LAST GIRLS ALIVE
“Hurry,” Candace whispered urgently as she disappeared down the
wooden staircase and into the pitch-black basement.
“Wait,” was Tanis’s breathless reply
as she slowed to glance behind her. In just a flimsy yellow nightgown, the damp
air from below chilled her bare arms and feet. She shuddered.
Candace had picked open swung precariously from the latch, ready to drop and
awake the rest of the sleeping house. This was a bad idea.
“C’mon,” urged Candace from somewhere
down in the abyss. “Hurry up!”
They were going
to get caught.
would be merciless.
weight on the wooden landing, Tanis
pushed herself onward and pressed her foot onto the first wooden step. And then
another. Each footstep creaked beneath her slight weight. She clutched the
loose railing and clumsily made her way through the dark until her feet touched
Hands fisted at
her sides in fear, she frantically blinked her eyes, straining to see through
the darkness—to the unknown. It left her powerless. There had been no time to
find a flashlight, but it would only capture unwanted attention anyway.
A hand grabbed
got to go now.”
Candace took Tanis’s hand and pulled
her toward the end of the basement and around a sharp corner to where a dim
light from outside allowed her eyes to begin to focus.
The girls moved
as fast as they dared through the maze beneath the old house.
Tanis could only see
Candace’s long hair flicking from side to side as they ran. At one point, she
closed her eyes and relied on her friend’s strong will and instinct to get them
abruptly at a storm door, the only thing standing between them and freedom.
Panting in the darkness, a creak from upstairs lifted both their heads in
fear—someone was awake.
forward and grabbed the large bolt locking the door with both hands and pulled.
It gave way with a loud clunking sound, and she pushed the bulky door open to
reveal the half-moon outside.
Cool air whipped
inside, wrapping itself around Tanis’s
shivering body as she watched her friend take the final two steps—to a new
With the moon
behind her, and with her arms outstretched in joy, Candace resembled an angel
in her white cotton nightgown, her dark hair blowing all around her. “C’mon,”
she urged again.
Tanis froze. It was as if
her feet were cemented to the basement floor. Doubts about running away from
the foster home plagued her mind.
They would never
stop searching for them—ever.
She and Candace
knew too much about what went on at Elm Hill.
How would they
survive without any money?
that she just couldn’t do it—not now, not like this. She would soon be eighteen
and then things would be different—the home would no longer be her prison. She
would be legally free. No one would care anymore.
“What are you
waiting for? This is our chance.”
“I can’t… I
can’t do it. It’s just another year,” said Tanis. “Not even that long.”
“No, we’re doing
this together. We have each other,” said Candace adamantly, shaking her head.
“I’m not going to leave you here. We escape together.”
“You have to go.
You can’t stay…”
Candace ran to
the side of the house and retrieved a duffel bag, which had been carefully
packed and stashed for their escape. Unzipping the top, she pulled on a pair of
jeans and slipped on a pink sweater. It was her favorite color, always matched
to her nail polish.
“Hurry.” Tanis changed her tone.
She wanted her best friend to escape the abuse of the home—the authority and
focus was always more concentrated on her anyway. Tanis knew that she could endure another ten
and half months, but Candace couldn’t.
“Yes, hurry. I
can help misdirect the she-beast and the cops. You’ll be safe.” Tanis heard the rustle of
branches in the distance and looked toward the edge of the property, near the
hiking trail, and saw the outline of a man. She had never met Ray, had only
seen him from a distance, but he was their ticket out of here. At least, that
was how Candace had described him. “Go. We’ll meet back in ten months and three
days at our secret spot. I promise.”
“I will come
back for you.” Candace’s voice faltered. It was clear she wanted to stay, but
as she looked to the south she saw Ray waiting; that was all she needed to push
Tears welled up
eyes. She knew that she’d made the right decision to stay behind, but that
didn’t make it any easier. One of them had to stay. It would soon be over. It
all would be over.
Candace hugged Tanis tight. Whispering in
her ear, she said, “I love you and I’ll be back.” She gave her a long look
before she turned and ran.
Tanis watched her friend
move quickly into the shadowed night—and soon disappear altogether.
I love you and I’ll be back.