The Victim

Chapter One: The house

War preparations

Mother manages to compose herself and the doctors agree to discharge her, accepting it was “transitory.” There was nothing transitory about it. I think about asking them to keep her in the hospital longer, but I fear what she might do if she finds out. After politely apologizing, paying the hospital for the damages and making a hefty donation to the children’s wing of the hospital, she takes us home. Not giving herself any time to rest, she installs security measures, calls the school to say we’ll be mourning some days and closes every exit in the house. She pays a minion from one of her favorite charities to bring us cooked meals every day.

Claiming there are “people who want to hurt us” outside, she locks us up in our rooms and removes anything we can use to talk to the outside world. We spend entire days without speaking to anyone else. The only thing we can do is watch tv or read the books I have managed to hide.

Every other day she punches me, throws me into a closet, locks the door and kills the lights. But just as sudden, she has a change of heart and apologizes to me for all she has done. One day, during dinner, she bursts into tears in front of her kids. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…” She takes her hands to her face. Then she opens them and looks at me. “I ran over that woman and she died!” she screams. The kids are terrified of her. “There, are you happy? Are you happy now? Will you stop now!?”

I shouldn’t have pushed her, I understand that now. This… all of this is my fault. I don’t know how to get out of it. We’ve been locked up here over a week now. The school will be starting to suspect something’s wrong. She’s disconnected all the phones. She never opens the door to anyone. Maybe I could run for it, tell the cops. But what if she catches me? She wants to hurt me, she’s just waiting for an excuse.

You see, inside this prison there’s time to think, even too much time. This is her way of mourning, I get it. But it’s not fair for her kids. How long can we live like this? Someone will come. The school will tell the cops, or something. Someone has to act. Her confession today really scared me. I must act. As she studies some pictures of houses in the kitchen table, I step inside. “How are you doing, mother?” I ask gently. “Don’t you call me…” she starts, but then restrains herself. “I’m sorry. I…” she apologizes.

“It’s ok,” I continue, forcing a natural smile. “I thought I would give you something that might help you through this rough patch.” Now I have her attention. I was hiding it behind my back with both hands. She reaches for one of the pistols she has on the table. I offer her the bottle of scotch I carry and try to ignore the gun. She pulls back her hand before reaching the weapon.

She was going for a gun? Holy f-word. I try not to look nervous. She looks away in shame from the bottle and waves her arms trying to resist me. “No! I can’t do that, not now…” she says faintly, avoiding eye contact. “They could be here any minute now… I have to be ready.” “Ok,” I say. “But I’ll leave it here anyway.” I place it in the kitchen counter by the sink, without the cap.

I begin preparing myself a sandwich. She keeps focused on her pictures. She’s planning something, and I don’t like it. I take some jam from the fridge and return to the kitchen counter, but I trip and spill most of it on her. “For f-words sake! Can you not be a little c…” again she stops herself. She heads for the sink and starts washing her shirt. She closes the tap and sees the bottle, standing there. I watch her in silence. “Maybe…” she says shyly, “maybe one glass will calm my nerves.” “You’ve been through so much, you really deserve it,” I say. “Yes…” she agrees. “I can control myself. I’ll just have one.”

I hand her a glass. She fills it to the brim and smells it before gulping it down. “Oh, that feels good,” she says, smiling. Soon she’s drinking directly from the bottle and everything else has faded away. I cook dinner and stay with my brothers and sister while mother wanders the house or sleeps soundly. It finally looks like there’s hope for us. I will report her first thing tomorrow morning, before anything else happens to us. I go to bed and try to sleep. In the middle of the night I wake up. There’s a hammering sound going on downstairs. I try to ignore it thinking it’s just mother going crazy. Tomorrow everything will be over.

I wake up early the next morning, determined to put her away while she’s in her alcoholic stupor. When I go downstairs, I find the car is gone. Mother isn’t in the house. Something feels wrong. I open her room and notice the scribbles covering the walls. “They did it. One of them. All of them.” There’s pictures of the woman that she ran over with her family in a house. There’s surveillance pictures from the same house. My gut begins to burn. She thinks they sent her those pictures. She thinks they killed the heir. I guess she always knew, deep down, her boy was killed by the same person who sent those pictures. And she believes that person can only be someone related to the woman she had run over.

I have to report her right now. Oh god, I hope it’s not too late. I dress up and head downstairs. Everything is barricaded except for the door, which only has several locks both inside and outside. I look for the key in her room. I can’t find it. Where is it? Where has she gone? Should I scream for help? Maybe I should. I look for an axe to break out. Finally I hear her car approaching. My heart starts racing. I put the axe back, run upstairs without my shoes on, get undressed and get back into bed.

I hear her heavy footsteps creaking on the stairs up to the upper floor. She opens my door and sits in the bed. She sighs. “There, done. Now we can all just… relax.” She caresses my hair. I’m not sure if she knows I’m awake. “Don’t worry, son, it’s all good now, it’s all good…” She caresses harder and harder, hurting me. I cry in silence, trying not to let her know I’m awake. She suddenly stops and leaves.

“Who will pay next…?” she says on her way out.