Julie sat up and her head swam. She blinked but she was still unable to see. I must be in the closet, Julie thought. She could only dimly remember what had set her father off this time. She grimaced as her fingers grazed the large knot on the top of her head. She couldn’t see it, but she could feel the blood on her fingertips. She wiped it absently on her jeans.
Julie tried to think of what she had done, and it hurt to think. She could remember her father shouting, then standing, then… nothing. It was a blur after that. Whatever it was that had taken place, it had ended the same way it always had: her father had locked her in the closet. Julie despised the closet. The smell of moth balls and cat urine seemed to hang around her like a shroud. She could remember the first time she’d been forced to sit in the “jail cell” she seemed to inhabit so often these days.
It had happened four years ago. She’d been twelve and still recovering from the death of her mother and younger sister not six months before. Julie and her father, David, had just returned home from the store. While David put the groceries away, Julie sat in a chair in the hallway, staring at the photographs hanging on the wall across from her. Friends, family members; All gazing eternaly into space. It saddened Julie to look at those pictures. A photo of her mother, taken only months before her death, rested on the table in the hall. In it, she wore a blue dress and a diamond necklace around her neck. A large grin adorned her face, revealing several very hite teeth. Her flaming red hair was pulled back into a bun. Julie could see small streaks of gray runnig through it in places.
Mama always said they were our gift to her, Julie thought. Her lip trembled slightly. Next to it was a picture of Maggie, Julie’s younger sister by two years. Her sweet smile had always cheered up Julie. Now it haunted her. Julie noticed that one of Maggie’s baby teeth were missing and thought morbidly, it’ll never grow back, just before bursting into tears.
She was still sobbing when David came into the hallway. She had grabbed both pictures and was clutching them tightly against her chest.
“What are you crying about?” demanded her father. She looked up at him through teared eyes and said: “I miss them, daddy.”
“Yeah? Well, I do too, but you don’t see me crying about it.” He snatched the picture of Julie’s mother from her hands. “And what did I tell you about these pictures? You know you start baby-whining whenever you see ‘em.”
“I kn-know, Daddy, but I like looking at them,” Julie said, her breath hitching.
“I can take care of that!” he yelled, flinging his dead wife’s photo down the hall. It struck the bathoom door, the glass shattering.
“No!” screamed Julie. She tried to run down the hall after the picture, but David firmly grasped her forearm.
“Now I’m going to take care of you,” he mumbled. He drug her down the hall with one hand, and with the other opened a closet door. He flung her inside indifferently. She hit the ground with a muffled yell.
“Now,” David said calmly, “I’m going to leave you in here until you can control that whinin’ a little better.”
Julie’s eyes widened as she realized her father was actually going to lock her in a closet. She sat back against the wall, pulled her knees to her chest, and rested her head on them. David slammed the door and Julie heard him slide the key into the lock, It locked with a soft click.
The darkness seemed to suffocate her. She listened intensly to her father’s footsteps as they faded away from her. She began to cry again. Not only for her dead family, but also for her father. She was exhausted, and she cried herself to sleep.
Her father had eventually came back to let her out. It had been eight o’clock by then. She had slept for three hours on the floor of the hall closet. Her entire body had ached.
She felt the same now, except it seemed as if someone was driving a nail through her skull. Julie waited for a wave of dizzyness to pass then felt for the box she kept in the corner opposite her. She found it and popped the lid open. She rummaged through the box until she found a large flashlight. She clicked it on and squinted as the small room was filled with a pale yellow light. Coats hung above her like victims from nuses. A chill ran through her body. She’d the flashlight on only a minute when she heard footsteps coming down the hall. She quickly turned it back off and stuffed it into the box.
Julie heard the key slip into the lock and turn. David opened the door and stared blankly down at her for a moment, then turned and went back into the living room. Julie rose to her feet and fought off a wave of nausea.
She hobbled into the living room where David was sitting on the couch reading a newpaper. He looked up at her.
“Hello, kitten,” he said, almost cheerfully. A shudder racked Julie’s body. No matter how badly he treated her, David always seemed to forget about it after he’d locked her in the hall closet. Things would remain peaceful in the house for a while. On the surface, at least. Julie knew he was just waiting to hurt her again. She felt that he was always angry with with her for reasons other than the obvious. David would hit her for not picking up after herself, or for playing her music too loud. If she did something that seemed to really anger him, he’d beat her (in a way that left the least amount of bruises, of course) then lock her in the closet until he felt he should let her out.
Julie thought she may have done something in the past to make him mad, but couldn’t imagine what she could have done to make him that mad.
She went across the living room to the stairs.
“I’m going to bed,” she said hoarsly. David only nodded, his eyes not leaving the paper. Julie went up to her room and quietly closed her door behind her, lest she break her father’s concentration with a loud slam and send him into another rage.
As Julie lay in her bed, her entire body aching and seeming to cry out with pain, everything came together.
Four years ago they’d received a call from Julie’s aunt Cathrine. It was Aunt Katie’s birthday and she’d love to see her sister and her darling little neices.
“I think you and the girls should come down and visit for a while,” Cathrine said over the phone. Some gameshow could be heard in the background. Julie’s mom was standing in the hallway and using the phone that rested on the table on which her and Maggie’s picture sat.
“I’d like to but Julie’s not feeling well today,” said Linda, “She stayed home from school and everything.” The daughter in question poked her head up from the couch at the mention of her name.
“What are you talking about Mom?” She said. Linda cupped her hand over the receiver.
“Your Aunt Katie wants us to come see her but I told her we couldn’t because you’re sick.”
“So? You can go without me.”
Linda shook her head. “No, we couldn’t do that.”
Julie turned and faced her mother, her hands resting on the back of the couch.
“Just go without me. I don’t like Aunt Katie that much anyway,” Julie said with a grin. Linda rolled her eyes. She began talking with Cathrine again and Julie lost interest. She lay back down and returned to her cartoons.
A moment later Linda tapped her on the shoulder.
“Your sister and I are going to your aunt’s for a couple of hours. Your dad’s going to stay here if you need anything,” she said, “He’s upstairs taking a nap right now.” Julie waved her away.
“I’m not gonna to need anything.” Linda leaned down and planted a kiss on Julie’s fevered forehead.
About an hour later David awoke from his nap. He came downstairs and asked Julie where her mother and sister were.
“Uh, Aunt Katie’s, I think,” Julie said. David frowned.
“What car did they take?”
“Hers, I guess.” David went into the garage. Julie heard cursing echoing inside it. He came back out a minute later.
“Why didn’t you go with them?” He demanded.
“’Cause I’m sick,” she said, “If you don’t want me here I can-” David backhanded her across the face. Julie was too stunned to cry at first, but then the tears came.
“Go to your room,” David said simply. Julie did, and was utterly confused as she sat alone in her and Maggie’s bedroom. She cried silently and brushed her doll’s hair quietly in the corner. The next time Julie talked to David, he told her Linda and Maggie were dead.
The police said the crash resulted from brake failure. Had Julie known that Linda had replaced the brakes not a week before, added with the fact that David had put a life insurance policy on her, Maggie and Linda, she may have suspected something. Or perhaps she would not have, being just twelve years old. As it was, however, Julie was swept under David’s veil of deception for four years.
David sat in his green Laz-E-Boy; the paper lay in his lap, forgotten. He was staring at the foot of the stairs where Julie now stood.
“What did you just say?” He asked, his fists already clenching. He was ready to put this stupid girl in her place once and for all if he had to.
“Did you kill my family?” She repeated. Her voice remained calm and steady. David stood and approached her and waited for her to shrink away as she had always done. Julie stayed planted on the bottom step.
“I don’t know who been puttin’ such stupid ideas in yer head but I’m gonna-” He failed to see the hand Julie had been keeping behind her back leap out and with a blunt object strike him in the forehead. He staggered backward and blinked stinging blood out of his eyes. The world swam before his eyes, then faded out all together.
When he came to, David realized three things: He was tied up and unable to move, his mouth was covered with a piece of duct tape, and that he was lying on the closet floor looking up at Julie.
“Good morning…Dad,” She said softly, “I think your going to like it in here. At least, I hope so. Because you’re going to be in here for a long time.” David’s eyes widened as Julie closed the door, shutting out the last light he ever saw.