. I did not touch my face. No one moved and the tension was filling the room like a flood.
“That’s enough Evelyn,” my father’s strong voice cut through the room like a knife and I could hear Nanny and Clover both let out the breath they were holding. “Let’s go. Now.”
Our mother’s eyes looked at each of us for a brief instant before she turned to leave. Nothing was there, no remorse, just empty displeasure. Father walked over to Clover, picking her up and hugging her closely. He put her down and approached me with solemn features. He gently placed his hand on my cheek and his cold hands cooled the imprint my mother left. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“Me too,” I said meeting his gaze. He placed a kiss on my forehead and followed my Mother out the front door.
Nanny rushed to get me ice for my cheek and Clover ran to hug me tight on my legs. “I love you Trilly.”
“I love you Bug.”