Tilly’s hands shook so the package dropped to the floor. She had faced someone and he had shown his shock. Her parents had been right; she was too ugly to be seen. But why had that man smiled? Tilly was certain he mocked her. She was certain he made fun and that made it so much worse. Tilly struggled to pick up the package before running up the stairs to her room.
She gently placed the forgotten package on a side table and sank to the floor. Tilly had always known she would be alone but in that split second before she opened the door there had been…something. Hope? She didn’t know but she knew a mistake and opening that door had been the biggest mistake of all.
Tilly sat on the bedroom floor, her back against the wall, as the hint of daylight traveled across the wall. When it was darkening, Tilly pulled a pillow from the bed and slid to lie on the floor. She was asleep within moments. Then the dream came.
Her father was yelling at her mother.
“Why is she out of her room?!” He pointed toward Tilly.
“She came down to eat.” Her mother barely spoke above a whisper.
“What have I told you?” Her father stood very close to her mother and seemed to growl. “I never want to see that ugly little bitch. NEVER! Do you understand? Get her locked away or you will pay for it.”
Mother took Tilly’s skinny arm tightly, pulling her up the stairs. She shoved her into her room, slammed the door and turned the lock.
Tilly gasped as she woke. She sat up and wondered, for a moment, where she was. Taking a deep breath, she stood slowly. Carefully she left her room, holding her breathe when she passed what had been her parent’s room. They weren’t there. They had been gone for several years. Tilly’s father had beat her mother so badly she was taken to the hospital. He then ran away. Her mother had died from the beating. Her father had never come back. Tilly had word a year or so later he was dead.
Tilly had been 16. People had come to the house after but she told them through the door to go away. Surprisingly, they had done so. Tilly never understood why no one cared to check on her until she found a letter her mother had tucked away. It seemed her mother had told others her “sister” lived with her and did not associate with anyone. Since Tilly had never gone to school, no one knew about her. Tilly remembered her father saying she was too ugly to be out in public. Once, when she had looked out through the curtains, her father caught her and beat her for it. She had been locked in her room for days after that. Tilly understood then how horrible she must look.
Tilly’s hands still shook as she put the tea kettle on to heat. She sat at the table wondering, not for the first time, why she was here. Why was she alive? She saw no reason. Not for the first time, Tilly remembered her father telling her she would be far better off if she was dead. Maybe he had been right.
Tilly didn’t know. There was the slightest hint in her mind that hope was a real thing but a larger hint pointed straight at despair.
It was well past midnight and the world was silent, so Tilly went to the window and peeked out. Her heart ached to just go for a walk. When the tea kettle whistled Tilly let the curtain fall back. She prepared her tea and sat back listening to the clock take away moments from her hopeless life.