Home > Twisted Kingdom (Royal Elite #3)(8)

Twisted Kingdom (Royal Elite #3)(8)
Author: Rina Kent

We drank it a lot together. Hot chocolate, I mean.

A wave of sadness hits me at the memory of him — or the lack thereof. His face is still a blur, even now.

This is the first time Dad and I have spent time alone; it’s my chance to ask questions. Who knows when Knox will decide to join us again?

I motion at the empty space near the tree. “There was a swing there. Ma used to hold me in it and sing to me.”

Dad freezes as if I’ve just spilt a bucket of ice water over his head.

I tense like a rigid cord. What have I done? Did I say something wrong?

“You remember.” It’s not a question, more like an observation — and not a very happy one at that.

“A little.” A long sigh heaves out of me as if I haven’t released a breath in ten years. “I know Ma wasn’t mentally stable and she became worse after Eli drowned. I know all about your bet with Jonathan King, the Great Birmingham fire, and Aiden’s kidnapping.”

A gush of wind blows my hair and my coat back. I grit my teeth against the cold and... something else.

I didn’t mean to blurt it out in one go, but I guess my thirst for the truth got the better of me.

Dad remains motionless, but I’m not sure if it’s due to shock or contemplation.

“Your mum never wanted to hurt you, princess. She was mentally unwell. People do things they don’t mean when they suffer from mental illnesses.”

“But she did hurt me, Dad.” My voice trembles like the tree branches. “She hit me on the back with a horsewhip.”

“She… did?”

The tick in his jaw almost makes me want to stop talking, but I don’t. I’ve been silent for ten years, and now that I started speaking, it’s impossible to go back. I owe myself this much.

Tears fill my eyes as I probe my useless head for answers. “I think it was when she found me near the basement. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you two to fight.”


“She tortured Aiden,” I blurt. “He was a child, Dad. He was as old as Eli at that time, and he had red marks all over his skin and was chained to the wall. Did you know that he still has those scars? His back and ankle are a witness to Ma’s abuse.”

The need to cry for Aiden hits me out of nowhere. True, he’s a monster now, and I won’t ever forgive him, but that doesn’t deny what happened to him as a child.

Ma ruined his innocence.

She smashed and crushed it to the ground, leaving a broken boy in her wake.

No wonder he’s chosen to be a monster. In his warped logic, being a monster is better than being a weak mess.

I can’t even blame him.

Deep down, I want to cry for the little boy he used to be. The boy with tousled, black hair and metal eyes.

That boy was my friend, my light in the darkness.

Eli sent him to me.

A sigh rips from Dad. “That was my fault.”

“Your fault?”

“Kidnapping Aiden was only supposed to be a scare. He should’ve returned like the other two boys if I made sure of it personally.”

“You mean Ma kept him without telling you?”

“With Reginald’s help.”

“U-Uncle Reg?”

Dad takes my hand in his and leads me to a bench nearby. I follow him like a lost puppy, my head wrapped in knots so complicated, it’s hard to think straight.

Uncle Reg helped Ma kidnap Aiden.

The thought bounces in my head like a wrecking ball. I understand the words, but I can’t wrap my mind around them.

Both of us sit on the wooden bench that smells of fresh paint. Dad angles me towards him so we’re facing each other. “I wanted you to get used to home before any talk about the past, but I don’t have a choice now. You might never see your mother the same after I tell you this.”

“You can’t make me hate Ma more than I already do, Dad.”

He winces but doesn’t comment. Perhaps, like me, Dad recognises just how much she ruined our lives.

“You have to understand that Eli’s death hit your mother hard. Before we got married, Abigail suffered from manic episodes, depression, and anxiety. She didn’t like doctors and often hid her medicines. Sometimes, she stopped using them altogether. When she got pregnant with Eli and gave birth to him, she didn’t need her pills anymore. It was like she had found purpose in life. So when he died, her purpose died with him. It’s safe to say we all lost a part of ourselves that day.”

I inch closer to him and wrap my hand around his, silently communicating my support.

“Your mother’s only way of survival was to imagine Eli was still alive. Two months after his death, she brought a boy home and told me she had found Eli in the market. I gave him back to his parents and apologised. Then, she started doing it behind my back with Reginald’s help. That scoundrel did anything for money. He was smart, too, and only brought her homeless, orphaned, or runaway boys because no one misses them. Abigail’s only condition was that they needed to look like Eli.”

My frown deepens. “I vaguely remember that.”

The pieces slowly come together.

I used to call Uncle Reginald a superhero because the monsters disappeared when he came along.

In my small mind, I used to categorise Ma’s manic episodes as monsters. She wore white, hugged me to death, and took me to the lake. When she was white Ma, she never smiled and always seemed out of this world.

She was a monster.

However, when Uncle Reg came along, she wore her red dresses and put on red lipstick and makeup. She was stunning. She smiled more and had so much energy it baffled me sometimes.

She took me outside and played with me. She read me stories, laughed, and joked.

She was my ma.

My eyes widen and my heart nearly hits the grass.

Does that mean Ma only became cheerful when Uncle Reg brought her a boy from the streets?

“What did she do to them?” My voice is so haunting, it scares the shit out of me.

“Hug them and tell them she’s glad her Eli was home.” He sighs. “She never hurt them, so I allowed her to keep that habit.”

“You allowed her?” I squeak.

“They came for lunch and stayed with her for a few hours. When the day was over, they took money and clothes and left. It was a win-win. The boys had a meal and shelter for the day and your mother was happy.”

“Wouldn’t it have been better if you took her to a shrink?”

“I did. I even left her in a psychiatric hospital under their recommendations, but she got worse and started cutting herself. I had to bring her back. At the time, I was still grieving Eli. I couldn’t lose Abby, too.”


He still calls her that even after all this time.

I mull his words over, but I can’t form clear thoughts. For a moment, Dad and I watch the distance, the freezing wind and the darkening clouds.

Those grey, grey clouds.

Screw you, clouds. Why do you have to add to my misery?

“Ma hurt them at some point, didn’t she?” My voice is barely audible. “Aiden was tortured, Dad.”

“At first, she only had lunches with them and talked to them about their day. Those street urchins loved her. Abby was kind and patient and had a knack in dealing with children.”

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