short story about child abuse, relationships between siblings/friends
| Creature’s Comfort - Part I
The insistent paean from a boisterous swirl of blue jays outside her window nudged her from her sleep. She rolled over towards the rickety nightstand to see the digital clock radio that sat above a vacant space where a missing drawer should be. Blinking her eyes to focus on the neon green perforated numbers, she noted the time. Six fifty six. It was almost time to get up and get Tiki, Junie and herself ready for school.
A jagged fingernail caught in the nap of the shabby bedspread as she pushed the covers down her long, skinny trunk to her waist. Bony, angular arms sprang towards the ceiling in a stretch; eyes squinched tight; mouth agape in a yawn; a barely audible groan. With her arms collapsed to her side, she settled into a four-more-minutes-to-lounge position. When she opened her eyes again, two cherubic ovals were staring back at her. Junie was standing at the side of her bed.
“Ny, I’m Hungry.”
“Junie, you’re always hungry. Go wake up Tiki and we’ll go downstairs and get something to eat after ya’ll wash up. What do you want – oatmeal or cereal?”
A wide grin flew across Junie’s six-year old face revealing his unabashed delight. He ran from the room shouting, “Oatmeal, oatmeal! Ny’s makin’ oatmeal! Wake up, Tiki! Wake up!” They loved the way she made oatmeal for them with lots of brown sugar and Carnation milk, and she loved them. Although she had a different father than they, whom she’d never met, she didn’t consider them to be half of anything.
Their mother would be home soon from her job at the hospital where she worked as a nurse’s assistant. This thought started a dull throbbing in her left temple. Her stomach began to churn like when Mrs. Sarzano called on her in honors Latin. She was bright and so had been able to register for this high school credit course although she wouldn’t start high school until next year.
Outside her window, the blue jays continued their glorious exaltation diverting her thoughts to the progenitors of this joyful noise. She wondered, Why do birds sing when there’s nothing to sing about…what’s there to be happy about in apartment #221 at the Culver Gardens housing project? As if on cue – a cruel cosmic joke – Gladys Knight and the Pips’ new release, “I feel A Song In My Heart Again,” came blaring from the clock radio. She glanced at the clock to confirm what the musical alarm was officially proclaiming. It was seven o’clock. Time to get up.
Across the hall, she could here Tiki balking against Junie’s intrusion into her theater of nocturnal productions.
“Leave me alone, Junie. Ny didn’t tell me to get up yet!”
“All right Sleeping Beauty", Nyanla called out to her slumber-loving sister. "It’s time to get up. I told you you’d be sleepy in the morning when you begged to watch TV late last night, so get up NOW!”
Tiki let her feet drop to the side of the bed and sat up, rubbing sleep and snatches of dreams from her eyes. Junie bounced up and down, impatiently tugging on the sleeve of her nightgown.
“Come on, Tiki. Come on!”
“Leave me alone Junie. I’m comin’. You not the boss of me. I’m almost nine and you’re only six so shut up!”
Their older sister hurriedly entered their room on a path to the chest of drawers, to find clothes for them to wear.
“Tiki, now I’m telling you. Both of you go into the bathroom and brush your teeth. Ya’ll are runnin’ out of oatmeal time and into cornflakes time.”
Junie dashed out of the room across the small vestibule that separated the three bedrooms and the bathroom. Tiki slid off the bed pouting, with her face crinkled up like she smelled a rotten egg.
The outfits Nyanla picked out for them were laid neatly on their beds. Although they were clean, pressed and perfectly coordinated, they were faded and worn. A square area, darker blue than the rest of Junie’s shorts, showed where a back pocket was in absentia. Loose threads hung like tendrils from the hem of Tiki’s skirt.
Nyanla heard the metal door close loudly downstairs. The vibration from the impact came up the walls and disbursed over the second floor, entering her bare feet like a bolt of lightning.
“Nyanla! Are you up gettin' them kids ready for school?”
Her mother’s scathing tone pierced her skull and made the muscles in her neck and back spontaneously tense.
“Yes, M’am!” she shouted back with the military urgency of an army recruit.
“Well, you better hurry up because you still got to feed them. I know you know better than to let them miss that bus, don’t you?”
Beatrice Brown required her eldest daughter to answer, "Yes M’am" with unwavering promptness any time she addressed her. Although Nyanla had heard the admonishment from her mother, she was frantically searching for matching socks, and failed to respond in the mandatory manner. She found a good enough pair, and then headed for the doorway to cross the corridor to her room.
Heavy, thudding sounds produced by size 10 feet carrying 185 pounds on a 5’8” frame could be heard getting louder and closer as they scaled the flight of stairs. The startle of Beatrice Brown’s sudden emergence into the common area caused Nyanla to recoil, drawing her hands up to the sides of her head. Through the tightened lips of a twisted, contorted mask, Beatrice Brown brought her daughter’s transgression before the court for which she was both judge and jury.
“Did you hear me, girl? Answer me when I speak to you, you ungrateful little…” and as she spat out a stinging “bitch”, Beatrice Brown released a backhand across her daughter’s face that knocked her to the floor. Nyanla glared up at the stone cold statue towering over her through brown pools of icy water. Knowing from past experience that saying anything would only make it worse, she bit her lip until blood issued forth. A cathartic substitute for the words she dared not speak – the tears she would not show.