No one was going to come to get me. I knew that.
Mother would be upstairs kneeling beside her bed, fingers fumbling through the nodes of her rosary beads, head bowed in prayer. That’s what she always did at times like this. None of my sisters would dare try to save me. To do so would be to risk their own safety.
So I stopped shouting. I allowed myself slide down the wall and sat hunched with my head huddled between my knees, condemned.
My father would do anything other than love us. We were all girls you see. All he ever did was preen and pet those racing pigeons of his. He showed them more affection than he ever did us. If he lost a competition he’d come home and beat us for any reason he could find. After we were gone to bed battered and bruised, it was Mother’s turn.
I hated those pigeons. They were nothing but a bunch of cooing vermin, riddled with diseases and always shitting everywhere. That’s why I let the cat into the cage. My father’s favourite was one of the first to be eaten. The cat had killed three when a guilty feeling overwhelmed any joy I felt about my vengeance. I managed to get her out but it was a struggle. She scratched my arms and hissed viciously.
If he’d known it was me who let the cat in, when he’d discovered the damage first, he would have killed me on the spot. He had some time to come to terms with his grief before he saw the scratches on my arms and understood exactly what I did. He locked me in the shed at the bottom of the garden, the one that’s infested with rats.
The world resolves itself in shadows as the sun withdraws its light. Everybody is quiet. I nestle into my absolute solitude. I can hear scratching as the darkness around me deepens. Searching for something to defend myself with, I tentatively feel around the ground. My heart is beating frantically. I find a stone and quickly clutch it to my chest. There is something about the smoothness of this stone that makes it feel exotic and enchanted, like it’s not rough enough to belong in my world.
Lights of neighbouring houses are extinguished as the rest of the world falls into the numbness of slumber. My darkness is invaded by menacing scuttling and faint squealing. When I feel something brush off my leg I know it’s time retreat into the corners of my mind.
I rub the stone with my thumb. It calms me. I close my eyes and allow myself to be somewhere else. Somewhere where there’s no shed and no walls and no doors and no lock. Only brightness and open spaces for me to run and race and sprint and my legs are powerful and strong enough to carry me far far away.