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Contemporary Teens & Young Adult Suspense

     Where was Mama? She’d been gone a full week and Opal was getting increasingly anxious. Mama bravely went out into the dangerous world to bring Opal food, clothes, books, music CDs, and paper and crayons so Opal could draw her friendly, formless faces when she got lonely. Every evening Mama would come home and they would fix dinner and then play cards, listen to music, or Mama would read aloud. Mama used to sleep in the other bed when Opal was younger but now she slept “in the house, so you can have some privacy.” Even so, every morning she would have breakfast with Opal before she went out. Sometimes Mama had to leave Opal alone for a few days but she always told Opal before she went and was never gone this long. 

       She was mainly worried that something bad had happened to Mama. She knew she was safe in her home. Mama had stocked up on food before she left and Opal didn’t eat much, much less than Mama. The refrigerator and pantry were getting bare, so Opal decided to eat only when she was really hungry. The door was locked and Opal could not open it and she was afraid of the outside. Mama told her that the world was full of diseases, accidents, and cruel people. This year was even more dangerous and she and Mama wore masks when they were together and not actually eating. Did something get Mama? Mama had taught her how to cook, and operate the heaters and ventilators, so she was physically comfortable. She missed Mama. 

        It was nearing Opal’s bedtime and she was trying to keep calm by sticking to routine. She had showered and put on her nightgown. She put on some music, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons’ (Spring) and settled down to reread chapter two of Oliver Twist. She had learned to read without telling Mama and had nearly memorized the dozen or so books in their home. She heard the door opening. Mama? No, it was the voices of a man and a woman she didn’t know. Enemies! Bad people who wanted to take her away so she would never see Mama again. She snatched up her mask and a chef’s knife from the kitchenette drawer and ran to the bathroom to hide.

        Were they like Mr. and Mrs. Bumble? Would they take her to the workhouse? Opal wouldn’t like the workhouse. She wouldn’t get enough food and would have to work the treadmill. People there would be mean and hit her. Mama loved her and was good to her. There was always enough food and she only had to keep their home tidy and clean. It had been years since Mama spanked her because she had learned to be good like Mama. Mama gave her lots of hugs and kisses. Mama read to her and taught her card games. Opal liked gin rummy the best. She liked to show Mama how well she kept score. Some days were special; there would be cake, and singing and presents (usually books, CDs, and pretty clothes.) Mama told her once that there were CDs with singing on them but Mama didn’t bring those. Sometimes when Mama drank her special drink (Opal hated the taste) she would say things that made Opal feel strange and sad.

        Opal sometimes wondered about people outside. She thought she would like to meet someone like Oliver or Nancy. She knew she wouldn’t like the Bumbles, Fagin or Bill Sykes. Mama told her that most people outside were bad and cruel to good people like Mama. If they found Opal they would be cruel to her, too.

        “Someone is here!” the woman said in an excited whisper. “I knew we shouldn't have done this.”

       “Relax, the old lady gave you the keys and a note that said ‘Underground treasure’ after she was intubated. She wanted you to find it. We need money. I haven’t been working and if you keep working in that hospital you are going to get sick. Maybe there is something we can sell. Whatever it is, it won’t be much use to her. This looks like an old survivalist bunker from the eighties. I’ll do a search but I don’t have much hope.”

      He looked around the tight space. To the left, there was a small kitchenette with a stove, a sink, and minifridge along with several drawers and cabinets. In the center was a small, round table with two low stools. To the right were two beds. One was made up like an army bunk and looked like it hadn’t been used in some time. The other was covered with a quilt printed with pastel clouds. There were remarkable pictures taped to the wall, crude crayon drawings of faces. As likenesses they did not resemble anything seen in real-life but there was a care and liveliness to them that told the viewer they were what the artist truly imagined. In the far back was a closed door.   

       “Whoever is in here is hiding,” the woman said. “Maybe they need help.” 

       “Why look for trouble?”

       The woman opened the door in the rear; it was the bathroom. When she turned on the light, she gasped. Crouched on the floor beside the toilet was a very thin girl about sixteen-years-old wearing an old-fashioned full length nightgown. She was holding a knife in her outstretched hand. Her hair was long and needed cutting. Her eyes above her yellow paisley mask were full of terror.

        “The crazy bitch has been keeping a girl prisoner!” 

        The man rushed in and stood behind the woman. Opal wasn’t sure what the woman meant but it made her angry and more scared. She began to wave the knife and tried to slash the woman’s shins. The man grabbed her wrist and easily wrenched the knife away. 

        “Whoever you are, I can’t have you cutting Linda,” he said as he carried the knife into the other room.

         “When I was ten a woman reported that her baby had been stolen at the mall,” Linda said. “It was on the news for weeks and made an impression on me. Then they found out that the mother sometimes smoked crack and took money for sex and we never found out what happened. Are you Baby Jessica?”

         “My name is Opal. Get out of here! This is our home. Mama wouldn’t want you here.”

         “She isn’t really your mother and she’s dying of COVID.”  

         The woman’s words felt like two stabs to Opal’s heart. Mama was right. People were cruel. Opal began to sob.   

         “You can’t stay here; you’ll starve.”

         Opal didn’t move. Linda grabbed her wrist and forced her to stand.

         “Gary, come help me!”

         Gary grabbed Opal’s other wrist and they tried to drag her out of the corner. Opal squirmed and resisted. 

         “Screw this!” Gary said as he lifted Opal by the waist and threw her over his shoulder.

         Opal writhed and struggled to get free but Gary was strong, much stronger than Mama. She beat on his back with her fists but Gary ignored the blows. She tried to kick but her knees were held tight to his torso so the kicks had little effect. He began to carry her to the bunker’s entrance. 

        “Hey, hey, Gary,” Linda said. “Don’t go getting ideas; you seem to enjoy acting like a caveman a little too much.”  

        On the way out she took the gray blanket blanket from Mama’s  bed. 

        Gary carried Opal out the door of her home and up the steps into the open air. The air outside was colder and had a crisper smell. It was dark. Opal felt a kind of excitement added to her fear. 

       “What are we going to do with her?” asked Gary. 

       “I guess take her to the police. They’ll know what to do. Ms. Hexe gave me the keys. I’ll just say she sent me to check on the place, which is almost true.”

       Opal redoubled her struggles. Mama had told her how bad the police were. She couldn’t get loose. She didn’t cry for help because she believed anyone who came would help Linda and Gary. 

       Gary carried her to a car. Opal had seen pictures of cars but didn’t remember riding in one. Linda opened the rear door and Gary trundled Opal into the backseat. Linda tossed Mama’s blanket on top of her. Linda closed the door and there was a click. Opal was locked in. 

       Gary and Linda got in the front seat. There was a whir and then there was music with singing. The music sounded angry and Opal decided she didn’t like it. The car began to move, at first in reverse, then forward.

      “We saved her, Gary. We’re going to be on the news.”

      Opal wrapped herself in the blanket and wept for Mama, herself, and her uncertain future.

March 11, 2021 18:28

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1 comment

Anne Ryan
20:30 Mar 18, 2021

I love this kind of story! It truly shares the plight of many young people who are brought up in abusive situations...so sad. Thanks!

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