My Journey - Free Fiction
|Posted by Sammie on May 7, 2012 at 7:35 PM|
My mother was like a modernized version of Mary Poppins. I would rarely see her without her apron tied around her waist or a smile playing over her lips and if anyone could make chores seem like a trip to Disneyland, it was her. She was as close to perfect as a person could get and the love between her and my father was nothing short of embarrassing. They acted like hormonally driven teenagers, an amazing (and gross) thing to witness after 20 years of marriage.
That’s the kind of memories I want to keep. I don’t want anyone to forget the person she used to be. That before the mask of anger and resentment was an embodiment of love and sweetness even Mother Theresa would be impressed with. That before the stench of Bourbon and Scotch was the sultry scent of woody musk. To me, my mum was my beautiful blonde sidekick who always had my back. She treated me more like a sister then a mother and the bond we shared was unbreakable…Or so I thought.
Her change began after foreign military started bombing Australia’s major cities. It was subtle at first, hushed arguments with my father, and forced smiles. I figured it was over the state of the economy but later I found out it was because of the Takeover. After the soldiers descended in every town around the country, with their impeccable military uniforms and Ak-47s swung over their shoulders, the arguments about fighting back were louder. My dad wanted to join a group called the Resistance but my mother forbade it, saying it was too dangerous. When Dad was taken to a concentration camp in Brisbane along with other people in town, danger was no longer a concern for Mum and her change was complete.
Her faked reassurances to make me feel better no longer came. She didn’t smile, the light in her eyes was gone and I’d quickly become her mute, pain-in-the-ass daughter. After weeks of using our house as Resistance headquarters, stockpiling weapons and making me learn how to shoot and fight; I approached her and signed, what’s the point of breaking Dad out if one of us gets killed?
“He’ll be free, that’s all that matters,” was her detached response.
And if I die?
She picked up the map of the camp dad was in and sighed. “There are always casualties in war Amelia. Besides –“she glanced up from the paper “- You don’t have to fight if you don’t want to, your training can be used as offence or defense, the decision is yours.” Her apathy had cut my heart in half.
For the next four years I watched as the Resistance recruited thousands all over the country. The group was making a big name for themselves and now had control of some of the smaller towns across Australia. For Queensland, it was St George, Longreach and Bundaberg. In the first year, Mum had tried to break my dad out but the attempt was a huge failure that suffered many loses. Mum was smarter now. She knew every smaller town we took back brought us closer to the cities and surprisingly, people listened to her as if she was the voice of God himself. Strangers, who never knew the woman I mourned every night, saw the person she was now as a gift. They drew from her strength and bravery, making the mistake that she cared about them. The truth was, as soon as Mum found a way to get Dad back everyone that looked upon her for guidance would be in the same place I am now – lost and betrayed.
Not that I completely blame her for how she’s turned out. In a way, I understand how difficult it must’ve been for her when dad was taken. It’s as if half of her soul was ripped away and without it she became a shell of her former self, except instead of buckling under grief she hardened with authority and locked away her conscience. Maybe, it’s a defense mechanism to shield her from future pain. But then, she hardly twitched a few days ago when Roman, her right hand man, told her about Dad being moved to an unknown location right after the foreigners discovered her name in connection with the Resistance.
I, on the other hand, broke down in front of the entire room. God only knows what kind of torture he was being subjected to and all she could do was look at me in disappointment. A look that said, ‘how did I make such a weak daughter?’
I stopped trying to please her after that. I didn’t care if she knew I could dismantle and reassemble a handgun in seconds or that if a bullet was fired from my gun, it would hit its intended target every single time. I just didn’t care. In fact, I’d already decided on going to Mt. Isa with Jonah, where we would co-ordinate our own team, cross over into the Northern Territory and take back Darwin.
It was the day before my birthday when Mum found out my plans. Roman - the traitor - had told her. I was shaking with anger because he knew what it was like for me. He was one of the rare people still around who shares my memories of the woman my mother used to be and yet, he tattles on me like a five-year-old.
“You are seventeen and I will not allow you to trek around the country and die at the hands of our enemy,” she said.
You had no problem with me fighting when I was 13, I signed, my hands the only form of communication I had.
“That’s because I was there to protect you if I needed to.”
I rolled my eyes. Yes, because we all know how much you would’ve sacrificed if something had happened.
She ignored the sarcasm, “You aren’t going.”
You can’t stop me.
“Maybe not, but Roman will stop Jonah.”
A slither of nonchalance straightened my shoulders and in response I just shrugged.
“You cannot go alone Amelia,” she sounded surprised.
I can and I will.
“I will NOT lose another person in my life!” She turned and stalked off, her sudden outburst leaving my mouth hanging wide open, a fly trap just waiting to happen. It also left me slightly hopeful. Was the mum I missed so badly coming back?
Turns out she wasn’t.
She disappeared into a bottle of Scotch and didn’t crawl out until morning carrying with her a nasty hangover and a bad attitude.
I wasn’t about to stick around and become her verbal punching bag so I ended up finding Jonah and spending the day at the Botanical Gardens where we continued our discussion about Mt. Isa.
We sat on a plaid blanket across from the pond, ripping bread apart and throwing it to the ducks who were acting more like vultures. As afternoon descended, we watched as the sun dipped below the horizon. The sky was still a brilliant blue but that didn’t stop one or two stars from announcing themselves with a small sparkle. It was nice to just sit and be normal for a few hours.
“Do you really want to leave?” Jonah asked me. “I know it’s been hard because of your mum, but I really think she'd go crazy without you.”
I shook my head and pulled out the iPad. I was teaching Jonah sign language but he still had a lot to learn. I think she’ll be relieved, I wrote.
“She told my dad last night that she was afraid she’d pushed you away and now it was too late to make up for it.”
My eyebrows lifted. What did Roman say?
Jonah ran a hand through his brown surf-like hair. “He said she was right to be scared. He told her that while she wallowed in the grief of losing William, you were grieving them both.”
How did she take that?
A sad look reached the depths of his eyes. “She cried.”
Floored with shock, I sat there for about ten minutes before the first few tears escaped my ducts. It wasn’t sad tears, more like tears of joy. It’s been so long since Mum exhibited any emotion at all, I was beginning to wonder if she was even human anymore. To find out that her heart was starting to thaw was the best birthday present I’ve ever been given – it was the knowledge that slowly my mum, my real mum, was coming back to me.
Later that night, we all had a dinner in honour of me turning seventeen. Mum joined us and for my third shock of the day she was drinking water instead of her usual Scotch on the rocks. Despite the awkwardness, no one mentioned the foreigners, or the war. We ate a delicious Rosemary Lamb dish without any strategic planning or upsetting phone calls. It was just like the pond – normal.
After we cleared the table, Jonah, with a huge grin spread from one ear to the next, walked out with a birthday cake made of chocolate. ‘Happy Birthday, Amelia’ was written in pink cursive on the top surrounded by seventeen candles. I turned from him and when I looked into the blue eyes that mirrored my own, I saw pride and regret. It was then that I realized she’d made the cake and was trying to apologize. That instead of using her words she was using her actions, which was so like her. In response, I gave her a small smile and nodded – my way of saying I was going to try if she was. Turning back to Jonah, I sucked in a breath and blew out the flames, wishing as hard as I could for new beginnings.
I woke up at two o’clock in the morning, feeling as though something was wrong. I put on jeans and a shirt and just as I grabbed for the door handle, I heard voices. With my instincts screaming at me, I went back and lifted my mattress, feeling for the handgun I hid there. It was already loaded with a round in the chamber, all I had to do was release the safety and I was good to go. I crept back to the door and slowly opened it, stopping every time the hinges squeaked. As I moved toward the lounge room, I knew I was hearing my mum’s voice but I never heard the man’s before. It was a deep sound that rumbled from his chest with a hint of an accent lingering after every word.
“I’m not giving you any information so you might as well just kill me.” My mother’s brave words froze my feet to the carpet. I’d just made it to the entrance of the kitchen when fear solidified my limbs.
“Not even for the release of your husband?” The man asked.
After a few heartbeats Mum’s whisper reached my ears. “No.”
I knew then it was time to make myself move. My gut was telling me this guy wasn’t going to like the word no, and as always my gut was right. When the beating started I rushed into the kitchen, heading to the end of the counter where I’d have a direct line of sight to shoot but before I made it, I was tackled to the ground.
Jonah’s body covered the length of mine, pinning me to the cold tiles. “We have to wait,” he whispered. “There’s too many outside, dad called for backup.”
When the first scream tore from Mum’s throat, I thrashed like a wild animal beneath Jonah’s body. I couldn’t make a sound. I couldn’t communicate with him at all. The only thing left for me to do was plead with my eyes. Please, please let me save her.
Another scream bounced off the walls, this time coupled with the harsh sounds of flesh on flesh. The viciousness of whatever he was doing to her turned my insides into a squashed mess, all of which wanted out. I swallowed the urge to vomit and after what felt like hours her screams turned into whimpers. Eventually, a vibrating from Jonah’s phone announced to him it was time to get off me and the moment he did, I took off for the lounge room.
My whole body went still at the sight of the soldier wiping his knuckles over his clothes. The white, blue and red flag stitched to the arm of his uniform was stained with my mum’s blood, but that’s not what made me shoot him. It was the smirk playing on his lips as he looked down at her crumbled body. He didn’t even notice me until he heard the click of the safety coming off. His eyes widened just as I squeezed the trigger, but it was too late for him to react. My bullet was already on its way to seal his fate.
A silent sob caught in my throat and the tears I valiantly held back slid from my eyes, wetting my cheeks. Slowly, I approached Mum’s broken body and couldn’t stop my legs from buckling out from under me. Her breathing was a series of short, shallow rasps and her lips were losing their normal pink colouring.
“Love you,” she whispered with her last breath.
I sat with her, not wanting to leave her alone just yet and tried not to notice that her once ethereal face was turned into a mess of skin and exposed bone. My gaze landed on the one part of her that was familiar – her eyes. Her unblinking eyes stared up at the ceiling and that’s when a part of me died inside. Great wracking sobs seized a hold of my chest and I cried, cried for that special, loving side of my mum that I would never see again. We had a second chance and they took it away from me. I cried for the loss of that too.
As the last of my tears fell, I stood up. I finally understood how Mum felt all these years and I knew she’d done it to shield herself from feeling this kind of pain again. I never realized how numb grief can make you. It was the strangest feeling, yet I reveled in it. Numb was good, numb meant I wouldn’t feel anything and at the moment I needed detachment. The only feeling I wanted to latch on to was the vengeance running through my veins. That was the only emotion I would allow myself to have.
Categories: Short Stories