Four-year-old Alex… well, she’s almost four… sits alone in her room. The voices of men from the other room are laughing and happy. It hurts her. It’s lonely where she sits. She knows she’s supposed to be lying down, but she likes the men, especially Freddie, and she wishes she could join them. She’s already made one trip too many, to ask for water last time.
“She just wants to be part of the fun, Vato,” Freddie had laughed. “¡Ven chiquita!”
Alex had run to Freddie’s arms, only to be caught and scolded by her father. “Water makes you wet the bed.” The men had laughed some more as he dragged her away. “Don’t make me talk to you again!” He’d smacked her hard on her butt before stuffing her angrily back into her bed. “Now, go to sleep!”
The redness has calmed from the spanking, but not from the laughter of the men over the bed-wetting. Alex lies there thinking. Crying had almost put her to sleep, but then she heard Rosita’s voice. Rosita is bad. She isn’t supposed to be there. So when the men laugh again, Alex can stand it no more.
Quietly, she creeps out to where she can hear them. Stood just out of sight, she listens. One of the men can see her. Davey. But he keeps quiet and so she hides and listens. He looks up at times, but only with a quick smile and he turns away again so as not to give her away.
Alex stares at Davey. Maybe he is her friend too, like Freddie. The words are too fast, hard to understand, and half of them in Spanish, which makes it worse. But Alex knows the sound when she hears it. Rosita’s voice has changed. It makes the soft sound the men like and Alex knows Rosita has made those sounds for her father.
Her heart is pounding! She listens. She listens. She watches Davey, but he’s turned to laugh at something on the couch. Then Rosita says her father’s name and it drives her out of hiding into the room.
Rosita is in her father’s lap with his face buried in her chest. Alex’s world breaks.
The whole room goes quiet. Alex is still burning with the embarrassment of her bed-wetting.
“What time is Mommy coming?”
Rosita shrieks something in Spanish she doesn’t understand.
“Alexis!” her father yells.
Freddie calls his name.
Rosita is pushed from her father’s lap and he grabs Alex by the wrist. All sound is drowned by ringing in her ears as fear rushes through her. Hollow echoes of feet on the floor are felt but not heard. He drags her. She knows she is crying and she’s trying to stop, but it’s too late. Much too late.
He takes her to the little square playroom. Fear rips at her. “I’ll go to sleep!” she cries, but it’s too late. He forces her and chair to the middle of the room and sits her in it. Screaming, she still can hear nothing. He ties her to chair and then he has the silver tape. He straps it over her mouth… criss-cross… in an X… and he leaves her.
Alex is crying pitifully. The saliva from her sobs finally works the tape loose and he hears her crying again. He comes back with the sticky silver tape and he wraps it all the way around her head this time… around and around… She can barely breathe. Her nose is running and she’s choking on it. The terror eventually exhausts her and she is quiet.
She wakes up still bound. The house is dark now. Her father has forgotten her and gone to bed. She sits like that, crying silently until exhaustion pushes her once again into sleep.
Hours she sits the next morning, while her father sleeps the morning away. He always sleeps too long. When he finally wakes, he fixes breakfast for himself. She’s hungry, but he doesn’t come.
Finally the sounds of her mother stir hope in her heart. Her mother comes in, she hears them talking angrily… and talking… and talking…
“Alex isn’t up yet? You said you’d have her ready.”
The footsteps come at last. Her mother doesn’t say a word. She’s afraid of him too. She unties Alex from the chair.
The sticky tape tears Alex’s hair out. It hurts, but she doesn’t cry.
“Very good, Annie! I feel like we’re making some good progress now,” Kiko said. “Can we take that jacket off? It looks terribly uncomfortable.”
I nodded. “Alex felt just like this being tied to that chair.”
“Alex? Don’t you think maybe Alex is really you?”
I considered the question while Kiko loosened the buckles on the straitjacket. Mama and Daddy aren’t divorced and I don’t remember a time when they were ever separated. The memories are pretty real, though.
“Pop goes the weasel.” I replied numbly.
“I’m sorry?” Kiko said, confused.
“You know, you wind me up long enough someone pops out.”
Kiko undid the last buckle and I shook the jacket off in relief. In a strange way, it felt like I’d been wearing it on my mind. Gauze bandages wrapped my left wrist. I stared at them for a moment, and then I smirked in amusement.
“What’s so funny?” Kiko sounded concerned.
“Duct tape fixes everything doesn’t it?”
© 2013 Anne Schilde