12 Plays of Christmas: When The Snow Fell

When the snow fell, a man and woman became lost and wandered into the village where I was born. They were aware of just how fragile the planet was with too many people packed too close together. Human beings were hurting Earth and this village was one of those tiny and oh so very poor places in the world unknown to cartographers that was struggling with overpopulation.

The couple had been on an excursion to find their souls and instead found a half-frozen little orphan girl whom no one could afford to take in, and that day I found a family because even though the man and woman hadn’t planned on having children themselves, they believed in their hearts that it was the right thing to do.

They’d both been bitten by the wanderlust bug at early ages, so when I became old enough to truly appreciate presents, my adoptive parents gave me the two greatest gifts they could think of: a passport and an ear for languages.

From a young age, I trekked across the globe several times over, first with them, and then on my own when I became mature and worldly enough to claim the freedom to make my own pathway. And it was an exciting adventure for a while, but I eventually reached a point where the only place left to visit was home, or more precisely, the place where I was born.

Thanks to Google Earth, uncovering the location of the village, whose name was not translatable into English in written or verbal form, was easier for me than my folks but even in this age of digital information, the only reference I was able to pull up was a Christmas urban legend regarding a mysterious woman, a snow witch called, Dame Donatore, the giver of gifts.

According to myth, she was an eight-armed sorceress who had been tragically separated from her offspring during a snowstorm on the night before Christmas. Grief made her wander aimlessly into the mountains where she became a hermit. One of her many talents was that of a skilled craftswoman and in order to cope with her loss, she built knickknacks and toys by hand, things she would have made for her children. When these items began cluttering up her cave, she carried them down from the mountain and handed them out to the poor girls and boys, which happened to be on the anniversary of the loss of her children. And so began the tradition. It was said that she would spend the whole of Christmas Day with brooms in her many hands sweeping the snowcapped mountains clean, showering the village below in a blanket of white on that most special of days.

***

Reaching the village had proven more arduous than I thought, requiring passage on several modes of transportation over land and sea and air. I wound up having to travel farther than I initially planned and when I ultimately arrived at my destination, it was the twenty-fourth of December, a surprisingly mild weathered night, and to my great fortune, I bore witness to the arrival of the legend herself, Dame Donatore, who sat her gift-laden sack on the bench-like flat stone in the village square.

The snow witch appeared to be in her sixties, possibly older, and was cloaked in the infamous magical red robe that made six of her supposed extra arms invisible to mortal eyes. Beside her sack, she placed a pile of coal and as the children approached one by one, she asked,

“Have you remembered to be good?”

and upon hearing the child’s answer, she would sometimes fake reaching for a lump of coal, much to the child’s dismay, before pulling one of her bespoke presents from the sack. After the children had collected their gifts, she handed the coal lumps to the parents to be added to their home fires.

I spied all this from afar, hidden in the shadows, and only decided to approach the woman when everyone had retreated to their homes. Upon seeing me, Dame Donatore said,

“Oh, hel—beg pardon,” she caught herself. “I thought I knew you for a moment. You have a face like a forgotten memory, but clearly, we have never met.”

I had no idea what that meant but before I could question it, she continued, “I am afraid I have no gift for your little one.” Her tone was regretful as she held up her empty burlap sack. “They have all been given out.”

I waved away her concern, “I have no children.”

She sighed, and more to herself, said, “A pity that. I can think of no greater tragedy than to be childless, especially during the holidays, for children are the greatest gifts of all.”

From a distance, this mysterious giver of gifts seemed an almost ethereal being conjured by Christmas magic, but up close, with no children present, she was the saddest person I had ever laid eyes on and her magnificent cloak was nothing more than a ratty old blanket draped over her shoulders and held in place with a rusty pin.

“I don’t think being a mother suits me,” I said for no apparent reason. Why would this woman be interested in knowing that having children wasn’t part of my life plan?

“Well, what you think and what I know are two different things,” she offered a weak smile. “I could tell you.”

“Tell me what?”

“Girl or boy,” she answered. “Motherhood is indeed a part of your destiny. I have a sense of these things.”

“So, you’re a fortune-teller?”

“Everyone has a path which has been mapped out on their bodies from birth. I do not tell fortunes but I can see auras and have been known to trace the roads yet untraveled on a palm.”

Although a disbeliever in a great many things, I was standing in the presence of an urban legend, so how could I not extend my palm and accept the challenge? “Tell me.”

Donatore clasped my hand in a feeble handshake, closed her eyes and explained, “First, I must make your acquaintance.”

“Oh, of course, pardon me. My name is—” I started.

“Unnecessary,” she interrupted. “Your vibrations will tell me everything I need to know.”

Her hand began to tremble as if palsied but her grip grew tighter and tighter. Trance-like, she said, “I sense turmoil…a maelstrom…” and as she spoke the words, I caught flashes in my mind’s eye of a very heavy snowfall and I could actually feel icy winds cutting across my face.

And suddenly I am in a storm…

and the snow keeps coming…

it never stops…

until nothing exists except the snow…

and that isn’t right because I’m missing something…

something I lost in the snow…

was I holding a hand?

Was that real and if it was…

whose hand was it…

and where was it now?

Someone is calling to me…

“Keep up!”…

and as I try to push forward…

I realize that I have no shoes…

and the cold is everywhere…

even inside me…

hollowing me out…

and I am being buffeted by the wind…

turning around again and again…

I try to keep moving forward…

but I know I am going the wrong way…

I no longer know the right way…

because the entire world is killer frost white…

where am I now that I have turned the wrong way…

I can’t call out because the wind steals my voice…

I am lost and alone…

and the only thing I know is that I am going to die…

And just before I was about to cry out in pain, the witch of the snow allowed my hand to slip from her grasp. The all-encompassing whiteness that was so thick as to choke me…began to evaporate and time held its breath as reality reset itself around me.

“…a face like a forgotten memory…” Donatore muttered sotto voce, and a look of dawning recognition crossed her features. I was certain that I mirrored her expression.

“Are you…are you…my mother?”

“Ameliatta,” she whispered, and I lost my footing in the present, falling back through the calendar of my life to the misty days of forgotten memories when a younger version of myself that I barely recognized delighted in having my mother’s undivided attention.

“I go by Amelia now,” I said, unable to stop the spread of a smile for this woman whom I bore little resemblance to and who was and was not a stranger at the same time.

The giver of gifts struggled to find words and when she finally did, all she could muster was, “How did you find me?”

“I wanted to see where I was born.”

“I knew in my heart of hearts that you would return to me,” Donatore said as she turned away to hide the tears welling in her eyes. “In my quiet moments, I talked to the heavens to let you know that I was still alive and waiting for you at home.”

I hadn’t the heart to reveal that I hadn’t come in search of her, at least not consciously. Truth be known, I had never given much thought to finding my birth mother. I knew that sounded cruel but I wasn’t suffering from abandonment issues. I accepted that life happened the way it did, and I had a happy childhood surrounded and supported by people who loved me.

“You must think horrible things of me,” she said, her eyes unable to land on mine.

“I don’t, honestly.”

“It was my fault that I lost you, but you must understand I was doing what I thought was right.”

“I don’t blame you.”

She wasn’t acknowledging what I was saying and appeared to be lost in remembrance. “We owned nothing but poverty but that did not stop your father from scrounging around for materials to build us a home. If only his heart was as strong as his intention. He died before the house was finished. It was only you and I alone and a violent storm was on its way. I needed to find materials to patch the holes in the roof. It would have been faster if I went by myself but you were so terrified of being left alone after your father died, so against my better judgment, I took you with me. We collected bits of wood and tree bark and raced back home, but we were not faster than the storm. Trying to hold on to the wood that the wind was whipping out of my grip, I lost hold of you. If you believe nothing else I tell you, know that I searched for you day and night for how long I cannot tell, digging through the snow until I could no longer feel my hands, but you were gone.”

“I believe you.”

If she heard me, she gave no indication. “I wanted to curl up in that snow and die, but I kept pushing on. It was what my parents did and what they taught me to do, day after day, you just pushed on. In the same year, I had lost my husband and my precious daughter. There was nothing to keep me here but I stayed because I had a belief that if I left this place, I would never see you again, and I would not have been able to survive that. I needed to keep my mind and hands busy so I began building things, which turned out to be toys, probably because your return was always on my mind.”

At that moment I was able to see beyond myself and considered the stages of her life, of our lives, before and after the storm. There were paths each of us had taken that would fill in the gaps of our individual travels and maybe, just maybe, we could start walking a new path together.

“This might sound strange but can I hug you?” I asked.

“For as long as you like,” Donatore smiled and the years seemed to melt from her face.

We threw our arms around each other and it seemed so natural and so right, so much like a home I never knew existed. She whispered in my ear, “Life is filled with little miracles and I knew one day I would receive one.”

We stood there locked in an embrace, taking turns weeping. It was strange to discover just how much I missed this woman, my mother. When we eventually separated, she folded her empty sack and tucked it beneath one arm. “Would you like to see the house? It took me longer than I thought but I finally finished it.”

“That would be nice.”

“I must warn you that it is a little crowded in there.”

“You have a family?”

“Of sorts, I take in homeless children, especially this time of year, because this is a horrific place for young children to be isolated, and as I said before children are the best gifts one can have. In exchange for food and shelter, they help me build toys. You think I did all this by myself?”

Clearly, my work was cut out for me, separating my mother from the myth from the woman she became without me.

I wasn’t sure how long we had been standing out in the cold, which oddly enough hadn’t really affected me, but I had a sense that it was after midnight, Christmas Day, and as we held hands and walked the path to her home, the snow began to fall.

Home, At Long Last

girl returning home to high roofed house

The car pulls into the driveway. It’s called an Uber and at first I think it’s the make and model of the car but the driver tells me it’s the name of a car service and although he’s patient and friendly in his explanation, I can feel my face flush red hot in embarrassment. There are so many things I don’t know that I don’t know. The entire world has a steep learning curve for me.

I wouldn’t have recognized the house, couldn’t have picked it out among the others because I haven’t seen it in over sixteen years and the memories are fuzzy because those years haven’t been kind. I’ve been told that it’s the house I grew up in and I nod with no acceptance or conviction because when I think about where I grew up all I can picture is being trapped in a dark and cold basement in a strange location. This house has never once appeared in my mind not even in my dreams.

From the moment the car arrives, people surge out of the front door but they don’t approach the car, perhaps because they’ve been advised not to or perhaps they’re as afraid to meet me as I am to meet them.

I thank the driver as I close the rear driver side door and walk toward the crying and smiling crowd, desperately trying to untwist the constrictor knot my stomach has become. I’m sure they don’t mean to be but each and every one of them is too loud and although they’re careful not to touch me, they’re too close and I want to run. I want to run into the basement and lock the door behind me and go down as far as I can manage and find the darkest corner to curl up into and if that place doesn’t exist, I want to dig a hole into the earth and bury myself in it until the world becomes a quiet place again.

It’s unmistakable, the feeling of warmth and comfort and community that exists in this place and I hate it almost instantly. I’m not supposed to as I’m a human being and we’re known to be social animals but if truth be known the only peace I’ve ever experienced has always been in complete isolation.

Nothing seems right. The sound of people’s voices expressing gratitude and the low volume music in the background blend into some abnormal din that assaults my ears like the opposite of white noise, even though I know that isn’t right because the other end of the spectrum from a combination of all of the different frequencies of sound would be silence and silence would be a welcome change at this point.

Even faces are foreign and I’ve known most of these faces for the first nine years of my life but the arrangement of their features is wrong. Even my own reflection is out of place and unfamiliar. I want to leave, to pivot on my heels and push past this closeness of flesh, flag down a police officer and ask them to take me back to where I was found a fortnight ago.

I miss that basement because it’s the only home I know.

I want to back away but there are too many people behind so I push forward looking for a little elbow room, a safe barrier of personal space where I don’t have to feel the nearness of others or fight off a wave of nausea when someone’s aura scrapes against mine and makes a teeth-clenching noise like God raking His fingernails across the skin of the universe.

In the crowd I spot a face I don’t know and because I don’t know this woman and have no expectations of the way she must look she appears less odd than the rest. I lock onto her eyes and feel a transfer of knowledge between us. She is like me. She understands the words I’m unable to speak, words that will never be uttered by me in my entire life even if I live for two centuries. I want to move to her, to be closer to her, to stand within the sphere of her understanding but another woman, an aunt, I think, appears from nowhere and pulls me into an unwanted embrace and whispers into my ear with hot breath laced with wine, “You are such a brave girl.”

Brave? I want to say. What’s so brave about being afraid to let myself die? But instead, it comes out as, “Thank you.” I’m not even sure that’s a proper response, I simply need to say something to break the hold and by the time I manage it, the other woman, the woman with the understanding gaze, is gone.

And I’m aware of the people behind me again moving in closer pushing me forward without making contact with me when I come to the realization that their action is purposeful, they’re urging me forward from the front door through the foyer and into the living room for a reason and that reason being my mother and father are standing in the center of the empty room. I step in eagerly, not because I’m particularly glad to see them, I love them but the real reason I’m eager to get into the room is for the space so my soul can breathe again.

There’s this moment of silence and it’s like heaven and my mother takes on the form of Lucifer Morningstar by attempting to shatter paradise with the calling of my name that turns into a shriek that eventually ends in tears and hitching breath. Before I realize what’s happening, she’s on me wrapping her arms around me and lifting me off my feet. I am nearly as tall as she is and outweigh her by thirty pounds easily but this thin woman lifts me as though I was still the same nine-year-old who went outside to play and missed her curfew by more than a decade and a half. My face is buried in her hair and unlike this place that used to be and is once again my home, unlike the matured faces of the people I vaguely recognize as family, the smell of my mother’s hair, the scent of her coconut shampoo smashes through the floodgates of my mind and I am buried beneath wave after wave of memories which scare me and my eyes leak tears because I now realize how much emptier my life has been without this woman, although the world she inhabits still feels alien to me.

I say, “Hi, Mom,” and the word Mom feels distant, like I understand what the word means but the direct connection with it has faded and I don’t want to call her Mom at the moment, I want to call her by her first name but I have no idea what my mother’s name actually is.

She sets me down gently and her arms loosen and slide from around me but her fingers never leave me as they trace sweaty contrails across my back, under my armpits up to my neck where she cups my face in both hands. A move only mastered by a mother.

“Hi, baby,” she says and I both resent it because I’m not a baby anymore and miss it because I would give the remaining years of my life for the chance to be nine again in the company of this woman if only for one day.

She calls my father over while carrying on a constant stream of nervous and excited chatter in an attempt to catch me up on all the events that occurred since the last time we laid eyes on each other.

My father approaches with caution as if I come with a warning. He has undoubtedly been told what has been done to me while I was in captivity and probably some of the things I had to do to myself in order to stay alive. He doesn’t know everything because I am the only survivor, there’s no one else to bear witness and I will never tell another soul everything that I’ve been through in order to be here today. And it would break him to hear it so it becomes one of the many burdens I must bear alone.

His haunted eyes are misted with tears that he fights to control as he offers me that sidewinder smile of his–a name Mom gave him because he only smiles and talks out of one side of his mouth as if he’s a stroke victim. “Hi, kiddo,” he says.

All the others unknowingly crowd me and the only person I would not mind that of, my father, does not. He sees it, the invisible property lines that mark my personal space and respects the boundaries. I want to tell him, forget the signposts, just come hug me, Daddy but those are words I don’t know how to speak so I say, “Hi, Dad,” and I manage to dig up a smile from the recesses of some long forgotten happiness. At least I hope it looks like a smile, I haven’t done it in so long, I fear I might’ve lost the knack.

Mom is still babbling away nonstop when she remembers her basic etiquette, “Oh! Are you hungry? You must be famished!” And before I can answer,

“Get her something to drink,” Dad says. “Something cold.” And Mom takes off like a shot into the kitchen.

My father just stands there looking at me, taking in my measure. I can’t see the missing years on my mother but on him, I see every second, minute, hour, day, month and year. Beneath his thinning hair, deep wrinkles crease his face. He’s worried and afraid of me and for me but he manages a smile.

In a voice low enough for my ears only, he says, “It’s gonna bother you, what you did, but just know you did the right thing. You ended the man who stole you from us and found your way home again. That’s my girl.”

I’m stunned. Of all the things I expected from this moment straightforward acceptance was never in the running. I rush to my daddy and throw my arms around him and break down and cry and he squeezes me tight and all the things that I can’t say and all the things he can’t say, they’re all there, transmitted on a biological level and he doesn’t move, doesn’t speak, doesn’t loosen his grip on me until my body stops shaking, until I have no more sobs and no more strength left.

He scoops me up into his arms and for the second time today I am nine years old again. “I think she’s had enough excitement for one day, so thank you all for coming but now it’s time for us to be alone,” Dad says, as he pushes through the crowd and carries me upstairs to my old room.

He sets me down gently on the bed that’s now too small for me, brushes the hair matted by tears and snot from my face, kisses my forehead and says, “When you’re ready.” and I know exactly what he means.

He leaves, taking Mom with him, assuring her it’s the right thing to do and as their voices get smaller I get up from the bed, lock my bedroom door, draw the blinds shut and crawl until my bed and ball up fetal, relishing the dark and the quiet.

Tomorrow I’ll begin trying to locate the house I was rescued from because although this house is nice, it’s no longer a place for me.

I want to go home.

Text and Audio ©2018 & 2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

I Watched: 7500

In 7500, directed by Patrick Vollrath, written by Vollrath and Senad Halilbasic, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a soft-spoken young American co-pilot aboard a Berlin-Paris flight struggles to save the lives of the passengers and crew when terrorists try to seize control of the plane.

Captain Michael Lutzmann (Carlo Kitzlinger) and First Officer Tobias Ellis (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) board an airplane and begin pre-flight checks before embarking on the flight from Berlin to Paris. Also on board is Tobias’ girlfriend, Nathalie (Aurélie Thépaut), who is one of the flight attendants and they have a brief conversation about which school their son should attend.

Once the plane takes off, a terrorist forces his way into the cockpit and although Tobias is able to shove the cockpit door closed before anyone else can enter, he suffers a bad wound to his arm by the terrorist inside the cockpit who stabs Lutzmann repeatedly before Tobias can knock out and tie up the hijacker.

Tobias signals Air Traffic Control and is ordered to divert to Hannover. Lutzman loses consciousness so Tobias attempts CPR but is unsuccessful. All the while, the remaining terrorists continuously attempt to break into the cockpit. Tobias informs ground control of the situation and is informed under no circumstance is he permitted to allow the terrorists inside. And the terrorists test his resolve by taking a hostage and threatening to kill the man unless they’re granted access to the cockpit. Tobias pleads with the terrorists in vain as they execute the hostage.

Tobias is visibly shaken. He attempts to render first aid to himself when the terrorists return with another hostage, this time a member of the flight crew. You guessed it, it’s Nathalie, Tobias’ girlfriend. Over the PA system, Tobias tells the passengers to fasten their seatbelts as he tries an aerial maneuver to make the terrorists release Nathalie. She manages to get free and struggles with the terrorists but they gains the upper hand and she is once again taken hostage. One of the terrorists holds a glass shard to Nathalie’s jugular and is going to kill her if Tobias doesn’t open the door. Tobias relents and agrees to open the cockpit door but Nathalie tells him not to, repeating, “It’s going to be all right! It’s going to be all right!”

What happens then? You’ll have to head over to Amazon Prime to find that out because I’ve reached the limit of my spoiler reveal for this film.

So, would I recommend it? Actually, I would. 7500 (which is airline code for a hijacking) is one of those fly-on-the-wall-almost-documentary-style films that takes place in a single location, in this case, the cockpit of a commercial airliner which is equipped with a monitor so we’re able to see the terrorists on the other side of the locked door. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives an excellent performance as he cycles through a range of emotions in attempting to deal with a situation he is clearly not adequately trained to handle. There are a few logic issues I have with the plot but I can’t mention them without getting into spoiler territory, but I can say they weren’t so severe as to affect my enjoyment of the movie. So, if you’re the type of person who likes a thriller that slowly ratchets up the tension as events unfold in real time, progressing the situation from bad to worse, this film just might be worth your time.

Ciao til next now.

Home, At Long Last

girl returning home to high roofed house

The car pulls into the driveway. It’s called an Uber and at first I think it’s the make and model of the car but the driver tells me it’s the name of a car service and although he’s patient and friendly in his explanation, I can feel my face flush red hot in embarrassment. There are so many things I don’t know that I don’t know. The entire world has a steep learning curve for me.

I wouldn’t have recognized the house, couldn’t have picked it out among the others because I haven’t seen it in over sixteen years and the memories are fuzzy because those years haven’t been kind. I’ve been told that it’s the house I grew up in and I nod with no acceptance or conviction because when I think about where I grew up all I can picture is being trapped in a dark and cold basement in a strange location. This house has never once appeared in my mind not even in my dreams.

From the moment the car arrives, people surge out of the front door but they don’t approach the car, perhaps because they’ve been advised not to or perhaps they’re as afraid to meet me as I am to meet them.

I thank the driver as I close the rear driver side door and walk toward the crying and smiling crowd, desperately trying to untwist the constrictor knot my stomach has become. I’m sure they don’t mean to be but each and every one of them is too loud and although they’re careful not to touch me, they’re too close and I want to run. I want to run into the basement and lock the door behind me and go down as far as I can manage and find the darkest corner to curl up into and if that place doesn’t exist, I want to dig a hole into the earth and bury myself in it until the world becomes a quiet place again.

It’s unmistakable, the feeling of warmth and comfort and community that exists in this place and I hate it almost instantly. I’m not supposed to as I’m a human being and we’re known to be social animals but if truth be known the only peace I’ve ever experienced has always been in complete isolation.

Nothing seems right. The sound of people’s voices expressing gratitude and the low volume music in the background blend into some abnormal din that assaults my ears like the opposite of white noise, even though I know that isn’t right because the other end of the spectrum from a combination of all of the different frequencies of sound would be silence and silence would be a welcome change at this point.

Even faces are foreign and I’ve known most of these faces for the first nine years of my life but the arrangement of their features is wrong. Even my own reflection is out of place and unfamiliar. I want to leave, to pivot on my heels and push past this closeness of flesh, flag down a police officer and ask them to take back to where I was found a fortnight ago.

I miss that basement because it’s the only home I know.

I want to back away but there are too many people behind so I push forward looking for a little elbow room, a safe barrier of personal space where I don’t have to feel the nearness of otherness or fight off a wave of nausea when someone’s aura scrapes against mine and makes a teeth-clenching noise like God raking His fingernails across the skin of the universe.

In the crowd I spot a face I don’t know and because I don’t know this woman and have no expectations of the way she must look she appears less odd than the rest. I lock onto her eyes and feel a transfer of knowledge between us. She is like me. She understands the words I’m unable to speak, words that will never be uttered by me in my entire life even if I live for two centuries. I want to move to her, to be closer to her, to stand within the sphere of her understanding but another woman, an aunt, I think, appears from nowhere and pulls me into an unwanted embrace and whispers into my ear with hot breath laced with wine, “You are such a brave girl.”

Brave? I want to say. What’s so brave about being afraid to let myself die? But instead, it comes out as, “Thank you.” I’m not even sure that’s a proper response, I simply need to say something to break the hold and by the time I manage it, the other woman, the woman with the understanding gaze, is gone.

And I’m aware of the people behind me again moving in closer pushing me forward without making contact with me when I come to the realization that their action is purposeful, they’re urging me forward from the front door through the foyer and into the living room for a reason and that reason being my mother and father standing in the center of the empty living room. I step in eagerly, not because I’m particularly glad to see them, I love them but the real reason I’m eager to get into the room is for the space so my soul can breathe again.

There’s this moment of silence and it’s like heaven and my mother takes on the form of Lucifer Morningstar by attempting to shatter paradise with the calling of my name that turns into a shriek that eventually ends in tears and hitching breath. Before I realize what’s happening, she’s on me wrapping her arms around me and lifting me off my feet. I am nearly as tall as she is and outweigh her by thirty pounds easily but this thin woman lifts me as though I was still the same nine-year-old who went outside to play and missed her curfew by more than a decade and a half. My face is buried in her hair and unlike this place that used to be and is once again my home, unlike the matured faces of the people I vaguely recognize as family, the smell of my mother’s hair, the scent of her coconut shampoo smashes through the floodgates of my mind and I am buried beneath wave after wave of memories which scare me and my eyes leak tears because I now realize how much emptier my life has been without this woman, although the world she inhabits still feels alien to me.

I say, “Hi, Mom,” and the word Mom feels distant, like I understand what the word means but the direct connection with it has faded and I don’t want to call her Mom at the moment, I want to call her by her first name but I have no idea what my mother’s name actually is.

She sets me down gently and her arms loosen and slide from around me but her fingers never leave me as they trace sweaty contrails across my back, under my armpits up to my neck where she cups my face in both hands. A move only mastered by a mother. “Hi, baby,” she says and I both resent it because I’m not a baby anymore and miss it because I would give the remaining years of my life for the chance to be nine again in the company of this woman if only for one day.

She calls my father over while carrying on a constant stream of nervous and excited chatter in an attempt to catch me up on all the events that occurred since the last time we laid eyes on each other.

My father approaches with caution as if I come with a warning. He has undoubtedly been told what has been done to me while I was in captivity and probably some of the things I had to do to myself in order to stay alive. He doesn’t know everything because I am the only survivor, there’s no one else to bear witness and I will never tell another soul everything that I’ve been through in order to be here today. And it would break him to hear it so it becomes one of the many burdens I must bear alone.

His haunted eyes are misted with tears that he fights to control as he offers me that sidewinder smile of his–a name Mom gave him because he only smiles and talks out of one side of his mouth as if he’s a stroke victim. “Hi, kiddo,” he says.

All the others unknowingly crowd me and the only person I would not mind that of, my father, does not. He sees it, the invisible property lines that mark my personal space and respects the boundaries. I want to tell him, forget the signposts, just come hug me, Daddy but those are words I don’t know how to speak so I say, “Hi, Dad,” and I manage to dig up a smile from the recesses of some long forgotten happiness. At least I hope it looks like a smile, I haven’t done it in so long, I fear I might’ve lost the knack.

Mom is still babbling away nonstop when she remembers her basic etiquette, “Oh! Are you hungry? You must be famished!” And before I can answer,

“Get her something to drink,” Dad says. “Something cold.” And Mom takes off like a shot into the kitchen.

My father just stands there looking at me, taking in the measure of me. I can’t see the missing years on my mother but on him, I see every second, minute, hour, day, month and year. Beneath his thinning hair, deep wrinkles crease his face. He’s worried and afraid of me and for me but he manages a smile.

In a voice low enough for my ears only, he says, “It’s gonna bother you, what you did, but just know you did the right thing. You ended the man who stole you from us and found your way home again. That’s my girl.”

I’m stunned. Of all the things I expected from this moment straightforward acceptance was never in the running. I rush my daddy and throw my arms around him and break down and cry and he squeezes me tight and all the things that I can’t say and all the things he can’t say, they’re all there, transmitted on a biological level and he doesn’t move, doesn’t speak, doesn’t loosen his grip on me until my body stops shaking, until I have no more sobs and no more strength left.

He scoops me up into his arms and for the second time today I am nine years old again. “I think she’s had enough excitement for one day, so thank you all for coming but now it’s time for us to be alone,” Dad says, as he pushes through the crowd and carries me upstairs to my old room.

He sets me down gently on my bed that’s now too small for me, brushes the hair matted by tears and snot from my face, kisses my forehead and says, “When you’re ready.” and I know exactly what he means.

He leaves, taking Mom with him, assuring her it’s the right thing to do and as their voices get smaller I get up from the bed, lock my bedroom door, draw the blinds shut and crawl until my bed and ball up fetal, relishing the dark and the quiet.

Tomorrow I’ll begin trying to locate the house I was rescued from because although this house is nice, it’s no longer a place for me.

I want to go home.

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License