No One Hurts Like Family

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No One Hurts Like Family

Post by Dani Emmannuelle on Sat Aug 30, 2014 12:04 am

New Orleans - Algiers
Saturday, 6 March, 2011

(Trigger warnings: Pain, Abuse (Physical, Emotional), Attempted Rape (Unsuccessful), Blood, Teenage Victim)

"You little harlot! I oughtta tan your pretty little backside!" The woman shouted. She was a short, stocky middle-aged woman, pale and plain, with the voice of a harpy and all the compassion of a starving cobra where young Emily was concerned. Her name was Michelle Morganthe, and she was also Emily's foster-mother, at least for the last couple of months. Currently, she was shouting and waving a report card from Emily's latest school that had just come in the mail. It didn't matter what was on it, Emily still wasn't good enough.

"I took you in, you little bitch, and I expect you to be quiet and do what you're told! This is not good enough!" Michelle waved the paper again, then crumpled it up and threw it at Emily's feet. She raised a hand as if to slap the young woman, certainly not the first blow she had struck, but she was interrupted by laughter from the doorway, two girls and a boy, all just a little older than Emily. They were currently laughing at Emily's predicament, like they always did and Emily knew that she'd be hearing about this for days in the meanest ways possible.

The interruption, however, was enough for Michelle to get a hold of her irritation and lower her hand, though her nostrils flared and her mouth clamped into a thin, bloodless line when her husband came into the living room, passing by Emily and placing his hand on her lower back in a fleeting touch. She opened her mouth to speak but a knock at the front door stopped her. She turned to look and her brow furrowed before she turned back to Emily. "Go to your room." She snapped, pointing at the stairs. "And don't come out until dinner."

On the brink of tears, Emily dashed past the kids in the doorway, doing her best to ignore the taunts they called after her as she hurried up the stairs and into her room, slamming the door behind her. Little more than a pantry, there was barely enough room for her bed and drawers. There wasn't even a window - her only source of light was a lamp she'd managed to get ahold of and hook up on top of her drawers.

Burying her face in her pillow, she screamed into it, the sound muffled so that no one outside could hear. Pulling her face away, she sniffled, wiping her nose as she hugged the pillow close. Why was Mrs. Morganthe so mean to her? She tried to do good in school, her teachers even said she was a smart girl, but it was never good enough for her!

Whimpering, she pulled Charlie out of the pillowcase, cradling the disembodied teddy bear's head against her chest. She missed daddy and Alex so much... She just wanted her family back! Every night, before falling asleep, she prayed that her family would find her here, and take her away, and she would have a real family again, not a mom that hated her and older brothers and sisters that always picked on her. And every morning, nothing changed. Daddy was probably dead along with Alex, and mom... Mom probably had no idea where she was.

Emily only had a few minutes to herself to cry. Muffled insults and taunts came through the thin door as one or another of the other foster children passed by, but for once no one tried to get into her room, to take her stuff or torment her or make her cry by threatening to throw away Charlie, contenting themselves with making her miserable only in passing. Beyond the other children, she could hear voices downstairs, too quiet to be understood. All she could make out was that there was another woman down there with her foster parents.

Then, much more clearly, she heard Michelle say in a disgusted tone, "I'll go get her."

A moment later, there came the heavy, purposeful steps of her foster-mother coming up the stairs and down the hall, reminiscent as always of the boots of a hangman, slow and steady and loud. They stopped in front of Emily's door and there was a loud knock. "You have a visitor. Get downstairs before I drag you down."

Wiping her eyes, Emily quickly stowed Charlie back inside her pillowcase, placing it back in its proper place on the bed. Taking deep breaths to calm herself, she opened the door and stepped out, her eyes on the floor as Michelle looked down at her. Clad in a pair of ratty hand-me-down jeans that were too big for her, a faded blue t-shirt with several bleach stains, and a pair of worn-down tennis shoes, she wasn't much to look at.

Michelle grabbed her by the elbow, wrenching her painfully as she dragged Emily to the stairs. At their head, she gave Emily a push, seemingly only barely restraining herself from throwing the poor girl down the hardwood staircase, and she didn't hold back the sneer as she said, "Go. I don't know what a woman like that wants with a wretch like you, but it's not my problem as long as she's paying me."

Michelle gave her one last glare. "Don't you dare fuck this up for us. She's important and rich, and if you disappoint or upset her, I swear to god I will beat you bloody."

Michelle disappeared as Emily went down the stairs, off to terrorize someone else for a bit. The other children were also not in evidence, a strange circumstance if there ever was one in this home. At the foot of the stairs was the old, careworn living room with its worn and stained furniture and couch with the sunken cushions. Standing in the middle of it, as out of place as a white rose in a garden of weeds, stood a woman. 

She was taller than Emily, a gorgeous specimen of humanity with wavy, perfect hair so black it was almost blue. Her eyes were periwinkle colored with silver flecks and her skin was as pale as Emily's own. She was clad in a white skirt suit and white heels, the heels making her legs stand out and the suit emphasizing the almost-pornographic curves of her otherwise trim form. She had a white designer purse with a silver buckle over one shoulder, and she was staring at Emily with a small smile on her dark pink lips.

"Hello, Emily," said her mother.

The girl's eyes widened in disbelief. She burst into tears, running forward to wrap her arms around her mother's waist. "Mom! Mom, mom, mom!" She squealed, having trouble believing it. "I can't believe you're here, I can't believe you found me!"

Her mother actually let Emily hug her for a moment, returning the embrace perfunctorily before pushing her daughter back to arm's length. In a patient tone, she said, "I always knew where you were. I just did not have time to come check on you before now." Her mother's voice was something out of those dreams that men and women have in the small hours just before waking, the shameful, exciting kind that Emily was only just beginning to discover.

Emily's mother set her purse down on the floor and sank back into an old armchair with thin cushions, grimacing slightly. Crossing her left leg over her right she gestured at the other armchair and said, "Sit. Tell me how you are."

Emily took a seat, confused but determined to be on her best behavior. "I... Well, Michelle is mean, the other kids are mean, my room is a closet... I hate it here, I hate it!" She blurted. Then she brightened, smiling ecstatically. "But all that's over now! You're here to take me home!"

Laura, her mother, smiled back at Emily but there was no warmth in it. Seemingly ignoring Emily's statement, she asked, "And how is school? Do you have friends? A boyfriend?" She paused for a second as the cellphone in her purse pinged sharply, pulling it out and checking it, then shaking her head in exasperation and dropping it back into her purse. He fingers were long and fine, pianist's hands, and Emily could see that she wore no rings. She looked back up at Emily and rolled her eyes. "Work, as usual," she explained. "But now, back to my question."

"Oh. Uh... School's okay, I guess. My teachers say I'm really smart, and I really like science class! Next semester, we're going to study the human body!" She paused, trying to recall the rest of the question. "Uhm... No friends at school, all the girls think I'm weird and all the boys keep asking me out. I don't really like any of them though, they're all jerks and they just stare at my boobs." She replied, crossing her arms over her chest angrily.

Then her eyes softened, and she smiled slightly. "There is this one girl... Her name's Hannah, and she's really nice to me, and really cute, and sometimes she invites me over for sleepovers, but Michelle usually doesn't let me go."

Laura nodded slowly. "A... girl." She said slowly. "I see. How... nice." Her tone was cold, suddenly, and calculating. She chewed at a corner of her mouth for a moment before she nodded to herself, seemingly coming to a decision. "Well," she started in a dismissive tone, "I am glad that you enjoy school, and that you have found someone to pine after." She stood suddenly, checking her phone again and tsk'ing between her teeth. She sighed. "Well, I'm sorry to cut this short, but I think I have to be going soon. Can you tell me where your foster mother has gone off to?"

 "I... Aren't you taking me with you?" Emily asked, confused. "That's why you came, isn't it? To take me home?"

"This is your home." Laura said impatiently. "I can't be bothered with a hormonal teenager. You were your father's responsibility, not mine. He is the one who wanted to keep you." She slid her phone into her purse and buckled it shut. "Your father was a sentimental fool. A nice man, sweet, but not a forward thinker." She shook her head, her black hair waving like a curtain. "If you want to see me in the future, come find me when you are a grown woman, and we shall see if a place can be found for you."

"Mom... This isn't funny..." She said as she stood up, her heart racing. "I just want to go home with you... You're my mother, you can't leave me here! Please, I'll be good, I'll be on my best behavior, just take me home!" She cried plaintively. "Please, please don't leave me here!" Desperately, she ran forward, trying to latch onto her mother.

The slap came from behind, a hard cuff to the back of Emily's head that knocked her off balance. Laura slid smoothly out of the way, shaking her head and looked at Michelle, who was the one who had hit her. Michelle's face was a curious mix of apologetic and full of rage, and Laura's was one of resigned understanding.

"Miss Romany, I am so sorry." Michelle said emphatically. "This one has fantasies. I am afraid she has not adjusted to losing her family very well, and I fear that she is latching on to anyone who can take her out of this good and godly home." She wrung her hands. "Please, I must apologize again for any discomfort that this has caused." She shot Emily a venomous look before continuing, "I promise that she will be taught the error of her ways."

Laura inclined her head gracefully. "Please, Mrs. Morganthe, it's no trouble. Young girls are often confused and emotional, especially in this situation." She patted Michelle on the shoulder and said, "Here, let me give you something for your trouble." She produced a checkbook, writing quickly, and Michelle's eyes lit up as she was handed the paper.

"That is for looking after her, and remaining strong and faithful in the face of her budding sinful, homosexual urges." She flashed a wintry smile at Emily before saying in a voice oozing with false sweetness, "I do hope that you can help her find her way."

Michelle's eyes were narrow, and the apology had vanished in the face of a towering, burning rage, but she managed to keep her voice calm as she said, "Of course, Miss Romany. We will do our best." he slowly turned her head to look at Emily and pointed up the stairs, seemingly on the verge of actually snarling at her.

The color drained from Emily's face at her mother's casual revealing of her deepest secret. She looked desperately at her mother, but there was no compassion there, no love - just ice. Barely holding it together, she dashed up the stairs, barely managing to get her door shut before she burst into tears. This wasn't a normal cry, like the sort she had when Michelle found some new way to make her life hell. This was body-wracking sobs, so intense that no sound came out. Tears streamed down her face as she cradled her pillow, feeling sick to her stomach. She felt like she would vomit, so intense was the hurt she was experiencing.

Why was her mother doing this to her? What was wrong with her? Daddy had loved her, had held her close, had kept her safe until he couldn't anymore... And now here was her mother, who had known where she was for six years, and had never even so much as sent a letter! She wailed, burying her face into the soft form of her pillow.

Again, she didn't have long to wait. The front door slammed with a rattle that shook the house a few minutes later, and almost immediately after Emily could hear the clomping steps of Michelle coming up the stairs. She was faster this time, and the floor vibrated with each angry stomp. When she reached Emily's door, she slammed it open, and her face was red with rage, her eyes bugging out and her hair in disarray.

"You miserable, godless little whore!" She shouted. "Spreading your legs for that awful Hannah girl! Is that why your grades are so bad, because you're too busy letting that little trollop have her way with your husband's right?" Michelle's voice was painfully loud, a shrill screech, but it was anything but comical. She rushed over to Emily.

"Look at me when I talk to you!" she cried, wrenching Emily up from the pillow by her hair and forcing the girl into a kneeling position. She backhanded Emily across the face hard enough to slam Emily's head into the wall.

"You stupid, ungrateful little slut!" She hissed. "I take you in, feed you, and clothe you. I care for you because your mommy didn't want you and your daddy was too stupid to get out of the way of the hurricane!" She slapped Emily again, forcing her back on the bed face down, the blow laying her prone.

"I tried to teach you the proper way to be, but you just won't learn, will you?" She hit Emily's upturned buttocks, like she was a six year old who'd been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Then she hit her again, and again, and again, some of them ranging down to the tops of her thighs or her lower back. "You are a heathen temptress!" She shouted angrily.

Finally, Michelle paused for breath, her chest heaving and her face shiny with perspiration. "What do you have to say for yourself?" She asked angrily. "Anything? Anything at all?"

"I didn't do anything with Hannah!" She sobbed, rolling over and backing away until she was pressed against the wall, putting as much distance between herself and Michelle as possible. "We're just friends, that's all it is! I don't like girls, I like boys!" She pulled the pillow in front of herself, doing what she could to mitigate any possible future attacks.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, please don't hit me anymore!" She begged. "I'll get better grades, I'll be the best student at school!"

Michelle leaned across the bed, grabbing Emily by the throat and snapping, "That's not good enough!" She slammed Emily's skull into the drywall hard enough to hurt, then let go of Emily and straightened, smoothing her shirt and slacks. "I wish I could trust you." She said carefully. "But you kept your secret from me, and now you are trying to lie to me about it!" She walked over to the chest of drawers and unplugged the lamp, picking it up and walking to the door. 

"I am afraid that you need some time to think about what you've done and pray for forgiveness." She shook her head. "I will be back for you later." Then she walked out the door and slammed it behind her, leaving Emily trapped in the dark. A few seconds later there was a scraping sound outside and the door rattled. Closets opened out, and Emily knew that Michelle had just wedged a chair under the handle of Emily's door.

All alone in the dark, Emily broke down in tears once more. Everything hurt, and the wetness at the back of her head told her she was bleeding. Grabbing the pillow again, she curled up in a ball in the center of her bed, crying silently as she lay there. She wanted to die, she wanted to just curl up in a ball so small that no one would ever find her. Daddy and Alex were dead, her mom didn't care about her, Michelle hated her, all the other kids teased her...

What point was there? No one would miss her, no one cared - if she just vanished, no one would even notice.

She sobbed, pulling Charlie out of the pillowcase and holding him close. Why did people hate her so much? Was there something wrong with her? She tried so hard to be nice, to make friends... Was it because she liked girls? Was that why they all hated her? Sobbing, she resolved to try to like boys. Maybe if she liked boys, people wouldn't be so mean to her!

Emily was left alone in the dark for hours. Afternoon passed into evening, evening into night. She heard the rest of her foster family eating dinner, and then watching a movie together afterwards, and no one so much as called a taunt through the jammed door. Eventually, the house quieted down, everyone going to find their beds and leaving her alone in the silent dark with her thoughts.

It was another two hours before her doorhandle rattled, the chair moving and the door swinging open slowly, revealing a patch of dimness with the shape of a person in it. It was too dim to be easily seen, but the form was too big and tall to be anyone but Emily's foster father. He stepped into the room quietly and shut the door behind him, shooting the bolt from the inside before stepping silently over to the bed and sitting on its edge. He reached down to shake her shoulder and whispered, "Emily? Emily, are you awake?"

Emily snorted, jolting awake. "Whassa? What's going on?" She muttered, eyes darting back and forth. She'd fallen asleep cuddling the pillow after she had realized she wasn't going to be getting any dinner, and as a result was still wearing the same clothes she'd put on that morning.

She felt the warm, uncharacteristically gentle embrace of her foster father as he leaned over her. "Heeeeey," he whispered in the dark, "How are you holding up, sweetling?" She heard him kick off his shoes and pull her into a hug, holding her close. "I heard about your argument with Michelle."

She sniffled, whimpering as he held her close. "She took my lamp and locked me in here... Didn't even let me have dinner... She spanked me!" She squeaked. "I'm not a little kid, it's not okay to spank me! I'm a teenager!"

Her father laughed, seeming more like he was laughing with her than at her. He touched her face lightly, then her throat, then let his hand come to rest on the curve of her ass. Softly, in a voice that seemed filled with concern, he asked her, "Does it still hurt?" He rubbed the tight curve lightly. "I could hear her hit you all the way downstairs." His other arm snaked under her, pulling her back close against him, his arm pressing against the underside of her breasts.

Emily shivered as he adjusted his grip. Something wasn't right here... He didn't usually speak like this to her, at least not in front of Michelle. "No, it's... It's fine now." She replied, squirming slightly in his grip. "I don't know why she hates me so much, I never did anything to her, and she's nice to all the other kids..."

He laughed, his breath hot on her ear before he kissed the back of her neck gently, inhaling through his nose. She felt him shift against her, his hand still on her backside. "She worries about you." He said. "You're a very pretty girl, you know. She's a religious woman, and she fears that your beauty will lead others astray." She felt his grip tighten fractionally, both the arm under her breasts and the fingers on her ass and she could hear his breathing deepen slightly.

Emily's heart began to beat faster as his grip tightened. "Dad, I need to go to sleep, We have church  tomorrow..." She murmured softly, her eyes wide with fear. What was going on? Why was he holding her so close? Her daddy, her real daddy, had held her plenty of times when she was a kid, but this was different. She wasn't sure why, but it felt... Scary.

Her foster father laughed again, quietly. "Michelle's not letting you go to church with a bruised face like that. They'll take you away and until CPS comes, she'll hurt you." She felt him shake his head. "You don't want her to lock you in the basement, do you, to beat this," he squeezed again, "with a leather belt until you're crying and bloody?" He shifted again, pressing his hips against her and she could feel something heavy and hard through his pants and hers. "Come on, Emily, wouldn't you rather let your daddy comfort you? Wouldn't you rather try to be a family? I could make it better for you if you let me."

She shook her head, whimpering softly. "I just want to go to sleep..." She pleaded, the blood pounding in her head as she started squirming more insistently. "Please, daddy, I'll be okay, I just need to get some rest..."

"But you're hurt and you're all alone and its dark, honey." He said insistently. His hand left her sore buttocks finally, coming up to her shoulder before sliding down her arm to enfold her hand in his. "Don't you want your family to like you? Don't you want your daddy to be happy? I could get you your light back, make sure Michelle doesn't punish you tomorrow too."

He took her hand and moved it between them, and his voice became rough, "You just have to let me love you, you beautiful..." He let go of her hand, pushing himself forward against her and his hand came around to the front of her jeans, fumbling for the button, "...beautiful girl."

Emily squealed in terror, struggling desperately as he found the button and popped it out, roughly tearing her jeans off. "No, please!" She sobbed, managing to slide out of his grip and darting into the corner of her bed. "I don't like this, I don't like this!" She whimpered, eyes wide and terrified as he tossed the loose pants aside.

He froze for a moment, listening, but there was no sound outside the small room. No one had heard, no one had woken. No one was coming. Emily was still alone. Her father climbed out of the bed and stripped off his own dark jeans and the boxers beneath them. There was almost no light in the room, just a sliver coming from under the door, but it was enough to see the thick, jutting hardness of him, bobbing obscenely as he panted. 

Staring down at her, he whispered roughly, "Come on, baby. Come love your daddy." He came to the edge of the bed, reaching for her hair with grasping, clumsy hands and promised, "I won't hurt you, I promise."

"I said no!" She shrieked, her foot flying out, making contact with his groin. As he doubled over onto the bed, clutching his groin, Emily dug her hand into her pillow, grabbing Charlie, and bolted, deftly avoiding his clumsy attempts to get ahold of her. The rest happened in a flash that, upon later reflection, would prove difficult to recall beyond snippets. Dashing headlong down the stairs - fumbling with the lock on the front door - dashing through the darkened streets, the cold air like needles against the bare flesh of her legs. It was only when she saw the flashing red and blue lights that she snapped back to the present, stopping in the middle of the road and staring right into the headlights of the patrol car as it came to a stop.

The patrol car idled for a moment before the engine died and she saw the front doors open, Two men got out, their details hidden by the bright lights, but she heard one say, "Oooh whoo! That's a cute one! Look at those legs!" He laughed, an ugly sound just like her foster father's, but a second later she heard the other one speak. 

"Jesus Christ, man, look at her! She's just a kid! She's holding a fucking teddy bear for god's sake!" He scoffed. "Have some fucking respect, dude." The second voice had a Cajun accent, the first a Hispanic.

The two officers came forward, and she could see that the first one was small, dark, with laughing eyes and shiny black hair. The second man was huge, six foot six if he was an inch, and older, with skin almost as dark as the first man's hair and a luxurious grey moustache. Both were dressed in patrolman's blues and while the smaller man still had a bit of a leer, the second one had a look of intense concern.

It was the second man that came forward, his hands out to either side. Over his shoulder he called, "Get her a blanket, Nunez." He turned back to Emily. "Hey, kiddo, it's alright, no one's going to hurt you. Are you alright?"

She sobbed, her eyes darting back and forth, not sure if she was really safe, or if this was some sort of trick. "I... Please, don't take me back..." She whimpered, shying away from his outstretched hand as she held Charlie's head tightly against her chest. "They're going to be mad, they're going to hit me, and hit me, and leave me in the basement with no light and no food again!" She wailed, goosebumps pricking her skin as the wind picked up. "Please don't make me go back!"

Nunez came back with a blanket, standing back and handing it to the other officer. He dropped down to his knees, unfurling the big, heavy grey material. In a soothing, patient voice he said, "Naw, honey, we're not gonna take you back." He looked down at the blanket and up at her. "Come here, honey, why don't you? You and your bear can get warm." He smiled at her and it was a good smile, warm and full of life and compassion.

"Its a'ight, honey, we're cops. We ain't gonna do anything but make you safe, 'kay?" He waited a beat. "C'mon, honey, its cold and dark. Let us take you someplace nice and warm and safe, maybe get you some hot chocolate?"

Cautiously, Emily stepped forward, her eyes darting between the two of them constantly. Finally, she moved into his arms, crying softly as he wrapped her slender frame in the warm fabric. "Can... Can I have some food, too?" She managed to get out, burying herself in his chest.

The older officer gently picked her up, careful not to jostle her. The bruises on her back, thighs, throat, and face were all painfully obvious and it was clear that he'd seen them. Treating her with the same care he'd show a porcelain doll, he gently deposited her in the back of the squad car and said, "Of course, honey, you can have some food." Behind him, Nunez was on the radio, calling in the pick up of the runaway girl. When he was done, they both slid into the car, the older officer- Whose nameplate read 'Childer'- turned to Nunez and said, "The brass kettle on Esplanade. I'll buy."

Emily sniffled, curled up in the corner of the back where the door met the car proper. She stroked Charlie's fur softly, her breathing starting to become more regular as she realized she really was safe, at least for now.

The drive was short in the late-night emptiness. It was only ten or fifteen minutes before the car rolled up into a parallel parking spot on Esplanade in front of a brightly-lit little cafe. Even before the door was fully open Emily could smell the food, the odors of spices and tomato and rice and sausage filling the air. Officer Childer came around and opened the door for her, holding out a pair of sweatpants with a smile, then turning his back so that she could slip them on. As he waited, he said, "We're just going to get you some food, okay? And then we'll take you to the station and find you a place to sleep while we figure out what to do with you."

"Okay." She replied, pulling the pants on but keeping the blanket wrapped tightly around herself. "I'm sorry I made you stop, I didn't mean to bother you..."

Helping her out of the car, Childer smiled kindly at her but surprisingly, it was Nunez who spoke. "Hey, mija, don't worry about it. This is our job, and frankly you look like you could use some help." He went ahead of them and through the glass Emily could see him greeting a waitress with familiarity, and her gesturing to a table for four. It was mostly empty at this time of night, and as Childer led her inside, the waitress gave Emily a wide smile, disappearing into the kitchen and coming back a moment later with a tray of steaming mugs.

"Coffee and Chickory for you two," she said to the officers, "And hot chocolate for the young lady." She set a large mug topped with whipped cream in front of Emily. She looked at the officers and asked, "The usual, guys?" Childer and Nunez nodded and she said, "Alright, I'll be right back." She vanished and Childer said, "Best pancakes in New Orleans right here."

Emily smiled, looking down at her hot cocoa. "This is really nice... no one's been this nice to me for a while." She said, warming her hands around the mug. "Michelle takes the other kids out for dinner on their birthdays, but on mine she said I wasn't allowed to go out because I didn't put the dishes away right that morning."

Childer patted her hand. "Michelle sounds like a mean lady." He and Nunez listened to their radios for a moment, getting some kind of update before returning their attention to Emily. Childer tousled her hair. "Don't worry about her right now, kid. Just enjoy your hot chocolate." Childer sounded like he really meant it, but he looked up at Nunez as he spoke, who slowly shook his head minutely. Childer grimaced for a moment and patted her hand again before casting a look back toward the kitchen. After another minute he said, "I think your breakfast is almost up."

Emily took another sip of her cocoa, leaning back against the rear of the booth. "She's strong for a little lady." She said quietly, unconsciously rubbing the back of her head.

The officers chitchatted, but they were avoiding her eyes now, and kept glancing at her bruises before looking away. This awkward scene only went on for a couple of minutes, however, before the cheerful little waitress came back with a laden tray. Swanning up to the table she said, "Hope y'all are hungry!" She pulled one plate down and set it in front of Nunez. "Jambalaya, extra spicy." She said before setting the next in front of Childer, saying, "Corned beef hash and eggs, extra onions."

The last plate she put in front of Emily. It bore a towering stack of pancakes, covered in blueberry compote and more whipped cream, and next to it the waitress set a jar of warm syrup. "Here ya go, honey." She said kindly, and Emily suddenly got the feeling that the waitress had seen this exact scene more than once.
She looked at the officers and asked, "Anything else?" At a quick shake of Nunez' head, she walked off with another smile, and Childer said, "Enjoy your breakfast, honey."

"Thanks..." Emily replied, taking a few bites. Her heart wasn't really in it, though. After a few minutes, she looked up at Childer, her eyes full of fear. "You're taking me back, aren't you?"

Childer sighed heavily and Nunez lowered his head. "Yeah, kid, we are. We could keep you in lockup for a couple of days if you want to file a full report, but it'll probably get tossed when they find out that you're a foster kid with a history of bouncing from family to family, and you'll go back anyway." Childer shook his head. "It sucks, really and truly it does, but our hands are tied unless you have someone you can call."

"But... But look at me!" She pleaded. "I've got bruises everywhere, the back of my head is bloody, my foster-dad ripped off my pants and had his dick out!" She squeaked, burying her face in the folds of the blanket. "If you take me back, they'll punish me... Please, send me to a new family! Anywhere but back there! I've got Charlie, he's all I have that matters anyway!"

"Fuck, man." Nunez said. "We can't give her back." He shook his head. "She's a sweet kid, and that is straight-up fucked up. You know what the system is like in this town."

Childer gritted his teeth. "We already called her in. You know how this works. CPS won't be open except for emergencies until Monday. The parents will flip a bitch and make up a story and they'll get her back anyway. We can't just let her go or it's our asses, and then we've got a little girl alone on the street. She'll end up as junkie bait by dawn and you know it."

He looked at Emily. "I am so, so sorry honey, but unless you want to file a complaint we can't do a damn thing, and if you do, you'll probably be back in that house in a few days anyway. Is a few days in lock-up worth the trouble that you might get into for that?"

She nodded, a glimmer of hope finally visible. "Yes, I don't mind being in jail for a few days, just don't take me back there! I'll file a report, or a complaint, or whatever I have to do to not go back!"

Nunez looked grim. So did Childer, but it was Nunez that spoke first. "Hey, kid, I get not wanting to go back. I grew up in foster care too." He put a hand on her shoulder. "If you file, and they get you back anyway, what're they going to do to you?" His eyes were full of self-loathing. He knew that he was asking her to consider going back and getting hurt by her parents.

"If you want to file, I'll take the report myself, but is a few days out really worth what they might do if they're as bad as you say they are?" He took a deep breath. "I can take you back there, tell your foster mother that your foster father tried to assault you and that you decided you didn't want to break up your family with a report, maybe threaten them a little, and then on Monday Childer and I can go file with CPS and get you out of there." He squeezed her small hand gently. "What do you think?"

She whimpered, biting her lip. "She'll say I tempted him... She's always calling me a harlot, a slut, a whore, a temptress... I don't even like boys!" She wailed, covering her face with her hands as she sobbed. "Please, she'll hurt me, he'll hurt me, they'll break my legs and leave me in the basement! She'll say it was my fault, that I lead him on, that I made him do it, and he'll agree with her, and then when she's gone, he'll do it again, but now he'll be mad because I kicked him in the balls, and he's gonna hurt me!"

Nunez nodded and pulled out a pad and a pen. "Alright, honey, for the record, I need you to state your full legal name an-" He was cut off by Childer slapping a hand on the table and giving him a cold, cold look.

"Officer Nunez, you will replace that pad." Childer said stonily. "I am your superior and you will follow orders. This young woman is a runaway, and we are taking her back to her legal guardians." He narrowed his eyes. "Do you understand?" He asked icily. Nunez froze, and for a moment he looked as if he wanted to fight. Then he nodded once, choppily, and put away his pad. Childer turned to Emily. "Eat your breakfast."

Holding back tears, Emily dutifully consumed the massive pile of pancakes, all too aware that it might be the only food she would get between now and Monday.

When she was done, Childer rose without a word, leaving two twenties on the table and stalking out of the cafe. Nunez watched him go and turned to Emily. "Monday, kid. I promise." He took her hand once more. "You won't have to stay. I'll remember you, okay?"

He stood. "We'd better go. It's just going to be worse the longer we wait." Still holding her hand, he led Emily out of the cafe. As they got to the squad car, she could see the waitress through the window, her hand over her mouth, staring out through the glass at Emily as the officers put her in the car. Just before she turned away, she crossed herself.

 Emily watched out the window as they pulled out of the parking lot, thinking about making a break for it. The idea was tempting, but where would she go? She had no one, no home to call her own, and the only person on earth who she had any blood ties to was the one who had gotten her into this mess. Despite herself, she began crying again, remembering how cold her mother had been, how she'd actually smiled as she told Michelle about her crush on Hannah! What was wrong with her, where even her own mother hated her that much? She wrapped herself in the blanket, just a little lump of grey, as she squeezed Charlie tight, wishing for the millionth time that the hurricane had never come.

The drive back seemed to take less than an eyeblink and a million years at the same time. Neither Childer nor Nunez spoke as they drove back to the house that doubled as Emily's latest prison. The gravel of the driveway in front of the old Algiers home crunched as the Crown Victoria rolled up in front of the door and officer Childers put it in park. Looking at Nunez warningly, he got out of the car and went to the door.

Michelle answered, and Emily could see past her that the lights were on, and that she was dressed normally. They must have noticed she was gone. Childers spoke to Michelle for almost ten minutes, and the whole time Nunez didn't say a word or even look at Emily in the back seat. Finally, Childers came to the back door and opened it. Without looking at Emily's face, he told the girl, "Time to go. Just leave the blanket on the seat."

Emily whimpered softly, slipping the bear's head into her pocket. She didn't struggle as Childers lead her by the hand to the house, obviously having anticipated Emily's thoughts on fleeing. She didn't look up as the police officer handed her off to Michelle, who took her by the shoulder and guided her inside, thanking the officer profusely. As soon as the squad car had pulled out of the drive and was on its way down the street, Michelle slammed the door, and Emily made a break for the other side of the house. She shrieked in pain, falling backwards as Michelle caught her by the hair, her long black mane wrapped around the woman's fingers. As she fell to the floor, she began crying, knowing how much trouble she was in.

Michelle dragged Emily to the stairs in the kitchen, not caring if Emily slid, walked, or crawled. As she stalked to the narrow, rickety staircase down to the basement, she spoke in a deceptively conversational tone. "Your father is in the hospital." She said calmly. "The ambulance said he had a ruptured testicle. They have to operate on him." Her face was serene and she could have been discussing the price of stamps. This was bad, very very bad.

She opened the door to the cellar and took a one-inch wide leather belt from a rack of keys and work paraphernalia as she walked. Still holding Emily's hair, she led the way down into the basement, giving the gorgeous raven locks a vicious tug as Emily was on the stairs. As her foster daughter fell, Michelle said, "He says you tried to seduce him, and that when he turned to God for guidance and help, you assaulted him." She shut the door at the bottom of the stairs and latched it before turning on the lights. "Now, you need to be punished."

The basement was a large, dingy space, poorly lit by a single overhead bulb. It had been a washroom or scullery at some point when the house had first been built many, many years ago. There was a drain in the center of the sloped floor, and tile for several feet around it. There was a table in the middle of the room, nothing more than two sawhorses with a sheet of wood laid across the top, and metal shelves around the edges of the room filled with a variety of tools and bric-a-brac. 

Michelle walked over to the table and pushed the sheet wood off the sawhorses, leaving the heavy wooden constructs bare. She went to a shelf next and grabbed a roll of duct tape before turning back to Emily, her face still showing no expression. "Remove your shirt and sweatpants, and put your hands on the sawhorse."

The girl's eyes were wide with terror. "What are you going to do to me?" She asked, her voice cracking. "What are you going to do to me?! Please, I'm sorry, just lock me in my room, I don't care how long you leave me there for! I'll pray to god, I'll pray for guidance, I'll pray for him to wash my sins away! I'll be a good girl, I promise, just please, don't do this!" As Michelle moved forward, Emily darted to the far corner of the basement, tears running down her cheeks as she cowered in the dark. "I'll be the best daughter you've ever had, just please, don't do this!"

Michelle took a hold of the belt buckle, wrapping the leather twice around her hand, leaving perhaps two feet of stiff, shiny leather hanging from the top of her fist. She shook her head, and in her too-calm voice intoned, "Spare the rod and spoil the child." She look at Emily without an ounce of compassion and said, "I have been too lenient. You have become a jezebel, a scarlet woman who tempts all with her wicked eyes and lascivious ways. You have corrupted my husband, and I will not allow your taint to spread any further."

She smiled beatifically. "Officer Childer said that they will come for you on Monday, and any reports will be misfiled as long as I do not make a fuss. So I will not, but I will not allow you to go forth and spread your corruption without at least attempting to rid you of your sinful ways." She pointed at the sawhorse. "That is your salvation, child. Take it in your hands." She looked pointedly at the heavy contractor's hammer on the shelf beside her and added, "Or I shall make it so you cannot resist. God's work takes precedence even over man's law."

Emily's blood ran cold at the implication. Sobbing and shaking in terror, Emily removed her shirt and sweatpants, leaving her clad in nothing but her undergarments, exposing her injuries for all the world to see. Struggling to stay steady, she laid her hands on the sawhorse, looking up at Michelle with eyes full of fear.

Michelle was on her in a flash, wrapping Emily's wrists in duct tape, crossing over them again and again until her hands were tightly bound to the heavy sawhorse, forcing her to bend almost double and the rough wood digging into Emily's tender flesh. Michelle forced Emily's head down and began to speak then, her voice bombastic. "Oh Lord, we beg thee, show this girl the error of her ungodly ways! Take her into Your heart and wash away her sins and fill her soul with Your light!" Michelle released Emily's hair and stepped back then and said in a level tone, "May God have mercy on you." Then she hefted the belt and swung. The first burning lash fell across Emily's ass, the stiff leather raising a painful welt on her tender flesh. Then she swung again, and again, and again, striping Emily's upturned backside and her already-bruised thighs with the belt, the stiff edges cutting even as the wide, flat strap burned and stung and tore at the girl's soft, pale skin.

Emily shrieked in pain with each blow, and by the tenth strike she lay limp across the sawhorse, her buttocks dripping blood that slowly trickled towards the drain in the floor. Already, new bruising was evident, and she lay still, sobbing quietly as Michelle stopped to survey her work. She knew better than to speak - anything she might say could incite Michelle to further violence - so she simply held her piece, praying that the woman had done what she needed and would now be satisfied.

Michelle was panting as she looked Emily over, and for a moment she seemed to be about to relent. Then she stopped and her face twisted into a visage of anger.

"He was mine!" She screamed, kicking Emily's knees and dropping her to the floor in a twisted parody of a woman at prayer. "He was a good man and you hurt him! You took him from me!" She hit Emily again, this time across the shoulders, and kept hitting her, ten wicked blows to the back before she dropped the belt, gasping.

"Whore!" She screamed one more time. Then she ran to the stairs, fleeing her own atrocity and only stopping to turn the lights out as she went.

Emily lay still where she'd fallen, sobbing quietly. She didn't understand why things had to be like this - she wasn't a bad person! She hadn't asked for her foster-father to try to sleep with her! She didn't dress to show off her body, or get attention! She did everything she could to avoid being noticed, and somehow she still wound up in the center of things!

As she laid there, blood running down her body, she couldn't help but think about how her mother had left her to this fate. No, worse than that - she was the cause of it! She'd been stupid, stupid to trust her, stupid to think that her mother being here would make anything better! Before the storm, she remembered how daddy would change when mom was around, how she would demand his attention, how she hardly ever acknowledged her or Alex, except to give them some lavish gift - her mother had never done a single good thing in her life. She'd let the storm take them, she hadn't even paid for plane tickets to get them out!

She sagged against the sawhorse, her entire body feeling drained. Everything hurt, but all she could think of was sleep... Sleep would make the pain go away. Before long, Emily was out like a light, dreaming of what it would be like when she was finally free.
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Dani Emmannuelle

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