Chapter 1: ELAINE
Here we go again.
A deep sigh escapes my lips as the four o’clock alarm finally goes off.
I get up from the living room floor and start folding my blankets and mattress, tiding the living room as I go, annoyed at the dishes I find littered on the table because I always tell Neo and Zama to take them to the kitchen everyday but they never listen, when have they ever listened?.
I sigh! Today promises to be another monotonous day, wake up, make breakfast for the my cousins, cook food for the dogs, mop and polish the floors, clean the bathroom and fold the laundry from last night and bath the kids, all before the devil wakes up. I do things extra carefully and perfectly today, so that she does not make me start all over again, that would throw me off for an hour at the most and I can’t afford that, at least not today.
My second alarm goes off, 6:00 am, it’s time to feed the dogs, and wake the annoying brats for school .as I do all my chores for the day, I think about what I am going to do today, but my plan is laid out, I’ve been looking forward to this day for a year now. The opportunity could not get any better than this. I have to trust my plan or it will not work.
As i prepare breakfast i work on making my face as emotionless as possible, which is not hard since I’ve had five years of practice. To show emotions around here is like flashing boobs at church, i learnt that the hard way. The crying was the hardest to stop, but i stopped it, no matter how hard it got i wouldn’t cry, i remember the last day i cried, it was two years ago, But that reflex is gone and i don’t miss it.
The constant smiling and vibrant energy was the first to go. It is hard to imagine that I used to be that girl that smiled at everyone, picked wild flowers and would chase butterflies. If I knew then what I know now I’d tell her to enjoy it while it lasts, because life isn’t that easy and blissful.
Life is a vast ocean that will drown you, bring you back up for air and drag you to the bottom of the sea, where everything is dark and everyone is gone.
wham! I’m woken from my daydream by a Sharp slap across my face! I spill hot porridge all over my shirt and the side of the stove, you’d think I’d get used to it by now, the slapping, it’s happened a thousand times but each sting hurts the same as the first time. I quickly grab a dish towel and attempt to remove the mess, i don’t even ask why it happened, i don’t wanna know the answer.
“Zama does not have a spoon! If you quit daydreaming like a fool you would know that. Stop wasting my time” She says, calmly,
I always think it would be better if she shouted, that I can handle but this calm manner is like the quiet before a storm and God knows I’ve had too many storms for a lifetime. I open the drawer and hand Zama a spoon, the little brat smirks at me because he knows i gave him a spoon and he hid it on purpose. Watching me being beaten because of them is their favorite entertainment, sadism runs in the family.
As i stand by the door and watch them eat, i go over my plan once more in my head, every minute and every second counts, if i don’t do this i will never get out of this hell.
Next weekend the whole family is gathering here as they do every year, i used to love coming here as a kid, seeing everyone admire me and my mom on having the latest gadgets, the latest fashion and a new car every year, it was blissful, i enjoyed the sense of unity and love at this gatherings, how it felt like i had six extra mothers and not aunts, my cousins felt like siblings, it was family tradition for me and my mom to recite our yearly travels, what we’d seen and the food we ate, but that was before everything changed, before happiness burnt to ashes on my throat and my whole world was flipped upside down.
The last four gatherings have been torture, to watch some people live my life whilst i have been reduced to stone, to an empty vessel that knows nothing but duty and the occasional slap.
They get up from the table and i start to mechanically clean up, watching the clock on the wall as i wash the dishes and rinse them five times. At 07:00am the two brats head out to school, and I contemplate how much I’m not gonna miss them, you’d think I’d care more for them since I’ve been taking care of them from a young age but i don’t, they are their mothers children and i hate their mother.
07:15 she does her usual rounds, checking if the floor was mopped well, that the dogs are fully fed, that the dining room is spotless and to check if she can see her reflection on the pots I’ve been scraping for the last 30 minutes. Her mouth sets into a frown telling me that she’s found nothing wrong. After she goes to work i wait to hear her car leave the garage and let out a relieved sigh. I hope to never have to see that face again.
I check the clock and i still have 30 minutes to spare. I take Zama’s Nike backpack, he’s not gonna miss it since he has a thousand of them, i put in the only 3 pairs of clothes that i have not because i need them but because where I’m going I’ll need a reminder of who i used to be.
I’m going to need something presentable to wear, so i head into the devil’s closet, my heart starts beating faster and i have to remind myself that she’s not here.
After i find some jeans and a sweatshirt, i accidentally stumble onto a cardboard box, which i find weird because when i cleaned yesterday it was not there. I open the box and the first thing i see makes my knees tremble, a red lacey dress with embroidered pearls on it, real pearls as i remember my father brought for my mom on our last trip as a family. She was beautiful in this dress, she was beautiful in everything, and when she smiled it literally lit up a room.
I shuffle through the box of my mother’s stuff reminiscing on every item of clothing as i remember it, and it makes me happy that i still remember everything. I pick up the box pack everything into the backpack which surprisingly fits. After i tie the dogs onto their usual spot on the balcony. I walk out the apartment without looking back.
I take the stairs two at a time and i knock once on Mrs. Gonzalez’s door, she opens it with a smile and she hugs me like she does everyday.
“Are you ready my child?, of course you are, you always are.”
I smile back at her not wanting to let her know that I’m actually waiting for something to go wrong, it always does.
“I’m ready koko, I’ve been ready for a year now” she walks me to the kitchen table where she’s layed out all my things, I’ve been keeping them here ever since i went to my old principal and asked for admission back into grade 11 after 4 years of being absent, i remember the day i walked into his office, he hugged me and burst into tears saying he’s been waiting for me for a long time, i told him my situation and he agreed to admit me into part time study in grade 12, all my homework’s and test scripts have been coming to mrs. Gonzalez mail, we’ve managed to keep this from my aunt for a year now.
I hug her goodbye, feeling a deep sense of love and loss. I knew the chances of me seeing her again was low and it hurt me. She was the light at the end of a deep dark tunnel and I owed her for helping me find a way out.