Wintertimes in Yarmouth certainly weren’t the coziest time of the year. The adverse weather conditions outside would turn the Sillows’ poorly-insulated Cape Cod cottage into a giant freezer, a typical problems with homes of that architectural style. Making matters worse, there was no heating inside of the house, and for the past several years, Mr. Sillow had for whatever reason refused to go out and gather wood for the fireplace in preparation for the dreadful season.
Anyone with common sense could look at Sondra and see that the girl needed sunlight. Six years of sheer imprisonment had drastically paled her skin. Although she was happy-go-lucky on the inside, externally, her appearance suggested severely poor health and discomfort. The most telling sign that she needed to get outside and bask in some sunlight for the first time in her life was her badly knocked knees. The inability of the sun’s ultraviolet rays to seep into her skin year in and year out stymied the production of the essential vitamin D in her body. Rickets resulted. Getting around was a tough chore for the poor child. With her mother’s urging, Sondra was about to use her disability to her advantage and prey upon the sympathy that her father was feeling for her.
“Father,” Amanda said in a most humbling tone of voice, “I really need to have a word with you.”
Mr. Sillow, who was presently in the middle of washing himself off, immediately sat up straight in the bathtub and began giving his daughter his undivided attention. “Sure, Sondra. What’s on your mind, princess?”
“Life is on my mind, daddy. I’ve never been this cold before in all the years that I’ve lived. My vision is blurring; I can feel death taking its chilling grip on my bones.” The astute Sondra was repeating everything that her mother had coached her to say the day before down to a tee. “Please don’t let me die, daddy. Please go out and get some wood so that I may get warm by the fireplace this year.” Crocodile tears were now accompanying her recital. “Please remove these encumbering metal bars from over our windows; I would like to slide the sashes up and breathe in some fresh air from time to time. Open up the front and back door of the cottage every now and again; I am ready to explore the vast world that awaits me beyond these desolate woods. Don’t you see how you’re crippling my well-being and my future?”
Sondra’s emotional outpour left her father speechless. Water rings were now being formed in abundance in his bathwater as those rare tears poured out of his tear ducts. Once he had finally regained his composure and was able to respond to the touching statements his daughter had just made, Mr. Sillow - who astonishingly claimed that he had no idea what his daughter was going through - made a sincere apology to the little girl. “Why didn’t you say something sooner?” he finally managed to get out. “You know, for years I’ve always wanted to do what I thought was best for you. I never wanted you to step out into that crazy world filled with all those snakes, vultures, and wackos. But I always knew in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t be able to protect you from the outside world forever. Time simply won’t allow that. It’s just that when your mother tried to escape from the house with you when you were just a baby, that triggered off something inside of me. I had stolen her innocence when she was only a little girl, and to think that you could end up in a similar predicament as she did drove me to take some drastic measures. I always wanted to know that you were within close proximity to me, because if anything bad was to ever happen to you at the hands of another human being, Sondra, I would kill that person. I swear to God I would kill that person. Furthermore, I would never be able to live with the guilt of knowing that I was the reason that something terrible had happened to you.
“But you’re a pretty intelligent girl. You have a good head on your body, and based on what you just explained to me, you know exactly what you want out of life. So, when the spring season rolls around, I’m going to take you out and introduce you to the world for the very first time. I know that it’s something that should have been done a long time ago, but better late than never. Nevertheless, I take full responsibility for what I’ve put you through, and I would really appreciate it if you can find it in your heart to forgive me. Can you?”
Although she didn’t quite understand what her father’s incidental mention of “another human being” meant, she pretended that she did in order not to jinx the positive direction the conversation was going in. “Of course I forgive you, daddy. You mean the world to me. I would never want feelings of regret to stand in between our relationship.” The savvy young girl’s way with words had an unusual affect on Mr. Sillow. She knew just how to wrap him around her little fingers.
“Thank you so much, baby,” her normally-catatonic father gushed. “I truly appreciate that. If only your mother could have been more like you… Anyway, I’m gonna need you to leave the room now so that I can get out of the bathtub and get dressed. I hope that you don’t cause me to become a permanent snowman while I’m out there scouring through several feet of snow for a couple pieces of wood,” he said jokingly. “And when I get back, you can personally help me remove the bars from over the windows.”