“What she do you Robert? Was she disrespectful?” she said with her hands on her hips.
My uncle turned to her and said with that humble priest look he often got when he was appeasing the masses at church.
“She used a curse word in my presence so I had to discipline her. I hope you don’t mind me taking the matter into my own hands.” I couldn’t believe the blatant lie that slipped over his tongue so easily.
My mother looked at me with a look that shot daggers through my heart.
“Not at all Robert. I trust your judgement; if you see it fit to discipline her I give you permission.” She turned and began to walk out the room as if what he had just said was all that was going to be said about the situation.
I couldn’t believe my ears. I got up slowly and looked at them both; my uncle first and then I moved quickly and stood in front of my mother; blocking her exit. I looked her square in her eyes.
“You know what he was disciplining me for mother dearest?” I said with as much venom I could muster.
Before she could answer me I pulled up my shirt and revealed to her my bulging stomach that I had sought to hide for the past four months from her. I now showed her the product of my shame and the result of my innocence lost at the hands of a lecherous man I thought I could trust. A man too many people put their trust in as well. I wanted her to see the truth that was right in front of her face so she could no longer deny reality.
“This is what he hit me for! This is what he did –“
“—Oh meh God! I knew you would be the shame of me! I knew it! Oh God oye!” My mother yelled at me and collapsed on the bed, head in her hands.
“Why I had to be the one in this village boy? Why my only daughter have to be the wayward one?” She had to make it all about her, as usual.
My uncle bent in front of her and held her hands, “Rosie, you see what I have been trying to prevent this entire time? You see why I had to discipline her when she just showed me this, this atrocity? She has been sinning right under your house and I couldn’t prevent it.”
More lies, I couldn’t believe it. He was lying to her face because he thought I wouldn’t be brave enough to tell the truth – somewhere in the back of my mind I was in fact afraid. Telling her the truth meant shattering her entire world, her world that almost entirely centred on my uncle and the church. It would have been easy to pretend that this was the result of my indiscretion with some random man. That is what I should have told her
I made my way to my dresser, reached up to the top and pulled my duffle bag off and began to pack. I opened the dresser door, began grabbing clothes, and stuffing it in. I was leaving.
“Where you think you going little girl?” my mother said in a slightly threatening tone.
I turned and saw my uncle had now moved from his spot kneeling in front of her and was now sitting next to her on the bed with an arm around her shoulder.
“I’m leaving, that’s what I’m doing.” I turned back to my dresser and continued pulling clothes and stuffing them into the duffle. I suddenly felt an arm grab my shoulder and twist me around and I fell back partly into the depths of the dresser. My mother was staring down at me with such fire in her eyes; the only thought that went through my head was she is going to kill me for sure. This is it. She held me by my shoulder and shook me so hard I felt as if my eyes would fall out of my head.
“Who is the boy Danielle? Who is the boy you went with to make you this way? Eh? Tell me!”
I blinked and looked at my uncle; he still sat calmly on the bed watching the show. I didn’t take my eyes off of him.
“Don’t look at your uncle! He was trying to put you on the straight and narrow and you went and do nastiness with somebody boy chile. Tell me who the boy is!” She was breathing so hard her bosom rose and fell like the weight on a pressure cooker. She was spinning out of control.
“I feel is that Ramsingh boy from up the street you know, ah does see how he does be looking at you when I send you to the shop and when you outside hanging up clothes. I feel is he, I will deal with he little dry coolie ass—you will see!”
I glanced at her and quietly said, “It wasn’t the Ravi mammie, it was Uncle Robert.”
At the sound of his name, I saw a look pass across my mother’s face. It was a shadow of recognition, almost as if she believed me, and somehow she knew what I had been going through this entire time. Then, as fast as it came, it disappeared. The anger was back and she slapped me. The second slap within the space of a half hour, I was getting tired of this. The tears came quickly and silently and ran down my cheeks like rain.
“How dare you! How dare you tell lies on your uncle like that?” she said through her clenched teeth it seemed like it took a great effort for her to get the words out. As she leaned close to my face I could smell the menthol on her breath from the KC Dinner Mints she compulsively sucked and the memory of me buying them for her came to mind.
“He has been nothing but accommodating to you since you got here and now you want to go and dirty his good name. How dare you? He is a priest in the church!”
Through the tears and the pain, I summoned up the courage, grabbed her hands which were still holding me across my shoulders and removed them. I lifted myself up from out of the dresser and stared her straight in her eye. Through clenched teeth I said, “Ever since I came to this country he has been nothing but accommodating to himself and his sick sexual needs… yea, he has been nothing but accommodating.”
She stepped back from me in silence and quickly glimpsed at my uncle. He sat on my bed with a smirk on his face, silent. She quickly looked back at me and for the first time my mother looked like a little girl, caught with her hand in the cookie jar. It was so strange how her emotions seemed to wax and wane like that, but I was not about to give her the opportunity to influence me. It was time to tell the truth.
I stepped towards her and got as close to her face as she had just been in mine and I spoke.
“You know what he has been doing when he says he is teaching me the deeper meanings behind the Bible stories? When he says that he is praying with me and showing me how to get closer to God? Do you know what he has been doing? RAPING ME! TAKING ADVANTAGE OF ME EVERY CHANCE HE GETS! AND NOW THAT I’M PREGNANT HE CAN’T ESCAPE FROM THE TRUTH—HE CAN’T!” I screamed at her face, she looked as if she was going to cry for just a split second and then her stone expression was back.
I looked at my uncle smirking on my bed and he just shook his head, the look on his face was one of accomplishment.
“Rosie honey, do you even believe these lies? She is just trying to cover up what she has been doing with that neighbourhood boy and I am an easy target. As much as I don’t want to, I have to tell you that she is a little liar. Plain and simple.”
I looked at her face and I realised with a pain in my heart, and a sinking feeling in my stomach that she believed him; her face said it all. I turned and picked up my duffle from where it had fallen when she had grabbed me and pulled the last bit of clothes out of my dresser. Packing didn’t take too long; she never bought me much anyways and the clothes I had originally brought to this country from the US were either given away or could no longer fit me. The silence in the room was deafening, but I continued to pack—I wanted to get out of here as soon as possible.
My hand rested on something in the pile of clothes and I pulled it out; a large metal crucifix that my mother had bought for me that I thought I had lost. Its smooth blackness suddenly filled me with overwhelming warmth, which filled my chest and I pulled it close to my heart.
Suddenly, my uncle’s voice cut through the silence.
“Danielle, why don’t you just tell your mother the truth about the Ramsingh boy and end this charade?” His voice was filled with such feigned warmth that I got so angry that something inside of me snapped.
I turned towards him and with an animal-like roar I flew across the couple feet that separated us and jumped on him. Forgetting my growing belly, I pushed him backwards onto my bed and in a blind rage, I began hitting him across the face and slapping him in his neck. He held up his hands to fend off the blows but I got past them to his face and neck. I felt my mother hold me by my shoulders and try to pull me off of him, but the adrenaline rush made me strong; I shoved her off my back like if I was the Hulk. She fell to the floor with a thud, but at this moment, I could not be bothered. I hit him across the face again and realised that my hand came back wet; I stopped and looked down at it and realised I still clenched the crucifix in my fist, blood dripping from it, all over my hand. He had stopped fighting me a couple slaps ago and I had not realised. I felt cold.
The part of the crucifix that Jesus’ hands were nailed onto was over my knuckles and his legs nailed to the length of the cross, I held in my hand. For a second time the cross was an instrument of death, but this time it was me wielding the power.
I jumped off of him; his chest no longer rose and fell—he was no longer moving. I stepped back from him dropped the bloody crucifix and stood looking at his body in silence. My mother stood up next to me silent for a moment and then she began to cry. I grabbed my duffle from the floor, looked at her for a moment and realised that I no longer belonged here.
Something inside my told me to run, and run I did.