Embers (Inferno 3) - Page 9


I wonder what crosses her mind when he yells at her. Does she hate him, or does she desperately seek his approval like I did when I was her age?

I wonder how Richter feels when Dad tells him that he’s a waste of time and to fuck off. Does it break his heart like it used to do to me, or does he try to figure out a way to be seen in a better light?

And Skylar.

Does she feel lost when Dad looks at her the way he looked at me the first time he came into my bedroom after he put Mom back into the well? Has he already put his hands on her and made her s

wear not to tell me?

Fuck.

The longer I sit in the darkness, the more these thoughts fill my mind, the more I find myself wondering if I’m too late to save them.

My eyes open with a start.

I’m so damn angry at myself for falling asleep but when Cleo smiles at me, I know she’s forgiven me.

“Hi Momma,” she says softly.

I pull her close and kiss her forehead, before I get to my feet and glance up at the sunlight. The wooden cover has been removed from the top of the well and that means that Dad is waiting for us.

Unless it was one of the kids, but I doubt it. They know his wrath is as terrible as ever now, and the older he gets, the meaner and colder he becomes.

They don’t know the father that I did when I was younger. He had his moments where he could be so kind, that I would almost forget all of the terrible things he would do to me.

Trips to the zoo, an ice cream cone for being good, and sometimes, if I were really well behaved, he’d go weeks without making me sleep in his bed.

Little favors like that sometimes outweighed the bad and that’s why it was easy for me to forgive him after we had Cleo.

No one will understand it, but it’s not for anyone to understand. Forgiveness is something not easily achieved and I love my father—even if not in the way he hopes, but I do.

It’s an undeniable feeling deep inside of my belly.

But so is the ominous shadow that sits over his face as of late, and that’s why I smart off to him more often than not.

I need to keep him angry with me so that they’re safe. When Dad loses his temper, he also uses a lot of energy up these days, and that’s for the best.

“Come on up—I don’t have all fucking day to stand around waiting for you two,” he barks down into the semi-darkness. I sigh as I hold Cleo close and look around the old, worn bricks that surround us. I’m not entirely sure how he expects me to get out of here without the rope ladder, but there’s only one way out and that’s up.

“Remember when I used to run around with you on my back?” I ask Cleo gently. “How you would hold onto my neck really tight, like a strong girl?”

She pulls away from me and looks into my eyes, nodding with serious eyes.

“Can you do that for me now?” I inquire. She nods again and I set her down on the dirty oubliette floor, kneeling in the dismal remnants that my mother had to endure on her own as Cleo uses both of her hands to push the hair out of her face, and kisses me gently on the cheek. She’s scared, but she’s trying to be such a brave little girl right now.

That’s why I can’t let him win.

If he does, she’s at his mercy and I’ll end up in the same place that Jocelyn was thrown away to die.

“Go on now,” I encourage with a small smile. “Show Momma that you’re still a strong girl.”

Cleo moves carefully around me and climbs onto my back, her little arms wrapping around my neck, hands clasped together, and holds on tightly. I get back to my feet and instruct her to wrap her legs around my sides as much as she can. Once she’s as secure around my body as possible, I look up at the top of the oubliette toward freedom.

I chew on my lower lip for a moment while I look for a crevice, a crack, anything, that I can use to begin my ascent when I finally find one. I dig my nails deep into the hole between the bricks, the tips of my fingers grazing something curious, but I dismiss it for now, and begin to lift my body up the side, climbing like a Momma bear with my cub on my back.

I slip once and almost lose my footing, but when I hear Cleo’s terrified gasp, I manage to regain my footing, and continue climbing.

We’re about halfway up when Dad leans over the side of the oubliette and smirks, tossing the rope ladder down.


Tags: Yolanda Olson Inferno Dark
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