TW: child abuse, mental health, domestic violence
Her back was sticky with sweat. The sun today was scorching. The air was so humid; she thought she would melt. All she wanted was to get home before they came searching for her.
The straps of her backpack dug into her skin, pulling her to a screeching halt. Her heart sank.
“You in a hurry?” Merlin asked teasingly.
“Leave me alone.”
“And what if we don’t?”
She shook her backpack off Merlin’s grip and started running.
“Oh! Look, Miss Muddy Skin Color, is also a coward.” Merlin said rather loudly and then her friends, and she burst out laughing.
Tears were threatening to spill out, but she fought them back. She knew crying would make her feel better, but for once in her lifetime, she didn’t want to go with the flow. She wanted to disrupt it and carve out a way of her own.
After what seemed like an eternity, she was finally home. As she walked towards the door, the world became a blur, and the door became clearer. Her encounter with the bully was starting to fade from the pages of her memory. All she saw was the tiny little air-borne particles made visible by the sunlight. Her brain, blissfully too, stopped overthinking. It just stopped thinking. She realized she was only a breath away from the door when her eyes started burning because of staring without blinking.
The door swung open, and in front of her stood a stout and thin lady. Her hazelnut eyes gleamed, the corners of her lips were tugged upwards. Her beauty mystified her daughter.
“What’s wrong?” Her mom asked.
Her mom looked like a complete stranger. Or was this the first time she had cared to observe the face of her mother so intently?
She drank all the details in, and a second later, her mom walked closer and embraced her.
“I’m fighting my own battles,
You are fighting your own battles.
Your life cannot be a fairy tale,
If a fairy tale is a mountain, your life is a dale.
Keep one thing in mind, endings can never be peaceful
Endings can never be beautiful.
But the sunset is beautiful, isn’t it?
But what comes after it?
Beasts come out in search of the injured, hunting.
But, injured here means not physically hurt
It’s when into your brain creep, things absurd.
Optimism, they drain away.
Reaches your brain not a single sun’s ray.
Endings might be kissing the life out of you.
The worst battle of your life, they might put you through.
But injured, don’t let yourself become,
Because the next day might bring a gloomy weather or light some.”
Her mom’s voice smoothed the wrinkles in her heart. She was oblivious to the fact that her mom could sing. Her mom’s melodious voice awoke and put something inside her to sleep simultaneously. She pulled away. Her eyes were rheumy, but she wiped it away before her mom could notice. She walked inside and climbed the stairs leading to her room, absent-minded looking down at the hard floor and pondering over the song.
“You got your results today, didn’t you? Bring them to me after you freshen up,” her dad said calmly, so calmly that it sent shivers down her spine.
“Well, I don’t need to tell you that your results are not impressive.
Pathetic is what they are.”
“Your grades are dropping,” he said gravely. “Are you seeing any boys?”
“No,” she said, louder than she had intended to.
“I’m not spending all my life working like a donkey for you to throw Cs on my face!” His voice was wavering with anger.
Where was her mom? She must be in the basement, huddled in a corner, staring at nothing in particular. Her mom spent most of her time in the basement, sometimes crying. And sometimes screaming her lungs out. And this frightened daughter thinks her mother is either paranoid or possessed by a demon lurking in the basement.
Her father’s slap helps her wandering mind to focus on the present. She then makes eye contact with him. The fury, the fiery flame and the menacing darkness are what his eyes beheld. Is he the devil lurking in her mom’s life? Is he driving her paranoid? He stares right back at her and then walks away.
She stands there, transfixed, waiting for the warmth of the tears. Hot tears trickle down her cheek, but her expression remains neutral. Neither does she wrinkle her nose nor do lines appear on her forehead. Just tears running down her cheek. She turned around and was headed to the attic.
The attic was pitch black, as always.
Darkness comforted her. But why did the darkness in her dad’s eyes send chills down her spine? She didn’t want to think about it. She focused on her surroundings. Yes, indeed. Darkness is blissful.
But she wasn’t looking for temporary comfort, she yearned for a permanent one. She kept walking until she found the ladder, the ladder that led to the roof. Navigating across the attic was a child’s play for her. She knew every nook and corner of it.
She found it and ascended the ladder. The cold metal felt good beneath her burning palms. She pushed open the window and heaved herself on the roof. She crawled her way to the edge. The red tiles shined. They complimented the setting sun.
She stood up, spread her arms, and jumped.
She hit the ground with a thud.
Memories came flooding back.
Wearing school uniform for the first time.
Her first day of school.
Learning the alphabets.
Confessing her love for her preschool teacher.
Crying because dad won’t buy her a pink balloon.
Dancing on the stage in preschool.
Sneaking into her mom’s room to play with her cosmetics.
Graduating to middle school.
Roaming around the house hugging the books of the next academic term.
Scribbling names on the desks.
Passing chits to her crush.
Classmates stalking her.
Bullies verbally and physically abusing her.
The strife between her parents that changed the course of their life.
Merlin and her gang forcing her to drink muddy water.
Her mom’s face.
Her dad’s eyes.
“Miss Muddy Skin Color,” “coward,” echoing in her brain.
Then complete darkness.