For a moment, neither Beatrice nor Janelle said anything at all. Janelle paced around the room, never taking her eyes off Beatrice, as if a bird sizing up its prey. Beatrice examined her options, but her body was exhausted, and her mind was foggy. She felt helpless.
“Oh, Birdy, don’t look so scared,” cooed Janelle. “Don’t you trust me? I’m your cousin, we’re family.”
Janelle’s smile didn’t reach her eyes, leaving Beatrice even more terrified than before.
“Where…are…we?” Beatrice croaked, commanding an answer instead of asking for one.
Janelle laughed. It was deceptively sweet, like candy laced with cyanide.
“Don’t you recognize this place? Come on, Birdy, you have to remember your fourth birthday. It was quite the explosive celebration,” Janelle said.
Beatrice wracked her brain for something, anything, that might help her. She looked frantically around the room hoping to find a clue, a hint as to where she was. Her eyes fixed on the needlepoint flower hanging above the bed. The single flower was a light purple with two green leaves. Whoever made it had obviously put a lot of time and care into every individual stitch. It was beautiful. The longer Beatrice stared at it, however, the more she had a sinking feeling that it meant more. Then, without warning, her heart rate and breathing slowed, she felt like she falling, and then jolted back to reality. Beatrice groaned. She’d hoped that feeling blocking her from hearing Janelle and Arthur would have gone away, but apparently not. She realized the needlepoint must mean something important, but now there was no way she was going to figure out what.
“You just blipped, didn’t you?” Janelle said.
“Yeah, not like you planned it or anything,” Beatrice scoffed in reply.
“Actually, no. We’ve had the upper hand throughout most of this, but they got us on those. All those little “blips” you’ve been feeling, that’s not me or any of the other cousins,” said Janelle, matter-of-factly.
“Then who is doing all of this?” Beatrice fumed, lunging at Janelle. Her cousin jumped back, narrowly escaping Beatrice’s grasp.
“Oh, hun, didn’t your mother ever teach you to play nice?” Janelle taunted “Look, we didn’t create the blips. But we certainly made them work for us. You might as well give up now. Face it, Birdy, we won.”
Beatrice heard the bedroom door creak open behind her. She turned, adrenaline pumping, prepared to attack whoever entered.
Arthur was clean and well dressed. His crisp, white oxford was rolled up at the sleeves, and his hair was combed and gelled. Despite his grooming, Arthur had dark circles under both eyes, and Beatrice noticed a yellowing bruise on his jaw.
His appearance aside, Beatrice felt nothing but anger. Arthur had betrayed her. She’d trusted him and he’d lied to her. Before her cousins had come, she would have been embarrassed, ashamed even, for him to see her now, malnourished in a soaking wet nightgown. Now, he was the one who should feel ashamed.