| “AMELIA! Where are my contacts?” my stepmother, Catherine, bellowed. “I need them! Quit playing your childish pranks and bring them to me NOW!”
Where was I during her tirade? Hiding in a closet, hearing her footsteps attacking the floor as she scoured the house looking for me, and praying she wouldn’t find me. For I knew if she did find me, I’d get it good. Granted, my prayer was most likely going to be a futile one, since she always found me every other time I’d hid. But hey, you can’t blame a girl for trying. And getting away from Catherine for a while, no matter how short my time away from her would be, was worth it. Yes, I called her Catherine. She may have been my stepmother, but she didn’t deserve to be called anything with the word “mother” in it, for she was nowhere near the definition of what a mother really was.
Suddenly, bright light blinded me, interrupting my thoughts. I felt myself being yanked out of the closet by my arm and thrown to the floor.
She’d found me.
Groaning, I turned over on my back, elbows propping me up. She hovered over me, leaning down as close as she could to my face. Her eyes were contradicting. They were filled with as cold a look of hatred as a pair of ice blue eyes could show...and yet they were also filled with flaming anger. That look never failed to terrify me every time it registered in her eyes. “I’m going to ask you again,” Catherine hissed at me in a deadly tone. “Where are my contacts?”
“I...don’t know...” I replied meekly. And I really didn’t know. Like I gave a flying bird’s nest where her contacts were, anyway. My main concern was just trying to survive in this place. But my reply wasn’t good enough for her. She started tensing up and looking as if she wanted to slap me. Yet she didn’t. Instead, her face contorted into one of anguish, and she fell to her knees, bawling. “You don’t care whether or not I look all right,” she sobbed. “You’re glad my contacts are missing, because you know I can’t see very well without them, making me look less than perfect. You-” She stopped sobbing, and began to get her previous look back on her face. “You want me to look like you.” She spat out the last sentence, as if looking like me was the equivalent of a death sentence. As she moved towards me again, I tensed up, preparing for what could come next.
Then the doorbell rang. Catherine gasped. Grabbing my wrist, she pulled me down the hallway, opened the door to my room, and pushed me inside, closing the door behind me. I listened at the door, hearing her footsteps towards the door, and then hearing an exchange of “Hi!” between her and another girl, whose voice I recognized as that of her friend Maureen. They met up with each other every single day, alternating houses for visiting. “How’s Amelia today?” I heard Maureen ask as she and Catherine headed back down towards the hall.
“Oh, she’s fine. In her room, just hanging out,” Catherine said.
No, I am not fine, I thought to myself. I’m miserable. I hated how Catherine would always make it seem like her and I got along just splendidly whenever other people were around. I wanted so badly to expose the truth about what went on in this house, but I always chickened out, plus, I hoped people would catch on sooner or later. Obviously, though, that hadn’t happened yet.
I was so engrossed in the conversation outside my door that it took me a while to notice something tickling my arm. I looked, and saw a thin line of blood trailing from my wrist down the length of my arm. This didn’t faze me, though-I’d seen this before many times. Whenever Catherine would grab my arms, her long nails would dig into my skin, and then I’d get a cut. I got a Kleenex, wiped away the blood, and then fixed up my cut with a Band-Aid. Then I decided to get out of this house for a while. I opened my window, crawled out carefully, and shut it quietly behind me, venturing off to my “safe space”-the town library.
Up and down the shelves I went, looking for something to read. As I looked, my mind wandered to the various other times I’d been here. One time I even stayed the night here, just to avoid going back home. I got punished quite soundly for that one. Since then, Catherine assumed I’d never gone back to the library out of fear that I’d get punished again, but she was wrong. I still snuck out. It was safe here, it was quiet.
A small, dark brown book caught my eye, shaking me out of my thoughts. “What’s this?” I wondered aloud. The front of the book read The World of Voodoo. Voodoo always fascinated me. Just the idea that you could put a curse on someone you didn’t like was intriguing. I picked up the book, and started flipping through it. Then I came across a page that talked about voodoo pumpkins. Huh? I’d heard of voodoo dolls, but voodoo pumpkins? The page stated that you could use a spell on the next page to put a curse on someone.
Then it hit me. A curse, eh? Who better to put a curse on than someone as evil as Catherine? I could finally get back at her for all she’d put me through for the past four years. The curse could make her life miserable, and I’d escape, finding someplace safe to live. And hey, it was close to Halloween, so this was the perfect time to do this. I went and checked out the book, smiling secretly to myself.
As I stepped out of the library, I noticed a policeman sprint towards me. He greeted me with, “We’ve been looking for you, young lady.” He had a buzzcut and a stern look on his face. “Hey, Jim!” he yelled. “Found her-she’s right here.” Jim then seemed to appear out of nowhere, and strolled up to the two of us. Then the two of them led me to their police car. I climbed in the back, and they took me to my house.
As we approached the driveway, I saw Catherine standing on the porch with her friend Maureen. Catherine then rushed over to me as I slowly trudged out of the car, and she hugged me tightly. “Oh, thank goodness you found her!” Catherine exclaimed to the two policemen. “I was so worried!” I merely rolled my eyes. “Are you okay, sweetie?” she then asked me, looking me in the eyes, acting as though she was all concerned. It occurred to me then that Catherine could make a very convincing actress. She sure was fooling Maureen and the two policemen. Just like the way she fooled everyone else in town.
“I’m fine,” I sighed, playing along. Ugh, why don’t you speak up? You have ample opportunity here-speak up, my brain screamed. But it was late, and I didn’t want a scene here. I knew I’d have one once I got inside as it was, so saying anything now would just make things a thousand times worse for me later.
“Thank you again,” Catherine breathed as the two policemen headed back to their car. The buzzcut guy nodded to her. “No problem, ma’am,” he replied. Jim tipped his hat to us. Then they left. Catherine then took me up the stairs and opened the door to the house. I went inside. “I’m so glad you found her,” I heard Maureen say to Catherine.
“Thank you,” Catherine responded. “See you tomorrow, then?”
“Yeah, sure,” Maureen said. “Bye. See you later, Amelia. Glad you’re all right.”
“Thanks,” I mumbled. As Maureen left, Catherine came inside. She closed the door, then turned to me. I prepared myself, just in case. “You are to never run away from home again, is that clear?” Catherine cautioned in a controlled tone. I nodded, and it was then that I noticed I was trembling. “Oh, and just look at what you’re wearing!” Catherine moaned. “Maureen saw you like that! You know how important appearance is to me! Do you have any idea how embarrassing your outfit is?” I was wearing a gray T-shirt and baggy, black pants. I personally thought it looked fine. But of course, Miss Fashion Queen thought otherwise. And if she cared so much about appearance, then why was her hair always in a messy bun? That I never understood.
Of course, I didn’t say any of this to her. “Get in your room,” Catherine ordered. Grateful that I was going to escape a potentially violent occasion, I scurried to my room. At first I wondered why she’d sent me to my room if she knew I could escape again. But then I noticed the window had been fixed so I couldn’t get out. So I sat on my bed and began to let my mind wander.
A while later, my door opened. Catherine sauntered in. She looked at me. “Why exactly did you run away earlier?” she inquired.
“Just to...get away...for a while...” I answered quietly.
“Get away? What, you don’t like it here?” she asked in a sugary, sweet tone. I didn’t respond. Granted, it didn’t matter whether I responded or not, I’d still get Catherine’s wrath. But I figured silence was better than having her hear the truth. “Don’t you like it here?” Catherine asked in the same sugary, sweet tone. And yet again, no answer from me. Catherine then grabbed my shoulders. Shaking me, she screamed, “Answer me!”
“Yes!” I shouted, just to get her to back off. “Yes, I like it here! I just...wanted some fresh air.” Catherine’s eyes narrowed at this statement, but she did back away. She ambled towards my dresser, paused, and then casually announced, “Oh, by the way, I found my contacts this afternoon.” She looked directly at me. “In your room.”
“They weren’t in my room,” I remarked, puzzled. Wrong thing to say. Catherine came up to me again. “Are you calling me a liar?” she snarled, hovering over me.
“No...I just...” I began, but Catherine wouldn’t hear of it. She pushed me, and I fell to the floor. “How dare you insult me like that. You’re disgraceful.” Then she stepped over me and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her. Tears stung my eyes, but I wiped them away. I tiptoed over to my closet, where there was a secret passage in the back. Opening that up, I snatched up the pumpkin I’d gotten on my previous trip to the library (Catherine had one out on the porch, but she wouldn’t let me do anything with it, so I got my own), along with a knife. It was time to put my plan into action.
Setting my pumpkin on my desk, I took out the voodoo book, which I’d stashed in my pocket earlier, and opened the book to the page with the voodoo pumpkin spell. Bizarre words stared back at me. Uttering them to the best of my ability, I carved out a face that looked close enough to Catherine’s. As I was carving, the pumpkin shone brightly, which signaled to me that the spell must be working. After all was said and done, I set the pumpkin between my bed and my nightstand. Later that night, I went to sleep, smiling.
The next morning, as I awoke, I remembered the spell from the night before. I wanted to see if it had worked. Upon turning the knob on my bedroom door, I was thankful that Catherine hadn’t locked it. I opened the door-and saw Catherine leaning against the wall, looking very pale and sickly. “Amelia,” she gasped, looking at me, “call Maureen.” Then she collapsed on the floor.
What was going on? Was this the result of my spell? I called Maureen and explained Catherine’s condition. Maureen appeared at my door not too long after the call. She saw Catherine lying there and immediately took over.
For the next three days, Catherine lay in her room, hovering between life and death. She hadn't gone to the hospital, because she was one of those people who believed that you had to let all your illnesses pass without the help of hospitals. Maureen was with her every second of the day, and I was told to stay as far away from Catherine as possible, in case what she had was contagious. My mind raced the whole time. What had happened to Catherine? Was my spell the cause of it? If so, could I make things better? I looked at the spell over and over again, trying to see where I’d gone wrong. Then, as I closed the book after reading it for the umpteenth time, a page fell out. It was a page that explained what each spell did to those it was cast on. I looked under the description of the voodoo pumpkin spell. It explained that the person this spell was meant for would fall ill with an unknown disease, and would eventually die.
My stomach dropped. No. No, that couldn’t be right. I hadn’t wanted this to happen! I just wanted to make her regret all the things she’d done to me. Even though she was cruel and abusive, I didn’t want to kill her! Oh, what had I done?
On the third day, around four something in the afternoon, Maureen shuffled into my room. Her eyes glistened with tears. “She’s gone,” she informed me quietly, her voice quivering. Then she hugged me. I bit my lip to keep the tears from coming myself.
Three days after my stepmother had died, the funeral was held. It was Halloween. Of all the days to have a funeral.
As I sat in the church hearing the eulogies (of which I refused to participate in, claiming extreme grief, knowing that if I had gone up there I’d have broke down and confessed everything or something along that line), I thought about how deceived everyone in the church was. None of the people there had a clue about all she’d done to me for the past four years, or what I had done to her in return. Maureen had no idea. The two policemen, who’d showed up, had no idea. They’d all been lied to about everything. Perhaps this was retribution. Perhaps this was my stepmother’s final punishment to me, to make me live with the guilt of what I’d done.
I’m sad to say, it worked.