Wednesday Stories: The F Word
I rarely approached the sacred building on weekdays but as the day approached I felt a need for a certain kind of divine support. It was a big thing, and I have never done this before. I have prepared everything practically necessary to receive her. The room had been painted in bright yellow and I even spent last Sunday afternoon putting up the red balloon wall art stickers. It would have been a simpler task if the stickers actually stuck. I bought all the necessaries – diapers, even formula just in case. and the un-necessaries – the plastic crockery, a different colour for each meal. She was three, but they had said that she is under-developed, and will be difficult. So of course prayer was the best thing I could do, in anticipation, to prepare.
The day was Saturday. Bertha, her social worker, pulled up in a little white thing that was hardly a car. I had been scurrying around inside all day placing things at the right places, I wondered if the teddy bear should be on her bed, or in the toy cabinet with the other toys. I repositioned that bear several times that morning and decided to sit her on the pillow. I wondered if I should leave the room door open or close. Whether I should prepare a meal, or wait. And I pottered around her room moving the pyjama sets to the bottom drawer just in case she had some belongings of her own, which she would have liked to put in the top drawer. I hung the cute little dresses and placed her tiny bedroom slippers by the front door so she could slip into them as she entered. When I saw the car from the bedroom window I made a final check of myself in the mirror. I needed to look the part, beautiful, but not too pretty to be a reliable mother. Friendly yet stern. I wanted to portray a collection of oxymorons and then finally made a note to just be myself or I’d just come off confused. The doorbell rang.
I received her, a quiet meek little thing who hung on tight to her bottle and refused to speak or look at me. Bertha and I finished off some paperwork and she briefed me. When all was done and the front door closed I knew she was slightly relieved, yet worried. She very much hoped, I believe, that I would take this bundle of responsibility off her and she could put the file in the resolved pile. As her car drove off I was suddenly very much aware of how quiet the house was. I stood completely still for a while and felt my lush cream carpet under my feet. I closed my eyes and braced myself for what was to come.
The day went by with me coaxing the child into accepting her new mummy. Her blank eyes indicated that she had not understood me and she was silent, because she had actually never spoken. Ever. I washed her, dressed her, fed her and put her to bed with a story, just like how they do regularly do on television. She slept.
The next day I fed her, washed her and dressed her in a little white dress. I put on her white shoes and carried her out into the car where I strapped her into the car seat I had bought for her. We drove to that sacred building which I thought we could both ceremonially celebrate our new life together. I parked and carried her into the white building. She squirmed a little through the songs, and then a little more aggressively through the talking and I quietly carried her to the corner afraid that she may burst out crying. Often judgmental of parents with screaming children I was slightly afraid that I may be in danger of being just that. She remained silent until the end, to my relief.
It was the end of the service people that I knew came around me in my corner to greet my little Clara. She squirmed in my arms avoiding the old ladies that were so keen on gaining her attention, and affection. She squirmed a swift squirm which I interpreted as a gesture indicating her desire to be left alone and so I put her down on the ground and held her tiny hand. When Damien, the guy I come to church to bump into came to greet me, bashfully, we launched into conversation briefly before he crouched down to greet her. At the sight of him she lay down. Face to the ground still. I bent down and coaxed her to stand up and at one touch she curled into a ball, tight.
“Clara?” I called.
Then Damien tried, “Clara?”
And there was at the sound of his voice a loud scream. As I bent down to pick her up she turned and sunk her tiny teeth deep into my arm. I pulled back and looked into what was a sort of terror in her eyes.
“I better go” said Damien and I nodded. I gathered the girl in my arms and put her in her car seat while coaxing her. As I collected her from her seat I noticed, from the smell, that she had excreted in her diapers. I spoke softly in her ears and told her we’d wash up as soon as we get indoors. The child had resumed her silent manner.
Once indoors, I was briefly impressed as she wiggled out of her white dress with a bit of help from me. Then she pulled open her diapers using the adhesives at both sides. The little girl then began to scream and the smile was wiped off my face as I watched her dig her tiny little hands into the mush on her diapers and wiped them, all over my face. The smell caught me. I held back the vomit that had risen to the back of my throat.
“She’s a feral child.” I heard Bertha’s words again. I took hold of her tiny hands and wrapped my arms around her tiny body. I walked us both into the shower. As the hot water ran down my skin and the skin of the one in my arm I sighed a loud sigh wondering about her life before she came to me. I put her down and knelt to wash her thoroughly with soap when she looked at me and said what I thought sounded like the F word.
Right then I felt a sharp pain that was hers and I wept for the the little Clara, you know, the Clara that could have been.
for the word prompt Feral.
Also for InMon: History Unravels