Author: Arigatomina
Email: arigatoumina@hotmail.com

Wolf

For years I've had friends tell me that I have mental problems. Some say it jokingly, and others with a bit of concern in their voices. I passed their advice up as if it were a hitchhiker in a prison area, too afraid of what would happen if I opened the door and let it in. I had trouble realizing that they were trying to help, doing what they could to influence a stubborn yet hurting individual.

Now I sit impatiently in the waiting room; I've never been in a psychiatrist's office and the burgundy color of the seat cushion I'm sitting on is making me uncomfortable. I like the feel of the cloth, but the color; it's just too red, too dark. The carpet is nicer, a deep soothing blue to contrast with the chairs. It looks so soft and I can't help but admit that the color scheme is nice despite the red. I haven't liked dark reds since I was a child, since I lived with my stepbrother.

The man in the corner, the one with the brown eyes and dark hair, he's watching me and the hairs on the back of my neck are rising like the fur of a cornered cat. I won't let him know how much he is scaring me, how much his intense gaze, so similar to one I used to see, is making my muscles tense as my body tries to bolt. I don't want to be here. Soon I'll go through the wooden door across from me, leaving the man and facing an even worse prospect; my past.

In that room I imagine there will be more dark colors, and I rub my arms, hoping they won't be red. I know what the doctor will ask, about my family and my past lovers. It's always questions about sex and violence, or maybe I've seen too much television, maybe I'm wrong. In my case, sex doesn't come into it, whether he believes that or not. No, there was nothing sexual about it, it was about pain...my pain.

The waiting room seems colder now, as I think of the story I'll soon tell, a horrible tale yet somehow it lifts me when I remember it. I guess it's because I was vindicated, or maybe it's because I still believe in hope. I didn't when I was a child, not until the incident. Yes, that's the story I'll tell him, not about how I was tortured, but about how something saved me. I just pray it wasn't chance and threadbare socks; I want to believe in God.

My brother hated me from the first time he set his bright eyes on me. I don't know if it was because I was quiet, or because I was smarter than him, but I *think* it was because he needed someone to take his anger out on. I was a small child, bony still at the age of ten and I stopped growing at fourteen. He, on the other hand, he was strong, and he liked to resort to violence when angry. Maybe his father beat him as a boy, that's a common enough excuse.

The day I found hope again, my mother had just gone to work, bidding us a harried goodbye as she slipped out the door like a ghost; her presence so infrequent in the house that it was easy to forget she existed. Minutes passed so slowly I could count to ten between each of my heartbeats, or maybe I'd just stopped breathing. Then my brother turned from the window, that familiar smile curving his lips as he thought of an excuse. I don't know why he waited, but he always had an excuse, a reason to give me.

The thick vein in the side of his neck pulsed as his skin contracted around it, and he drew in a harsh breath that hissed when it passed his clenched teeth. His eyelids slowly disappeared, until the light glinted down on his eyes, making them take on a bright, glazed appearance. I stood frozen as he struggled to breathe, a vain effort to calm himself before he gave in and the air was released in a forceful gust. I knew the signs.

Looking back, I wonder how long a person must see the same process, how many times, before recognizing the first step, the first sign? Countless times in my case, and I knew when he first clenched his fists; I knew then what was to come. Thus, I was prepared, as always, but that was no consolation. Being prepared is useless when I know I can't stop what is about to happen. He tried one more time to calm himself, again drawing in a deep breath, his face tense as he tried to hold it long enough. Then the moment was over, the dam broke with a suddenness that I was well acquainted with. I wish I could say there was no warning, but as I've admitted, I knew the signs.

Running was out of the question; he had three years and fourteen inches on me, and he was a track runner who excelled at long distances. Although I can't say when it started, I remember the very last time I tried to run; my hands were scraped for days from that last-ditch effort to escape. The pear tree in the back yard had rough bark. He had speed, but I'd been a 'tom-boy' from the age of six and I flew up that tree. I should have known, I should have remembered that the tree limb, the thick limb I took refuge on hung over the gravel road.

I wasn't an athlete, I'd never played baseball or basketball the way he had, but when he bent beneath me and lifted a rock, I knew my flight was a mistake. That boy could throw, high and hard whether it was a rock or a fastball. At first, I ducked behind the thick limb, screaming in the hopes that somehow, someone would be driving back that road and would stop. I never stopped hoping someone would hear me, and I could scream loudly.

My high-pitched shrieks were manufactured carefully, as I had found that they would carry over the flat fields that surrounded our house. As always, though, the only purpose they served was to enrage him further, and I cried as one of the rocks met with my shoulder, so close to where I hid my head. In the end, the fear of falling or losing an eye was greater than anything he might do. That was the last time I tried to run.

So I stood firm, despite my knowledge of what was about to happen. I watched as his shoulders hunched forward and his too-bright eyes slowly narrowed, watched as he pulled back the curled, white-knuckled fist in preparation. Biting back a whimper, I closed my eyes tightly, teeth clenched as I waited. I hated him, hated pain in general, and to me that was what he meant. He was the first person to teach me what pain was, and even now I hate it.

Sometimes I would cut myself by accident, and think that the pain wasn't that bad, then I would see the blood and realize that it was; it was very bad. I hate the color red to this day. I can't help remembering how humiliating it was to lie curled up on the floor as he held out his hand, showing me the red. 'This is you,' he'd say, and I would sob loudly, not caring if I got dirty as I lay on the cold linoleum floor. I would cry until Mom got home, then I'd hide.

I wasn't a passive person by nature, but no one ever believed me when I told them, they punished me instead. 'Lying is a sin,' my grandmother would tell me, disappointment clouding her face as I'd stare at the floor and cry. Then she would go into the story; always the story no matter what evidence I had. First I would get an outright dismissal, then I'd be spanked for the lies, then, when my resistance had faltered, she'd tell me the story of the boy who cried wolf.

Eventually, I stopped trying to tell her or my mother. He was so careful, meticulous in making certain my bruises and cuts could be explained away. 'She was playing in the woods, I guess she fell.' They always believed him. And why wouldn't they? They'd read my stories. Even then, I was a writer, and I had an active imagination. They were just angry that it acted against the only son in our family.

I stopped trying completely, a year or two after it started as I realized I had no proof. That may be why I held still in the face of his fury, rather than cowering on the floor. I knew what a direct blow to my face could do, and in the back of my mind I remember a voice told me to wait, to let him do it. Then I would have my proof. As I heard him move, it happened. I still like to think it was a miracle, but whatever it was, my threadbare socks slipped on the floor and I fell.

Eyes snapping open in complete shock, I felt the air rushing by my temple as his fist moved through the empty space where my head had been. Thinking back, I wish I'd thought to look at his expression as his fist continued forward, burying itself in the wall as it moved through the plaster. At the time, all I could do was sink to the floor, wide eyes staring dazedly at nothing, mouth open in awe. I guess it doesn't matter what saved me, as long as I was saved.

I smile now, no longer bothered by the man's gaze as I remember my elation. I was so very proud of myself when I went to my mother with my proof, pulling back the calendar he'd placed over the gaping hole; as if that calendar would stop me from showing her, stop me from asking her how hard a person would have to hit to make such a hole. Then I told my tale again and for once, she listened.

Disbelief warring with horror, she shook her head frantically. She reminded me of myself when he'd ask me where I wanted to be hit, and I actually felt sorry for her. Nodding once, I asked her a single question, I asked her how much damage a hit like that would do to my face. I'd never seen my mother cry till that day, and as much as it pained me, I loved the sight of those bright tears slipping down her pale cheeks.

She never covered that hole in the wall, even though my brother moved out years ago. I still show it to my grandmother when she questions something I've told her, reminding her that I don't lie. I never cried wolf, I just cried.

She still loves my brother best, but I've come to accept that. With a grandmother's love, she is unable to bear the true horror of something her baby, something her favorite has done. Yes, she accepts it, but she also excuses it.

A woman opens the door across from me, breaking my reverie with a gentle smile, beckoning for me to come with her. Confident now, I nod to the staring man, smirking when he looks surprised and jerks back in his seat, brown eyes moving away. Maybe I do need help, but I've overcome the biggest demons, the only thing left now is to share them, get them out of my system. I don't know if it'll help, but I'll try. I smile again as I go through the door.

The room is blue.