This story is by Angely N. Florez and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Your father reads the newspaper as you move the food around your plate.
“No survivors,” he says, breaking the silence.
Your mother turns her face to look at him but doesn’t say anything. You move your gaze from the mashed up food to the picture of the victims. They are so different from your family. The mom has her arms wrapped around the small child. He is smiling from ear to ear, showing all of his teeth, clearly enjoying his mother’s embrace. Your father throws the newspaper on the floor after he sees you looking at the picture. He thinks you are trying to read the article. He doesn’t want those disgusting words corrupting your innocence. To him, you don’t need to burden yourself with such a horrible story.
“What do you want for your birthday?” your father tries to get your attention.
Expectantly, this makes your mother gain interest in the conversation, “I don’t see why you want to celebrate that dreadful day. I almost died! I hope you are not happy about almost losing me? I think I was dead for about a minute. I remember seeing a woman urging me to stay away from the light.”
She tries to wipe away invisible tears and covers her face with her hands, “It was one of the worst days of my life.”
You don’t respond. Your father sighs as he stands up to comfort her. He places a kiss on top of her head.
“We will discuss this later,” he tells you before departing.
You sit there staring at the mother’s smiling face in the picture. You can’t look at your own mother. You know for a fact that she is wearing her usual grin. The smirk she wears when she recites her favorite phrase: he loves me more than he loves you.
A sudden movement in front of you changes your focus, “You didn’t eat anything. Are you feeling sick? ” The housekeeper reaches to touch your forehead, but you move away from her. Still, her concern makes you smile a bit.
“I feel a little sick,” your mother quickly adds. “I think I ate too much. I feel like I’m about to throw up.”
The housekeeper rushes to her. Your smile fades.
While the housekeeper tends to your mother, you disappear into your room. In there, you rush into the corner inside your closet, behind the colorful dresses you never wear. There you painfully dig your nails across your arm, trading one pain for another. You hide the self-inflicted wounds with a long sleeve and get out of your hiding space. That’s the only space that belongs to you. The rest is all hers. Even after decades of living there, not even your room is yours.
You find your mother sitting in your bed, “I got you new clothes.”
She drops the dresses on the bed before you even reach for them. She leaves the room with a grin on her face. You don’t want to question the nice gesture, but you still inspect the dresses. They are two sizes too small. You hear her chuckle from outside the door.
There’s a new determination in you. You sit at the desk and begin to write.
It is nearly midnight when a strange man drags you from your room to the living room. He throws you into the pile of trembling people in the corner of the room. There is an odd iron smell in the air. The room usually smells like your mother’s perfume-a sweet, yet terrifying scent. The incessant whimpers from the staff immediately make you realize that a tragedy has already occurred, however, you don’t check who or how many are already dead. Your housekeeper tries to put her arms around you, but you don’t let her. You try to keep your eyes on the ground, then again, hearing your mother’s pleas make you look up. The men pull your mother away from the small group. Their screams almost didn’t let you hear the man demanding the combination to the safe box. Your mother cries as one of the men try to shake the answer out your mother.
The leader of the intruders slaps her to the ground. Your mother continues to whimper; this makes the man clenched his fists and yells the same question.
You sit up at the same moment as some remaining members of the staff start to rock back and forth; one or two are wrapping their arms around them. Nevertheless, the commotion behind you doesn’t interrupt your focus at all.
The distant sound of your housekeeper’s voice begs you to avert your eyes. You shake your head. NO. Not looking is their thing. What they always do. They walk past the beating and look away. You are going to watch.
With eyes fixed on the scene, you savor each hit. If they continue with the treatment, soon her body will match yours; then, she won’t be able to correct people when they disgustingly comment how you two are practically twins.
Your dead father was wrong. These men aren’t brutes; instead, they are avenging angels. You move closer to his body, wanting to shake him to wake up. He needs to open his eyes and witness how that woman truly deserves to be treated. You give up in order to start counting each bruise. You want to make sure each of her matches one of yours.
The first avenging bruise forms at her neck. The man yanks your necklace off with the same force she took it from your own neck.
Licking your lips, you watch as her tears fall on the marble floor; the same floor that tasted your bitter tears when she gave away your puppy.
The first kick intends to avenge the time she hit you while calling you useless.
The second kick intends to avenge the numerous times she cruelly shouted that you were a demon sent to ruin her life.
The third kick intends to avenge all the times she manipulated you into believing that you weren’t worthy of being loved; how easily she convinced you that it was your own fault for being unlovable.
You gasped at the same time as she did. The man is now wrapping his hands around her throat. This one clearly is a punishment for the time you wrapped a pillow around your head in an attempt to suffocate yourself, trying desperately to drown her vile words.
Your mother stops digging her nails into the guy’s arms. She manages to grab the man’s pistol and without thinking, she throws the weapon into your direction. He was the only one armed because all of them run to grab the gun, but you beat them to it.
You pulled the trigger in the same rapid succession you clicked the pen you used to write your suicide letter-the letter you left unfinished because the man dragged you away from your desk.
The police arrive a few minutes after the neighbors make the call.
The intruders have left empty-handed.