Chapter 6

I remembered the first time I’d been called to my father’s office to be disciplined. I’d been five years old, and my mom had been away on a trip. My father had caught me trying to clean spilled grape juice out of the carpet of his favorite sports car. I just remembered feeling sick to the point of vomiting, a hysterically crying the whole time I sat in his office.

Marching through my house after midnight I expected to feel marginally the same. I didn’t. I was embarrassed, and upset, but most of all I was just angry. The all-over sort of deep, frigid anger. I was angry with myself for getting caught, and the scientists that were testing on Malachi, and my father for being so cruel.

“Why?” I asked curtly.

“Why what?”

“Why are you doing this?” I watched as my father shuffled the papers on his desk, a frustrated tremor running through his hands.

“You don’t understand.”

“Then explain it to me.”

He froze. The meaning was blunt enough to break through.

“Then explain it to me.” The words were foreign on my tongue, but we both knew them well. They’d been buried with every little detail I’d tried to hold onto about my mom.

“You wouldn’t understand.” He continued the frantic movements with a renewed madness. I bristled. He couldn’t know that I wouldn’t understand—but more likely he didn’t have a reason himself.

“Dad, there is a boy held captive in our basement. What is there to understand?” My mom would have kept her cool, said everything calmly. I hadn’t inherited that from her.

“You don’t understand. What we are doing is revolutionary—it could change how the world looks at energy.”

“He’s not one of your fuel cells!”

“And I suppose you know all about what he is? Had a chat? What do you think you could know about this, Scarlett? You think you understand? You don’t know anything.”

“I know that it’s wrong, and he deserves to be free, and he’s just a boy.”

“My point is proven. This doesn’t concern you.”

It’s happening in my house! I have to fall asleep tonight knowing he’s locked up down there, just waiting to be experimented on. How doesn’t that concern me? You think you can do whatever you want, huh? Because mom’s gone? Because the only thing you focus on anymore is work? I’m here too!

I wanted to scream the words… to let them spill from my mouth and uncover the thorn in my heart. But I couldn’t. I just stood, barely managing to mumble a “Yes it does…”

“No. It doesn’t, Scarlett. This doesn’t concern you.”

The conversation was over, and I knew a bridge had been burned.


I made it to the foyer before the tears started streaming down my cheeks. I’d always had the quiet household. My friends would complain about fighting with their parents and I would sit back and just listen. My father and I didn’t fight. We barely interacted on a family-like basis.

I’d never realized how scary it could be. Even at seventeen

I slipped past the stairs, stumbling to the third door on the which, which opened onto the stone path to Sylvia’s guesthouse. I pushed open the door, but froze on the threshold. A night breeze chilled my arms and face, but all I could do was stair.

It wasn’t Sylvia’s problem. She deserved her sleep, not a sobbing teenage girl. It was my issue, and I’d deal with it myself—I had to.

I slumped against the wall, the door securely closed. I wasn’t willing to wake her, to admit how upset I was, to show my vulnerability. Most importantly, I didn’t want to see the pity in her eyes. I didn’t want to have to face her in the morning, and pretend like nothing had happened.

I buried my face in my arms, choking down the sobs and trying to quell the shudders. Seconds—minutes, hours—later I stumbled back down the hall and up the stairs before finally collapsing on my bed, leaving a trail of tears.


“I’m sorry.”

My dream came into a sudden, startling clarity. I’d been struggling against mud and water and grime, trying to desperately keep my head above. I was surrounded by darkness, the outline of plants, or animals, or people just visible on the edge of the muck-filled pit. Suddenly, though, I could feel the sand in the mud taste the dirt and earth in my mouth, and smell sweat and my own desperation. I slowly lifted my head, and stared into the eyes of Malachi.

He stood strong on the edge of the pit. The bruises were gone, and a healthy color had returned to his face, and a life had flooded his eyes. His hand was held out towards me, offering help.


He grabbed my wrist, pulling me from the muck. As soon as my foot touched solid ground the mud disappeared, replaced by dry dirt.

“Because. I caused all of this.”

As he spoke a moon appeared, followed by a thousand smiling stars. Their light illuminated a field of swaying grass, extending as far as I could see all around us. I turned back to Malachi, but he was walking away, a silvery outline of two wings glowing on his shirt.
Then he was gone, and I was left with the stars.


The dream still lingered in my mind as I pulled a blouse over my head, the silky fabric slipping across my face. My alarm clock read 8:19, far later than I was used to getting up. I slipped into a clean pair of jeans before slouching back against my bed.

I was numb, but I didn’t want to face my father. Even dampened emotions registered the unpleasantness of that idea.

The smell of waffles finally roused me from my stupor. I plodded down the stairs, following my nose into the kitchen, where Sylvia stood busy with a bowl of batter and the waffle iron.

“It’s about time you got up, Deary.”

“Yeah… I know.”

“Is everything alright?”

“You’re, making waffles, what could be wrong?” I forced a smile, and climbed onto one of the island’s stools.

She knew I was lying, but she didn’t push the subject.

“Deary… you need to get out of this house. What about the art store? The bookstore? Any knew books you would like to read?”

“Maybe. I was thinking about painting something…”

“Then it’s a plan! We’ll be off after breakfast.”
Without hesitation she slid a Belgium waffle onto my plate, peanut butter and Nutella already smeared across its top. I took a bite and the warm, creamy, gooey goodness filled my mouth. A glass of milk appeared by my plate, rinsing away the chocolate and peanut butter film.

“Now, I will just have to grab my things, and we can be off.”

“I should probably check the office, just in case something urgent came in,” I countered, cutting into the second half of my waffle.

“Deary! Really. You can take one day off.”

“Sylvia, I don’t think Comwell would survive if I took a day off.”

A boisterous laugh exploded from Sylvia.

“You’re probably right, but all those smarty-pants could use a bit of excitement.”

“I’m still going to check.”

“I know you will, but be quick about it.”

I pushed the empty plate towards the sink and slid off the chair. The tile was cold—I’d forgotten my socks—as I moseyed towards the office. I paused outside the door, but no voices came from the rooms, so I stepped in.

The answering machine blinked, alerting me to new messages, but I was much more concerned with the red piece of paper placed in the center of my desk.

Come down to the lab.

It was undoubtedly my father’s haphazard handwriting. All thoughts of the art store left my mind. I searched for some rationale, some reason my father would have for asking me to the lab. I could only thing of one—and that was for a demonstration.

I dashed out of the office, skidding towards the stairs, and taking them two at a time. I swiped my key card—not caring who saw or who questioned it. I’d seen the lab full of white coats before. I’d spent enough time running notes to my father to get used to all of the nation’s top nerds scurrying about. It only took a moment to find him, to pick out his tan skin against all of the white.

Malachi was at the center of everything, and I had no idea what to do.      

The End

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