Home > Fair Game

Fair Game
Author: Amelia Wilde

In the worst possible way, driving is like baking. It takes the amount of time it takes. You can pace around in front of the oven, plead with the muffins to rise, and curse the day you ever became a baker, but it won’t make them finish any faster.
My baby sister Lydia can clutch my hand all she wants. I can ask her driver to please, hurry a hundred times. I can feel sick to my stomach. It won’t make the black SUV that Lydia took to the bakery get to my parents’ house a second earlier.
And we need to get there as soon as possible.
It’s not a short drive. They live in an expensive neighborhood, and my bakery is in Brooklyn. I needed a place with relatively cheap rent. At the time, it was a bonus to be so far from my parents. It doesn’t seem like that now.
Lydia squeezes my hand, pressure on top of pressure. I remember when her hands were preschool-size, still with their baby fat. Now they’re almost the same size as mine.
Every time Lydia blinks, more tears run down her cheeks. “I’m really sorry, Elise.”
“Don’t be sorry.”
“I am, though.” Her eyes snap to mine, the whites huge in the dim light. “I heard what he said to you when he kicked you out. I know it’s not safe for you to come with me.”
“It’s not safe for any of us, Lyd. That’s why you came to the bakery.”
She makes a frustrated noise and tips her head back to look at the ceiling. “I shouldn’t have.”
“Please don’t feel guilty about this. Okay? It’s not your fault that Catherine needs help.”
“It’s Dad’s.” Lydia’s trying her best not to cry, but her chin is starting to go. “It’s his fault you left, too, isn’t it?”
“I left because I had to leave.”
“You left because of him, and now—”
“Now we need to focus on Catherine. Okay? What happened before isn’t important.”
Lydia brushes fresh tears from her cheeks with the back of her free hand. “Yes, it is.”
I squeeze her hand back, gently as I can. “How about we get Catherine, and when this is less—happening right now, we’ll sit down and talk. I’ll tell you as much as I can.”
I wish I could be the kind of sister who promised total honesty, but I can’t do it. Not now. I don’t want Lydia to know everything I know. She’s never done anything to deserve that kind of heavy guilt. Lydia, of all people, would feel it anyway.
She wipes her face again. “Okay.”
I run my thumb across the back of her hand. “This argument with Catherine. Did it come out of nowhere?”
Lydia steadies herself. She’s wearing a black dress that hits just above the knee and a dove-gray coat that says she left the house in a hurry. It’s one of the coats our mom bought her, and must’ve been the quickest to grab.
“I don’t know. I got home from school, changed out of my uniform…” My sister bites her lip, thinking. “He seemed normal at dinner. Not happy, but normal. Somebody called him while we were eating. He stepped out to answer it, so then Mom was doing that thing—” Lydia presses her lips into a thin line. “You know?”
“Too well, unfortunately.”
“Then after dinner he called Catherine to his office. That’s when—that’s when he yelled at her.”
And caned her, but Lydia’s already told me that once. I won’t make her repeat it. “And afterward, he put her in her room.”
“Yeah. I went into my room and shut the door, but I heard what he said to her about Jacob.”
“It didn’t come up at dinner?”
“No. Maybe that’s what the phone call was about.”
That would fit, if it made Dad so angry that he went after Catherine, but something about it feels off. “Maybe. What was he doing when you left?”
“He brought Mom upstairs.” A subtle shiver. “I don’t go near their bedroom when they’re in there.”
I put my arm around her shoulders. “I don’t blame you.”
“Catherine just…she doesn’t want to get married.” Lydia leans into me, her shoulders rounding.
“I know.”
“He hurt her.”
“It’s awful.”
“But why?” She pops up and looks at me, her dark eyes shining. Tears and disbelief. “I don’t understand what happened. He’s—he’s a monster. What happened to make him act like this?”
“I don’t know what to tell you, Lyd.”
She stares at me. Shakes her head. “Some dads are like him. I know that. I’m not some naïve little kid. Catherine didn’t get caught smoking weed by the bleachers, though. She didn’t—”
“Hey. Listen to me. It’s not okay for him to cane you for smoking weed, either. It’s not okay for him to do that ever.”
“But Catherine’s not doing anything. She just doesn’t want to marry Jacob Chambers. How can he act like this when she’s not doing anything?”
“I don’t—”
“There’s no reason! It’s not like we’re in one of those old movies. We won’t lose all our money if Catherine doesn’t get married. Dad will still have tons of money.”
There is one thing that could have him on edge, and that’s the consortium. I’m in it now. Gabriel and Jacob are in it now. I have to hold it together for Lydia, but a cold, prickling feeling whips over my stomach. The initiation he made us participate in was extreme, from having me kidnapped outside the bakery to forcing Gabriel and Jacob to have sex with me in front of the rest of the members.
“That’s true. He’ll still have all his money.”
“He’s our dad. And he’s doing the worst possible thing to Catherine. How can he do this? How can he be so evil?”
Lydia breaks, folding into me, and her pinched sobs crack my heart open.
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