You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy when skies are gray.
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you.
Please, don’t take my sunshine away.
I brought the comforter up as my song ended, tucking the twins in for the night. They cuddled together, their copper hair sprawled across the pillow they shared. Summer was turning into fall, and the attic was getting cooler at night. A shiver raced up my spine as trail of cold air breezed through the room. I made a mental note to make sure everyone’s coat from last year still fit. Ryan and Violet watched me stand and gather my things. The only light in the space came from a nearby streetlight shining through the dirty window. Luckily, I knew where everything was. I was used to getting ready in the dark. The Walkers would not appreciate us ‘wasting’ electricity. Their words, not mine.
“Bar tonight?” Ryan asked breaking the silence. He made sure to keep his voice down though. No one wanted the twins woken up. It would make me late if I had to put them back to bed.
“Yes,” I answered zipping up my bag and grabbing my jacket. There was a bar a few blocks over that paid me cash. The tips weren’t great but it was income nonetheless. “Don’t stay up too late, and don’t leave the attic.”
“We won’t,” Ryan groaned out his answer from the patchwork sofa. I reminded them every time I left but I couldn’t escape the worry that something would happen to them in my absence.
“Be safe,” Violet whispered. She laid on the only other bed in the space. I walked over to her quickly and pecked her forehead before ruffling her pale blonde hair.
“I will be.”
Silently, I opened the door and stepped out into the stairwell. I waited until I heard the lock click behind me before making my way downstairs. Yanking my messy hair I tried to fashion it into a decent bun as I walked. A light on in the kitchen had me pausing at the bottom of the stairs. The Walkers always, always went to bed early. They were sticklers for routine. As I crept down the hall I began to hear their voices.
“I want her gone.”
I froze at the malice in her words. I knew that tone all too well. I quickly finished putting my hair up and moved over to the wall. The shadows didn’t offer much protection but it was better than nothing. They shouldn’t come this way though. Their bedroom was on the other side of the house.
“Me too but you know it’s more complicated than that,” Mr. Walker’s voice reached me. “I can talk to Vincent and see if he would be willing to take her earlier.”
What were they talking about? It was late, and I needed to get to work. Jimmy, my boss, would not be forgiving if I didn’t show up on time. Since the Walkers went to bed so early, I usually didn’t have a problem sneaking out. If they knew I was working they would demand a cut of the pay. I needed every dime I could get. It was our ticket out of here. Eventually.
I guess I could go out the window in the attic and climb down from the porch. It wasn’t the most stable structure but I wouldn’t have much of a choice if they planned on talking for a while. It would probably wake up the twins, dammit. I didn’t need this right now.
“She is going to be nineteen soon. If he doesn’t want her, I think we could get a pretty penny for the ugly bitch,” Mr. Walker continued.
Ice flooded my veins. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The Walkers were not nice people. To be frank, they were horrible. I had the scars to prove it. But I never thought they would do something like this. It was on another level, one I had thought they would never stoop to. I guessed what they said about assumptions was right. They were casually having a conversation about selling me. I wanted to scoff in disbelief but I kept my silence. I couldn’t imagine the punishment that would follow if they found me eavesdropping. Vincent, whoever the hell he was, could fuck off.
“It could be the answer to our problems.”
What kind of problems can be solved by selling your adoptive child? Financial ones. The answer came to me immediately. I knew Mr. Walker had a gambling problems. Mrs. Walker routinely nagged him about it. They definitely didn’t invest their money here given the dilapidated state of the house and the constant emptiness of the fridge.
“Fine, but I want it done soon,” Mrs. Walker relented.
I heard them make their way out of the kitchen. The light flickered off as their footsteps faded. My mind raced as I stood there, work forgotten. Before I could panic, I forced myself to take a deep breath. Another one. Forcing myself to move I carefully backtracked back down the hall and up to the attic. I tapped on the door three times and then paused before tapping two more times. Our secret code to make sure it was safe to open the door. The lock clicked, and the door eased open.
I stepped inside making sure to close and lock the door behind me. Two sets of eyes stared at me with worry, thankfully I hadn’t woken the twins up. I leaned against the door my mind sprinting from one option to the next. I had to do something. I couldn’t stay here and be sold or given to some random guy. I couldn’t leave, not when the kids would still be at their mercy. Who knows, they might plan to sell Ryan or Violet next. I couldn’t let that happen. A plan took form in my had, it was the only option.
We had to run.