Subcutaneous Magazine Fall 2016 - Page 85

F ather crashed through the door in a drunken stupor. Elizabeth froze in her bed, silent and still at this late hour, trying to ignore the inevitable. He soon found his way up the stairs, bumping the walls, feeling his way through the darkness to her bedroom. He touched her in a way that no one, especially a step-father, should ever touch a woman of her age. He ripped her night-clothes and engulfed her with whiskey breath. She kept her eyes squeezed shut, but tears managed to escape from the corners and fall to her ears. She wished she could be deaf and not have to hear his animalistic grunts. She wished she was numb and not feeling hot saliva drool onto her face and neck. She kept her arms to her sides and prayed it would be over quickly. He left her crying in her bedroom and retired to the master bedroom with his wife. Elizabeth longed to get away from this New England home, the dread, the burden she had to endure since she was eleven years old, when she had first shown signs of womanhood. But her step-father kept his money under lock and key, and was tight fisted in matters of his family and his appreciating wealth. The furthest she could get from the home was the servant quarters on the property. She spent much of her time there during the day, avoiding her family, especially now that her sister, Emma, was away at boarding school. The room smelled of strange exotic foods and spices. The house-maid, Tichiban, always had some interesting foods, offerings and customs from her homeland. Elizabeth enjoyed her visits to the servant’s quarters, to learn about them. Elizabeth sat at the table across from the servant, where she was slicing a fuzzy green fruit. Tichiban pushed a few pieces of the fruit across the table in Elizabeth’s direction. “Kiwi. Eat it child. It is good for you.” “Kiwi?” Elizabeth placed a piece in her mouth and juice ran from her lips. Tichiban laughed out loud. Barely a smile purged Elizabeth’s face. “What troubles you so, my child?” Tichiban inquired. “I heard my step-father, Isaac, speaking with an attorney today. He is signing over the lake property to his brother and sister. That was my father’s property, my real father. It was promised to me and my sister before he died.” “What do your Mums say about it?” Tichiban asked. She reached over and dabbed the juice from Elizabeth’s face with a cloth. “She agrees with everything he says and does. Everything!” Elizabeth reached a quick boiling point and her face flushed red. “I hate her as much as I hate him!” the young woman screeched. Tichiban’s whole face frowned and she tilted her head to look Elizabeth in the eyes. “Hate is a strong word, my child, you are so young to hate,” the house servant said. She put a finger under Elizabeth's chin and pushed her head up. She moved the hair away from away from Elizabeth’s face with gentle fingers. Elizabeth wanted to soften her stance for her friend, knowing she disapproved, but she could not quell the anger within her. “But, I do. I hate them both. I would like to leave this place. As soon as Emma is old enough, I will. We both will!” Elizabeth squeezed the piece of fruit she had been holding, until it squished out between her fingers like green putty. She had not told Tichiban about what goes on in the dark hours of night, with the man she is forced to call father by day. She debated about telling her now, but held back. One day she would tell; she trusted this woman more than anyone else in her life, excluding her sister. She hoped that when the time came, Tichiban would help her and Emma escape this place. She had remained in this situation all these years to protect Emma from the fate she had endured, hoping one day to take her away. As morning stretched into afternoon, Isaac had gone to Cape Cod on business. Tichiban needed to tend the house laundry so Elizabeth decided to trek into town. Riverfalls Township had a small trading market where farm goods could be purchased. It also had a well-stocked general store. Her intent was to purchase rat poison. She had gotten some the week previous and laced it into the daily milk. While everyone in the house fell ill, the poison had not claimed its intended victim. Today she planned to buy twice as much as last week and would administer higher doses to her step-father. She walked several miles into town and the trip took her over an hour. She was rebuffed at the general store. “You can put this purchase on my family’s account,” she insisted. “Your father’s account is overdue and I shall retain no more onto his credit until I speak with him,” the proprietor exclaimed. “My family’s money is good as gold in this town. How dare you treat me with such insolence,” Elizabeth shouted. However, for all her shouting, the proprietor would not yield, and she left the store red-faced and angry, having to walk the several miles back to her home, empty handed. Nearing the house from the dirt road, she noticed her step-father’s carriage had returned. Not wanting to look into his craggy face and scraggy mustache, she went to the servant quarters out back. When Elizabeth entered the room, Tichiban had been busy at the fireplace. She turned to Elizabeth with two dolls made from soap wax. The larger one was male and the other obviously female.