The Space Under the Window

By Greykell Dutton

I have a secret place where nobody can touch me. When I go there, no one can find me. I pretend I'm a princess, like in a fairy tale. Sometimes I'm Cinderella.
"Girl! Where are you? Get over here and clean up this mess!"
Sometimes I'm Little Red Riding Hood.
"What's that you've got? I told you no trick or treatin' this year. Give me that basket!"
Usually I'm Sleeping Beauty.
When I was in first grade, Miss Krause, my favorite teacher, read us a neat Sleeping Beauty book. Sleeping Beauty slept for 100 years until the Prince woke her up. When he woke her up, she was all alone except for him. All the people she knew 100 years ago were dead. Everything was better though, because the Prince rescued her. Sleeping Beauty missed her father at the end.
I don't think I would.

Once I fell down the stairs and broke my arm. I'm really clumsy sometimes, that's what my dad says.
I met a girl at the emergency room. She was there because she cut her hand open. She got 25 stitches. She told the doctors she was trying to cut a bagel and the knife slipped. They always believe that one.
She told me her mother cut her. Wow! I think she was hoping that I'd tell the doctors or something.
I would never do that. My dad doesn't like it when I tattle.

Miss Krause told me once that it was OK to tattle if someone was hurting someone else. She told me I could talk to her about anything, any time I wanted to. We moved away after conferences. We do that a lot.
"Put everything in boxes, Girl. I found us a better place. Move it, Girl, or I'll show you what for."
I wish I could tell her about Sleeping Beauty.

The house we live in now is the one with my secret place. There are two big windows with benches under them. They're not supposed to open, but one of them does if you pull up the board carefully. It's hollow inside. My space under the window is great! It's kind of dark, but he can't find me in here. Maybe I can ask for a flashlight for my birthday. It wouldn't cost much.

I'm being Sleeping Beauty a lot now. Dad lost his job and he's always mad. I haven't been to school since we moved here. I'm getting mad too. Sometimes I want to hit him. Maybe he'd learn then. I bet he'd be sorry that he doesn't love me!

Actually, Dad loves me a lot. He says I'm better than my mom because I stayed with him instead of going away. My dad says he only hits me sometimes so I'll learn. My mom didn't want to learn.
"Why didn't I go away with mom?"
"Because you're special, Girl. You're Daddy's Girl."
That time he did the bleeding thing. I don't like it when he does that.

Today's my birthday. I'm eight! Daddy's been drinking to celebrate. I didn't get a flashlight. I think he forgot. When I asked him, he yelled and threw a bottle at me. I'm in my space under the window and I'm going to be Sleeping Beauty for 100 years this time. I'm so mad! He made me cry. I never cry.
"Goddamnit Girl! So this is where you've been hiding!"
"I'm sorry daddy, but you hurt me. Please don't hurt me."
"Stop crying, Damnit. I'll give you something to cry about."

I don't remember what happened next.
I think there was pounding.
My head hurts. Everything hurts.
I'm really, really mad now!
I don't like my secret place anymore.
"Please Daddy, let me out!"

I don't need a flashlight anymore. I thought I was stuck, but I'm not. I can get out anytime I want. When I got out, I threw a bottle at dad and he fell down. He got blood on his head. I didn't know he had blood.

"Ugh, the smell!"
"It's coming from over here."
"By the window, John. Looks like there's some kind of storage space under here, but it's nailed shut."
"Joe, give me that crowbar."
"Get it open!"

"Oh Christ, no!"
"Oh my God!"
"Looks like she's been dead a couple of weeks."
"Shit, I'm going to toss my cookies here. What'd he do? Keep on beating her even after she died?"
"This is Detective Vargas. We're at 21 Beech. It looks like we'll want to put out an APB on Karl Phillips.... Murder.....Yeah, neighbor said it was his daughter."
"Poor little girl. She looks like she was only 5 or 6.... Well honey, I promise you that we'll find your dad and make him pay for what he did to you. Sleep in peace, baby."

That guy was nice. I think maybe he'll have to break his promise though. They never looked in the space under the other window. I put him there. He's going to stay there until I teach him. I wonder if he wishes he can be Sleeping Beauty?

I think I'll still be here in 100 years.