We Belong Together
Dan had been the first and only client to have asked her name.
She’d chosen Sophie. It was a nice name. She wanted to be nice now.
Sophie wouldn’t be going back to sleep that night. It was
2:49 a.m., five empty hours until a new morning. Worries had a way of
worming in and stealing sleep away. But she had a plan.
It had to work. She needed it to. They all needed it to, even
though they didn’t know it. They were all locked in Sophie’s web of
Somewhere in between being kicked out of her family home at 16
and now, she had gotten mixed up in things she would have otherwise
left alone. Things she daren’t tell anyone. But if this worked, she’d
have a new chance. Right now her only obstacle was Ophelia.
Dan had taken the bait, since early May he’d been reluctant to
let Ophelia out of his sight. He thought he was being the repentant
protective father but he was getting on her nerves. Ophelia needed to
breathe. He’d gone away for the weekend with work and had left Sophie
in charge. She knew she had to act fast.
It had been easy for him to fall under Sophie’s charms, but he
wasn’t getting a bad deal out of it. After what had happened to him,
they needed each other. He needed Sophie to take care of Ophelia and
Sophie needed him to take care of her. She could learn to love him
after a time, the kid was alright too. But Sophie couldn’t use the same
charms on Ophelia that had so easily swayed her father.
Dan had met Sophie in a strip club, just at the right time.
She was in trouble which was escalating like a black maelstrom of
calculating menace. She owed money and favours to the wrong sorts of
people whom she’d never be able to pay back. Dan was her way out, he
offered her sanctuary, he even went as far as offering her his heart.
Unfortunately she did not have one to give in return.
But Dan was a good man, eager to please, desperate for a
woman. His career had left very little time for a lasting romance.
Sophie had been living at his house for just over three months in the
sleepy village of Brae situated nicely in the commuter belt of Kent. It
would take time to adjust to living somewhere so remote and, frankly
dull, but within the village borders she had begun to heal. It was a
tempestuous process that had brought up old hurts and memories, even
more so with the arrival of Ophelia who also had her own private story.
Sophie saw how quiet Ophelia was, pensive and withdrawn. Dan
mistook it as contentment but Sophie knew it was something else, she
was in pain and frightened. It was vital for them to get along if they
were to help each other.
It was their first night alone together; Sophie had allowed
Ophelia to pick a movie and had supplied huge quantities of toffee
popcorn, her favourite. Ophelia seldom spoke. That evening she sat all
silent and stiff in front of the TV but she hadn’t run off. It was
Sophie knew not to take it personally; she saw her new
situation as a new job. Ophelia was too young to realise she was being
hurtful. It wasn’t her fault, it was her mother’s. Six months had
passed and still no one knew what had really happened. Ophelia still
didn’t want to speak of it, the memories were still too recent to be
consigned to her past. She was hurting. Sophie couldn’t imagine what
she’d been through.
What that poor little girl needed was a shopping trip. She had
withdrawn all of Dan’s savings and was going to take Ophelia shopping
on a grand scale.
They could get their hair done, nails coloured, and stop for
lunch at a trendy restaurant up in London. It wouldn’t stop Ophelia
hurting, but it was a start. It was their time to create new happy
A tugging feeling of lost hope kept diving into her mood, but
if Dan returned to find them laughing and joking he would be hers
forever. It could be the tipping point, he might ask her to marry him.
Everything Ophelia owned and wore was tired and faded. It fell
to Sophie to put things right. Dan would be, in time, a wonderful
father but mothers always knew best. They guarded their babes fiercely
with unrelenting force, any threat to their beloveds were an enemy that
Nothing could go wrong this weekend, Sophie reminded herself.
She decided to check on Ophelia. That’s what good mothers did. It was
Sophie’s job now to be a mother, sure beat stripping.
Sophie padded down the hallway to the end where Ophelia now
slept. It used to be an office. The door opened with a quiet, sleepy
squeal. Inside was silence punctuated with soft sighs. Sophie smiled
and leant against the doorway, her insides felt warm. It was unexpected
but she couldn’t afford to lose her head. She had a feeling this was a
battle she would lose.
I could really love this girl.
Taking advantage of the young girl’s sleeping state Sophie was
able to take in the sweet little child and see just how lovely she was.
By day she was timid and hidden like a feral cat reluctant to accept
and give affection. Now, her hair lay sprawled over her quiet,
It occurred to Sophie that something was not quite right with
the picture. She turned slowly. There it was. On the window sill,
facing out into the street was a glowing black candle. Sophie cursed
softly and moved quickly to extinguish the renegade flame. It was
exactly these sorts of scenarios that could spell ruin and disaster for
their weekend. Just as well she found it before the curtains and rest
of the room caught fire. Her instincts had been spot-on in checking on
her. In the future, she would trust them more.
She held the candle in her hand as she came back out into the
hallway. It stank to high heaven, and she contemplated throwing it out
but it might hold some sentimental value to Ophelia. Maybe it reminded
her of her mother.
Sophie had broken the cardinal rule of hating your boyfriend’s
ex-girlfriend for no other reason that they might have cast a lingering
spell over him. Sophie only pitied Jennie. It was hard not to. She’d
been committed under the Mental Health Act and subsequently lost
custody of her only child. Dan hadn’t had the faintest idea that he was
a father until that phone call six months ago.
Her room seemed dark when she slipped back in and got back
into the huge, empty bed. She tried to close her eyes but there was
that persistent, tugging feeling of doubt again. Something still wasn’t
Sophie trembled and stared at the door of her room. Hearing no
sound she crept around the bed and peered out listening for any
In the hall, she went to the window, the curtains danced with
grace guided by the soft breeze rolling in from outside. She pulled the
stubborn grinding window pane down and shivered. It was dark and cold
outside. She looked through the window as she pulled the latch but saw
nothing. Directly outside was a blind spot where the light from the
streetlamp did not fall.
It wasn’t her that had opened the window.
Just to be sure she checked again on Ophelia. Her stomach
clenched as she opened the door. The child was still sleeping, still
safe and protected. This time she was snoring; it was so cute.
Sophie shook her head. It had been a busy week. She was
finding it tough to be a stepmother and an ordinary citizen trying to
blend in. It was proving harder than she had first anticipated. She
consoled herself with the fact that it was a learning curve, she would
be more careful in the future.
She crept into the small upstairs bathroom. The light remained
off; Sophie knew that to turn it on now would hurt her eyes and fully
wake her up. Man, she was tired now. She was ready to drop off but
there was that tugging feeling again.
The toilet seat was warm.
She sat cautiously on the toilet afraid to put her weight on
the seat. Slowly she looked around. There was no one else there, only
her and a dripping tap that hadn’t been turned off properly. She felt
the hand towel beside her it was damp.
This can’t be right.
With stealth she ran back to her bedroom. She fumbled blindly
with shaking hands for her mobile phone on her bedside table. In her
desperation she pushed it aside and heard it fall with a soft thud down
between her bed and the table. She felt around but could not locate it.
She turned on the light beside her and breathed easy when she plucked
She needed to call someone, but whom? There was no one but
Dan. She felt her eyes sting, how had that happened? She used to have
so many friends. She used to be normal. What had happened to her life?
Would it be such a good idea to call Dan? He would think she couldn’t
handle being left alone. He might ask questions that she did not want
to answer. How could she explain why people were after her without
revealing what she had done?
She sat back against the bed, coming to terms with the
revelation that she was an adult now. She wasn't supposed to panic. Now
dawned the age of rationality and embracing sobriety.
She didn't feel sober or rational when she opened her eyes and
stared open-mouthed at the magnolia walls of her bedroom.
Scribbled from ceiling to floor on every inch of surface with
Ophelia’s favourite pink glitter pen were three little words.
She’s not yours, she’s not your, she’s not yours,
she’s not yours . . .
The phone dropped unnoticed from her hands. What use was it
when there would be no one for her to call? She pulled her long hair
around her and shielded her eyes. She rocked back and forth trying to
hold in a wild giggling that shook throughout her bones. There was
someone else with them that night; she had been so used to be being
lonely that she'd thought she'd been imaginig things.
She had a suspicion that it could be and it was more
unsettling than the thought of angry petty gangsters. Mothers were a
strange sub-race of human, their loved their beloveds with fierce
determination. Any threat whether real or imagined would be eradicated.
Mothers left no room for doubt, their sworn duty of protection was
unrelenting. Was someone in the house checking on Ophelia, like what
any good mother would do?
No one really knew much about the events that had led to
Jennie being committed. Ophelia had been found half-starved after she
had failed to turn up to school after half-term. Her arms had been
criss-crossed with tiny cuts. There had been burns too. The social
services had been unable to determine whether they had resulted from
self-harm or abuse. They had found Ophelia sitting at the foot of the
stairs. Her feet were bare and crusted with dirt and flaking dried up
blood. Jennie was found in the back room which had been boarded up from
the outside. Jennie was found lying in her own feces with no remaining
shred of humanity.
What sort of life had they lead before social services had
intervened? What sort of young woman would Ophelia have grown into had
she not been rescued?
Sophie made a fist with her hand and pummelled it into her
other. She too could be fierce, she did not have to share blood with
Ophelia to be a good mother to her. This was not going to happen on her
watch. She owed it to Dan who had done so much for her. Sophie realized
then like a punch to the stomach that she really cared for him. She had
promised herself she would never get close to anyone again, but there
it was. She also held a soft spot for that lovely, sleeping girl.
Again, she checked on Ophelia. She was still there but she
would not remain safe if they stayed here. The stairs creaked slightly
as Sophie went downstairs with slow deliberation, uncomfortably aware
she was only dressed in an oversized t-shirt.
Downstairs was calm and swathed in shadows. Objects looked
different in the dark. There didn't seem to be anything amiss, but
Sophie couldn’t be certain. Had that rug been moved? Was it slightly
off -center. She tiptoed silently across the open plan hall into the
front room and came to the shelf by the front door.
Her car keys were exactly where she had left them. They felt
reassuring in her hand, and the car could be seen from where she stood.
If she had been a lesser person, she would have continued walking out
the front door and into the night. But she was a mother now.
She sat down on the sofa trying to compose herself. She needed
a plan. Where was a safe place to go? It was somewhere between 3 and 4
a.m. There were three long hours until morning. In the morning,
everything would be ok, but until then . . . .
Sophie’s mother did not live too far away, a few hours' drive
at this time of night. The roads would be clear. They would be safe as
long as they were moving. Yes, that seemed the right thing to do,
except she hadn’t spoken to her mother in ten years. Sophie couldn’t be
sure her mother would recognize her. She had changed so much.
Sophie put her head in her hands and then the tears began to
fall. She was not built for these situations. Was she going crazy? What
was Dan going to say about all this? Ophelia would almost certainly
tell him she had been whisked away in the middle of the night. Would
social services find out about this? Ophelia might be taken away, and
they might ask her questions.
Mum would know what to do and Sophie really needed her right
now. Mum with her loving arms would make all the bad things go away, a
mother’s love was the strongest protection of all.
Without any more hesitation, she packed a bag and got dressed
convincing herself that in years to come they would look back on this
night and laugh. She would get through it just like all the scary
scenarios she had faced. Learning to drive, asking out that boy in the
year above her at school, slipping out of her bedroom window many years
before to run away with an older man.That other thing.
The bad thing she couldn't tell anyone about.
She went into Ophelia's room to wake the child. She flung
herself at the girl's bed and ripped back the covers with fury. Then
she darted for the light switch and checked under the bed. She didn’t
care about making a noise now.
Ophelia was gone.
But where was she? Had she been taken?
“Ophelia? Ophelia? Where are you?” Every light was on now
shining out into the street. Just like the black candle in the window.
Sophie ran back into Ophelia’s room, maybe the girl was still there,
maybe she was just being silly.
But the signs were there. Her room had been disturbed, drawers
were open and clothing dripped out onto the floor. Her dressing table
which had been immaculately ordered was now in disarray. There could
have been a struggle, Sophie couldn’t tell for sure.
Wherever Ophelia was, she must be so frightened. Where the
hell was she? Was she still asleep, or being dragged away kicking and
In blind panic, Sophie ran out again into the hallway, she
felt dizzy but there was so much to do. The hallway window was open
again. This time the curtains tails wriggled with urgency and flew
outwards as if trying to describe what they had just seen. There was no
need to close them now.
Again, she took to the stairs not quite ready to admit to
herself that Ophelia was gone. She did another search downstairs but
there was no sign of her. From the kitchen drawer, Sophie took a sharp
knife and held it out in front of her.
She looked back into the hall as she pushed the bolt across
the front door and released it.
Outside was quiet, peaceful even. There had been no sound of
screeching tires making a desperate get away. Sophie knew she would
have heard that. Also absent was the sound of scuppering footsteps.
There was nothing amiss whatsoever.
But she could hear something faint.
“She’s not yours, she’s not yours . . .”
Sophie came out into the street realizing too late she had no
shoes on. Tiny stones dug sharply into her feet, but the pain felt
delayed. She came to a stop and squinted her eyes.
Across the street and down the block was a lone woman standing
under a lamp post. She appeared to be twitching as if she were being
held firmly in place, but was struggling to break free. She wore a
giant, heavy coat despite it only being early autumn.
Sophie could not see her clearly but she could not recall ever
seeing that woman before and she knew everyone in the village. The
woman shifted constantly, looking all around her, eager to be away but
unable to go. She rubbed her hands together despite it not being cold.
At the corner of her eye, Sophie caught a movement. It was
Ophelia, Sophie cried with relief and began to close the distance
“Ophelia, sweetheart,” Sophie called out.
Ophelia had not heard and walked to the curb with a small,
pink rucksack slung over one shoulder and dutifully paused to see if
there was traffic. She looked left then right, then left again and
began to cross.
“Ophelia?” This time Sophie screamed. She’d wake up the whole
village and gather an army to protect Ophelia. Ophelia looked back to
Sophie and smiled.
“She’s not yours, she’s not yours . . .” came the whispered
the mantra over and over.
Sophie watched the child walking away. She noticed the woman's
nervous trepidation increased as Ophelia got closer. The woman didn't
want to be there at all and seemed unsure of how she had gotten here.
It was Jennie alright, it had taken Sophie a few moments to
recognize her from the old photo by Ophelia’s bed. She looked different
now, heavily fatigued and a far-away look in her eye that in a previous
age would have suggested she was entirely away with the fairies.
“No!” Sophie growled. Somehow Jennie, Ophelia’s estranged
mother had gotten into Ophelia’s mind. She had manipulated her against
Sophie. Sophie knew she could be a better mother if she was given a
chance, “We belong together, Ophelia.”
Everything she tried in life she’d eventually given up on, but
not this. Sophie would not give up on this little girl. She ran out
into the deserted street and despite her legs trembling with shock she
ran until she had caught up with them. Strangely she felt in control,
she knew that nothing would stop her from saving the child. Now, she
felt like a real mother.
Everything became clear and when she reached them, she pushed
Jennie with all her strength. Jennie crumpled as she fell. To Sophie’s
surprise, the woman simply whimpered as she lay there. She made no
attempt to get up and even looked relieved to see Sophie.
“What are you doing? Get away from her!” Sophie said standing
Ophelia calmly stepped in between them and raised her hands to
appease Sophie. She took a deep breath and stepped back, maybe she
shouldn’t have been so hard against a woman who was clearly ill.
“I’m sorry, Ophelia, but she’s done wrong. My only concern is
keeping you safe.” She stroked Ophelia’s soft blonde hair.
“Mother should never have been taken away from me,” Ophelia
said. “I was doing just fine looking after the both of us.”
“But you’re just a child. She should be looking after you.
She’s your mother.”
Sophie delicately took hold of Ophelia’s hand so as not to
startle her. Jennie made no attempt to move but Sophie was not going to
be taking any chances. She looked down at the woman who had tried to
snatch Ophelia. So this is the woman who had me terrified
moments before. Sophie had imagined a monster but the poor
woman was anything but. She needed help, Sophie wanted to take her in
too and make her a cup of tea, not that it would do anything to settle
Ophelia shook her head and smiled. “Mummy can’t look after me.
She lost her mind when our invocation went wrong.”
Sophie looked down as Ophelia tightened her grip. “Invocation?”
“We’re witches,” Ophelia explained as if it was the only
explanation needed. Sophie giggled nervously, just how far had Jennie’s
poison reached into Ophelia’s mind? She looked again at Jennie; she
didn’t feel so sorry for her now.
“It always passes through the mother’s line, didn’t you know
that?” Ophelia sighed as if she was talking to a small child and pulled
Sophie away from the street light. “Mummy was taken from me before I
had the chance to put things right.”
“Ophelia, I’m going to help you now, not this woman. What
needs to be done to put things right?”
“You will?” Ophelia was hopeful, “Daddy was going to take
everything we had so he could buy a new home with you. He said you was
going to be my new mummy. He showed me a ring.”
A tear trickled down Sophie’s face, she bent down, “Yes, but
it will be your home too. We’ll be so happy.” She went to hug Ophelia
close before realizing she still held the kitchen knife. She smiled and
quickly dropped it hoping Ophelia wouldn’t notice the weapon and feel
scared. But it made a loud noise as it hit the pavement.
Ophelia moved with no hesitation to grab the knife and once it
was in her hands she slashed at Sophie’s face cutting her upwards
across her left cheek and the bridge of her nose.
“Oh, no!” Sophie moved her hands over her face. It was Ophelia
that needed help, it was only now that the damage done to her was
beginning to surface.
Sophie’s left side felt cold, then hot. Her legs gave in and
she felt ever so tired. When she reached for the cause the pain, she
felt only the handle of the knife, the rest was inside, before it was
quickly whisked away.
“Ophelia, what have you done? You must call for an ambulance,
everything is going to be ok. I promise you.” Sophie said.
“Shut up, Jodie. That’s your real name isn’t it?” Ophelia then
turned her attention to her mother who lay helpless on the ground. The
woman whimpered as Ophelia held out her hand but knew better than to
“Sweetie, I want to go back to the mental ward, why did you
summon me? I’m no use to you anymore; I’ve served my purpose; I just
want to be left alone.” Jennie felt herself being pulled up and taken
“No, Mum, you belong to me.” Ophelia held her hand and they
began to walk down the road.
“Your father will come after me. He won’t rest.” Jennie
Ophelia smiled and tilted her head, “I’ve taken care of
Father. No one will separate us again.” Jennie broke into tears as she
felt a warm knife press into her back.
“Keep walking,” Ophelia said looking around. She brightened
when they left the road and down a dark foot path, “We’ll be together
forever now, Mum.”
© 2016 S.J. Budd
Bio: Ms. Budd lives in London and writes articles for
You can find her blog at www.sjbudd.co.uk. She has been
previously published in Sanitarium Magazine, Siren’s Call Publications,
Deadman’s Tome, Innersins, Bewildering Stories, Shadows at the Door,
Aphelion Magazine, Danse Macabre, Blood Moon Rising Magazine and The
Wild Hunt Magazine.
Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum
Return to Aphelion's Index page.