Chapter 39

It was fascinating, really. Sitting within the same four walls, day after day, week after week. Beatrice wasn’t exactly sure how long she’d been holed up in the small, dingy bedroom. It’d been long enough to have counted the 456 flowers on the wallpapered wall to the left of the bed, to have learned that there was was a pipe dripping in the ceiling that left a watermark above the door, and to have noticed not to get out of bed on the left side because the floorboards creaked. She considered taking up a tally, but she was so disoriented she had a difficult time knowing when the day started and ended. She only ever left the bedroom when her cousins let her use the bathroom next door, an equally nondescript room with no windows. The showers she took were cold and the bathroom looked like it hadn’t been cleaned since 1989, but she figured it was better than nothing.

The cousins came and went at random intervals, which frustrated Beatrice to no end. In her perfect world, everyone would work on a predictable schedule. She’d go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday. Everyone would eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at expected intervals. Beatrice would see Arthur on Wednesdays at five and on Saturday at noon. She would see her mother twice a year for two major holidays. She’d never see her cousins. Everything would be better if everyone was predictable.

Perhaps that was it, that was what her cousins had over her. Not the blips. Not the malice. The unpredictability. Beatrice knew her cousins would do something awful that would hurt her. She knew that they already had. Since she was a kid, her cousins had almost always been horrible, and she always knew that they’d continue to be horrible. But Beatrice never knew what her cousins would do next or when they would strike. That was their advantage.

So Beatrice waited. She walked in circles around the cramped bedroom. She napped. She counted flowers on the wall and cracks on the ceiling. She folded the sheets on the bed, unfolded them, and then folded them again. Her cousins would come in unexpectedly. Sometimes just one, sometimes many. They’d taunt her, or have a menacing conversation with her. Then they’d leave, and Beatrice would continue to walk, sleep, count, and clean. Day in. Day out.

But one day, the door creaked open. Beatrice paused her recount of the paint chips, and looked towards the door. To her surprise, it wasn’t one of the cousins. It wasn’t her mother or Arthur. It wasn’t even Pepe. She stared, momentarily baffled, at the person standing in her doorway. She knew who it was, but she didn’t want to. Beatrice wanted nothing to do with the person standing in the doorway.

She resumed counting paint chips.

-M.A. Gavin


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