This story is by Icza Avila and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
He was a slender kid; too rich and white for the town he was born in. The day of his birth his house was getting robbed. It was around 2am and his very pregnant mother, Estella, was sound asleep. They shared a modest home with his older half-sister, Sara, a skinny six-year-old with a peasant face. Sara had been raised rogue with an endless stream of imagination and freedom in a trifling dusty town where kids could still be kids. For a toddler, she was very aware of the economic crisis her family faced; learning too soon that a piece of bread was not enough to feed her grandparents and a handful of aunts, uncles, and cousins; yet she lived unfazed by the idea that her half-brother was born to a rich father, while Sara would always be that bastard child and constant reminder of her mother’s failed attempts at a better life.
Sara, a devourer of late night folklore stories, was not asleep that night she heard rattling sounds coming from the far end of the house. She slowly crept towards the noise. As she got closer to the end of the hallway that leads to the kitchen, she saw by the dim light of the night, two fingers squirming through a cranny and swiveling to unlock the door.
Alluding to internationalism in a drug-ridden country was like flashing a fried chicken leg in a room full of hungry people. You were forewarned against looking rich, but in a society where it’s a trophy to compare who you’ve married, it was impossible to miss the parade, and a cardinal sin that Estella had made. She struggled to control her need for outside gratification.
Sara couldn’t understand why they would want to rob them since the house was nearly empty. There were never any plans to furnish it. There was nothing of value, except for the people inside, and that’s when she realized they were there for them.
Sara didn’t know what to do. Her eight-month pregnant mother, in times of adversity, had proven to be useless. Sara grabbed an iron skillet and slammed it against the hands of the robber while screaming at the top of her lungs “Kidnappers! Robbers!” attempting to make a ruckus worthy of waking up the entire neighborhood.
Estella woke up in a daze and ran aimlessly trying to turn on the lights but the robbers had severed the electricity to the house. In a chaotic rumbling of words, Estella grabbed Sara and both scurried to the front of the house, and as they got to the front door they noticed there was a second robber trying to kick it open. They screamed as loud as they could, clanking the iron skillet against the walls hoping someone, anyone would hear them. The kidnappers became frantic and then a gunshot was heard. Everything fell silent.
Cesar, the next-door neighbor, had fired his rifle towards the sky.
“Estella?” he called out hoping for a reply.
“Estella, it’s Cesar. Are you guys ok?” he paused, “Everyone is awake outside of your house with flashlights. The police are coming. Say something . . .”
Estella was in shock, and then a loud thud jolted both Sara and Estella back into reality.
“Estella! It’s us, open up! Open the door!” Her brother paused waiting for a response but instead Sara screamed, “She’s bleeding! Something is wet! I can’t see!!”
The front door was proving impossible to kick down. The key to unlock it from the inside had gotten lost in the chaos. Everyone grew desperate, and then a loud bang was heard followed by Estella’s scream in horror as she saw a man running towards her with a machete, but it was only Cesar.
The military police searched the neighborhood looking for clues and ruled it a guerilla related instance since the town was known for kidnappings. Half the town knew Estella had married a man of means.
A healthy baby was born that morning and they named him Steven. Everyone gushed about the extraordinary story. Days passed and the robbery became an isolated event. It soon was a thing of the past.
One night Sara was playing on the street in front of her house. Estella was just a few doors down visiting a friend. Sara noticed the TV blaring, and decided to go turn it off. As she entered the house, someone threw a lit match at her saying, “don’t!” but Sara ignored the warning. Another lit match was thrown at her and it hit her cheek. She found no possible explanation to this, and then suddenly the TV was turned off. She realized she was not alone. The police were called but again no clue was found. Nothing was stolen, not even the gold diamond engagement ring that Estella had left atop the TV set. Soon enough everyone began to think Sara was making up these stories.
Steven’s father flew into town to help Estella finish packing. They were finally moving abroad. Sara was left behind.
Sara always knew she didn’t belong in that new family. She was the memory of something sour, a tale of all too real folklore, but at the pressure of Sara’s grandparents, and moral guilt, Estella called for Sara to go live with them months later.
In their new home, Steven and Sara grew up in morbid comfort on their way to becoming typical Disney kids brainwashed into objectification; but underneath the satin blanket were rough spikes. Steven’s father — Sara’s stepfather — was a manic pedophiliac who managed to hide behind Ray Bans and a perfect smile. He was the regular customer, suave and direct as he walked, a great pretender among intellectuals.
He would taunt Sara for having been raised in small town, calling her fat, illiterate, and unworthy. Chastising her for being poor, flaunting his diplomatic passport, at times rubbing the pages on her face. During this manic episode, of which were many, he blurted how she should have been gone. The comment didn’t seem like anything but mere mortification, your typical rich vs. poor. It took her a few years to piece it all together, but one day she just knew it had always been him; the truth in a myth.
Her stepfather was mentally perturbed who sexually abused both Steven and Sara. He was a xenophobe, racist, and pedophile from a wealthy family. He grew up with opportunities, including getting the help everyone would later come to attest ‘someone’ should have helped him get. His family, apathetic and amoral, was always ready to hide his mistakes in an attempt to prevent public shame. To Sara, the undisputed equation that her life was not of significant worth to undergo the social hassle of seeking moral justice was the axiom she was not willing to accept.
The feeling of helplessness jailed Sara, who had to pretend like life was perfect, yet unable to trust adults because everyone always took her stories as folk imagination. Her mother, Estella, was too afraid to confront the reality unfolding in her perfectly constructed world; a devout catholic with the perfect family couldn’t be tainted with the sins of her husband. Anger eventually engulfed Sara. She lived unbeknownst where life would take her, and not knowing how, she began to prepare for the day she would have her moment of poetic justice, unaware, that Steven was also being abused.
Sara struggled into adulthood, but one day a friend of hers asked about her life. No one had ever care. She began to narrate it not realizing that in the moments of simple sips of water, the refreshing cold trickling down her esophagus would be a symbolic act of cleansing her voice, and the catalyst that knocked the pillars of everyone’s pristine social format, cracking and crumbling their lies on their heads. She had reached the decision that she would not contribute to the silence.
Steven grew up thinking the world was perfect with no real danger sheltered in a frosty bubble, which Sara popped the day she prosecuted her stepfather for his crimes. No one saw it coming. She showed up with the proof in a bag of home movies, and a recording she made the day she confronted her stepfather. Sara had stuffed the pocket recorder in her panties in an attempt to dissimulate the bulge, and his voice couldn’t have been recorded more clearly.
Her stepfather aged in a cell crippled by the weight of his unhinged complexities on his shoulders. Both Steven and Sara, reluctant to be victims, decided to seek expressive inspiration in the duality of their upbringing, and by juxtaposing their struggles they both began their healing. Through educating themselves, and exposing the angles of their multi layered experiences, they began to teach others about a subject that makes the world so uncomfortable because everyone knows it happens too often, yet too commonly gets regarded as far away folklore.