“I would like to go outside.”
Eleonora startled but managed to control her movement to complete stowing the dried dinner china on the shelves. After taking a moment to control herself so she would not overreact to the miracle of words, she turned around to face her emancipated daughter. Years of sitting by the window watching other children play had taken their toll.
“Are you sure Merritt?” Eleonora hated to discourage the first sign of life her daughter displayed in years. “It’s dark out.”
A beatific smile molded the young woman’s normally blank expression into something exalted, melting Eleonora’s heart with terrifying hope while her daughter responded. “The world is smaller at night.”
A shudder at the unnatural way the child interpreted everything was quickly suppressed. Grasping at straws to untangle the broken paths of her daughter’s mind, Eleonora searched the painted silk wallpaper just above the child’s blonde head rather than meet her expressionless blue eyes. “And being smaller is important?”
“Of course, mama.”
Sagging against the stays in corset, Eleonora surrendered another battle in a war she lost when her daughter was four. Fifteen words would have to be miracle enough for the day. “Very well. Please keep to the backyard and don’t go beyond the creek.”
Her youngest child blinked once; her face reformed into the nothing mask. Carefully placing each foot directly in front of the other, heel to toe, Merritt walked to the door, stopped, looked down considering the knob, lifted a hand slowly, grasped the doorknob firmly, and tried turning. The doors between her bed room and the piano room and the bath room were always left open. After failing to rotate the knob far enough one-handed, she raised her left hand and added it to the twist, releasing the door slightly. Stepping back, pulling the door with her, she opened it enough to take three heel-toe sideways steps to go outside, meticulously closing the door behind her.
Eleonora released her breath. Merritt hadn’t been outside since their one attempt to attend primary school. After a day of screaming and crying ending with a rocking fit lasting until the next morning, the teachers accused her of coddling the youngster with unnatural and unhealthy affection and demanded she leave the child in their care for the rest of the week. Merritt didn’t even respond to her name when Eleonora fetched the child over Clement’s and the school objections. Bruises from canings and small burns covered her body.
She didn’t play the piano or any other musical instrument for another year because she wouldn’t leave her bedroom. Instead she sat by the front window, wrapped in a blanket day and night…watching.
A cough took Eleonora, choking her throat. Shoulders and legs shaking, she sunk to the wooden floor, skirt floating around her, tears coating her face instantly. Sobs heavy enough to sink a steamship erupted. Exhaustion ceased the outburst long before the emotions had ran their course. Standing up by grasping the counter, Eleonora made her way to the sink. She leveraged the pump, priming it, until water flowed and washed her face before taking the stairs to the master bedroom where Clement was already asleep, careful not to wake her husband.
(words 536 – first published 5/22/2016)