Tempted by Deception (Deception Trilogy #2) by Rina Kent

Age seven





“You’ll do as you’re told.”

I nod once.

It’s better to be obedient when my mother is in this state—or any state, really.

She’s been pacing the length of our small apartment for a few minutes, staring at her phone one second and typing on it the next.

My feet dangle as I sit on the tall chair in our living room that smells of burnt food because Mom hates cooking and she’s terrible at it. My book, The Nutcracker, lies on my lap, although I haven’t been able to read due to Mom’s mood. It’s snowing, the window covered with a dusting of white, like in the Christmas movies, but the fireplace offers some warmth from the outside cold.

My mother, who’s tall and slender, always goes to the gym, leaving me alone at home, so she can keep her ‘shape’ after ‘I ruined it’ when I was born. I don’t know what that means, but she says things like that all the time. She’s wearing a tight blouse with an elegant skirt, and her blonde hair is pulled up in a bun.

Her lips are blood red and her earrings are long and dangle to her neck like tinsel at Christmas, which I celebrated with my father and his wife, Aunt Annika, this year. Mom spent the entire month after throwing things at me, but it was worth it.

Mom hates Aunt Annika. She does and says stuff that hurts her, like how she can’t even have a baby. My stepmom says nothing in front of Mom, and sometimes even smiles, which makes my mother more furious. But I often see Aunt Annika crying alone in her room. I stand beside her and pat her hand. Sometimes that’s enough to make her stop.

Mom doesn’t let up, though. She even asks me to search for things when I’m at Dad’s house that she can use to hurt Aunt Annika.

I don’t want Aunt Annika in pain. She bakes cakes for me and gives me sips of her tea. She takes me outside for walks and buys me gloves and scarves to protect ‘my little body,’ as she says, from the cold. She hugs me, too, and kisses my cheeks.

Mom never does that.

Because of her job at the hospital, Mom isn’t home much. But I am. After I get in from school, I spend a lot of time all alone. It’s scary at night because I think the monster under my bed will come out.

Mom says that’s nonsense and the real monster is Aunt Annika. Because of that ‘bitch,’ she can’t be with Dad.

Over time, I’ve given Mom false information since I don’t want Aunt Annika hurt. When Mom found out, she slapped me, and once, she smeared my face with red pepper powder. It burned so much that I saw stars, but I didn’t cry. Mom and Dad don’t like it when I cry.

Mom says Dad is a powerful man and that I need to listen to him and her. But Aunt Annika told me it’s better not to listen to everything Dad says.

“Is it because he’s powerful?” I asked while she was reading a book to me after helping with my homework.

A shadow passed over her features as she smiled. Her smile is always sad, not like Mom’s which looks like a cartoon bad guy’s. “Because he’s dangerous, malyshonuk.”

“Like the bad guy in the cartoon?”

“Mm-hmm.”

“But Mommy says he’s powerful.”

“In a bad way.” She wrapped her arms around me. “I wish I could take you and leave, my sweet pie.”

I wished that, too. I also wished she was my mother. At least she never hurts me and she makes me feel comfortable. At least she likes me.

Mom doesn’t.

“What did that whore tell you?” Mom asks me with a harsh tone and I flinch. I don’t like it when she calls Aunt Annika that.

“Nothing.” My voice is small.

She stomps toward me and I tighten my hold on the book, waiting for the slap, as usual. No matter how much she hits me, I’ll never get used to it. I hate the pain that comes with it, but most of all, I hate that she doesn’t treat me like most mothers treat their children.

Sometimes, I ask Aunt Annika why she’s not my mother instead, and she just smiles in that sad way.

Mom doesn’t slap me this time, but she bunches her fingers in my shirt and lifts me up by it. Up close, she’s pretty in a scary kind of way. Like witches from cartoons. “Tell me what she said, you little fucker!”

I can’t breathe.

It’s not the first time I haven’t been able to breathe. Mom used to place a pillow over my face when she caught me crying to make me stop.

That’s why I don’t do it anymore. That’s why I want to get used to pain, so I won’t need to cry.