Hello everyone!
Thank you all for the reviews! I cannot express how much they mean to me! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to post again, but here it is- Chapter Nine! Please please please please PLEASE rate this chapter! I'd love to hear what you all have to say on it. I apologize ahead of time if you hate me or are saddened by what happens, etc. It's a tough chapter, but I promise, it won't stay this bad for long. Anyway, please let me know what you think! You guys are great!

Chapter Nine

I lost any dignity I had left when I silently cried the entire class. But the other kids seemed outraged at Mr. Tristan's behavior. None of us really liked him, but this crackdown on me seemed to cross the line in many kids' books. Though I never knew people well, many people had met and talked to me before, and they knew enough about me to know that I was the main guardian of my brother and sisters. No one knew why, but they respected me for taking on the responsibility of three young kids. And this assault against me was below the belt. No one could have missed what a mess I was on Friday.

Somehow I managed to be okay throughout my sixth hour, but as the bell rang, I ran out the door. And thankfully, I found Neil at our tree. I ran to him, shaking and on the verge of tears. "Neil, listen. I don't have much time. But I can't go home. Mr. Tristan gave me a detention. Don't worry about me. I'll see you tomorrow." I was about to turn away when I felt an impulse I couldn't turn down. "If you see my sisters or brother, tell them where I am. I have to go, now." I didn't even wait for him to answer me.

I made it to Mr. Tristan's class just in time. I wanted to scream and rage at him, but he was on the phone. He just pointed to a desk. I sat there, shaking from fear and anger. And I just stared at Mr. Tristan for the entire twenty minutes he was on the phone. But at last, he hung up and turned to me. "You know why you're here, don't you? You're done playing stupid?"

Fury flared up inside me. "I'm here because you believe I was trying to insult you when in all reality, I just did poorly on a test because I was having a bad day."

Mr. Tristan stared at me for a moment before saying, "I think we need to add five minutes to your detention, Miss Queens."

"No!" I yelled, outraged. "This is so unfair! I didn't do anything!" Then the tears came without me really even knowing they were here. "I just want to get home to make sure my sisters are okay. Please."

Mr. Tristan shook his head. "You're serving your punishment for such a despicable action."

I wanted to retort, but I wanted to get out of here more and I knew that he wasn't going to let me go. The tears of injustice overwhelmed me. I couldn't help crying. I tried to stop them, but the panic bubbling inside me wouldn't allow that. So instead, I covered my face with my hands. But apparently, I hadn't received punishment enough.

"Oh, boohoo. This act isn't going to fool me, Miss Queens. I will not show sympathy to a wicked child who is trying to insult me and ruin my name and reputation." He chuckled. "Although, I'm sorry that you were stupid enough to think that you could outsmart me."

It was like I was teleporting or something. I felt as though Mr. Tristan had suddenly been possessed by my father. I felt as though, somehow, Mr. Tristan was my father, and his need to make me break was ever present. I wanted to scream. I wanted to run. I wanted to hurt Mr. Tristan, but I knew that it would only make it worse.

"Why do you try to undermine people much greater than you, Miss Queens? That I am curious of. Why do you seek to tarnish the images of respectable people? Are you hiding some dark secret, which causes you to take others down with you? It seems like you'd be the life destroying type." If I hadn't heard how Mr. Tristan's voice changed, I would have burst out in anger. Instead, I looked up to see Mr. Tristan's eyes trained on the photograph of his wife and three children.

"You're just like her. Of course you'd want to break me," he muttered. It was then that I realized he was talking about his wife. And it was also then that I realized he had only mentioned her once, and that was at the beginning of the school year.

Tentatively, I asked, "Mr. Tristan, is everything alright with you and your wife?"

Mr. Tristan snapped back to me, but he had a crazed look in his eyes. "How dare you ask such questions! It is not your place to ask about me and that woman." As if my Trig teacher screaming at me wasn't weird enough, he started crying. And similarly to what I did last Friday in Neil's arms, Mr. Tristan was overcome with the overwhelming words that plagued his mind.

"That woman! How could she think I hurt our Lizzy? She's in first grade! Why would she lie? She said I never hurt her. I am just as worried as she is about what happened to her, but how could she so easily assume it's me? I'd never hurt my girl. Not ever. No, I wouldn't. She should have asked the boys. Ian and Kevin would have told her. They would have told her that I never hurt their sister..."

"When was the last time you talked to you wife about this? Maybe if you just talked-"

"No! Shut up! You just stop talking to me!" Mr. Tristan went rigid as he let out a cry of agony. "They're gone! All gone, and she won't come back to give me a chance! Took them and now I will never see them again."

I felt pity beyond belief for Mr. Tristan. I could understand that he was in such pain. But it was then that I realized why he was keeping me here. "Mr. Tristan, its wrong what she did. But you can't punish others for what she did."

Mr. Tristan snapped back into focus. "I can't, eh? Especially when they deserve it?" Shock flooded my face. Mr. Tristan laughed. "Oh, yes. I'm not punishing you because of that woman. Oh no. I'm punishing you because you're just like her, and people like her don't deserve to be happy. They deserve punishment."

That same anger flared up inside me. Because it wasn't me he was punishing. It was my sister. Because if anything happened to her...

It was then that panic rose inside me again. "Mr. Tristan, please. Let me go. My sister needs me. She could be in danger-"

"No! You'll stay like I told you to."

"But Mr. Tristan, I-"

Just then, the door opened and in walked a security guard and the principal. The security guard was a strong man who towered over our tiny principal. But she was quite the scary woman when she was angry. She turned to me and said, "Molly, you may go. And whatever other punishments given will be dismissed. But go quickly. I need to have a word with Mr. Tristan." I didn't need telling twice.

And I had never run so fast in my entire life.

I was so pumped with my anger with Mr. Tristan that exhaustion never sank in my head. All I needed was to get home. I was terrified, yet completely sure that today was the day. So, I raced the entire way, not even hesitating when I saw Jett's truck. I just raced through the front door, not even taking off my shoes.

But I was surprised to see Jett sitting on the couch. In the duration of a second, my head spun with questions. Did he really just sit there when he got home? Did he even think of taking advantage of my absence? Did he really fear me that much? But then he looked at me and smiled. I wondered about this until I suddenly heard the screaming and the pounding on the door. Our door. It couldn't be anyone but Lacey.

I was shaking by the time I had my hands on the door knob, unlocking it from the outside. He had locked her in there… I shook more when I heard her screams become more terrified and hysterical. I could hear her moving away from the door, sobbing like a wounded and terrified child. But wasn't she just a child? I threw the door open and saw her. I almost puked. I almost fainted. I almost died.

She had curled herself in the corner, sobbing. She was completely naked, but she was also covered in blood. Or it seemed to be because it was one of the only things I saw. I saw it everywhere. It was present on the sheets, her skin, the floor, the walls, the door… Everywhere. I wanted to sink to my knees and thrash around. But need to help her kept me going. It kept me moving.

"Lacey? It's me, Molly." I staggered forward as she lifted her head up. And it was horrible. A red, tear stained face. I could see the brokenness there. I could see the presence of the wounds that would never heal. But when she saw me, I saw a little life flood back. She reached her arms out to me, like a small child would do to their mother when they were afraid.

I let her grasp me a moment before pulling her with me. As I pulled her, I kicked off my shoes because they made me feel like I was suffocating. Lacey attached herself to my side, and this way I pulled her to the bathroom. I locked us in before I put her in the tub. I started the warm water before I said anything else to her.

I grabbed her face in my hands and forced her to look at me. I tried very hard to keep my own voice strong, even, and less hysterical than my mind was. "Lacey, honey, we need to get you clean. We have to scrub it all out of you, okay? Don't make me do it, though. It will only hurt you worse. But I will stay here with you. I'm not leaving you."

It was like ice, talking like this. Dry ice. Having to say these things. It froze me on the inside, but burned at the same time. It made my head spin. A voice this calm was so foreign… It was so calm, so controlled. Dry ice... I wasn't calm. I wasn't controlled. I wanted to die. How could I be calm about this? How could I stand it? I don't know…

But Lacey nodded, still trembling. I sat on the floor as I could tell she started to try and scrub herself clean. The water rose higher and higher until it was over half full. I could see the blood tinting the water. I turned the water off and let Lacey soak. Then I stared at her face, trying to cling to the need of helping her so I wouldn't finally lose everything.

But her face made it harder. She was crumbling in my hands. She was slipping away, like sand. I couldn't hold her. I couldn't capture the grains falling because I'd lose all the rest by doing so. But I needed to hold on. I needed to keep trying to hold her together. I couldn't give up. Not even after the last grain of sand fell. I had to keep fighting. For her.

She was visibly shaking and the tears couldn't stay dammed up in her eyes. It made my body ache. "Lacey, I am so sorry." These words weren't good enough, I knew that. They meant nothing and only made me hurt worse. I had failed. And now, there was no other option. I was going to have to become a murderer. I wondered how much it would hurt Lacey when I did. But I knew how much she would hurt if I didn't, and that was not an option. It wasn't, and it would never be one.

But even now, in all of my pain, I couldn't feel that rage of fire that called for blood. Yes, I was angry. But I hurt too much to be able to go out and figure out how to kill our father. Even though he just about killed Lacey. My heart hurts too much. And Lacey is hurting too much. All I wanted to do was cry and hold Lacey until she was okay again. But I knew that that would never happen.

Before I completely lost it, I grabbed a towel and wanted Lacey to come out so I could wrap it around her. But Lacey wasn't responding. She just sat there, her eyes overflowing with tears, her body trembling. But there was no response to anything. I tried talking, nudging, yelling, pinching, and shaking. Not any sign of life in those eyes. Not a single response.

I could feel the agony rising up in me like vomit. I, too, started shaking and crying. "Lacey? Baby, say something." Nothing. "Lacey, please say something to me. Please." Nothing. I resorted to yelling again. "Lacey! Answer me! Say something! Anything!" Nothing. I sank to my knees and started crying. I buried my face in my lap and grasped fistfuls of hair and tried pulling them out. Anything to take away the pain. Anything to change what was done. But nothing would. There would not be any such thing as peace. Not ever again.

After a while, I got up and pulled out the plug to the drain. Then I threw on the shower. Still not anything from Lacey. Cursing and crying from the pain and frustration, I somehow managed to clean her hair and scrub most of her body. She was like a small child, minus the responsiveness that children have. She was more like a corpse, but with a heart still beating.

After I had cleaned her as best as I could have, I turned off the shower and threw the towel around her. I lifted her out and carried her to our room, where I dried her and found her clothes. And even still, she wouldn't respond to me. Not after she was dressed. Not after I had torn the sheets off our bed so that I could later try and wash the blood away. Not after I had gone through the entire room scrubbing every trace of blood I saw. Not after I cried and screamed at her to just do something. But she never moved. Hardly blinked. Nothing…

I threw myself against the wall and hit my head into it a few times, too hard to be any good. But I needed something physical to draw out this vicious venom that was eating away at my soul. I started hollering in agony, grabbing fistfuls of hair again and pulling until I had to scream in pain. And when that didn't work, I started clawing at my flesh until I saw the little beads of blood. But not even that was working. I started biting and hitting and banging every part of my body until the physical pain took over so much that I could no longer move. And then I just cried.

And I didn't stop crying until two hours later, when I heard Kelly and Billy get home. Somehow, I managed to get up and unlock the door. Somehow, I managed to get the twins inside before Jett had a chance to really notice them. He had no visitors this night. It was just him, my mother, me, and the kids. Something about this angered me. Something about this made me want to claw and bite and abuse him, too.

As more of a distraction than a need, I made dinner. And after I had it made, I went back into the room. I walked in to see Kelly crying and Billy comforting her. This troubled me even more, if it was even possible. I set down the pot of macaroni and cheese on the floor before setting myself next to Kelly. "What's wrong, sweetie?"

Kelly looked up at me. "I know why you did this." She pointed at me. She was looking at the claw marks, the bite marks, and the bruises already forming on my body. "I know why Lacey isn't talking." She looked over at Lacey who had yet to move. "And I hate it. I hate him!" And then she started crying harder. I took her in my arms and gave her a reassuring squeeze.

"I know, baby, I do too. But everything will be alright soon. I promise." But the fact that my six year old sister hated my father was like an icy knife going through me.

Somehow, I convinced the twins to eat. And I ate only to distract myself. But Lacey didn't so much as blink at food. It made me feel faint. So, between the three of us, we ate what was in the pot. Once it was gone, I left the room to wash the dishes. And I was just about to go back into the room ten minutes later when I heard Jett give a cough.

It was like fire had replaced blood inside me. I wanted to burn up everything around me. And the only thing my rage could see was Jett. And before I could even think about it, I had gone to him. I trembled as I stared at him. I could have said every swear, every foul thing, but it wouldn't make the fire go away. I could have said anything, but my heart and mind decided to say, "I hate you."

Jett just stared at me as I shook with rage and I cried. "I hate you. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!" I groaned in agony as Jett just stared, absolutely no emotion on his face. Almost as empty as Lacey's. But this only seemed to make me angrier. "How could you do that? How could you? She is you daughter! Your child! And you raped her." Disgust spread over me as Jett continued to stare at me. And for a flicker of a second, I saw something in those cold blue eyes. Was it sorrow? Regret? I don't know. But it was so unfamiliar that it made this worse.

After a while, Jett answered, "I could because I wanted to. And because I was able to."

My head spun and I felt faint. But I shook my head and focused in on Jett again. "You are a sick son of a bitch, do you know that? I hope you burn in hell for what you've done to her. What you've done to your child. And I promise you that if you ever touch her again, it will be the last thing you do."

I turned away and ran back to the room. And once I was inside, I let the waves of despair flow over me. Nothing in the world was ever going to change this. Any of it. Nothing was going to get better. Nothing was going to go away. Instead, I would get to live with this horror for the rest of my life. And knowing my lack of fortune, I was bound to live a very long, pitiful life.

The rest of the night was nearly silent, minus the tears. For once, I let myself cry in front of my brother and my sisters. But Kelly cried with me. Billy was so confused, but he didn't press for answers. And Lacey sat there like a sculpture until nine o'clock, when I saw her sway.

"Lacey?" I said tentatively.

She blinked before her eyes found me. She swayed again when out of nowhere, she vomited everywhere. Then she stared crying, clutching her stomach. I grabbed one of the nearby shirts in our dirty laundry pile and quickly mopped most of the sick. And just as I was going to go get a wet towel, I heard Lacey speak for the first time. "Molly? Please?" I looked up and saw she was reaching for me.

A few tears escaped as I went to her and sat next to her. I let her wrap her arms around my middle, and I held her close. She started sobbing into my shirt. I stroked her hair, trying to keep my tears at bay, but I knew they'd escape again. I'd break down again, too.

After a few minutes, I heard her cry, "I don't understand." I pulled her away so I could see her face. It looked horrifically young and childlike and those blue eyes stared at me so helplessly. "I don't understand why it happened. What happened? I don't feel like me, Molly."

I tried not to gag, but that was impossible. These statements were part of what made me so terrified about this happening, and why I wanted so desperately to stop it. In a shaky voice, I tried to explain. "Jett did something horrible to you. He did one of the worst things to his own daughter. And he's not even sorry. He is a sick, horrible person who doesn't deserve to have the children he does. Talented, beautiful, and strong. But he took something very precious, special and important from you. Something he had absolutely no right to. He took a part that can never come back, and he took it in the worst way.

"He has left a mark on you that can never heal all the way, but I promise that you will be able to carry on someday. I swear to you that you will never be alone, and he will never hurt you ever again. The pain will die down a little with time, and with support, you may end up being a better and stronger person. Nothing that happened was your fault. Someone as special as you doesn't deserve any wrongdoing, but unfortunately, we don't have a father that can see the value in his children. He, instead, takes advantage of them and tries to destroy them. But I'm going to help you. I won't let him succeed."

Whether she took any of it in or not, I don't know. But I pulled her back into my arms and kissed the top of her head. "I love you, Lacey. I love you so much." But I couldn't say any more, because the pain and horror of it was threatening to take over again. I needed to hold it together. Just a little longer...

After a while, I pulled away so I could tuck the twins in. And then I dressed for bed, but I didn't expect to sleep. Not with this on my mind. I didn't expect to be able to stand on my own two feet anymore. But I did lie in bed with my arms wrapped protectively around Lacey. Neither of us slept. We managed the horror of the night together, but silently. Once the sun had risen, we rose too. I decided to clean the room a bit when I realized I was too lightheaded to stand. I sat on the floor shaking. I wanted to sink into the floor. I almost wanted to die, but I had to be here for Lacey. I promised her I would. And I wouldn't make her hurt any more.

Thankfully, the twins managed to get ready on their own and went for the bus stop on their own. I could hardly stand, but somehow, I managed to get myself to the phone. First, I called the elementary school and called in Lacey's absence, because I wouldn't let her go to school. Especially not in the condition she was in. The second call I made was to a number I never expected to call again...

"Hello? Meyer residence." Mrs. Meyer's cheery voice rang on the other end. I was so scared to say anything out loud in fear of giving too much information.

"Hi Mrs. Meyer. This is Molly Queens. Could I talk to Neil for a minute? Is he up?"

"Oh, Molly!" I could hear the worry in her voice. "Is everything alright?"

Lying would be torture, but it was all I could do. "I'm fine. Just a little sick. But I'd like to tell Neil so that he doesn't worry. He's such a good friend."

There was a moment of silence before Mrs. Meyer replied, "He's a good boy. And he cares a lot about you. I'll go get him."

A minute later, Neil's panicked voice rang on the other end. "Molly? Are you there? Is everything okay? Are you hurt?"

Tears welled up in my eyes, but it had nothing to do with Lacey this time. It killed me to hurt Neil like this. He was always so worried and he probably never stopped worrying. And the last thing I would ever want to do is hurt Neil. "No, don't worry. I'm okay. It's just... I-I. I'm not... I can't..." I didn't want to lie but I couldn't tell him the truth. "I won't be at school today."

"Molly, what's wrong? What happened?"

"Nothing, I'm fine. I'm just not well."

"Why? Are you sick?"

I hesitated. "Sort of. I'm more here for Lacey. She's a mess."

Neil was silent for a moment. "Are you both okay?"

I didn't respond for a long time. I was thinking while listening to Neil's rapid breathing, faint in the background. But after a while, I sighed. "I honestly don't know. I don't know anything anymore."

Neil made a strange sound on the other end. But when he spoke again, I could hear something much stronger than just worry in his voice. "Molly, please tell me you're okay. If you're not, please let me help you. You and Lacey can come here if you need to. Just..." He hesitated. "Don't let anyone hurt you or your family. Don't let something permanent happen. I don't think I could stand it if anything else happened to you, Molly. You're my best friend and I am terrified that one day, you won't be around anymore. And I don't think I could ever forgive myself. I know you want to hide things, but don't let your secrets kill you. Because I know that whatever it is that's going on, it's dangerous. And I am very close to doing something drastic."

I couldn't stop from crying. Guilt was hardly the strongest thing forcing out these tears. Why was I letting so many people down? "Neil, I'm so sorry. You don't deserve this. I'm sorry I'm so cruel and selfish about this. I-"

"No, stop it, Molly. You're not selfish or cruel. It's just... I don't want to lose you."

There was a ringing silence on his end, but I cried. Then I took a shuttering breath and said, "I don't deserve a friend like you."

"That's not true, Molly. And I'm hardly the best friend. If I was, I'd have done something by now. And not let you get hurt."

As I was about to say more, I heard Lacey call my name. "Neil, I need to go. Lacey needs me."

Neil sighed. "Okay. Are you coming back tomorrow?"

"Yeah, I will be at the same place, same time."

"Okay. I'll see you then."

I hung up and went to Lacey, who was curled up in the corner of our room. She looked up at me with exhausted eyes. "I'm so tired," she whispered.

I helped her up and into bed. "I want you to sleep. Even if just for a few hours, okay?"

Lacey nodded. I sat on the floor next to the bed and watched as she quickly fell asleep. And then I stared at her now peaceful face. It looked so young and childlike that I could hardly stand it. She was just a young girl...

Her face made me think of a time way back when she was about three, when she did the unthinkable, in my eyes. My bitterness towards my father had already rooted itself in me. But despite the beatings my sister got, she still had faith in Jett. And I remember how I used to tell her that she was like a flower, because of her name. And so, her favorite flower was Queen Anne's Lace. And one day, we went outside to play when we saw a huge patch of it growing in our yard. She got the biggest smile as she ran to pick one of the white flowers.

Giggling, she ran into the house. She ran to our father, who was drunker than a skunk. But she went right up to him and handed him the flower. She smiled sweetly and practically sang, "For you, Daddy!" And for the first and last time, I saw my father smile, genuinely like a father.

"Thank you, sweetheart," he said before kissing the top of her head. Lacey had always had that lovable quality, and in that one moment, even the coldest soul melted at her being. And it was something that I had never seen and probably never will again.

Looking at Lacey now and remembering this was unbearable, so I left to go wash our clothes and sheets. While the laundry was being washed and dried, I nibbled on some food, because I needed something to keep me going. Then I meticulously started organizing things, to keep thoughts away. I tried to keep going and to keep doing something. Anything to hold up against the weight of everything.

But as I started to fold the laundry, my mind started caving in. It wasn't supporting the weight. It was collapsing into itself. This would be the time I broke down- when Lacey needed me most. It made me want to puke. It made me want to collapse. It made me want to die. And I knew this terrible world would be so cruel as to not let me have even death if I wanted it. And to be honest, I wanted it. Almost as much as I wanted to save Lacey.

But I failed. I failed miserable. And I couldn't even blame myself! I couldn't help blaming Mr. Tristan for being cold and not letting me go save her. Maybe she'd be okay if he had just let me go! Why did he keep me there? Why did he let her get raped? God, and he doesn't even know. And he probably never will. But I will. I will forever know that he kept me from her when there was a chance of stopping it.

I buried my face in one of Lacey's favorite shirts and I started screaming. I screamed until my voice hurt, but then screamed some more. I cried and cried until I saw stars in the darkness of my eyes. And then the pictures started coming and it took everything in my will power to keep from clawing out my eyeballs. It took every ounce of strength not to fall to the ground and just start pounding my head into the tile until my skull was crushed and the damn images were bled out. It took every part of me to keep myself from finding a lethal instrument and just ending it now. Instead, I let myself endure the world's worst torture.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get it out of my head. Her screaming. Her pleading. Her pain. Her tears. It's as if I was really there, watching as my father took my sister's precious soul and crushing it in his cold, unfeeling hands. I can only imagine how she screamed. How she pleaded for him to stop. And she did cry out for help. She probably cried for me. God, I am so sure she did. Just like I cried for my mother. My protector. The one who failed me.

Just like I failed Lacey.

But I wanted to save her! Why did it have to happen? Why did she have to feel that pain? Somebody loves her and was willing to protect her. So why did she have to endure that same hell that has made its home inside of me? I would have rather died than let this happen. I still want to die. Nothing in this world can ever take away the pain that Jett has put me through. With me? That's one thing. But to practically kill the one thing that made my life worth living? There is nothing… Nothing in this world that can heal the hurt that he has caused. There will never be a way for me to look past what he has done. I will never forget what he did to my sister. My Lacey…

Unable to even touch the clothes anymore, I went to our room to go get my notebook to do some homework. But as I entered the room, I saw that Lacey was awake. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, not looking at me. Her arms were folded tightly across her body and her shoulders were hunched in what could only seem to be fear. Seeing her there made me want to run away, run to some far off place, escape the horrors of the here and now. But I love Lacey too much to be able to walk away. So instead, I stayed.

"Lacey," I said gently, but my voice cracked and trembled. She looked up at me with those eyes that have always been so beautiful. And they will always be beautiful. But they were being choked by the red blotchy swelling from the many tears she has cried. And even as she looked at me, new tears fell from them.

It was then that I caved. I stumbled toward her and pulled her to me. I couldn't tell you who was holding who tighter, but I grabbed onto Lacey so tightly that no one could have torn her from me. And together, we sobbed many tears on each other's shoulder. "I'm so sorry, Lacey. I'm so sorry," I choked out, and Lacey started crying harder.

"Molly, it's not your fault," she said weakly, but even she knew that things could have been different. But I knew that she didn't blame me. Something that made my heart ache even worse, if it was even possible. Nothing could kill the failure that was plaguing me. Nothing could take away the letdown I put Lacey through. And I knew I would never be the same.