By, Susan Sage
Nicole turned the key in the lock, chills speeding up her arm. She pushed her shoulder against the wooden slab. Stepping forward, she tripped against the doorframe. She trembled thinking of too many days in this house.
Why didn’t I stay home that day like Mom said? Her hand skimmed across the paneled walls. She remembered the first time she’d touched this wood. Her mind swept back twenty years and a shiver spread up her spine.
Falling over the threshold, twelve-year-old Nicole tried to catch herself before her face hit the floor. With her arms pulled behind her back, nothing could cushion the fall. The captor grabbed the rope around her wrists and yanked. Her scream ripped through the cloth between her lips.
“What have you done? She’s too old. We sell little children and babies, not … not this age. Cut her loose and uncover her eyes,” said a tinny voice.
“She’ll try to run,” growled the bulky figure holding her arms down.
“Cut. Her. Loose,” the voice said.
Fingernails scratched her forehead pulling the rough cloth from her eyes.
Nicole squeezed her eyes and slowly opened them. She couldn’t see much through her tears. Her chin trembled but she would not cry, not in front of them.
She felt the cold metal against her wrist and her breath caught. With hands free, she rubbed her wrists, shoulder, and down her arms. Darting her eyes around to see something, anything except her kidnappers, she noticed all the closed blinds on the windows. If she couldn’t see out, no one could see in. Shudders crept across her neck and down her bare arms again.
“Use her to watch the young ones,” Tinny voice said.
Nicole shuddered and felt tears. Setting her jaw, she held the tears back.
She rubbed her shoulders as her thoughts returned to the present. “Who knew this old place would be so horrendous for many children.”
Nicole moved through the house slowly, reliving shards of recollections. Walking into the kitchen, she noticed the sunlight illuminating stains across the marble counters. She’d scrubbed them until her knuckles bled and yet all these years later the discolorations remained like the inner blemishes likely left on the children.
“How many, Lord? How many children did they steal from their homes and sold before I came here?
Turning to the back stairwell, she stepped toward the darkness. Her body began to sway. Did she really need to go back down there? She’d spent thousands of dollars and worked countless hours over the last twenty years learning to live in the present instead of drowning in the past. She reached her hand up to her neck breathing slowly.
“It holds no power over me. The memories can’t hurt me anymore,” she said, her voice echoing off the emptiness. She drew herself up, grasped the banister, and descended the stairs.
Her eyes finally adjusted to the dark of the windowless basement. And there it was. The once hidden door.
“Oh God, I don’t know how you caused me to find the latch but thank you,” Nicole said, once again words spoken only between her and God. Touching the door, thoughts took her like water down a drain.
Nicole crawled from one child to another, changing diapers, cleaning vomit, rocking screaming infants. At least there were only five right now. She stood trying to stretch the soreness from her back.
“Do other fourteen-year-olds feel this old,” she said to no one. Leaning against the wall, she felt pressure against her side through her threadbare shirt.
She reached her hand out to find it again. There. What is that? Moving her fingers over the spot, she searched for … what? Something inside kept her feeling in the space. Suddenly she felt it. A latch. She pushed. It budged. Her heart’s rhythm escalated. She pressed harder and it gave way. The sheet of wood dislodged.
With the babies crying again, she had to work quickly. She whispered for five-year-old Margaret and four-year-old Caleb to help her. Maybe together they could push. Tears began to fall when a cool breezed brushed her face. “Harder,” she whispered.
Nicole felt the recollection slip away. Finding that half door had changed everything. She re-traced her steps up the stairs, through the kitchen and back to the front door. She’d finally saved enough money to buy this nightmare-of-a-house for one reason.
Rising to her full five foot height and pulling her shoulders back she strode through the door closing its massiveness behind her. Nicole smiled and looked up to the bluest sky she’d ever seen as she marched past the waiting wrecking ball.
Susan, thank you for sharing this flash fiction story with us today. I look forward to reading your next contribution to Pandora's Box.
Thank you to everyone for stopping by. Feel free to leave a comment for Susan below.
About the Author
Susan Sage is from N. California where she lives with her husband, son, and very energetic golden retriever. She writes a weekly blog, found at Susan Sage where she uses every day circumstances to encourage women in their faith walk with God. Susan enjoys reading in many genres, teaching women’s Bible studies, and spending time with friends at every opportunity. Susan speaks for women’s retreats, luncheons, and other engagements. Her topic of choice involves helping women find their identity in God’s love.
You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and at her website.