Over The Fence
Kidnapped from her front yard in Oklahoma eleven years ago, seventeen-year-old Eve Anderson lives a wretched existence in Bell Meade, Minnesota with her abductor, “Papa,” his common-law wife “Mama,” and Honey, Eve’s four-year-old daughter with Papa. Papa keeps the family hidden behind locked doors, boarded-up windows, and an eight-foot tall fence that surrounds their backyard.
Emma Love, also seventeen, recently moved to Bell Meade with her Aunt Vi to take care of her big sister Noelle, who’s in a vegetative state after being savagely beaten by her boyfriend, Jack Armstrong. He is charged with grievous bodily harm, but Emma worries that the popularity and influence of the Armstrong family will keep Noelle from getting the justice she deserves.
When Eve and Emma start talking through the fence that adjoins their backyards, they soon form a connection. Emma finds it comforting to talk to Eve about Noelle, and Eve sees parallels between Noelle’s situation and her own. She acts as Emma’s confidant, but does not reveal her own secrets, for fear of Papa’s wrath if he finds out.
But when Papa decides to marry Eve and move the family to an isolated farmhouse, Eve must risk everything to save herself and Honey. Will she have the courage to escape from Papa before it’s too late? And will Emma have the strength to help her new friend, even as she struggles to save her own sister?
BUY THE BOOK
Chapter One: Eve
Honey’s gone. The little sneak. Why won’t that girl mind? I told her to stay in the closet.
I scramble out of bed at the sight of the gaping closet door, throwing one of Papa’s ratty T-shirts over my head. There’s no time for my pajama bottoms, but it doesn’t matter. They’re too loose, anyway. I creep to the half-open door and listen. It’s silent as a cornfield at midnight, but that doesn’t mean Papa’s not standing in the hall right now, waiting to punish me.
I bite my lip, opening an old scar. My eyes tear with pain, but it’s the only way to squash the fear. Honey doesn’t understand fear. She’s only four years old, full of light and hope. She’s never noticed the way Papa’s eyes follow her across the room. She doesn’t know what happens after I shut her in the closet at night.
Honey’s never been in The Hole.
I take a breath and force myself to step into the hall. No one’s there. The little window at the end of the hall glows pink and orange. It’s way too early for Mama and Papa to be up yet. They never get out of bed before nine, Papa, sometimes even ten or eleven if he’s up late the night before.
Still, even in his deepest sleep, Papa has the ears of a cat.
I take one step forward and then another, avoiding the creaky floorboards. At their bedroom door, I stop. There’s a rumbling sound coming from their room, reminding me of the tornado that came through here last summer. I still remember the way the wind shook the house like it was going to lift us right up and take us to Oz. Where I was born, tornadoes were more commonplace. Every year, when the first one came flying in, people would say “Oh, well, it’s just spring,” and descend into their shelters. But here we don’t have a shelter. When the tornado sirens started blaring that night, Papa hurried us to the basement, and we sat in the dark for hours after it was gone. He told us later that the tornado skipped right over us and demolished a mobile home park west of town.
I never want to live in a mobile home park.
The sound coming from their bedroom isn’t a tornado, though. It’s Papa snoring. Relief unsticks my feet. I race past their door and down the stairs, stepping over the third one from the bottom with the poking-up nail. I stop at the bottom of the stairs and listen. Nothing.
Papa keeps the front door padlocked and deadbolted. The back door, too. Only he has the keys. I don’t bother looking for Honey in the living room, dining room, or kitchen. We’re not allowed in any of those places unless we’re invited. As I pass the kitchen, the clock on the wall ticks off the seconds, urging me forward. Tick tock goes the clock. I bite my lip again, tasting blood. I have an idea where Honey went and the only way to get there is through the basement.
Just as I thought, the basement door is wide open. The smell of dust and cobwebs drifts up the stairs. With one hand on the wall, I feel my way down, counting the steps. I slip on an oily spot on the fourth step and right myself. At the bottom, I take a step forward and stub my toe on one of Papa’s metal cases. I clap my hand over my mouth to keep from screaming.
Shadows lurk everywhere. Besides the cases, there’s broken down furniture and dusty tools piled next to Papa’s workbench. The Hole is in the far-right corner of the basement. I turn away from it and head for the basement door. It’s padlocked, too, but at the bottom is a small, square opening with a plastic flap over it. I wish I’d never told Honey about it that time she had a nightmare and crawled into bed with me. I wish I hadn’t told her how I saw it one day when I was sweeping the basement and how it reminded me of my old dog Sassy, and how she used a doggie door just like this one. Honey is braver than I am. I should have known she’d go looking for it.
I push up the flap and wriggle through the door. It’s a tight squeeze for me, but it must have been easy for Honey. I’m not sure why Papa left the door like this. He hardly ever makes a mistake.
Four crumbling concrete steps take me up to the backyard. The sun’s just coming over the trees. Honey’s all the way across the backyard by the fence. It’s a cool morning, even for summer. Honey will catch her death out here. I wish she’d mind...
She has on an old nightgown with Elsa from Frozen on the front. It has holes in it, but it’s her favorite. Her fair hair is sticking out everywhere from all the sweating she does in the closet. She doesn’t move when I say her name. She’s intent on the fence, so still she resembles one of those statues I saw in a museum years ago. The statue was of a boy, and he didn’t have any arms, but he was frozen in time just like Honey is now.
Part of me wants to run to her, hug her and kiss her and make her promise to never, ever scare me like this again. The other part wants to shake her. Scream at her. Because if she keeps breaking the rules, I don’t know how much longer I can keep her safe.
She turns then and sees me watching. There’s no guilt on her face, no fear. Instead, she smiles and points at the fence.
“Honey,” I say as I stride across the dewy grass, “what do you…”
She puts her finger to her lips. “Listen.”
I stop, confused. And then I hear it. Music. Coming from the other side of the fence.
It’s unlike any music I’ve ever heard before. It’s not the twangy stuff that Mama listens to or the screamy stuff that Papa plays loud when he’s down in the basement. It’s just a girl singing with a guitar. The melody is soft and haunting.
“How can I ever say goodbye to you
when I’m afraid that you’re already gone?”
For a second, I escape to a place and time where I had other feelings besides fear. The tears come before I can stop them.
“Why are you crying?” Honey tugs at my hand.
“Never you mind,” I say, wiping my eyes with the back of my hand. “You know we’re not supposed to go outside without permission. Let’s get back in our room before Papa wakes up.”
“No.” She pulls away from me. “I want to stay and listen to the music.”
I grab her arm. “We’ll get in trouble.”
She looks up at me, her eyes sadder than the music floating over the fence. “You don’t have to be afraid, Eve. You’re seventeen now, remember? Mama says you’re almost all growed up.”
Before I can answer, a growl rumbles behind us. It’s Papa. He’s awake.
And he’s angry.