Mondays child is fair of face,
Tuesdays child is full of grace,
Wednesdays child is full of woe,
Thursdays child has far to go,
Fridays child is loving and giving,
Saturdays child works hard for his living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.
Traditional Nursery Rhyme
Grandmother was weeping again when Tris got in from school. It was all Grandmother did these days, sob and cry and call out for Grandfather Gomez. But Grandfather would never be coming to answer, he would never fence with Lurch again, he would never tango or kiss Granmother’s hand and arm. The old man was dead and Tris, for one, was glad of it. This crumbling mansion where they all lived had been his domain, and they were all expected to live by his rules, no matter how crazy they were, no matter how crazy he was. Grandfather had been cruel.
Tris had never known her father. He had come into the madhouse and stayed just long enough to make Tris with her mother and then he’d run screaming from the place, never to be seen or heard from again. After seeing the real world outside the rusted gates when she started attending school, Tris couldn’t hate him for going; she would have done the same, in his place. She often had dreams of escaping, of going off to school and never coming back. But she was only ten, she couldn’t do very much, she was stuck her until she got old enough to make her way out there.
She crept through the kitchen door and tried to go up the back stars to her room, but Uncle was waiting. He was too fat to catch her if she ran, so he usually ambushed her somewhere in the house when he wanted to play. He called it playing. Tris hated it, it hurt, it always hurt.
Tugging on her arm, she tried to wriggle out of his grasp, but he had her firmly. She knew that shouting would only bring down Mother’s wrath; she did not like it when Tris would not play with Uncle. He dragged her through the house to the greenhouse. She tripped over the threshold and almost fell into the nightshade bed. She stopped struggling, he might get the idea in his head to throw her into the poison ivy, he had done that before.
She spied the rope and pulley and her stomach dropped. He wanted to play with the flytrap today. Should she answer the questions wrong so that he dropped her in quickly, or should she prolong the game and try to guess correctly? The outcome would be the same, and she didn’t relish hanging upside down for the rest of the afternoon. In the end, she was a smart mouth and got him mad so he just let the rope go and the flytrap closed over her. She screamed and struggled because the acid began to burn her exposed skin. The plant figured out quickly that she wasn’t worth the effort of digesting and she was allowed to roll out onto the greenhouse floor. Uncle Puglsy just laughed, like he always did. It did not take much to amuse him.
When she ran to the main stairwell, Tris stopped short. Mother was standing there, blocking her path. “I did not hear you come in, Tristessa,” she said with disproval in her voice.
“I was playing with Uncle Pugsly, in the greenhouse.”
Mother’s nose wrinkled. “That would explain the smell and the state of your clothing. You will go upstairs and clean yourself and dress properly for dinner. And do something with your hair, child!”
“Yes, Mother.” Mother was already dressed for dinner, in a long, black, lace sheath dress that hugged the curve of her hips. Uncle Fester had once confessed to her that Mother had a figure very much like Grandmother’s had once been when she had been Mother’s age. Tris could only hope to have such curves one day, now she was as flat as a board and as straight as a nail.
Tris stepped up beside Mother and went up on her toes to kiss her cheek, as was expected. Tris was expected to kiss Mother’s cheek, Mother did not kiss Tris. It was the way it had always been, she knew no differently. She scrambled up to her room to change into the black dress with the white collar that mother preferred she wear in her presence.
She tugged her hair out of the single ponytail she had been wearing and quickly plaited it in two straight braids that reached past her shoulders. She hated the long red hair, and wished she could cut it. She had dreams about cutting it all off like the girls in her class at school, of wearing a pixie cut. Her family would be utterly disgusted by the idea. Being cute and fashionable was looked down upon in this family.
There was just enough time to do her homework before Lurch rang the dinner bell. Aunt Amanita had come to live with them when Great Grandmama had died, and had taken over the cooking as well as all of the old bat’s recipes. The food had not improved.
A light scratching at the door caught her attention. She went and opened it and Thing came in. Sometimes she thought that Thing was her only friend in this house. She scooped him up and hugged him, they all said Thing was a he, she had no reason to believe otherwise. Setting him on the bed, she returned to her math homework, after setting out the Ouija board. Using a charmed poker chip as a planchette, Thing could “speak” to her. She was the only one in the house he would make the effort for, so she assumed it meant he loved her back.
While she did the last two math equations, she asked questions so Thing could answer yes or no. “Is it a stew tonight?”
“No.” That gave her a sense of relief. She hated road kill dinners.
“From the yard then. One of the goats?”
“Yes.” Aunt Amanita had been hinting that one of the milk goats had outlived her usefulness and was ready for the stewpot.
She tapped the eraser of her pencil against her front teeth. “Was Mother always so stern?”
Finished with her homework, she could give Thing her attention. She picked up her notebook and waved at the board. “Okay, what’s the words for today?”
She didn’t know how thing could see without eyes. Uncle Fester had a theory that it had to do with the spell that had made Thing live. A long time ago, someone in the family had tried to reanimate a dead person. The spell had failed and the only part that came back was the hand. The rest of the body was buried after Thing was hacked off. He had been with the family ever since.
“Mail for you. Letter from Father.”
It was the fifth letter to come in the last year, since she had started conversing with Thing this way and he had begun to tell her… things. “I suppose Mother burned it.”
“No. Tried. Walk away. Me take.”
Thing had stolen the letter out of the fireplace? He had risked Mother’s ire for her. “Oh, Thing! Thank you! Where is it?”
“In pantry. Under flour.” Tris just need to help clear the dinner dishes and get access to the kitchen. Then she would have the letter from Father. She hugged Thing and he stroked her cheek with one finger.
It was harder to wait through the meal than it was to retrieve the letter. She ran to her room after feigning a bellyache to get out of the game Uncle Fester and Uncle Pugsly were planning. Thing was waiting for her, dancing on his fingertips in excitement.
She tore open the letter carefully and unfolded the paper within.
“My dearest daughter Tris,
I can only hope this letter gets to you. I have not heard anything from you, or from your mother. I can only guess that Wednesday is keeping my letters from you.
My only regret about leaving is that I had to leave you behind. I swore that someday I would find a way to get you back. I am still searching, but you are protected by powers I cannot hope to defeat alone.
I think about you constantly, wondering what you look like and if you are happy.
I hope to see you again soon.
Your loving father
Summers? Her name was Tristessa Summers, not Addams? There was an address on the letter. She didn’t know how far away it was from this house, but she vowed then and there to find some way to get to him.
Tris placed the letter on the coverlet so that Thing could look at it as she read it again and again. Thing’s poker chip appeared out of thin air, summoned by the hand. She leaned over and pulled the letter board out from under her bed and put it where Thing could use it.
“Go school. Ask help.”
“Help at school? Well, I supposed maybe if I took the letter to the Guidance Counselor, maybe…”
“Do it. Take me. Not leave me.”
She laughed, as if she would. “Of course I will. But do you want to spend all day in my backpack?”
“Spend year. Out of here.”
Apparently, the letter started a fuss. When Tris told them she wanted to find her father and go live with them, they made her talk to the school psychologist. Then, a social worker came, and she was not allowed to go home from school that day. She hugged her backpack with Thing in it to her chest as she was taken to a juvenile shelter. He stayed beside her pillow that night, keeping watch over her.
In the morning, she was taken to speak to another social worker. While she was at the office, a man was brought in. He had wavy red hair and freckles, just like Tris.
“Father?” she whispered as she stared. He smiled at her and she jumped up and ran over to him.
“Tris? Is it you?” she nodded in response to his question. “They said that you can come home with me, if you want to.”
“I won’t have to go back to Grandfather’s house?”
“Never again, unless you want to,” he replied after the social worker nodded at him.
She threw herself at him and he hugged her as tightly as she hugged him. Then he lifted her up and laughed and kissed her forehead.
“There is going to be trouble over this,” he warned as they got into the car. “But we’re together, we’ll handle it. I have friends that will help us.”
She unzipped her backpack and smiled down at Thing. “Uhm, Father?”
“Call me Dad or Daddy or Daddums or Bran. Old man Addams was Father, it grated on my nerves.” He smiled over at her.
“Dad. I sort of brought my friend with me, is that okay?”
He looked over at her with concern on his face. “Friend?”
Thing crept up and wiggled his fingertips in greeting. “Thing?!? You stole Thing?”
“I didn’t steal him, he asked to come. We talk with a Ouija board. He helped me get out, it was his idea to go to the Guidance Counselor. We can’t send him back, please don’t make me send him back.”
“I would never do that. Thing helped me escape too, he brought me the key to the cell. How ya doing, Old Man?” Thing gave Bran a thumbs up in response.
They drove away from the town, and Tris never did go back to that house.