Read an Excerpt
The Black Swan
It’s been three months since I said the words I’d practiced silently for years, so scared of what might happen if I said them out loud.
“My nanny has been forcing me to have sex with her since I was 13.”
This morning I’m in fifth period art class, trying to finish the last project for my junior year portfolio, which is due in three days. At school it’s easier not to think about everything that’s happened since I found the courage to tell. At least here no one knows about it yet. Home is a lot harder. There, it’s as if a bomb went off in our house after the truth came out, and it left a crater so deep you can’t see the bottom. It feels like maybe I lost an arm and my sister a leg, but we all pretend we can make things normal if we just don’t talk about it.
Of course, having the police around searching for evidence and interviewing each of us one at a time makes that pretty tough. Twice, I’ve had to go down to the police station to call, Waldy, that’s Waldina my abuser, on her cell phone with detectives listening in. They’re trying to get her to incriminate herself, but she’s too smart for that. Now, I’ve started worrying, what if she sneaks back to kidnap me. If there’s one thing I know it’s that Waldy can overpower me. When I said that to Dad the other day he called the sheriff for the umpteenth time to ask why they haven’t caught her yet. “My little girl can’t sleep or eat with that woman still out there” I heard him say. It’s true. I’m down to 85 lbs.
I’ve always gotten good grades, but now I’m falling behind. With two weeks left before Christmas break, I’m cramming for finals, and I have two college applications to finish. I’ve spent this whole period trying to figure how to paint white feathers on my white linen watercolor sheet. The painting is supposed to be of the swans at the pond near our house, and so far I’ve managed the easy parts: the palm trees at the side of the road, some paddle boats lined up against the shore and even Chase and Waldy as little stick figures kicking the soccer ball around in the background. Not that anyone will know it’s them.
I look at the clock. There’s 15 minutes left in class, and no more time for do-overs. So I close my eyes and try to image the scene again. I’m standing alone by the edge of the water watching the swans glide across the pond like ballerinas in a perfect line. The swan in front points her head straight up and takes off, leaving a wake of ripples, making the others bob on the water behind her. What I want to paint is what comes next, when there’s nothing but air above and below her. Our swans never fly far or stay up in the air for very long. They just want a break. God, me too!
I can do this, I tell myself. I pick up the smallest thinnest brush, dip it in black, and paint the outline of the swan’s head and wingspan just after she spreads her wings. Nice now if I can fill in the sky behind her without messing? Oh darn just what I was afraid of...the black paint is running down my sheet, covering the swan like the sky is raining tar.
I put my head down on my knees.