Toby sighed quietly as they drove away from the house that would be no more. The chain on the floor where he was kept for punishment would be swept away when the house was demolished.
Gripping Candice's hand tightly after she asked to go for coffee once at the Fer a Chevel hotel, he remembered his mothers words clearly, though their sting had faded and escaped through the last breaths of many young women.
“I told you to get inside,” her sharp drawl grew stronger as she grew angrier. “I told you to get in out that yard twenty minutes ago, Tobias!”
“Sorry, I caught...I was catching lightning...b-b-b.”
“I don't give a rats ass what you were doing. Your father told you to stop bringing in them jars of lightnin' bugs and letting them out all over the house,” she screeched as she neared closer to Toby, the same height as he was although he was only ten. Her curly, dark auburn hair was pulled into a tight bun.
“I didn't br-bring any in,” he defended, noticing his sister's eyeliner and tear-stained face as she leaned against the doorway where he had stood with Candice when they met with Adam.
“Get on the floor,” their mother said. “Get on the floor now, Tobias!”
Toby remembered dropping to his knees as he watched helplessly as Maybelle doubled over, crying.
“He's a kid, mom!” she cried as their mother took the chain attached to the counters side and wrapped it around Toby's neck, only loose enough so that he could breathe. “Why can't you leave him alone!”
“Go to your room before your father gets home,” she snapped, pulling a dog-bowl and water bowl from the cabinet as Toby stared at his sister from the ground. “He can't act right and you can' control that devil's tongue of yours.”
Their mother placed the bowls in the corner by the counter, one filled with water from the sink and one empty.
“You might can eat once everyone else is done,” she snapped at Toby. “You'd do right to make yourself at home in the kitchen. Filthy little animal.”
His mother pulled two newspapers from a lower cabinet; this was routine, and Maybelle and Toby knew it. The papers were placed by the food and water bowls, since the chain only allowed for him to crawl halfway across the kitchen – not quite in reach of the dining table.
He dare not stand.
“Mom, I don't – I d-d-don't want to spend the night down here,” he said.
“Shut your mouth!” she hollered as her foot hit his chin with one swift movement, and his teeth chopped into his tongue. Blood began to pour down his chin from his mouth so he crawled over to the newspaper, terrified of making a mess. “Dogs aren't going to talk in this house, by God.”
“Mom, what the fuck is wrong with you?” Maybelle sobbed. “He's a kid, he's not a dog. Leave him the fuck alone!”
In a house where swearing was forbidden by the children, Maybelle often had a problem controlling her mouth; she was punished with three hard slaps to the face. Toby kept his eyes downward at the blood as it pooled around on the newspaper.
“Get in your room, now, you possessed little girl! Get up the stairs!”
Maybelle let out a screech as she turned, giving Toby one last, helpless glance as she stomped up the stairs with the kind of rage only an angry fifteen-year old girl could emit.
Toby stayed on his knees and waited for the bleeding to stop, hoping his father was too tired for the belt once he got home. He curled up on the cold floor and listened as Maybelle threw things around her room, terrorized by the routine of their lives as Adam sat comfortably in his room watching television.
The house disappeared in the review mirror and the next day, it would be knocked to the ground. Though not a superstitious man, Toby thought that perhaps it would be best for nothing to ever be built there again. Candice was there with him and what needed to be done was done; Maybelle was gone, and he had been given an upgrade.
Though her wings were folded behind her back, and she was unaware of them as she glanced down at the missed texts on her phone, but they were waiting open the moment that he needed her.
“Coffee is a good idea,” he confirmed as downtown Pierreville came into view., and Candice smiled.
This has been an excerpt from Killing Butterflies, a novel by River Endsley