Screaming, shouting and swearing are all I hear while hiding in a corner of my room. Tears rolling down my face knowing that there is nothing I can do to stop this. I will get shouted at by someone I love so dearly. Someone I appreciated and looked up to all my life. I can hear how he hits her. Every slap echoes through the house. The screams of torture erupt through the silence of the night. Tearing of clothes and making her believe she is worthless. What kind of monster is this? From a placid person, he would change into a monster. My heart is racing so fast, it feels as if it wants to jump out of my chest. What did I know? What I did know, is what is happening on the other side of my bedroom door was abuse. Abuse that continued for years and no one has ever attempted to do anything about it. This is destroying our lives. This is affecting me. It is affecting my school work, affecting my thought patterns. This is destroying me! I heard the front door open and she tried to run from his claws, but was hit down from behind. I ran outside to see what is happening and could not believe my eyes. Her eyes were already swollen, her mouth bleeding and her clothes torn. “Go inside!” he shouted at me while pointing to the door. “I said go! NOW!” he yelled. The anger in his voice is not unfamiliar. I saw him lift his hand again and between them stepped a young man. “Stop, please, stop!” he pleaded. “Haven’t you done enough? Look at her? Stop for a second and look.” the young man said as he tried to calm him down. I stood in disbelief, as I dried my eyes, to discover who the pleading voice was. Just a young man himself, he stood before him, begging him to stop. I hear her crying as she lies on the grass, full of fear and heartache. I ran to her to help her up, help her to get out of the eyes of the evil people staring at the fiasco in awe. The shame he has brought on this family again. The shame of a woman beater and the pity of the abused are what those who stared thought of us yet again. She can hardly walk with the wounds this time. She wanted to go to her bedroom to make herself presentable. She wanted to wipe the blood off her face, put on clean clothing and cover up her bruises, like all the other times. “Mommy, let me help you” I said softly but she put her hand up. “I’m okay Gabriella, I’ll be fine” she said. “Why don’t you go to your room? I will be there shortly to tuck you in.” Abby was in total shock. As I stuck my head through the gap of the opening door, I saw my little sister sitting quietly on her bed with tears rolling down her face. She was sobbing. The hurt that reflected in her eyes is not something you see every day, but in those whose hearts have been shattered. “It’s all over” I whispered as I moved closer to her. I held her so tight. My eyes were blurry with my tears and my heart felt as if it was bleeding. Bleeding to know that the man I adored, has hurt my mommy so badly. We sat like that for a while, till we heard the door handle. “Why aren’t you sleeping yet?” he asked as he popped his head into our room. “We were just about to climb into bed” I replied as we opened our beds. I climbed into Abby’s bed. I could feel her still shaking caused by the terrible ordeal that struck our home. Her heart is beating so fast and she is still sobbing as she falls asleep. Lying there, thoughts ran through my head; All the questions that I need to be answered, yet I dare not ask them out loud. What if we could pack our bags and run away, far away from all of this. Run far away from a monster. Would it make a difference in our lives as children? After all, we are only children. How will this impact our lives in the future? When will things change? When will this stop? The fear caused a restless night’s sleep for I opened my eyes with every creak and crackle I heard during the course of the night. “Wake up girls” I heard as the aroma of the early morning coffee awoke me. Our eyes were all puffy, because of all the tears that were shed last night. It was the soft and gentle voice of an angel. You can tell that she has been up for quite some time this morning. Her hair was all done up beautifully and she tried to cover her bruises with the porcelain base cream. She was wearing a navy blue trouser with a white and navy blue blouse. My mother was surely an angel. You could smell the Opium perfume from a distance. “You need to get up now girls, or else you’ll be late for school” she said as she handed our coffee to us. She bent her legs slowly to sit on the bed opposite to us. The pain in her eyes is very apparent. There is still redness around her neck of how he grabbed her. The memories went through my head over and over again. I was brought back to sanity with the touch of my mothers’ hand. “You need to get dressed.” She continued “Girls, what happened last night is not being spoken of at school. Not with anyone, not even your friends and especially not your teachers. Your father loves you very much and would never do anything to hurt you.” She got up slowly trying to hide the excruciating pain; physical and emotional trauma. It took all her will power to hide it from us but I can see the suffering in her hazel eyes. Abigail was devastated. Tears rolled down her face while she got dressed for school. She was weak and tired and anybody knowing her would see it immediately. I, on the other hand, was angry. I was disappointed in the man that I trusted and loved so dearly. I was hurt by the swearing and name calling. What has possessed him to do such a horrible thing? I am torn apart...
Walking to school was very long. It felt like a road that never ended, as if we were never going to get there on time. “Come on Abby, we’re going to be late if you keep dragging your heels like this.” I said as I was thinking of my embarrassing day ahead. I have to prepare myself for all the pointing and corridor whispers that will occur today. I’m expecting the worse from Angela, a girl in my class. She stays across the road from us, so everything was entirely visible to her and her family. She is not the nicest person not to mention her dreadful friends. The teasing and name calling was so unpleasant the last time. They said that I would be taken away and given to people that do not love me. I would be eating sand for dinner and not be able to bath for days. How am I going to get through this again? I can’t speak to my mother. She is hurting as is, and to still tell her of my petty quarrels at school is just not appropriate. I lifted my eyes off the floor as we approached the gate. There she is. She cannot even wait for me to enter the premises of the school. Abby was already torn apart, I was not going to let her hear all this nonsense that’s about to leave Angela’s lips. “You go ahead, I will catch up with you in front of the hall” I said and gently squeezed her hand. Facing my fears I stopped in front of Angela, expecting the worst. She put her arms around my neck and said softly “I am here when you need to talk”. I nearly collapsed with shock. “Thank you” I whispered as I nodded my head. “Mmmm” I thought to myself. Something does not fit here. Something is up so I will definitely keep my guard up. I don’t trust her as far as I can see her.
The day felt long and I could not really concentrate in class. My mind kept tracking back to the incident. At break, I sat alone with my awful memories of last night. It just kept playing over and over in my head as I stared in the midst of the field where Abigail sits. I saw Abby, smiling at her friend Chantal. They shared everything and I knew that Chantal was trying to cheer her up and motivate her. I felt relieved actually. Knowing that she actually has someone to open up to and express her heartache. As the bell rang for the last period, I realized that I finally had the opportunity to express my own feelings. Art class was one of my favorite subjects just to blow off some steam. The topic or subject of our sketches for today was abstract. “Exactly what I needed.” I whispered to myself. I sketched with chalk. I started to sketch a woman with a white cloak lying on the floor with her back towards me. A white soft and elegant cloak that flowed over her body as she lay there so still; as motionless as my mother did last night. I used black chalk to sketch a man standing next to her, chest puffed out and his fist drawn back to give her another blow. The anger built up again as I changed the entire background to red. Light red, dark red... all different shades of red you can possibly think of. I jumped as the bell rang. The raging anger was frightened away with the ring of the last bell of the day. I need to get to Abby. I need to find out how her day was, how she is feeling and what I can do ease her pain. I can see her. She is quite a distance ahead of me. “Abby, Abigail... wait up!” I yelled. They continued walking as I ran my little legs off to get to them. “Hi Angela, how are you?” I asked out of breath. “Oh, hi Gabriella, I’m fine, thank you.” she answered with a very concerned look on her face, her eyes indicating me to look at Abby. The tears were running down her face. Her face expressed fear and her arms were wrapped around her stomach. Tension pain is what my mom called it. I stood at the gate for a moment, gathering strength to enter the house of darkness. I am dreading to see the scars and bruises of my mother. Everything is silent in the house, from outside. The car is not there so my father definitely went to work today. I exhale with relief to know that nothing will happen now. Lifting the rusty old handle of the brittle wooden gate slowly, gently and softly to ensure I don’t disturb the peace in the house, I walked towards the back door where I always entered and there she stood. She is so petite and so fragile trying her best to give us the best. The whistle of the kettle confirmed that our lunch was ready. My mom made the best sandwiches ever... even if she put just butter on them. You could taste the love and appreciation in her heart with every bite you took. Today was my favorite, peanut butter and Illovo syrup. I love the texture together. It is almost like my parents, my mother is as sweet and beautiful as flowing syrup and my father is as smooth and tangy, but now and then you get the pieces of peanuts that you had to chew a bit, as the peanut butter. My father was chewy... especially when he turns into a monster. “How was your day” she asked us every day and we always said it was fine. We did not want to burden her with our tiffs from school, knowing that she is crying for help inside. I thanked her for the lovely lunch and excused myself from the table. I sat in my room thinking of my day. I hope that I jotted all my homework down. I opened my bag slowly and pulled out my favorite subject first. Mathematics was quick and easy because I understood it so well, so I will do that quickly. One two three and I was normally done. Could not believe myself what was happening; I had to redo one sum three times. It is taking me so much longer to complete my homework today. I wish my life was different. I wish my life was a little bit less complicated. As a matter of fact, I just wish my life was normal. I think I can handle normal. I wish for once in my life I can go to school without being worried about what was happening at home. Phew, finally all my homework is done. Mathematics, Afrikaans and Natural Science all completed to the best of my ability. I believe it is fine... actually, I hope it is all fine.
I hear the gate handle. I started rushing to put all my books back into my bag. Put a smile on your face Gabriella. Be as nice as possible and very friendly. Remember to greet with respect and love. I love my father, I really do, but what he is doing to my mother is just not fair. I hear the car door open and shut. The creak of the sound of our old gate brings us to reality that my father will be entering the house very soon. My heart is racing; it is beating so fast to comprehend the tension I feel in my stomach. I can see the door handle open and up comes my smile. “Good afternoon daddy” I greeted with all the love and respect as he expects from us. “Afternoon” he replied back with no emotion showing on his face. As cold as ice is all I could see. My hands were sweating as he passed me when he walked down the passage towards their bedroom. My mother froze for a minute and then started moving again as he entered their bedroom. My mother started dishing up immediately. You can feel the tension in the house, it is worse than other times. It is so thick that you can literally cut it with a knife. There was no eye contact between them nor were there any words exchanged. I had to take my father’s food to him as he sits in front of the telly watching the 6 o’clock news. Evenly spaced and beautifully presented just the way he likes it. “Please bring me a green chili. It is in the door of the fridge” he asked politely. That is the most words he has spoken the entire time since he arrived home from work. My father is working long hours. He is working in the meat industry. Early in the morning you will hear the bath water run and the kettle boil. As soon as you hear the water stop running you know he is heading to the kitchen to turn off the smoking hot and boiling kettle. He makes coffee and then jumps into the bath. Not long after you hear the bathroom handle, you will hear the hair dryer. That was my indication that he will be leaving for work soon and it is time for us to get up and get ready for school. When he gets home from work, he smells just like biltong. It reminded me of him when I miss him while he goes on trips. “Ha” trips… yeah right. He loved surprising us with some dry wors or biltong. That was a total treat. When he wanted to treat me, he brought home a loaf of smoked hickory ham that he made himself. That is the best ham I have ever tasted in my whole life. It is meaty yet juicy and tasty all in one. We have a bread cutter to ensure that we cut the bread straight. I use that to slice the ham perfectly and for some reason or another, the slices were exactly the same size as the bread. It is like he knows every millimeter of the bread; the width and the length. After eating, my father takes his plate to the kitchen. “Gabi, tell Suné I want Coffee” he said. His lips are touting and the corners of his mouth became brackets again. You can see the anger building up once again. I jumped up quickly to relay the message. Suné was listening to music in her bedroom, shutting the world out. I can hear her thumping as she danced by herself in front of the mirror. The music is so loud that I just barged in because there was no way that she would hear, if I had to knock. “Daddy asked if you will make him coffee please” I said very politely. She mumbled some words, but not loud enough for me to hear what she was saying. I just smiled and walked back into the lounge to excuse myself for the evening. “Goodnight daddy” I said as I bent over to kiss him. I walked towards my mother and I see the worried look on her face; the look of my father starting a fight again. “Goodnight mommy” I said as I kissed her and gave her a hug. Walking towards our bedroom, I wondered what was brewing that night. I am actually too tired to think about it intensely. Emotionally drained and exhausted is exactly how I feel. Yawning away I entered a room where my little baby sister was sitting, minding her own business. She had a blank look on her face. I know when something bothers her, when something is wrong. I wish there was more that I could do. I wish that I could scoop her out of this world and just take her to a place where she can just be her playful self. Be a child and be who she really is. But I knew that it is only a dream because the fighting will never stop. “Hey” I said entering, bringing her back to reality from her day dream. “Hey” she said. “Are you okay Abby?” I asked really concerned. She nodded as she stood up to open her bed, letting out a little sob. I held her tight and comforted her best I could. “Everything will be okay again Abby, I promise. All this will blow over quick, you’ll see.” I lied knowing that this will probably happen again, but I had to reassure her that everything and everyone will be okay. Crawling into my own bed after this whole ordeal was as if someone poured sleepy dust into my eyes. I was beyond tired now. I was too tired to think of “what next” or “what if” my father starts his abusive manner again. Last thing I remember is saying goodnight to Abby. I do not even remember turning off my bedside lamp.
Friday! It is finally time for the weekend that is after school only though. “Oh, I almost forget” I said out loud. I almost put my blue shirt and brown dress on. Laughing at myself I scratched in my t-shirt drawer for a blue one. I must wear white shorts with a blue t-shirt. That is the color of our athletics house. It is our inter-house today and I can’t wait to run my heart out in the 100m race. We have been practicing every afternoon this week. Abby was dressed already and waited for me to help brush her hair. “Oh the joys of being a big sister” I said as I took her hair band out. We giggled because she had very fine hair and her neck hair always had knots in without fail. After brushing our hair, we had to rush to school or else we would not get a seat in the shade. Running and jumping, here and there and everywhere. The sun is blistering hot with not a sign of rain. Blue as the ocean is all I see as lay on my back staring at the skies. I hear the kids laugh and run and play far in the midst. I hear the cap gun pop when the race starts and the cheering parents scream for their child’s team to win. But all I can think of is what I would give to have my parents here today. What a change it would be to have them scream and shout and cheer me on as I run my little legs to a pulp. I sometimes dream of how things would be if there was not swearing and abuse at home. I always think of what my father could have accomplished without being so ill. Working an entire month just to give it to someone because you think something greater will happen with the little bit you have. I know that hard work pays off but what does that help? When I was smaller, I really did my best in class. I was even in the “A” class. So proud of myself then, but now I do not really care. If I study very hard and get very good marks, that will be expected of me all the time. The other thing is that there is never money so why study myself silly if I know that there is no money for further studies. I was kicked back to reality when a boy tried to jump over me and literally fell over me. Coughing and holding my ribs I tried to get up. I could not help but laugh. Lying there thinking of stupid things, serves me right. “Are you okay? Did I break any ribs? Can you walk?” he asked continuously. “Oh, don’t worry, it is all fine. I will be fine.” I stuttered. Really... really, did this have to happen to me? He is so popular. He spoke to me... ME? Wow... I thought as I feel all the blood rush to my cheeks. I can hardly breathe but I'm not showing it to Bradley. All I see is his perfect pearly white teeth smiling at me. His flowing brown hair is damp caused by the sweat running down his face and neck. I can feel how I drift away in his forest green eyes. The different shades look like an oil painting of a forest on a rainy day. A touch of a hand shocks me back to reality. "Are you sure you are okay Gabby" he confirmed. I stepped back lifting my arm to break loose from his gentle grip. He was very cute but so out of my league. Anyway, I was not allowed to have boys as friends. That was a very strict rule in our household. You do not dare bring a boy that is a friend home. My father would chase them away even before you could snap your fingers. To save myself the embarrassment I started walking towards the girls change rooms. “Gabby… Gabby, come! They are all waiting for you. They want to start the race.” I heard someone say out of breath. “I am on my way.” I screamed out of the change room. As I stepped out the doorway, I can see my age group gather, waving their arms for me to hurry up. I did not want to run and make myself tired before the race starts hence me lying on the grass earlier. I am now as ready as I’ll ever be right now. "On your marks" Mr Swanepoel said. Bending down, placing my hands behind the line thinking of what I want to really do. "Get set" he said. I am totally focused to give my all... "BANG!" the gun went off. Running as fast as I can, I feel the air blowing through my hair. My pony is almost as straight as a horse’s tail. I need to get a place in the top 4. Run & run and finally the race ended. I came third. If I think of it, third is not a bad place to come. It is not first but luckily not stone last either. I just smiled at myself as I stood proud as they announced my name. I am secretly happy for another reason. Reason being that I don’t have to be in the house of drama. I am free for a day. "Yes, yes yes!!!" is all that came out at this point in time. School was a so much fun today. I love participating in sport. It really takes the edge off my nerves and I can be myself.