i was unlucky, once
I was unlucky, once. Maybe I still will be, but today, I’m safe. My mummy, she has brought me here, because she loves me. It’s so sweet when she smiles at me. But I don’t feel much like playing. My legs are sore because we’ve walked a long way. Mummy’s looking for daddy. He was wearing a blue shirt when they came for him and pulled him into the truck. Mummy said daddy was going to be a soldier now. I hope he doesn’t need to hold a gun. Guns scare me.
Mummy just smiled again. Only half of her face can smile since someone made my mummy’s face look like paint dribbling. I don’t see the scars anymore. They are ugly and hide my mummy’s face, so I hate them. When I was smaller I couldn’t touch her. I thought she might melt more, and I didn’t want her face to change again. I wanted her to face to stop being different.
Mummy, wants to know why I’m not playing. I look at my feet and dance my legs together like they are riding a swing. I did that once. Just for a short time. I flew up and down, and it made my mummy and daddy and little brother giggle. My little brother’s giggle was sweet, too. I feel tired and lost and I wish I could play on the swing. I can’t tell Mummy why I’m not playing. I miss daddy, but I don’t want to walk anymore either. I want the other soldiers to bring him home, and I want to curl up with my mummy and her silky, green dress. Today, she looks the way I remember her. Sunny.
Mummy found a rock. It’s sharp and black with little cuts of grey through it. She crouches in the dirt and bricks, and her green stretches out like a blanket below her. There’s almost no noise now as I watch her scratching my name over the bricks. There’s always noise, but not now. Just mummy’s breath and her black rock drawing snakes she calls letters.
She’s trying to get me to sit beside her. She’s drawing swirls that zoom from her to me and touch the tips of my toes. She tickles my ankles and a small smile squeezes out and becomes a girlish titter. My body hardens. It doesn’t feel right to giggle with daddy and the baby gone.
Mummy’s eyes become huge and I am mesmerised by her sunniness. I don’t see her face scars anymore. I don’t notice her runny face skin and half-smile. Because I know my mummy is in there, and she’s just like she was before. But sometimes her whole face looks scarred. Not today, but usually. I know she wants daddy back and she’s still sad about the baby. But today she’s hiding it. She lifts me from under my arms and my legs swing out from under me, and suddenly I’m so high. It’s like being on the swing. I close my eyes and I feel the swoosh through my insides; a chill and heat at the same time. I squeal and let my babyish youth shoot out like silvery missile tails. But, instantly, mummy plants my feet. Her finger is across her lips.
“Baby girl,” she says. “We must play quietly, here.”
Her head tips to one side, and her eyes beam like two gigantic suns that overshadow her half-smile and her ugly runny skin.
Then there’s a noise. Loud grunting and mumbling. Like the men that dragged daddy into the truck. My mummy tucks my head down and capes me in her green. I don’t want to be still. I don’t want to hide. I don’t want to walk anymore. I want to play on the funny little characters. I want to run around and be loud. I want to swing into the sky and back down again. And I don’t want Mummy to be scared anymore. Does what I want even matter?
I remember that day, so clearly. I was so small, but so filled with grown up problems. I still miss my father and the baby. And as my mother sips her herbal tea through the left corner of her supple mouth, and as her blindness means her hand taps about for the plate of shortbread in front of her, I remember how unlucky I was, once. But not now. Today I’m safe. Today my mother’s sweet smile consumes her face, and small or grown, this is enough.
Humbly written by