Anastasia

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Dancing with the Devil

In the cold light of day, Ana lay motionless. Her eyes, wide, and fixated on the tiny crease in her wallpaper, where age had taken its toll. She held as still as a china doll. Practically glued to her bed, as she listened to the ear wrenching obscenities, flooding from down the stairs.

Every word Nadia wailed through clear sobs, was disguised by a heavy slur, and the muffle of soundproof walls.

“How dare you! You sick, sick bastard. How dare you! You told me that you wouldn't hurt her. Ana is not yours, she’s my child, and mine alone.”

Apprehensively, Ana pulled back her sheets, holding her breath all the while, so as to remain silent. Across the rickety floor boards, Ana slithered as silently as she could.

Rattled by the commotion, she turned the cool, metal doorknob, and slipped down the hall. Once she reached the stairs, Ana peered around the corner, and into the living room.

Nadia paced the floor as she bawled, cries converting to a seething rage, every few minutes or so, as she screamed into thin air.

“You won’t do this to her. You can’t have her. She’s all I have left of him.”

Perching herself on the top step, Ana surveyed the situation, perplexed at what she was witnessing. She looked as far into the living room as she could see, without being caught. There was no one, not another soul in that living room.

Ana held on for dear life to the railing of that staircase. Her knuckles white, and her palms soaked with sweat. All she could bring herself to do, was watch.

'She’s finally lost it.' Ana’s thoughts ran wild, as her fight or flight kicked in. With Nadia’s very clear, and very recent history with neonaticide, Ana had learned not to question her mother. She was not to speak when her mother was acting hysterical, but this, was different. This was insanity.

“Who is she talking to?” Ana muttered to herself.

Nadia grew gradually more distant from Ana's vantage point, as her pacing accelerated. With curiosity consuming her, Ana let her foot fall to the second step. Her hands still wrapped firmly around the rail.

Still, she was unable to make out the one-sided conversation. Reluctant to move any further, Ana held her position and listened attentively.

Nevertheless, nothing was comprehensible, and so, she clenched her jaw, and allowed her remaining foot to follow, now resting on the third step. Her eyes remained fixed on the living room, as Ana shifted her weight onto that fourth step.

*CREAK*

“No, no, no, no, no.” Ana could feel her stomach fill with anxious butterflies, as she remained immobilized to the fourth step. The noise echoed for what felt like a lifetime. As Ana closed her eyes tight, and gritted her teeth.

“Anastasia, is that you?” Nadia called out, as she sniffled and wiped the tears from her flushed cheeks.

“Shit.” Ana forced open her eyes as she stood, and slowly made her way down the steps.

“I was thirsty,” Ana responded, as she stepped into view of her mother.

“Oh, okay," Nadia lightly bowed her head, avoiding eye contact with her very disoriented child. “What do you want, sweetheart?”

“Um, oh, wa-water please?” Typically, the tremble in her voice would result in a mountain of questions, and interrogation tactics from her nosy mother. On the contrary, Nadia recoiled, without even a flinch.

“Coming right up baby.”

As Nadia poured her daughter a glass of ice water, Ana leaned on the counter behind her. She watched, considering how the fuck she was gonna to bring up, whatever just happened.

“Hey mama?” The small voice echoed in the silence, as Nadia turned on her heel, handing Ana the drink.

“Yes, baby doll?”

Ana held her tongue for a moment, gathering the courage to say what needed to be said, before she was sent back to bed, without any answers at all. She took a deep breath, looked up from the floor, and divulged the question that had been haunting her.

“Who were you talking to just now?”

“Oh that was just the tv, sweetheart. I had it pretty loud, I’m sorry. Did mama wake you?”

“Why are you crying then?” Ana folded her arms, and scowled, as she awaited the correct response.

“It’s just allergies honey, I’m not crying. I’m okay, now go to bed.”

“But why-”

“Anastasia, I said go to bed now please. You don’t need to worry, everything will be okay. I promise.”

Henceforth, Nadia placed her arm on Ana’s back, and with a slight nudge, coaxed her daughter back up to her bedroom.

The clock read 6:30 am. It was time for Ana to get up and get ready for school anyways. Why would Nadia even send her back to bed, what was she hiding down there?

Ana set her glass on her wooden nightstand, as she focused on that clock. There was absolutely no way she was going back to sleep after that. Whatever that was.

Hours ticked by as she waited. Typically, Nadia would burst through that door at seven to wake Ana up for school, but today she never did.

Eight shifted to nine, and nine turned to ten, as Ana exceeded impatience, growing utterly irritated.

"What is she doing down there?"

The screams hadn't continued, however, there was the occasional aggressive whisper, that she was able to distinguish from the living room.

When the clock struck eleven, Ana stood from her bed, stomping to the door. Her rage, curiosity, and boredom had advanced to an overwhelming slue of emotions.

"Why do I have to stay locked up in here like this. She always leaves me out of this stuff. Secrets, secrets, secrets. Its always something with her."

Ana stormed down the hall, making each step known to everyone who may, or may not, have been in the house.

"Mama!" She wailed, "Mama!"

"Ana go back upstairs right now!"

"No, what are you doing, who's down here?"

"Nobody Ana, go upstairs."

"No mamochka, you're talking to somebody. You're not just talking to yourself, and don't tell me its the tv again. I'm missing school, what's going on?"

"Anastasia, enough! Go to your room, now!" The look she had on her face. It was the same look she got when she would, put the kids to sleep. Every single time, it was as though she was possessed. Her eyes, they had the ability to stare deep into your soul. Or at least, that's what it felt like to the eight year old standing before her.

Slowly, Ana backed away from the demonic eyes of her petrifying mother, and hung her head low. As she beelined towards the false security of her prison cell.

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