The day her mum brought her from the hospital my mum became so harsh, filled with pain and sorrow. Her forehead was always wrinkled like she had aged to death. I could smell anger and distress in her voice and actions. She was like a charged ion. I tried as much to avoid eavesdropping on her conversations with dad but I couldn’t help it; their room was next to mine. So I heard every bit of the discussion that they had, especially this one, which I don’t forget till now that I am thirty one.
“Martha, but you have a son!” my dad beamed
“-whom I adopted ” she calmly answered like she had the whole time in the world. But I sensed the pain in that voice, I felt it through the walls like I was being electrified.
” Honey, Dylan is a good boy, we are so lucky to have him, adopted or not he is our son! Trust me if we had not adopted him we would be more miserable, let’s just understand that we can not have our own biological child”.
“Baxter, it’s not my fault that I can’t give birth and it’s not my problem that that so called neighbour has a second child now! ” I heard her shout on top of her voice as she banged the door behind her and the rest of her voice faded in the corridors.
That’s how I knew I was adopted. But it didn’t bother me. Being the only child in the house gave me hope that somehow they will learn to accept and love me despite the DNA difference. And they did.
The glowing beauty that lay inside her as I watched her grow was extraordinary. But that’s what I could see in her, not what her mum saw in her. Her mum saw a fat little kid that would not be able to run if war was coming, a plump child that would have trouble bringing a husband home. Did that really matter? That she was fat?. Women are the most complicated creatures. My mum is barren, she adopted me but she tries to love me like her own. Clare’s mum has kids but she does not love them just because of the accidental differences on their bodies. Probably because she has never felt the pain of barrenness like Mother.
So when Clare turned twelve, her mum couldn’t stand seeing her little girl look sixteen, so she sent her to her uncle’s place.
I got sad, I could barely eat. I had grown so fond of her. We played FIFA together, I protected her from all the bullying kids in school. And when her mum was beating her for no reason, I could call my step mum to help me go rescue her. Us being neighbours did me more good than it did my mum.
Sadly, the only time I saw her again after the return from her uncle’s place was yesterday. She had slimmed up to the bone! The Clare that I saw yesterday is not the Clare I had watched grow up.
She looked so pale and dry; her eyes were somewhat gorged like they would carry a reasonable amount of water. I looked at her with surprise and shame and hate for myself. If I was there wherever she went she wouldn’t have become that slim, I would have protected her with all my life, my abilities and my disabilities.
I went closer to embrace her. It felt like I was embracing a dry leaf. So
lifeless. I looked into her eyes and I saw a tear drop. Perhaps she missed me, perhaps she was answering all the questions that were in my mind.
She squeezed my hand and I felt like am being pierced by thorns. She smiled, I smiled back, fake.
” Dylan, it’s a long story”
“That’s why there is a thing called short stories” I told her. So curious and anxious to hear it all. At least, now that I know there is a story to tell.
She looked at me in a blink and then dropped her face. Then she narrated the whole story. She told me of how she was being over worked by her aunt while her cousins played around. She told me how she walked to school while her cousins were driven to school. And then, she told me how her uncle ripped her of her dignity on a Sunday morning when everybody had gone to church except the uncle who pretended to be sick and herself who was sent to do the cleaning and lunch preparing so the church goers find something to eat when they return.
She told me how the uncle had taken hold of her as she was cleaning the kitchen. Pushed her on the floor, tore her dress off, opened her legs widely and let himself in before she could even know it. She told me how she tried to beat him off but I imagined how weak a fifteen year old girl could be to a charged forty year old man.
She told me how she had told her aunt about it and her aunt did nothing but repeat her husband’s sin on her. And when she called her mother, her mother had told her “Your uncle Timothy and your aunt Doreen are too religious to do that, just live on”.
She told me how she tried to commit suicide several times but she kept surviving, that was after they diagnosed her with a deadly disease, HIV and AIDS.
She told me how she had tried escaping but the moment she lacked shelter or food she could go back only to receive a severe beating.
“Clare, so how did you make it here?” I finally asked. I knew she was old enough to finally make a decision of coming home but I was not just sure if her mother had let her.
“I slept with my uncle’s driver, as a payment for him to drive me here, and before I reach home, I wanted to see you first, I don’t know what will come of me when I face my mother,” She told me, with assurance.
And she was right. Because now as I am looking at her corpse for the last time, I remember the fate she had suggested for herself yesterday when I last saw her breathing. She said she didn’t know what would come of her when she faced her mother. Now death has come of her. Her mother just beat her to death.
I feel my mum’s hand on my shoulder as my heart is breaking into tiny tiny pieces. She is dragging me off the coffin so others can get their chance of saying goodbye to Clare. I hesitantly follow Mum’s lead. I want to be with Clare, I had waited for so long to be with her and now that I have her right in front of me; mother earth is promising to take her away from me forever. I cry as I feel my heart bleed.
My mother doesn’t take me where the rest of the mourners are, but she is taking me to her car and now she is driving me home. I can’t stop my tears as they flow like rain. I look outside the window trying to be distracted but it’s not helping. My mother is offering me a tissue to wipe my tears. I receive it. She stops the car at the side of the road, turns to me and asks “Dylan son, why are you crying so bad for someone as wrecked as Clare?”
“Mother, there is beauty in scars”.