Joined: 10 October 2011
Written for Writing Contest
I stand under the cool shadow of the mango tree, a half-eaten mango clasped firmly in my little palm. Ignoring that little thing mother calls "propriety", I lick as much of the sticky juice off my arm as I can. My tongue flickers away, the flavours of sweet mango nectar and salty sweat filling my mouth. Flies buzz incessantly, aiming for the sticky patches of skin. In the humid air, their little legs stick to me, and their wings whip tiny cyclones of cool breeze. I shake my head, trying to chase their icky presence away. With my free hand, I wipe the beads of perspiration from my face. An annoying itch has developed at the centre of my back, beyond my reach. To make matters worse, my clothing is attached to my skin, trapped there by the rivulets of perspiration. The heat stifles me, even under the cover of the giant mango tree. I stamp my feet in frustration. Irritated, I flee from the shelter of the sprawling tree, jumping over its upraised roots.
Bare feet traipse carelessly, rasping over the wilting grass. Heat burns my soles when my feet touch the exposed sections of dirt. The dark brown water of the creek beckons to my parched feet, and tempts my sweaty body. Heeding its call, I move farther away from the tree and closer to its liquid arms. I can see the light, cream coloured sand showing beneath the barely moving water. Taking a quick slurp of my mango, I throw it away. I pull my dress over my head, and wade into the water, dressed in my panties only. Mother would have a fit, but the water is so nice. I am not supposed to swim alone, but I don't have any friends to swim with, and she is too busy to follow me today. I splash the last of my doubts away, floating on my stomach lucidly.
Under the water is so refreshing. The heat has not spoiled it at all. My ears are completely covered by the water, and it is so quiet under here. I can feel the pressure of the water against my eardrums. It makes me smile happily. Tired of being still, I swim. My arms slice easily through the water, my feet paddling with experience. Decaying leaves float by beneath me, swirled up by my exuberant strokes. Back and forth. Around and under. I push myself until I am touching the bottom. A fist full of sand for my efforts, and I am back to the surface before I can run out of air. Lying on my back, I let the sand drift away, happy to no longer be covered in flies or mango juice.
Choking on water, I flip over. There's a man sitting in shorts a few feet away from me. He steps into the creek and wades over to where I am. Adults do not usually swim in this creek. It must be really hot today for everyone.
"Are you alright? Hope I didn't scare you."
Smiling shyly, I shake my head and am abruptly interrupted by another coughing spree. Stupid man. He made me choke on the water. Pulling me close, he pats my back until the cough is over. Tears stream down my face, mingling with the droplets of water.
"Hon, don't ever swim on your back without someone around. You hear me?"
I nod, too confused by how close we are. Only mother and daddy are supposed to be this near to me.
Breathing normally again, I push against him gently. He only holds me tighter. I look up at him, afraid I'll be in trouble if my mother sees me like this. A reassuring smile spreads across his lips, but it does little to ease my fear. His cold fingers rise to my face, caressing it gently from cheek to shoulder. It tickles my neck. Alarm bells ring in my head, and now I'm worried for a new reason.
I struggle to push him away. Scream, my brain shouts. As if he can read my mind, his mouth drops to my lips, effectively sealing them. I gag as I feel his hot, slimy mouth against mine. All my thoughts are centred on not opening my mouth as his wormy tongue slithers against my lips. Panic fills my chest as I realise I cannot get away from him. Tears are falling again, this time from my fear. "Let me go!", I want to shout, but how can I open my mouth? He pulls me up against him, the wiry hairs on his belly rubbing against my flat chest. Shuddering, I throw up. Vomit flows into his mouth, and he jerks away from me. He spits, anger colouring his eyes.
Realising I'm free, I attempt to run.
Moving through water when you're not swimming is so hard.
His arms are around me before I can make it out of the creek.
I scream. And scream.
I stop mid-scream, understanding I'm too far from the house. Sobs shake my body. He turns me around to face him, and the rage in his eyes is even greater than before. I kick at him, my legs fluttering like useless leaves. I'm so scared. I know he wants to hurt me. He grips my hands in one of his own. It hurts as he yanks them up above my head. They feel so brittle, but I can't pull them loose.
I'm dragged to the shore. Grains of sand bruise my back. I can feel them rubbing the skin of my body raw. I close my eyes, willing him away. His fingers clasp around my neck, and he leans down to whisper in my ears. I bite my tongue as an unknown agony rips my belly.
It's dark and cold in here, wet actually. I roll, and pain sears through my body. My eyes flutter open. I'm at the creek. Terror grips me. I struggle to my feet. Cramps move through my limbs, but I can't stay here. He might come back. I want to run, but I can't. So I trudge toward the house. I black out every now and then; losing track of how long I've been walking. When I stumble over the roots of the mango tree, I know I'm close to home.
When I finally see the lights, new bruises have developed along the length of my frame. My palms are burning and they itch from the scrapes decorating them. My knees are caked in dirt and blood. As I finally wobble up the stairs, and open the door, my legs give out from under me.
"It's her fault! She shouldn't have been out there!"
I come to with the sound of my mother's terse words filling the kitchen. I am curled up into a ball in the middle of the floor. It makes me wonder how long they've been arguing over me. My father is sitting with clenched fists; he glances at me, and notices I'm awake. With a warning glare at my mother, he flees from the room, slamming the door. My mother falls into the chair, slumped wearily. I can see her body shaking, or maybe that's just me shivering, making her look so blurry. As our eyes find each other, I can see conflicting emotions shimmer in hers. Her lip trembles, mouth stretched in a thin line. She half rises, and falls back into the chair again.
My aunt rushes in, and I can see fury on her face. For a moment I think she's mad at me too, like mother. Instead, she picks me up gently, wincing as I let out a low moan. Warmth from her soft skin leeches into my filthy skin. I clutch at her, burying my face in her bosom.
"How can you? How could you both leave the girl on the floor!?"
Her words rumble in my ear, and I snuggle closer.
"It's her fau--"
The sound of a slap rings out in the room. I turn my head, shocked to see my mother clutching her cheek. I hadn't even felt my aunt move. Tears spring to my mother's eyes, and a softness I've never seen before loosens up her entire body. She runs away from us. My aunt hugs me closer, whispering things I cannot understand. Finally one sentence penetrates the hazy fog, "Correction, little one. It's not your fault."
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