Therese could not understand it. She did not wish to question it however, as it was exactly what she desired. If she saw her mother, maybe Therese could help her escape. Maybe her mother could explain some of this to her. Maybe she knew something.
The man clamped an iron grip to her upper arm and threw a bag over her head. She decided it best not to resist as he was doing as she wanted. She tripped over her own bare feet as he tugged her through unseen halls. She was in all ways exhausted, but the idea of her mother drew her forward.
He tossed her gruffly into a room, pulling off the bag in one swift motion. There were concrete walls and a bundle in the corner she thought was rags until it mewled in a most pitiful away, “please, please don’t hurt me.” Therese was struck dumb by the absolute terror it revealed. Whoever it was had been hurt most grievously. Therese stepped forward, attempting to ascertain its identity. It couldn’t be her mother, could it? Whoever it was, maybe Therese could help him or her.
Therese carefully examined the bundle as pair of hands lifted themselves to cover the being more completely. There were no fingernails on the hands, but dark stains where they should have been. “Mom?” Therese asked, hesitantly. He told her she was going to see her mom, but the creature looked so small, it couldn’t be the woman who raised her, could it?
“Please, no, no more. Please,” it whimpered. Therese approached slowly, and it shrieked. “No! No! Not again!” She saw a glimpse of a face that seemed so familiar, eyes that had seen Therese grow up. It was her, Therese knew, and she felt her stomach plummet deep past the floorboards. Therese had caused this to happen to her.
“Shhh, Mom, no, it’s me. Therese. Look at me,” she supplicated soothingly. Her mother was not to be consoled, but cried louder at her approach.
“No. I don’t know anything. I promise. Therese and I don’t talk. Please, don’t hurt me,” she whimpered. She cowered as Therese raised her hand ever so slowly, and placed it on her shoulder. Her mother’s fear hummed through her body as brazenly as an electric current. Therese could feel her mother’s terror resonating in her bones, the absolute horror of pain and torture. She could feel it crescendo under Therese’s gentle touch.
“Shh, no, Mom. It’s me. It’s just me. It’s just Therese,” she whispered softly. She wished she could take away her mother’s pain and replace it with calm. Therese deserved the pain over her mother; Therese was the one killing people.
The breathing of Therese’s mother slowed, and the harrowed woman slowly raised her eye’s to meet Therese’s. “Therese?” she whispered, barely making any noise at all.
“It’s me, Mom. I’m here.” She took a seat next to her mother.
The two sat beside for a long moment, neither saying a word. Therese did not know what to say. To beg forgiveness? To confess everything? To try to find information? To try to provide comfort? She did not look at her mother but could hear her labored breath.
“Oh, Therese,” her mother’s eyes held silent tears, but her mother did not quite cry. “What is this all about? Why, why do they want you? They haven't hurt you, have they” Therese’s mother examined her quickly, her eyes falling to the blood on the side of Therese’s head where her temple had hit the cement floor.
Therese squeezed her shoulder reassuringly, suddenly realizing she must first explain to her why this happened. Therese would have to talk about the girls. “No, they haven’t hurt me. But, Mom, do you remember Tessie?” Her chest was tightening already at the mention of the name. She hated talking about it, but her mother deserved answers. She had to tell her, no matter what.
She nodded slowly, her visage darkening with the bitter memories.
“Well,” Therese started, looking out into space. She didn’t want to see her mother’s eyes when it was revealed that Therese was a mass murderer. “she wasn’t the last.” Therese stopped, and took a deep breath. She felt her mother’s pulse begin to race next to her. She didn’t need to look at her to see the pain clouding her expression.
“In my dreams, if I sleep too long, I become girls I’ve met, and they die. They kill themselves, because some voice is upset they are not Yvette. I’ve had sixteen dreams with sixteen deaths.”The number made emotion catch in Therese’s throat. Sixteen.
“These people, whoever they are, want me to kill for them. I can’t control it, but they made me try anyway. I killed my target’s best friend. And then the original girl killed herself. Their names were Luisa and Esmeralda.” Therese could picture their faces so clearly in her mind. She thought about Luisa’s younger sister. She thought about Esmeralda’s older brothers.
“Mom, I don’t think I’ve ever asked this explicitly, but is there anything about me that is different? Is there anything, no matter how small? I need to figure this out, why this happens. I need to stop it,” Therese looked at her mother and saw her brow furrowed.
“Do you know how many miscarriages I had, before you were born?” her mother asked slowly; she did not look at Therese.
“More than one?” Therese guessed. Her mother had never discussed it before. Therese knew vaguely that her mother had trouble conceiving and carrying a child before she, but no more than that.
“Six. Six times. After the third, we had a serious discussion with a fertility expert. He could find nothing wrong and chocked it up to bad luck; he encouraged us to keep trying. He told me not to stress as that could harm the baby.
“We kept trying. I tried so hard to stay calm, to stay happy, to keep that baby in me alive. But, I couldn’t. My body kept spontaneously aborting them.
“The last time, I carried my baby the longest. I was so excited. I named her, picked out the furniture for her room, and bought her clothes. Late one night, when your father was gone, however, I miscarried her too. The little girl was a perfect miniature of an angel, but she was still. No lungs moved or heart beat. I was crushed. I was bleeding heavily, but I didn’t call the hospital. I sat there with the girl that should’ve been my child and cried.
“Your father came home hours later after I had passed out. He took me to the hospital. I lost a lot of blood and woke up without my child, hooked up to a thousand machines. I wanted my baby, and I kept asking for her.
“The doctor finally came in and told your father and I that we shouldn’t try anymore. That there was nothing we could do.” Her mother paused for a moment as tears streamed down her cheeks. Therese put her arm around her shoulders.
“I was so depressed. They put me on medication, told me to go to counseling, but nothing helped. I wanted my baby girl. I wanted her so badly it physically hurt. I couldn’t help thinking I had murdered her. Maybe I had stressed too much about what color to paint her room. Maybe I walked too fast to the bathroom. If I had been a better mother, maybe she would’ve survived.
“Your father looked into adoption, but no one was willing to adopt to a chronically depressed woman and her husband. I resigned myself to death. I didn’t eat, but just slept for days and days, hoping one day I would never wake up.
“I was so weak, I could barely look up when one night, your father came in with a bundle. It was you. You were so perfect, so utterly perfect. I swore you were the spitting image of your father. And you were mine. I refused to think that you were ever someone else’s. In that state, all I could comprehend is that you were my child, my baby. I didn’t want anyone to try to say you weren’t.
“Your father and I moved days later. A new chance with a new baby, and I found myself claiming you as my own. It didn’t matter to me what the facts were to other people. To me, you were my flesh and blood. You were my baby girl, my baby Therese.
“Years later, after your father had died, I thought I might tell you. But, I couldn’t find the adoption papers. All I could find was a birth certificate with your father’s and my name on it. It was as if you were that baby girl, come to life. I didn’t know what to do then; I couldn’t even prove you were adopted so I didn’t do anything.”
Therese’s mother was shaking at the outpouring of emotion, and Therese felt distantly like joining. Mostly, however, she felt numb. Her father had been so much to her, but she wasn’t even related to him? She wasn’t related to the crying woman next to her? Who was she? Better yet, what was she? Why didn’t she have adoption papers? Did her father steal her from someone?
Therese tried to think back to her many talks with her father, trying to pin down any moment he might have alluded to her birth. He didn’t like talking about what his life was like before she was born. As a child, though, she didn’t question the idea. To her, it was almost as if her parents came into being the moment she did.
She tried to calm her mother again, as the woman’s tears subsided. She looked at Therese with clear eyes. “There is one thing, one strange thing your father told me. He said that there might come a day when you would ask me strange questions with no answers, and he wouldn’t be there. He told me to tell you the answer to the riddle is bright upon a bridge, or something like that.”
“Daddy, where did I come from?” Therese looked up the clouds, as her father pushed her on the swings higher and higher. She could almost touch the sky.
“Now, there’s a riddle. Where does a rainbow begin? Where is a fire before it is lit? Where does a circle start? What happened before the start of time?” her father mused.
She jumped off in one startling leap, landing in a squat in the sand box. She walked back to her father, hands on her hips. “And?”
“And what, Therese?” he asked, smiling.
“Where does a rainbow begin? Where is a fire before it is lit? Where does a circle start? What happened before the start of time?” she demanded.
“They are rhetorical questions, Therese. They have no answers,” he explained.
“I don’t care if they are rhetorical, every question has an answer. Like ‘what is one plus one.’ That answer is two. And you’re the smartest person in the world; you should have answers,” she explained with confidence more than befitting to her five years.
He smiled, lifting her into the air. “Well, you’ll just have to grow up and be smarter than me. Then, you can figure it out.”
What did he mean, ‘bright upon a bridge?’ Why was he being so cryptic? Therese furrowed her brow, deep in thought. Strangely enough, her mother did likewise, almost matching her expression.
It was strange how fragile the emotions of Therese’s mother were. Therese could just think something, and her mother would follow. Was it because of all the emotional turmoil she’d been through being tortured? It was almost like when Therese asked the guy who threw her to the floor to see her mother. She could almost swear she somehow gave the man empathy. It was like she could control the emotions of those around her.
She paused, considering the sudden epiphany for a moment. It seemed impossible for her to just touch someone and make them feel something. Granted, if she could kill people in her sleep, moderating their emotions seemed downright logical in comparison. She could consider nothing impossible now.
“Mom,” Therese said after a moment. “I want to try something. I’m just going to touch you, and I want you to tell me how you feel.”
Therese’s mother looked at her strangely, but did not object as Therese put her hand firmly on her shoulder. From within her gut, Therese found all feelings of mirth and happiness that she could. She remember running through fields of clover as a child, climbing trees, downing birthday cake, and laughing with her parents around the kitchen table. She pictured her father and her mother, together, smiling. It was difficult to focus on the happy memories, to let combine and build without the dankness of her surroundings intervening. Nevertheless, she focused on the task at hand. She let the emotions flow beneath her skin, savoring the moments of sunshine on the seaside they had enjoyed during summer break years and years ago. She let it fill her chest, until she could barely restrain a smile.
She wished she could give them to her mother, hoping that she could be happy in such a dark place. She wished it with all her heart and soul.
Her mother grinned. “I’m just so glad you’re okay, Therese. That’s all that really matters. You are my daughter, and I love you so much.”
Therese found anger. It was easy to grab. Anger at the man who had kidnapped her and her mom. Anger at herself for killing the girls. Anger at the men who had hurt her mother. It crackled in her eyes and boiled in her blood.
She let it rush to her mother like lightning to a lightning rod. She wished her mother would experience the pulse of heat, the call to action.
Suddenly, her mother was jumping to her feet. “I’m going to kill those damn sons of bitches for doing this to us."
Therese, so startled, let go. Her mother stood, still seething. Therese quickly jumped up, and found all the calm feelings she could muster, and placed them within her mother. Inwardly, she was amazed. How had she not figured this out before?
Maybe it was because she never touched people if she could help it. Growing up, her parents rarely hugged her or touched her. Her mother did occasionally, but her father almost never did. So, she never touched people.
Maybe it was because she was so emotionally restrained as a child. She never let her emotions flow like that before. The passion burning in her chest was almost as alarming as seeing that reflected in her mother.
She didn’t know. But, it was strange.
As she heard footsteps near the door of their holding cell, Therese got an idea. She ran over to the noise.
She thread her arm through the bars of door and grabbed the man’s arm. “Excuse me, sir?”
He turned. He was a young man, very heavily built, with a hood and sunglasses covering most of his face. She gathered all the empathy she could muster, reaching out to his hand and asked, “Could you get me a drink of water? I’m very thirsty.”
She felt his frustration at his position. He felt as if he were stuck, too far in to back out, not far enough in to do anything. She could feel the struggle he had with his family, who needed the money. She could feel his anger.
He drew back, and Therese felt like doing the same. She hadn’t expect to feel his emotions so strongly, and she did not know if she had done anything in return. She could not see his eyes. She could not see if it had work. She began to worry.
He nodded once, and then the man walked away.
“Therese, what are you doing?” her mother asked in a quiet voice brimming with fear, slowly getting up.
“I’m testing something,” she muttered, anxiously waiting to see if he returned.
She heard footsteps, and the man reappeared, carrying a bottle of water. He passed it through the bars to her, and she grabbed it quickly.
“Thanks,” she breathed, excitement growing. As he went to walk away again, she grabbed his wrist. “Excuse me again, sir, but we are also very hungry. Could you get us something to eat?” She thrust her heart through her hand, attempting to reach him. Would this work?
She could feel his passion for football, and how he had tried hard in high school, but had torn his ACL. She could feel his frustration. She could understand his longing whenever he watched the professional football games on TV.
He drew back, staring at her from behind his sunglasses. He nodded once and walked away. Meanwhile, she gave the water to her mother. “Here, you must be dying of thirst. Drink this.”
“Therese, what are you doing? He’s going to bring them back,” her mother’s voice was very thin. When she put her hand to grab her shoulder, she noticed her mother was shaking.
“I have to test something, Mom” she said, distractedly, straining to hear any footsteps.
Several tense moments past before the man returned. He held an oil-stained cardboard pizza box. He slipped it through the bars, which Therese grabbed to reveal several slices of cold pizza. Her mother’s eyes went wide, and she quickly took a slice to began eating. Therese grabbed his wrist again.
She was pulling all amounts of kindness and caring from within. Every spot of goodness and light, she bundled. She let the generosity rise. This had to work. It had to. Every hope and dream depended on this moment. Her mother was depending on her.
“Sir? I want you to take us outside and free us,” Therese said very evenly, letting all the emotion flow through her touch.
His name was Marcus. He grew up in Detroit with five brothers. His mother worked hard for the family, but his father had skipped town on them. He didn’t want to be like that, but whenever he saw his girlfriend and their child, he felt like running away. He couldn’t be a good father, so he didn’t want to be a father at all. He didn’t like it anymore.
As he drew away, she felt drained, as if something had physically taken from her. Did she go to far? Was he going to hurt them.
A key scratched in the lock, and the door was open. The man said nothing, but began to walk forward. Therese motioned her mom forward, wrapping her arm around her shoulders again. Her mother seemed faint, but walked with Therese, eyes wide.
Her mother was breathing quickly, but Therese tried to enforce calm, not only to her mother but herself as well. Was this going to work? Was he really going to let them go? Therese caught a flash of a gun secured to his belt. The dark metal glinted dangerously.Would he just shoot them?
He seemed strangely detached as he strode forward with Therese and her mother in his wake. His eyes were locked ahead, and he did not seem to notice the other menacing men that hung at the corner of the hall. They glared at the two, but did did not object as he led them forward. This was going to work. Therese couldn’t believe it.
At the end of the next hall, he motioned stiffly to a pair of double doors at the end of the hall beyond. It was the exit. Therese’s eyes were wide, as she began quickly walking towards it.
“Kay, what are you doing with her?” Therese recognized the voice; it was the man who had interrogated her. She could sense Marcus stiffen and come to his senses. His eyes were boring into Therese, wondering how she had talked him into this. She grabbed her mother’s hand and started to sprint; she did not look back. Her mother was weak and stumbled more than ran. But it was good enough. They were closer to the doors than the men.
Her heart pounded loudly in her chest, but she still heard the distinct sound of guns being whipped out. They were going to shoot rather than chase. Her feet pumped harder.
Therese had never heard a gun up close. The explosion was deafening. She couldn’t slow. She had to get her mother out of there. She didn’t know what she’d do once they were out, but she would consider that when the time came.
She turned towards her mother as another bullet was fired. Time seemed to slow as it hit her mother’s skull. The force of it punctured through her face, destroying that image of terror that had been written on it. There was blood, lots of blood. Gravity pulled her mother down hard, but she was dead before she hit the floor. Therese almost tripped, almost threw up, almost stopped running. Almost.