Animals: Choose an animal. Write about it!
Whiskers turned out dead in a little wooded area right behind Nesla’s house. Come to think about it, it was a stupid name, Whiskers. But it had been the first thing that had jumped to her eyes, back when she had found her abandoned in that old, moldy box under the bleachers of the track field. Those long, long whiskers, black like the rest of her fur. She was tiny, all coddled up, probably trying to avoid the cold that had already started. For Nesla, it was a no-brainer. She had to take that baby to safety. And she did, and her parents were not surprised in the least.
She was an odd duck, that Nesla. Always in her books, not at all talkative. An only child, she could get away with a lot of things other kids her age couldn’t. Like when she dyed her hair black and started wearing heavy eyeliner even though she was barely thirteen. It was her way to communicate to the world, or so her parents thought, that they couldn’t hurt her more than she’d already been hurt. Born and raised in a house of horrors until she was six, she’d never opened up about what she’d endured. What the Hinjosas knew was only what the caseworker had shared from her file, which was virtually nothing, and what they had read in the news at the time.
House of Horrors right outside Sinton, TX.
Mother dead, father in custody after a face-off with the police.
Cult-like compound surrounded by police after anonymous caller alerts to child abuse, incest.
Yet again, they couldn’t believe everything that they read. After all, the “compound” was nothing like that. They had visited it together, alone, a week before the adoption was finalized. It was nothing but a little house. In the middle of nowhere, true, but a far cry from the massive compound the media had made it out to be. And, yeah, the traces of the torture were still present. The hooks for the chains still stuck to the wall. One would think that the police had cleaned all that up afterward, but the blood from cut wrists and ankles was still there, the pools of C.D.’s—what she’d been called by the press, Nesla’s older sister—blood on the floor because she had been chained during her period. All that was real, it was still there. And the Hinojosas questioned at that moment, even if only for a split of a second, and even if they would forever deny it to one another and to the world, whether it was a good idea to move forward with the adoption.
That was the reason why, when Nesla came back home with Whiskers, Sandra Hinojosa said yes right away. She had learned to know her daughter, it’d been more than six years already since she had gotten that call for a placement, being told that the girl would spend the night getting checked at the hospital. They had never had major problems with her, no tantrums, no yelling, no shouting, no slamming of the doors. Not even playing loud music. She was always reading, and when she wasn’t reading, she was taking care of plants or animals. They had a little pond in the backyard where three koi fish were growing, and she enjoyed sitting there to watch them dance.
At school, always the same: Nesla is a great student, but she has problems opening up to her peers. She was taunted by her classmates, alright, and they had moved her around quite a bit, settling in a Catholic school thinking that maybe smaller classes would make things easier, and religious education would make kids’ hearts kinder. But they were wrong. Except that this time around, Nesla wouldn’t say anything. She would just act as if nothing was happening so that the teachers wouldn’t be suspicious. That was, of course, until Whiskers disappeared that one day. Sandra used to let her out on the front porch, on a basket that Nesla had decorated and that served her as bed. Whiskers would wait there patiently, sometimes sleeping, sometimes just looking around, until Nesla came home. But that Wednesday afternoon, Nesla came back home to find Whiskers’ basket empty. They looked everywhere. Sandra called Ignacio, her husband, who took Nesla in his truck to go around looking for the cat. Nothing turned up.
Needless to say that Nesla wasn’t in any mood to go anywhere the next day, or the day after that. It wasn’t until Carmenza, the neighbor two doors down, found the body when she was taking her dog pee, that the Hinojosas stopped looking.
Sandra didn’t know that Nesla was listening to their conversation, until she found her passed out in the hallway, bloodied, a big gash across her left wrist.
Once in the hospital, it became evident how many people knew about Nesla’s history, in spite of the efforts the Hinojosa’s had done to conceal it.
Ain’t that the girl from that satanic cult?
Wasn’t her mother her sister too?
I heard they used to tie up the girls and have the boys rape them.
At another time, or even maybe in another life, Sandra would have gone after each and every person that made a comment, and would’ve started a whole thing. But this time she didn’t have that luxury. She was there because her thirteen-year-old had just attempted suicide, and saving her life was all that mattered.
In that waiting room, however, she let herself go as she called the school. Part of what Carmenza had told her, was that some girls at school had been taunting Nesla telling her that she was a witch, because of her connection with what now had turned into a whole blown-out-of-proportion distortion of a horrible childhood for which she wasn’t responsible on the least. It was then that Nesla had decided to change her wardrobe, her hair, and the make-up. What she thought was just a way to show she didn’t care, became a certain proof for her tormentors. Not only was she a witch, a Satan worshiper, but her evil black cat was probably helping her, too. That’s when they got the idea to take Whiskers from her basket, bring her to the woods, and throw rocks at her until she was dead.
When Sandra learned of that, her heart ached for her daughter. She longed for a friend and companion, and that’s what Whiskers was for her. Whiskers, I mean, that was the name of the cat for God’s sake! And Sandra knew that with Whiskers, whatever little hope she had of seeing her daughter smile again, had died.