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“Hurry,” Candace whispered urgently as she disappeared down the wooden staircase and into the pitch-black basement.
The padlock Candace had picked open swung precariously from the latch, ready to drop and awake the rest of the sleeping house. This was a bad idea.
“C’mon,” urged Candace from somewhere down in the abyss. “Hurry up!”
They were going to get caught.
The consequences would be merciless.
Shifting her weight on the wooden landing,
Hands fisted at her sides in fear, she frantically blinked her eyes, straining to see through the darkness—to the unknown. It left her powerless. There had been no time to find a flashlight, but it would only capture unwanted attention anyway.
A hand grabbed her arm.
“C’mon, we’ve got to go now.”
The girls moved as fast as they dared through the maze beneath the old house.
They stopped abruptly at a storm door, the only thing standing between them and freedom. Panting in the darkness, a creak from upstairs lifted both their heads in fear—someone was awake.
Candace lunged forward and grabbed the large bolt locking the door with both hands and pulled. It gave way with a loud clunking sound, and she pushed the bulky door open to reveal the half-moon outside.
Cool air whipped inside, wrapping itself around
With the moon behind her, and with her arms outstretched in joy, Candace resembled an angel in her white cotton nightgown, her dark hair blowing all around her. “C’mon,” she urged again.
They would never stop searching for them—ever.
She and Candace knew too much about what went on at Elm Hill.
How would they survive without any money?
She realized that she just couldn’t do it—not now, not like this. She would soon be eighteen and then things would be different—the home would no longer be her prison. She would be legally free. No one would care anymore.
“What are you waiting for? This is our chance.”
“I can’t… I can’t do it. It’s just another year,” said
“No, we’re doing this together. We have each other,” said Candace adamantly, shaking her head. “I’m not going to leave you here. We escape together.”
“You have to go. You can’t stay…”
Candace ran to the side of the house and retrieved a duffel bag, which had been carefully packed and stashed for their escape. Unzipping the top, she pulled on a pair of jeans and slipped on a pink sweater. It was her favorite color, always matched to her nail polish.
“Yes, hurry. I can help misdirect the she-beast and the cops. You’ll be safe.”
“I will come back for you.” Candace’s voice faltered. It was clear she wanted to stay, but as she looked to the south she saw Ray waiting; that was all she needed to push forward.
Tears welled up in
I love you and I’ll be back.