Patricia was such a cute little girl.
Patricia’s father had killed her mother and then he had killed himself. A neighbor rescued her.
Patricia had no family remaining who would or could take her in. She became a ward of the state.
My wife Domenica and I took Patricia in as a foster child. We needed the money.
I felt so sorry for Patricia. She was so sweet after all she had been through. I could only imagine the therapy she would need in later life.
My little half-breed Pitt Bull named Napoleon seemed charmed by Patricia but when Patricia played with her imaginary friend, Napoleon would bark. And whenever Napoleon barked, Domenica would say, “Get rid of that dog!”
I asked Patricia, “What is your friend’s name?” And she answered so sweetly and matter-of-factly, “Tempest.”
I said, “What a nice name. Where did you learn that name?”
Patricia replied, “From my mommy and my daddy.”
I asked, “Did they have a friend named Tempest?”
Patricia answered, “Tempest is my sister.”
I asked, “Sister? I didn’t know you had a sister. What happened to her?”
Patricia replied, “She’s here.”
I said, “I mean: where is she really?”
Patricia answered, “She is dead.”
I asked, “Dead? Oh, Patty. What happened?”
Patricia recited, “She was sick. My mommy and daddy said we were twins. Patricia and Tempest. My mommy and my daddy knew Tempest had to die. She died when mommy borned us.”
I said, “Oh, I’m so sorry, Patty. Tempest would have been nice, right? A good sister. You would have been a good sister to her, too.”
Patricia said, “Tempest knew she was sick. She knew they were not going to let her be alive. She told me to help her. She said she would make me sick if I didn’t help her. She hurt me.”
I didn’t know what to say, except, “That wasn’t nice. Sometimes a sister can be mean,” thinking of my own sister.
When I told all this to Domenica she said, “Great. Now we have the plot for a horror movie.”
I said, “Oh, come on. It’s a miracle she isn’t more traumatized after all she has been through.”
We soon found out that Patricia walked in her sleep.
One night little Napoleon woke us up with frantic barking. We stumbled downstairs to find Patricia in the kitchen in front of the stove. The oven was turned on!
Napoleon was hopping excitedly. Domenica turned off the oven and then she opened the oven door. She looked inside.
Domenica sighed with relief.
Then Domenica turned her head and looked at me as if daring me to dismiss her worry. I just pursed my lips in concurrence.
As we gently guided Patricia back upstairs she suddenly turned toward little Napoleon and she called down, “Hot dog!” and Napoleon yelped and whined and ran.
Napoleon would not come into the kitchen after that. And after that I could see that Domenica had distanced herself from little Patricia.
Domenica was conflicted and she felt so guilty but she asked me at the breakfast table, “What have we gotten ourselves into? I’m sorry for Patty but we don’t need the money that badly.”
Then Patricia came into the kitchen for breakfast and she said, “I washed my hands. Did you, mommy?”“
I whispered aside to Domenica, “See? She called you mommy.”
Domenica answered Patricia, saying, “I was trying to wash my hands,” and then she hissed to me, “I’m taking a shower,” and she left the kitchen.
I smiled at Patricia.
Patricia said, “Mommy doesn’t like Tempest.”
I said quickly, “But we both love you, sweetie.”
I returned to my coffee with renewed interest. Patricia stared at me for several minutes. I made a silly nervous face at her. Then I remembered, “Hey! Tomorrow is your birthday and its Halloween, too! What do you want? What are you going to be?”
Patricia said, “Tempest.”
Domenica screamed from upstairs. I heard a loud thud.
I dashed up the stairs and into the bathroom. Domenica was writhing on the floor outside of the shower doors, naked, wet, and crying in pain.
Domenica had been scalded. She cried, “The water turned boiling!”
I told little Patricia to be good and to remain at the house while I drove Domenica to the emergency room.
As doctors salved and bandaged Domenica’s blisters I mumbled in a daze “Something went wrong with the water heater…”
One doctor asked, “What kind of water heater do you have? These are like burns from a boiler!”
On the way back home Domenica wept even though she was sedated, “If you love me you’ll take Patty back to Social Services…!”
I pleaded, “Are you listening to yourself? Why are you blaming that poor little girl? Please don’t be hysterical. I’ll find out what happened with the damn water heater. OK? Domenica? OK?”
Domenica became coldly silent and she said softly, “OK. Dear.”
I sighed because I knew I was in for “the treatment” as only a Latina can give it.
And of course I couldn’t find anything wrong with the water heater.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I was crap at work the next day and my co-workers were especially steeped in assholery. I was almost glad to go home to face Domenica’s retribution.
But when I got home I smelled carne asada grilling. To my surprise, Patricia was helping Domenica in the kitchen. They were both smiling. There was a birthday cake on the counter with orange frosting. I said thankfully, “There are my girls.”
We ate dinner together pleasantly. I complimented Domenica, “This is great carne asada. Different. What did you use for marinade?”
Domenica held up a dog-food can. Patricia giggled.
I suddenly realized that Napoleon hadn’t greeted me when I got home.
I looked around and asked, “Where is Napoleon, anyway?”
Domenica smiled with her teeth. She frightened me. Patricia giggled.
I yelled, “Where is my dog?!”
Domenica replied coldly, “Near to your heart.”
I stood up in loathing and fury. I had a sickening premonition of horror that this was no practical joke!
I screamed, “What have you done with my dog?!”
I was holding the big steak knife. I was shaking. I felt dizzy, nauseas. I was in a nightmare. I couldn’t wake up.
When I woke up, Domenica was lying twisted on the floor, dead. She had been stabbed repeatedly. I was sitting beside her.
I was crying over Domenica’s slashed body.
I was sawing at my wrists with the bloody steak knife.
I heard Patricia singing softly behind me.
For daughter Patty
The Devil’s Claw.”
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