It was the glass vase. I was trembling. I’m too small. It would be dangerous. It was going to fall and there was nothing I could do. It rocked back then forth. Back then forth. It always housed a single, fake, rose, and she kept it on that lone shelf in the hallway, too high for us to reach. I felt disappointed. I had swung my schoolbag carelessly- wildly around my shoulder, so, it hit the shelf. Stupid. This morning, my only chores were to make breakfast, and get my little brother and me ready for school. Those were simple, routine things. Where do you make room for a mistake?
My mother was a single mother. She’d raised all three of us on her own. I was the only girl, the middle child, and she relied on me a lot. See, sometimes, she gets so sad, or angry- a lot of things happened to her when she was younger, she says, so she needed me. I just have to take care of my little brother, and let her rest. The drinking just makes her feel better, she says.
I glanced towards the couch. Her head still lay there, but I knew the minute that vase fell, Jay would not contain his scream. He stood at the end of the hallway, watching. I shut my eyes and braced myself then there was a noise. Maybe she was already getting up. Don’t cry. First, she’d give one thump. That would send me to the floor. Then she’d grab my hair. The expletives were in my ears already. She’d grab my arm maybe, and force me to stand. Maybe, she’d shake me against the wall again, or slap me a few times. Then, she was going to come close and stare into my face and call me a wretch but if I stay quiet, maybe she won’t have to beat me with the belt buckle again. Last week, she bruised my arm. The scar on my back still hadn’t healed.
That was only when she was angry. ‘Outside people wouldn’t understand’, she said, ‘so don’t talk about it with anybody.’ When she’s ok, she always apologizes, because she loves us, and she tells us so. Ricardo never had anything to say, he was always in his room. We only saw him the times he felt to come out and defend us. She used to beat him too but he was too strong now, and even when she wasn’t upset, he never wanted to be around. Sometimes, he never even came home. We never spoke either. It was as if it was just me and Jay. We didn’t need him. ‘Ricardo just think he’s a big man!’ she says. ‘He think he so smart.’ ‘He think he can do better.’ She was hurt. Why can’t he just understand that bad things happened to mommy? Drinking just made her feel better.
The tears already swelled up behind my eye lids. I was sure I heard a sound closer to me. This must be it. I thought. You wild and careless! My mind yelled. Wretch! Just to leave her to sleep you can’t do! You schupid? You schupid?!!!
‘Yowwwww!’ – a loud whisper. Ricardo, out of nowhere, was somehow in time to catch the vase. ‘Be careful!’ He scolded.
She sleeping still? She was. You old drunk! I hate you! I heard myself think. No! That’s only when she’s angry, it’s only when she’s angry. Jay was sobbing softly.
AUTHOR BIO: Tiffany Smith is 19 years old; she is a graduate of both the Antigua Girls High School and the Antigua State College. Her story The Colour Red was one of two Honourable Mentions in the 18 to 35 age category of the Wadadli Pen Challenge 2012. It is a story in which a question about the favourite colour sends the main character back to the past and actually helps her make peace with it. She tied for First Place in the same category with her other entry, The Untitled, in which the character finds herself in a mental tug of war about her family situation. Smith told us “I’ve always enjoyed writing and I’m very appreciative of the persons who have encouraged me in this art form. I hope that over the years I will have the patience to stick with it and continue to learn from it.”
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