In a crisis torn, South American country, only little Ann's faith, her determination, and one young woman could help keep her dreams of escape alive.
A true story...
A true story...
Rock-a-bye Auntie, Your Bough Did Break - Excerpt 12
Mammy left earlier tonight to go to her friend’s house. As soon as she was out the door, Theresa, Franc and I stole our rare chance to play and sing songs. Because of Theresa’s hearing problems, she needs to make up her own tunes to the songs we sing. You see, she can’t possibly know what the right tune is, since she can’t ever hear them like people with normal hearing can.
This is how we were playing when the next disaster happened.
We have a little book that Rafza, Aunty Meena’s daughter, had left for us. It’s an old book with a picture on the cover of a little blonde girl and her toddler brother, looking up into a star-lit, peaceful sky. We usually look at the pictures of the children in the book and wonder at their lovely new shoes and white socks, things we could only hope we’ll have some day. The book is filled with poems and a few children’s songs. One of my favourites is, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world . . .”
Theresa opens it to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” her own favourite, and starts to sing, in her own tune, to Franc and me. I try to sing it in the way it was meant to be sung, but that’s hard for Theresa to follow, so I join in with her way. That special way she sings every single song she ever sings. It puts a smile on her face, and I like that.
Suddenly she gets up, looks around as if she’s listening to someone in another room, then slowly gets a chair from the kitchen. She puts it in the middle of the polished living room floor, points to it, and says to Franc and me, “Sit there.”
Franc is only two or so, she thinks it’s a game so she climbs unto it, sits down, looks up at us and asks, “Wot nex?”
I don’t sit down.
I know something’s not right, but all the time, Theresa seems to be listening, listening. Listening to what?
This makes me a little scared of Theresa, but I don’t know why.
She picks Franc up off the chair, her lean, muscular arms wrap themselves gently around her chest, then she sits down herself. Her eyes are two still, dark marbles in her slightly cocked head. Listening . . .
She’s turning the book quickly, too quickly for me to see the nice pictures of the children in their pretty shoes, in their big houses. But she seems to know what to do, because she’s singing lots of different songs - all of the songs in the book. One tune - her tune.
“Sit here,” she says to me again, placing the baby on one knee. This time she points to her lap. I don’t want to, but how can I refuse her. I sit down and she hugs us both.
And rocks. And rocks. And sings.
All the songs . . . her tune.
I feel very uncomfortable because she’s never allowed to hug us. Mammy says that you spoil children if you hug them.
“I’ll come back,” I say, and get up to open the front window to look out for Mammy. It’s very dark outside, I can’t see very far.
I don’t know what to do. I walk back and forth to the window and to Theresa’s lap. She starts to cry.
“My children, my children,” she cries. “I will protect you and keep you. I will protect you from evil and keep you safe.”
And she rocks - and Franc rocks.
And I’m a little scared of Theresa, but I don’t know why.
She starts to wail as the tears stream down her face. I know that something is very wrong, I don’t know what though, I’m only a child, but I know that whatever is wrong, is something big and terrible, something I can’t fix. Franc starts to cry and me too, but I have to keep strong to save Franc if something worse happens.
We all cry.
And we rock.
We cry, abundant tears, all leaking out from tiny holes in the corners of our young, aged, tired eyes.
I am a little scared of Theresa, but I’m not sure why.
Maybe it’s because of that marble look in her eyes. I keep praying for Mammy to come home. She’ll know what to do because she’s a grown-up. I keep looking at the clock, but then remember that it’s telling the wrong time because we’d run out of batteries for it ages ago, and didn’t have any money to replace them.
I try to sing with Theresa, she is praying a lot too. I try to say the prayers with her and when she cries again, Franc and I cry with her.
And we rock too.
I am a bit scared to leave Franc on her lap. Again I don’t know why, she will never hurt us, but I am still scared, so I try not to go to the window anymore. I stay and rock and cry and pray.
More than an hour later Mammy comes back, she makes sure that Theresa isn’t just putting on and then she sends me to get Cecil’s mother. She calls this lady ‘Cecil’s mother’ because she has a son named Cecil who came to her nursery school a long time ago. Cecil’s family has four dogs, and one time when Mammy had sent me over there to get ice, all four of them jumped on me and mauled my skinny little frame. That’s not because they’re bad though, because dogs always jump me. Theresa says it is because they can smell that I am scared of them. They never tie the dogs up, no one ever does. But it’s late now so maybe the dogs would be asleep.
It takes about five minutes for me to walk to Cecil’s mother’s house. I walk alone, shivering in the total darkness. No, it isn’t cold, quite warm in fact, warm and humid.
I shiver from the fear I feel of knowing that something is desperately wrong with my auntie. I wish, I wish upon that twinkle, twinkle little star, that it would all be fine when I get back home.
For my sake, I think.
For the first time in my short life of eleven years, I’m a little scared of Theresa, but I don’t know why.
I know that if something bad happens to Theresa, I would die of the fright of us being left alone with ‘Her.’
When I get to Cecil’s house, his dad’s on the veranda. He has a good job at Bermine. I think he is a foreman or something because he wears one of those big, important white helmets to work. He sends down two of his four sons to hold the dogs so I could go upstairs.
Cecil’s mother and I walk quickly back home. She’s short and fat and is puffing by the time we get up the long stairs to our house. We could hear Theresa crying from the front yard, through our house, which was made of thin slats of timber - just like all the other houses in the street.
Between them, Mammy and Cecil’s mother decide that Theresa needs to go to the hospital. Cecil’s mother volunteers to stay with us so that Mammy could take Theresa there, but first she had to go home to call an ambulance (which she paid for) because we’d never had a phone.