As sick as it may sound, it was cathartic to punish Eli in the manner that I did. With any power he might have held draining from his features, leaving only a paleness to his cheeks. Driven to a withering shape, huddled in the corner I could finally function again. A week had gone by, a week of fights between mother, and Uncle Ned. Shrill voices sometimes piercing through the thin walls of my bedroom until I could make out various phrases. It was the rounded form of her pregnancy that made me somehow barely able to function. Imagining her pushing out a crying, screaming little life that would be my sibling was unfathomable. When my own little light was snuffed out, by her cruel touch.
Finally I emerged from my bedroom, because the little ones couldn’t understand why I was retracting from them, and despite everything I couldn’t wound them as mother had done to me. Eli’s suffering was well deserved, because I had given him so many chances that I didn’t feel I owed him anything further. Avoiding all eye contact with me, I couldn’t have done what I wanted to better—driving him to avoid me. Taylor on the other hand had begun to extend his help, more often. Clearly in need of tasks to occupy himself with, and with three children toddling about the house there was always plenty he could accomplish.
Eli couldn’t have been more distant, had he tried. Speaking no more than two words to me in a day, and burying himself in extra shifts at the diner, even though spare money wasn’t really needed, what with mother guiltily buying us everything our hearts could desire. No matter how long I resided in our beachside home, I couldn’t figure out that woman. She wasn’t a mother in any way that mattered, but when it came to meaningless spending she could always splurge for whatever I needed. Even if I disowned her, refusing to call her ‘mom’ to her face anymore. She never gave up on trying to please me with products, and meaningless gifts. Same with her hated grandchildren. They too received everything their little hearts could possibly desire.
Every trending toy, every worthless stuffed animal—the list carried on, and on. It was Christmas eve, the lights were hung, the tree was up, and there was snow coating the ground, fresh, and powdered outside. I didn’t feel the magic that naturally came with Christmas this year, but I was putting on a brave face, for the children. I was scrubbing the floor feeling my hands chaff from the pressure, my hair wound up in a messy bun as I heard the sound of footsteps approaching.
“Christa?” Looking up I let my green-eyes land on the towering figure of Taylor as he hovered over me seemingly calm, with Hope balanced precariously on his hip. Her thumb stuck in her mouth, grinning down at me as she held to her comfort animal.
“Yea?” Setting the sponge into the water-filled bucket alongside of me, I rubbed my forehead with the back of my hand, ignoring the build-up of sweat that was conglomerating on my skin, scrunching up my nose as I felt the urge to rub at it.
“Can you go get me a clean shirt from downstairs, Hope spit up on this one?” Gabriel was coiled around his leg, giggling with ease as I forced a smile.
“Okay, sure. I was just finishing up here anyway.” I stood to my feet, dumping the filth-laden water down the kitchen drain, planting the bucket back under the sink, before I headed down the stairs two at time. It was a constant state of business that I was beginning to keep myself in so that I didn’t think about Eli’s horrendous betrayal of my trust, and every time I could help, I found myself giving in without much thought to it.
Rummaging through the dresser at the end of Eli’s old bed, I quickly found a shirt, before something caught my eye. Peeking from just underneath the bed was a silver can, from the looks of the rounded thing it was a label-less coffee tin, and I slung the shirt over my shoulder, crouching to my knees to get a closer look.
Pulling it out I popped open the lid, finding teal colored pellets, inside. I wondered what he could possibly be doing with such a strange substance under his bed, when suddenly sickness began to overtake my stomach. I had seen these strange, teal pellets before. When I was a little kid, and mother had wanted to get rid of the rats in the house. She would pour the stuff into a box, with a hole in it, and wait. Telling me that I was not to touch the box for any reason, using Eli to reinforce the rule, but out of curiosity I had touched the box ( just because I wanted to ), and nothing bad had ever happened like mother insisted that it would. As I felt my stomach clenching with that same sickening sensation I heard the sound of Taylor’s voice calling down the stairs.
“Christa, You coming?” Startling I dropped the tin can, hearing it clash to the floor, I was quick to pick the pellets back up, replacing them into the tin, before closing the lid again. Shoving it back under the bed, I felt the panic flooding through me. It was almost like a tidal wave, ready to pull me under.
“Yea I am coming!” Shakily I reached for a shirt, climbing the stairs two at a time, lifting Hope from his arms, before handing him back over the newly laundered shirt.
“Thanks, Christa.” He peeled his filthy shirt over his head, and I began inching towards the stairs.
“I think I am going to watch the kids for the rest of the day, you need a break, don’t you think? You have been doing so much…” I was praying to god up above that he couldn’t hear the tremor in my voice, and that he couldn’t see the fear in my features.
He was the reason that I miscarried my child, not my mother. Not even Uncle Ned. I didn’t understand why he would want to hurt me—he had always been so nice to me. What had I done to deserve being poisoned? To deserve the loss of a second child?
“Are you sure? I don’t mind helping out!” He didn’t seem the least bit concerned, in fact he was smiling at me, with his crooked smile.
“Positive. I need to make up for lost time.” I managed to force a smile back, before I headed towards the stairs. I needed out of his presence, and most of all I needed to call Eli.
Even though I sure as hell didn’t want to call him, I had to. He was the only one that would come. Uncle Ned wouldn’t believe his own son had done something so horrible, and I could only imagine that my mother would take his side. The only one that might even remotely be in my corner was Eli.
This wasn’t about me, or even about how I had left things with Eli, this was about our children. He would always protect our children, and I feared that Taylor might try to poison one of them too. I wasn’t certain that he hadn’t already. He had just had Hope throw up on him after all. I closed the door to the children’s room once I was safely inside. Putting Hope down on her bed, I checked her for fever, feeling her forehead. I noticed her face was paled, and she wasn’t making her normal noises. Her eyes were staring at me, “Do you feel sick, sweetheart?” I frantically asked her, and she gave me a slight nod, as she made a low sigh in her throat.
“What is wrong with her?” Gabe settled at my side, and Annabella was quick to follow suit.
“Is she going to die too?!” Annabella asked frightfully.
“No, No of course not!” But could I promise them that? “Are either of you feeling sick?! Did Taylor give you anything to eat today? Anything at all?!” I asked them both, looking from Gabe to Annabella.
“He gave me candy this morning! It didn’t taste like candy though…” Annabella scrunched up her nose, and my trembling got worse.
“Did the candy look like this?!” I showed her one of the teal pieces I had swiped from his coffee can, it was my only proof if he decided to move it, or became suspicious.
“Yea Mama …”
“I ate some too!” Gabe piped up.
“Oh god! Oh god!” The sick feeling was only growing worse, and I scrambled for my phone, that was shoved inside of my pocket.
Dialing Eli’s cell phone, I could see my children panicking right along with me, and I was listening to the ringing on the phone as I attempted to calm them all down. “Babies, I know you are scared, but I need you to be really quiet, can you do that for me?! Please?!”
They nodded their heads, although they were all beginning to cry.
When Eli finally picked up I was a mess. I was managing not to cry, but I certainly wasn’t calm by any means of the word. “Belle—Is something wrong?”
I never called him at work, and I wasn’t currently talking to him, so he must have known that the situation was dire. “It’s Taylor…Taylor was the one who poisoned me, not our mother…” I was speaking quickly, in a hushed whisper as I kept my eye on the door, terrified that he might come in at any moment; that he might hear my accusations.
I was trying to be quiet but I was dealing with frantic children, and my own trauma coming back to haunt me. “What…How do you know? Belle—“
“I found rat poison, under his bed—Eli…he has given it to our children today—they told me he has—“
“Oh my god…call 911! Belle right now!”
“I can’t! Eli! What if he finds out that I know? I am scared!” And I was, what if he heard the sirens? What if he tried to hurt us in another way?
“Fuck—Belle, I am coming right now. Call the police, I know you are afraid, but I need you to do that—“
“I—I will try! I promise…”
“Hang up, dial now!” He shouted into the phone, and I heard the click on the other end, and with trembling fingers I dialed the emergency number. The ringing was long on the other end, and when I finally heard the operator pick up I told her the details of my situation to the best of my ability. Starting with the pellets of rat poison, and that he had told my children it was candy. I had only just told them the address when the sound of the door opening caused me to jump.
I dropped the phone, hearing it drop to the carpet with a ‘thunk’. I was trembling visually now, and I could see the way he was looking at me, the contempt in his eyes, and I could see the coffee can that was propped in his hand.
“I see you found my little secret.” He spoke out with his dark, almost black pools staring down into my green ones. I was petrified as my brain began trying to think of an escape route. I could hear the operator on the phone speaking, asking what was happening, and I couldn’t move, couldn’t even think.
“How—How did you know?” I managed to squeak out, wrapping my arms instinctively around Hope, since she was the closest of my children to me.
“You left a few pellets on the basement floor. Aren’t you going to ask me why I did it?” He spoke up, and leaned down smiling at me.
Thankfully he didn’t seem to have noticed that I had dropped the phone, or even been on it in the first place, which was the only godsend I could currently be thankful for.
“Why? Taylor…I thought you cared about me…”I breathed out.
“Because you make me sick. You knew that being with Gabe was illegal, you even knew that it was wrong to have children with him, but still you continue to do so. I thought you might have learned when Cooper died, but you clearly didn’t. I was horrified when you turned up pregnant—again! And then I find out that my own father has taken up with his sister! Created both of you in the process! And now have another baby on the way….Well I couldn’t hurt my father. I can’t take away his happiness, but you. Well—you deserve to suffer, because if it wasn’t for you, my father wouldn’t be back here! He wouldn’t have left my mother, and we might still have a happy family! But he wanted to come be with you! With your mother!”
Every sick, depraved word, made my heart ache for my cousin. But at the same time my eyes were scouring the room, searching for a weapon, if there was even a potential one I might be able to wield until either Eli, or the cops came to help. My thoughts were interrupted when I realized that the front door was creaking open.
I was relieved, but then in one swift movement Taylor reached for Gabe, hoisting him kicking, and screaming from the carpet until he was across the room, with a kitchen knife pulled from his pocket, pushing the blade right to his petite throat. My eyes widened, and Annabella started to wail at the top of her lungs.
“No please!” I hissed out frantically, but I didn’t dare move towards him.
“Make her stop, or else I will slit his throat!” The ruthless glint in his eyes made me reach for Annabella stroking my fingers through her hair, pulling her into my chest, to hide her from the sight, whilst Hope remained uncharacteristically quiet, and I knew it was the effects of what she had been given.
The sound of footsteps on the stairs were drawing nearer, and I was about to speak again when the door to the children’s room flew open, but it wasn’t Eli, or even the police like I expected—It was Anna, staring wide-eyed at the scene displayed before her, and my heart froze in my chest—fear taking over completely.