Nap time was over, and Lucas hadn't got back to her.
It has to be here, Cherry fretted, waking to full consciousness in a heartbeat. Phantom fingers of anxiety tightened around her ribcage as she threw back her blanket, searching for the scrap of paper she'd been expecting to find when she woke up. All she needed was a yes or no as to whether or not she could rely on her inside man, but it didn't look like Lucas had bothered to leave her with even that much. Finding herself more frantic with every passing second, she tossed aside her pillow to see if he'd snuck his message under there. Something, anything. Come on, kid, don't make this more difficult than it has to be...
But there was no correspondence to be found.
"Cherry?" Daisy's voice was quiet enough to not wake the other kids, but Cherry could hear the curiosity in it all the same. She was sitting on a beanbag not too far off, reading from a thick, hardcover book. She lowered it as she studied her favourite little. "What are you doing?"
How did she answer that? Cherry froze. "Nothing."
"It doesn't look like nothing. Did you have a bad dream?" Daisy went back to her reading. The sound of her turning the page was like a gunshot amidst the silence. "Why are you awake, anyway? It's only just two; you still have a while till your daddy picks you up."
"I couldn't sleep." That much was true, at least. After her (second) ordeal in the bathroom, sleep hadn't come easy to the troubled little. She'd had a soothing cream massaged into her abused backside and been re-dressed without any further cause for complaint, but what had transpired before that had been enough to keep her awake long after the room had gone quiet. The memory of her tears glistening on the cracked bathroom floor had fanned the embers of guilt and embarrassment hot enough to keep her from joining her peers in unconsciousness. She glanced at the clock, and she was indeed an hour ahead of schedule. "What are you reading?"
"This?" Daisy spared the novel in her hands a cursory glance. "Something far too complex for little girls such as yourself. You should go back to sleep, Cherry. Little girls need their rest."
Right. "Yes Ms Bell," she said meekly. She got to re-arranging her sleeping quarters, subtly looking around the room as she did so. She found the target of her ire after a long moment. For all the special treatment he got otherwise, Lucas was sleeping on the floor with the rest of the daycare cohort. He hadn't bothered to send word to her, which presumably meant he wasn't interested in helping...but he hadn't left yet, and that meant she still had the option to force the issue.
She fully intended to do exactly that. She wasn’t sure how, exactly, but she was going to get him on her side one way or another.
A simple no wouldn't have killed you, Cherry bitched to herself as she pulled the blankets up to her chin. You'd almost think this wasn't for your own benefit.
For a moment, the only sound was Daisy flipping through her book. Cherry had almost dozed off again when Daisy spoke up. "I'm sorry I had to do what I did earlier," she said gently. "I don't take any pleasure from hurting you like that."
Some consolation that was. "You didn't make the decision to put me here," Cherry answered without opening her eyes. She wasn't sure if she was meant to be using big words anymore, but if she was agreeing with the giantess, could she really go wrong? "You're just here to enforce it."
"So you have been listening to me." Daisy's smile was perfectly audible.
Like you haven't been beating me over the head with that line. "Ms Bell?"
The ripple of paper on paper once again disturbing the silence. "A red bottom is a good thing for someone in your position, Cherry," her caretaker remarked. Her tone suggested that she was parting with a priceless pearl of wisdom. "I can only imagine what it must be like for you. Yesterday you were driving yourself to work, paying rent, paying taxes, maybe you even had a boyfriend. Now you need Ms Bell's help to make it to the potty. It's a massive culture shock. I understand." She hesitated. "Did you have a boyfriend?"
All Cherry could think of was being naked on an infant's changing table, her legs spread and this woman's hands between her legs. "No."
"Well, that's probably for the best, all things considered." Daisy spoke with a nonchalance that would have inspired a heated comment from Cherry that morning. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that, at the end of the day, I'm trying to help you. It might not seem like it, but...if you want to avoid a red bottom, then you need to get yourself a red bottom. Get it?"
Cherry got it all too well. "Why are you telling me this?"
"Because as much as it may seem like the big, scary Amazon is out to get you, I really just want this to be as easy for you as possible." Daisy sounded almost regretful. "This is only as painful as you make it, and you don't seem to realise that. I want you to think about that for me, okay?"
She'd been thinking about it ever since she'd spilled that jar of paint. It had been half of the reason she'd been unable to sleep; as she'd reflected in the bathroom earlier that afternoon, she hadn't been being crafty. Littles who weren't crafty ended up naked over a stranger's knee, and Cherry didn't need Daisy's commiserations to realise that. It had taken her a while, but she'd eventually made that discovery herself.
If you wanted to avoid a red bottom, then you needed to get yourself a red bottom.
Cherry bit her tongue, closed her eyes, and settled in to wait for her 'daddy' to arrive.
The doorbell rang much sooner than she'd expected. Typical pick-up time was three o'clock, but the nanny-bot at the door spoke up at two thirty to announce that one Raymond Smith had arrived to pick up his daughter.
"Go say hello to your daddy, Cherry. The machine will walk you out." Daisy looked thoughtful as she put down her book. "I'll be out in a second, okay? I want to talk to him."
That couldn't bode well for her. "Yes, Ms Bell," she said, dislodging herself from her bedding and finding her feet. She looked at Lucas and bit her lip. The sleeping boy by the bathroom door presented a unique conundrum. What was she going to do about him?
You'll just have to wait outside and jump him when he leaves. What else can you do?
Not much. Not much at all. Cherry hurried to the nanny-bot and allowed it to take her hand. The steel-plate door hissed shut behind her, and then they were outside in the front yard. It was still early, and as a result deserted. The parents were still half an hour away.
With one exception.
Cherry had never been so glad to see Raymond's ugly mug.
"Hey!" her roommate laughed as she ripped free of the robot and threw herself around his legs, hugging his thigh tight to her face. His shorts had zippered pockets, and the metal dug crudely into the soft flesh of her cheek, but Cherry didn't care. After the day she'd had, she was craving affection. It had been far too long since someone had been glad to see her. "You're gonna give Sylvie the wrong idea if you keep this up. I've only just got out of the doghouse; don't send me back."
Cherry pulled away from Raymond's leg long enough to judge that for herself. Sylvia stood scant inches away, watching the proceedings through her trademark UV-resistant lenses. She didn't look particularly upset; if anything, she looked like she was trying not to laugh. "You're a little girl who missed her daddy," the giantess answered Cherry's questioning eyebrows. "I can't get mad at a little girl with separation anxiety."
Cherry pressed her face back into her roommate's leg. "You'll be anxious when I separate your teeth with my fist."
"I'll start getting anxious when you can reach them with your fist."
The front door of the daycare opened behind her, and Daisy hurried out. She was all smiles as she crossed to where they stood, offering her hand first to Raymond and then to Sylvia. "Mr and Mr Smith?" she inquired pleasantly as she retrieved her hand. "We didn't get the chance to talk yesterday, did we? Nice to meet you. I'm Daisy Bell."
Her fears as to why Daisy had elected to see her out were quickly confirmed. "I thought I should talk to you before you head off," Daisy began as soon as introductions had been made. "I won't keep you long. I just wanted to let you know that I had to punish Cherry today. I understand she's relatively new to her place in your family, but I can't tolerate outbursts like I've been getting these past two days. She deliberately went out of her way to ruin two girls' artwork. I had to...remind her to play nicely, if you catch my drift."
Oh come on.
"Oh?" Raymond had no clue how to react to that. He pointedly avoided looking his roommate’s way as he scratched the side of his face. Cherry was perfectly fine with that. No one needed to see her blush the way she was. "That's...well, thank you?"
Daisy smiled. "I just thought I'd save you a nasty surprise when you take her to the potty next. As it is right now, I think you could flag down a plane with her bottom." She cast a wayward glance at Cherry and chuckled self-consciously to herself. "It's unfortunate, but how else do you get through to a little?"
"Excuse me," Sylvia said in a choked voice. She began to cough violently, and without preamble about faced and strode to the far side of the yard. Cherry didn't miss the growing grin on her face. Pouting, she crossed her arms and glared at Daisy. Did this really need to be public information?
Daisy watched the giantess go before turning back to the boyfriend. "For what it's worth, she's learning." She favoured Cherry with a smile. "We didn't have one word out of line after that, did we?"
Raymond's face was unreadable. "I don't believe I authorised that," he began slowly. "Did I say you could spank her?"
"Did you...." Daisy's smile drooped slightly. "Well, no, but spankings are S.O.P when it comes to littles. We have real children to concern ourselves with too, Mr Smith. We can't have one troublesome little disturbing the peace. This is how we get through to them, and, like I said, I do believe it's starting to - "
"S.O.P?" Raymond was stunned. "Excuse me? You don't have the right to lay a hand on my...uh, daughter. Ever. End of story."
Cherry could almost pin-point the moment her caretaker realised that Raymond was going to be one of those parents. "My apologies. There was no mention on the enrolment form that we were to treat her any differently than you’d expect." Daisy lips were taut as she pointedly laid the blame at Raymond's door. "If that had been the case, we could have found another way to teach your daughter the correct way to behave."
"I really needed to specify that you're not to physically abuse her?"
"Abuse her?" Daisy chuckled in spite of her current position over a bed of burning coals. "Mr Smith, you've gone out of your way to adopt a little into your family. Surely you of all people can respect - "
"Respect?" Raymond thundered. His eyes were smouldering. "There are many things and many people I respect, Ms Bell, such as my daughter's right to go around without fearing my hand." He shook his head. "You are not one of those things."
Daisy's smile faded entirely. "I think I see now why Cherry is having such a hard time adapting," she said thinly. "I hope you understand that is not the teacher's job to teach your little basic etiquette."
The giants glared at each other.
Evelyn Goldsworthy could be along at any moment to pick up her children. This was the worst possible time to get into a fight. Cherry tugged on the hem of her roommate's shorts with a timidness that surprised even her. "It's okay, Ray - daddy," she mumbled. She couldn't bring herself to voice the d word any louder than a whisper. "I did deserve it. Let it go."
Raymond looked at her in disbelief. "But - "
Cherry shook her head.
He got the point. Raymond cursed and turned back to his antagonist. "Don't you touch her again," he growled. "You hear me? I don't want you laying a hand on her. It's not on."
Daisy sighed. "Okay."
"And if you do, she'll tell me, and then I'll tell someone that can do something about it. You have my word that you'll be out of a job faster than you can harass your next little."
"You're threatening me?"
"I'm telling you how it is." Raymond stared the daycare worker down. "We'll chalk this up to a misunderstanding, okay? Play nice and we'll forget this ever happened."
"A misunderstanding." Daisy's voice was dubious, but she knew as well as anyone that it was the best she was going to get. "Okay. Fine." She looked around for Sylvia, and seeing that she was still recovering from her 'coughing' fit, turned back to Raymond. "It was nice to meet you."
If you say so, Cherry observed dryly, looking from Daisy to Raymond and back again.
"You too," Raymond answered cordially.
Daisy looked to Cherry one last time. "I want you to think about what we discussed before," she said. "You're a smart girl, Cherry. Don’t let your daddy let you think that it’s okay to act like a brat. He won’t be with you when you’re at daycare. I will be. Do the maths."
And then she was gone, disappearing back into the bowels of the daycare. Her hair danced behind her like an airborne ballet.
Both roommates exhaled a breath they hadn't realised they'd been holding. "She spanked you?" Raymond spoke as if he couldn't quite believe it. "For real?"
Cherry thought her cheeks could melt steel. "For real," she confirmed meekly. "I mean, I deserved it. I...I was a bit of bitch today, Ray."
He studied her face. "Yeah?"
No, but you did, and you can't take it back, can you? "Just trust me, okay?" She forced a smile to her face for his benefit. "It's okay, really. I needed that kick in the ass anyway. My head wasn't in the game."
"And now it is?"
"I hope so." You're a little in a world of giants, Cherry; your pride has no place here. "If not, tonight's going to go down like cancer and I'll end up sharing a crib with Lucas."
"Yeah. Let's just say that my branch of the family tree just became incredibly confusing." She shook her head. "Go grab Sylvia. I have a lot to fill you in on and not much time to do it."
"So you need to find these keys."
"Yep," Cherry concluded with a grimace. "Lucas can't do much recon on his hands and knees, and my sister hasn't had the stomach for it since Evie came down on her. I have to go in and figure out where she keeps the keys."
Sylvia didn't look convinced. After recovering from her hysterics, she'd surprisingly got straight down to business. Maybe she really had taken their conversation yesterday to heart. "You're taking a hell of a risk," she said through pursed lips. "There's every chance she's going to recognise you. We should just go buy some bolt-cutters and break in tonight after she's asleep. We can cut the locks and be gone before she realises we're there."
Cherry shrugged. "We can still do that tomorrow. Doing the playdate on top of that can’t hurt.” She began to list the benefits of doing so one by one, finger by finger. "We can find the keys in advance and not need to worry about buying the cutters, which will save time and money. On top of that, I might be able to find another way inside that doesn't involve jumping the wall. That means we don't have to worry about someone getting uppity and calling the police."
"Well. I guess..." Sylvia still wasn't sold. "Your face though, Cherry."
Everyone was so hung up on that detail. She started a new list on her fingers. "I don't have many, if any, pictures of my face online. Dawn probably didn't have any photos on her when she was taken. Evie probably isn't expecting me to show up only days after she sent the letter. She's probably not expecting me to show up dressed like a chipmunk. She's probably not expecting me to find my way in through her daughter's daycare, of all things."
"That was a lot of probablys."
"Cherry's right." Raymond finally spoke up. He'd been listening quietly as his roommate sold her spiel, considering every possibility before taking a side. "It's worth a shot, if only to find another way in. Even if we do it your way, Sylvie, we still have to get in. That's not going to be easy, based on what we know right now. If there's an alternative..."
Sylvia sighed. "I don't like this."
You're not even the one being thrown off the deep end. "Worst comes to worst, Evie recognises me and I'm out of your life forever." Cherry forced a smile. "Tragic, huh?"
She missed how firmly the little's tongue was lodged in her cheek. "I'm not a monster, Cherry. I'd rather put up with your crap than see this Evie character take a knife to your chest."
They were seated on the grass, waiting for Lucas well out of the way of the giants that now filled the yard. A queue had started to form by the door at roughly the same time Cherry had begun her tale, and fifteen minutes on it now stretched all the way to the gate. The system seemed to be that the parents told the nanny-bot at the door who they were after, the robot would head inside and retrieve the kid, and then the family would be on their way. No one seemed to be paying any attention to the group in the corner, and Cherry took that as a good sign. It was entirely possible that one of the giants in line was Evelyn Goldsworthy herself. The fact that no one appeared to recognise them lent credence to her theory that her face wasn't as remarkable as everyone seemed to believe.
As they waited, a car pulled up to the curb just outside the gate. It was an old, battered husk that had perhaps been worth singing home about once upon a time. The glaze had faded on the bonnet and the paint beneath had begun to oxidise, and the tint on the windows was beginning to bubble and show streaks of purple. Cherry absent-mindedly wondered if it was legally road-worthy as she watched the driver shut the beast down. She’d taken to watching every new-comer as they arrived in case they happened to recognise her. This probably wasn’t Evie – Evie was rich enough to afford something much nicer than this relic, supposedly – but it didn’t hurt to be safe.
The woman that extracted herself from behind the wheel contrasted strikingly with her vehicle. She was dressed in a smart business suit, and despite likely being in her mid-fifties, she still looked quite handsome, if only because of her tasteful use of make-up. She boasted a tidy bun of auburn hair tactfully dyed to hide the greys, and her hands were bedecked with gaudy, jewelled rings. Her heels were tall enough to skewer anything as large as a puppy.
The woman took one look at the queue, visibly grimaced, and turned to the sky as if praying for patience.
She was shaking her head as she crossed to where Cherry sat with her companions, and she brought with her the stench of her perfume. It was a cloying, overpowering scent that reminded the little of dying flowers. "Unbelievable, isn't it?" she remarked irritably. Her voice was surprisingly deep, despite being markedly female. "They have God knows how many kids to let out, and this is the best system they can come up with. One at a time. It wouldn’t happen on my watch, you can trust that."
Cherry tried not to wrinkle her nose as her 'parents' smiled politely. That perfume was strong. "It's not the greatest," Raymond agreed. He looked to Sylvia for assistance in making awkward small-talk. He found none. "We got here early, luckily.”
"Are you new? I haven't seen you around. Trust me, you want to get here early. Otherwise you'll end up in the same boat as little old me." The woman turned to Cherry then, and at last she smiled. "Aren't you just the cutest thing? What's your name, dear?"
Her real name was on her tongue before she realised that now might be a good time to stop being Cherry Anderson. If Evie was in that queue, she didn't want to announce her identity to the world where it could be overheard and inadvertently ruin everything. "Tyra, ma'am," she instead answered demurely. It was the first name that came to mind. "Thank you."
The woman beamed as she turned back to Raymond and Sylvia. It made her wrinkles show through her makeup. "I'm a ma'am now. Well, there you go. I learnt something today." She laughed. "I'm sure you know as well as I do how some littles can be. You've done well with her; she's a sweet one."
She shook her head and glanced back towards the door. The queue was only getting longer and longer as more and more parents arrived, and she visibly realised that she was better off over there than with a group of strangers. She winced. "I should get in line, shouldn't I? I'm not getting anywhere over here." She looked back to them and smiled apologetically. "My apologies."
Raymond smiled. "It was nice to meet you."
"You too." She glanced down at Cherry again. "You be a good girl for your mummy and daddy, okay? I'm many things in life, but a liar is not one of them. You can trust that."
Make me. "Yes ma'am."
"You're a sweetheart. Of course you'll be a good girl." The woman smiled one last time and hurried back to the main body of people, taking her place at the end of the line.
Cherry allowed herself a frown as soon as they were free. "I'm not a little kid," she grumbled to Raymond. "I hate it when people talk over me like that. I might as well not even be here."
She got a sympathetic smile from her roommate and a chuckle from his girlfriend. "I don't know," Sylvia said. "I thought she was nice.”
Cherry snorted. "Of course you'd think that."
"Well, she knows the right way to treat a little." The giantess rested her cheek on Raymond's shoulder, and after a moment's hesitation he wrapped an arm around her. The look on his face implied she didn't deserve it. "She did compliment you. She was just being friendly."
Cherry rolled her eyes. "If you say so."
They lapsed into silence again for a short while, watching the queue move. Cherry felt her heart leap into her throat every time the door opened; sooner or later, Lucas and Dawn were going to walk out, and Evelyn Goldsworthy would at last show her face. It could happen at any moment. She could be any one of these people. Cherry realised how jumpy she was and ruefully smiled for herself. She needed to calm down. She didn’t want to blow her first impression by being overly twitchy.
The line gradually dwindled until at last their new friend made it to the front door. She conferred with the nanny-bot, and the machine’s face flickered from yellow to green. It went inside...and when it returned, it had both Lucas and Dawn in hand.
Sylvia began to laugh. Cherry looked on, stunned.
“Well!” Raymond underscored his syllable with a black grin. “I guess that answers whether or not she knows your face.”
“I came that close – ” Cherry held her thumb and index finger a scant centimetre apart from each other. She could scarcely believe her luck. “ – to coming out with my real name. That close.”
“I still think she was nice, for what that’s worth now,” Sylvia felt the need to reveal. She adjusted her sunnies on her nose to better watch the scene unfold. “Psychopath or not, she’s well-spoken.”
“Well that forgives everything, doesn’t it?”
Evelyn Goldsworthy was all smiles as she greeted her adoptive children. She fell to her knees and wrapped Dawn in a tight, perfumed hug, and Cherry could hear her gushy greetings even from the far side of the yard. “How was your day, pumpkin?” the giantess exclaimed cheerfully. She ran her hand through Dawn’s hair and kissed her forehead. It left a pink blemish on her skin. “Mama missed you!”
Dawn smiled. “I had fun,” the chubby little said shyly. She hugged her jailor. “I missed you too, Mama.”
“Fuck me,” Cherry heard Raymond mutter. She had to agree with his profound assessment of the situation. She couldn’t even imagine spewing crap like that from her own mouth. “You weren’t kidding.”
“Not in the slightest,” she agreed grimly. She was watching Lucas. While his sister was being drowned in syrupy sentiments, no one seemed to be paying the slightest attention to the boy. He was sitting on the ground, alone, watching his mother and sister do their thing. “Not in the slightest.”
The show was over. “Let’s go home, pumpkin. You’re going to miss the start of Dora if we don’t get moving!” Evie had just the right amount of drama in her voice to excite an actual three-year-old. Still without sparing her son a glance, she leaned down and carefully hoisted Dawn onto her hip - a feat as extraordinary as the little's girth - and began to head out. Cherry watched as Lucas began to crawl through the dirt after his family. His face was unreadable except for the occasional wince as he came across an ill placed stone.
"Is that Lucas?" Sylvia was startled out of her japes. "I...I think she's carrying the wrong kid."
That did indeed appear to case. Cherry frowned. Lucas had certainly implied that there was an element of favouritism at play, but she hadn’t expected Evie to literally favour her daughter’s inane prattling over her son’s physical wellbeing. What was it that he’d said? Anything for precious, fat little Dawn?
Cherry hurried over to find out.
"Tyra!" Evie smiled down at Cherry with enough warmth light dry kindling. Her children were considerably less thrilled to see her. Dawn's face went white, and Lucas froze where he was. He began to shake his head, mouthing the word 'no' over and over behind Evie’s back. "How can I help you, sweetie?"
Cherry pointedly ignored the lack of enthusiasm her arrival had generated. “Why is my friend crawling?" she demanded. She was hardly about to forget Daisy’s red bottom quote, but at the same time, she could be a little kid with a little kid’s bone to pick. That was fair enough, wasn’t it? "He can't walk. Why aren’t you carrying him?"
Evie's smile froze. "That's none of your business, dear" she answered uncertainly. "Now where have your parents got to?
Right on cue, Raymond and Sylvia materialised behind her.
"Don't you ever run off like that again," Sylvia hissed with a surprising amount of venom. The giantess grabbed her by the shoulder, and holding her in place with one hand used the other to bestow upon her backside three crisp slaps. It couldn't even begin to rival the spanking she'd got from Daisy, but even through the padding of her pull-up it stung slightly. Cherry gasped out loud and pranced away, realising as she did so that Sylvia had undoubtedly done her a favour. She wasn’t sure how she’d have talked her way out of that herself.
That didn’t take the sting out of her already-stung bottom, though.
Sylvia turned to Evie. "I'm so sorry. I don't know what has got into her, she’s normally so - "
"I do," Raymond jumped in to save the day. He grabbed Cherry by the arm and pulled her to him, hugging her face to his leg to muffle anything that might try and evacuate her mouth. "She was telling us before how she made a friend with another little boy today. I'm guessing this is him?"
All eyes turned to Lucas.
Lucas could have cried. "I...I don't..." He looked up at Evie fearfully. "Mama, I don't know her, please, don't be mad, I didn't - "
"Mad at what?" Evie laughed uncertainly. She looked from Cherry and Raymond to her son and back again. "What's going on?"
Cherry peeled her face from Raymond’s thigh to glare daggers at the little boy in the dirt. Snake.
She didn’t have to verbalise her thought for him to get the point. There were tears in Lucas’ eyes as he shook his head and sat down on his diapered behind.
"Well?" Evie pressed. She was beginning to get cross. She rounded on her terrified son. "What’s the matter, boy?"
"Mama," Dawn unexpectedly spoke up. Her eyes were downcast as she said, “Lucas made friends with....her today. He wanted to ask if she could come over and play. That's all."
"Tyra?" Evie helpfully provided Cherry's alias for everyone that had yet to learn it. "Well...why didn't he just say so? I don't bite.”She shook her head irritably. “That's fine. What’s the problem?"
You don’t bite. You cut. Cherry breathed a deep sigh of relief and shot her sister a grateful look. "Thank you, ma'am," she said, directing it at her sister. She tried a smile on for size, but it was all for naught. Dawn was too busy admiring the ground to notice.
"Well, you’re welcome, Tyra.” Evie still looked perplexed. She turned to Dawn. “Thank you, pumpkin. We can’t rely on your silly brother to be useful, can we?" She kissed Dawn again before turning to convene with the grownups. It left a pink stain on her cheek that complimented the one on her forehead. "I'm fine with this if you are...?"
"It's not a problem," Raymond said, a little stiffly. He had eyes only for Lucas.
"Is there anything I should know?" Evie went on. She looked Cherry over. "Is she potty trained? Any allergies?"
"No allergies, and we're training her now." Sylvia played her part perfectly, although her enthusiasm had visibly diminished after Lucas’ outburst. As fun as it was to tease the bane of her existence, it was hard to ignore the fear Evie had instilled in her children. "She's in trainers. If you could just make sure she makes it to the potty, that would be fantastic."
"Of course. Dawn here is in the same boat, we're veterans at potty training." She jostled Cherry's sister in her arms. Dawn didn't bat an eye. "We had her in diapers for a long time, but...well, things changed." She didn't elaborate on what that meant, and Dawn was in no hurry to help out. Evelyn Goldsworthy shrugged and smiled crookedly. "I’ll take care of her, you can trust that.”
Had she not spoken to Lucas that morning and known what this woman was capable of, Cherry might have departed that conversation with a genuinely position impression of Evelyn. She was homely. Lucas had used the word ‘prissy,’ and although Cherry wasn’t sure she’d venture that far, she could see how he’d arrived there. She was brisk, although that was not necessarily a negative descriptor. It was just the way she was. She reminded Cherry of her own grandmother, if her grandmother had been half the age and twice the height.
She had had that conversation with Lucas, though, and that made Evelyn’s homeliness more terrifying than endearing. It was a front. What lie beneath had been plain as day on Lucas’ face, if only for a few short moments.
Just return me with my boobs and my legs, please God. Cherry crossed to where Lucas still sat in the dirt and hugged him as tight as she could. She couldn’t be mad at him. She could feel him trembling in her arms. Don’t let me end up like this.
She looked up and beamed at Evelyn, who smiled tentatively back. That was okay. She wouldn’t be smiling for much longer. “Let’s go on a playdate!” Cherry announced grandly. She felt her smile broaden till she thought it might split her head in two as she watched the giantess. If only she knew.
No, Evelyn wouldn’t be smiling for much longer at all.
End of Part Two