A young girl lives, confined, in a room.
Her room. It has a television, a sink, a bathtub and a toilet. A bed to sleep in, a table to eat from, a benchtop to prepare food on, a toaster, a stovetop and a microwave. It is all she needs, he says.
She hasn’t always been alone in this room. She used to live with Mumma, until the sickness made her sleepy and she wouldn’t wake up. When he came, he took Mumma out of the room and never brought her back. She had cried for days. Mumma had kept her safe in that room. Mumma fed her and sang to her, and watched movies with her. Thoughts of Mumma still brought pain, tears. Before Mumma got the sickness, she used to tell her about things outside the room. Swings. Hotels. Cafes. Movie cinemas. Playgrounds. Schools. She ate it all up, she wanted it all.
She hears the song of the door. Beeeeeep-beep-beep-beep. A pause. Beep-beep-clunk. The door makes a shush sound as it drags along the floor. He stands, taking up the whole space. Shards of light from behind him, illuminate his mass.
‘Pack this,’ he slams a bag at her feet.
She looks up, bewildered.
‘Put ya clothes in it. I don’t want ya ‘ere anymore,’ he yells.
She walks to the dresser, where Mumma kept all her clothes; all of them, the onesies, track pants, tiny jumpers. She doesn’t know what to pack, so she grabs the lot. She turns, he’s still at the door.
‘Come on, ya dumb bitch,’ he growls. His face, up close, frightens her. Lines on his forehead, around his lips. His pale blue eyes are cold. Butterflies release in her tummy.
The yellow from the sky blinds her. She looks down, sharp blades of green rise to meet her. She feels his hand, rough on her arm as he lifts her into the truck.
‘Imma just gonna drive for a bit, then ya can get out. Don’t come back,’ he says. His voice is crackling, like the sound of stones under the tyres of the truck. A song on the radio startles her. She looks at the rectangle box in the car. It’s Mumma, singing to her.
‘Where’s Mumma? Are you taking me to her?’
He laughs, but doesn’t respond. The truck stops, he leans across her, opens the door.
‘Now, git out!’ He shoves her. She falls out of the truck, lands on the side of the road. The truck roars off, dust and petrol fumes spew out behind it.
She doesn’t know what to do, where she is. She sits on her bag. After a time, a car speeds by. She follows it with her head. She watches it slow, the car’s red eyes stare at her. Then, white eyes replace them, and the car comes backwards towards her.
‘You alright, love?’ A woman asks. She has kind crinkly eyes, curly brown hair and the tips of her fingers are coloured bright pink. ‘Where’s your mummy?’
‘I don’t know,’ she responds. ‘The sickness made her not wake up, then he took her and didn’t bring her back. Then he left me out here.’
‘Who left you out here?’ shrieks the woman. Her crinkly eyes widen to pools. ‘Hop in, love. I’ll take you to the police. You’ll be safe there.’
The woman clambers out of the car, comes around to where she sits on her bag. She holds out her pink-fingered hands and waits. She stands, takes her offered hand. The woman guides her into the seat of the car, and places her bag in the boot.
‘What’s your name?’ the woman asks.
‘It’s Arianne. Mummy calls me Arianne.’
At the police station, she sits while the woman talks. She hears words, none of them make sense. Foster care. Hospital. Bath. Description. Bastard. Someone places a blanket around her while her legs swing from the seat.
* * * *
Some twenty years later, Arianne’s phone rings.
‘Ms Martin?’ a voice enquires.
‘Yes, this is she,’ Arianne responds. She already knows it’s the police. Phone calls like this happened all throughout her years. After.
‘It’s Detective Peters here, from Victoria Police. We got him. We’ve finally got him. You reckon you can come down to the police station? For a line-up?’
‘Of course. Shall I come right now?’
‘If you can, that would be great.’
Arianne arrives at St Kilda Road in less than thirty minutes, the Uber driver managed to weave through dense traffic safely, yet quickly. With trepidation, she walks inside. She’s been in this situation before; they thought they had him, but they didn’t. To give the police credit, they never stopped working on her case and yet, they never had much to go on. The details she gave, about him, about Mumma were scant. She didn’t even know Mumma’s surname back then.
Detective Peters takes her in, says the drill even though Arianne knows it. The men walk out, she stares from her vantage point, behind the glass. She looks closely at each one. She turns cold. The butterflies release in her tummy again.
‘That’s him. Number 4,’ she says. The tears she cries rejuvenate her.