“They raped the dog.” I try to make sense of the words coming out of my mother’s mouth, but can’t. “Your uncle caught them on the way back from town. They were all taking turns, and Duchess was wailing.” I wait for her to say it’s my fault, her inflexion already implies it. “He yelled at them, told them to stop. They all laughed. Told him you were next.” The anger in her voice tinged with worry. “He fired a couple of shots in their vicinity, and when they left, he took the dog to the vet. She’s badly hurt.”
Her concern is not for me. In the last few months, she’s made it abundantly clear that I’m already damaged. But my sisters, that’s an entirely different matter. They are very young, and if they raped the dog, who’s to say they won’t hurt them. I sit on the edge of the sofa, back straight, chin up, poised. The effort to keep the muscles in my face relaxed is unbearable, but if I cry, or show weakness, she will devour me. She can barely contain her rage.
I can’t afford not to react, she’ll just keep digging until she hits pay dirt. Contempt is the answer. “They are all savages. I can’t believe you were friends with their parents”. My words startle her, I push further. “Did you call the police? Did you call your former friends to complain about their kids? Doctors and lawyers, the pillars of society. Ha!”
I feel her hand, heavy, as she slaps my face. The pain doesn’t bring tears or shame, my anger is gone. I’m numb. Stupidly, I press my luck. “Does this make you feel better about yourself, Mom? Do you feel motherly? Wiser? I’m not going to cry, or accept responsibility for something I didn’t do. So go ahead, slap me, beat me up, do what you must. But even if you kill me, you can’t kill my thoughts, my ideas, or my feelings. You can’t change what happened to me, to you or the dog. You can’t fix it, and neither can I.”
All the anger that has built up inside her breaks loose, and she utters the words she’s been holding back. “Damn you and your father. I regret the moment you were born. I hate you because you are a constant reminder of everything that is wrong with my life. I wish you were dead. Get out of my sight.”
In one fell swoop she severs our ties and we both know nothing will ever be the same again.