If you missed part one, go here.
She smiles again. Jaime’s phone starts ringing in his pocket.
“It looks like I need to get going.” He thrusts Arra through the door. She hits Binglie with a thud, but the small woman doesn’t move an inch. Arra turns back toward Jaime, but Binglie wraps an arm around Arra’s waist while the other hand grasps the file. Jaime gestures toward Binglie’s arms. “Do whatever you want with that.” It isn’t clear if he means the file or Arra. He throws Arra’s trash bag past Binglie and into the house.
“See you soon, Jaime.” Arra looks up.
Jaime laughs. “If you’re so certain, I suppose I will.” He starts to descend the stairs.
A small black blur crosses his neck and hides behind his collar.
“Jaime!” Arra’s voice is high-pitched but hoarse, like she hasn’t spoken in months.
He turns on his heel and glares at her.
“Eight,” Arra says.
He takes the stairs two at a time and wraps a massive hand around Arra’s throat. “What did you say to me?”
Her face begins to swell slightly, but her only response is a small smile. Jaime lets her go. Jaime and Binglie’s eyes meet. “I hope to see you soon… With this one obedient.”
“Drive safe,” Arra says.
He makes a deep guttural growl. He turns away, as Binglie yanks Arra inside and slams the door.
“I wanted to watch him leave,” she says.
“How does it feel to want, my dear?” Binglie pushes Arra through the living room. There’s a thin layer of dust on the top levels of cabinets and bookshelves and the prints of paintings lining the walls, otherwise, the house is spotless. Fresh lines of a vacuum mark the floors and arch around the furniture. The colors on the couch shine bright and crisp and unused. Arra scans the room harder. Spider webs hide in the cracks between some of the furniture. There’s a fire place in the center of the farthest wall, but ash doesn’t line the bottom like Arra’s previous parents’ home.
I come from my hiding spot and latch a thin, almost transparent rope to Arra’s back. She notices my appearance behind her and smiles.
“This place is so neat, Binglie” she says.
“When I speak to you, call me Mrs. Choice. Otherwise, don’t speak.”
“I don’t like it here. I’m glad my friends came.”
Binglie chuckles. “You have no friends here.”
Binglie leads Arra through the living room to the study in the back of the house. Bookshelves line the wall, but cob webs and dust cover nearly every shelf. A gold lamp illuminates the room in a dull yellow. A middle-aged man sits behind the desk, studying paperwork. He looks up when Binglie raps at the door. “Bron,” she says.
Bron rolls his eyes. “Thank you, dear. I can see that. What is her name?”
“Arra,” says Arra.
Bron stands and walks over to Arra. His eyes scan the little girl up and down. The left corner of his mouth pulls up. “She’s a confident little thing, isn’t she?”
Arra nods. Bron kneels down, so his eyes are level with hers. His fingers wrap around her mouth and dig into her cheeks.
“Don’t be.” He looks at Binglie. “How long until she’s eighteen?
“Nine years,” she says.
He sighs. “That won’t do.”
“I won’t be here that long,” Arra says.
Bron moans. “Make her stop.”
Binglie nods. She grabs the back of Arra’s shirt and pulls up, catching under her armpits. Suddenly, she’s two feet off the ground. She tries kicking Mrs. Choice, but her new mother just moves her out of kicking reach. Arra gives up and just hangs there, staring at Binglie.
“She’s our last,” he says.
“I know. We’ll take care of it before then.”
“Then why take her in?”
“Her story’s incredibly interesting.”
Bron raises an eyebrow. “What is her story, then?”
“All of her last foster families have died of things like heart attacks, organ failure, blood clots–seemingly normal, but when you add the multitude of dead.”
His voice rises like a child asking for candy. “That’s a lot of death surrounding one little girl. All of them, you say?” He’s smile widens.
“Yes,” Arra pipes up.
To be continued…