Three: High Heads

A/N: R&R if you'd like, but most of all enjoy.

Chastity age 10, Credence age 8, 1915.

Credence held his head high as he descended down the stairs. Mary Lou was standing there, one hand on the shoulder of a girl. She'll like you. She has to. You're two years younger. She can't be mean, or Ma will be mad. He notices this girl, too, also has her head held high. But not in superiority, but because he knows Mary Lou must have given her the same talk as she had given him.

"Credence!" Mary Lou called. "Come meet your new sister, Chastity."

"Hello," Chastity said, offering a little curtsey. Credence noted that though he knew she was ten and he was eight, she looked younger than him. "I'm Chastity Willows." Mary Lou's fingers tightened around the girl's shoulders. "Barebone," Chastity corrected quickly. "Chastity Barebone."

"I'm Credence Stew-Barebone," Credence introduced himself quickly.

Mary Lou was right, she had found the perfect girl. The two children acted around each other in such a way that suggested they had been siblings all their lives, though Chastity's short-cut blond waves and Credence's raven hair told otherwise. They followed their mother to all of her meetings, always holding their heads high like she instructed them. The two always stayed together and always stayed loyal to their adoptive mother, even when she began to turn violent if they did something wrong.

It started with a quick slap when Credence failed to do his homework. He stared at his Ma, stunned. Across the room, Chastity, washing the dishes, froze. She turned slowly to Mary Lou, then looked quickly away.

After the one quick slap came more when he failed to do chores or schoolwork. The older girl comforted her adoptive brother the best she could. But she always kept up the pretense of mama's girl, always appearing to soak in whatever spewed out of her mother's mouth. But as soon a Mary Lou was out of earshot she comforted her brother with thoughts of revenge that she knew could never happen.

Chastity never lowered her head, but Credence did. And though she nudged his hip with hers, or elbowed him in the side, or tapped his shoulder, he hardly ever raised it.

But if he did raise his head- if he did-