In a flash I bolt up the stairs. I wait a moment for her command before I timidly open the door. Without a sound I approach Mother and await one of her "games."
It's the game of address, in which I have to stand exactly three feet in front of her, my hands glued to my side, my head tilted down at a 45 degree angle and my eyes locked onto her feet. Upon the first command I must look above her bust, but below her eyes. Upon the second command I must look into her eyes, but never, never may I speak: breathe or move a single muscle unless Mother gives me permission to do so. Mother and I have been playing this game since I was seven years old, so today it's just another routine in my lifeless existence.
Suddenly Mother reaches over and seizes my right ear. By accident, I flinch. With her free hand Mother punishes my movement with a solid slap to my face. Her hand becomes a blur, right up until the moment before it strikes my face. I cannot see very well without my glasses. Since it is not a school day, I am not allowed to wear them. The blow from her hand burns my skin. "Who told you to move?" Mother sneers. I keep my eyes open, fixing them on a spot on the carpet. Mother checks for my reaction before again yanking my ear as she leads me to the front door.
"Turn around!" she yells. "Look at me!" But I cheat. From the corner of my eye I steal a glance at Father. He gulps down another swallow from his drink. His once rigid shoulders are now slumped over. His job as a fireman in San Francisco, his years of drinking and the strained relationship with Mother have taken their toll on him. Once my superhero and known for his courageous efforts in rescuing children from burning buildings, Father is now a beaten man. He takes another swallow before Mother begins. "Your father here thinks I treat you bad. Well, do I? DO I?"
My lips tremble. For a second I'm unsure whether I am supposed to answer Mother must know this and probably enjoys "the game" all the more. Either way, I'm doomed. I feel like an insect about to be squashed. My dry mouth opens. I can feel a film of paste separate from my lips. I begin to stutter.
Before I can form a word, Mother again yanks on my right ear. My ear feels as if it were on fire. "Shut that mouth of yours! No one told you to talk! Did they? Well, did they?" Mother bellows.
My eyes seek out Father. Seconds later he must have felt my need. "Roerva," he says, "that's no way to treat The Boy."
Again I tense my body and again Mother yanks on my ear, but this time she maintains the pressure, forcing me to stand on my toes. Mother's face turns dark red. "So you think I treat him badly? I . . ." Pointing her index finger at her chest, Mother continues. "I don't need this. Stephen, if you think I'm treating It badly ... well, It can just get out of my house!"
I strain my legs, trying to stand a little taller; and begin to tighten my upper body so that when Mother strikes I can be ready. Suddenly she lets go of my ear and opens the front door. "Get out!" she screeches. "Get out of my house! I don't like you! I don't want you! I never loved you! Get the hell out of my house!"
I freeze. I'm not sure of this game. My brain begins to spin with all the options of what Mother's real intentions may be. To survive, I have to think ahead. Father steps in front of me. "No!" he cries out. "That's enough. Stop it, Roerva. Stop the whole thing. Just let The Boy be."
Mother now steps between Father and me. "No?"
Mother begins in a sarcastic voice. "How many times have you told me that about The Boy? The Boy this, The Boy that. The Boy, The Boy, The Boy. How many times, Stephen?" She reaches out, touching Father's arm as if pleading with him; as if their lives would be so much better if I no longer lived with them- if I no longer existed.
©1998. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Lost Boy by David Pelzer. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.
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