The Writer’s Corner features poetry, essays, short stories, satire and various fiction and non-fiction from SCAD Atlanta students. To submit your own work for the Writer’s Corner, email features@scadconnector.com.

Purple Bow by Kelly Quintana

Layla used to get gifts from her parents like kids get candy on Halloween. The first gift she ever received was a teddy bear with one of its arms torn. She’d asked her mother about it and her mother said that the little guy had a rough night. One of her last gifts was a small dog. Her dad was waiting for her when she got home for school, he was by the door with a smile on his face. Layla resisted the urge to turn back the way she came, her dad only smiled on particular occasions — but then she saw the dog: a small Yorkie barking at her dad’s feet. She didn’t pay attention to her dad’s smile. Even at fifteen, she let their gifts distract her, it was easier than looking into the corners of their home where the monsters she could not face lie in wait.

The teddy bear belonged to a five-year-old girl who lived two cities away. Layla played with her on the jungle gym on the day the girl disappeared. No one made the connection, not even after the fifth child. Her fifth gift was a toy truck and it was also the first time she ever remembered seeing her dad smile.

Even as she got older, the gifts remained the same. At ten, she no longer wanted barbie dolls but it was what she was given. At twelve, when she started to see the smiles of other girls with a different light, her mother warned her about it. The issue was not her sexuality, it was the idea of another in their home, in their lives. Growing up, she didn’t mind the isolation; for she was born into it. Thick walls and forbidden rooms, long drives into town, an angry school bus driver who hated that she was the only one that far out.

It was when high school came around, when she snuck out to spend nights away at other homes. It was seeing her friends’ families, their homes with open windows, that made her look at her parents with closer examination. Her dad saw the question in her eyes once and he took it upon himself to rid her of them. Not that he answered them, but he beat her until she learned to not have questions.

The last gift she ever received was an Ariel doll with a spot on her hair too dark to have been part of the design. Layla was seventeen then.

She hasn’t received a gift in eight years.

Her dad made a mistake, he’d been reckless in attempting to grab a six-year-old boy on his own. Once Layla got too old to use for their ruse, he made sure to always have her mother along.

She sat in on their trial. For three years it went on, not because of any resembles of innocence, but because they wanted the names of all the kids. Layla got asked over and over again if she knew anything. The frustration of the officers turned them into people who hit walls and threw chairs to get her to remember. At one point they forced her into therapy but it wasn’t that Layla didn’t want to tell them. She couldn’t. Her mind took the gifts they’d given her and accepted them without a doubt; she created a picture of a never-ending Christmas. No matter how hard she tried to unravel the fantasy it became marble and there was no way to get past it.

Her parents were sent to jails on opposite ends of the country; the court wanted to keep them apart. Layla hasn’t spoken to them or heard from them since that last day of their trial. Both of them stared at her in their orange jumpsuits and handcuffs with disgust that she felt was unjust. How could they have been standing there looking at her as if she was covered in filth when they used her to lure children to their death?

All of it seems like a distant memory, a life that happened to someone else. With her parents behind bars she could almost fool herself into believing that they died — that her childhood was good.

Leave it to her parents to come creeping from the shadows. When Layla got home that day, on her front door was a box with a purple bow, her own child and wife waiting inside. She never told anyone how they wrapped the gifts, only that she got them. Her mother was particularly fond of the purple bow to go with the wrapped Halloween present.