Freedom at last
(Gladstone, Queensland, Australia)
Ten years ago in the small town of Modena, two gorgeous girls were born. They were christened Jane and Laura McCorby. But Jane and Laura were never seen by the town folk. As far as they knew these two girls never existed.
Their parents, Patricia and Kyle McCorby, hushed the births up for if they told anyone that they had had two girls; they would lose the respect that had taken them so long to build.
Modena prided their men and the women they marry but if they gave birth to a girl then they would be run out of town. Men were worth far more than women and anyone who said otherwise would be thrown in jail.
So, when Patricia and Kyle found out they were to have two daughters instead of two sons they were devastated. They would lose the respect of family and friends and they couldn’t let that happen.
The day that Jane and Laura were born they locked them in the cellar where they were only fed and changed once a day. They told their neighbours, friends and family that their sons died during birth. The town grieved, for the loss of any boy was a blow to the town.
Ten years on Jane and Laura were still locked in the cellar with only one meal a day. A toilet had been installed when they were 2 and a bucket for showering sat in the corner.
The girls both had brown hair which was cut once a month to keep it at shoulder length. Their eyes were brown and they looked alike. The only difference between them was that Jane had olive skin and Laura was fair.
Their clothes were as grey as the cellar walls from lack of washing and were ripped in many places, but it was all they had.
The cellar was a dark and damp room with only one light that shone dully. The only window was small and high up. The girls couldn’t reach it even if one was standing on the shoulders of the other. It was kept open so they had a small amount of fresh air.
Laura was lying on her blanket. It was a hot day and she guessed it was still summer, they were never told what day of the year it was no matter how much they asked. Laura looked over at her sister. Jane was asleep, she was spread wide like an eagle and her hair was plastered too her face with sweat.
Jane was the quieter one of the two. She rarely complained when their mother came in with food or stomped and shouted when she closed the door. Laura always questioned their mother, always screamed and shouted at her, always threatened that one day she’d kill herself. But it never fazed Patricia, “Do what you must,” she’d say when Laura threatened.
This would always leave Laura in a bad mood, one of the reasons that Jane never uttered a word except for thank-you and goodnight to their mother.
They never saw the rest of their family. They only heard them. They knew that they had a younger brother around the age of eight and that their father loved him very much.
They always wondered why their brother wasn’t locked in the cellar with them and whether he even knew about his two sisters that lived under the house.
Laura heard a creak and sat up. She looked at the door. It must be meal time.
“Jane,” she whispered as she poked her sister.
“Mmmm,” Jane stirred, opened her eyes and sat bolt up-right “I smell food,” she said a smile spreading across her face.
“You’d be right, Jane, baked beans on toast. One piece each,” Patricia told them as she opened the door.
“Why can’t we have more? Why do we only get one meal a day? Why do you keep us here? Why?” Laura started.
“Hush now, we don’t want to wake Luke now do we?” said Patricia in her fake loving voice.
“Why doesn’t he have to live down here?” asked Laura. “Eat your food Laura!” She said unable to hide the anger in her voice. She turned and shut the door. There was a faint click as the door was locked.
“Laura, just eat and save your strength. This will be the last meal we’ll see for a long time,” Jane said as she bent over to pick up her piece of toast. “I just want to know why,” Laura shrugged shoving her food in her mouth with fresh hunger.
“I know, but we’ve been trying to get it out of her for 6 years. Do you think she’ll crack now?” asked Jane. “I don’t know. She might.” Jane shook her head “Oh, Laura,” she sighed.
Five years later and the girls were 15. Laura was starting to get more rebellious and violent when Patricia came in. They had met their father hundreds of times but only so he could restrain his daughters so his wife could get out safely.
Laura was hit so much by Kyle; he gave her bad cuts and bruises.
Most times Jane had to tear the clothes she was wearing to make bandages.
“Get off. I’m used to it, I don’t care,” Laura was trying to push Jane away from her after a particularly bad fight with Kyle. She had a gauge taken out of her left cheek by Kyle’s belt buckle.
“There’s no point fighting them,” Jane said for the hundredth time. “They won’t let us out.”
Laura looked Jane in the eyes. “I can’t do it anymore, Jane. I can’t live like this day in and day out. I wish I was dead.” She finished, tears welling in her eyes. This frightened Jane as she had never seen her sister cry before. She sat down beside Laura and put her arm around her. “If you die, I’ll be all alone.” Laura hugged her hard.
That night Kyle came in with their dinner. They now received two meals a day because they were older. “Girls! Dinner” he said as he opened the door.
Laura got up and took their meal without a word. As Kyle turned around, Laura noticed a knife handle sticking out of his pocket. Without thinking she took it. The door closed and they ate their meal in silence.
After they ate, Laura waited until Jane had fallen asleep and went to the corner near the shower bucket. She held the knife to her throat. In one swift movement she sliced her neck. She felt no pain, she was used to pain. She sliced again and again without uttering a sound. Then, when she could slice herself no more she fell to the floor. White light appeared all around her and Laura moved no more. She was finally free.
Jane woke, the sun streaming through the window. She rolled over and saw that Laura wasn’t there.
She sat up and her eyes swept the room. At last she found the corner where Laura lay.
She saw the blood and the knife and didn’t need to think what Laura had done. She let out a blood curling scream that woke someone downstairs. But Jane didn’t care. She ran to her sister and picked up her mangled body and held it tightly, her grey clothes turning red.
She didn’t realise when the door opened. She barley heard the soft male voice that she had never heard before, speak “Who are you?”
She only let go of Laura when a strong hand pulled her up.
She looked into her brother’s face. He was pale like Laura but had fair hair and green eyes. She couldn’t think where he got his eyes from as both Patricia and Kyle had brown eyes.
“I’m Luke, who are you and who was that?” he asked pointing at Laura’s body.
“I’m Jane,” she said, her voice surprisingly strong, “that’s Laura. We’re your sisters.” She briefly explained about the years that they had lived in the cellar and Luke believed every word, “Hang on, I’ll call 000” he said
Jane stayed where she was and looked at her sister. “Oh Laura, Laura.” She cried.
There was a knock at the front door, soon after footsteps stamped along the floor above. Jane realised that soon she would be free.
She heard her parents trying to talk to the police but they wouldn’t listen.
“Oh, dear God!” exclaimed a male officer, when he broke down the door. A female officer ran in and pulled Jane out of the cellar and into the police car. “Don’t worry, no one can hurt you now” she said and left Jane to wait.
She watched as an ambulance and more police cars arrived. She was soon joined by her 13 year old brother and they both watched as they took Laura’s body away in the ambulance and Patricia and Kyle in the other police car.
The female officer got into the car and started to drive away.
Luke and Jane turned around and watched as they sped away from their house, never to return again.
Finally, Jane and Laura were free.