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Playing Daddy

Some things are hard to remember in exactly the way that they happened, some are not, and some I wish could be. I suppose that the latter part of my time spent kept away from the world contains a little of each of these. The desire to forget prevents the full and detailed memories that hide down inside of me from being recalled in more than pieces. Still, without having been everywhere that I have been, I would not be able to be where I am. I would not be able to be what I am…the outcry that they have labelled as a fiend, the voice that is hated for its lack of silence. But I was very silent once.

Father had come and gone, and so had the years. She was now nearly fourteen, and I was still only a year behind her. Anna and I were not quite sure what had happened with father. He did much more than just beating us after a while. The things that happen left us very confused. Father told us that we were playing a game...“playing daddy”, to be exact…and although I was unsure whether this game was one that should be played, what else was there to compare it to?

“Fathers and children do this all the time,” he said. “Nothing to be afraid of,” he said. Yet we were afraid, to some degree…so we pushed the fear away. Nothing out of the ordinary was happening to us, or so we told ourselves. We pushed it all away. It was almost like was hadn’t even been there when it happened.

I was beginning to fall asleep again when Anna came up to me with a new book in her hand. The cover was faded and nearly torn to pieces, and the title was obscured by the wear and tear that befalls old books that have been treated poorly. However, the inside was still very easy to see.

This book was about a princess, a damsel in distress. ‘Twas a story unlike any that we had ever heard before. The princess was kept prisoner in a castle far away from the rest of the world, and monsters would never let her escape. However, the princess was not without help. Soon, along came a daring prince. He began to fight the monsters. He arrived at the top of the castle beaten and bruised, but he arrived, and none of the monsters remained. They were all defeated! They had been either killed or locked away. At last, the princess was saved. As we neared the end of the story, Anna looked up at me.

“Could that be us, Tristan?”

“You could be the princess, Anna, but I don’t know if I could be the prince. Killing all the monsters…do you think I could?”

“Together we could, maybe.”

The book drew to a close, and the prince and princess descended the castle stairs and ventured outside. Together they rode off into the sunset, leaving all of the horrors they once knew behind. At last, they were free. Finally, on the very last page, they looked into each other’s eyes and shared a kiss. I looked up from the book, closing it shut. There were Anna’s sparkling eyes, looking into mine. I suppose my eyes must have been looking back into hers as well, or else I wouldn’t have noticed. Then, just as the prince and princess had only moments before, we too shared a kiss.

For a short time after, Anna and I didn’t speak. We sat away from eachother silently in the darkness, wondering what to think about what had just happened. What were we feeling? What were we supposed to feel? No one was there to tell us, and so we felt what we were felt. I looked back at Anna and motioned for her to come back to over to me.

“Maybe one day I will fight the monsters that keep us in here. Maybe we’ll go away. Maybe I’ll learn how to ride a horse too, if there are any of those outside of here. You can come along if you’d like.”

“I’ll come if you take me, but for now it’s time to go to sleep.” Anna lay down alongside of me. After a few nervous moments, she slid her hand over and held onto mine. It happened in a way that took some time to happen. Sounds came from below us, as they usually did at night back then. Was nighttime the time that the monsters outside were awake? If we ever tried to get outside, it would probably be best to try during the day. I hoped that mother and father were okay.

Soon my eyes opened. Something strange had happened. The light in the ceiling was still gone from view. Confused, I stood up, and a sharp pain seared down my back. I touched it. The skin was swollen, but I wasn’t sure how or why. I looked over at Anna. She bore many of these same lashings. Had father been here again? I couldn’t remember. She stared at the ground for a few moments, and then at me.

“That is such a strange game, Tristan.”

I wasn’t quite sure what she meant. Had I been awake earlier? A game? There were a few boards stacked in one corner of the room which had spinners and pieces that went along with them. We hadn’t played with those in a few days though. Had we?

“What game?”

“With father, you went to sleep when he left. Are you okay?” She came and sat beside me, looking at me worriedly. I wasn’t sure if I was. Father was here? But then I remembered. Father had been here. I would have forgotten if she wouldn’t have told me.

“Fathers and their children do this all the time,” he had said. “We’re just playing a game, okay? Time to play our game,”

“I don’t know if I like the games father plays with us,” I told her quietly.

“I don’t know either,” Anna replied.

She came and lightly touched the middle of my forehead with the end of her finger, then made her way back to the other side of the room. She retrieved the fairytale storybook from the carpet below her and opened it to a page depicting a scene of the prince and princess dancing together, after all of the monsters had been defeated. And then she did something she hadn’t done before. She stared and me and held out her hand.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“You be the prince. Dance with me, just like they’re doing here.” Prince Tristan, I thought to myself. What a title it was. A much braver one than I deserved, but one I very much liked the sound of. I was nervous as I slowly walked over to her, and felt a stinging pain all over my back as I did. But I was a prince. Princes could fight through these things for a princess.

“I suppose I can, Princess Anna.” Our feet moved slowly and awkwardly, little by little, around and around in circles on the floor. Time seemed to stand still as we moved side to side, and for a moment it seemed as if we were in our own little sanctuary…somewhere that was more like the places in the story. We were floating in a dream. My back didn’t even hurt like it had before. Maybe Anna and I had made it to the moon.

Our clumsy ballet soon came to end, but the feeling remained. Anna laughed for the first time that I had seen her laugh in a very long time, and spun around in a circle. She grabbed my hands, watching me intently, and moved her hair out of her eyes. Without thinking, I leaned in and pressed my lips against hers. Fireworks exploded in my mind. At first she jumped back, startled, but a smile quickly crept across her face as we stood there alone in the dark.

“Let’s play a game, Prince Tristan. It’ll be more fun with you.”

In the darkness of the existence that we had been confined to for so long, we had found some form of light. Of course by I have learned how sickening it was to the world outside, but I was not the world outside. In fact, I don’t believe that the sliver of happiness we had with each other will ever be ruined by something as unimportant as a world that begs us to feel ashamed. If it were not for that light, we would have died in that place. We would have had no reason to go on.

That night Anna and I fell asleep in each other’s arms, and I didn’t dream. I didn’t dream of father, as I had been lately. I didn’t dream of anything at all. In a way it was beautiful, but the beauty wouldn’t last through the morning.

Morning came, and we awoke to mother carrying in our breakfast. But this morning wasn’t going to be like the others. Anna and I were lying together on the floor of the room. Mother didn’t care very much about where we were lying though. She was far more concerned that we weren’t sleeping in our clothes. She began scream. I’m not sure what exactly it was that she said, but I couldn’t understand why she was screaming. What was wrong?

I couldn’t think of anything that had happened that would cause her to scream. On her command, we got up and walked to our clothes and put them back on. This wasn’t good enough for mother. She kept screaming. Anna and I held onto eachother, but she tore as apart and threw Anna down onto the floor. I didn’t care if mothers were supposed to be that way. She would not be. Not anymore. Not when I saw Anna’s leg hit the floor and began to bleed. Not when I could see her face twisting in pain.

“You can’t do that to her!” I screamed.

“Freaks! How could this happen? You think this is okay?” Mother squealed.

“What’s wrong mother? What’s wrong?” But mother didn’t tell us what was wrong. She just got louder and louder, and then she threw me down too.

“You’re not my children! You’re not my children!” She screeched as she left the room. For the first time, she left the bedroom door open.

“Anna, come on. Let’s go. We’re going to leave right now,” I said shakily through my tears. “We don’t have to stay here.”

“We can’t go, Tristan. What about the monsters? We’ll die. We can’t go out there alone.”

“We won’t be alone, Anna. We’ll die if we stay here. Did you see mother’s eyes? We’ll die if we stay here, Anna. Come on.”

“We can’t, we’ll be okay here…we don’t have anywhere else to…”

At that moment mother was back. She didn’t look the same as she had before. Her hair was messier and she was shaking, almost as if she were having a seizure. She held a black metal stick in her hands. It looked heavy. Anna didn’t seem to know what mother planned to do with the stick, but I did.

After that, I don’t remember what happened. It was like I closed my eyes and woke up somewhere else, from a nightmare that hopefully didn’t really happen. Anna was with me. Mother was gone. We weren’t in the house anymore. We were somewhere else. We were standing on something wet. What could it be? I looked down and saw damp grass sparkling beneath my feet. I looked up and saw trees, like giants, looming over our heads. Anna and I had made it to somewhere. Where were the monsters? They were sure to come for us now, out here in the darkness. She started crying, or maybe had been all along.

“What is going on, Anna?” She said nothing. I looked over at her and tried to comfort her, tried to put my arms around her. She pulled away.

“You know what you did,” she said. But I didn’t know. I tried to remember, and nothing came back. Something was on my hands. I knew what it was. I had seen my own before, when father…then I remembered. It was blood.

“She tried to kill us,” I said.

“Why? Why did she do that? Why did you have to do that?”

“We were going to die.”

She tried to kill us with that thing, with that stick, but she didn’t succeed. She was lying there in our room. I imagined father coming in and finding her. I couldn’t imagine him caring. Would he care that she was the one who had been crunched by the stick in the end? Would he care that I saved Anna and I? He would certainly care that we got away. He would probably leave mother’s body where it lay and come after us. We couldn’t stay here.

“Come on. Let’s go.”

She didn’t want to move, but we had to. I picked her up and carried her and ran. I ran through the darkness and the dampness, slushing through the grass and the leaves. It felt good to run. It hurt, but it was okay. But eventually, as anyone’s would after a while, my stamina had reached its limit. The darkness was just as dark as it had been before, and the ground still just as wet. My arms began to itch, followed closely by my legs. Something tiny was poking me. Something was itching. Were these the monsters? The invisible demons of the night were coming…coming to make Anna and me itchy all over. She began to scratch her arms as well.

Somewhere in the distance I could hear very strange noises. I was exhausted, but I kept on going. I went faster and faster, farther and farther away from everything. Maybe it wasn’t real. Maybe Anna and I had just been born. Maybe we were being born at this exact moment, and all of the past was just an embryonic dream. Maybe we would wake up somewhere else. Maybe we would wake up somewhere better. Maybe we could go to sleep and wake up in a place where everything would be happy and okay. Either way, I was too tired now to keep myself awake. I stopped running, then set Anna down and helped her sit.

“I’m too hungry,” she said.

So was I. I had to eat something before I closed my eyes. Maybe the wet grass was okay to eat. We pulled it out of the ground and chewed on it. It tasted much better than the pain in my stomach felt, so I kept eating it. So did Anna. Soon after, we fell asleep. The grass that remained served as a barrier between us and the muddy ground underneath. I was sure that it was going to be all over our faces in the morning, but as long as we were able to sleep it didn’t matter. Anna seemed to agree.

“Off to the moon, Anna,” I said. It’s time to go.

“Don’t forget those.” She pointed at the sky. Little lights shone in the sky, and the moon sparkled along with them. Maybe the monsters had run away.

The waves of monsters had only just begun, but for a moment we were able to pretend. Anna and I would soon find ourselves in a land much different from where we had ever been before. She would say that everything was better from then on. I’m still not sure how much everything really changed. I’m still not even sure if that way that things changed was truly for the best.

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