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Matilda felt as though the next few months were a dizzying blur of pain and numbness. The pain would build and build until she thought she might die of anguish, and then the numbness would set in. She welcomed it. It meant she didn’t have to feel the torture of knowing what had happened to her.

She replayed everything in her head over and over again. Geoffrey’s hands on her, the humiliating and invasive tests done to her at the hospital, the police demanding that she retell the event over and over again in excruciating detail, sitting on a witness stand and having to look her rapist in the eye while his lawyer asked her what she was wearing that day and whether or not she led him on. As if that even matters! she thought bitterly to herself. As if it would have been okay for him to rape me if I’d been wearing a miniskirt and fishnets.

She looked down at the tattoo on her ankle and scowled. She hated that little line of stars encircling her ankle now. It reminded her of the person who had convinced her to get it and what he had done to her. I’ll never be that stupid again, she told herself. I’ll never love anyone else again. I’ll never let anyone else touch me again. I don’t care if the family line dies out because of it!

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“Mattie? Do you want to come say goodbye to Christopher?” Parker asked, peeking into her room. “I just helped carry the last of his bags into the foyer. He’s ready to go, but he wanted to say goodbye to you first. Are… are you okay with coming out for just a minute?” Matilda hadn’t left her room once since it happened. She had gone to the police station, the hospital, and the court house but otherwise had stayed locked in her room around the clock, only leaving to use the bathroom. She had her meals brought up to her, and Parker brought home her schoolwork every day. She’d complete it at home then send it back with him the next morning. Amazingly, she still had an A average.

“Yes. I’d like to see him off,” Matilda murmured, standing up and brushing some lint off her skirt. Parker walked over and hugged his sister.

“I love you, Mattie,” he murmured. Matilda closed her eyes and hugged her brother back, enjoying the rare feeling of safety that came over her wrapped in her big brother’s arms.

“I love you, too, Parker,” she whispered.

Christopher was standing in the doorway, holding two bags, while Jimmie carried the rest of the stuff to the cab. He smiled when he saw her. “You came to say goodbye! I wasn’t sure if you would,” he admitted. Matilda shrugged and walked over to hug her cousin.

“Well, I have. Goodbye, Christopher. I’m going to miss you. Did you say goodbye to Grandpa?” she asked him. Christopher nodded.

“Just now, but who knows if he even knew who I was,” he sighed, shaking his head. Josiah stepped forward and embraced his son.

“Good luck. I hope you and Jimmie are very happy together. I’m sure your mother would be crying right now if she were here. Please don’t forget about us and come visit when your mother gets back. She’s going to miss you when she gets home from her space mission.”

“I will, Dad. I-I’m going to miss all of you so much, but I’m sure this is the right thing,” he said, his voice catching in his throat slightly. He smiled tenderly at the love of his life loading a suitcase into the trunk of the cab and knew that it was.

As soon as he had left, Mandy burst into tears. Frank hugged her close. “There there, Dear. He’s going to come visit, I’m sure,” he soothed.

“It’s just not the same!” she wept.

“Hey, Katie! What’s up? You look worried,” Parker asked his housekeeper the next day when he found her in his room, making his bed. Katie looked up, startled for a moment, then smiled.

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“Oh! Mr. Charm, you startled me. I’m fine, really,” she lied with a bright smile. Parker raised an eyebrow.

“Are you sure?” he asked. Katie was only nineteen years old and hadn’t been working at Charm Manor for very long, but her and Parker had always gotten along. She was much younger than the other housekeepers and therefore understood all of Parker’s troubles. She was always the first to cover up for him when he accidentally missed curfew or ended up doing his homework late because his favourite band was on television. They had sort of become friends in the one year she’d been working for the Charms.

“Yes,” she insisted. “I wish I could chat with you today, Mr. Charm, but I’m running behind on my chores. I still haven’t made Ms. Charm’s bed or checked on Mr. Charm Senior,” she apologized, rushing out of his room in a hurry. Parker sighed and shrugged before flopping down on his bed to watch TV while he clipped coupons for his favourite music store.

Katie fled to the bathroom, locking herself in. Burying her head in her hands, she let out a sob. It’s my fault! she thought to herself. I was right there. Ms. Charm asked me to leave the room. I knew she wasn’t allowed to have him there, but I did it anyway and he raped her! I could have stopped it. I could have called for help, but I didn’t. I feel awful… I want to tell them, but I’m scared. They’ll fire me for sure and I love them. They’re like my family!

Indeed, Katie Donald really was in a way part of the Charm family. She was entrusted with everything, including carrying large amounts of money for Mandy. Most housekeepers would have just stolen it and taken it for themselves, but Katie had never stolen a penny. She was invited to all of Mandy’s fundraising parties and was often asked to watch over Matilda and Parker. Katie didn’t have a family of her own, so she had fallen in love with Mandy’s family, adopting them as her own.

Wiping her eyes, Katie attempted to clean herself up before going to check on Christopher. She put together a tray of mushed up food to be easier for him to eat and carried it up to his room with a tray. Opening the door with a smile, she flicked on the light and walked inside. “Good morning, Mr. Charm. Would you like your pillows fluffed–” Katie stopped in mid-sentence and let the tray clatter to the floor before letting out a horrified scream.

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