Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Fearful (08/23/07)
TITLE: Mint and Roses
By Debbie Roome
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
The first blow is a shock. A sharp, stinging cut that bruises and tears. I should be used to it, but I’m not. Waves of fear surge through me and as he strikes again, my bladder threatens to fail. “Don’t. Ever. Bother. Your. Mother. Like. That. Again!” Each word is punctuated by a blow.
When done, he grabs my arm and forces me into the wardrobe. “Please, Jake. I’m sorry. Please don’t lock me in here. Please, please. I’ll never bother Mom again.” The lock clicks and I hear him striding away.
Struggling for breath, I press my eyes against the crack of light at the bottom. Last time he locked me in here, there was a spider that kept crawling over me. I think of how its long, hairy legs tickled and shudder. I mustn’t think about spiders. Mrs Shaw told us at school that we should try and think happy thoughts.
I love Mrs Shaw. She teaches us life-skills and she’s the best teacher I know. I love the way she dresses. The silky shirts with shiny buttons and skirts that flow like the sea on a summer day. Her hair is the colour of soft fudge and she smells of mint and roses when she bends over to inspect my work.
My mother is the complete opposite. I think of how she stinks of cigarette smoke and beer. Of the brown bottles that litter our apartment, and of Jake her foul-mouthed boyfriend.
No. I tell myself. I must think happy thoughts.
This term, Mrs Shaw has been teaching us about families. How families work. About what is right and wrong. About acceptable punishment and how to ask for help. So many times I’ve wanted to ask her questions.
Is it alright for your mother’s boyfriend to beat you till you bleed?
Do all mothers drink so much beer?
What can I do to get Mom to love me?
How can I stop being so afraid?
Tonight I have another question to add to the list. Why is it wrong to want to go to Helen’s sleepover party?
I wake the next morning as the key turns in the lock. I’m instantly alert, stretching cramps from twisted limbs and flinching as searing pain grips my back. “You’re a mess.” Mom sneers as I struggle out of the wardrobe. “Get out of here before Jake wakes up.”
Mrs Shaw looks beautiful this morning and I imagine being part of her family. Her voice is sweet and tender as she talks about parents and children. As she describes how they can do fun things together and work as a team. By the end of the lesson, I finally acknowledge to myself that I have a problem.
It’s the longest journey of my life. Getting up from my desk and planting one shaky foot in front of another. I don’t want to betray Mom and I’m sure Jake will want to kill me, but I have to do this. I have to ask my questions and confide in Mrs Shaw. I’m only a couple of steps away now and the fragrance of mint and roses mingle as she reaches out her hands. I grasp them and tears start to seep from my eyes.
“Mrs Shaw. I think I need help.”
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