“Daddy!” I screamed as I woke in my dark room with nothing to light the objects around me but the light of lightning. I could feel my heart beating so fast I was afraid it was going to jump out my chest. It was so loud it competed with the noise of the thunder outside.
Lightning flashed and illuminated my room for a second creating an obscure vision of the toys in my room. The fluffy rabbit that was slumped in the corner of my room on a shelf grew grotesque. Next to that rabbit was a doll that became deformed into some dead thing. Next to that doll was a clown forever smiling was now looking menacing.
I turned away from that shelf that was eye level with me as I sat in my bed. All the frightening things were reminding me of my dream. In a hope to calm my heart I glanced in a completely different direction, at the closet on the right side of my bed. A coat was hanging from the handle and moved just a little. It was the coat that my father had given me, but now it seemed like there was something in it that shouldn’t be.
I cried out for my mother. The dream was fresh in my memory, but worse still was the frightening things I saw in my room. My mother came rushing in as soon as she heard me screaming. As she entered the room she turned the light on and all the disfigurements of my toys vanished.
“Hush, my little Tess,” she said warmly came to my bed to pull me close to her. She was alarmed at first, but seeing the lack of danger she was comforting me. I suppose she was uncertain as I had not had night terrors for over four years. I was ten years old and about to start my fourth year in primary school, a long way from such things.
“Momma, I had such a bad dream. Daddy was on the edge of the window. He was thinking about something, but changed his mind. He was going back inside, but they pushed him. Why would they push him?”
“It was just a dream. Your father has been really busy lately and has not spent much time with you. You were probably thinking about him as you fell asleep, dear,” she said trying her hardest to comfort me.
“It’s not just a dream. Somebody killed Daddy. Why won’t you believe me? Momma, I saw it. I saw the rain as it is raining now. Daddy was really sad about something, only I don’t know what it was,” I cried out. A steady stream of tears fell down my cheeks. She simply dried them away with her fingers.
“Come on now, Tess. That’s enough. I am going to the kitchen to get you a glass of milk. I am sorry you had a horrible dream, but I am sure a nice warm glass of milk will help you to calm down so that you can back to sleep. Okay?” she said gently before giving me one quick hug and getting up off the bed.
“Momma?” I cried one last time as she reached the door
“Yes, my little Tess.”
“Will we be okay if something happened to Daddy?”
“You shouldn’t worry your little head about things like that. Your daddy is just fine. You will see. He will be next to you at the breakfast table stealing a slice of your toast as he usually does,” she smiled back and left.
I remained on the bed for a short while observing the room again. My fluffy bunny, my doll and clown looked normal. Underneath that shelf was a doll house, nothing strange there. Against the wall on the left of the shelf was a dressing room table with a large mirror, nothing strange there. I turned to the right by the closet to see the door was slightly open and the coat was on the floor!
I jumped off the bed afraid to be there by myself for too long and went looking for my mother in the kitchen. She was watching the microwave with my glass of milk inside. I sobbed as I entered the kitchen. She turned around slowly, looking down at me with a smile on her face.
“Couldn’t wait for the milk, heh?” she asked as she bent down to give me another hug. I accepted her hug awkwardly. I was still thinking of that coat and how it had moved.
I couldn’t talk I was too afraid so I simply shrugged my shoulders as she let go of the hug. She stood up and opened the door to the microwave. I could see them steam coming out from the top of the mug. I guess it was a little warmer than she planned it to be.
“Come, let’s go back to bed now. I will carry this for you as it is a bit hot, okay?” she said warmly nodding her head. I just stood there for a moment not sure what I wanted to do. Reasoning took over and I realised there is nothing to fear if my mother was with me. I accepted her instruction and started down the passage to my room.
The door was closed shut. I looked at it for a moment not remembering that I had closed the door. My mother was looking expectantly down at me waiting for me to open the door. It was a simple wooden door with a round door knob. The fear inside me was almost suffocating. Closing my eyes I took a deep breath and placed my hand on that door knob. It felt surprisingly cold considering the warmth of the night.
Even though it was storming outside we were all wearing the barest of night clothes. Here the rain and storms come with the warm weather. That door knob was almost ice. It made me shiver slightly as I grasped the handle. It turned easily and we entered my room.
For the first time I noticed that the weather had calmed down quite a bit. I could still the light rain through my window as the street lamp was just outside that window. The thunder and lightning had stopped. I looked around the room before climbing back into bed. Momma carefully placed the glass of milk on my bed side table.
“At least the weather has improved. Perhaps now you will find it easier to sleep,” she said tucking the light blanket around me.
“I am so sorry, Momma,” I said trying to ease her and myself. Things had suddenly gotten so awkward between us. I was only ten years old, but something seemed out of place.
“It is quite alright, my dear child. I am actually quite worried for your father myself as he still has not come home yet. Your father has never been out so late. He probably got caught up with something at work, but it is a bit worrying.”
“I am scared, Momma,” I cried and reached forward to hug her. “I am really scared. Something is not right. What if he does not come home?” She looked at me with concern.
“You know what?” she started. “I am going to ground him for a week when I see him.”
I couldn’t help myself. The thought of Momma laying down the law for Daddy seemed quite funny. I sniffed back a sob and laughed a little. The laugh seemed to lighten her face and she smiled. She gently stroked the side of my face with one hand.
“That is what I like to see. My little Tess laughing! Now none of this silly worrying for your father. He is just running a little late. I will have a talk with him in the morning to remind him he has a beautiful daughter who loves him and misses him terribly when he is not here.”
“Thanks, Momma” I said sniffing some more tears back. She handed the glass of warm milk to me. The time we had spent walking here and talking was just enough to cool down the milk so that it was drinkable. I took a small sip feeling the warmth travel down into my stomach.
“You got a moustache,” she laughed before I could wipe the excess milk off my top lip. I joined her laughter. She slowly got up and walked to the door when she also noticed the jacket on the floor. “You need to learn how to tidy your room properly,” she added as she hooked the coat on the hanger.
“Momma, could you please put that in the cupboard?” I asked thinking about the way it had moved earlier. She nodded and opened the door to the cupboard to slide the coat between my dresses. She closed the door and reached for the light switch on the wall.
“Sleep tight, my little Tess,” she said as she turned the light switch off and left the room. I looked at me bedside table where a small glow from the lamp lit the small space around the lamp. The glass of warm milk was that table now. I drank some more of it even though I was feeling hot.
I left the lamp on as I put the glass on and turned onto my side to go to sleep. That dream was still fresh in my memory, but pieces of it was slowly fading away. The light from the lamp provided some comfort as I slowly closed my eyes and was the first time I heard it.
“Tess,” it whispered faintly in the distance. Tears started to form beneath my eyelids. That was it. One little faint whisper and then it was gone. I focused on my breathing before sleep finally took over. This time it was a dreamless sleep disturbed by my mother’s shriek in the morning.
I sat up in my bed rubbing the sleep out of my eyes. I had no idea what had just happened. I yawned and stretched my arms in the air when I heard her scream. She was threatening someone. Telling them to leave her alone. I knew something was wrong and as fast as I could I put on my slippers and reached for my pink gown to cover myself but it wasn’t hanging on the end of the bed. Instead I found it near the window. I grabbed it not thinking of why it was there.
I was still putting my left arm through the gown when I reached Momma in the lounge. She hadn’t noticed I had entered the room yet. The gown was on when I finally spoke to her. I could tell she was crying the way she stood by the large window near the front door staring out. It made me sad to see her like this.
“What’s wrong, Momma? Why are you crying? What happened?” I started asking not giving her a chance to answer any of them. She was surprised to see me behind her. She used the tissue in her hand to try hide her tears, but it was futile. It was clear she was crying.
“Don’t you worry about me,” she managed to say, weakly smiling as she knelt down to my level. I could tell she was hiding something and it bothered me. It was not the first time an adult had something on their mind and thought it was too much for a child to handle.
“I heard you shouting at someone. Who were you shouting at?” I asked not satisfied with her attempt to reassure me. I was curious, but some part of me was also afraid. The dream I had the previous night was starting to resurface. The rain materialised in front of me as I closed my eyes. The broken glass shimmered a beautiful reflection of the rain as it lay on the floor.
The tears rain down her face as the rain did in the dream. She shook her head. “No one, my sweet child. Why don’t you have a look in the cupboard for clothes to wear today and I will start running you a nice bath with bubbles,” she said softly through her tears. She tried to smile but it was a failure as her hurt was too great to effectively seem happy.
“Is it Daddy?” I asked as tactful as a young child can be. Of course most of us understand that this was not tactful, but it’s what I said as much as I wish I hadn’t. I realised my mistake instantly. She burst into tears. Her strength had failed her because of that question.
“I am sorry, Momma,” I apologised sincerely. I reached forward to hug her so that she knew that I loved her. I wanted to ease the pain. She was going through too much at the same time. As I reached forward she pushed me away. That was the first time we hurt each other and I am sad to say it was not the last time. I thought she was hurting too much and hadn’t realised what she had done so I tried to hug her again.
This time she pushed me so hard that I fell to the floor. At that point she got up and disappeared into her. I heard the latch close to sound that the door was locked. I was too confused to get and chase her. My mother had never hurt me and, though I was very close to my father, she loved me so much. My mother and I had a good relationship until that point.
I just sat there in my pyjamas staring at the doorway of the passage that lead to the master bedroom for a long time. It was a case of the blind leading the blind. I wanted support because of the uncertainty I was faced with and she wanted someone to tell her it was okay. The problem was that she only had a young daughter whom she is supposed to protect from such things and her guilt in not being able to do so pushes me away. Since I was too young I did not have the social skills to deal with this situation either.
Eventually I realised that I needed to use the toilet. I tried to stand up. It was uncomfortable at first because I had been sitting on the floor for so long, but I managed to stand still for a few seconds without too much difficulty. I made my way to the toilet. I had to walk past the master bedroom door to get to the bathroom. I put my ear against the door to hear as I was curious to know what was happening behind the door. I waited to hear something and that’s when I figured that she must have cried herself to sleep.
My body did an involuntary shiver at the thought of sleep. It reminded me of the dream. The rain, the glass, the carpet getting soaked, the scene from that window looking downward all came to mind. This was not as vivid as it was when I was talking to my mother, but there was something lingering about that dream that stayed with me as I stepped away from the door.
I looked down and realised I had wet myself and that I too was crying. I wiped the tears away best as I could and started taking off my wet pyjamas while I walked toward the bathroom. I looked behind me as I walked away from the master bedroom door. Nothing.
Throwing my wet pyjamas in the dirty wash meant that I would need clean clothes. Without thinking I walked naked to my bedroom to find clean clothes to wear. The first thing that appeared to me was my sunflower dress that my father got me a few months ago. He always looked so happy when I wore the dress. He said that it made my eyes light up like the sun in the sky. I always used to laugh at him when he would say silly things like that.
I sat on my bed thinking about putting the dress on. Memories were going through my mind making me feel both sad and happy. The dress did look pretty and it was a pull over dress. It would be easy to put on without my mother’s help. The thought of wearing it and not knowing what had happened to him made me feel uneasy. Slowly I put it over my head still deciding. When my head popped through the top, I shook my head and took it off again.
As I brought it back over my head to take it off I felt a slight breeze on the back of my neck. That feeling when someone breathes on the back of your neck. I turned sharply to see if my mother came out her room to see, but was sadly disappointed to see nothing. I shrugged and lay the dress on the bed and turned to my cupboard to see what else was available for me to wear.
A short red dress that Momma got me last week was hanging there. I hadn’t worn it yet. It was a simple dress with a collar and a few buttons down the front near the top. I smiled to myself thinking that it would be easier to wear this dress than the sunflower dress. I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable wearing this dress. So I pulled the bottom part of the dress over my head and started buttoning up the buttons.
I walked to the other side of the room where there was a large full length mirror for me to admire myself. I was aware that this dress did look a little more formal than the sunflower dress, but the fact that I had no good memories in this dress made me feel better. In fact I had no memories in this dress. While standing in front of the mirror I did a little swirl. The skirt flared out a little. It didn’t show off much, especially since the skirt reached my knees when I was absolutely still. The dress was pretty though.
Feeling clean and refreshed in new clothes, I realised that with all the drama happening this morning that I had not eaten anything yet. As I looked down at my stomach, it responded with a growl. My hunger had almost been forgotten. The first thing any child my age would do if they were hungry is to ask their parents for food. So, with food now on my mind, I went to the master bedroom door to ask. It was still quiet, but I knocked on the door anyway. No response. My stomach growled again.
I looked down expecting to see my stomach moving as it growled, but saw nothing. At that point I knew that my mother would not be able to help me and it would be up to me to quiet the beast in my stomach. Walking away from the door, my feet guided me to the kitchen. I stopped at the fridge wishing that a delicious chocolate pudding would be waiting for me inside it. There was a great fear that I would find nothing really worthy of eating such as a whole lot of sauces.
Closing my eyes, I reached forward for the large handle of the fridge door to open it. I opened my eyes to first be disappointed and then I noticed it on the far right near the top. I went on my tippy toes to reach the bottom of the bowl. I could not see what was inside that bowl because it was a large silver bowl. That bowl caught my eye because life taught me that my parents only store nice things or left overs in that bowl. This was exciting to me because it meant that I could eat. My stomach was even aware of the expectation and anticipation. I just barely touched the bottom of the bowel with the tips of my fingers. Using the spaces between the grate of the shelf, I managed to inch the bowl toward me. I did it a few more times until eventually the bowel fell to the floor with a crash.