I always dreamed of having an escape room. The kind I escape to, not from. Yet, here I am, desperate to keep the men downstairs from taking me.
I used the attic as my private dance studio. Father said it was too hot and forbade me, but Mother let it be our little secret. It became my place to escape. I would sneak up here late at night and dance for hours. One night, I fell asleep on the wood floor, and Father came looking for me in the morning. He wasn’t happy.
Mother and Father fought a lot after that. He wanted to keep me safe; she wanted to let me dance. Then one day, he was gone. For weeks, my mother locked herself in her room. The thin walls of this old house hid nothing, and I could hear her sob day and night. I would dance all the more, hoping it would chase away her sadness, just as it chased away my own.
Dancing became the only thing I had—the only thing that brought me joy. It’s all I seem to do anymore. Late at night, I’d pretend to have an audience. They would cheer and applaud whichever new routine I made up that day. Sometimes, Father was watching, beaming with pride at his little girl. I wouldn’t stop lest I lose him again.
Then Mother took her life, and everything changed. I still dance, but it no longer brings me joy. It’s just something I do to push away the memories. When the dancing stops, the memories return. I don’t like to stop.
I have a new family now, but they don’t love me. None of my new families have. I’ve lost count of how many there have been. Sometimes I’ve had brothers, sometimes sisters, even a grandma lived with us once. But they’ve all come and gone from my life. My current family whispers about having people take me away, like I’m someone’s leftover trash. There’s always somebody in the house, but I am truly alone.
I stay out of their way as much as possible. Every so often, someone pokes their head into the attic. I know they aren’t here to watch me dance, so I wait until they leave. Then I resume practicing my assemblé, pirouette, and grande jeté moves. I know they hear me through the floor, but I don’t care anymore.
Out the window, I watch three men unload a van of equipment. Downstairs, a fourth man plots with my family how to be rid of me. They’ll wait until dark—when I like to dance the most.
This isn’t the first time one of my families has tried to force me out, but they are always the ones to leave.
I’ve been condemned to this attic for a hundred years. It’s my home. It’s where I lived and died and will dance for all eternity. All who have tried to make me leave have paid dearly. This family will be no different. They will be the ones desperate to escape, not me.