《 May, 1965 – Hour Unknown 》
Faces continued to change above me, and occasionally I’d feel the pain of entry, luckily most of them must not have been above average. I stopped counting once the the sixth man had crawled atop of me, and I no longer cried, as my body had no more tears to give. That’s when another man entered the room, I immediately smelt a familiar aroma of smoke, musk, and cheap cologne, once he spoke I knew right away it was him.
“Finish up quick there lad, or I’ll be plowing what ever tight hole is available on that there bed.” He crudely stated, and the young Hispanic on top of me hasten his thrusting, he sobbed and kept saying he was sorry, praying to God for forgiveness as he pleasure himself with my body.
He attempted to kiss my lips through the dirty stale sack but I turned my head and avoided him, he finally finished and was hastily pushed aside by the Brutte, I could make out the Major’s silhouette as his eyes no doubt feast upon my flesh. I resisted the urge to vomit, as he situated himself between my legs, I tried to fight back but I only earned a bruising smack to the face that agitated my already swollen and possibly broken jaw. He took that moment to thrust into me, inciting a scream, the man was moderate in length but devastatingly girthy, I fought against him as his member tore into me.
“There’s no laying like a dead fish with me ol’gal, little Brutte is much too big a fella to stand for that!”
I felt the numbness return, and this time I wholeheartedly embraced it, looking for anyway to escape this torturous reality. Just as the darkness was taking me, I received another blow to the face, and he started to thrust harder.
“Don’t leave me ol’girl, I’m not through with’ya yet..” He leaned in close, and I could smell the tobacco on his breath, as he whisper toward my ear. “You don’t know how long I been waiting to get a crack at Granni just one good time.”
The bastard knew it was me…
Of course he would know, he had to recognize the cuts to my neck and shoulder, this monster of a man was more perceptive and perverse than the rest present. I didn’t give him the further satisfaction of a response, no matter what he did, this seem to frustrate him. Then out of nowhere, there was a loud bang that sounded like a bull had come bursting into the room, and the Brutte was thrown off of me.
The bag was snatched from off of my head and I could see Reginald’s face above my own, and I had never been more happy to see him. He went to remove my shackles, and my gaze went to Baxter who was arguing with the mob of men crowded into the room. He was inconsolable, no one could talk him down no matter what excuse they used. The main one in particular begging for forgiveness was the young Latino, he was crying and pulling at Baxter’s shirt, I don’t know what happened next but there was a sudden shriek followed by screaming.
“Holy Mary, mother of god! He set him on fire!” One of the men screamed, as the Latino went running away, aflame like he’d been soaked in gasoline, spreading his flame to everything he tripped into.
“He’s a demon!” Screamed another, as they all started to panic and circle around him, taking a hostile stance.
“He’s probably the Goddamn devil himself, I say we kill his black ass!” Yelled a third, sending the rest of the men into mayhem.
I screamed as Baxter became engulfed in a flame, if I wasn’t so horrified by the men around him being burnt to a crisp, I could have admired the beauty of his transformation. It look as if he were covered in dripping napalm, the only way I can think to explain it is to say he was soaked in fire from head to toe. The color covering him range from red to bright orange, with his face and hands a scorchingly bright blue. I could see him hurtling balls of fire at the men, and I found myself transfixed by the song of their screams, finding them beautiful.
Interrupting the music, Reginald had finally freed me and dragged me as fast as he could towards the door, the fire in the room was quickly spreading throughout the hut. Last thing I saw before we escape the room, was Major Brutte jumping through the open window, with half his body blackened and burning from the aggressive flames.
As soon as we got outside, I noticed quickly that none of the other men had made it out of the building alive, I didn’t see any of the Vietnamese women either. I tried not to imagine them still strapped to the beds, as I stood outside in the blistering heat of the night. As humid as it was, I shivered from an inner cold, and wrapped the sheet tighter around my body.
“What the hell did Woodrow do?! He really is like Sarin said.. these things are dangerous, if they wanted to take over, humanity wouldn’t stand a chance!” Reginald said, his anxiety giving his tone a nervous quiver. “Maybe we should leave him.. there’s no way anyone is going to walk outta that blaze in one piece.”
Just as he said that, the burning building came crashing down to the ground, erupting in a bright blaze of glory. My breath caught in my chest as I look fervently for Baxter amongst the rubble, just when all hope was lost I saw him step forth from the still burning remains. He was covered in soot but I ran towards him anyway, wrapping my arms as tight as I could around his neck.
He cooed soothing words in my ears, and told me how happy he was to be starting a family with me, he kissed me in a way that I knew he had nothing in his heart but love for me and our baby.
《 August, 1965, 0900hrs 》
“Please Coral, just sit still, it won’t hurt as much if you stop moving.”
“I’m sorry Auntie Gail, but it hurts.. I don’t like getting my hair done.” The young sable skinned girl complained, with tears threatening to flow from her tender brown eyes, I was being as patient as I could but the baby was kicking something fierce.
“Maybe if you had good hair, it wouldn’t hurt to comb that mess, but your hair is so dang nappy.. Nanna said it’s a’cause you take after great Grandaddy Black, who been so black! The crayon in the color box been lighter than him, she tol’ me so herself!”
“Pearl I’m sorry to tell ya sweetie, but to the majority of the white man out in the world, both of you are the same kind of Black.” I said sternly, she looked at me with hurt eyes before casting them to the ground, I put a finger under her chin and raise her head so she can look me in the eye. “And guess what that means?”
“I don’t know.. that I’m dark too?” Pearl asked dejectedly, looking down at herself with disappointment, I knew then I had to put an end to this once and for all. “Am I always gonna be black auntie Gail?”
“What’s wrong with that? Black is beautiful, black is bold, strong and sophisticated, black is sleek. There’s a smoothness to black, that is both rhythmic and dynamic, a tone so deep and rich, you can’t help but come to appreciate the intricate subtleties of mystery that comes ingrained within it.”
“Wow, so I’m all of those fancy pretty words?”
“You sure are honey.” I replied, as I had finally detangled all of Coral’s hair, I had gotten it to grow so well but it was harder to maintain the length, the younger girl took that moment to snap back at her sister.
“I’m blacker than you, Pearl, so I’M the most beautiful! Wait till I tell Baxter.. I bet you he would agree!”
“Nu-uh! He’d pick me!”
They argued over who was the most ‘Black and Beautiful’ for the full two hours it took to finish Coral’s flat twists, which had turned out great for this being only my third time attempting to style the girls hair. I refused to straighten her hair with heat or chemical, as I truly found it to be gorgeous in its natural state, no matter what others may say.
There was no need to change either of these two little beauty’s, and I had come to love them like daughters. They were so smart, mature, and well behaved for their age, even though they had been raised in a nightmarish environment that consisted of an alcoholic mother and an estranged father who suffered from schizophrenic episodes that caused him to disappear from their lives for months at a time.
When Baxter and I arrived back in the states, we both had decided to go AWOL as soon as our feet touch ground, without ever contacting my mother nor the the army base I was supposed to report. We caught the next bus out of the closest greyhound station, heading toward his hometown, the city of Detroit. We were staying with Baxter’s brother Saul, but the man had disappeared almost as soon as we got there, and the girls mother not too long after.
We were essentially abandoned to take care of three little girls, neither of us having any experience with children. Since we were technically ‘on the run’, Baxter had to take odd off the books jobs that nobody wanted, and I had to be the mother these girls had never had. Baxter’s mother had offered to take them, but we didn’t want to uproot the children from the only home they had ever known, and sending them away would be basically telling them the truth of their abandonment when they thought their mom and dad were coming back, I prayed that one day they would but I wouldn’t hold my breath while I wait.
The only person I had spoken to was Reginald, he of course begged me to turn myself in and say Baxter coerced me, but I vehemently refused. It got to the point where he threatened to tell the government about Baxter and the fire, and the possibility my baby might be something more than human as well. I hung up on him, and knew it would be a long shot for them to find us, they wouldn’t know where to start.
I was done fighting an un-winnable war, especially knowing the truth of the savagery entailed within it. I fear for the woman, both ours and theirs, I pray for the children, I grieved for every lifeless body that came home in a flag covered casket. I hugged and kissed Baxter with more passion than ever before, trying to best every night of lovemaking with a better performance than the last. I was happier than I could ever remember being, even though I was always the oddball out wherever I went with Him or the girls, it took awhile to get used to the way people looked and acted toward me because I was a white woman fully unashamed and unapologetic of my family.
There was one downfall, it was the dreams, I felt trapped in the horrors of the past, living those moments over and over as if for the first time, every time. Baxter had some PTSD as well, but he seemed to be able to handle it better than I could, I decided to blame my hormones. It wasn’t till these last couple of weeks that I kept having the same recurring dream over and over again.
It got to the point where I would lose where I was, even when I was awake, I would get heavy migraines and a voice in my head would keep repeating the same words.
“In real life, there are no happy endings for any of us.”
“Come on, give me one more push, she’s almost out!” The doctor yelled from down between my spread legs.
“Gail, I can see her, she’s beautiful, just keep pushing!” Baxter yelled out encouragement, and I gave it my all on the next go, this was the worse pain I had ever felt in my life.
“Okay, Gail.. She’s out, she’s out! You can relax now, we’re gonna.. OH MY GOD! There’s another, Gail keep pushing, we got one more to go!” The doctor screamed as he passed the porcelain skinned baby to the nurse, and got back down to meet the next one.
“It’s a beautiful baby boy!” Baxter exclaimed excitedly, as he held my hand to his mouth, I could hear my son crying loudly and my face grew wet with tears of joy. “Thank you Gail for giving me these two angels, I love you more than you could ever know..”
“Doctor, we have an issue, she’s not responding!” The nurse called out, from where she had taken my daughter, I looked to Baxter with fear, praying and begging the lord Christ she was okay.
They worked on her for fifteen minutes before they called it, and I felt my head start to spin, there was a shortness to my breath as I try to fathom what had happen. My baby, my baby girl, gone before she was even here for me to hold her. A sudden spell of dizziness hit me, and I could hear Baxter call out to me, but I couldn’t answer as the convulsions start to shake me uncontrollably until consciousness escape me.
I woke up out of a coma eight days later, feeling like I was hit by a truck, I felt sore and it felt as if I had the rickety bones of an old woman. It wasn’t till the next day, I could move around as I please, finally gaining most of my strength back. Baxter was with me and the baby on intricately timed intervals, but when I happen to be alone, the doctor came in to see me holding a bunch of charts in his hands, I couldn’t believe all that was paperwork on me.
“Gail, I’m going to be straight up with you, we’ve detected high levels of Dioxin in your blood, that’s not good.. While it’s normally fine to have Dioxin in the system, the World Health Organization recommends a monthly limit of 70 picograms per kilogram of body weight, or 0.07 parts per trillion in a person’s blood. We got your results back and found your levels were well over a 100.05ppt, when in comparison, a normal person would only have anywhere from 3-7 ppt in their blood from agricultural exposure to such toxic elements.” The doctor explained in his rudimentary tone, he was a nice man and I trust him, he was also the only doctor in fifty miles that would deliver my biracial children. “We don’t have any idea how this could happen, short of you working on a dust farm, and sleeping in the fields as they sprayed it, it’s quite incredible the amount of exposure you have. We’ve tested your surviving child and he seems to be fine, you on the other hand are nowhere near fine.”
“Doctor, since I trust your discretion and character, I’ll be truthful. I’m AWOL from serving in Vietnam.. there was a chemical used called Agent Orange, to clear away the jungles, I’m pretty sure that’s where I was exposed.”
“A shame, this war is nasty business.” He replied as he wrote on a pad, he tore off a sheet and handed it to me, it was a prescription for a pain killer. “This is all I can do for the headaches Gail, until we run more tests at least, but you can rest easy knowing I won’t disclose anything you tell me, I hold my patients privacy in high regard.”
“Thank you, Doctor, I appreciate everything you’ve done for Baxter and I.”
“Don’t mention it, my dear. We all deserve quality healthcare, no matter what color, gender, or orientation we happen to be. It just pains me I was your only option.”
“Had I been afforded many options, I think I still may have chosen you.” I told him, before departed to give me time to sleep.
The next day we put my baby girl to rest, they wanted us to cremate her but I refused, I wanted my little girl to have a proper burial. They had found her death to be a result of bruising, caused from the savage treatment I received during my rape. I had to confess, because the doctor was worried Baxter was beating me at home, I mentioned the man had saved me but of course I practiced discretion with the details.
Looking down at her small pale body, in a casket that was no bigger than a shoebox, knowing I was cursed terrified the hell out of me. There was no way I was going to win this war with the fates, there was no running from a tragic destiny that was thoroughly justified.
I deserved this, I had earned everything bad that will ever happen to me, and I knew the balances still weren’t even.
《 April, 1968, 1800hrs 》
“They killed Medgar! They killed Malcolm! And now, they killed Martin! When are we gonna stand up and fight? How long are we gonna continue to turn the other cheek?!” Baxter argued, barely able to contain his passion and anger, many of the people that gathered to the meeting agreed with him.
“That’s not the way The Reverend would want us to act, we’ll lose everything we’ve been fighting for.” Talib countered, he was sort of our de-facto leader, a handsome Ebony skinned brother that had the most even tempered personality and honest eyes. “They know we are so close to changing the course of this country for the better, they are the ones that are afraid, that’s why they’ve taken our brethren from us. They want us to act out of fear and rash retaliation, they want us to give people on the fence a reason to be afraid of the big bad negro… I say we don’t give the bastards the satisfaction!”
“He’s right babe.” I said to Baxter, placing my free hand to his clenched forearm, Gailen, our son, was clutched tight to my hip with the other. “Think of the bias interpretation the papers will spin anything you guys do, it’s better we continue on course with Dr. King’s legacy, we all have to be in this together.”
Baxter didn’t speak but he visibly relaxed once I lay hand on him, he hadn’t seen who I was but he happen to be able to recognize my touch. He turned and pulled us close to him, and I lay my head upon his strong chest. Our family always received weird looks, but Talib always gazed our way with pride, he saw hope for the future in our union and he encouraged the others to see the same. Baxter took his son from me, and he lifted my beautiful toffee skinned child high into the air, I hate when he did that but I trusted him as a father.
We went home to our three bedroom house, that Baxter had purchased, it was a good house with some rough edges, but I knew he was handy with tools. I insisted on a third room for the girls, if their mother ever let them return, as I missed them severely.
Annette had returned drunk and reeking of stale smoke, she didn’t like the idea of me raising her children, so she took them to Saul and Baxter’s mother. It hurt to let them go but I had to, it was then Baxter had moved us to the outskirts of the city, and purchased the house, to take my mind off of our troubles.
It was the perfect place to raise Gailen, and I focused all my efforts on becoming the opposite to my own mother short of suffocating him, it also didn’t help that he surely loved the attention, so he was sure to be spoiled. Once we got settled in the house, I started dinner and left the boys to entertain themselves, though I kept checking to make sure Baxter and his new best friend didn’t make a mess.
The man had settled well into fatherhood, and I’d never seen him so animated and happy, than when the two of them were together. While I could remember, I ran to the bathroom to search the medicine cabinet, I grabbed the three bottles the doctor had insisted I take daily and set them on the counter.
After several weeks of countless testing and research to find out what my agent orange exposure would mean, the doctor had finally made a connection with a contact overseas whom was treating patients suffering from the same levels of Dioxin in their blood. I had surely lucked out compared to what others we’re dealing with, but the inhalation of fumes had deteriorated my hippocampus severely. The only thing keeping me lucid was the three different colored pills that were hard to swallow, otherwise I was a total wreck, I quickly drank them down and ran back to the food that was simmering on the stove.
I caught it just in time and went about setting up the table, when calling the boys for dinner I had to dodge the two running into the dining room. I had just sat down to eat, when there was a sturdy knock on the front door, Gailen jumped up and ran to answer it, he’d only recently learned to do it and it had become his new guilty pleasure that drove me crazy. I was about to stop him, but I was a few seconds too late, he swung it open to reveal a man, one I thought I wouldn’t see till he was lying in his casket.
“Hello, Baby Doll, it been a long time coming, ain’t it?”
“Big Daddy, what a pleasant surprise, it would be an understatement to say I wasn’t expecting you, but I can admit I knew this visit would be happening sometime soon.” I replied to the man, noticing that as he stood in the doorway, his cold and calculating teal eyes were locked on Gailen even though he was addressing me. “We were just about to sit down for dinner, shall I put out an extra place setting?”
“No need, we won’t be staying very long.”
His voice was as stern and gravelly as I remembered, and his southern twang hadn’t diminished either, you would think it would have softened seeing as mother and him had been living in upstate New York for years now, but it hadn’t. He still styled his facial hair with blonde and grey peppered mutton chop sideburns, accompanied by a meticulously styled handlebar mustache.
“We?” I asked, pulling Gailen closer to me.
“Yes, we..” He said, inviting himself the rest of the way in, looking around at the home we had made with utter disgust and dissatisfaction.
“Gail, honey, who was at the door?” Baxter called out, as he started to make his way to where we were standing in the den, he stopped in his tracks when he saw my father.
He had never met the man, yet guessing from his change in demeanor, he knew exactly who he was.
“Ah, Mr. Woodrow, I would say it’s a pleasure to finally meet your acquaintance, but I’ve never been one to lie, especially when it comes to my distaste for your kinda folk.” My father said, greeting Baxter with the same lack of respect he offered most people of color, whom, to his credit, ignored Big Daddy’s baiting and refused to stoop to his level.
“Even so, the pleasure is all mine, welcome to my home.” Baxter replied, coming to stand at my side, he threw an arm over my shoulder in a sign of defiant support.
Little Gailen didn’t understand what was going on, but he could sense the tension in the air, I knew he was wary of my father because he tried to hide from his line of sight behind my legs.
“You both know why I’m here today, it’s time to put this abominable union between the two of you to an end. Gail, you’re coming home with me.” Big Daddy stated, more as a fact or demand, than a request to one’s daughter.
“No, I’m staying with my family.” I said, grabbing hold to Baxter’s hand for support, I’m sure I was trembling something fierce from the fear I had of this man.
Baxter didn’t know how dangerous and deadly Big Daddy could be, but I knew all too well first hand, that this man was as conniving as they come. Seeing him again after so many years brought the memories of my youth rushing back, the wounds still felt fresh, the pain and anger, a burden that had never truly faded away.
“You know your mother misses you Baby Doll, why do you worry her like this? We just want you to come home, we forgive you.. I forgive you.”
“Forgive.. Me? Why would I need forgiveness, especially from you?! I’ve done no wrong father, I’m a good person now.. can you say the same?” I asked, staring into the silent fury of his eyes, showing no fear in my own. “Maybe you should be seeking your own forgiveness for dastardly deeds done, or have you forgotten what you did?”
“I remember every detail, especially the part where I raised you better than being some two bit Jezebel whore for some goddamn nigger!” He retort, his rise in volume scared Gailen, I could feel the poor babe jump and latch tighter to me.
“Watch your mouth around my son, Mr. Grannison. I won’t have you disrespecting my wife and child in our own home.” Baxter warned him, showing the same remarkable restraint, I found so admirable when I first met him, I could feel myself fall in love all over again.
“Papa, what’s a nigger?” Gailen asked in a low voice, and Big Daddy burst into a riotous laughter, it occurred to me that this was my son’s first time ever hearing the word, a rarity in these times.
“The poor little bastard doesn’t even know what lowly shit e’is?! This is priceless, only my daughter would be raising some uppity negro that believes he’s above his station.” My father’s taunting was cut short as Baxter lunged for him, he caught hold of the lapel of his jacket, but I was able to pull him back in time.
“Baxter, NO!! This is exactly what he wants, he probably has the Chief of police in his pocket, All they need is some bogus assault charge to pin on you.” I said, trying to calm him into reason, my father’s incessant laughter wasn’t helping matters, but I got him to take a few steps back.
“Clever girl, there’s hope for you yet.” Big Daddy commented, as I tried to keep Baxter from flipping out, we didn’t need him to lose himself to the fires of his fury.
“You’re right honey.” Baxter said, breathing deeply to keep calm, never taking his eyes from my father. “I believe you’ve worn out your welcome, Mr. Grannison, it’s probably best you leave now.”
“As soon as Gail collects her things, we can go and leave you two harbingers of filth behind.”
“She clearly stated she has no desire to join you.”
“Ah, you’re mistaken to assume she, or you, have any say in the matter.” Big Daddy replied with a wicked grin, sending chills up my spine. “Either she leaves with me or the army comes to take you away for treason acts against the United States of America, I have here a written, signed, and affidavit statement of your quite ‘miraculous’ acts of arson against a troop of scouts sent to rescue you. It will make for an unprecedented scandal indeed, and leave your poor pathetic mulatto child orphaned and a ward of the state after they find you both unfit.”
“You wouldn’t dare.” I growled at him, pulling my last trump card against the man. “I will tell about what you did.. I will tell about what you did to me, what you made me do to Odessa!”
“Oh Baby Doll, I’m a hun’net percent sure, you’re not ready to open that closet of skeletons darlin.”
“I’ll do anything to protect my true family.” I answered, moving closer to my boys, like a lioness in defense of her pride.
“What will your new husband think of his golden alabaster skinned angel then? You think he will love you once he knows your awful truth? I doubt things will be the same once that pure halo is ripped off’r the top of yer head, Baby Doll.”
I turned to my love and knew my father was right, I had purposely chosen to omit certain details of my life, especially when it pertained to this man. Truthfully, I never knew how I would put the horrors of what happen into words, the vile and deplorable things that I’ve done we’re unforgivable. I had to face the truth, my truth, our truth.. It was my only road to salvation.
“The first man I ever fell in love with was my daddy, I followed the man everywhere, I wore his clothes, I put on his oversized shoes and tried to walk with my tiny feet in them. Unfortunately, I had also taken to mimicking his disgusting use of racial slurs and I ignorantly followed his lead when came to my limited interactions with people of other backgrounds. Thank god for our housekeeper Odessa, she was my nanny and ended up being my one true friend. The woman raised me, while my mother remain forever absent, preferring social engagements over the unglamorous prospects of motherhood. I wanted attention, so I would act out, only to get ignored by my mother and sent to my room. Big Daddy would come home for dinner at night and smother me with love, while mother would watch with a cold jealous stare, he’d whisper things for me to say to Odessa to entertain him and whatever guests were present, using her embarrassment for entertainment. I didn’t know how much my vile words and brash actions actually hurt her, until I had gotten older and learned the truth.”
I turn to the man I had once cared for above all others, I thought of how naive I was to put him on a pedestal, and of the tragic reality of his truth.
“My father was always trying to instill a hatred of others that often seem to border on the obsessive, it wasn’t till I was older that I saw the king of hypocrisy for what he was, and I could never think of him the same. The sight of you now, standing here, it almost makes me want to vomit.”
“Aww, I love you too Baby Doll.” The man retort with a lewd, dare I say proud, grin on his face.
“How could you do that to her for all those years? As much as you ridiculed and degraded the appearance of black women, It was ironically poetic that you coveted a woman whose appearance embodied everything you had come to hate. It pained you that she was so beautiful, so lovely, so honest and free, it ate at the core of your very heart, didn’t it?”
He looked perturbed at my words but still remained silent, I knew I was getting to him though, I was hitting him right where it hurt. There was no denying my father’s passionate confusion when it came to Odessa, there were countless times when mother wanted to needlessly fire her, but father would forbid it. He threatened her all the time, saying he would bad mouth her to every suitable employer in a fifty mile radius if she ever quit, never paying her enough to be able to save and run away.
I don’t think I ever remember her leaving the property for more than a night or two, she never spoke of any family, she never mentioned a husband, like she had no life before she came to live with us, and her only life now was in the servitude of our abusive bigoted family.
“You know me so well don’t you, that’s why you’ll always be daddy’s little girl.. but I’m sure we both agree you’ve said enough.”
“I’m not done! You wanted me to reveal everything, so Baxter would leave me, well thankfully you’ve given me the courage and a good excuse to practice full disclosure.” I turned back to those transfixing amber eyes, knowing our love deserved to be built on a solid foundation of truth, no matter if it brought about the end of it. “On the night of my sixteenth birthday, I woke up late in the midnight hour, disturbed by shouting I could hear from the downstairs kitchen. I went down stairs and could make out the hushed voices of two people arguing, it was my father and Odessa. I remember being so furious that she would dare to argue with him, showing how deeply he had warped my young mind, it never occurred to me that my father could be wrong, let alone, the disgusting individual he truly was.”
It pained me to think back to those times, who I was then, and all the hurt I had caused to the only mother figure I had ever known. It wasn’t just my father who had dirty hands here, I was guilty beyond belief, even though it was the fiendish man before me pulling the strings.
“I happen to walk up just as he had assaulted her, she attempted to scratch at his face but he was too strong, I stood there watching from behind the wall as my father forced himself upon her. Thrusting till she was a shell of herself, till the pain dulled to nothingness..”
I trailed off into thoughts of that fateful night, when Karma made me pay for my silence, yet I knew there was still a debt to be collected, the rape I experienced was only the beginning.
“After he was finished, he cried and broke down on top her motionless form, I almost thought she was dead as it didn’t look like she was even breathing. My father kissed her mouth feverishly, but she remained unresponsive, causing him to cry some more. He was drunk, the smell of scotch lingering in the air along with a musky aroma I now know to be the tell tale smell of sex. I watched as he proclaimed his sorrow for his actions, how he begged her to believed that he loved her, as if a monster like him could be capable. He told her how he wished he didn’t have her kill the three sons she conceived with him, as he forced her to abort them all, no matter how late the trimester. He spoke of how he visited all three babies where he buried them in the yard, by the paisleys and tulips I planted every spring since I was a child. He told her of how good of a mother she was being to me, and how he wished they could have run away and raised their three sons.”
I looked in my daddy’s eyes, waiting for him to deny any of my words, but he remain silent, only learning of my knowledge of this, at this very moment. He never knew I was there, watching from the doorway, disgusted by this stranger in my house, one unrecognizable to anything I had seen before that point.
“The next night I approached Odessa and told her what I saw, I begged for forgiveness and repented for my actions. We held each other as we cried.. cried for her, cried for me, we cried for my lost brothers. It was a moment that changed my life, and it immediately impacted my life for the better, and I never learned so much. It was like going through life in an angry squint, to finally open my eyes and finally experience the expanse of the world around me for what it was. The bond between me and that woman changed that day, and I think we both knew of the love we had for the other. It was a love my jealous and sinisterly callous father noticed, and he quickly found a way to punish her for giving her love to anyone but him. One evening, about a week or two before Thanksgiving, one of my mother’s expensive necklaces had gone missing, and she just HAD to have it for the next social event she was attending. She had poor Odessa searching far and wide for it, I even joined in to help but it was nowhere to be found.. we looked everywhere.”
I had to paused again, knowing that the next few words, would either end up being my saving grace, or the stake to the heart of my love. Baxter had continued to listen in silence, and I couldn’t help but notice he had pulled Gailen close to him, and moved just the slightest distance away from me. I noticed it, and so had Big Daddy, but I wouldn’t be deterred, I had to face this.
“That night, when Big Daddy returned home, he said he would look for it and left the room. About fifteen minutes later, he comes in and says he found it in one of Odessa’s coat pockets, and mother wasted no time branding her a thief and demanding her head on a platter. It didn’t matter that Odessa lived with us, had no social life, had no means of transportation, and would get turned away at any pawn shop nearby because of the color of her skin. Father threaten to have her jailed, they badgered her to the point of tears no matter how much she protest she was innocent. The man finally came up with what he felt was a suitable punishment, and after mother departed he had me stick around as proof of witness. He took us to the basement, there he made her strip to her bare torso, and I told him he was going too far, stressing the illegality of what he was doing. I thought he meant to rape her again, when I saw he was removing his belt, but that was all he had taken off. He handed me the belt and told me to hit her with it, I immediately refused, causing him to strike me in anger. I was so afraid, the fear of my father seem to swallow me whole, consuming any inkling of courage that attempt to rise within me.”
I close my eyes tight, trying in vain to quell the tears that now fell freely down my face, my own son stood there watching me from his father’s arms. He got his eyes and milky brown complexion from his father, but the rest of his features favor my side of the family. I recognize now why my father stare at the boy so long when he first entered, they were the spitting image of each other, as if one of his lost sons stood before him in a haunting reflection of what would have been. I opened my eyes to see Big Daddy analyzing Gailen again, his brow furrowed and the skin of his face was flushed, the gaze a vivid reminder of that night.
“As I whipped her back, he stood over me shouting that I was taking it too easy on her, he prodded me to strike her flesh as hard as my strength allow. Each time I swung that belt I felt a part of my soul dying, just shriveling up into ash.. I dropped to my knees, unable to move from the shock, I couldn’t believe I was so weak. He snatch the belt from me and began his own assault upon her, only he prefer to use the buckled side, ensuring her screams would forever be etched into my mind. I stood to my feet and made attempt to stop him, and he knocked me hard back to the floor, but I knew he would kill her if I didn’t get him to desist. I somehow decided I could take some of her burden and I wrapped my arms around her from behind, my father continued to whip a few more times before coming to a stop. He was out of breath and had a crazed look on his face, one I came to know as his true face. He told us to clean ourselves up, and said He was hungry, giving Odessa an hour to get a meal on the table or she’d receive another beating. I lay there with her bloody back pressed against my blouse, and we both cried for about ten minutes, she tried to fight me off as I forced her into a bath. I knew she was trying to make it into the kitchen, but there was no way she could boil water in the state she was in, so there was nary a chance she was going to be able to prepare a meal. That night I tried my best to imitate everything I had seen her do before, and put it out on the table for him, while she recuperated.”
“I knew something was off about the food that night, it was terrible, you call that a decent imitation?” My father baulked, as if the terrible food was the only atrocious offense committed.
“Because of you, Odessa has never spoke another word since, she won’t even look any of us in the eye! You broke her down till she had nothing left, you destroyed her will and crushed her spirit, that’s why I had to find my own, that’s why I left! I tricked mother into signing my military form, making her think it was some prestigious academy I could find a rich husband, she didn’t even read it before she signed. I ran away and I FOUND myself, I found my voice, I made a choice to put myself in danger to save lives, no matter what color they may have been.. Along the way I found love, I found happiness, I found meaning, and I think I even earned a little piece of my soul back.” I replied looking at my son, knowing he had saved me, whether he could understand or not, he returned my love with a smile.
“I don’t care about who you were then, I know who you are now.. I know I love you and the family we have here, I don’t care how dirty your hands are.” Baxter said, grabbing my hand and bringing it to his soft lips for a kiss, I couldn’t help but get choked up.
“I love you too, you don’t know how much the two of you mean to me..”
The abrupt loud clapping of my father’s hands in applause, cut me off before I could finish, he had that despicably wicked grin painted across his face, unfazed by the reveal of his toxic character. In fact, he seem to relish in our disgust, finding a sadistic pleasure in our anguish.
“What fascinating storytelling Baby Doll, you must’ve inherited your flare for the dramatics from your mother.”
“What if I happen to take my storytelling down to the police station? or maybe to the papers, I know a guy who works for the ‘Daily Tribune’.. The journalists there would have a field day with this one.” I threatened, knowing my father cared about his reputation more than anything else.
“You’re not gonna do that, you know why? Because then your boy and his daddy are gonna spend the rest of their lives as test monkeys, while the government figures out what the fuck they are.” He knew he had me at a stalemate, I grip hard to Baxter’s hands, at the thought of what the government would do to him if they knew. “The events Sergeant Grande has described to me, if somehow leaked, would ensure these boys end up dissected on some table in Roswell by the end of the week.”
“I most certainly would, dare to test me?” He asked sternly, arching an eyebrow, as he reignited his cigar.
I didn’t answer, because I knew his threats weren’t idle, Big Daddy played the game dirty, he always had. I had watched him destroy many souls, not just Odessa’s, she was just the most innocent of them so far. I looked to Baxter to find him staring down my father, my son grab hold of my hand and I could see he knew something was wrong, he wouldn’t let it go. I tried to show as much love as I could in my eyes, but I’m sure the trail of tears were giving me away. Baxter closed his eyes, and shook his head violently, as if he were just having a nightmare and could wake himself.
It wasn’t so, this was brutally real, in the way reality could only be. I felt like I was dying inside again, and the pain was worse than anything I had ever felt before, karma has taken her toll on my life and the bitch was back for more. I wonder when my debt to her would be paid, for there was only so much more of me to take before she would have to surrender my fate to death. I made the only choice I could, one I knew I could live with, I slowly pulled away from Gailen’s grip and stepped toward my father.
“Okay, I’ll go with you.” I answered finally, taking his outreached hand.