Never Let You Go (a modern fairytale)(4)By: Katy Regnery
“She might. I could lose my job.”
“Now, baby, you’re really pissin’ me off,” he said, his fingers tightening on her chin, over the scar there, pinching into her skin painfully.
Griselda reached up and covered his fingers with hers, rubbing them softly to soothe him. “Couldn’t we wait until next weekend instead? I get paid next Friday—”
“No.” His fingers, which had gentled, tensed again. “Shawn already fixed it. I want to go tomorrow, and he needs a hundred and fifty for our share. It’s luxury cabins, Zel. Luxury ain’t cheap.”
“Tomorrow? I don’t know if I can go tomorrow. I might have to work this weekend or—”
His thumb shifted slightly, digging into the soft flesh under her jawbone, and she winced.
“You don’t have to work. She always tells you in advance. Now, you listen to me, Zelda. You’re stealing a ring or bracelet that Mrs. Hoity-Toity will never notice, you’re giving it to me when I pick you up at seven, and we’re going to West Virginia with Shawn and Tina bright and early tomorrow morning.”
His voice was low and menacing, and the painful pressure of his thumb made her teeth clench and her breath catch. It hurt, but she welcomed it, refusing to linger on how sick and twisted that made her. Pain was the only thing that stopped her from seeing those frightened gray eyes.
“Got it, baby?”
Griselda nodded once, and Jonah grinned, relaxing his fingers and leaning forward to kiss her gently. His lips touched down on hers with tenderness, nipping softly, licking the seam of her lips open and seeking her tongue with his. The mint and tobacco taste of him filled her nostrils, turning her stomach. She stopped breathing through her nose, holding her breath, and felt light-headed when he finally released her mouth.
When he drew back, his eyes were dark and possessive. They spelled it out for her in no uncertain terms: You might be leaving me right now, but you’re not free. You’re trapped with me, whether you like it or not.
She took a deep breath, staring back at him, wondering if he’d kiss her one more time, and hating herself that she wanted him to.
“Run along, now,” he said, gesturing to the townhouse with a flick of his head, dismissing her.
Run. The word reverberated in her head as she opened her door and slammed it shut, any trace of disappointment supplanted with a panicky burst of painful mental images. She walked up the stairs to the glossy black door with a shiny brass knocker. Taking the house key from her purse, she turned the lock and stepped inside.
The thing is? Griselda had run, all right, but she’d never actually gotten away.
“Zelda? Is Prudence down for her nap?” asked Sabrina McClellan, entering the kitchen where Griselda was loading a colorful plastic cup and cereal bowl into the dishwasher.
“Yes, Mrs. McClellan. She’s sleeping.”
“Wonderful.” Griselda’s boss leaned her elbows on the black marble kitchen island, sipping coffee from a clear glass mug and giving her employee a warm smile. “You’re so good with her.”
“Coming from the system, you must feel like taking care of only one is simple.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Griselda. Mrs. McClellan’s casual reference to Griselda’s years in foster care made her uncomfortable, as it always did, though she knew no harm was intended.
All three post-Holden foster care homes she’d lived in before her eighteenth birthday had sheltered more than four kids each, and the care of the younger children had always been left to the older girls, like Griselda. She’d never resented it. She felt bad for the little ones, entering the system at four or five with no memories of a normal childhood. In that way, they were just like Griselda.
She closed the dishwasher door and turned the dial, wiping down the countertop with a dish towel before turning to Mrs. McClellan. Noting that her boss’s coffee was half finished, Griselda picked up the warm pot from the hot plate and refreshed it.
“Why, thank you.” Her employer looked up from the Washington Post and smiled distractedly before dropping her eyes again.
At thirty-three years old, Sabrina McClellan was just ten years older than Griselda, but their lives were a world apart. The daughter of a venture capitalist who’d made a killing in the nineties, Sabrina Bell had attended a posh college in Newport where she’d met her husband, Royston McClellan, a hotshot pre-law student attending Brown University. They’d married right out of college, but waited on starting a family until Roy had been elected to the Senate. Little Prudence was almost four.
Three days a week Sabrina worked at a nonprofit organization, Nannies on Ninth, that placed young adults from the foster care system in child care positions all over D.C. It was how they’d met, in fact. Griselda’s third foster mother, who wasn’t the best or worst of the bunch, had once offhandedly remarked that Griselda was the only foster child she’d ever had who took her child care responsibilities seriously. Short on compliments in her life, Griselda had treasured the words, and they’d led her to Nannies on Ninth after her high school graduation, at the recommendation of her guidance counselor.