Sophia hid in her closet, it was her only safe place. Hanging on a ceiling was a mobile with a handcrafted dragon. She remembered thinking the dragon was frightening, but whenever the darkness in her room swallowed her, the dragon’s eyes flashed; the shadows were obliterated.
She also remembered when her mom first hit her. She scrubbed Sophia’s cut and it was excruciating as was the burning stringent liquid her mom poured on it.
Suddenly, Sophia heard yelling and stomping. The closest door flew open — her mother was drunk again.
Instantly, the dragon’s eyes above her caught fire. He grew into a monster with golden scales and the scent of fire and ash, spreading and filling Sophia’s entire bedroom. He blew a blaze of fire at her mom but only the bottle of Kirkland Tequila (1.75 Litres/$20.00) in her mom’s hand disintegrated.
In words veiled in smoke the dragon hissed at Sophia’s mom who nodded; she understood the dragon’s warning. He breathed out his last plume of smoke and except for the acrid smell, it was if Sophie’s dragon had never awoken.
She crawled out of her hiding place and petted the handcrafted dragon hearing him purr.
I marvelled at the set of angel lights at the the beginning of each block, with another set of angels at the end, as I joined my friends at a pub.
It seemed right these angels should be here, watching over the revelry. As I later walked a block down in the early morning hours to catch a cab, I recalled my thoughts on angels as child.
Sometimes I had nightmares and I was too afraid to fall asleep. My Mom told me not to worry because God’s angels were always watching over me. Still, I looked to the corners of my room afraid because the corners were the darkest places.
Eventually, I began to imagine angels were there in these corners guarding me as I slept. If I woke up afraid I’d look to the corners of my bedroom ceiling and feel safe. Sometimes I dreamed I could see these celestial beings watching over me.
Going home that night in the cab I gazed at the angels made of lights, four of them guarding a street; I hoped the night ended safely for all.
Six-year-old James was excited. He was at a giant amusement park with a fascinating complex modular domes. He tried to rush past his parents but his Dad grasped James’ hand firmly.
They entered the first dome and there was a huge race track inside. James squeeled while driving with his Dad in a go-kart. The next dome had a mini-golf course. Half-way through the course James decided he was bored and that it was time for his adventure alone; he crept off when his Dad was putting.
He spent his day playing in a giant indoor playground and then went outside to where there were rides for kids to go on. He made friends with another boy named Paul whose parents thought James had permission to ride rides with them.
After a while James felt sick because he hadn’t eaten. He returned to the mini-golf course to wait for his Dad. He sat there for hours but he never saw his parents. He thought they had decided they didn’t want him.
Then he heard his Mom’s angry voice: “JamesWilliam, where have you been?” He hugged his Mom and cried into his Dad’s shoulder when he picked James up. It appeared his adventure alone was more than James had bargained for.
Ellie stared at her teddy bears. She collected them and these three were her favourite. She didn’t much play with them, but they had a place of pride on her daybed.
Truthfully, Ellie played with other stuffed animals, she didn’t care if she wrecked or ripped them a part. Sometimes she even gave a stuffed animal to her family’s dog dog Artic.
But Mom said she had too many teddy bears and because she didn’t play with these three teddy bears on her bed, she could only keep one of them.
“But I snuggle with them at night, they keep me safe from the monsters. Even a monster can’t defend himself against three bears, ” Ellie told her Mom who laughed and ran her fingers through Ellie’s curly brown hair.
Ellie stared at her three soft bears, unable to choose who would go.
Suddenly, the solution came upon her. If Ellie couldn’t have all three bears, the only solution was to get rid of her Mom. She really loved her Mom a whole bunch, but she thought if she sacrificed Mom to the monsters, she would both be able to keepall three teddy bears and the monsters would leave forever too.
It was a scary thing to give up her mother, but Ellie thought it was for the best.
The future awaits as I stand behind the swing hesitating. It reminds me of when I was a small girl, riding the swing and pumping my legs back and forth. Often, I would end up flipping the swing, riding it too high. My mom would be so upset at yell at me for scaring her each time I flipped the swing.
Today I sit down on the swing which is aggravatingly difficult with all these layers of tulle, silk, and lace. I don’t want to grass stain my gown before my big moment down walking down the aisle. I rock and swing my body using my barefoot and I’ve taken off my couture Jimmy Choos wedding shoes.
I swing softly and think and I wonder what my future will be like when the weddings over? The truth is no one knows what the future will bring, especially not me. I see the light of sun shining down upon my dress, to me on this day, this light is my hope. Such a brilliant sun could only mean a beautiful life ahead.
My girl sits on the swing, rocking back and forth gently, her veiled head leaning against the rope on one side of the swing. Weddimg guests begin to gather sitting in white wooden chair. Some of the guest gaze back at the bride who thoughtfully swings, humming a familiar tune. I wonder what’s going on in her confounding mind and then she peers back at me and smiles brightly.
I’m not supposed to see her in her white dress yet, so I grin and pretend to cover my eyes as she laughs, telling me to go away. That we’ll be married before we know it. Through my fingers I stare at her, she’s so beautiful. I can feel my heart thumping against my chest –I seem to be nervous after all.
Years later, I think back to that moment when our whole lives were before us. Holding each other’s hands and murmuring our wedding vows. Now I cling to her thin hand in the hospital bed as my love seems to disintegrate before me. One never knows what lies ahead and I think that’s a gift. If we knew what our future was, we would never move forward.
But I see the light of heaven shining upon my wife. I feel this warm healing light on my own body and we stare at each other and smile as the Lord calls us both home. The next morning the nurses find us, our bodies cold. We have already gone onto better things. We left holding hands, the same way we began.
“Madam, you and your children need to come with me,” a police officer stated. He was from the police nationale.
Mom gazed up at him and asked: “Why, what have we done? We’ve only been sightseeing here on vacation. We have our passports and travel Visas.”
“If you come with me, right now, this will be much easier,” the officer said. I shivered at his cold impersonal accented tone.
My Mom attempted to speak but the officer squeezed her arm tightly and picking her up, deposited her in the back if his police car.
My sisters and I peered up at the officer scared spitless. “We didn’t do anything,” I said. “I’m twelve and my two sisters are ten-years old twins. We aren’t bad kids.”
The officer nodded at me. I could hear my Mom crying and banging her hands against the window in the police car. My sisters Paige and Monique were crying silently.
“What’s your name Cher?” The officer asked me. His French accent was thick when he spoke English.
“I’m Brianne, what did my Mom do?” The officer didn’t say anything, but he nodded to one of his fellow officers.
“We need to talk to your Mom about some things for a while. This is officer Carson, he’s going to take you back to your hotel. You girls can watch movies and swim in the pool. Don’t leave and always ask Carson when you want to do something. He’ll take you for repas du soir later on,” the officer said. He smiled at me and I could tell his smile was forced.
“But our Mom . . .” Paige and Monique whined. It was no use. Officer Carson herded us into his vehicle and drove us back to the hotel we were staying with our Mom.
We played in the pool, pretending we enjoyed it. We watched three movies on pay-per-view and then some cartoons on TV. We played on our Mom’s tablet, emailing our Uncle Reese and asking what we should do. The message always came back to Mom’s email, saying the email address was wrong, but we knew better.
At 4:00 pm Officer Carson came back from the gift shop with chips, popcorn, pop, and chocolate bars. Paige and Monique were happy to eat what they could; mom didn’t let us have much junk food, even on vacation. I had a square of delicious Belgian chocolate and almost threw-up.
Later around 8:00 pm, Carson told us to put on nice clothes for dinner. We dined at a trendy restaurant and the food was magnifique. By this time the smell of the delicious food in the restaurant and my hunger had surpassed the twisted and nauseous feeling in my stomach.
“My Mom, what if she can’t afford all this?” I asked Carson referring to all we’d done so far. Our family had scrounged and saved to travel to a few countries in Europe this year. Mom thought it was vital for us to have the experience traveling to see history, and other cultures.
Officer Carson appeared thoughtful. “It’s okay Brianne. Ne tu inquites pas. We’ll take care of things until your Mom returns. I nodded. I didn’t know what else to say.
That night we went to bed sleeping fitfully. The next morning Carson awoke us and told us we would be sightseeing today. He told us about various places we could visit and let us choose a couple of them to see. We went to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. We didn’t have to wait in line at all; we immediately were able to see what we wanted first.
The four of us continued site seeing for the next week, never seeing our Mom. We always went out to dinner at a different restaurant each night to dine. Carson enjoyed eating well.
One day, Carson even took us to H&M and some clothing stores for girls our age and let us each have one-hundred-and-fifty Euros to shop. We didn’t question Carson on this, even though it was a lot of money to us. We decided to spend eighty Euros and save the rest of the money for emergency.
Caron seemed to know, “Vous etes des files intelligences pour economiser de l’argent. Bon les files.” He smiled at us, a rare occurence. We understood a bit of French from school and found ourselves picking it more with Carson. He brought us back to the hotel to spend the rest of the day watching movies and swimming.
Three-weeks later our Mom returned. We cried when we saw her. I thought I’d never see her again and I gathered Paige and Monique thought the same.
Mom appeared awful, unkept, and waif thin. She immediately went to bed, waking up in the middle of the night to shower. A wardrobe of various designer clothes and shoes was later delivered to her that week and Carson handed her a cheque for a large amount of money. My Mom’s eyes nearly popped out of her head.
“For all your troubles Madam,” Carson told her and disappeared; we never saw him again.
After Mom recovered for a couple of weeks, she decided we should continue to travel. A Doctor which had come to see her every two-days declared her fit and well.
“Now that we have the money, we can travel throughout Europe and see many countries, not only three,” Mom told us. She smiled almost like her old-self and arranged for us to go everywhere we wanted and stay in nice hotels.
Later I thought back to this and realized Mom was running from the demons chasing her inside, from her nightmares, and her flashbacks.
On a beach in Grenada, Spain, Mom finally said: “Girls I suppose it’s time we go home, you’ve missed a month of school already.”
We didn’t want to leave. We were worried about or Mom. She hadn’t been the same person since the police first took her away.
I’d given her space and only asked once or twice what happened to her. She ignored me. She wouldn’t talk to Paige or Monique either.
” I can’t tell you. That’s why we’ve so much money now Brianne,” she finally said to me.
Years later, I’m thirty-six and visiting my Mom. She is paging through a scrapbook of our European vacation.
“You never said,” I began,”You never told me or anyone what happened to you in France. I know the memories give you nightmares still. What did the French police do to you Mom?”
To my surprise she answered me. “Your Dad, you never knew him. I divorced him when you were only three-years-old and the twins one-years-old. He was a bad person, involved in things even in Europe which were awful and illegal.” A tear slipped out my Mom’s eye.
“When we came through France, they thought I was there to see your Dad. They promised they wouldn’t hurt my daughters but treat them well, if I told them everything I knew about your Dad. I told them I hadn’t seen him in almost ten-years that he was a terrible low-life, wanted across the North America.”
“They wanted more. The police thought I had to be in contact with him. They were sure I was here to see him. For a week they tortured me, wouldn’t let me sleep, and other worse things. Eventually, they believed me and promised to let me go if I helped catch your Dad and draw him out from hiding so they could arrest him. Their plan worked, your Dad’s locked up forever,” my Mom said.
“Mom, how could you not say anything all these years? How did you manage to travel around Europe after being . . .”
She cut me off. “Money Brianne. Millions and millions in US funds. Enough to send my three daughters to the best universities and give you everything I couldn’t before. Enough money to wipe out the misery of thattime in my life.”
“Did it work? I asked my Mom.
She sighed tears forming, “It’s money Brianne. It makes things better and hides the truth. But in the end, the truth of what I went through is always there behind my eyes when I close them. I’m thankful Carson took care of you Brianne and Paige and Monique. He treated you well as the police promised he would. Above all, I was grateful and am grateful for that.”
Mom closed her eyes and the tears continued to streak down her cheeks.