“I never loved any of the other ones. The wives, the kids—hell, I don’t think I even loved my mother. But you … you’re special, kid. You make me feel the way they all should have, and I wonder sometimes …” his voice trails off as he raises his eyes back toward me.
“What’s that, Daddy?” I ask as I wrap my arms around myself.
“I wonder if I had you first, if none of this would have ever happened,” he explains with a dry chuckle. “You love me. Honestly and truly love me—I can feel it. Jocelyn never did, neither did those waste of sperm brothers of hers. Laura was worthless, and Taylee—my mother … that bitch was loonier than a fucking toon. Trenton, my dear and loving father, wasn’t worth shit—he never came looking for me until it was too late. But you, baby girl … you love me. And can I be honest with you?”
My body is trembling because Dad is off on one of his tangents, but it’s not one drenched in anger and reprimands. It’s one from his heart and to me, that it makes it much deadlier.
“I love you, too Darbs. Even if you never say it back to me, I want you to know that you’re my favorite girl. You’re the only kid I’ve ever had that’s worth a damn. You take care of me, and because of that, I’ll take care of you as best as I can. Get dressed and go get the kids. I think it’s time we all had that chat you’ve been wanting to avoid.”
He leans down and presses his lips softly against mine, giving my ass a firm squeeze before he walks out of the room.
And just like that, he leaves me alone in the bathroom, naked, trembling, and terrified of what’s to come.
My heart is racing as the children sit on the sofa across from me. Dad walks a short line in front of them, looking at each of them in turn, before he scoffs, shakes his head, then comes to sit in the empty spot next to me.
I immediately take his hand in mine and squeeze it a little too tightly. If I make him uncomfortable enough, it will make him angry, and he’ll send the kids to their rooms. I’ll be left as his mercy, but at the very least, they’ll be able to walk away from this with their psyches unharmed.
“Ease up there, Darby,” he tells me in an even tone. I don’t. I can’t. Not if I want to keep the family secret safe from three innocent children. Dad coughs a couple of times as he jerks his hand out of my grip, then gives me a stern look.
Nothing is going to stop him from destroying the fantasy world they’ve been living in. A world where I’m just their mother and not their sister. A world where he’s just their father and not their grandfather.
How do I stop him?
“What’s going on?” Richter asks, arching an eyebrow at us curiously.
“We just wanted to tell you how much we love you,” I intercede, cutting Dad off before he has a chance to ruin their lives.
“Oh,” Richter says leaning back against the couch. “Thanks.”
“No. That’s not what we’re here to talk about,” Dad says in a loud tone, as he leans forward and turns to give me a dangerous glare. “And your mother tells you that she loves you and all you can say is ‘thanks?’’ he asks, turning his attention back to our son.
Richter looks visibly shaken now. He pulls his feet up onto the couch, wraps his arms around his knees and shrugs as his eyes dart toward me.
“Get your fucking feet off the couch,” Dad barks at him. “We don’t have nice furniture here just for you to fuck it up.”
“Sorry,” Richter replies quickly as he drops his feet back to the floor. He’s scared, and in those rare moments when he’s not pretending to be as brave as I try to be, he hugs his legs to his chest to try and hide his fear.
“Now, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted,” he begins again as he leans back against the couch and rests a hand on my thigh. “There are some things that me and your mom here need to explain to you.”
“Please don’t do this,” I whisper, my eyes burning a hole through his hand. “They don’t have to know.”
“Yes, they do. They have to learn how things work around here,” he snaps at me. He’s getting angry, maybe I still have a chance after all.
I get to my feet quickly and clap my hands loudly. The children get to their feet and look from me to Dad and back again.
“What the fuck is this?” he asks, coughing again.
“Go outside and play,” I tell them in a shaky tone. Dad doesn’t know it, but I’ve been training them too. When I stand and clap, I want them on their feet immediately and to follow my next instruction without worrying about what he’ll say to them. It took a long time to get them to this point and we worked on the fear they felt on the days that Dad would go into town and get groceries.
So many drills and never the chance to actually try it had me a little weary, but they don’t disappoint me and run out of the room.
“Do not go out that front door,” Dad booms as he gets to his feet.
“Go outside and play!” I shout.