**Warning, child abuse**
Don’t talk unless spoken to.
Madam says my voice is disgusting. Kevin calls her mother, but when I tried she slapped me. She said she wasn’t the mother of a bastard. That I was a mistake, that she was forced against her will. I don’t understand. Kevin calls Sir, father. I wanted to see how that word felt, but he pulled out his belt and hit me. I taught myself language one day. Sir and Madam were furious. They tied me up and hit me with what looked like a long rope. A whip, yes, that’s what they called it. They hit me over and over, and explained that it was only education. Education is good, whips are good, pain is good.
Don’t hesitate when answering a question.
I hesitated when Sir asked me if I had spoken to Kevin one day. I didn’t know what to say. He slapped me, and asked again. I said yes, and he told me to never do it again. He tied me up and whipped me till the sun went up and then down again. It was five suns until Madam gave me food again. It hurts, but hurt is good. I never hesitated again.
Kevin snuck down to the basement again the day after the first incident. He finds me interesting, he calls me his half brother. I tell him to go back up to the light. He says no, and talks to me for a while. Sir asked me if Kevin came down again. I said no, and he slapped me. He told me to never lie, he will know if I do. This time he does not tie me up. He pulls out a knife, and slashes down my face with it. It hurts. There’s a lot of blood.
Don’t make noise.
I accidentally toppled over a pile of books once. Both Madam and Sir are furious. They tell me I interrupted something called a dinner party. I almost exposed my existence, they say. They bind me up and gag me. Then they return to the dinner party. But I am confused. What is a dinner and what is a party? Is it that important? They return when it is pitch dark. There are still little lights outside my tiny window, I envy those lights. They tie me up and whip me again. Madam doesn’t give me meals for many suns again. After that day, my movements have become quieter than a ghost.
The first time Madam slapped me, I cried. Madam was even more infuriated by my tears and slapped me even harder. Crying equals pain. I learned my lesson. I refuse to cry again. It makes Madam angry. I don’t like it when she’s angry. It would be nicer if she smiled. I read of smiling in a book. Apparently it can make a person glow. I tried to smile. My face couldn’t do it. But I think it would look nice on Madam. Perhaps she smiles when she leaves this dark place.
Don’t touch anything.
The first time I met Sir, his hair looked so bright and beautiful, even in this darkness. I reached for his hand, but before I touched it he kicked me away and called me vermin. He angrily wipes his hand, and pulls on a pair of black gloves. He pulls me by my hair, and tells me I’m a bastard, trash, that I shouldn’t even exist. I didn’t understand back then. All I learned was to keep my hands to myself.
Don’t ask for anything.
I asked Madam for more books to read once. She told me that I should be grateful that I was even allowed to read the old books stored in the basement. I ask her what a basement is, and she tells me that it is where I reside. Basement probably means the dark in that case. From under the door, I see that the outside world that Sir, Madam, and Kevin live in is always bright. I wish I lived in a world like that. Even the world outside the tiny window would do. It is sometimes bright and sometimes dark, but it is better than eternal darkness at least.
Don’t do anything Sir and Madam have not told me I can do.
I tried climbing up to the window a long time ago. I wished to see what lays beyond that square of light. When Madam saw what I was doing she called Sir to come. They were furious, they kicked me and whipped me and denied me food. I promised to never do anything they haven’t told me I can do ever again.
Don’t leave the basement.
Once a long time ago, I tried to open the door. Sir saw me peek out, and yelled at me. He told me that I am never allowed to leave the basement, the darkness. He told me that the basement is the only place I belong, for I am a bastard. I am not human. I have no rights. I did not understand, but I knew not to try to leave the darkness again.
Don’t show your face.
Kevin, my older brother, tells me I look too much like my father. I don’t understand. Sir has platinum blonde hair and icy blue eyes, while I have raven black hair and slate grey eyes. In my opinion, Kevin is the splitting image of him. Madam has golden blonde shoulder length locks, and bright green eyes. Madam gave me a mask, it is a Japanese fox mask. She told me to never take it off. She gave me one of Kevin’s old hoodies. She tells me to never take it off, and to always keep the hood up. I am happy. These are the first gifts she has ever given me.
Don’t go outside.
One day, I had asked Madam if I could go into the world outside the window. She told me that is a ridiculous idea, and that it can never happen. I was saddened, but I knew better than to ask why. Nonetheless, Sir came down that night and whipped me again.
I met a goddess today. She had beautiful chocolate brown hair that went to her waist, and soft honey brown eyes. She opened the window to the basement and peeked in. When she saw me, she gasped. She asked me why I wore the mask and hood, I told her that I am not allowed to take them off. She asked me if I lived in the basement, and I replied yes. She asked me how old I was. I tell the girl that I am sixteen. She says that she is the same age and smiles. It is a beautiful smile, and it truly lit up her face. She asks me for my name. I hesitate for the first time in years. Slowly, I tell her that it is bastard. She looks confused and asks again. I tell her, bastard. She looks shocked and tells me that is not a name. I cock my head, and she tells me her name is Angelita. She tells me that she must leave, but she’ll be back again. I tell her that I will be here waiting, no matter how long it takes.
She is back three suns later. She talks to me for a while, but then she asks me why I do not ask her questions. I tell her my first rule, to never speak unless spoken to. She freezes, and tells me that it is a bad rule. I tell her I don’t understand what she means. She tells me that I can say whatever I want to her, whenever I want. I ask her if she will be angry if I do so. She looks at me oddly, and tells me that she would be delighted if I spoke to her casually. I ponder this for a moment, and for the first time, I say something before someone speaks to me. I tell her that she is beautiful. She stutters and tells me that she must go, but she will be back.
Ten suns later, I saw her again. She smiles when she sees me, and we talk of little things that have passed these few suns. She tells me that from the middle of the night, that is the dark, and then all the way back to the night again is one day. She teaches me about time and dates. She asks me when my birthday is, I tell her September tenth. She tells me that hers is December twenty-ninth. I count the days, and realize it is only fifteen suns, sorry, I mean days away. I point this out, and she asks me if I will give her a present. I tell her that I will do my best.
We talk some more, and she asks me why I answer her so swiftly and truthfully. I tell her about rules two and three. She shakes her head, and tells me if I feel like hesitating then I should hesitate, and explains to me how some lies are good. I don’t understand the concept of white lies, and she takes the time to explain it to me. Suddenly the basement door opens, and Angelita quickly closes the window and steps out of sight. Sir walks in. I ask him why he has come. He slaps me hard. I realized I had broken rule one. I try to apologize, but he ties me up and whips me till the sun goes down. I peek at the window, and I notice that Angelita is looking in. Luckily I am still wearing my mask, no one likes it when I take it off. It is because I am disgusting and ugly. Madam told me.
Finally, he turns me around to face him. He asks me if I have spoken to anyone recently. I say no. He slaps me. I have broken rule three, but I don’t care. I wish to protect Angelita. He keeps hurting me, but it does not change my answer. When the sun starts to rise, he finally accepts my answer, and leaves. I lie on the ground, bruised, bloody, but not broken. I look to the window, and I see Angelita. She asks me if I am okay. I tell her that this is normal, that this is just education and she should not worry. She explains to me that this is not real education. I don’t understand, but I do my best. She is my light, my savior, the first to make me feel such warmth. I will trust her.
Two days later she came again. She tells me that she will save me, and bring me outside. I tell her to not bother, and that her visits are all I need. Her face becomes red, and I ask her if she is sick. She says no, and that it is just cold out. She throws me a yellow crescent and tells me that it is a banana. She also passes me a few crinkly rectangles that she calls granola bars. She tells me that every time she visits she’ll bring something for me. She asks me how I move so silently, and how I did not cry when Sir had hurt me. I tell her about rules four and five. She gasps, and tells me that if I want to cry, then I should cry. I tell her that if I cry then the pain will increase. She sighs, and tells me again that someday she will save me. I hear a beep, and she pulls out a rectangular box. She looks at it, and tells me that she must go in ten minutes. I ask her what the box is. She quickly tells me that it is a phone, and promises to tell me more the next time she visits.
I see her again in four days. She gives me more granola bars, as she slowly explains to me the concept of technology, and I am amazed. She then goes on to teach me about science and math. I understand the information easily, and she tells me that I am smart. I feel I tug at my mouth, but I do not understand the urge. She teaches me more, and asks me if I want to see her phone. I tell her no, and she asks why. I tell her about rule six, to never touch anything. She looks at me seriously, and once again tells me that it is a stupid rule. She tells me that I am allowed to touch most things. I do not understand, so I ask her to clarify. She tells me all about ethics and human rights, and how no matter what anyone does, those rights apply to me as well. I remain skeptical, but I absorb her teachings relatively well.
The next time she visits, it is on her birthday. I have folded a paper crane for her. When I present it to her, it brings her to tears, and I worry that she doesn't like it. She shakes her head, and tells me she loves it. I ask her why she is crying, and she tells me it is because I have almost nothing, and yet I still gave her such a sweet gift. Then she looks down, and tells me that it may be a long time until I see her again. Her family has business overseas, and if it works out, she might never come back. But she promises that once she becomes eighteen and gains her own true freedom, she will come back for me. She then throws me a red ball. She tells me that it is an apple and that it is good for me. She then throws me several bags of what she calls dried apple chips and some granola bars, and tells me to hide them. She tells me to eat them slowly, as I quickly hide them away under some books. I hesitate to ask her something, and she asks me what I want. I tell her that rule seven tells me that I should not ask for anything. She frowns, and tells me that I can ask anything of her. I steel my courage, and ask her to bring me a present from her travels. She smiles and agrees. She turns, about to leave, when she looks back at me one more time and throws me her barrette. I catch it, and she tells me that the little designs on it are angel wings. She then runs off, as I clutch her barrette close to my chest.
It’s been almost a year since I’ve seen my angel. Today should be my seventeenth birthday. Ever since my Kevin started university, he always tried to sneak nutritious food to me whenever he can. We’ve gotten caught a few times these past years, but you can tell that I’ve finally started to gain some muscle and flesh on my bones. He is too kindhearted to have been raised by Sir and Madam, but I’m not complaining. I sit with my back to the wall. Closing my eyes, I dream once again of the short moments I shared with Angelita and I recall her kindness, and the firmness with which she broke down my rules. Although they still stand, a part of my character, there is more leeway with my rules. She showed me a new world, new possibilities.
Suddenly I hear yelling coming from the rest of the house. I slowly stalk my way towards the door. It flies open, and I come face to face with a man in some sort of uniform. Angelita peeks out from behind him and smiles. She tells me that it didn’t really work out overseas. I ask her who the men are, and she tells me that she has come to save me. She explains that they are police officers and have arrested Sir and Madam. She pulls my arm, trying to lead me out of the basement. But I tell her no. Rule number eight and nine, and how I can’t, that this darkness is where I belong. She tells me no, and that I can leave. The police officer agrees, and slowly, they convince me to take my first step out of the basement. It is bright in the rest of the house, and I blink a few times, unaccustomed to the light.
Angelita tells me that I should take off my mask and hood. That I should start my new life, showing my face to the world. I hesitate and tell her rule ten. She glares at me, and tells me that it isn’t right to hide who I am. Hesitantly, I take off the mask and the hood. She gasps, and I ask her if I’m too ugly. I try to put the mask back on, but she stops me. She takes a mirror out of her purse, and makes me look at my own face. Startled, I realize my face isn’t actually that uncomfortable to look at. Looking at me, she smiles. She tells me that it would be nice for my name to be Andrew. I ask her what it means, and she tells me that in Greek it means strong and manly. I agree, and she calls me by my new name. I feel my face start burning, and she laughs. She tugs on my sleeve, telling me to go outside. Hesitantly I step out the front door. I notice a line that seems to separate shadow from light. Angelita bounds over the line swiftly and easily. Looking at her smile, I know that no matter what happens I want to be by her side. Confidently, I step over the line, and into the sunlight with Angelita.