Forever Yours

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Chapter 21

Rilah scribbled furiously on the answer book. They were down to the last five minutes of their Tourism exam and she had just noticed that she'd made a mistake in question eight. She quickly corrected it and scanned the rest of the page, ensuring that she'd made no other mistakes. She heaved a sigh as she scanned over question nine and ten and realized that there were no other mistakes. The invigilator announced that time was up and she put down her pen. She looked behind her and saw two rows back, Sylvia closing her answer book and smirking at her in satisfaction. They were done with their written exams. Rilah only had her Visual Arts practical exam left and she'd be saying goodbye to grade 12! And the Daniels, she thought happily. At long last!

Rilah arrived home later than usual; Florence had been notified that both she and Tyron would finish by five. Oviously Florence expected Rilah home no later than six, as she would not be working today. Tyron had been permitted to arrive as late as he wanted, in celebration of his last paper. Nevertheless, Rilah felt joyful and she only dreaded entering the place she called home just slightly.
She passed the kitchen and ran up the stairs, trying to avoid Florence at all costs. She reached the top of the stairs safely and slowly opened the door. She startled as she was met with Florence, sitting on her bed and sporting a furious look on her face.

"Care to explain what this is?" Her voice was a low deadly whisper, something that Rilah never associated with Florence. She felt the colour drain from her face and her heart rate sped up.

"What is this, Rilah, and why do you have it? Answer me now!" She stood from the bed and Rilah backed up, dropping her pencil case.

"They're p-prenatal vitamins and I'm taking them because I'm . . . I-I-I'm . . . " She found it difficult to admit it to Florence, who kept advancing upon her.

"Because you are pregnant, you stupid curse of a child!" Without warning, Rilah felt the sting of a slap on her left cheek. She held her hand to her inflamed cheek as she withdrew into the room.
Florence was in a rage. She slammed the two bottles on the chest of drawers - whose drawers were open and the few clothes they contained were spilling out - and went on a screaming tirade.
"Do you really plan on defying me every step of the way?! Out of all the rules I gave you, out of all of them, I kept repeating this simple one. This one rule! Abstinence! How hard could that be, Rilah? How hard could it be! But no, you did it out of spite, didn't you? Break my most important rule to spite me!"

All the while, Rilah shrank into the wall and kept shaking her head. She knew that to explain was futile; Florence didn't listen to anyone when she'd reached this stage of anger.

"Who is the father?" She rounded up on Rilah, her eyes wide, her nostrils flaring and her face scarlet with fury. "It's that boy from the neighbours' house, isn't it? What's his name, Charles, isn't it?"

Rilah shook her head frantically. She sputtered in Charlie's defence, "It's not him. We never even dated. He's not the father."

Obviously not believing her, she shouted, "Who is it then?"

"I-I don't know", Rilah admitted.

Florence's face morphed from anger to disgust. "So you have been sleeping around; being a slut! How low could you stoop Rilah?" Rilah didn't think it was possible but her heart sank further. The way Florence had said it, not screaming, but with a quiet, disgusted tone to her voice, made Rilah feel dirty, unworthy and disgusting. Nothing Florence said or did could make her feel any worse anymore.

"How far along are you?" Florence surprised her by grabbing her jacket and shirt and pulling it upward. Rilah pulled it back down immediately but not before Florence saw the bump.

"Almost four months", Rilah lied defiantly, which she realised was a mistake when Florence gave her another slap that sent her tumbling down to a corner of the room.

Her screaming tirade began again. "So you've known this long and you hid it?"

"No," Rilah shielded her head. "I just found out recently!"

Florence took a deep breath and said, "Recently or not, you are getting rid of that thing inside you."

Rilah felt like her life was fading in front of her. She shook her head strongly, in denial. "No".

Florence looked like she had been struck. "What did you say?", she asked, incredulous.

"No, I'm not aborting this baby."

Florence laughed with no humour in her voice. "Yes, you are aborting that foetus", she put an emphasis on the word 'foetus'.
Rilah shook her head fervently yet again and to her shock, Florence wedged her foot against her abdomen and started putting pressure on it. Shocked and panicking, Rilah tried to lift Florence's foot from her stomach but it wouldn't budge.

"Stop it please", she begged, pain starting to register in her abdomen and back. "Please, you are hurting me! Please stop it!"
Rilah gazed up at Florence, her face streaming with tears and watched as a sadistic, satisfied gleam pass on her face. Rilah felt terrified of that look she saw; she knew that Florence was capable of bringing about a miscarriage.

"I'll do it, I'll do it! I'll get the abortion; just stop please!"
With a self-satisfied smile, Florence lifted her foot from Rilah and left her room, taking the prenatal vitamins with her and locking the door. Rilah sobbed as she checked frantically for any signs of distress in her baby. She ran her hands over her abdomen and checked that she wasn't bleeding. She released the breath that she had been holding when she saw that nothing was wrong. Her mood was further lifted when she felt the baby moving.
Her tears dried up and she ran her fingers in a feather-light movement over her belly.

"Hey there! Are you okay?" She whispered lightly to the bump. "Lord, I was so worried. Thank God you are fine - I'd hate to lose you." She chuckled as the baby gave multiple strong kicks. "Funny, isn't it? How almost losing you made me realise how much l love you. Or let's say care about you. Love is going too far." The kicks stopped for a second. "Don't want that, do you? Well, suit yourself but I think it's a step in the right direction."

She stood up, changed out of her uniform and searched for her bag amongst the mess left by Florence. When she found it, she folded her uniforms and stuffed them in the bag. Then she searched through the chest of drawers, chose the most acceptable clothes, folded those and packed them in the bag too.
She threw in all her possessions, which were so few that she didn't even need an extra bag. In went all her toiletries, her bank card, her identification documents, her pencil case and exam acceptance letter and finally her swimming costumes from Charlie and the allergy shots. She added the watch she had gotten from Sylvia and a paint set with brushes that she had gotten from Mr Cunning for her birthday and a beautiful dress from Mrs Cunning.

When she had packed everything she had, she opened the bottom drawer, removed it from the chest and set it on the floor. She put her hand in the empty space and felt around for the catch in the wooden plank. She lifted the plank and pulled out a file from under it. She folded her legs beneath her and opened the blue file, pulling out the paper drawings inside and looking at them. The first was a drawing of her, Sylvia and Charlie, when they were around thirteen years old. They had been at the Cunning home taking selfies with funny faces; Sylvia had been rolling her eyes, Charlie had crossed his eyes and Rilah had looked like she was falling. It was embarrassing but cute. The second was of her and Sylvia jumping midair. Like the first, she had copied it from a picture. The rest of the drawings were of Charlie. They were five in total. She looked at the first - the most recent, Charlie on his first day back from London. Feeling a stab of melancholy, she stuffed the drawings back inside and dug in for her most treasured belonging.

She grabbed the necklace by its delicate chain and put it on her palm. Nestled in the center of the chain was an oval silver locket. On the front, it was designed with beautiful swirls and the name 'Rilah' was carved in a beautiful calligraphy. Under her name, in a smaller font, her second name, 'Luiza' was written. She wasn't much of a big fan of her second name but when Charlie - the only other person who knew this name - told her that it was Spanish for 'maiden in war', it made her feel marginally better.

She opened the locket and looked at the two pictures as she often had done before.
On the inside of the lid, there was a picture of a man with a dark complexion and dark brown hair, the same shade as her own. He also had brown eyes and a thin mustache. Although he wasn't smiling in the picture, he had laugh lines beside his mouth. Her eyes strayed reluctantly to the picture beside her dad's; her mom sported the same wild hair like hers, albeit with an intense shade of auburn. Her eyes were Rilah's eyes: a light blue that seemed to reflect the ocean - sometimes appearing blue, sometimes aquamarine. Except that whereas hers sparkled with joy, Rilah's looked worn and weathered, all joy sucked out of them. Her mom had full lips and the characteristic pale skin of redheads and a light dusting of freckles.

A stray tear slipped down her cheek. She wiped it hastily and closed the locket. "I miss you, papa, mama", she whispered. She put the locket around her neck, rubbed her belly and said, "I'll always protect you, I promise you that."

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