The Bottom of the Suitcase

A heavy fog filled the woods surrounding a small cottage just after sunrise. It was a cold morning, but no smoke escaped the large stone chimney. A small girl sat on one side of the yard, singing to herself quietly. She slowly picked up a handful of dirt and sifted it with her fingers, separating the rocks and dirt into two growing piles. Through the mist, three horses appeared on the road, becoming clearer as they rode closer. Three men stepped off their horses and tied them to the white, peeling fence surrounding the cottage and its small piece of land. One man opened the gate with a creak and led the other men up the stone path to the cottage, but stopped when he heard the small girl. He walked over to stand behind her.

"Ivy?" he asked. She continued singing quietly. "Ivy?" he asked again. The singing stopped, but Ivy said nothing, leaving a dead silence in the air. "Where are your parents Ivy?"

Ivy dropped the dirt from her hands and stood up. She turned around to face the men and pointed at the cottage. Her face, hands, and dress were all smudged with dirt.

"Why don't you come inside with us Ivy?"

Ivy dropped her head and shook it sadly. "I don't want to go in there," she said quietly, looking at the dirt beneath her bare feet. The men looked at each other in confusion, and then looked back at the house.

"Stay here Ivy," one man said to her. "We'll be right back." He turned to the other men and said, "Let's go check it out. Thomas and Emily haven't been into the village for eleven days. Something doesn't seem right."

The three men walked up the rest of the path and knocked on the door, leaving Ivy standing where they had left her, looking at her bare feet. They waited outside the heavy wooden door for a few moments, before knocking again. "Thomas? Emily?" one man called. No one replied. He grabbed the door handle and twisted it. The door opened with a creak. The three men disappeared into the house, leaving the door open behind them. They had only been inside for a few moments before they came running back out.

"Oh my god," said one man. "Who would so such a thing? Stabbed in the hearts."

"Thomas, Emily, dead," said the second man in disbelief. The third man remained silent, looking at the ground sadly. His name was Matthew. Thomas and Emily had been very good friends of his. He could not believe that someone could kill someone like Thomas or Emily. They were two of the nicest people anyone could meet. He looked up from the ground, remembering that Ivy was still outside. He looked over at her, and began walking to her.

"Ivy," he said, kneeling down in front of her. "Do you know what happened to your parents?" He was trying to stay calm, but emotion was dripping from his voice.

Ivy looked up at him and said, "They're dead."

"What happened Ivy, and why didn't you come to the village for help?"

Ivy looked at her feet again. "It happened a while ago," she said. "A little more then a week I think. I woke up one morning and found them on the floor in their bedroom. They were dead. I knew I should get help, but the village is so far away, and I was scared." A single tear rolled down Ivy's cheek.

Matthew hugged Ivy and held her for a few moments. "Do you know who did it Ivy?" he asked, letting her go and standing back up to wipe away a few tears of his own.

"Someone bad," she replied.

He looked at her for a few more moments, before saying "Don't worry Ivy." And reaching out to hold her hand and lead her back over to the other men, who were still standing in disbelief. The men talked for a few moments, but Ivy wasn't listening. She was staring at the ground. They seemed to come to a decision, and Matthew knelt down once more in front of Ivy. "Ivy," he said. I need you to go inside for a few minutes. You need to pack a suitcase full of everything you need."

"Why?" she asked him. "Where am I going?"

"You cannot stay here alone Ivy. I will take you to your aunt Catherine's. You will live with her for now."

"No!" Ivy said strongly. "I can't live with her. She's mean. I can't. I won't. Please don't make me." Tears started coming down her cheeks again.

"I'm sorry Ivy, but she's your only relative. You will have to stay with her." Matthew said. "Now come on, I'll help you pack."

"No!" she yelled.

"Ivy," Matthew said. "You're aunt is a very nice women. She will take good care of you. Please come with me and I'll help you get your things."

"You don't know her," Ivy said. "You don't know what she does." Matthew ignored her and grabbed her hand, leading her to the house. "What about mother and father?" she asked him. "Where will they go?"

Matthew looked at her. "We will bury them here, on their land. Do you wish to stay for the funeral?"

"No. If I must go, I'll go now." Ivy was no longer fighting him about her aunt, but she looked scared. She followed Matthew into the house holding his hand tightly. They both made sure to stay as far as possible from her parent's bedroom, where they both knew they we're lying cold and lifeless on the floor. When they reached Ivy's bedroom, she stopped suddenly. "I want to pack on my own," she said.

Matthew looked at her for a moment before saying, "Okay, but hurry please." He stood outside the door while Ivy went in. She pulled her suitcase from under her bed, and opened it. It was completely empty. She reached underneath her bed once more and pulled out a white piece of cloth. It was wrapped around something heavy. She put it in the bottom of her suitcase and looked at it for a few moments, before starting to put a few other things in the suitcase. She didn't take much from her room, mostly just clothes. She finished packing and closed the suitcase, picking it up and carrying it out into the hall where Matthew was still waiting. "Are you ready to go?" he asked her.

"No," she replied. "But if I must, then yes."

"Ivy," Matthew said quietly. "Things will be alright. You'll see." Ivy didn't believe him, but followed him through the house and outside.

The trip to her aunt's house was pretty uneventful. Ivy rode on the back of Matthew's horse quietly the whole time. When they arrived at Catherine's cottage she was waiting for them. She greeted them with a smile and told Ivy how sorry she was about her parent's. It had been a great shock to Catherine too. She knew how well liked Emily and Thomas were. Matthew stayed for a little while to talk to Catherine while Ivy went upstairs to her new room and began unpacking. She took out her clothes and the few other items she had packed, but left the cloth covered object in the bottom of the suitcase, which she stored under her new bed. Matthew and Catherine came up to her room after a few hours. "I'm sorry I can't stay longer Ivy," said Matthew. "But I really must be getting back to the village. There are many things to do. I'll come visit you when I have taken care of your parents and your cottage." He hugged her one last time before leaving. As Ivy watched him go out the door, a single tear ran down her cheek. Catherine looked at her niece disgustedly and walked out the door after a few moments, shutting it loudly behind her. Ivy was the only one who knew her aunt's real side. She was the only one who knew how angry she got and what she did when something didn't go right. Ivy sat down on her new bed staring into space and thought about what was to come, living alone with her cruel aunt.

Ivy stayed with Catherine for four years before she got away. Four years of beatings, of hard labor, and of fighting. It was a calm night when she left. Things inside the house however could not have been more different. After school that day, Ivy had not come straight home, but spent the rest of the afternoon with Steven Jacobsen, a boy who was three years older then her. Catherine despised Steven. She believed that he would leave Ivy pregnant or dead somewhere, despite Ivy's pleas that they were just friends and Steven had never done anything to support Catherine's beliefs. When Ivy reached her aunt's house that night, Catherine was furious. She set Ivy to her chores right away, and stood over her, watching like a hawk to be sure they were done perfectly.

"May I please go to my room now?" Ivy asked when she finished all of her chores.

Catherine looked at her niece for a few moments, and then slapped her across the face, hard. "You are not to see that boy outside of school anymore Ivy. Do you hear me?" She glared as Ivy stood with her head down, not saying a word. "Go to your room Ivy." Catherine said, turning on her heel and going to her own room.

Ivy put a hand to her cheek. It was hot and still stung a little. She slowly walked up the stairs to her small bedroom, where she shut the door and laid down on her bed.

"I can't take this anymore," she thought to herself. "I can't stay here any longer. What a great end to a great birthday." It was Ivy's sixteenth birthday. That was why she had been out with Steven so late that afternoon. He had promised to spend the day with her, and although she knew her aunt would be angry, she thought it had been worth it. She laid there for a little while longer before finally deciding that she had had enough. "I'm sixteen now," she thought to herself. "I'm old enough to live and work on my own. I'm not going to stay here any longer." Her mind made up, she got off her bed and knelt next to it, reaching for the suitcase that was kept underneath. She pulled it out and set it on her bed, opening it. There was one thing in her suitcase. Something wrapped in a heavy cloth. The cloth was dirty and old, something that had once been white, but was now stained with age and something else. Ivy stared at the bottom of her suitcase for a few moments, before she began packing. She didn't have much in her room. Just the few things she had taken from her home the day she had left, and a few dresses. She packed them all into her suitcase and shut it tightly. She looked around the room for one last moment before walking out of the door and down the stairs. At the bottom she listened carefully for any sign of her aunt, but could hear nothing. She walked slowly through the dark hallway to the front of the house and left through the front door, as silently as she could.

When Ivy reached the main road, she knew she was free. Never again would she listen to her aunt or be hit by her in one of her bad tempers. Ivy smiled a sad smile to herself and started walking in the direction she had come from four years earlier. She was walking home. She walked slowly as the night grew darker and the stars grew brighter. She thought about Steven and how she would miss him, but knew she couldn't risk going back for fear of Catherine finding her. She hoped that one day she would meet him again. She would no longer be afraid of spending time with him. She could talk to him and not worry about what her aunt would think or do. Ivy continued walking and thinking about what her new freedom could do for her. As she thought about how happy she could now be, she walked faster.

Just as the sun was rising, Ivy reached the front gate of her old home. Just by looking at it she could tell no one had lived there since she had left. Off to one side of the yard were two small headstones, her parent's final resting place. She opened the wooden gate and slowly walked up the stone path to the cottage. She opened the door with a loud creak and looked around. Everything looked the same as it had been the day she left. After looking around the rest of the house she came to her bedroom and stepped inside. Ivy walked over to her old bed, and set down her suitcase. She opened it and began unpacking, happy to be home. Once all the clothes and her few other belongings were gone from the suitcase, she looked inside. One item remained in the bottom. She slowly picked it up and set it on the bed. Ivy unwrapped the aged, bloodstained cloth and looked at the knife that had been held inside since the day her parents had died.