Every day felt like a monotonous repetition, suffocating us with its predictability.
“Rachel, rise and shine! It’s time for prayers.” My mother’s voice echoed through the house, accompanied by an insistent tapping on my bedroom door. The same routine played out for my siblings as well. We were all expected to gather for morning devotion.
Dragging myself out of bed, a surge of frustration surged within me, but I masked it beneath a façade of compliance. The words of my mother, Sarah, and Mrs. Bishop reverberated in my ears, urging me to hasten. It was always the same old story.
As I made my way to join the others, Mrs. Bishop brushed past me in a hurry, her words lost on me. “This is no time to be slow, Rachel. Your father will be angry with you.”
What did it matter? It was just prayers, wasn’t it? The significance eluded me, and the thought lingered in my mind like a fleeting rebellion.
“I don’t care, mother!” I longed to display my defiance, but I knew the consequences all too well. My rebellion would evaporate into thin air, leaving me as insignificant as a whisper in the wind.
The longing for something different gnawed at my soul, craving an escape from the suffocating routine.
“Rachel, can you pick up the pace? We’re all waiting!” Grandma's voice joined in, a reminder that we were always being monitored in our home.
With an always-open door, I felt like my bedroom was a prison instead of a refuge. As per my dad’s strict instructions, the door had to stay open all the time, except for the short duration of my menstrual cycle. Those precious moments became a temporary reprieve, a sanctuary within the confines of our devout home.
But today, I yearned for a change that went beyond those five days of seclusion.
Lost in my thoughts, the reprimanding voice of my older brother, Jonathan, startled me. I hid a smile because he admonished my slow progress, the burden of expectation clear in his eyes, all in his pyjamas. He clung to his black King James Bible, a symbol of his devotion.
Rachel this, Rachel that. I sighed, knowing what the next person would say. They would mock my innocent affection for a boy on the Cartoon Network.
"Leave her alone. She is crushing on the boy from power rangers.." Rebecca whispered with a sh*t-eating grin in her face.
Once, I delighted in watching that series until Father discovered it, condemning its influence as incompatible with our faith. He arranged for the network to be replaced by Christian youth programs, leaving me to harbor crushes on young pastors as if we could blame a girl for seeking solace within the confines of an all-girls' school..
When I got to the dining table, the family was singing "Good morning, Jesus, good morning, Lord..." with eyes closed in reverence. I tried to blend in, but it seemed my presence was impossible to ignore. The squeak of a chair drew attention, and in my attempt to adjust it, I inadvertently knocked over a bottle of holy water, drenching both Rebecca and myself. The situation escalated as my little brother, Michael, saw it as an invitation to play in the puddle.
If I had hoped for anything different, I quickly realized I was the harbinger of change.
“Stop!” Father’s voice boomed, instantly silencing the songs. Trouble loomed, and I knew better than to wait for it to consume my soul.
With trembling hands, I rushed to the kitchen in search of a mop. But the hushed whispers between my parents hinted at danger, and it seemed my father’s gaze bore into my fragile being, suffocating me with its intensity.
“It was an accident. She’s exhausted,” my mother pleaded in a desperate attempt to reason with him. But I gulped, realizing that perhaps my quest for something different had triggered an unforeseen series of events. They say that if you pray hard enough, your desires will manifest, but I hadn’t anticipated this twist.
“Clean it up!” My mother hissed in disgust, leaving me no choice but to work with my father watching.. A prickling sensation crawled up my back, a constant reminder of his presence. The air grew stifling, and I yearned for relief.
Finally, as I finished wiping away the last remnants of water, I dropped the mop and made my way back to my seat, attempting to reclaim my place gingerly.
Father cleared his throat, signaling the resumption of our devotions. “Let us continue.”
“He can never, never change,” he began, and we dutifully completed the rest of the verse. My mother closed her eyes and folded her hands in reverence. Rebecca swayed her head, singing with fervor. Jonathan, ever the opportunist, clandestinely indulged in a pack of Pringles, barely keeping one eye open. When he caught me staring, he winked mischievously.
A wink? Seriously? I contemplated pouring the holy water into his unsteady eyes. Michael was still acting up, but he was oddly quiet for a change..
Just as I was about to shut my eyes, an uncomfortable itch crept over me. Someone was watching, observing my every move. I scanned the table, and there they were—my father’s eyes fixated on me. I barely had time to react before a bottle of holy water hurtled toward me, finding its mark in the center of my forehead, causing my chair to tilt backward.
No one intervened as I fell. All I could hear were my mother and grandmother's warnings.. Why hadn’t Father noticed Jonathan’s secret indulgence? Why were my transgressions always under scrutiny? The thoughts echoed within, drowning out the concerned murmurs around me.
“She had her eyes open, didn’t she?” Rebecca lamented, her voice heavy with sadness, as she pressed the sore spot on my forehead.
“Ouch!” I winced, swatting her hand away. She should have known better than to touch me at that moment.
“Yeah, she’s still alive,” Jonathan muttered. I searched for evidence—anything that would expose him and draw Father’s attention away from me. Jonathan was always one step ahead, having concealed the Pringles the moment Father’s fury was directed at me. It was the perfect diversion. On the other hand, I was the perfect scapegoat.
“I should finish what I started,” Father suddenly declared, observing us for a moment. Veins bulged on his forehead, and his eyes were bloodshot with rage as he approached me.
“Don’t do this, please,” my mother pleaded, joined by my siblings in a desperate chorus of appeals. Exhaustion overcame my grandmother, and she folded herself onto a nearby couch, snoring softly.
Then, drop by agonizing drop, it began.
“Daddy, please!” My voice was unrecognizable—hoarse and choked with emotion. Desperation surged within me, trapped like a caged animal, clawing at the bars, begging for release.
But our cries for forgiveness fell on deaf ears as Father seized me by the collar of my throat. I knew how I appeared in that moment—a lamb being led to slaughter.
“If you love me…” My mother interjected, her voice laden with emotional blackmail. “...you will forgive her. For my sake, please.”
But Mother didn’t have the chance to finish her plea before Father continued his relentless advance, carrying me along. In my peripheral vision, I witnessed Mother crumple to the floor, her legs giving way under the weight of her anguish.
From a distance, I could hear someone’s desperate cries. “Mommy, I’m sorry! I don’t want him to take me there! Please!”
Yet all I received in response were the helpless wails of my family. Even Michael joined in, the poor boy bewildered, his tears falling in confusion. I yearned for him to grow up quickly and for him to face the same fate when he disrupted our monotonous routine.
Each member of my family had tasted that place before. Jonathan, for daring to bring his phone to the table—a simple ring had shattered our sacred devotions. Rebecca, who had giggled mid-prayer, struggled to explain the unfortunate incident involving her esophagus.
Then there were my mother and grandmother, their questions unanswered as he ushered us away without resistance.
The door swung open, and he callously threw me inside. Landing on my left elbow, the impact nearly crushed it. Panic surged within me—I couldn’t stay here. Crawling toward my father’s feet, I pleaded, “Daddy, please, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again. It was a mistake, the first time…”
Father shook his head. “If I don’t guide you in the ways of the Lord, then who will?” With that, he kicked me aside and slammed the door shut. As the lock engaged, I realized the weight of my mistake.
I should never have yearned for something beyond my reach.
It meant wishes were for horses, not humans.
If I sought something different, it always led me here.
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