**REVIEW** Three Rules by Marie Drake

I have been wanting to reading Marie Drake’s ‘Three Rules’ for quite some time. It is a remarkable read that will reach out to most readers either because of the mystery, the emotional and physical effects of abuse and the beautiful romance/love story. During this past year, Three Rules made it as a semi-finalist for The Kindle Book Review’s Best Kindle Book Awards 2014! Definitely not one to be missed!!

Extremely powerful narrative, beautifully written – will have you reduced to tears!

Three Rules Marie DrakeTitle: Three Rules

Author: Marie Drake

Genre: Dark fiction, mystery, romance

Release date: September 24, 2013

Released by: Marie Drake

Length: 296 pages

Blurb: Hope Wellman has a childhood full of horrific memories, a bone chilling recurring nightmare, and a persistent paranoid sense of being followed that she would rather keep repressed. Is evil reaching from beyond the grave to capture the tattered remnants of her soul once and for all, is it only a machination of her disturbed mind, or is there something happening more sinister than even she can imagine?

Attending the funeral of her abuser is the first step in putting her life back together. She struggles with the fact she never told anyone what happened to her, and that the grave they are mourning over is empty. She’d find it a lot easier to move on and believe in the future if he were in the box, ready to be covered with dirt. She fears the last thread of her sanity has snapped when she sees Lucas everywhere she turns, and can’t escape a recurring nightmare. Is her tormentor alive, or is she imagining it? Is her dream triggered by past fears or is it a prediction of the future?

Quoted from Three Rules:

“I have learned three rules in my life: 1.) The most dangerous people in the world are not always strangers. 2.) The scariest things imaginable are not those that can kill you, but those you can live through. And probably the most prominent: 3.) The most horrible possibility is not what could happen to you, but what you could become – I became a killer.”
~Hope Wellman

REVIEW

Three Rules is an extremely powerful narrative and beautifully written, with a great deal of emotion running through it, that will reduce you to tears. Despite the dark subject matter of abuse, and the mystery of the storyline, it also holds one of the most romantic stories I have ever read!

Hope Wellman (20) having lived through sexual abuse as a young girl, by her step-uncle, Lucas, has never said a word about her ordeal to anyone. And now at Lucas’ funeral she feels an inner-relief that he cannot harm her again. The only doubt that she does have is that his body is not in the coffin as it was never recovered from his boat accident. Without his body, there is a fraction of her that wonders if he is still alive, and when she has moments of feeling that somebody is watching her, she instantly thinks it could be him.

There are a string of events that come to light early in the story that keep reminding Hope of her past and begin to create the mystery for the remainder of the story. One of the main questions you’ll be asking is whether or not Lucas is still alive?

Hope is having terrible nightmares about being chased by someone, and then when she is out she feels like someone is following her, watching her at times. This makes her question her own sanity – she may be paranoid, unless she does have a stalker, or maybe it really is Lucas?  There are some brilliant twists in the story to keep the reader wondering and guessing.

The reader is aware of how Hope feels about Lucas’ death as it opens her mind up to those moments of abuse again. She puts on a brave face for her parents, to offer support and to keep her ordeals to herself. However, remaining strong and trying to forget is becoming increasingly difficult when she finds out that one of her childhood friends, Karen Bishop, is pregnant with Lucas’ child. Not only does it hurt to know that he had his hands on her, but it also creates some guilt within Hope that maybe if she had spoken about what had happened to her, then Karen wouldn’t have gotten herself into this situation.

As if dealing with all of this wasn’t enough, there is also the very lovely Joey Bishop to face. Joey is Karen’s brother who was always Hope’s best friend growing up. They did everything together during their childhood and he always had time for her. He was the only boy she ever felt close to. But, after what should have been Hope’s magical and memorable first kiss, her parents encouraged her and Joey to keep their distance after Lucas had seen their innocent moment and reported it back.

A few years on and the attraction is still clearly there. And yet, Hope struggles with her feelings. Anything physical is out of the question, leaving Joey believing that they are just friends.  After certain events take place, Hope spends more time with Joey and this really brings them closer together on many levels. But every time she feels she can tell him, something prevents her from doing so. And, will he change his opinion of her if he knew her secret?

The further into the story we go the more Hope’s feelings and past are brought to the fore. Hope’s character is very strong, despite all that she has been through. She still feels like she can’t tell anyone and when her family notice something isn’t right they assume she is depressed (just as she tended to be when she was younger). She begins to feel trapped – she wants to tell Joey on many occasions (and sometimes her mum) but she just can’t face it. At this point the reader feels trapped with her – wanting to encourage her to speak and finally let it out, but at the same time realising it is a delicate subject for her. The fact that she is thinking about telling someone is a step in the right direction.

Three Rules is a work of fiction and yet based on the abuse suffered by the author, making it a very real read but written without lengthy graphic details – it is more focused on the state of mind, the emotions, as it is written with the intent to help others in similar situations. Marie Drake has written the story with so much care that it is a sensitive read but with some powerful heart-warming moments – two of which had me in tears.

This is a story of inner-strength, of coming through abuse and it’s effects, and then reaching the other side. It is a story of courage, will-power and love that carries it’s own message to all those in need – don’t push those feelings down, don’t ignore them. The power to speak to someone, anyone, can be all that you need to begin your journey to the light, where you can find security, love and be at peace with yourself and your loved ones.

A copy of Three Rules was provided by the author in return for an honest and fair review.

Three Rules by Marie Drake is available at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

To read the prologue and first chapter, along with info on the author, Marie Drake, please check out our spotlight.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

*BLOG TOUR* Three Rules by Marie Drake (cover, blurb, author bio, excerpt & links)

Three Rules” by Marie Drake – Book Spotlight Info
Three Rules
Book Details:

Page Count:296

Genre: Fiction

Publication Date: Sep 24, 2013

Copyright Marie Drake 2013

2013ISBN/EAN13:1492772909 / 9781492772903 http://www.amazon.com/Three-Rules-Marie-Drake/dp/1492772909/
Kindle AISN: B00F0OO6WO http://www.amazon.com/Three-Rules-ebook/dp/B00F0OO6WO

Nook: http://bit.ly/1dhVoJ0

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/three-rules

Lulu: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/MarieDrake

Paperback: https://www.createspace.com/4450018

Directly: http://www.mariedrake.com/three-rules-by-marie-drake

The Blurb:

Hope Wellman has a childhood full of horrific memories, a bone chilling recurring nightmare, and a persistent paranoid sense of being followed that she would rather keep repressed. Is evil reaching from beyond the grave to capture the tattered remnants of her soul once and for all, is it only a machination of her disturbed mind, or is there something happening more sinister than even she can imagine?

Attending the funeral of her abuser is the first step in putting her life back together. She struggles with the fact she never told anyone what happened to her, and that the grave they are mourning over is empty. She’d find it a lot easier to move on and believe in the future if he were in the box, ready to be covered with dirt. She fears the last thread of her sanity has snapped when she sees Lucas everywhere she turns, and can’t escape a recurring nightmare. Is her tormentor alive, or is she imagining it? Is her dream triggered by past fears or is it a prediction of the future?

Quoted from Three Rules:

“I have learned three rules in my life: 1.) The most dangerous people in the world are not always strangers. 2.) The scariest things imaginable are not those that can kill you, but those you can live through. And probably the most prominent: 3.) The most horrible possibility is not what could happen to you, but what you could become – I became a killer.”
~Hope Wellman

AUTHOR BIO

Marie Drake lives with her husband and their four wonderful sons in a small town near Lake Ontario. They take advantage of what others deem a vacation spot all year long. Camping and hiking are some of their favorite family activities. They also enjoy volunteering at the local animal shelter together, and recently rescued a Jack Russell/Corgi mix who made their family complete.

Marie is a crochet fanatic. She designs her own patterns and enjoys crocheting for friends, family, and charity. She loves to cook and bake, especially when making up a new recipe. Marie is an avid reader of romance, mystery, and suspense thrillers.

She is a woman of many interests – and maybe talents – but will be quick to tell you that her most important and proudest accomplishment is the part she played in the lives of children. She provided daycare for over ten years, and she and her husband fostered more than fifteen children over a five year period.

While juggling all her boys’ sporting events, academic, musical, and other extra curricular activities, and running a small home based business designing crochet afghan patterns, Marie tries to squeeze in some time for writing each day.

You can connect with Marie at the following locations:

https://twitter.com/MarieDrake72
https://www.goodreads.com/MarieDrake
http://www.facebook.com/MarieDrake
http://www.MarieDrake.blogspot.com
http://www.mariedrake.com/
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008EXDU8O

Excerpt From “Three Rules”

Prologue *Lucas Wellman*

Lucas picked up the journal and read from it: Years can fly by in an instant when you’re enjoying something. Time sprouts golden wings and races off. When you’re waiting for something, those wings turn to lead and time drags the heavy burden slowly. I glimpse the future – golden on the horizon now – and I bask in the glow of it. I feel my skin blaze with remembrance. My passion s pills out in ink over the pages. It is beautiful – a work of art, really. Only one will truly satiate my need. The others lead only to temporary satisfaction. It thrills me with anticipation – finally obtaining my ultimate desire. It has been so long since I was ab le to touch her smooth soft skin. Years have passed since my lips felt her mouth. I take a deep breath and recall the intoxicating scent of fear mingled with the flowery fragrance of her hair. I run my tongue over my lips and taste the salt of her tears . I crave her and only I will have her. The reward for my patience will not be denied.

I was drawn in by batted eyelashes and shy smiles. I was enticed by innocence, spurred to claim it. I was unable to resist the burgeoning sense of power that washed over me when I took it. But this girl was not innocent – th e housekeeper’s daughter. She liked it; she wanted it. She tricked me as it seems easy for young girls to do. I can’t be blamed that sirens in angelic childlike form lull me into t heir traps. I’m too close to my dream for these insignificant people to become hurdles I must clear.

A knock at the door interrupted him. “Who is it?” he called. “

It’s Michael,” came from behind the door.

“Come in,” Lucas said. He didn’t feel up to dealing with this. Michael was becoming very needy. Lucas would be glad when he didn’t have to listen to his sniveling demands any longer.

Michael opened the library door. Lucas realized he was still holding the journal. He quickly shoved it under some papers on a table. “What brings you here, Michael?” he asked impatiently. “

Have you thought about my proposition yet?” Michael inquired as he leaned against the desk.

Lucas poured him some brandy to buy a little time. Michael took the glass from him, “None for you?” he asked.

“I save it for guests,” Lucas told him. He smiled at Michael, rubbed his chin as though he was considering his plan. He would not – could not – entertain it. Michael’s proposition was based on a lot of false assumptions. Michael thought he knew things. He thought Lucas would allow financial gain to navigate his path; greed would triumph and Lucas would align with his idea. But Lucas didn’t lust after money. These dirty secrets that Michael wanted to use to extort money – Lucas was unraveling them in an attempt to seize what he wanted: his father’s appreciation, and the object of his affection.

Sadly, Lucas’s father passed away and took his unpronounced praise with him. Too bad for him – he was tangled in the web, lured there by the glittering possibilities: his father could be proud of him, love him, or at least just thank him. One dream was still alive; he still had a chance to take her.

There was another knock at the door. “Now what?” Lucas grouched.

He opened the door to find Alva. “Sorry, Mr. Wellman, there’s a delivery for you,” she said.

“Excuse me, Michael, I have to take care of this,” Lucas told him.

Signing for the delivery, he took the package to his office. He broke the seal and pulled out the pages, scanned them quickly to be sure they were what he expected. Thoroughly pleased, he tucked them between two large books and went back to the office. Michael left. He must have tired of waiting. Patience was Lucas’s strength, not Michael’s. He walked to the desk to retrieve the journal and found it also disappeared. Michael was more clever than given credit for, but probably not smart enough to put the pieces together – there were no names in the journal. Michael didn’t have all the information.

Lucas went back to the library and retrieved the papers. Locking them in the drawer with the other evidence, he decided to take action earlier than originally planned.

He picked up the phone and arranged to have his boat placed in the water while it was still warm enough. One more phone call and he was out the door headed to the dock.

Champagne chilled– it was a celebration of destiny after all – he removed his cufflinks, set them by the bottle, and was rolling up his sleeves when a noise alerted him that he had company. He turned with a smile, “I knew you’d come.”

Chapter 1 *

An Empty Grave*

I want to spit on his grave, but I won’t. That would cause the surrounding people to be offended and confused, all these people who didn’t truly know him but honor him at this service. Holding my frame as stiff as a board beneath the dark, rumbling sky of churning clouds – the perfect weather to send him off – I twist my buttons, trying to make sure they all point in the same direction. It’s a trivial thing to be focused on at a grave site, but my obsessiveness won’t allow me to stop until I fix them all.

I guess most people would be sad attending two family members’ funerals so close together. I’m not. We buried Grandfather Leonard not long ago. I didn’t cry. I didn’t know him. I didn’t know what I was missing by not knowing him. I don’t have any grandparents on my mother’s side either. I wasn’t his real grandchild anyway – and he never fussed over his own children – so why would he fuss over their children? I’m wearing the same black dress. My black hat covers my long blonde hair, fashioned into a bun. A veil conceals my face. I’m not crying for the loss of this man either, but no one can tell. Another rumble of thunder sounds before lightning crackles and splits the clouds. It seems appropriate that the sky swell up and spit on him for me. The pearly gates will not open to welcome him. No, he will not spend a single moment of eternity in a peaceful state.

There is no open casket, no public viewing. The authorities recovered his boat with evidence of some blood, a few strands of hair, and empty alcohol bottles. It was a logical conclusion that he fell, bumped his head, and went into the water. They did not recover his body. Too bad, I may find some morbid sense of satisfaction seeing him laying there in a coffin dead.

This ceremony over an empty grave seems very strange. Among all these tearful people mourning and sharing embraces, I separate myself and look at them. I can see the fear in some of their faces. He died very young and they’re afraid of death. I scan the cemetery. So many headstones, so many graves, they all contain secrets – even the empty ones. I stand alone, twisting these buttons, counting the reasons I’m glad he’s dead.

How far can a person’s memory reach? I search back, willing myself to find an earlier memory, but always come up with the same. I must have others, but when I replay my past it freezes there and repeats like a stuttering compact disk at around the age of three.

It was an early fall day. Warm sunshine heated the top of my head which made the breeze feel cooler on my cheeks. Brilliantly clear skies stretched above me as far as I could see. Puffy white clouds – that I viewed as different animals – were arranged like works of art across the blue canvas, and I watched them march away into the distance.

Vibrant colored leaves swirled through the air, sailed in circles, landed at my feet, and were picked up again to float like orange, red, and yellow butterflies to a new perch. One could mistake this for a good memory, a happy memory. Behind the pretty façade ― lays the ugliness of the true event  the beginning of the end.

Colors and sunshine are vivid, but the rest of the memory is dim and vague – very fuzzy – maybe because I want it that way. Taking my hand, he led me to a small, dark, quiet room. I felt a bit of anticipation, excitement. Perhaps a surprise? I heard a strange noise. My stomach felt very sick. It feels the same now as I recall the moment.

I didn’t understand what was happening. I turned to run. I wanted my mom, but I was pulled back. I gagged, coughed, and choked. I was yanked out into the light and pulled to the bathroom. My mom came then, and I felt a sense of relief. I wanted to tell her what happened, but, what did happen? I didn’t know the words. I didn’t know how to describe it. Besides, I was gagging so hard that no words would form.

I heard his voice. He told my mother he found me that way – acting like I’d vomit. My mom held me over the toilet and smoothed my hair back. She told me it was okay. ‘Let it out,’ she said – I did. She washed me off and wiped my face with a cool cloth.

She dressed me in my pajamas and tucked me into bed. Sitting up with me to read me stories, she rubbed my belly and held my hand – such a good mommy. She would have fought the entire world to keep me safe, but, there wasn’t anything out in the world that was more dangerous than being under that roof. She felt me start to relax and doze off. I sensed that she was removing my hand from hers. I cried again, not wanting her to leave me alone.

For a long time after that, I followed my mom everywhere. I didn’t want to be left alone. No, it wasn’t safe to be alone. I know it probably got on her nerves that she couldn’t take a step without me being underfoot. I remember her complaining sometimes, and adults trying to explain it using separation anxiety and such terms.

The bereaved move forward and startle me from my painful thoughts, laying flowers on the site, whispering last prayers and farewells. I stand still. A hand at my back drags me further away from my memories. My mother, Carol, is beside me. She has her hair, as blonde as mine, pulled back and pinned at the nape of her neck. She also wears a hat, but it has no veil. Similar in size and stature, we could easily be mistaken for one another from the back or at a distance. Looking into her arctic blue eyes, a shade paler than my own, I see no tears falling, but the residue of earlier emotions is not quite dry on her cheeks.

My stepfather, tall with broad shoulders, graying brown hair, grief flooding his usually sparkling aquamarine eyes, stands front and center with flowers in his strong hands, waiting to place them on the grave of his only brother. I admire this man who married my mother and brought us out of poverty. Yes, we were poor before Luther Wellman came along. Living in a trailer park in a very tiny mobile home, we didn’t have much, but we had each other. That is the story – the way my mom tells it, anyway. I don’t remember my real father, or a time before I was Hope Wellman. My step father loves me. He gave me his last name, a home, and a family because he’s thoroughly devoted to my mother.

If my mother never met Luther, it could have been different . Our lives would be awful if she married my real father – an abusive womanizer. He left colorful evidence of his violent tyrannical binges upon Mom’s pretty alabaster face and body on many occasions. He didn’t stop the abuse when he knew she was pregnant.

Mom decided to run – for her sake and her unborn child. Of course, that is also as told by my mom. I couldn’t personally verify it, but, the remnants of terror and regret haunting my mother’s gaze as she imparted this piece of her past convinced me of its veracity. The history and circumstance in which I received my name; I was my mother’s hope for the future.

Mom was working two jobs to pay our way in the world. She earned enough to afford that little slice of trailer park heaven we called home, and give our elderly neighbor a small amount to care for me when she was working nights as a waitress at a tiny little diner. She could bring me with her to her day job as a cleaning lady for the Bishops.

The Bishop family was very good to my mother while they employed her. The pay wasn’t spectacular, and the job was doing menial tasks, but they let her bring me with her to work, allowing me to play in the nursery with their little boy and girl under the supervision of their nanny as part of my mother’s compensation. She could be close at hand and didn’t have to pay a sitter for both days and nights. This was the beginning, how Mom became part of a fairytale – a Cinderella of sorts.

Frederick Bishop and Luther Wellman were – and are – best friends and business partners. Luther Wellman’s father had more money than he could spend – he has told me as much. Luther didn’t want a handout. His own mother had come from humble beginnings. His maternal grandfather had built his own business from the ground up. Their money wasn’t inherited; it was earned. That was the way Luther wanted to build his own wealth. He didn’t want to rely on his family’s fortune.

When his college friend, Frederick Bishop, offered him an opportunity to rebuild a business – with an investment of a lot of hard work and a bit of cash – Luther eagerly grabbed it with both hands. He loved the idea of rebuilding an old hotel and he dreamed of a chain of hotels across the state, maybe even across the country one day.

It wouldn’t be one of the posh hotels his father would prefer. It would be a nice enough hotel, where people could get a good night’s rest and pleasant service – a comfortable place that was affordable. Luther envisioned a place where you could stay for a night or a week, close to conveniences and attractions but off the beaten path so you could still have privacy. He wanted his guests to have the feeling of getting away from it all – a luxury vacation at a better price. He set off on this journey with Frederick and made all their plans a reality. They own a chain of hotels called The HideAways.

Luther often talks about the day Frederick married Miriam. He tells me it was the day that sparked his dream of my mother, or at least the idea of her. He stood up as best man and gave a tear inducing toast at the reception. He envied his best friend’s discovery of a soul mate and the happiness they found together. Frederick’s life became complete; he achieved his financial goals and his personal ones. Luther first tried to fill the void by having Lucas come to work with him, but Lucas was still bent on capturing the attention – or maybe affection – of their father. Lucas went to work for Leonard Wellman at the bank instead, hoping to feel his father’s pride beam warm upon him.

Luther and Frederick regularly met to handle business matters at the Bishop home. As Luther tells it, he walked into the Bishop home expecting to find Frederick and Miriam in the kitchen, but he bumped into Mom, who was all business in her housekeeper’s dress and apron, wielding a sponge in her rubber gloved hands and speaking to a small blonde child, a perfect little angel – me.

Mom apologized without need; it was he who almost bowled her over. He couldn’t manage to get any words past the lump in his throat. Whenever Luther tells the story, he imparts how thoroughly unimpressed Mom seemed to be as she excused herself with a polite smile and went back to her work.

Mom never gave him a second glance while he stood rooted to the same spot on the kitchen floor trying to come up with a reason to be there. His magical rendition of their fateful meeting always relayed the same sentiment: He’d get to know her no matter how long it took., but, Mom didn’t come around easily if you ask him. No, she found it difficult to trust his intentions. Luther says he flirted and wooed her until she couldn’t resist his charming advances any longer. She was hesitant to take him seriously because she didn’t want to lose her job. She couldn’t lose her job.

The Bishops didn’t approve of Luther’s interest in their housekeeper. They also didn’t want anything to happen that would cause a rift between them and their employee. Luther paid no attention to their castigation. Eventually, the Bishops relented with their disparaging remarks to Luther believing his interest would wither and the affair would end.

To everyone’s surprise, Mom and Luther’s romance blossomed. Luther fully accepted me. So it was: a new life, a happy family. I can never repay Luther for his kindness to me and my mother. If Mom didn’t meet Luther, we would still be in that tiny little mobile home struggling to make ends meet, but then I also wouldn’t know the personal terror inflicted on me by his half brother – terror I never shared with another single sole. Luther’s father, Leonard, had remarried several much younger women. One of these women, Helena, bore him a son and they named him Lucas.

Filtering through my veil, a drop of rain lands on my upturned nose. Staring off at the sky.; my body is still and the bottom of my black dress is rustling around my legs. I remain on that piece of grass next to the grave, but my mind is up there twisting and turning with the clouds. Their hypnotic, slow rolling motions makes me wish my memories would get wrapped up and blow away in them.

Movement on the ground alerts me that Luther and the immediate family members are filing out of the cemetery. Prayers are over and everyone is heading toward their vehicles in somber procession. We’re all expected to ride in a macabre parade to my parents’ home for the repast.

The sky opens up, and it begins to pour. The heavens have been patient and polite enough to wait for us to finish up before unleashing their fury on the symbolic resting place of Lucas Wellman.

I climb in the back seat of the car with my mother and stepfather. No one speaks. I curl and uncurl an errant strand of my hair around my finger, stopping with it curled again and rest the back of my hand against my cheek as I stare out the window at the clouds again. Maybe, after all the distressful chaos of the day is over, I’ll be able to put the past out of my mind. Maybe I’ll finally forget. I try to focus on the sound of the rain tapping against the glass, but can’t drown out my thoughts.

I felt excited about starting a new school for first grade, and joining a new group of kids who didn’t already think I was weird. That is the best way I can describe it.

There was a falling out between brothers not long after we moved in with Luther, or at least that was the impression I got. I was glad. A tiny thought echoed in the back of my mind: perhaps Luther and Mom knew what happened.

I heard some muffled arguments between them. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but it felt as if they were arguing about Lucas. I convinced myself they were. They knew what happened. They knew he was a shameful snake; that was why he didn’t come around anymore. I hoped he’d be banned forever, but no such luck.

He arrived one snowy day near the holidays and wanted to talk with Luther. They locked themselves in the library for a very long time. I sat in the hall in an alcove out of sight, staring at that door waiting for it to open. They stood in the hall together and shook hands. Cold fear crawled over my skin and seeped into my veins, spreading slowly through my body. Its steely fingers clamped around my heart and squeezed it, then plummeted straight to the bottom of my stomach, sinking like a lead weight. I froze. Luther reached out to embrace Lucas. He caught a glimpse of me in the alcove and his eyes found mine. He didn’t look away.

I ran and hid in the attic; it was a reprieve. Eventually, I had to come down. When darkness fell over my room I was under the covers of my bed waiting for my living nightmare to restart – praying it wouldn’t. Shivering, tense, my ears strained to hear the slightest noise: the creek of the door, footsteps light on the carpet. Alarms rang inside my head with the nauseating smells of aftershave and brandy.

Terrifyingly cold hands reached under the covers, pried my hands from the bedspread I was holding tightly around myself as though it was powerful and keeping me safe. My hands unwillingly released my shield. It was useless against that evil. I rested them at my side and closed my eyes, preparing for the flight of consciousness. I willed it to lift me from that place and take me somewhere beautiful, somewhere happy, somewhere safe.

Those icy hands continued pulling while warnings were whispered. The air was crushed out of my lungs. Something scraped against my baby soft skin. A wet mouth, a wickedly hoarse voice crooned praises I couldn’t stand to hear. Long slender fingers of ice moved along the ends of nerves, each cold spark another step away from reality. Bile rose, threatening to spew forth, tears were streaming.

Contempt and cries were bit back, swallowed and pushed down while defense mechanisms took over. To save sanity, to protect the soul, they transported the mind far away from what was happening in that room so it would not experience the horror played out on the flesh and body.

This sadistic ritual, this feeding on innocence, would take place rather quickly, but it never seemed that way. When it was over, the contamination of youth was washed away. Last came horrifying rationalizations that it was special because I belonged to him; he was preparing me for my future. Damn him for that – more horrible than any physical act endured; he made me dread what the future held for me.

I glance at Luther, staring out the window at the place of future visits to lay flowers and remember his only brother. “Life holds wonderful moments when you think you have far more than you deserve, but it isn’t always fair. He left this life so soon,” he says. Within my head, I disagree silently; I think it’s the greatest justice ever served.

With a solemn and serious expression Luther turns to  me, and I do my best to appear to be counting raindrops against the window. He reaches out to touch Mom’s cheek, and she covers his hand with her own, places it in her lap while smoothing his palm with hers as she rests her head on his shoulder. Luther places his head on his wife’s head and closes his eyes. “Carol, you and Hope are my blessings, the things I’m grateful for, the gifts I’m amazed at receiving. I wouldn’t be able to get through this without you,” he says as he lifts his head and grips Mom’s hand a little tighter. She squeezes back as the car approaches our neighborhood.