The Victim

Chapter One: The house

Change of heart

Eight days I spent at the hospital. Eight days I will never get back. But when I return home is when I realize the extent of her… metamorphosis? There’s no alcohol in the house, she doesn’t lash out at anyone. Now she just acts like a lovely housewife. She holds book club meetings, goes out on dinner with other moms and signs up for charities. She, the same woman who once said “child n-words can starve for all I care. Just have them do it quietly where we don’t see them” after a commercial to raise money for some hunger-relief charity.

Indeed, throughout the course of the next few months she becomes a pillar of society. Every martyr of a lost cause loves her because she always has money to squander in them. Yes, she donates to pretty much everything one can donate to. Doctors without borders, women without borders, women programmers without borders, borders without borders… She becomes their heroine.

We’re more than four months into this madness now, and I am beginning to wonder: Is this her way of atoning? At the beginning I thought so, but now this mask of “goodness” seems to have become one with her. Still, we both know she’s hiding something, and I know it’s all a ruse to make me look like a liar. No cop would believe now she used to get drunk and take out her grief on me. There’s no evidence of anything she’s done.

Now she’s all kindness and social justice. She’s even trying to become my friend by buying me stuff I don’t want and offering to take me places I don’t want to go to. But I refuse every single time because I remember what she has done. Well, I may not always remember, but I definitely do not forgive. All the pain and humiliation she put me through. The hardships and pain to endure. The rain that our sins cannot cleanse…

The days crawl by as guilt consumes me. What if the authorities find out? What will happen to me? Children at school now think I’m either crazy or dangerous, so they leave me alone out of fear. Without mother’s constant battering, even her children seem to calm down. But I keep waiting for her to blow up, she has to. I mean, we could live happily ever after, forget it ever happened and move on. But I won’t allow that. I can’t accept she killed an innocent without consequences, making me her accomplice in the process. I still believe in justice.

I can’t help thinking about that night. It obsesses me, distracts me from my studies, distracts me from everything. I… I can hardly read. I must act. She will atone. I must use faint hints to make her remember what she has done. So I start with simple verbal play. When discussing something during family dinner, I say things like “yeah, they were run over,” when talking about a sports event. But she won’t even bat an eyelid.

I try for weeks to make her lose her composure using my finesse, but I fail, so I decide to step it up. I ask my little sister to play a game with me. We pull a prank on mother. One day while she’s out, we take a large toy car the twins played with when they were younger, and spray tomato sauce over her. Then we wait until we hear her car, and she lies sprawled on the floor with her eyes closed as though she was dead. I make sure I place her just like the woman we ran over.

Mother opens the door, greets us, but we stay silent. Then she sees her across the hall. First she screams, then runs toward her child and pulls her close. The girl laughs. “It’s ok mommy!” she says playfully. But mother is far from ok. “Are you f-wording insane! B-word!” she yells, then raises her fist to hit her.

I immediately step in and hold mother’s arm. “What are you doing! We were only playing!” I yell angrily. My sister runs away, crying, and I go fetch her. Mother just sits there, shaking with her eyes wide open. I comfort my little sister and apologize for using her. I can’t explain to her how important this is. “I’m scared,” she whispers sadly. “Don’t worry,” I say, wiping the tears off her little cheeks. “I’ll take you far from here.”