Still A Princess
After that, it didn't feel right staying. I lay back down on the sofa, and tried to fall asleep to the monotonous sounds of the television, but it wasn't working. I kept thinking of Rocky, of Lennon, of Daddy and of Freddy. I thought how much everything had changed. I realised that life would never be happy at home anymore, because it just wasn't my home. A home was meant to be a happy place, somewhere where you feel safe and welcomed. Daddy's house just didn't feel that way anymore, and I didn't want to stay.
Out of everywhere I had ever been, I felt safest and most accepted on those nights I had spent with Rocky and Lennon, curled up against one of them in whatever sheltered spot we had managed to find. Of course, those times were hard, and food and shelter was not always guaranteed. But there was one thing which was guaranteed, and that was my freedom, my piece of mind I gained from the knowledge that Freddy couldn't hurt me because he didn't know where I was. Being back at home meant that Freddy was aware of my location if he ever came back to get me after what Daddy had done to him. The thought of leaving once again flashed across my mind.
You can't leave again Casey, Momma told me. She sat cross-legged on the lawn, the flowers around her bowing before her as though she really were their queen. You belong here. You can't leave now. You've got to stop running away.
I know I have, I replied dolefully. I know it was wrong of me to leave Daddy like I did, to hurt him. But I can't do this anymore, Momma. I don't want to be Casey, I don't want to be Freddy's sister living in Freddy's old house. I want to be Kitty, and I want to be free to do what I want, to go wherever I want to go.
Momma didn't say anything else. Instead, she stood up, allowing a pile of delicate flowers to fall from her lap and onto the lawn, where she stepped on them, not caring that they were going to be ruined. She turned her back to me, and I watched her beautiful smile turn to a look of sadness as she walked away. I knew that I had just spoken to Momma for the last time. But it was all up to me now- it was my life, my decision to make. Still lying on the sofa, I looked down at my fingernails and saw that I had chewed them right down whilst Momma disappeared from my mind. I curled up in a ball, bringing my knees up and hugging them, feeling cold even under the thick quilt cover. I tried to get some sleep.
The following morning, I was awoken by Jane in the kitchen making breakfast. Leah gave me what I interpreted as an icy cold stare when I came through into the kitchen in my dressing gown and pyjamas. I don't know what I had done. Perhaps not being dressed properly had offended her, or perhaps she had wanted to watch TV but my sleep had prevented that. Still, I smiled at her anyway as though I was glad to see her there when I wasn't. I knew she had seen Rocky. Would she see him again? Would he tell her that he'd seen me? I didn't want Jane feeling betrayed by me after all that she had done to help me. Rocky told me the night before that he would be back again in two days to see me, and I was mentally hugging myself at the thought of seeing him again.
"What would you like for breakfast?" Jane asked me, pulling me from my private thoughts. She whisked pancake mix in a jug as she spoke.
"I'll get my own thanks," I replied, not wanting to be waited on hand and foot, especially with Leah still glaring at me.
"OK," Jane replied absently, and she continued to flip pancakes. They smelled delicious, and I would have loved some. But I wanted to be independent, even when it came to something as silly as making my own breakfast.
I don't know quite what was crossing my mind that morning. All of the thoughts I had were focused on one thing, and anything else which crept into my mind was eventually pushed out in favour of my main train of thought. I wanted to leave home again. I didn't belong there, didn't fit. I wasn't going to just go and live on the streets this time. I wasn't that desperate, I had other options. I would find myself a small job and then when I had a bit of money I could find somewhere cheap to live. I knew that I would be on my own if I did this, but at least I wouldn't feel trapped.
"And how are you this morning?" Daddy asked me smilingly as he came into the room. His smile wasn't forced, and he didn't look as though it was something he had painted on his face just to please me. He looked truly happy and relaxed, and I smiled back weakly. I didn't want to hurt Daddy.
Which is more important? I asked myself. Do I think of myself, and hurt Daddy, or shall I stay here and keep Daddy happy, whilst I remain miserable? I didn't know what to do, and I thought about Rocky. He would probably tell me to stay. On the streets, he was always telling me that I was too young to be out on my own. He reminded me again and again that I belonged at home with my family. He was right, but I wished that he wasn't.
"Daddy?" I approached my father where he lay alone on his bed reading a book and relaxing after work. The house was silent. Jane and Leah had gone shopping for dinner. "Can I talk to you please?" I asked, nervously.
"Sure," Daddy sat up immediately, and placed his book to one side. I wished that he didn't panic with each word I said. He was always expecting the worst, and more than likely always would. As I summoned up the courage to speak, my eyes fell upon the picture on Daddy's nightstand. When I was younger, I remember seeing the picture in the gilt-edged frame. Back then, it was Momma, Freddy and me at the beach, all laughing at something which was probably not even funny. Now, there was a brand new frame, wooden with delicate patterns carved into it. in the frame, there was no sign of Momma, Freddy or even Jane. There was me, aged four when I still knew how to smile. I couldn't do it. I couldn't break Daddy's heart yet again.
"I wanted to talk to you about school," I blabbed the first thing which came into my mind. "When are you going to get me a tutor? I want to get settled back in right away now that things are going to return to some form of normalcy."
"I'll get onto it right away," Daddy said, and the relief in his voice was plainly there for me to here. And so, I had decided on what I was going to do. As much as I wanted to run away again, to be on my own and escape every time a problem came my way, I knew that it wasn't the solution. I was not in control of who my family were- that was pre-planned by some sort of higher power, if indeed there was one. But Daddy and Jane were my family, and I was at least partly responsible for their happiness. And there was Rocky too- I kept forgetting that he was my family. I had to stick it out. I knew that my past would take a long time to heal. I would have nightmares for years to come, and I would find it hard to put my trust in people. However, it was time for me to show my new strength. I was going to stay in my real, true home instead of running from what frightened me like the little girl that I still felt like sometimes.
I wasn't Kitty anymore, wild Kitty who survived out in the cold, harsh world for two years. And I wasn't Casey- not the old Casey, the tiny child who was abused by her own blood kin. I was Casey, but I had changed and I was strong. I could fix my life again.
Momma didn't appear in my mind when I tried to make her talk to me. She had left her spot for good, it seemed, and all around where she had always sat, were scattered flowers of different shapes and sizes, most of which were wilting and dying.
I'm staying here, Momma! I called loudly, looking around for her. And then she stepped back into the scene, her once sad face now happy again.
I knew you would make the right decision, she told me. I knew you would stay and make your father happy. Momma's crown of flowers looked brighter than ever, and she held out a smaller crown for my head. I took it, and slipped it on. Casey, Momma said, taking my hand, my little Flower Princess.