Though I was very young when my father died, I still remember some of what happened that night. It was supposed to be his thirty-sixth birthday party. We had many guests over and we were waiting for him to come home just as we did every weekend. I loved weekends just for that reason. My daddy was always gone during the week, but came home every Friday bearing gifts for my siblings and me. And though that weekend it was our turn to give him a gift, I knew he would have gifts for us as well.
My twin Cory and I were only four at the time. We both loved our parents and our brother and sister a lot. Life seemed perfect, but it would all end the night my father was killed on his way home from work. It was hard for my twin and I to really understand that we wouldn't be seeing our father anymore because he had gone to heaven, but we were still very upset about it. We had our own language that only we could understand. We knew we wouldn't see him on weekends anymore, though our older siblings Chris and Cathy thought we didn't.
There was a lot that Cathy and Chris thought we didn't understand at the time. They thought that we didn't know why we had to go and live in one room and the attic when daddy went away. They thought we didn't understand anything the Grandmother said or did. They thought we didn't understand that momma had stopped loving us, and they thought I didn't know Cory had died from the poisoned donuts. We might have been young when we were imprisoned but we weren't deaf or dumb. We knew we weren't good enough to be on the outside world just because our mother had married her half-uncle.
Cory was the only one who understood me and whom I could talk to. Cathy and Chris wanted to protect us from knowing the truth about our mother, but we knew. How could we not when at first she came often to see us and then she stopped coming? If she did come to visit us, she only talked and hugged Chris. Rarely did she talk to Cathy, who I knew drove her crazy when she asked when we could be let out of the room. She never looked at Cory or I though. I remember sitting and longing for her to hold me on her lap the way she used to when daddy was alive, but she would never look at me.
"Why don't momma love us anymore Carrie?" Cory asked me once after she had left. Cathy was busy dancing in the attic, and Chris who was forever reading had his nose stuck in a book.
"I don't know," I answered him just as bewildered. "She still loves Chris don't she? She always hugs him. Maybe it's because we are Devils Spawn. But Chris and Cathy are too and she looks at them."
Us being the Devil's Spawn was something we talked about often. Seed planted in the wrong soil. It was what Grandmother had told us from the very beginning wasn't it? We were no good. And that's why instead of being nice to us like Grandmothers should, she had picked me up by my hair, and why she had slapped Cory. Cory and I were famous for our temper-tantrums when we were so little, but never had we been hit. Momma or daddy often put us in time outs or took away our toys. The first time I had ever been hurt was by that cruel old lady who had not only whipped our mother, but Cathy and Chris as well.
"Is it because we don't grow?" Cory pushed. "Cathy and Chris are so tall. They have kept growing even though we are in this room, but Carrie we don't grow at all. Cathy told Chris that we've only grown two inches since we moved here. Carrie, Chris said we should have grown a lot more than that!"
Though we didn't go to school, and we never had been to one, we knew a lot more than we probably should have at that age. Cathy and Chris were inexperienced teachers, and yet we knew more from them than we should have being locked up at our most fundamental ages. While children ages five, six, seven and eight were sitting in a classroom being taught by educated adults, we had two people who were no more than children themselves teaching us. We learned to read and write while being held captive. That's not the only thing we learned though, we learned we were no good to anyone, not even our own mother who should have loved us. We were children who should never have been born, so we were punished by God who gave us tiny bodies and huge heads. Later Cory would be punished until he died.
That's where my story begins. I don't like to remember the days that we were locked up, though it's hard to forget. The only good thing about them was that Cory was with me. Other than that, they were days filled with cruelty from adults who should have loved us, and days full of hunger and boredom and older siblings who thought we were too dumb and young to understand anything of what was going on. As the days went on, the hunger and the stomachaches only got worse and worse.
Cory was always a sickly boy, and though we usually ended up getting sick together, he was always worse off than I was. So when we both started to throw up often, and felt so weak and tired I grew worried when he got worse and worse quicker. At times I would glare at Chris and Cathy, yelling at them mutely to do something instead of trying to steal money from momma all the time. They were both so concerned about escaping the house that they didn't seem to notice that Cory was getting worse as each day went by. I didn't realize at the time that they were trying to escape because we were getting sicker, all I knew was that every night Chris left to get more money for us to leave, and I got annoyed by it each time. If he had a key, why wasn't he getting Cory help?
I felt too sick to tell them my thoughts, and I knew they wouldn't take me seriously anyway. So I tried to spend as much time with my brother as I could, not only to comfort him but I needed the comfort as well. If I could be close to my beloved twin brother, than I was a little content even with my stomach pains. Oh how I miss my brother so much, I often dream that we could be together someday. And maybe someday we can be.
There came a day when Cory just wouldn't stop throwing up. I fell asleep, but I know Chris and Cathy stayed up all night with him. I woke up to find Chris and Cathy whispering in worried voices, and shooting Cory anxious glances. I glanced at him worriedly too just at the Grandmother walked in, and automatically I froze. Cory and I had slept in the same bed together that night, that was one of the main rules of living in that room. Boys and girls could not sleep in the same bed. She however barely glanced at me. Cathy stepped forward, and I had to admire her bravery to speak to that beast of a woman.
"Grandmother," she said sounding really nervous.
"I have not spoke to you, wait until I do," she said in such a cold voice and I cringed inside knowing that both Chris and Cathy could do something that could get them whipped again. There were times when I did admire their bravery, I also felt that they were fools to test her when they knew what she was capable of.
"I can't wait," Cathy snapped. "Cory's sick! He's been throwing up all night, and all day yesterday. He needs a doctor, and his mother."
And that woman did absolutely nothing. She just turned and left without looking at any of us. I felt my anger grow that she would ignore us. I ignored my own weakness as I moved closer to hug my brother. How could she treat us this way? We had done nothing wrong in our eight years of life. Why did we have to be punished for something we didn't have a choice over? I stared down into my twins face with tears streaming down my own. Some dripped onto his cheeks, but I didn't wipe them away. Get better Cory, please get better! I thought mutely as we stared into each others eyes. Cory would never cry, even though he was so sick. He tried so hard not to cry in front of Chris, who he had so much respect and admiration for. There were times when he couldn't hold the tears in, but that day he seemed so strong though I knew he must have felt terrible. We ignored Chris and Cathy who whispered about finding momma themselves.
I didn't even look up when the Grandmother returned with momma. Cory had closed his eyes by then, and I knew something was wrong. He made such odd noises and his chest seemed to be having spasms. I felt such terror in my heart and glanced over at Momma at last to see what she would do about her son. Look at him Momma! I thought angrily as I stared at her weakly. Look at your son and see what you are doing to him for that money Chris and Cathy say you want. I didn't move as she and the Grandmother came over to touch him, though the old woman glared at me. For the first time in the three years I lived there, I didn't flinch as she looked at me. I was too concerned about my brother to care. They however moved away to whisper and stare at him, as if they didn't know what to do. Cathy yelled the words I could only think.
"Why are you standing there whispering? What choice do you have but to take him to take Cory to a hospital and get him the best doctor available?"
And all Momma could do is stare down at her son and look as if she were ready to cry.
"What's the matter with you, momma? Are you just going to stand there and think about yourself, and that money while your youngest son lies there and dies? You have to help him! Don't you care what happens to him? Have you forgotten you are his mother? If you haven't, then, damn it, act like his mother! Stop hesitating! He needs attention now, and not tomorrow!" Cathy screamed.
And after all this, all momma could do was yell at Cathy and slap her. I had never seen my mother slap my sister or brother in the eight years I had lived. And I couldn't believe it. There was her son dying, and all she could do was slap and yell at her oldest daughter, who had yelled out the truth. Cathy surprised me though, and slapped her back. What surprised me even more was that it was the Grandmother who told my mother to take my brother to the hospital. That hateful old woman who could only be cruel to us was the one who finally made the decision.
However, it wasn't until later that they actually took him away. And though I knew he needed to go to a hospital, I couldn't help but feel devastated for I had never been away from my twin. I watched as they wrapped him up in a green blanket and I screamed out my anguish.
"Don't take Cory away!" I yelled. "Don't take him, don't..." I threw myself at Cathy and stared at her pleadingly, even though knowing deep down that he was going somewhere that could make him better. I wanted to go too though. Why couldn't we all go and get better together? Not only was I feeling sick, but so was Cathy and Chris. Why hadn't they told my mother this as well? My grief was so strong that I hit out at my older sister and sobbed about being left behind. And all I could think about was the fact that he had forgotten his guitar, though I don't know why it mattered.
I had trouble sleeping that night, even though I rarely suffered fromsleep problems like Cathy so often did. I laid between Chris and Cathy in bed and kept my eyes closed whiled I imagined that Cory was getting all the care he needed. He would be back the next day all better, and then we could leave the room forever. Chris wanted to be a doctor someday, and doctors knew everything. Chris had helped Cory's pet mouse get better, so of course the doctors at the hospital would make my twin better.
But that wouldn't be the case. After a long sleepless night, I watched from the rocking chair in the room as Chris and Cathy changed the bed sheets. Then I fixed my eyes on the door. It hadn't taken long for Chris to make Mickey better, and he was just seventeen. Surely those doctors at the hospital wouldn't take long to make Cory better. In fact, he was probably wondering where I was. Long before he had left, he'd passed out. I bet he didn't even know they had taken him away, and he was probably worried about me. Mutely I called out to him. I'm okay Cory, don't worry. You just get better in that ole hospital and come back to me. Then we can go to the circus with Cathy and Chris, even if it does sound dangerous. It has to be better than this, anything is better than being locked up, right?
Though I would obsess over it later, and some would call me crazy, I was sure I heard an answering voice back. I'm sorry Carrie, so sorry. I tried to stay but couldn't. Daddy says I have to go with him, but everything is going to be okay... I promise. Please don't be sad without me. At the time I ignored the words. As I would grow older though, I would wonder if I had actually heard those words or had just imagined them.
At the time though, I didn't pay any attention to those thoughts. I just continued to imagine Momma coming back in the room with my brother, who would smile at me and tell me that he was all better. And then maybe we wouldn't even have to go to the circus. Maybe Momma would realize that it wasn't good to ignore us and keep us locked up. She would take us out, and we would all be happy, even if Momma had a new daddy for us. Someday I would grow up love him, but he would never take my own daddies place.
Momma came in with the Grandmother after what felt like a long morning. She looked as if she had been crying, and I stared at those red-rimmed eyes. Where was my brother? And somehow I knew, even before she got the words out. He was gone. He had said good-bye to me in my head, hadn't he? Or had I already known he was gone and I had just imagined that's what he would say? Either way, I knew that he was gone before she said anything. It didn't stop the words from hurting less as she told us that Cory had died from Pneumonia, something I would later learn was a lie.
I didn't react until I saw Cathy begin to cry, and then I threw my head back and I screamed. I screamed even though it hurt, but no physical pain could feel worse than the emotional pain I felt. Grandmother could lift me up by my hair at that moment, and it still wouldn't hurt as much as it did knowing that Cory was gone. He had gone to a place where I could never talk to him, touch him or see him again. And I didn't want to be here anymore. I wanted the sickness that had taken him to take me too. For what was life without by brother, my best friend, my companion who had been with me since the moment we'd been conceived?