"You were at that boy's house, weren't you?" Florence screamed at Rilah. "What do you think he'll do for you Rilah? Do you think that he'll accept you, the way that you are? Wake up! Men these days want the model type girls, the whores. So unless you dress in skimpy clothes and prostitute yourself, he'll never want you!" She held Rilah by her wrist and pulled her roughly. Her voice reduced to a harsh whisper, "He'll never accept you. You are just a bunch of rags that will never ever please anyone." She released her, letting her stumble back to the wall.
Rilah stuck herself to the corner of the wall, hoping that she could just melt into it. She was used to the beating and the insults, but the words never stopped hurting her.
Walking away, Florence shouted over her shoulder, "Weed that garden before the end of the day or you don't get any food."
Rubbing her wrist, Rilah walked through the kitchen and out into the backyard.
She weeded the garden as fast as she could before she heard Florence's screeching voice demanding for food. She multitasked between cooking, weeding the garden and waiting on Florence.
By the time she had dished up, Tyron had arrived, dumped his homework on Rilah's bed and locked himself in his room. Just as Rilah was laying out the food, Mr Daniels opened the door gently and sat at the table. He barely acknowledged her as he dug into his food. No matter; Rilah was used it.
"Call Ty down", Florence said as Rilah climbed up the stairs.
"Food is ready. Your mother is calling you", she knocked on the door. Of course there was no answer.
After copying all her answers onto a paper - in simpler terms though - Rilah went downstairs to wash the dishes.
Ty was slumped on the chair, bored out of his mind despite the conversation that his mother was trying to hold.
Florence was asking Terrence, Mr Daniels, about his day at work despite the fact that Terrence lived the same boring monotonous life, punctuated by regular trips to the bar after work and the occasional nights out with prostitutes. Even after all these years, Florence tried to keep their marriage intact but at the moment, it was hanging by a well-used thread.
Rilah cleared the plates, and Tyron, spotting an opportunity for entertainment, offered to 'help' Rilah. He lifted his plate and dropped the food onto the floor.
"Oh! So sorry Rilah. Pity we don't have a dog to scoop that up. We wouldn't want any food going to waste." He smiled apologetically. His parents glanced at Rilah, who squatted and began sweeping up the food, and returned to their forced conversation.
Of course he did it on purpose; he knew that those left overs were Rilah's lunch for the next day. After washing the dishes, Rilah went through the cupboards, found some scones and hid them in the oven. With the leftovers having gone to waste, she'd need to carry scones which the Daniels would not notice was missing. Tyron was infamous for rummaging through the kitchen whenever he ran out of sleep.
Rilah finally went to bed at eleven but sleep eluded her. Finally tired of tossing and turning, Rilah sneaked out of the house again but this time she took a different path through the woods, down to the lake.
She stripped out of her clothes, remaining only in her panties. The cold nipped at her skin and she wrapped her arms around herself. Without hesitating, she dived into the ice cold water.
What was the use of dipping your toe into the water, when that would only discourage you from taking a risk? As Pi Patel said, 'Choosing doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.'
Rilah swam and pushed herself to exertion, burning away the day's troubles. Suddenly, she heard a branch crunch under a weight. She froze as she heard the person approaching her. She was not alone tonight.