I never stood a chance
I fade away, everything
is the same, since
yesterday I’ve been dying
Whispers floated flooded my ears, in tune with what sounded like my heart but slower and underwater. Olive. Olive. Olive. They called me. A thousand voices. Some I had heard before and some I hadn’t. My heart slowed down, the sound even more muffled as new thoughts occured to me. Lub... Dub... Lub.
Who were they?
At the sound of my name, my eyes snapped open. They watered at the brightness of the room and I blinked rapidly to adjust my vision. When the lights no longer blinded me, I found myself staring at a ceiling. I used my blurry gaze to trace the cracks on the white plaster as I tried to make sense of what was happening.
Where was I?
As my stare drifted away from the light bulb to the white tiles lining the walls, I remembered. I wasn’t in my room. I had fallen asleep in the bathroom.
Did I sleep the whole day away? Is it all over? If it was, then Mom had already gone drinking. I was safe.
I sat up, ignoring my hair as it fell into my eyes. Through the crack of the bathroom door, I spotted my mother standing down the hallway pounding hard on my bedroom door. My hopes sunk the moment I took in her expression. That’s bad. She looks upset.
I got to my feet as quietly as I could and carefully contemplated my options. If my mother knew that I hadn’t gone to my room, she would think that I had been eavesdropping. It would also mean that I had disobeyed her.
She would use it as an excuse to punish me in front of Dad and show how good she was at being such a caring mother and how bad I was at being a good son. Maybe Dad would hate me even more.
Immediately, I decided that I couldn’t admit the truth. If I told her that I had thrown up, she would say that I didn’t need to eat till I learnt to appreciate food. If I used the excuse that I had slept in the bathroom, she would lock me in there and say it was my new room until I learnt to be obedient—and only God knows when that would be.
I turned to mirror and stared at myself, taking in the deepness of the green in my eyes and the paleness of my skin. I imagined how I would look when she was done with me and the image overlapped my reflection. There wasn’t much of a difference.
Help me, I silently begged whoever could hear me and pulled on the bathroom door before I could take the action back. I stepped into the hallway.
“Mom,” I said as she turned to me, not wanting to look like I was sneaking out. I needed confident lies for this to work. Only problem was, she always knew when I was lying.
Her hand hovered over the door as she tilted her head towards me. “What were you doing in there, Olive?”
“I heard you making lunch,” I told her, my hand still on the handle behind me. “I got out before you came to call me.”
“If you go out early,” her hand dropped to her sides as she faced me, “why didn’t you come downstairs?”
“I needed to use the toilet.”
“I didn’t hear any flushing,” she clicked her tongue. “And what’s wrong with the one in your room?”
My heart thumped hard in my chest as I watched her smile at me. It was the smile that meant she knew I was lying. The smile I had stopped getting years ago when I had learnt the consequences of lying to her. “M-My mirror. It’s broken. I wanted to see how I looked before letting Dad see me.”
“Really Olive?” She took a step towards me. “And you let me knock for so long. . . I don’t think I ever heard the door to your room shut when you went upstairs. You weren’t eavesdropping, were you, Dear?”
“N-No Mom,” I whispered, but I didn’t know if I was defending myself or begging her not hurt me. Maybe it was a bit of both. My mind had gone blank from fear, I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
Mom was standing right in front of me now and though I was taller than her I felt so small. I always did; her presence was like the sea and I was nothing but a little pebble in the face of it. I stumbled back into bathroom door when she stretched her hand towards me.
“I don’t believe you, Olive,” she said in the sing-song voice she used when she was about to say something we both knew I wouldn’t like. “You know what happens to liars. . .”
“Mom. I didn’t mean—”
“Patricia, leave the boy alone,” I heard my Dad shout from the kitchen. “It’s not a crime to want to look presentable.”
Just as the tension was about to leave my body, her hand whipped across my face. I had relaxed too soon and let down my guard, this was the result. My hand left the door handle to hold my stinging cheek.
“If you dare ruin this for me, you will regret it.”
I tried to ignore the tears forming in my eyes and kept the pain out of my voice. “Sorry Mom.”
Dad had saved me twice today but he wouldn’t be here forever. He wouldn’t be here when she was at her worst. He never was.
As I stared at my mother’s growing grin, I knew that she knew what I was thinking. She had raised me after all. She was probably the only one on Earth who truly knew me and that was why she hated me so much. She could see clearly what I tried my best to hide from the rest of the world and that was why she punished me.
Most times I deserved it but this time I was sure I didn’t.
She leaned forward, her fingers finding their way into my hair as she pulled me towards her. “You won’t be so lucky next time.”
I swallowed the sickness that had crawled into my mouth at her words. It wasn’t often that she promised to hurt me. Sometimes she did it by accident, sometimes she was just lazy or drunk and sometimes she was just in the mood to punish me. She had never hurt me after her moment of anger had passed, but I had a feeling that was about to change.
When she pulled away, the motherly smile was back and I wished with all of my heart that it was real. If it was, I wouldn’t need to worry about what state I would be in tomorrow.
“You look terrible, Olive,” she said and dusted off my shoulders. I trembled beneath her fingers, afraid that she would lash out again.
“You should have spent more time with the mirror,” she laughed.
I laughed along with her, the tears I had been holding back slipping down my cheeks in two single droplets. She pulled my hand off my face and wiped them away with her thumbs. I tried not to flinch at her touch and managed a smile instead.
“You’re welcome baby. Now, let’s go meet your daddy.”
She took my hand in hers and we walked down the stairs together.