The Heat of Betrayal
The afternoon sun hangs heavy like a burden in the sky, with sweltering rays burning heads and peeling skin. The 4 year old sunscreen Delia had slathered on before school does nothing to protect her legs now from the harmful UV rays, and they soon blister and redden.
In front of her, a lone seagull lands, and pecks at miniscule scraps of food unnoticeable to the human eye, but a tasty treat for all hungry birds alike. Delia throws to it the last of her hardened bread and tasteless tuna forgotten from lunchtime and stands, savouring the release of cricks built up in her back and neck. The alien numbness in her backside still remains a reminder of worse times.
Get inside Delia!
But Mama, I want to stay with my friends and play!
That’s it; you’re getting the spoon!
Delia’s old scuffed school shoes appear almost painted on as dirt kicked up from the track leading home coats her ankles in grime, the colour of filth and misery. A sigh escapes her thirsty lips as every step brings her closer to dreaded insults and cruel rejection.
I’m walking the road to destruction. If only alternate paths existed.
Uncle Tony is positioned crookedly on the drab living room couch when Delia enters the shambled house. At the sight of his shrivelled, repugnant face, fear constricts her throat, saliva drying on her tongue and parching her even further. This also brings on an onslaught of emotions with it, weighed down with dank memories of his forceful hands violating her, a flame river staining her underwear the colour of oxblood.
Hey there Delia, I’m your Uncle Tony and I was just wondering if you would like to play a game?
Yes please, Uncky Tony!
But you must promise to do exactly what I say and not tell your Mama or Daddy about it ok? It’ll be our little secret.
And it had been their little secret, a dark sinister secret that Delia still hid within her, afraid to let it bubble outside of her mouth and into the open wild of reality.
Detestation prickles like searing fire at the back of her eyes as Uncle Tony raises his eye level to hers and sneers a crooked smile at her, his misaligned teeth glinting slightly from salivation.
‘Well, well, if it isn’t Delia my favourite niece. How is the princess today?’
‘Fine, thank-you Tony.’
‘Ah, whatever happened to Uncky Tony? You sound too much like an adult when you speak like that!’
Her mother bustles busily into the room, barely acknowledging the fact Delia’s two hours late home and wraps her up in a giant bear hug that causes Delia to cough out of confusion and lack of air.
Where has this unexpected affection come from?
Delia knows from past experience her parents love never would come without a price and immediately becomes wary as her mother bares her nicotine-stained teeth in the slightest resemblance of a smile. Only then does Delia notice the two neatly packed suitcases sitting next to the couch.
‘Mama, who are these suitcases for?’
‘Oh Delia we have terrific news! Your father and I have decided to move to Castleton, and we know how much you love living here in Queenstown…’
‘I hate this place.’
‘Don’t be silly, you’ve always loved it here. So, we are going to let you live here with your Uncle Tony!’
‘It’s only for a few more years before you’re old enough to buy your own place.’
Delia feels light-headed, ferocious pain and anger running iron hot through her veins. She hears herself yell insults, screaming out the hate inside her until a sharp sting to her face throws her backwards. She scrambles to her bedroom, now starkly bare, and looks at her face reflected in a cheap plastic mirror. The fierce red handprint spread out like a fever contrasts deeply with the pale whiteness of her cheek, heightened by fear.
I have to get out of here.
As quickly as that, Delia makes up her mind. She runs her hand along the secret place beside her bed, her quivering fingers coming in contact with an object that always offered security and warmth when nothing else did. She thumbs through the diary, counting the money saved in the crevices of it, stolen when her father’s back was turned.
Up goes the window, with air still hot like freshly baked loaves of bread filling the room, its wispy fingers thread through her hair easing tension and doubt. Delia steps out into the unknown, the oppressive heat encompassing her like a replication of the life she has known before.
Will I ever be free?