They tried to tell us it would never work; that the story would end just like all the others. But we knew it was different, and we defied just enough. We laughed at fate and beat the odds. We struggled in our safety and we thrived in our destruction. We were never meant to be what was said to be. Even though we had to wait to bloom and the winter was so cold that we almost shriveled up, we finally bloomed. We changed the end of the story. Our story.

Promises were broken, and facts were denied. In all of our time, there was nothing to be sure of except for one tiny thing. This was the one thing that saved us. It was the reason to everything. And for all I knew, it was the reason the world spun or the flowers grew or the clouds rained. All I was ever sure about was that separated, there was no point. There was no fight. There was no goal. There was no need. There was no life. There was nothing.

All I ever have known is that separation meant death in mind, body and spirit. Separation meant misery. Separation meant waste. It was all I knew. And I would go by any means to protect this truth. I would even sacrifice life to protect it. It was the only thing I could fight for, and it was the only good thing in this world. I had nothing else to believe in. There were no other truths, and the lies that infested the world around us made it hard to even live. We clung to the truth, because it was all we had. And it was the only part of us that was always the same, and never damaged, tarnished, or threatened.

The truth that together, we'd always be safe.

Chapter One

When I was younger, I found my mother's diary from when she and my father first got together. It's a beautiful pink book with lace stitching. Its pages are filled with girly script, neat and precise. But a diary? Yep. I laughed, even then, because diaries are for little girls, not grown women. Especially not grown women who were dating and soon-to-be mothers. Maybe journals, but there's something about writing 'Dear Diary' that is too childish for a mother-to-be to be writing. It seemed less responsible, less grown…

My mom married Jett when I was three. My mom was almost twenty-one, and Jett was twenty-nine. I guess that was considered a huge red flag for anyone who was trying to figure out if we'd ever be a normal family. I guess you could say we were pretty normal back then, aside from the fact that my mom had barely turned seventeen when she got pregnant with me with her twenty-six-year-old boyfriend. Sure, I suppose we could be normal after that, after some time.

When I was really little, I even believed things were normal, or the closest to normal there is. My father treated my mother like a queen. It helped that our last name is Queens, I suppose. Queen Anne. That's my mom's nick name. Or, at least it was. Jett would bring her flowers or little gifts all the time, saying, "A gift for the beautiful Queen." Sometimes, when my mother was having a rough day, he would get down on one knee, grab her hand and kiss it, before looking up at her and saying, "My Lady." Then he would do extra around the house, to give her a break. I used to think my father was so sweet; the perfect gentleman. He certainly was my mother's knight in shining armor back then. Maybe even still. She is too oblivious to reality to know any different. It doesn't matter whether I believed him to be perfect when I was little. I didn't really know him back then. I never figured him out until I was nine.

I think it was the same day that I figured Jett out that I found my mother's diary. Or maybe it was a few days before. I think it was a few days before. That could be why I remember it so well. It wasn't plagued by my realization. Everything normal about that day has long been forgotten. So, I'm pretty sure it had to have been a few days before. Anyway, regardless of when I found the blasted pink book, the passage I remember most was written when she was about eight months pregnant with me. I must have read it a hundred times up until now. It's as if she was talking to me, saying the things a child always wishes to hear. Things I never heard. When I read the passage, I heard her voice, and I got to know the mother I always wanted, as well as the one I never had.

We found out it was a little girl today. It took forever for me to work up the guts to find out, but today's ultrasound just seemed to be the best time to do it. I was so excited, and Jett looked so happy. We also talked about names. We ended up flipping a coin for the first name. Whoever got the first name would forfeit the middle name to the other. Well, Jett won the first name. So, I got the middle. I waited for his name first, so I could make it match well.

So, now we're expecting little Molly Kate

Not going to lie, but I really wanted the first name. I haven't told Jett this, but I really want a flower child. Not like a hippie or anything. But I want a little girl with a flower name, like Rose or Lily. I guess that I just have to hope that Jett and I have another little girl someday. But for now, I'll focus on Molly. I am so excited to have her. To hold her and love her, and to teach her. My mom and dad aren't happy yet. And they won't let me come home at all to see my brother or sister. I think I might stop trying soon. If they don't want me, why should I want them?

I miss Michael and Laura so much, though. But mom thinks my example will rub off on them and they will follow in my footsteps someday. I doubt Michael is a worry. I mean, he's twelve and still thinks girls have cooties. And Laura is seven. She's years and years from even being able to have kids. I think that if they were able to see how hard it is to have kids, then they won't have them early. Because I know it's going to be hard. It already is hard. Especially in school. People laugh and say stuff. But I am just happy to have a baby girl on the way.

Molly Kate. I am so excited. I hope I am a good mom. I know that I will do everything I can for her, and protect her from the bad things in this world. And I know Jett will too. We will raise a happy, healthy little girl who will never have a worry or care. Or we'll at least try. I know I will. As long as my heart is beating, I'll take care of her, protect her, and try my hardest to make her happy. I already love her so much. Almost more than anything. I love Jett a lot, though. I'm not sure who I love more just yet. I guess between him and Molly, I won't need anything else to make me happy. They are my world. That will be enough.

Just remembering these words bring on a huge wave of emotions. I remember when I first read them, I was confused, because even then, when I was just a nine-year-old girl, things weren't perfect. The two previous years had proven that. So much has changed, and especially now, I wish that the woman who wrote those words seventeen years ago was still here. But she was long gone, and replaced by someone else. Same name, same blood, and same face, unless you count all the changes the drugs have made.. But she wasn't the mother in that diary.

I wonder if my mother ever realized that she had finally gotten her flower child. One of my sisters is named Lacey. And if you think about it, that makes her a flower child. I realized that a few years ago, when, for the first time in about six years, my father called my mom 'Queen Anne' again. And ever since I could remember, my nickname for Lacey has been Lace. Sure, it was a stretch, but essentially she was Queen Anne's Lace. It's a flower, I swear. And maybe that's not what my mom meant, but I hold on to that, because it's like I almost need one thing in that entry to be true or possible. Well, aside from my name.

My name is Molly Kate. And yeah, okay, it was true that my mom's parents kicked us out. I've never met them, or my aunt and uncle. I've never met any of my other family, actually. Jett's parents died when he was twenty, and his one sister died of Leukemia when she was twelve. She was four years younger than Jett. Her name was Molly.

But nothing else was true, or worked out to be true. Not the important stuff. I'm sure my mom loved me once, but I was too young to remember. I just remember when that stopped. That didn't bother me much. It just bothered me that it stopped for Lacey, and my twin siblings, Kelly and Billy. She stopped loving them, too. Well, actually, I don't think mom ever really loved them. She might have loved Lacey for a few months. But it was too rough back then for me to really know.

To make it worse, my mom hasn't ever been a good mother. Other than keeping us alive, she has failed miserably. True, she provides for us. But love? Nurturing? Caring? Forget that. She only cares when it means something for her. Normally, we mean nothing. She doesn't protect us either, especially when it concerns me. Lacey, Kelly, and Billy have me to protect them, so it doesn't matter much that their mother won't... But when I needed my mom most, she turned away. Literally. And she's kept her back to me ever since.

While she had her back turned to me, she was doing drugs. Heroin, I think. I was too busy crying and screaming to know for sure. It was like she hadn't even heard me. Oh yeah, now I know. I'm sure it must have been a few days before then that I'd read the diary, because now I remember that she had been away for a couple days, which is why I wanted to read that diary. I was silly enough to actually miss her. Reading it gave me some sickly sense of hope. And so, when she came back, I had this new hope that things would be different. That was silly of me, of course. That's why I screamed. I was screaming for her to help me. I screamed in vain, for nothing had changed except for my knowledge of how different my mom really was. The knowledge that once she had been normal. And that she wanted to love me.

But she didn't. She doesn't.

Okay, so maybe my mom did teach me stuff, but not the stuff she intended in the diary. Not things like reading and writing, numbers or letters. She never taught me animals or history, places or flowers. None of the stuff parents want to teach their kids. I was just lucky to be able to pick up on it on my own. I managed to become smart all on my own.

At the end of the day, the bulk of what she taught me were street lessons, like what each drug and alcoholic beverage was and what each one did to each person I knew. She taught me what tricks were, and about what men wanted. She taught me more about the human body than anyone else could. She taught me that in one night, she could make more money doing tricks than if she had worked a minimum wage job for four days. She taught me that she only loved Jett, and she taught me what he liked most. And most of all, she taught me that she didn't care about her children.

Jett taught me stuff too, of course. Lessons that I didn't like a bit more than my mother's lessons. In fact, I hated his lessons more. I still do, because at least my mom can hide behind the drugs, alcohol, and constant selling of her body. At least she had an excuse, even though it was a poor one. And at least she never laid a hand on us. That had to stand for something, right? I guess. But Jett was a whole different type of horrible parent. He's one of those you'd probably find on America's Most Wanted, especially if he was caught doing this anywhere else but inside his own home. And he insisted on teaching me his lessons.

And he never stops.

The thing about Jett is that I don't think he ever had good intentions. He played the whole decent father role for about five years. He married Anne and they "raised" me. But when I was four, he started to get Anne to drink. And so when I turned five, and he started getting angrier at me and occasionally hitting me, she never thought anything of it. Alcohol claimed her. And over the next year, he got her into more sinister things. Drugs. He started slow, with pot and ecstasy. After Lacey was born, though, he got her on Coke. And after a year, he had gotten her on Smack and Crank, too. But don't forget her drinks. She loves to drink. She can hold off on the drugs for a while, sometimes months if she needs to, but she cannot go too long without a drink. She'd rather starve than go a day without drinking.

I'm not sure Jett ever does drugs, aside from marijuana. Maybe he is just good at keeping cool. I see him eyeing people greedily whenever they have Smack, though, but I've never seen him take it. Maybe he was trying to stay off it. Who knows? I don't really care. He's not my problem. Well, he is my problem, but what he decides to do with his body isn't my concern. All I know is that he pumps my mom full of drugs. It's his way of getting away with what he really wants. That is my problem.

It's almost pathetic that he's such a coward that he has to drug my mom up to do what he wants and teach me the lessons he wants. I call them lessons because it sure has taught me a lot, whether or not the information is good beside the point . Sometimes his lessons parallel what my mom's do. but there are some things that only he could teach me. But just because you have knowledge of something, doesn't mean you should teach it. There are some things that are supposed to be left unknown…

Like how my dad gets off on watching my mom hook up with fellows for money and drugs. Like how he is into young girls. Really young girls. Like how he has a thing for virgins. Like how he never likes to be drunk, high, or impaired in any way when he gets with a young girl and or a virgin. Like how nothing turns him off if a girl meets one of those two standards. Like how he will wait a very long time to get them if they meet this standard. And like how me being his daughter doesn't exclude me from his unsatisfied hunger for young girls and virgins.

And how my sisters won't be an exception, either.

I've managed to be lucky in some ways, but it's not really me who is the lucky one. But it's important to me, so I guess it's all the same. Jett isn't stupid, so he never strikes for a girl who he can't manipulate and control first. Like Kelly. She is too little. Thank God. She's only six, and since I plan on getting out of here once I am eighteen, she isn't in too much danger, unless you count Jett's fists. I'm taking the kids with me, and hopefully nothing will happen in the coming months until my birthday. No one can stop me from taking the kids. The only people who will know are our parents, and if they think they can stop me, I won't stop from telling the police everything our parents have done over the years. They can deal with that instead.

The only worry I have is Lacey, because she is ten. She's older than I was when Jett raped me for the first time, and I know that he can only be so uninterested for so long. It's odd because Lacey is tons prettier than I was at her age. But maybe he's afraid of me because he knows I will go ballistic if he so much as touches her.

It's oddly funny. What my mom wrote in the last paragraph of her diary entry that I remember so well is exactly my frame of mind with my sisters and brother. Okay, so maybe we all get beaten up on a periodic basis. I can only take so much myself without become worthless, or dying. So maybe not completely protective. But with Lacey especially? How many times have I repeated my mother's own words, intended for me, about my sister? As long as my heart is beating, I'll take care of her, protect her, and try my hardest to make her happy. Boy, wasn't that the truth.

Thankfully Billy and Kelly aren't real worries. Lacey and I try and hide them from Jett and Mom, but that's more to keep their eyes from seeing the stuff that goes on, not because they're in any real danger. Billy's only worry would ever be beatings. Jett doesn't have a taste for boys. I am surprised by that. I'd have thought that nothing was below my father. Thankful, but surprised. And Kelly is too little for Jett's taste. Again, surprised, but he has reasoning behind that. It is common sense, which actually pisses me off. I hate it when pedophiles have even a little sense. That's how they get away with things.

Somehow, me and Lacey have managed to raise two happy and relatively innocent six-year-olds. I hope they stay naïve about what goes on for the next year. I really don't want them to know that their mommy is doing all the big time drugs and selling herself to nasty men. And I definitely don't want them knowing that it's their daddy that is selling her, giving her the drugs, and pushing her to do more. But most of all, I don't want them knowing that their daddy likes to rape their big sister, or that he is trying to sell her to the same dirty men that come over all the time.

I don't know how I've managed to get so calm when thinking about, talking about, or experiencing these things. Maybe I am still sickened every time my father decides he wants to screw his oldest daughter. Maybe every time he does, I beeline for the bathroom afterwards to try and wash away his semen, because the last thing I would ever want or need is to get knocked up my father. Maybe I shudder each time I think about these things. And maybe I react the same way each time Jett urges me to go crawl into bed with one of those men for money: scream and curse… And say no.

But I remember when he raped me the first time. I couldn't sleep for days, and I vomited whenever I thought about it, just like I did when he finally rolled off of me. I guess that was an appropriate reaction for a nine-year-old girl. I had no idea that for the previous three weeks, the looks he was giving me were the looks similar to what a lion gives to an unsuspecting gazelle. I didn't know he was fantasizing about his daughter. About raping me. I've managed to gain some self-composure when the memories come knocking at my door. I manage to hold on. How? I have no idea.

Sometimes I feel like I can't remember a thing about that day, aside from the general idea of what happened. But at other times, like now, I remember everything. But things are different now. Worse. I probably get raped two or three times a week, but I still manage to go to sleep at night. I still manage to go to school and even smile if there's something funny. I still manage to eat and act almost normal, once I've scrubbed myself clean. I'm not sure what it took for me to become so normal about this. Incest is not normal. No, I am not used to it, but somehow, I am calm about it. Am I just as sick as Jett? I ask this question a lot, because I'm dead scared that it might be true. I pray to God I'm not…

A sick smell pulls me out of these thoughts. I whip around to look at the overcrowded table where Jett, Anne, and a few dirty men sit. The table is cluttered with various bottles of liquor, ash trays, and cards. Before, the only smell was a stale cigarette smell, and the alcohol mixing with it. That smell I was used to, because it seemed to be the permanent smell of this place. But now the smell is bitter, overpowering. My eyes widen.

It isn't even seven in the evening. Usually they managed to stay off the hard stuff until nine, so that the smell doesn't get on me and the kids' clothes and in our hair. But for some reason, they were smoking Smack. Right now. I clench my fists, pissed.

"Is there any reason you couldn't at least tell me you were lighting up right now? You think it will go over well if two first graders show up at school smelling like Junk?"

Jett eyes me angrily. He's the only one not smoking, but I could tell that he was about to light a joint. I clench my jaw, wanting an answer before I carry the kids to our room, but Jett just laughs at my expression and reaches for a lighter. I growl as I get up.

Billy and Kelly are still fast asleep, like they were when my mind went off, but Lacey is awake, watching me. I wonder how long she has been awake. Last I knew, she had dozed off with the twins.

"Can you carry Kelly back to the room? I'll get Billy since he's heavier."

"Yeah, sure." Lacey nods and reaches for Kelly. She struggles a little under her weight, but manages to get into the room. We wake them up here, to get them into pajamas. They groggily obey before climbing up into their top bunk. We wait to hear their childish snores, which only takes a few minutes. Then we sigh, as if we had been holding our breath. I nod and turn to bolt the door shut. I don't want any late night visitors. That bolt had to be the best thirty dollars I have ever spent.

When I turn around, I see Lacey sitting on the edge of our bed, rigid. She's staring at the floor, an oddly blank and colorless expression on her face. Her normally gorgeous, dark mahogany hair seemed to be dead and wiry. The only thing that was as beautiful as always were her eyes. Dark electric blue, wide and knowing. Deep. Wise. My sister's eyes were something extraordinary.

"What's wrong, Lace?"

Lacey starts, looking at me in surprise. "Oh! Nothing, just thinking." I watch her scramble around for her pajamas while I stand there, frowning.

This isn't the first time she's done this. For the past two weeks, maybe a few days longer, she has become more distant, resorting to these little moments when she isn't really here, but lost somewhere in her mind. Once back on track, she is fine. She seems a little tired lately, and maybe it's because this school year is harder than previous ones. Or maybe our home life made a little more sense now, and it bothers her more. Whatever it is, she just seems distant.

She has already climbed into bed when I make to find my own pajamas. I search for the lightest ones I can find because it is especially hot in our room. Our window never closes completely, so the hot summer air always creeps in, and since Jett and Anne are cheap, the air conditioner never keeps the room cool. Add four people to sleep in here and it is just hot during the summer time. A long time ago, I invested in a fan, but it's slowly dying. It is pretty ancient, but it was better than nothing.

I switch off the light and climb into bed next to Lacey, who is in an odd position, but her eyes are closed. She's either asleep or doesn't want to be disturbed. I sigh and frown again. It was only now that I realize just how stinking hot it is. If this was any other night, I would probably be awake for hours, but this was one of those nights that was different. They don't happen too often, but circumstances all came together. It's what I call an aftermath day. And this certainly was the aftermath.

Last night, including the relatively early morning, had been one of the worst nights in a long time. I managed to get Lacey and the twins in the room by eight, but it was one of those nights that were called an open house. Anybody that knew what that meant was there, which was usually a good fifty people. Sometimes there was as many as eighty, crammed in whatever location it was. It was a night full of drugs, alcohol, pornography, and sexual activity. There was usually one or two of these every week, but at different houses each time. Our house just happens to be a popular location. We host a few times a month, or so. If the weather was good, we were 'privileged' to host twice as much a month.

Open houses are bad news for me. Since Jett has been trying for ages to get me to sell, both drugs and sex, and since I refuse, he makes me help host. I have to go around, giving people their drinks and drugs, helping them find what they need. Whether it's a T.V. where the latest porn flick is playing, or a specific woman, or sometimes man, to go screw, I do it. We get men and women, but it's usually the men that do the screwing. The women are more classy than to go seeking to screw some guys at the open house. If they are going to screw anybody, they either are the neighborhood prostitutes that my mom rounds up, or they come with their own guy.

The open houses go as late as three in the morning sometimes, and breathing in the drugs is usually close to being as bad as doing them. I always reek of the booze, sex, and drugs by morning, not to mention my own smell from walking around the crowded house in the heat, since the air conditioner hardly runs. Plus, I am always on clean-up duty afterwards. There's always someone's vomit somewhere to scrub clean, and the bathroom is always filthy. So add that and it's a pure disgusting smell that lingers on me. I always crave a shower after nights like these. Usually I get them and by the time I'm finished, I either get to get an hour or two of sleep, or I am done in time to wake the kids for school. Open houses are almost always on school nights.

And sure enough, last night was an open house. This one carried itself until four-thirty this morning. Much later than normal, and considering how the night before I was up doing all my homework until three in the morning, knowing it was going to be an open house the following day, I was already exhausted. After I had finished cleanup duty, it was almost time to wake the kids for school. I wanted to at least shower, to get the nasty off of me, but Jett, who somehow managed to stay awake after a heavy night of drinking and whatever drugs he'd taken, had other plans.

It was one of those rare times that he actually raped me while under the influence. Those were the only times I even bother fighting him, because that was when he'd hurt me most. Sometimes he'd choke me, or bite me, or even slam me around. And, of course, he always got carried away and used too much power to get the job done. These times would be the only times I'd bleed, but that was enough to keep me hurting for a couple of days.

So, when he grabbed me last night and threw me to the ground, I instantly started fighting. He just laughed and stuffed a dirty sock of his in my mouth so that he didn't have to listen to my enraged and somewhat fearful screams. He was far from gentle as he exposed me. He did everything to cause pain: the biting, choking, and slamming me into the ground, but he also clawed at me and slapped me around for resisting his experimentations. I never would let him get any more from me that he had already taken, and when he was under the influence, that really pissed him off. Good.

He really dragged it out, though. Since I was fighting him, I had just about passed out from exhaustion when he decided he was done. He just got up and left me there, crying and bleeding. I spat the sock out of my mouth, shaking and trying to keep myself from throwing up. I didn't bother putting on clothes. I was going straight for the shower, even though it was almost time to wake the kids for school. And once I was in the shower, I was bound to be in there for a while. On nights when Jett rapes me like this, I refuse to leave the shower until I felt almost clean.

Sometimes I don't get out for as long as an hour.

I remember locking the door, stumbling into the bathtub and throwing on the water. I tried to just focus on getting rid of the blood and the semen, and it seemed like there was so much there. I must have been doing this for fifteen, maybe twenty minutes before giving up, hoping to God that I had done enough to rid myself of the chances of getting pregnant. Then I scrubbed my hair clean, using two treatments of both shampoo and conditioner. I wanted the smell of drugs out of my hair. That process took another ten minutes.

And then came the scrubbing. I scrubbed myself with our Japanese cherry blossom body soap. Over and over. I scrubbed until it hurt too much to scrub. I usually go at that for ten minutes. This time, I know I took longer. And then I just collapsed, crying. I don't know how long I was sitting in the water crying, but at some point, I looked up to see Lacey's blurred form through the shower curtain. I peeked around the edge of it to see she was dressed for school. I remember her saying, "You're clean now, Molly."

How she got in through the locked door, I still don't know. She won't tell me, but I remember her face looked like a forced unconcerned expression, and I saw why. The twins were lingering at the door, thinking that I was hurt. I looked back into her eyes, and I saw that they understood, and they were concerned. She was taking on the truth and hiding it from the twins. I nodded, and she herded her and the twins out.

I finished up, feeling empty. Not only was I exhausted, but I was just stressed. Normally, when Jett rapes me, it isn't too hard to just wash up and return to normal. But this was the worst ones since the first time he'd done it. Especially when it came to bleeding. I felt like I was nine again, trying desperately to erase the memories and evidence.

When I was finally dressed, for Lacey had also brought me clean clothes, I got ready to go out and face my brother and sisters. I felt a little more composed. Shaken and exhausted, yes, but better than my breakdown in the shower. When I went out to the kitchen, I found the twins dressed for school and finishing breakfast. Lacey had gotten them up and ready. She wasn't eating, though, but sitting and watching them. She looked up at me and gave a weak smile, one that told me she was hiding something from me.

We didn't talk, and we somehow got out of the house on time. I spent the day at school distant and giving my effort to the task of just staying awake. All day, my only real friend, Neil, tried to cheer me up and get me to look less dead. But I told him that I didn't sleep again last night, because he knew I had studied the night before. He was so upset and made me promise to sleep tonight. I said I'd try. I didn't tell him that it was all up to my father.

So when I got home tonight, I did the homework I could manage. The twins had gone to Billy's friend's house, so by the time they were home, I was finished working and had dinner ready. They spent all of dinner telling me about Vincent and his sister Misty. I hardly was paying attention, with exhaustion ready to threaten everything around me. We finished dinner at around five-thirty. I had the kids go watch T.V., and I did the dishes. I had just finished, thinking about asking Lacey to get the kids to bed because I wanted to go to sleep early, when Jett turned up with the group of men and Anne.

It was one of those rare moments where I made eye contact with Jett, and it threated to overpower me and everything around me. My heart sped up in fear and my knees shook, but I just stumbled my way to sit next to Lacey. It was the best I could they were content with ignoring us. And that's where we stayed until the smell of smack prompted us to leave.

I try to calm myself, to let myself sleep. It's only seven o'clock, and the odds are I will get enough sleep, but I don't want time to think about this anymore. My body aches from the abuse of this morning, and I want some healthy reason for it to go away. I try to think of one of the many songs I knew from when I was a little girl, but that doesn't happen. Regardless, soon the darkness will take over and I will fall into one of the most restless nights of sleep I haven't had in a long time.