The Phoenix

Originally, this was intended for my English Comp I class, but it was not the write type of piece for the assignment. So I’ve decided to post it here.


She could hear the soft pitter-patter of a light rain on her window. She felt so calm in the warm comfort of her soft blankets and fluffy pillows. It was in that quick and fleeting moment she felt safest, that brief breath between sleeping and awake. Safe and at peace with the world the way it was.

At first, she wasn’t quite sure of what woke her. Opening her eyes as little as possible, she was confused to see it was still the dead of night. With a soft grumble, she twisted her body to look at the clock. The digital display read 2:48 AM. Before she could register even more confusion, she heard the first crash; a vase smashing. Then, seconds later, a bang; the dining room door slamming open.

            Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, slowly she slid from the warm sanctuary of her bed. Shuffling to her bedroom door, she heard the third commotion of the night. Bangs and crashes, glass breaking, and a string of slurred curse words. Rubbing her temples, she spoke softly to herself, “Mama’s home”.

            She made her way to the kitchen, stopping at the next bedroom to check on her twin sisters, Seraphina and Illiana. She slid the door open quietly, and looked in on two innocent and sweet 4 year old girls, dreaming peacefully, blissfully unaware that they were poor, almost destitute, and their sister was struggling to keep it all a secret from them. Seeing that they were still asleep, she slowly shut the bedroom door and continued on to the kitchen, surveying the destruction along the way. To the left of the back door lay a black purse. Spilled around it were its contents. Multiple pill bottles, loose pills, a few pennies, and two empty nips of gin. Definitely her mother’s purse.

            Just a few steps down the hall, amid the broken shards of the vase, lay a black stiletto pump. A few steps more lay the other, next to her mother’s black jacket. That jacket cost almost a month’s rent, but Mama never went without. Whatever Mama wanted, Mama found a way to get it. Unfortunately, food and shelter for her children wasn’t ever on the top of Mama’s shopping list. Stepping inside the kitchen she found the source of that final disturbance. Splayed out on the floor, half underneath a pile of broken dishes lay Mama, groaning pathetically in a drunken stupor.

            A heavy sigh on her lips, she flicked the kitchen lights on to further assess the damage. With the fluorescent light came a slurred command. “Turn that damn light off before I slap the shit outta you!” her mother boomed.

“Sorry, Mama”, she whispered, flicking the lights back off quickly. With the request granted, she gently kicked aside the glass and extended a hand to her mother.

            It took a great deal of effort, but she was finally able to pick her mother up off the floor and get her on her feet. Slowly, she led her mother towards the bedroom.        

“Le’ go’ o’ me! I ain’t fuckin’ crippled!” her mother shouted.

 “Sorry, Mama”.

“And clean up this damn mess! You are disgusting! Worthless!”

Holding back the tears, she replied “first thing in the morning, Mama. I promise.”

            She didn’t see it coming. The punch her mother threw caught her completely by surprise. She felt a crunch and a warm flooding sensation as the fist met her nose, breaking it. She screamed just in time to feel the clump of hair being torn from her head. Bursting with rage, fueled by booze and pills and Heaven knows what else, her mother shoved her to the ground and pummeled her.

            Tears poured from her eyes as she begged and pleaded with her mother. “Stop, Mama! Stop! Please!” she cried, curling up and making herself as small as possible. It was hopeless, no matter how she cried, her mother continued to kick, punch, slap, and scream at her. Bloodied and sobbing, she took her beating, afraid to fight back, afraid it would get worse.

            Just as sudden as it came, the vicious attack ended. Exhausted, her mother struggled to her feet, spit on her eldest daughter, and stumbled off to the bedroom. She lay there for what felt like hours, but was just mere moments. She fought the sobs she felt deep inside, suppressed her screams, lest she instigate another outburst. Finally, with all the strength she could conjure, she stood and painfully cleaned up the mess as best she could.

            As she slid the shards of glass into the trash, a series of hard knocks came at the door. She hurried to answer, fearing it would wake her mother, and yelped with pain as she sprung for the latch. “Police!” a loud, let familiar voice called from beyond the door.

“Open up, honey. You know who it is. Officer Hickhock”.

She slid the chain just enough for the door to give way a half inch. “Everything’s fine, officer. Just a little argument this time. Promise. And please, keep your voice down, she’s trying to sleep.”

“This is the sixth call we’ve had this month, the 17th since you guys moved in only four months ago. This has to stop, now let us in.” When no response came, he continued, “don’t make us break the door down. That’ll wake her for sure. Come on, honey. Open the door for us.”

            She shut the door with every intention of walking back to her bedroom, closing her eyes, and grasping for all the solace of sleep. She had done it time and time again. But this time, something was different. She began to shake, and her mouth dropped open with cries only she could hear. She felt a red hot pit of fire balling up in her gut, emotions coursing through every nerve in her body, every hair standing on end.

With trembling lips, she squeaked “she beats me. All I do is love her, but she beats me. I cook, I clean, I take care of the twins, I carry her to bed, I wipe the sick from her face, and I mix her drinks when she screams at me.” The word poured from her lips like water, she couldn’t stop them even if she wanted to, not even if she tried. All she could do was stand there and let it all stream from her body. “We have no food, rent is unpaid, everything is being shut off… and… she… beats me.”

            And then with her own admission, the nerves calmed, the trembling ceased, the fires extinguished. Her battle weary body relaxed for the first time in who knows how long, and all her fears were gone. With a single confession, she conquered. She no longer feared losing the love she didn’t have, the comfort she hadn’t known, and the mother she didn’t realize she had already lost.

            Sliding the lock from the door, two police officers entered, and promptly searched for her mother, their intentions to arrest her. She stood there staring at the floor as Officer Hickhock finally entered the apartment. As he looked at her, he saw past her abuse. He barely saw the bruises, burn marks, and scars. Hardly noticed the visible rib cage and malnutrition. What he saw before him was the rebirth of a 15 year old phoenix, and all he could whisper was “Oh… Lucy” as tears slid down his cheeks.


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May 2014
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