26th Thread: The grunts of a wild beast wake up the little girl
Whenever he came home, she quit whatever she was doing and ran to serve him. She threw herself down, took off his sandals, and wiped his feet. Then she poured him a glass of water, damped a cloth to cool his brow, offered sweets on a silver tray with sweets, until her attentions maddened him. It was as if she feared he might sell her to the highest bidder. I wanted to understand. My mother thought she had been able to marry my father, a lieutenant, thanks to a substantial dowry, while the mystery of its origins should have frightened any respectable suitor. One night my father came home late at night, I heard noises, like the grunts of a wild beast. I ventured to the door of our room, and saw my father shaking and slapping my mother. Her nose was bleeding. I kept advancing, slowly, silently. I was scared. My mother turned in my direction, her arms locked by my father, she hissed:
– Go back to bed. Right now.
My father let go of my mother and moved towards me, his eyes blood shot, while she tried to hold him back. I ran to my room, furious. The groans continued until I hid my head under a blanket and did not hear them anymore. The next day, my mother’s head was covered with bruises, and so were her arms and even her feet. The rest of her body was concealed by her clothes. I rushed to her, I put my arms around her waist, I covered her hands with kisses.
– But why? Why? When you are so kind and docile?
– Shh. What are you talking about? Do not worry about a few bruises that will heal quickly.
– Do they not hurt you?
– No, not at all.
– Last night you were bleeding, I saw it! Please do not let him, I do not want you to bleed.
– I had not prepared the meal properly. I should have taken off just the thin orange skin of the onions, but I peeled more layers. Your father saw the spoiled flesh in the bucket and got mad at my laziness.
– You should not waste food!
– You’re right, I’ll be more careful next time.
I hugged her closer and raised my face to look at her:
– I’ll help you. Will you let me help you?
– Yes, of course.
– And he will not hurt you?
– He will not.
– Has he harmed you before? I remember …
– Now really, that’s enough. Go to your room.
Later, when I would see her bruised face and arms in the morning, it would quash my hunger. I fingered my own forehead, cheeks, nose, as if they were also hurt. If I said anything, if I wanted to hug her, she threatened to send me to a cousin. So I stopped, even when her arm was broken and remained twisted. We never kissed or even touched anymore. She withered slowly, like a fire that is not taken care of. She no longer spoke, she neglected the house. My father also wasted away. He was not that old. He sat doing nothing except when he went into fits of rage, cursing the gods and breaking furniture. But he had stopped beating my mother, as if he had no more energy, nor did he speak to her. They were both like a heap of ashes in a corner that the servant forgot to sweep.
I couldn’t wait to leave when your father married me. My brother, who was still alive, occupied himself with gaming and hunting. The slaves took advantage of the lack of supervision. The interior was dirty, valuables disappeared. When he died in a hunting accident, the situation tumbled even faster. Shortly after, you were born and your father allowed me to visit my parents. I was proud to have them see you, as if the past had been erased by your tiny hands. As soon as I put you on my mother’s lap, she revived. Her eyes lit up, her features that had been petrified for so long mellowed. She cradled you and sang a lullaby from the old country, tenderly. You became as calm as a lizard under her embrace. The next day she went to find the toys that had been stored away since our childhood, including this doll you rock on your lap. When it was time I take you home, she burst into tears. I had never seen her cry. She closed the door on us before I could comfort her. She died soon after.