HURT

Screams. Assassinating screams. They hurt my numb ears even if I hold them shut with my tired hands – real hard! I promise! I press my hands against them with all the force I can muster but the noise still penetrates them all the same. I really am! It always has and I'm sure it always will. Please believe me!

For a moment there is silence… Tomblike silence... Then – thundering... Stomping… Traipsing... I can hear Daddy come up the stairs. He's trudging, like a bear. Hurriedly I slide backwards as far as I can; my feet hit the arctic, pebbly wall.

My wrecked door slams open. Daddy barges in. I almost shoot up in panic... hold my breath... listen to my heart win an endless marathon.

"Ross, you worthless piece of shit, where are you?" he roars in his deep and scary voice. I press my aching palms against my fatigued ears still harder; bite my gnawed lips in a struggle to stop myself from squealing... I taste balmy blood.

A daunting moment of mind-blowing silence… The puny door slams shut. There is a deafening ping. A corroded hinge snapped. Again.

I slowly start to breathe dimly. For all I know, he could still be in here… Only when I hear the consoling whisper from my brilliant sister, I dare to open my exhausted eyes a split: "Ross, it's okay. He's gone out."

Her sight is a bombshell to me as I scramble out of my minute jail: Her eye is swollen; her nose is disfigured: blood triggers from it. Her sore chin is covered in a shiny, red something. It's most liable to be further blood... How can she beam like sunrays?

She takes my stinging hand. We walk into the narrow, bare and plain corridor; Elaine is limping across the shaky wooden panels which are loosely draped on the ground as floorboards. How can she endure so much pain? It seems like the eighth world wonder to me every time!

One of the floorboards creaks; it creates an earthquake. We listen to the sound fade away… "Do you want a cup of tea?" Elaine asks soothingly putting her bloodied arm around my bony shoulder; torn rags cover my naked flesh.

Spontaneously she giggles to show me she's fine. Together we precede downward a winding staircase. Whereas the elderly railing is entirely made out of filth and rust, the squeaky steps are in some places missing. We enter the downstairs living space.

The miniscule living room is a mess: A single mature book shelf is on the naked floor, the few dusty books scattered around; four gloomy, crumbly walls seem to be closing in on you like a sickening torture device; a solitary window brings in two stray rays of light, illuminating a lonely hardback book. Elaine scarcely gives me time to look at it; she leads me straight into the untidy kitchen. The faint smell of lovingly made curry is still in the dry air...

I watch her unhurriedly prepare tea. "How long do we have to keep doing this?" My sullen whisper disturbs the spooky silence which hangs in the air. The tarnished tap makes a screeching noise as Elaine apprehensively turns it on and cloudy water gurgles out!

She throws me an impatient look. I shrivel back; she's never annoyed with me! "You know my birthday is next year," she tells me off softly.

I crinkle my pale nose in distaste. "So long?" Elaine gives me another annoyed look.

My curious eyes wander around the crammed, familiar room: There is a mucky stove; a blemished sink overflowing with plates and cutlery; two prehistoric, derelict cabinets; a round, solid table with one inexpressive three-legged chair.

The kettle creates a humming racket as it springs into action, similar to a swarm of bees. It irritates my ears. "Once we're out of here, can we go on a small, little, tiny holiday? We don't even have to go far away – maybe into the next county! That's all, really." My small eyes stare at the unclothed table.

Elaine laughs. Her carefree laugh always lifts my spirits! She muddles up my uncombed hair, amused. "Ross, I told you before that we'll travel the broad world together; explore all the bizarre countries we can think of going to; discover things we never knew and learn stuff too!"

I burrow my petite eyebrows in thought... I scrunch my anaemic nose... A ping! foreshadows that the kettle's work is done. Elaine steadily pours the cup. She places a damaged mug of lukewarm tea on the table in front of me. I take it. Elaine gives me an apologetic look. "We've got no sugar left… Sorry, Ross."

My eyes stare at her in stupefaction. "Don't be, Elaine. You've done so much for me by now." For a jiffy I'm silent, then I ask, "Can we go through our plan again?" She nods.

My icy hands cling onto the exhausted porcelain cup. "First of all we'll move far, far away from here," I recite our cautiously constructed plan. "We'll travel the world for as long as possible. You'll marry the richest and most good-looking man alive soon after and together you'll take care of me and the daughter you'll have. She'll be called Yvonne and I'll be like an older brother to her!"

Spontaneously I snigger into the unpleasant tea. "Then Daddy will find out where we live and beg for money! Then –" Only when I see Elaine's saucer-wide eyes do I notice that something is drastically wrong…

His angry eyes stare me down; the vein on his murky head maliciously throbs with rage... Daddy's blood-shot eyes are nothing but small slits. His round face is pure cherry red!

"What was that?" he bawls. It's loud as a dinosaur, one of those really scary ones. He must have just come back home... "You'll do what!"

"N-nothing," I stammer, backing away fearfully. I hit the table; the chair falls backwards, making a lot of noise. The elderly mug falls on the solid floor and finally breaks in two; tea spills everywhere. Silently Elaine goes to clean it up.

"Let that asshole clean it himself," Daddy snarls hatefully. He stomps the ground impatiently.

Reluctantly I bend forwards to pick the shattered pieces of porcelain up. Unexpectedly my vile face is shoved right into them! Something digs deep into my skin. Tears well up in my eyes... A mere meter away stands Elaine; she watches me cringe in ache. She knows that if she dares to move as much as a squat inch, Daddy will heartlessly thrash her still further!

With the greatest effort I attempt to lift up my hurting face and then my limp upper body, but I fail terribly. In return I feel a painful boot on my flinching backside. The wader presses me down on the ground, onto the parts of the broken mug… Excruciating pain fills me.

In the background Elaine cries helplessly, "Please Daddy!" She almost certainly stepped too near to him as a sound of something crashing into one of the two perishing cabinets enters my tired ears... Again I try to get up, but I just can't get the energy together... I fail… Again. Like Daddy tells me: I am born to fail.

The pressure spontaneously lifts off my aching back and I hear Daddy go away; the brawny front door slams shut. My puny body relaxes. It's a grand mistake – the genuine agony kicks in! I just want to uninterruptedly die again and again…

I sob silently. I quietly listen for an unobtrusive noise from Elaine. Nothing. Silence. Haunting silence...

Moving my stinging arm to the side, lengthy millimetre by lengthy millimetre, I slowly find the pitiable chair and stem myself onto my throbbing elbows by using the fragmented arm rest as a help. I breathe heavily. It's a strenuous act to do in my state – Nonetheless I've done it! I succeeded...

With a long-lasting struggle I heist my heavy upper body up and, leaning against the dense table, my frail fingernails curl into the impenetrable wood; my bare feet are heaved up by my saggy legs and find an unstable hold on the dirty floor.

As I push away from the table I swagger, stagger towards Elaine and almost slip on the cold tea on more than one occasion… I fall on my raw knees beside her. My previously blurry vision turns sideways, upside down, expands and contracts – I feel dizzy.

Moving my cracked lips close to her spotless left ear I whisper, "Daddy's gone, Elaine… It's alright… You can wake up." No response. My unsteady hand absentmindedly moves to her lanky shoulder and shakes her. No reaction.

The world has gone crazy. Elaine is fast asleep. She doesn't rejoinder. Nothing is as it used to be! It's all Daddy's fault… Just because of Daddy she isn't doing anything.

The sturdy front door opens. I stagger up again on floppy legs in time to see Daddy enter the chaotic kitchen.

"Elaine won't get up," I announce disorientated, sobbing heavily.

He doesn't look twice at me before grabbing my collar, almost strangling me and dragging me to my bedroom. I don't resist; I don't fight back; I don't refuse to go along with him. Now that Elaine is asleep, I have no reason to – not without Elaine to guide me!

As I get yanked away from my unfortunate sister I look at her with tired eyes. She looks like a doll; she looks exactly like the pretty doll she has in her bedroom, the one with the nice blue dress she always let me play with until Daddy broke her sweet face in half. After Daddy left her lifeless doll, Yvonne had lain on the floor exactly like Elaine is now: her small eyes closed; her long, thick raven black hair neatly framing her oval head; her reddened lips slightly apart and her admiringly fine-looking clothes somewhat torn. Even asleep she looks pretty, like Yvonne. Elaine is Yvonne.

My feet painfully bounce off each stiff step as he hauls me upstairs. My tiny face, I think, slowly turns blue. I can hardly breathe with my tattered shirt cutting into my unprotected throat. Still, I don't strike back; I am too tired, too exhausted. I just want to die.

He throws me into my reviled room and I meet the unloved floor face first. My shabby lungs almost rip as I scream in hollow pain… He doesn't care.

Behind him the feeble door quietly falls shut. I sit up against my worn-out bed a moment before I hear the eroded lock being turned – I don't care. I know that once Elaine wakes up, she'll open my wicked door! She'll hug me. Comfort me. Tend to my aching wounds. We'll escape. Travel around the world in search for her husband.

One day Daddy will come to our house, crawling on his knees with rags as clothes and dirt all over his face. He'll cry, sob and ask us for money. And then, then we'll tell him to bugger off! And we'll laugh as he walks away, all sad... We'll laugh and we'll be happy!

From another room I faintly hear a lone chair fall over. I wonder if Daddy accidentally threw it over on his way to his bed. I wonder if he too has gone to sleep…

As I close my eyes I can picture Elaine and me, sitting on a broad terrace with her husband and my new little sister. All of us are smiling, laughing and feeling happy.

I smile as I watch myself take my little sister on the fresh grass and we both run around chasing each other. She trips and starts crying; I'm by her side at once. I hug her and comfort her.

Together we walk back to the restful terrace where I pour her a cup of nice, warm tea and I put sweet sugar in because we have some and because I'm nice. She'll laugh and that will make me laugh! Elaine and her husband then hug me, since I cheered their daughter up. That's how it'll be…

All I can do is wait for Elaine to wake up and for the hurt to go away. I open my fatigued eyes in order not to fall asleep and miss her. I keep them open although I'm drained.

Something tells me to just close my eyes and go to sleep too, like Yvonne, like Elaine, like Daddy. Maybe I will... but until then, I'll just sit here and wait.