A woman scared, scarred and sorrowed
Knots tightened in her chest, constricting her breathing. She felt uneasy, and for a brief moment, she almost forgot where she was. Her mind had created a mantra for her to step into. Just one foot in front of the other. Images unrepressed and brazen raced through her mind.
He had a good heart. She thought, disregarding all the pain within. With a perfume scented red rose, Catherlina motioned towards the coffin. Were the absence of tears a lack of her humanity or callousness? She couldn’t think, not with her heart pounding so loudly. The closer she got to the coffin, the more piercing her heart resounded in her chest. She leaned over and looked at the ashen face of the stranger she once knew so very long ago. Catherlina’s hands quavered as she placed the single red rose on the coffin’s polish top. They said a red rose symbolized ‘remember me’ and that was the funny thing, she could never forget him, not even if she tried. She turned lightly on her heels and proceeded to the front seat of the church while the horde of people came down the aisle single file to get a glimpse of the body. The life she had with that man was a distant one, but she could still remember everything as if it were yesterday.
“Who the helllll do you think you are!”
Roselyn spat out as she was held in the strong grips of the man possessively holding her wrists in the kitchen. He tightened his grasp and looked down into her eyes with his dark unfathomable eyes. Eyes that once illuminated warmth towards her, now sent a chill snaking through her veins.
“I won’t warn you again Roselyn, if you don’t stay away from me or my wife, I will be forced to hurt you,” He austerely warned.
She looked down at his hold and felt the pressure strengthening on her wrists. There wasn’t a doubt in her mind that his threat was real. Involuntarily, Roselyn’s knees buckled and when he saw that she could not hold up herself any longer, he released her forcefully to fall on the ground.
“How dare you . . . how dare you trample my heart. You can’t tell somebody you love them and then take it back; love doesn’t work like that Simon!” She cried out. He looked down at her for a moment as if contemplating whether to stay or go back home to his wife.
“I have a wife Roselyn.” The decision was made. “I can’t give you the love you’re looking for,” He muttered and stepping over her, started for the door.
“You’re a coward!!!” She screamed out and flung the nearest vase across the room at him. She wanted to hurt him, the way he had hurt her, she wanted to shatter his dreams like he just shattered hers. The temper that harbored in her chest erupted when Simon sped off. Holding unto the kitchen sink she bent over and cried out with such force that the veins stood out at the back of her neck and her voice contorted.
It was too early in the morning for this kind of disagreement; Catherlina thought furiously, as the irritating shrill of her mom’s continual shouts broke through her dream. Dawn was just awaking, the first pink and orange strips of the sun and the cock’s never-ending crow intermingled with all the arguing, making Catherlina livid and impatient.
It was the twisted and haunted cries of her mother’s that had awoken Catherlina and drew her to the kitchen. From where she stood, her mother could not see her standing at the edge of the doorway of the other room. Catherlina’s heart skipped several beats as she saw her mother transform before her eyes. No longer was she the restrained woman she had disciplined herself to be. At that moment she was the complete opposite. She had finally hit rock bottom and her bottled emotions flowed out like a dormant volcano finally awoken. Her raven black hair no longer lay in glistening waves flowing along the length of her back; instead it lay tangled and lifeless, almost hiding her lovely oval face. The makeup her mother took the articulate time to paint on each morning, was now smudged and running. She had given her heart to a man, the very thing that she had thought Catherlina not to do and in return he had broken it.
Her mother had believed that Simon would leave his wife and be the one to take her away from this god forsaken place.
Ava springs was a lovely name for a town and outsiders always believed it would be as beautiful as its title, but it wasn’t all that it was piped up to be. The town was a place where laborers and poor immigrants had settled. East Indian Laborers like her great grandmother who had believed in a dream but were instead faced with hard labor, low wages and broken dreams.
Several glasses were flung and shattered one after another on the wall of the wooden structure. A deep, rumbling growl came out her mother. As Catherlina slowly walked into the kitchen, she could see the shattered dishes flung across every inch of the small area.
“Damn you Simon, I don’t need you, I can survive on my own without you!” She paced back and forth and shouted aloud. “Go on, get out, I’ll be fine, you coward.”
Catherlina knew that was far from the truth. Without a husband and now alone, her mother would once again be seen as the outcast of the community. A woman who not only slept with married men, but just proved that she could not keep the men in her life. Life had dealt an unfair hand to her over the years. She was three years older than Catherlina was now, when her youngest brother Samuel had raped her. As a result of that rape, Catherlina’s oldest brother Antonio was born. Over the years, three other men walked in and out of Roselyn’s life, leaving her with Nathan, Catherlina and her younger brother Cain whose ethnicity of being mixed with African decent always caused a controversy among Roselyn’s family. In the eyes of those in the community, their mother was nothing more than a whore and they were the bastards. . . bastards right out of Ava Springs.
They were born into poverty, living in Roselyn’s mother’s house, a two room wooden structure with a dirt paved yard that often became muddy when it rained. Roselyn’s brother built a small house in their backyard and moved in with his wife and nine kids which made privacy impossible. Between the constant family feuds, her tiring lifestyle and her misfortune for a mother, Catherlina was losing sanity rapidly.
They never had anything and so the villagers made it a sport of reminding them that they will never have anything. “What are you looking at?” Roselyn swung around and sneered when she saw Catherlina standing at the entrance of the kitchen. She opened her mouth to say something, but her voice box could not produce a sound. All she could do was stand and stare with her dark doe eyes.
“Don’t just stand there!”
“Wha-what do you need me to do?” she asked.
“Clean up this mess. I need to lie down. By the time I come back down for breakfast, the kitchen should be cleaned and breakfast should be ready. Got that?” She hovered over her daughter and yelled.
“Yes ma’am.” Catherlina kept her head bowed down as her mother shouted at her. To her mother, she was a festering infection. She could feel Roselyn’s lingering stare of repulsion and that sent a pang through her heart. Never once had her mother looked upon her with love and the sad thing was . . . she never would.
Catherlina’s purpose was always clear, she was a maid, that was the new terminology since slavery had ended. Catherlina awoke every morning to help her mother make sweets and other delicacies which they sold at the market. She made breakfast and helped take care of her grandmother who suffered with blood pressure and diabetes. Finally when she returned home from school she cleaned the house, washed all the clothes, swept the house and yard and washed her grandmother’s beddings.
Within an hour, she had managed to restore the kitchen to resemble a fraction of what it looked like before her mother’s rage tantrum. As she started to prepare breakfast, she could not help but admit she was living in her fantasy of a Cinderella story that day after day was slowly turning into a nightmare. If she was Cinderella, then where was her prince to rescue her and take her away? Hadn’t she waited long enough? Wasn’t being born to a woman who resented motherhood to begin with punishment enough to want to be set free? The sound of the screeching car, brought Catherlina out of her daytime daze and Steven Lopez, stepped out of his 1976 black Italian Mustang. Catherlina could remember when it looked like nothing more than a pile of scrap metal occupying space in his father’s garage. But it wasn’t the car that captivated her interest; rather it was Steven’s alluring features instead. He was the most gorgeous man Catherlina had ever seen. With a confident stride, he came around to the passenger side of the car and leaned down with a flirtatious smile towards his girlfriend Rebecca. Catherlina’s concentration then strayed to her long toned legs, which must have gone on for days as it pivoted out the opened car door. At that moment, the cruel but realistic realization came to Catherlina, she was a Marcel and Marcels’ didn’t mix in the same high society circles that Steven Lopez and Rebecca Davis belonged too. She could see why after all these years she had remained his invisible interest. She reached for the crate of eggs from the food stained, almost demolished countertop, breaking each one into her grandmother’s bowl while peering on the couple outside her kitchen window. Compared to her pathetic appearance, Rebecca was perfection with her perfect chestnut curled hair that flowed gracefully along the curve of her back and her perfect skin glistening in the sunlight that gave sparkle to her misty green eyes and only exaggerated her beauty. And of course, let’s not forget her Dolce & Gobanna and Versace clothes and accessories and her. . .
Catherlina cried out in pain. She cradled her palm against her chest. A shard of the egg’s shell gashed her hand. She hadn’t realized that in her engrossment, she had cracked every egg in the crate. Roselyn would be pissed and she was already in such a ‘lovely’ mood. Catherlina used a spoon to carefully cradle three yokes and some egg whites out of the bowl and into the frying pan. The sizzling of the eggs searing in the pan obviously caught her mother’s attention as she staggered into the kitchen.
“Is my breakfast ready?” She muttered in an irritated tone.
“Yes ma, it’s almost ready”
Roselyn’s anger and rejection, in addition to her allergic reaction to life of being a witch, meant that her extra sensor radar of finding things to argue about was high alert. Roselyn ambled towards the window gaping at Steven and his girlfriend.
“Does she really think it’s going to last,” She husked. “Before you know it, he’s goanna be telling her ‘babe I don’t think it’s working out, it’s not you it’s me’.”
Roselyn slammed her fist on the countertop and swung her body violently towards Catherlina.
“What the hell Catherlina!” She yelled.
Catherlina closed her eyes as if conveying a silent prayer to the heavens. “Sorry ma, my mind was far and I . . . I. . .”
“You what? Worked hard to buy these eggs?” Roselyn sneered and taking hold of Catherlina’s arm and dragging her out of the swung open back door.
“Ma, you’re hurting me!” Catherlina screamed out when her fingers felt as if they were on fire. Her knuckles had turned pale and her fingers a deep red where all the pressure was applied. Catherlina growled and closed her eyes for a second; her flip flops skated across the rotting wooden floor before it grazed across the gravel paved yard as Roselyn flung her into the chicken’s coop.
Catherlina’s hurl left her elbows bruised as her reflex to the fall immediately kicked in.
“You imbecile, you’re gonna collect every egg you broke this morning,” She snarled.
“I can’t go near them; if I do the chickens would scratch me,” She pleaded, her eyes begging for a kind response.
“You should of thought of that before you left us eggless, you stupid girl.”
Roselyn sauntered away, leaving her to a less than pleasant task.
Catherlina slowly ambled out the chicken’s coop, basket of eggs in the left hand while blood trickled down her right. Her face crumpled with embarrassment when she saw that there was an audience to the dramatic show that had just taken place. Instantly, her cheeks flushed red when she saw Steven closing the gate that led to his house and gaping in her direction. He raised his hand as an indication to hail her out, but too embarrassed by what had just taken place, Catherlina quickly headed for the stairs that led up to their porch.
“Hey!” Steven called out, stopping her in her tracks. Slightly turning, she watched as he crossed over into her yard. There they were, in her front yard in close promixity. His eyes fixated on the sight of her bruised right hand. “That’s some nasty scratches you got there.”
Catherlina pushed her hand into her skirt pocket.
“It’s. . .it’s nothing.” She tried to shake it off.
“Like hell it isn’t,” He said and gently lifted her hand out her pocket. Reaching for his bandanna he wrapped it carefully around her palm and tied the ends in a knot, making a secure bandage. Catherlina had been staring at Steven the entire time and the gentleness he emanated towards her. The mere touch of his fingertips sent pleasure filled vibrations throughout her body. She wanted to touch back, but didn’t dare, for fear he would not respond in the same way. The thought of his rejection of her was worst than living a lifetime without him knowing how she felt.
“Thank you,” She whispered as she stared down at his angular chin.
“No problem,” He responded, his hand still holding hers. A hot shroud of silence fell upon them and Catherlina could still feel him staring at her. “Are you ok? Do you like. . .need anything?”
She looked up at him then, though only for a second and just when she opened her mouth to respond, Rebecca walked out unto the porch
“Steven, hurry up the movie’s starting,” She called and he released his hold on Catherlina.
She held her hand to her heart and scrambled to the front of the house, fearing her mother was still the kitchen, opening the door to the living room leaving Steven behind. Roseyln had regained her composure and Catherlina had to admit, her mother still looked young and beautiful for a woman in her mid fifties, her clothes could never compare to the elite lived among but her mother always tried she was always dressed in her finest wearing a skin fitted embroidered yellow tulle dress, which extenuated her curves. In deep conversation with a dark haired, middle-aged man who sat proudly on the chair to mattresses spread out on the floor, in his demi-converti scarlet coat over black Casmir jeans and gold and silver necklaces hanging from his neck to his large stomach, Roselyn let out a flirtatious laugh.
“Catherlina, come here a second, my darling” Catherlina eyebrows rose, pausing for a second to digest her mother’s sudden term of affection before walking uncertainly to the couple.
“Mr. Armand, meet my daughter Catherlina.”
“Catherlina” the sound of her name on his lips was repulsive and made her chest suddenly feel heavy. “You’re not much but you’ll do” the man turned to Roselyn before uttering those life sentencing words “Ok… I’ll marry her”