Mother was sprawled in bed and seemingly unconscious. I was alarmed. She looked tired, but more than that she looked half dead. There was a blood stain on the edge of the bed. Mother was never that careless. I, instinctively, knew something bad had happened. I felt for her pulse and it was faint. I went back outside to find the red-eyed son gazing at the sky. I looked up to see what he was looking at – other than the beautiful blue sky there was nothing there.
“What are you looking at?” I asked him with the normal dread I felt every time I spoke to him. He was in his early twenties, had dropped out of school because he was not interested and preferred staying at home and smoking weed all day.
He looked at me incredulously.
“Can’t you see it idiot!” he spat. I knew then he was high from whatever latest drug he was on. He was the proverbial ‘black sheep’ in this otherwise prominent family.
“Do you know what happened to my mum? I think she needs a doctor.”
“Look!” he said pointing towards the sky completely ignoring my question.
I looked, not because I expected to find anything, but because he looked wild and dangerous. I saw clouds.
“Those are just clouds.” I said.
He glared at me for the second time in the space of a few hours.
I went back inside our flat, mother’s hands now looked limp and her body looked swollen. Her skin looked stretched and like someone had applied cooking oil to it. Her breathing was now laboured but she stirred when I let out a scream. I shook her leg which despite looking plump and shiny felt like jelly. I screamed her name out loud, she heard and whimpered something unintelligible. I called her again and she lifted her head, only to flop it back down on the pillow. She rolled her eyes; it was then I noticed she looked drunk or drugged, her eyes were glassy and rolling back into her head. I pulled her up. By now I was worried sick, and tears were rolling down my face.
“What’s happening?” I kept hollering but it was like she couldn’t really hear me. A knock at the door brought her back to life. She sat upright on the bed and looked wildly around the room.
“Don’t open the door!” She croaked.
“Why?” I asked. I had no idea why mother was spooked – I mean if anyone came knocking on our door it was always the employer or the family.
The person knocked again only harder this time.
“Who is it?” I asked.
“It’s me. Open up!” It was the red-eyed sky gazer.
Mother’s look told me everything I needed to know so I didn’t open the door.
“Now it’s not a good time.” I heard him walk away.
Mother asked for a glass of milk. I got some from the little fridge in the kitchenette. I was about to ask her if she needed to see a doctor when she told me in a calm voice that we needed to talk. Somehow, I knew the ‘talk’ would have nothing to do with my raging hormones.
For the next two hours mother told me the most horrific story I’d ever heard.
Two weeks after taking the job, she was alone in the younger children’s bedroom ironing or something, when the red-eyed monster walked in. She thought he needed something to eat. She asked him if he needed something, and his reply surprised her. He told her he just wanted to hang out and watch her work. It made her uneasy and confused but she let him be. She assumed he was bored since he did nothing all day. There were workers all over the property, but he lounged about all day smoking weed, she’d suspected. He sat there smiling at the younger kids but watching mother intently. It made her uncomfortable, but she didn’t know what to do, so she engaged him in small talk.
This went on for several days.
Then one day, he came to ‘watch’ her and this time brought her a cup of tea. It was tea that smelled exotic and expensive – before this job, we didn’t know such teas existed. He handed her the cup and took the usual corner seat in whatever room she was working in. At that point she’d decided he was lonely and just needed someone to talk to, because leading up to that day they’d be having interesting conversations about politics, the neighbours and everything in between. Despite their stark differences from age, gender, economic status they were friends and could laugh about silly things. She was, for lack of a better word, a mother to him – because he told her he could not talk to his own mother the way he talked to her. She felt good because she knew she was helping.
And then she blacked out.
When she came to, she was in bed in the younger children’s bedroom, her head was heavy and groggy, the children were running amok, and there was a weird sensation between her legs. It was confusing. She searched her mind and tried to remember the last thing that happened, but she couldn’t remember a thing, just how her body felt. She also couldn’t account the last 3 hours.
As she told me this, I cried because I knew what had happened: she knew too but wouldn’t say it out loud.
The red-eyed monster didn’t talk or acknowledge her for weeks after that.
Then it happened again: this time he didn’t offer her any drinks or strike up conversations. She woke up in a heap of dirty laundry and the same weird sensation between her legs. Her mouth tasted bitter. This time she had to do something.
The next time he ‘hanged’ around her – she knew that’s how he drugged her – she told him. At first, he denied. She threatened to tell. He didn’t care because no one would believe her: he threatened to say it was all her doing. She knew it would a ‘she said he said’ situation and she was most likely to lose because her pockets were not deep enough. She decided the unthinkable – she would do it willingly until she had a plan and because she didn’t want to be drugged anymore. A sneaky thought also crossed her mind that she might enjoy it: I nearly threw up when she said that.
Over the next two months, she let him. They compromised to once a day in the morning. It worked well for the first few months, but he got bored because his thrills came from having his way with her when she was unconscious, and because, she realised, he did things to her then he couldn’t do when she was sober and awake.
At this point I was bawling so hard my eyes were practically fused. I wanted her to stop yet I wanted to hear more. I hated him more with every word that came out of her mouth. I missed my old life. I missed father. I didn’t care if I never ate fruits or ice-cream or cakes ever again: I wanted out of this life. I wanted many things, but I said nothing.
The monster took his sick game to the next level. Since he couldn’t drug her, he started forcing her to take drugs with him. She wouldn’t, so he beat her. It got worse because the beatings turned him on – it was sickening to hear, and I could take no more.
“I don’t want to hear anymore mother. And we must leave today. I don’t care if we sleep on the streets. This job is not worth it.”
“I made that decision earlier today daughter. We are leaving tonight. But we have to be careful.”
“You did? Why today and not before or when it started.”
“You know what? Don’t tell me. I trust your decision mother.” I knew I didn’t want to know the straw that broke the camel’s back. I knew something dreadful must have happened today that hadn’t happened previously.
“Because dear daughter, he is watching you.”