I look at the mirror hanging on the wall. My father says that I look so much like her. My mom. I look like her. I can’t believe this. She disappeared when I five years old. I can’t be like her. I won’t be. My thoughts are interrupted by loud screeching.
“Abhaya! Abhaya get down here! NOW!” My stepmother screams at me.
My father said that he promised that he wouldn’t love anyone else but mom. He lied. To me and to him. I run down the stairs as quietly as I can.
“Don’t run down the stairs! Be a lady Abhaya!” Donatella snaps at me. Her daughters, Linda and Lillie snicker. Donatella doesn’t scold them for anything.
“Abhaya, I need you to bring me three cups of tea and a plateful of cookies. Now!" Donatella demands.
“That’s not very ladylike of you,” I mutter under my breath.
“Excuse me, what did you just say?” Donatella snaps from across the room.
“N-n-n-nothing,” I stutter.
I walk out of the room and down a long hallway full of valuable items and pictures of Donatella, Lillie, and Linda. My mother would never approve of their behavior. Aj and I imitate their behavior as a joke.
In the end, we end up on the floor laughing until we can’t breathe. I head to the kitchen and open up a box of tea and set it on the stove to boil.
I remember mother teaching me how to make tea the proper way. She used to stand behind me and teach me how to boil the water and how to drain it. I set the pot on the stove and start boiling the water.
While I wait I get a box of chocolate fudge cookies out of the pantry. They don’t deserve to know my mother’s recipe for cookies, cakes, dinners, and other foods.
I hid the cookbooks in my room under my bed. Then I found a secret compartment in the cupboard. Donatella wouldn’t dare look in there. I hear the water start to boil. I quickly start dumping the tea into three cups. I grab the plate of cookies and the cups of tea and put them onto a tray.
I walk back into the living room and set the tray down on a glass coffee table and quickly leave.
I head back to my small room in the attic. Aj stops me on my way. Aj has been my best friend since I was a baby. He always wanted to take care of me, he wanted to play with me even though he had school work. He always kept me out of trouble. Aj kept my world from falling apart when mother disappeared he always helped me when no one else could.
And when Donatella married father he promised me that he wouldn’t let her hurt me.
“Hey, where are you going? Abhaya, I need to talk with you for a minute,” Aj whispers into my ear.
“Okay. I was going to my room,” I say.
Aj and I climb what seemed like the never ending staircase up to my room.
“Abhaya, I heard father speaking on the phone earlier. He was talking to someone. They want you to. Um, well they want you to go live in a secret society and train you to become one of them. They might know where mother is and why she left,” Aj explains.
“Why me though?” I ask.
“Because Abhaya, you know mother the best and you are strong enough to do stuff that I can’t do. Plus you are younger than me, that means it’ll be easier for you to move around.”
Aj is right I am small enough to fit myself inside the closet upstairs. He is right about me being younger than him. I’m only sixteen and he’s twenty-one.
“Will father ask me about it?” I ask.
“I heard him say to the person on the phone that’ll he’ll talk to you this evening. Please do it Abhaya. For me and for father.”
“Okay. I’ll do it,” I say.
Aj wraps me into a hug. “Thank you so much. Thank you,” Aj whispers in my ear.
I wrap my arms around Aj. It’s been a long time since he’s hugged me. His job made him dirty and he didn’t want Donatella to hurt me or him. Aj unwraps his arms from me and walks out of my room quietly, closing the door behind him. I look outside the small window in my room. I see the outline of the buildings in Chicago. The city used to be beautiful in the spring. The flowers would bloom and fill the air with a sweet floral scent. We use to go to the park with mother and she would pick flowers and press them in a book and label them. I pull out the book with the flowers in it. I sit on the floor and read mother’s words, I can hear her soft voice as I read the words. I grab a backpack and put the book in it. Aj’s words echo in my mind.
I’ll do it. I’ve got to.
I go out to the garden and climb the tree that I found when Donatella made us move. She didn’t want to move out of the ginormous mansion that she was currently living in. We used to live in an apartment in the city together. Mom, dad, Aj and I, it was home. We lived near the park where mother taught me about flowers. Where Aj taught me how to swing. Where I broke my foot when I was five. All the memories come flooding back to me as I make my way up the tree.
I return to the house at five o’clock. Just before I have to cook dinner. I pull out one of mother’s recipes and pick out a recipe for creamy ziti. As I let the water boil for the noodles I pull out a loaf of bread and a stick of butter along with some garlic. I mix the garlic and butter together for garlic bread. I find a bag of cheese and sprinkle it onto the garlic bread. Hopefully, Donatella, Lillie, and Linda approve of the dish. Father comes through the door connecting to the garage just as I finish setting the table with food and utensils. Aj walks into the dining room. He hands me a note. I stuff it into my pocket. Donatella won’t be in here for the next fifteen minutes. I duck into the kitchen and open the note Aj handed me. It says,
We are in desperate need of your help. Please accept this offer. We will help you find your mother if you accept we will train you with the proper equipment and knowledge on survival to find her. If you reject this offer well that’s on you. We knew your mother, please help. You must respond within seventy-two hours.
“TID. What is TID?” I ask myself.
Just as I finish my thought, Donatella comes storming in with anger. I shove the note into my sleeve.
“ Abhaya! Abhaya we need you to serve us! Your father isn’t down here nor is your brother. Get in the dining room now!” Donatella snaps. I sigh and walk out of the kitchen. I do as Donatella says.
Otherwise, she’ll hurt me in a way that I can’t describe. As I put the ziti and bread on Donatella’s, Lillie’s and Linda’s plates they start knocking off the napkins, forks, knives, and cups on the ground like two-year-olds. I stop and pick up the objects that scatter the floor as I finally get to Aj’s and father’s plates they walk in.
Aj has perfectly groomed hair with a white polo shirt on, along with a pair of black dress pants. Father has the same things on. I set down the tongs and the plate filled with ziti, along with the bread basket. We eat in silence as the sound of silverware clinks against glass plates and the sound of glasses being set down on the wooden table.
When everyone is done eating I get up and start collecting plates, silverware, and glasses. Aj always wants to help me but I tell him that he needs to focus on college and studying so he can get away from Donatella and this stupid house. I dump the leftovers in the trash and I start filling the sink with warm water adding soap creating bubbles. I brush my long brown hair away from face. Father walks into the kitchen.
“Abhaya, I need to talk to you outside. It’s urgent.” He whispers into my ear. I stop and gently put the plate I was scrubbing into the sink. I look back and question my choice.
“Leave it Abhaya. It’s fine.” Father says soothingly.
I nod and follow him out of the house and out back.
I stop. There are two people standing in the shadows. I can tell that one is a woman and the other is a man. They are dressed in black pants, a black shirt and they have black boots on. They both have on a dark maroon armband. The woman wears a black leather jacket. The man has a black coat on, both wear a black hat concealing their faces.