Chapter I: The beginning of the end
I am a freak. Not in the “ha-ha” way, more like in the “look away, kids!” way. But, I guess that now- in this ugly, sad, small world- a freak like me is not that special.
I don’t really know why or for who I am writing this, the only thing I know for sure is that it helps me, it makes me feel good, liberated. And although they’re on paper, they’re not only words. Hopefully they will become special enough to change something or someone, even in the smallest way. I guess what I learned from everything up to this point is that even when the world is against you, when the universe seems to bet not in your favor, even in the worst possible time, even then, there’s still a chance you will succeed.
Maybe you’re wondering why I said I am a freak. You’ll learn that soon enough. For now just understand that the scars on my soul match the ones on myself.
But that’s not the beginning; I have to start a bit before, before me, I guess, although everything I know is what I was told.
I was born in a world that was already dying - aren’t we all born that way? My parents loved each other very much - that’s what everyone had told me- but I didn’t have the chance to meet none of them.
It was the night of the fifteenth of July and my mother was eight months and twenty-six days pregnant. They were at a ‘The end of the world party’ when my mother’s water broke. This is ironic because it was the end of their world and the beginning of my end. After all, we are all born to die, aren’t we? In those times-after the war - there were a lot of parties like this where people would try all sort of drugs and crazy stuff just to be sure they try everything ‘before the end would come again’ - that’s the excuse they would use when asked why are they doing this. But my parents were there just to observe, as they were both journalists.
So when my dad saw my mother’s water on the floor he grabbed her hand and went to the car. My dad started to drive fast and reckless, emotion overwhelming him, taking control of his actions. At one intersection, just before the hospital their car was brutally hit by another car from my dad’s side. He died almost instantly but my mother - who was sitting on the back seat with the seat belt on - somehow survived. They got her into the emergency room and they delivered me but shortly after she passed away too. To tell you the truth this all could be some fairy-tale lie told to me by the director of the orphanage, but I hardly think so. Ana - the director - seems like a nice old lady, and, to be honest who would make up such a violent, depressing origin story? But just to be sure one night I sneaked into her office to check my file and it was all there, with a picture from the accident attached. But I’m getting ahead of myself again.
So there I was, a fresh, innocent baby boy all-alone in a decaying world with not so many lovely chances. But even now, as I’m writing this, the more I’m writing about the past, the more the future seems possible and bright.
Both of my parents’ families were either dead, nowhere to be found or wanting nothing to do with such an Omen like me who comes into the world bringing death. So I was sent straight to an orphanage.
The orphanage always looked to me like a big, dark castle- anyway, that’s how I remember it, with its cold-black stones and gloomy windows through which you could only see the small attempt of a garden with patches of green grass and mud, the small swing set, some trees and the surrounding, tall walls.
Beyond those walls and after those dark stones you would find me among other kids, the nurses, the teachers and the director - Ana. Most of the kid in there had a parent that abandoned them or families that sometimes visited them. I was a special case, they told me, with no parents or family. Like that was supposed to make me feel better.
I don’t remember much till around the age of six when, I guess, my brain started recording things around me. I wasn’t a fussy kid - maybe because deep down I felt unwanted so I tried to fit everywhere and please anyone. I had made some friends, roommates with whom I would spend my time there. We used to love to play hide and seek in the night and it would get sometimes spooky and that old building or even outside among the trees moving with the wind, making all sorts of creaking sounds. But it was all good- as good as it can be for a boy in an orphanage - until I turned thirteen… Lucky thirteen, I guess.
We were not allowed to go outside the wall that surrounded the ‘Castle’ and, frankly, I never felt the need to. Especially after several stories about the ones that did try to go over the wall and escape. None of the ever came back, which was hard for me to understand if it was a good thing or a very bad one - with all the warnings from the adults about the outside world and how that is no place for kids. We knew that the world was getting worse and worse, seeing how the food, water and electricity were getting scarce each year. We had actually rules regarding this with three strict and rarely changed meals a day and at eight o’clock light out. In any case, we didn’t ask any questions and we continued to live happy. Confined but happy. Until the night of the twenty-first September.
Sunny. Sunny was his name and he was one of my ‘Castle’ friends. He was this gawky, asthmatic kid- not that I was too big anyway - with black hair and thick glasses. We used to do everything together, being roommates as well helped with that, and I remember he even got his ass kicked with me… or was it because of me?
We were playing in the yard, near the trees with the football ball, just Sunny and me.
“Look! It’s the ‘skeletons’ playing with each other’s balls!” Dick said. Appropriate name for such a bully of a person, short for Richard, I guess. Dick was one of the older kids and, I know, old doesn’t necessarily mean bad but every story has to have its villain, right? Well this story has many.
“Yeah, they’re playing with the balls!” the other bigger kid snorted. Then Sunny did something he always did and every time it would put him in trouble: he spoke.
“Shut your traps, you fat turds! And just leave us alone!” he spouted. Soon enough the ‘big kid duo’ got close to us, so close our noses were touching. Dick said between his clenching teeth:
“What did you say, little boy?” He was intimidating, all right, and it would have probably stopped there if I wouldn’t make it worse.
“He said to leave us alone; we didn’t do anything to you. You just like to pick on kids not your own size. We were just pla…” I didn’t manage to finish my words because I was pushed so hard I remember I felt like all the air went out of my chest. I landed on my back and elbows, stiffening my neck not to hit my head on the ground. Then Sunny went crazy and started to scream like a wild pig and jump on Richard’s back, hitting him in the head with his tinny fists. The whole scene looked almost comical, like an ant trying to take down a cockroach. Then Richard grabbed Sunny by the collar and threw him next to me. He came on top of him and when Sunny tried to get up Dick punched him so hard in the face, I thought his head was going to fall off.
“That’s enough!” one of the teachers said. She was running towards us holding her long dress. “You kids should know better. No good comes out of fighting! Look what you did to the…” and she stopped and looked at us with love and pity. “Stop it, you little bullies. Go on and play, enjoy your life, there’s nothing else…” It was the history teacher. I still can remember her calm face and how she sometimes would look out the window of our classroom with deep sadness and disappointment in her eyes. Then I used to think she’s reminiscing, she’s like that because of the past but now I think it was because the present then, and the future.
“Until next time, ‘skeleton crew’” Dick said menacingly, pointing his finger at us. We looked at each other and started to laugh. Sunny had a bloody nose, his glasses were broken, laying in the grass, my neck and back was hurting but we were laughing because we liked our new nickname: ‘Skeleton Crew’. Sadly for Richard there won’t be a next time because the night after that him and his friend went over the fence and never came back again. Just like that Dick and his friend never bothered the ‘Skeleton Crew’ again.
One day we were behind ‘The Castle’ playing cards. Sunny got up all of a sudden and went to the dumpsters. He came back with an empty bottle of soda and said:
“This will make us brothers forever!” He came close, grabbed my hand and smashed the bottle on the ground. Looking around to see if someone heard it, he picked up a piece of broken glass from the gray cement. “I’ll do it first”, he said. “But only if you promise you’ll do it to. I reluctantly promised. Then he pressed the glass against his palm, hesitated for a moment, looked into my eyes and with a quick move slashed his palm. Blood didn’t come out immediately; we looked at each other, silent and a bit scared but curious and proud in a weird way.
“Now you!” he said, handing me the piece of glass. Now the blood was starting to flow from his left palm. I looked at the transparent glass and, as I took a deep breath it was already done. We put our bloodied hands together and said forever. But forever isn’t for everyone.
Every time someone would have a birthday they were allowed for one special item from the outside. So you had to choose wisely. But a kid doesn’t care for expensive things, especially when he doesn’t really know what is expensive. So on my twelfth birthday I asked for a boomerang. Usually Nona, the nurse, would be responsible for receiving the birthday requisitions and she would also be the one handing them to us. That day she came to me with an envelope and with a weird smile said:
“Happy birthday!” Disappointed, but intrigued, I opened the envelope. Inside: a card with balloon drawings said in kids’ writing: ‘You want everything to come back, don’t you?’ then Sunny came running from behind shouting:
“Happy Birthday, Skeleton boy!” I turned and saw his anticipating face with a stupid fulfilled grin and with his hands behind his back.
“What is this?” I asked baffled.
“Choose!” he answered. His excitement was going out of his ears.
“Left or right?”
“Left one.” I pointed to his left hand. I saw the change in his face while he brought his empty hand in front. It was empty.
“I meant my left… So you’re right…”
“Sure, why not?” Then he threw something at me. I barely managed to catch it and I ripped the paper wrapping. It was a boomerang, a red-brown, wooden boomerang with some orange lines and white dots on it. On the back it said: ‘Forever’. I looked at Sunny and saw the pride brightening his eyes. I thanked him and hugged him.
“No problem, take it easy, skeleton boy. Don’t go all mushy-cushy on me now. What do you say; we take it out for a spin? Pun definitely indented!”
All in all, the orphanage was a nice place; maybe because my brain only kept the nice, good memories, maybe because of Sunny… Who knows? What I do know for sure is that I remember everything… especially the last day there… especially the last night there…
It was July seventeenth, the night after my birthday and all the windows were opened because of the heat wave that had hit us for several days. Actually, for several years we started to forget how winter looks or feels like- not that we knew too much to begin with as we never saw snow.
Sunny and I had a pretty nice day; we were starting to talk a lot and to develop more interests other than just playing. As a birthday present I got a drawing kit- exactly what I asked for. I liked to draw, write and read. For a boy who was abandoned and, basically lived in a nice prison for all his life, I was a happy kid. ‘Was’ is the important word here, because after that night I wasn’t. Not happy, not nice or lucky, nor a kid. After that night everything went to shit, or, if you’re the ‘glass half full’ type of a person: from that night my luck got shorter. Either way you want to take it it’s still not good.
In the room were Sunny, two other boys and I. The night was quiet and the moon was watching us.
I still remember vividly the pain that woke me up. I opened my eyes and there was this masked man holding me down and… cutting me. He was slashing through my skin: my chest, my arms, everywhere. His mask was a white, smiling, creepy face with two red dots where the cheeks should be; like he was ashamed of something. But whoever was behind that mask for sure he wasn’t feeling any shame. I could almost feel his satisfaction with each cut. I started to move around but I was only doing it worse, so before I could scream everything went black; I went into shock. That was just my luck- they said-, because he thought I died so he eventually stopped cutting me.
I woke up few minutes later and I heard Sunny letting out a short, terrified scream. The other kid was lying in a pool of blood that was gushing from his wrists and was making the white sheets a dark burgundy in the yellow light of the moon. The stars and the moon were the only witnesses to this horror show. Then I looked again at Sunny and saw the masked man on top of him with his shinny blade in one hand and the other on Sunny’s mouth. Just then he turned his wide-opened-full-of-fear eyes at me. ‘Help me, please!’ they seemed to tell at me. So I looked down and tried to ignore the blood and pain… ‘My blood! My pain! Oh, what a pain!’ At the foot of my bed I saw the boomerang with the ‘Forever’ inscription bright in the light of the moon. I picked it up and with a final effort I threw it at the masked man. It hit him right in the head, throwing him off balance. At that moment Sunny managed to let out a loud scream.
“Shut up, you fucking kid!” the voice behind the mask shouted angry. Then his blade went into Sunny’s stomach, transforming his shout into a gurgling sound. That’s when I blacked out again.
My mother was always the loved one, the adored, the center of attention, stealer of hearts and breaker of relationships; even when she was very small. She was a strong, independent, beautiful goddess of a woman. Plus, she was really good at what she was doing: acrobacy. She loved everything about the circus and the circus loved her back. She was number one. So you can imagine her disappointment when I came in her perfect, planned out life.
From what she told me, my father was ‘the one she would leave the circus for’ but he didn’t want her to do that, seems all he wanted was a ‘flexible fuck’. Her words, not mine. They met where she met all of the men in her life: backstage after her number in the show.
He was this tall, well-built, dark-haired, bearded man-of-a-man. He came to her with a cotton candy and asked if she would care to join him for a stroll. ‘He was so dreamy’ she used to say with a desperate sigh. She answered swiftly ‘Yes’ because she couldn’t say no to those dreamy eyes of his. They started to walk together around the circus and talked for what seemed like days. She told him how she was born in the circus, how her mom died during a show, how she never met her father- this seems to be in our DNA, or maybe just a family curse-, she told him how she loves what she’s doing even though she’s well aware that could kill her one day like it did her mother.
“Better to live dangerously, doing the things you enjoy than contempt and sad doing the thing you hate!” she used to say that even to me when she was trying to convince me to follow her steps.
He didn’t talk much, he liked to listen and my mom loved to share. After a while, that night, she asked him if he would like a drink in her trailer. He said yes and… well, I guess nine months later I appeared, to my mothers’ great disappointment.
When she found out she is pregnant she felt like a huge curse had been put on her, blaming the Romanovs’ ever since. She tried to find the man who did it to her: the dreamy lover, the only man who managed to trick her into actually losing her sense, my father; but with no luck. After that night he left with no trace and never came back.
She didn’t stop her performance even when with child- against everyone’s caring opinion. I guess, deep down she wished that something would happen, that she would have a miscarriage by being so reckless. But there was a part of her that loved me- I saw that later on in her eyes- maybe because I was half of the only one she actually loved.
When she woke up that morning after him, she was alone with this note beside her:
“Meeting you was the most important part of my life. Meeting you was like founding something one would never think of existing. So it hurts. It hurts when I know that I could have something perfect… but I won’t… When I know that all of this could be mine, all of you and… everything…
I’ve said enough. Know that you are special and SHE will be special. And that I love you, even though it’s seems unlikely. Everything is possible. We only set our own limits.
Eternal love, Frank M”
After she read that letter she was never the same. Then she found out she is pregnant and started to hate him and for leaving knowingly leaving her alone with a child to raise.
One of the few times that we’ve talked she told me- weirdly excited- about the night she thought she’d lost me.
It was a few weeks after she’d found out about the pregnancy. But instead of stopping everything and taking care of herself, she continued her training keeping it a secret from everyone. Even from Bill. During training with her trusted coach, Hart, she did something that surprisingly scared the shit out of her. She was executing back flips off of Hart’s shoulders. The first went down perfectly.
“Another one!” she demanded. And she did another one, landing again with just the slightest unbalance at the end. At the last one she felt something was off from the moment her soles left Hurt’s shoulders and that made it worse- sometimes ignorance is helpful. In the air, midway through the movement she stopped and that made her violently fall with her back on Hart’s neck. The first thing she thought was: ‘Well… That’s it, I lost it… I lost my acrobatic career! And maybe the baby as well.’
But she didn’t and after that accident she started to take care of herself. More because no one would let her train anymore and everybody would assure her that after the baby her act would still be there waiting for her. She took comfort in the thought that she will have a baby who will follow her steps, continuing the tradition in the circus. I guess that was her biggest disappointment, the reason for her resentment: I wasn’t what she expected…
I was born in a cold winter night, just before Christmas, on the twenty second December. My mother always said that she loved me at first sight but then I wouldn’t stop crying. She said that I was a pain in the ass and every time something would go wrong it would be because if me. If the circus would have a quiet night, it would be because of me; if she would do something bad during her routine, it would be because I didn’t let her sleep the previous night. I was like the ‘bringer of doom’, female version.
As soon as I could walk I started exploring the circus perimeter. Everyone who worked there lived there so we all had trailers. Only the more ‘privileged ones’ like my mom were living alone. The rest were living even a whole family in a double trailer-house; like the Romanov family who lived four in one pretty small trailer. Only later, Isaac- their youngest- would become my best friend. His family is half Jewish-half Russian and their dad always refused to speak English although he understands it to perfection. They came from an old family that’s always been in the circus. Like my mother’s family, the Romanov’s are a tradition when it comes to this circus. Before, Romanov and Cortez- that’s my family name- never worked together, but our grand-grandparents decided that it would actually work in their interest if they would unit and start something good. So they founded this very circus that I live and breathe. Now the Romanov family is whole, big and growing whereas mine… well there’s just my mother and me. So imagine my mom’s fury when she saw Isaac and me hanging out together.
I think the main reasons that my mother hated me so much was that I ruined her amazing figure, that I looked like my disappearing father and, most of all, because I broke the tradition when I was born without a talent or any inclination towards acrobatics, gymnastics or contortion. I could barely juggle. So in the mind of Anahi Cortez, my not-so-lovingly-mother, the tradition was broken, dead. Ergo I was just a disposable, useless thing in her life that was taking up space and made shade to the ground for nothing. The hate grew each day.
We called the tent the ‘Big Topper’ and I always loved it. The red and yellow stripes, the smell of rubber and dusty fabric, or popcorn, cotton candy and sweet nuts during the shows, the vastness of it- although, as I grew up I realized that, with each year, the circus is getting smaller-. I loved playing backstage, behind the green velvet curtain, watching the shadows dance on it and listening to the reaction of the crowd.
Surrounding the tent were six trailers and six tents with the Cortez’s and Romanov’s ones being the biggest- them being the founding families and all-. Other than the ‘Big Topper’, the trailers and tent there was only this big, nice tree. That’s basically it inside this place I call a home. And the obvious huge stonewall that surrounds the place. I never went outside the wall on account of all the stories and maybe because I didn’t really want to- perhaps I was afraid, perhaps I had all that I needed right here. But mostly, I think it was contempt and habit… that’s what keeps us all in that limbo, in that comfortable position.
I first started to notice my mom’s hate towards me when I was around eight years of age. It was building up ever since I came onto this life, her life, but that night it exploded.
Bill Rickets was the ringmaster, the wise man, the elder. But he was also my teacher, Isaac’s and some of the children before us. He was like a father to me, and now he’s even more than that- he’s a trusted friend-. What we liked about Bill was that he never taught us strictly by the books. He always used life examples and stories, anecdotes and riddles, anything that would make the lesson much more interesting.
“You’re my favorite students!” he used to end the lessons with this but I think he told that to all of his previous kids- all grown up now, most of them still with the circus, some left, never to be heard of again-.
“I was a small kid,” he said that night, “about your age, now. But I was a little rebel, a dreamer… And you cannot tell a dreamer he’s dreaming. I always wondered what lies there, after those walls. I used to see people walk out through the front gate, or jumping the wall and never coming back again. So one clear night I snuck out of the tent while the show was running and ran to the wall. I thought to myself: ‘If all these people- the audience- came here, then there must be an ‘out there’. So I started to climb the wall and saw the emptiness that surrounds us: nothing but sand and a small village not too far away. But what if that small village is connected to another small village and that one is connected to a bigger one, and so on and so forth until you reach to a big city? So I was climbing the wall, preparing to jump on the other side I felt a hand grabbing my pants by the belt and dragging me back. Did you ever dreamt of falling on your back and waking up that moment when you hit the ground? It felt exactly like that, only it was not a dream. It was my dad and what he said to me changed me forever. If it wasn’t for him I probably would not be here talking to you.” Me an Isaac looked at each other intrigued and a bit worried.
“’Where you want to go, kiddo?’ my dad asked harshly, but with a sweet, calming tone. ‘You want to know what’s there? I’ll tell you…’ and he sat down in the grass next to me and pat me on the back.
‘There’s lush and riches, food and sweets, any kind you’d like. There are drinks, limitless choices of clothes and things that make you happy for a while… but everything comes with a price… and it is expensive… But there are also people, and with them come greed and hate, envy and ugliness, poverty and war. And darkness, never ending darkness. And if you go out there, yes you might feel good for a while, you might feel special, precious… but all that will stop once people find something that they could take from you. And you most probably never come back here again.’ At that point I was with my mouth and eyes wide open, images racing through my brain. ‘So what do you say, kiddo? Will you come inside with your old man and play some checkers?’ after a small moment of terrified hesitation I hugged him, grabbed his arm and went with him to play checkers. And since then I was never curious of the ugly world that’s out there. And when I got older and actually went outside, in the small village for supplies, I realized my dad was right about everything. But it was to late to thank him… he wasn’t with me anymore…” he paused, staring in midair. “That’s it for today, kids, go on now, be good to your parents and never forget… You are my favorite students!”
Perhaps I remember that night because of Bill’s story or maybe because it was the night I had my first kiss… anyway, it was a night to remember.
We got out of his teaching tent and went outside near the wall. We sat down on the still warm sand and we started to talk. Since we were small we were inseparable- both about the same age and outcasts from our respective family- and we kept it cool for a long time, meaning that no one knew about our friendship for a long time. Or so we liked to think because it was much more interesting to hide and sneak. It kept things more alive. But even when we started to realize that it is impossible to have secrets in such a small place, we still kept the traditions. Meeting in dark times, far from the others’ eyes- especially my mothers’ who hated the Romanovs-.
So we went to the wall, confident that my mom is performing and his family soon after. That’s how it always was: Anahi Cortez and the Romanovs.
After a small chat about Bill’s story there was a long but comfortable silence- it was never uncomfortable-. I could stare in his dark eyes for days. He finally spoke, grabbing me gently by the back of my neck and caressing gently my flushed cheeks with his thumb.
“You’re so nice, and… be… beautiful” he stuttered a bit but made it all the more sweet. He leaned towards me and pressed his lips against mine. I pulled back just for a fraction of a second, startled by his reaction, then leaned back into his warm kiss.
Just then my mother appeared out of thin air.
“What in all Gods’ names is happening here? Eva! Isaac! Eva, get the fuck inside!” she shouted and her face was red as the sky when the sun is just about to go under the horizon. Then she pulled my hand violently and dragged me to our trailer. Isaac was slowly and carefully walking behind us, at a safe distance. We got inside and it started.
“What do you think you’re doing? Out of all these nice boys that come through the gates you pick him? Him?” the vein on her neck started to get thicker.
“What? Why are you…?” I started.
“How come I caught you, you were going to ask? Because I fell, I went off the stage. I almost died while you were smooching around with the son of the evil one. The ones who killed my family, our family, and who will, surely, kill me as well. I always knew you were going to be the end of me, I just didn’t know how you would do it. I should’ve give you away… But it’s never too late… Go! I don’t want to see you now…” she pointed furiously at the door. I was sitting on the couch like a beaten puppy.
“Where you w… want me to g-g-go?” I asked between the tears.
“Anywhere you’d like. Go with your loving family, go with Isaac. I don’t care; just don’t be here, not in front of my eyes!”
What she said really hurt me so I went out with one thought in my mind: to get out, as far as I can from her and this place. I didn’t care about anything else, good or bad that could be out there.
I was just ready to climb the wall when a hand gently tapped me on one shoulder.
“I was thinking that by telling you that little story of mine it would convince you to stay right here, not the opposite.” Bill Rickets said smiling. So I stayed and we talked almost all night, sleeping on his sofa. The next morning my mother didn’t even care if I had left or no, she just went on practicing her new stunt for the next show.
From that day I tried to avoid her as much as I could- although we lived together we barely talked- and started to focus on something else: magic tricks. I was still thinking I could impress her with something other than acrobacy, which I couldn’t do- or wouldn’t do?
I started small, with basic card tricks learned from Bill. He was the one who told me that:
“Magic, quite like happiness, is true when you don’t know anything.”
First I trick that I learned from Bill was the ‘double lift’. The method in which you lift the first two cards with three fingers, making the audience think that you’re showing them the first card.
When he saw how fast I’m mastering card manipulation for my age he went on to teach me actual magic tricks- seemed like that was another one of his specialty, his family having a background in magic. He showed me the ‘ambitious card’ and the ‘four burglars’- which is a card trick accompanied by a story- and many others
That’s when I actually started to get really interested in magic, real magic, necromancy, to be exact, and tarot card reading. Although Bill didn’t knew much about this, he always supported me, getting me books from the outside and making sure nobody knows my nice little secret.
When I was twelve Bill got me my first deck of tarot cards. I was learning a lot and starting to get good at it so I wanted to be a part of the show. But my mother didn’t even know about it, she thought I was still learning basic card tricks.
Until one night when she came angry from her routine, shouting, blaming me, like always. I was fourteen. She was slamming and smashing everything around me so I exploded, probably out of fear.
“It’s not my fault you’re getting old and missing your steps. And it’s not my fault you couldn’t make my father love you enough to stay with you. So stop blaming me for everything!” she froze for a second then turned her look at me. I’ll always remember that look, that night.
“What the fuck did you just say to me, child? You little nothing, you should be grateful to be alive. If it weren’t for my kindness, and me, my sacrifices, you wouldn’t exist.
“And what about my father? Did you know he’s dead? I talked with him!” she widened her eyes and tried to say something. “Yeah, I know about him. I know his name is… were Andrei and that he only seen you once.” I did manage to contact him few days before and learned some things about my past. “And I also know that if he knew you were pregnant with his child he would come to you. But you were too afraid or comfortable to leave this place. You didn’t even want me. Bill convinced you to keep me. So I should thank him, not you, you were just a container!” that broke her in pieces. She lunged at me, throwing her fists in the air. She punched me few times until I pushed her. I pushed her so hard, with all my accumulated rage that she tripped on the folded rug, fell and hit her head violently on the edge of the table. That’s when Bill came inside, alarmed by all the commotion and shouting. My mother was lying on the floor with blood starting to puddle behind her chestnut hair. I was standing with my hands on my mouth and tears in my eyes. My chest was a fistful of butterflies.
“What did you do?” Bill whispered scared.