I was just helping Mommy set the table for supper. It wasn’t like I meant to spill Adam’s glass of milk. I put Mommy’s special pink bowl full of green beans on the kitchen table. I did it very carefully because it was her special bowl but my hand hit the plastic tumbler. It tipped spilling on the floor. The milk seemed to fall in slow motion. And then, all of sudden everything started moving in fast forward.
Before the milk hit the floor, I began to apologize. “I’m sorry, Mommy. I didn’t mean to spill the milk, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again. I’ll be more careful. Please, Mommy.” Along with the words came tons of real, honest-to-goodness desperate tears.
It was as if a monster took over her body. She twirled so fast I didn’t even see the last of the milk fall nor hear the container bounce to the black and white tile. She yanked me by the hair into her bedroom, the room Daddy had painted baby blue to match her eyes.
The large flat, ivory brush with inland black and green butterflies sat in its place of honor on her dresser. I knew she didn’t know what she was doing or she would have never used the brush. Daddy had given it to her when they got married. She didn’t even let me brush my hair with it.
She usually spanked me with her hand. This time she hit me harder and harder with the brush. It felt like a million daggers piercing me at once everywhere on my arms, legs, back, bottom. The brush slammed into what seemed to be every part of my body. Of course, I was screaming which probably didn’t help matters. I probably deserved it. After all, I spilled the milk.
Her voice wasn’t like Mommy’s voice. She was shrieking. Some of the words were hard to understand. Something about how Mandy would never get away with it.
I kept saying, “Mommy, I’m Sarah.” But she kept telling me that Mandy was a bad girl and she was going to teach her a lesson.
“Then…why… are…you…hitting…me?” I said between sobs.
“Stop crying, you baby. You know what you did. You know what a bad girl Mandy is. Mandy can never do anything right. Mandy lets boys do anything they want. Mandy is a bad girl.”
I tried to run but she chased me around her bed and cornered me by her dresser. I didn’t know what dying would feel like but I was sure it felt something like this.
It was the first time I even thought about it but I prayed then. “Dear God, make her stop, please. She doesn’t know what she’s doing. Really.”
That’s when it happened. The brush broke, just snapped in two. Half of it went flying across the room. The other half she threw at me. I ducked and ran through the living room into the kitchen and down the hall to my room as if my life depended on it. I was sure it did.
Quickly I climbed up the ladder in my closet. Once above the rest of the house, I hid in a dark, musty and extremely hot corner as far away from opening as I could get. It was hard to breathe. Still I stayed.
Mommy wouldn’t come up to the attic. She didn’t like to climb the stairs. She especially didn’t like to climb over the boxes. It was dirty and she said there were mice. The mice possibility made me shudder. However, Mommy staying downstairs helped me relax enough to get air into my lungs.
My shoulder and back hurt. I curled up in a ball to wait until Daddy got off work. I only had to wait a few minutes. Daddy always came home every night at 5:30. He came straight home after work. He said it was because he loved us so much. I knew it was true.
When I heard the front door open, I slowly climbed down, the cool air from the box air conditioner gave me a surreal feeling of welcome. Standing between the dresses, I could listen to the conversation through the wall vent.
“How was your day?” he asked softly. I could see him combing her dark hair with his fingers. He liked Mommy’s hair.
There was no answer.
Mommy didn’t speak.
I crept down the linoleum-covered hall and peered into the kitchen. The red-topped chrome table and chairs were just where we left them. The milk was puddled on the floor and the blue glass still on its side next to Adam’s plate. They must be in the living room. Cautiously, I peeked around the corner.
“What’s the matter?” Daddy said. “Suzy, do you need me to get your medicine?”
I didn’t know Mommy needed medicine.
My foot hit one of Adam’s hot wheels, a bright blue Corvette racing car. It rolled across the floor. I held my breath.
“Sarah?” Daddy said. I dropped my head to my chest. Now my special Daddy would know I was a bad girl.
I was staring at the floor when I heard him walk across the kitchen. “Sarah, you have any idea why your mom’s not talking?”
“Sarah,” he asked again. I looked up at him. He had a frown on his face, but I could tell he wasn’t mad at me. Daddy rarely ever got mad.
“I don’t know, Daddy.”
He was staring at me now. I knew he knew. He knew how bad I had been. He knew I had spilled Adam’s milk. I started to cry.
Daddy bent down to my level and reached over to hug me. I pulled away and sucked my breath in. The pain was more than I could take.
“Are you hurt? What…what happened, Brown Eyes?” He called me that I was sure because my eyes were just like his. It was our connection.
He cupped his hand under my chin and gently lifted my eyes to his. The water made his face blurry.
“I was bad. I spilled Adam’s milk. Mommy hit me…a lot.”
“Did she hit you with her hand?”
I shook my head. “With the brush.”
“The brush from her dresser?”
I nodded in response. “It, it broke.” The pieces lay on the kitchen floor. I walked over, picked them up and showed him.
He sat down in a kitchen chair. I heard the door to Mommy’s bedroom close with a click. He hung his head. He looked tired.
I walked over and lay my head on his shoulder. He pulled me into his work shirt. It smelled of Old Spice mixed with sweat from his day. It was the Daddy smell that I loved.
His words came slowly rumbling deep within his chest. “Everybody makes mistakes. Remember a few nights ago, I spilled my tea? We laughed and I cleaned it up.”
“Mommy kept telling me I was bad.”
“Can you remember what she said? What words did she use?”
“She kept calling me somebody else’s name and said I was bad.”
“She called me Mandy. She said I knew that Mandy was bad.”
I looked at him. His eyes were wet, too.
“It’s OK, Sarah. You are not Mandy.”
Daddy took me into my room and got me a clean shirt, my favorite one with the clown on it. I didn’t know the shirt I was wearing had a rip in the back right in the place that hurt the most, the place where Mommy hit me.
He took me in the bathroom and put some ointment on cuts and bruises. It didn’t really make them feel better but I knew he was trying.
Then, we cleaned up the spilled milk and poured another glass for Adam. That’s when my brother came banging through the back door all dirty from playing baseball with his friends. Daddy asked him to wash up. Then Daddy went in the bedroom to try to get Mommy to come to supper.
I kept wondering all this time who Mandy was. Maybe she was a new little girl in the neighborhood or one of Mommy’s friend’s kids. Mommy was always talking to her friends on the phone. Maybe they told Mommy that Mandy was bad. Then, when I spilled the milk Mommy thought I was acting like Mandy.
I just couldn’t figure it out. I could hear Daddy’s silky smooth voice speaking in Mommy’s bedroom but I couldn’t understand what they were saying.
Adam sat down and started dishing up potatoes, green beans and hamburger patties. I glared at him. He knew he was supposed to wait for Daddy and Mommy.
“Make me,” he countered. He was a year younger than me but already he could beat me up.
I knew he wouldn’t listen to me. So I went to get Daddy. Just as my hand was poised to knock on the door, I heard Daddy talking.
“Suzy, why won’t you talk to me? You’ve never shut down like this before.”
“Honey, you have to talk to me. You just have to. If not, you know I’ll have to call the doctor.”
I held my breath.
“Amanda Sue, speak to me.”
Mommy’s name isn’t Honey. It’s not Suzy.”
My heart fell to the floor. It’s…Mandy.
© Copyright 2011 by Teresa Parker