Kerrington was asleep in Arielle's arms and all she could do is stare at the sleeping baby, not really sure what to do. She looked so peaceful, her brown hair falling in wavy wisps around her face, her long eyelashes resting serenely. Cadence was curled up under Arielle's other arm, trapped in an uneasy slumber. A few tears were about to escape my eyes when I felt Kenzie stir beside me. She didn't wake, just moved. I glanced down at her, her long brown hair in tangles from not having the will to fix it. I turned my head to see Ben on my other side, continuing to slumber. I had managed to keep him tidy, and it helped that his hair was shorter. But he didn't look peaceful at all.

Aside from me and Arielle, the only other one awake was Rory. He was still so tiny he fit so easily on my lap. I felt his tiny face buried in my shirt, trying to work things out in his mind. He had been like this for a whole ten minutes before he finally pulled away.


I looked into little Rory's eyes, whose were the closest to Mom's of all of us, aside from me. Though, his weren't as deep blue, but they were definitely close to the blue that Mom modeled so well, and it made Mom smile to see it in her son too. It made me smile. His hair was a sandy brown, a complete middle of our father's and our mother's. He was what Arielle and I called the medium child. And I loved him so much that it hurt.

"Yes, Rory?"

His little face contorted in concentration. If he had done this a few weeks ago, I'd have thought it was cute, but I knew that whatever it was he was thinking about or wondering now, it had to do with the pain. After thinking about it for a while, he tried his best. "When is Mommy coming back from vacation? How long does she need to visit God for?"

I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted to rage and do everything I could to release the pain, and these words only made it harder. How could I explain this to precious little Rory, who loved Mom so much, but didn't get to know how wonderful she was? He was just so young... We all were. "Sweetie, she's not coming back. She's gone on to live with God. He needed her really badly up there. He needed a mother angel to take care of the little baby angels. And God knew she was so perfect that He chose her."

Rory frowned. "Those are some lucky angels. When do we get to be angels to visit her?"

I bite my lip a moment, trying to hold in the tears. His questions were innocent and childish, just like they should be, but this only made it all hurt so much worse. "We can't visit her in Heaven, baby, but whenever God needs us up in Heaven, we get to live with her forever. We'll all be together forever and we'll see Mommy again. She'll be happy and healthy and just as beautiful. But God needs us down here right now. He's not ready for us in Heaven yet."

Rory continued to frown. "But I already miss Mommy."

"I know baby," I say as he hugs me. I kiss the top of his head gently, just like Mom did for me and him. "I do too."

I look up and notice Arielle crying. She had listened to the little exchange, knowing it was hardest for me, having Mom gone and knowing she was dead and never going to come back. She was the only parent who loved me and she was the only one who would give me everything in this world if she could. I thanked God, though, for Rory. As time passed, Kenzie, Ben, and Cadence grew away from me. They started to believe that I was bad, like Daddy always said. They weren't mean to me like Daddy, but they knew that if they were around me, they were going to get hurt too. In secret, times were just like they were in the past. When Daddy was around, they avoided me as much as possible. But Rory's love and faith in me never wavered. And since Mom was dying most of his life, I was his mother. If anything, I was now.

Hot tears stung in my eyes. It had been a week since Mom's death, and we had only been home from the funeral for a few hours. She had died from cancer. By the time it was discovered, it was too late to treat it. Now that it was officially over, the seven of us huddled together, only because it was too unbearable otherwise. The only one not crying was Daddy. Well, he was, but he never shed a tear. His way of crying was by drinking hard liquor at a constant rate until he'd pass out. That made Daddy worse.

Somehow, after hours of hoping and praying, I fell asleep. In the morning, I helped Arielle get everyone dressed and fed. The day flies by in a haze and I hardly register anything aside from the fact that I have school the next day. I try to do homework, but the effort is futile. Between Rory and Kerrington's constant need for attention in one way, shape, or form, and the others needing things as well, I was kept busy. And with that, I couldn't stop thinking about how much I already missed her. I wanted to hear her voice again. I wanted to feel her embrace again. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't stop thinking about her last words to me.

Crystal, baby. My sweet, sweet baby. I love you so much. You are such a beautiful girl and I am so proud you're mine. I am so sorry you have to hurt like this. I regret this more than anything else in the world. But I promise that you'll be okay. I promise I will always be with you. And I'll make sure you have something worth fighting for. Not just a responsibility. Don't forget how much I love you, my sweet girl. My little clone.

Giving up, I went upstairs to my room, which I ended up sharing with Rory because he never wanted to sleep by himself. This time, no one cared that I left, not even Rory. In my room, I went to my dresser where I had a series of pictures. Most of them were of me and my mom, or me and Rory. Rory loved taking pictures with me, and I loved being with my mother. My favorite was framed. It was me, Rory, and Mom, smiling and happy. It was at mine and Rory's birthday party. Rory's birthday was only three days after mine, and that year, I opted for a shared party. Me and my baby brother, practically birthday buddies. Ten years in difference...

It was the most recent picture on my dresser. Looking at it, my mom looked healthy, though she was truly dying. I looked like a typical and happy thirteen year old girl. Rory looked so cute in his plaid shirt and khaki shorts, smiling and holding up three fingers. I knew that no matter what, this picture would be my favorite. I couldn't help but feel like I was never going to get out of this hell that people call life. I felt like I would never be able to escape my past.

And I was right.

I was startled when I heard my door slam open, Daddy's drunken frame in the doorway. "Anita, why are running from me?"

My heart pounding in my chest and I could feel goose bumps rise up on my skin. Anita was my mother's name, and I don't know why he's calling me by her name. I feel like running, but I don't know why. I feel fear so deeply rooted inside me that I can hardly stand it. I knew the danger was worse than ever, but my mind was so fogged with grief I couldn't imagine why. Nothing could be worse that where I was already. But even then I was terribly wrong.

"Daddy? This is Crystal."

Daddy doesn't seem to hear me. "You need to stop holding out on me, Anita. You at least owe me some after the hell you put me through," he says thickly. He moves forward and I am left frozen. I don't know what he means and I know that if I try to resist, I will end up hurting for a long time. I don't realize what he wants until I realize he's taking off his belt, shortly followed by his sweatshirt...

I wasn't familiar about things like this. I knew they happened, but why would any thirteen year old ever need to worry? I never believed I would be that person. I never believed I'd be in this situation. And I never would have guessed it would be my father who'd force me to know about it personally. To live with it. To regret not paying attention. Because now, I was clueless. I didn't know what to do. What was I going to do? If I screamed, would he stop? Would someone force him to? Or would he hurt me or whoever came to my aide?

"No, Daddy, don't. This is Crystal, not Mom. I'm not Anita."

But he didn't stop moving. It wasn't until his jeans were off that I started crying, but the fear kept me petrified. I couldn't breathe. I was frozen with fear. "Daddy, no, please. Don't do this. Please!" But before I could say more, he grabbed me and threw me down. I started crying hysterically. I was too scared to scream, to move. To do anything other than cry, and before I knew it, my father took everything else in my life and destroyed it. I wanted to die from the first moment. I wanted him to just kill me so that I don't have to live another pitiful moment. I wanted to die, because suddenly, I was more than just a poor battered child. I am a victim of one of the worst crimes there is...

But then I think of Rory, of how much he needs me. I think of him smiling at me, running to greet me every day after school. I think of all the pictures he drew of me, him, and Mom, always happy. And then I think of Kenzie and Ben, who still love me so much, and how me giving up would hurt them beyond anything. I think about how they already feel, with losing our mother. I think of Arielle, who would be devastated if she lost her younger sister. The only one who depended on her. I think of Cadence who is just as confused about death as Rory, and can't imagine putting her through it again. I think about how she needs someone to help her through school. I think of Kerrington and how she would never get to know her sister, and I would never get to know her like Rory or the others.

But as Dad pushes harder and seems to rip me apart, I think of my mother. I try and pray to her, asking her to help me. To make this only a horrible nightmare. To make sure she kept her promise. I think of how much I love her, and how much she loved me. And I hope she doesn't know what's happening to her little clone...

I'm in a fit of hysterics by the time Dad leaves. I blindly push myself to the bathroom, only registering blood and the pain. The feel of it all lingering. I vomit into the toilet until I'm just dry heaving. Then I'm thrashing around on the ground like a wounded animal. I am so dizzy, so disgusted... I pull off my pants and crawl into the tub and throw on the hot water and only a little bit of cold. But the pain of the scorching hot water seems to take away much of the rest of the pain. For a while. But then I cry until I can't stand the water anymore. I can't stand any of it.

I dry off and not caring that I am half naked, I run into my room only to be overwhelmed even more with what had just happened. There's not a trace on the floor, but I collapse, grabbing my hair and pulling. "Why?" I cry out, to no one in particular. "Why? Please just tell me why!" And then I'm up and into clean underwear and sweatpants. I pace around the room, tears still falling from my eyes. After a long time, I collapse on my bed and cry myself to sleep. And by the time I wake, I have mysteriously found a bottle within to contain the feelings that will never be resolved so long as my father is here.