It was very early when 7-year-old Talia woke to the sound of her parents' voices. They were not speaking very loudly, but the walls in the trailer were paper-thin, and almost every sound uttered could be heard. Groggily, Talia sat up. Surely it wasn't morning yet, was it? It was still dark. She listened, trying to hear what her parents were saying.1

"Can't sleep," her mommy was saying. Then, "Let's take a walk, Jackson."2

"Now, Lenore? It's two in the morning."3

"It's Saturday. We can sleep in tomorrow. Come on, let's walk to the creek. It's so peaceful this time of the night."4

Talia heard her daddy sigh, then say, "Oh, all right."5

A few minutes later, she heard the sound of feet padding past her door. Her mommy whispered, "Shh, don't wake Talia." Talia giggled. She was already up!6

Soon she heard their squeaky screen door open, then slam shut.7

"Brr! It's cold," her mommy said. "I'm going to get my coat and gloves. You should too, Jackson."8

After the screen door shut again, Talia heard nothing more. She got out of bed, deciding to follow them. She didn't want to be alone in the house at night. She would have to be careful to stay hidden though. She didn't want to get in trouble for being out of bed.9

Talia slipped a pink jacket on over her nightgown, the blue one with the yellow daisies. Her daddy said it matched her blonde hair and blue eyes perfectly. Slipping on her shoes, Talia went outside. She stood on the stoop, looking for her parents. She could just make them out ahead, at the edge of the woods near their house. Her daddy was a big man, strong, and he towered over her small, fragile mommy. Their physical dissimilarity was striking. Talia started after them, trying to be quiet. Leaves crackled under her feet, but her parents didn't hear.10

The full moon shone overhead, lighting up the whole forest.11

Soon Talia and her parents reached the creek. Her parents sat on a fallen tree trunk, gazing at the rushing water. Talia hid behind a tree, stifling a giggle.12

"look how the moon shines on the water. Isn't it beautiful?" asked Talia's mommy. She sounded nervous to Talia.13

"You're beautiful, Lenore," Talia's daddy said. He put his arm around her shoulders and squeezed. " I wish you had insomnia every night."14

He began to kiss her. Talia's mommy pulled away.15

"Don't, Jackson. I want to talk to you."16

Talia's daddy frowned, hurt.17

"About what?"18

Talia's mommy took a deep breath. " I lied. About the insomnia. I need to talk to you, and I wanted us to be alone. I didn't want Talia to overhear."19

Talia fidgeted guiltily at that.20

" I want a divorce," Talia's mommy said abruptly.21

Talia was confused. She knew what divorce was. Some of her friends had parents who were divorced. But that could never happen to her. Could it?22

Talia's daddy's mouth fell open. " What?"23

"I don't think this is going to work out."24

Jackson's mouth opened, then closed. He looked flabbergasted.25

"Lenore, where is this coming from? I had no idea... Can't we make it work? I love you. I don't want to lose you."26

Talia's mommy stared at the ground. " I'm sorry. But no. It's not that it's bad. It's... I found somebody else. I love another man."27

Talia's daddy reeled back, looking like he had been shot. His body sagged. Talia too was in shock. Her mommy loved someone besides her daddy? It couldn't be. Talia wished she had never left her bed. But it was too late. She stayed behind the tree, watching miserably.28

"It won't have to be drawn-out," Talia's mommy was saying. " I'll move out tomorrow. I'll take Talia with me, of course."29

Talia's daddy, who had buried his face in his hands, looked up sharply.30

"What?"31

Talia's mommy looked unsettled.32

"Um, I'll take Talia with me. I'll tell her the news in the morning."33

"Oh, really?" Tali's daddy muttered. "Is that right?"34

Suddenly he leapt to his feet, towereing over his wife. He gripped her shoulders roughly in his large hands, putting his face close to hers.35

"You're not taking Talia!" he shouted." You might leave me,But you won't take Talia with you! She's my daughter! She's my daughter, you can't take her away from me!" he shouted. " bunny, Lenore, you can't do this to me!"36

Suddenly his big, strong hands were around Talia's mommy's thin throat, squeezing, cutting off her air. His wife's eyes widened, and she began to choke, clawing despereatly at his hands. He screamed into her face.37

" You can't leave me, Lenore! I won't let you! I won't let you hurt me! I'll hurt you!" he shouted. He squeezed tighter adn tighter. Talia's mommy's face turned red, then purple. Finally, she went limp. 38

Talia, who had been watching in horror, couldn't contain her cries any longer.39

"Noooo! Mommiiiieee! Nooooo!" she shrieked.40

Her daddy's head whipped around. First he saw Talia. 41

"Talia!" he cried.42

"Nooo!" she wailed. "Mommmyyyy!"43

Her daddy glanced down at his hands. His eyes bulged as he saw they were clamped around his wife's throat. He seemed to have just realized what he had done. With a cry of shock, he let go of her. She slumped forward, unbreathing. Talia's mommy was dead.44

Talia screamed, unable to shake off the horror of what she had seen. Her daddy's eyes darted from the body at his feet to his daughter. One of his gloves, too large for his hand, slipped off, but he didn't notice. He took a step towards Talia. That was too much for her. Halting in her screams, she jumped to her feet and began to run, sprinting away from the outstretched arms of her father. Her father chased her, calling her name, but Talia ignored him.45

Terrified, Talia ran, not noticing or caring where she was going. Twigs and thorns tore at her bare legs, but she didn't feel the scratches. Suddenly she found herself submerged up to her knees in icy, rushing water. somehow she had circled back to the creek. Talia plunged through it, her nightgown sticking to her legs. Once again, she heard her father call her name. Turning her head sharply, she tripped over a slippery rock adn fell. As she disappeared under the rushing waters, Talia's head struck a particularly large rock. For little Talia, everything went black.46

***************************************************47

Jackson panted as he searched for Talia. Where was she? He still couldn't believe what he had done. He had killed Lenore! He had strangled his wife to death! And what's more, his little girl had seen him!48

Where was Talia? She was understandably terrified of him. Jackson wouldn't blame her if she hated him now. But he didn't want to hurt her. He would never hurt her. She was his child!49

Oh, who are you kidding? he asked himself hopelessly. Lenroe was your wife. Ten minutes ago you would have said you could never hurt her either.50

Now Jackson was back where he had started, at the creek. His eyes scanned the area, searching for Talia. He finally caught sight of her. only she wasn't moving. In fact, she was lying, pale and still in her little blue nightdress, face down in the creek, her skull trickling blood, 51

Gasping in horror, Jackson rushed to her. He scooped her out of the water adn held her against his chest. His fingers trembling, he felt for a pulse. But there was none. Jackson's daughter, as well as his wife, were dead. And it was all his fault.52

Looking at the still faces of his wife and daughter, Jackson began to cry. Cradling Talia, he carried her to where Lenore's body was lying and squatted beside it. With his ungloved hand, he sat stroked her hair, the tears falling rapidly. All he had wanted was to keep them from leaving him. And now because of his efforts, they both were gone...53