What purpose do they serve?
To oblige a comfort for the weak of mind? Perhaps a reminder of better times? To assist as hope on dark days?
Memories are subjective and one-sided.
They are a double-entendre.
My childhood memories are not like others.
I don’t remember my mother...or my father, for that matter.
My first solid memory comes from when I was five years old.
It is frequent.
It is repetitive.
It is a lesson. One I have not forgotten.
This memory serves me well.
I’m awoken with a start. Panting, sweating and angry. A growl sounds from deep in my throat; it hurts, but the pain is comforting.
I can’t remember the dream.
I hear her voice—my mother—but her face is dim. This makes me angry. Furious. My growl turns guttural; my face beads with sweat. I shake with rage.
They taunt me—the dreams.
I hold my balled fists by my temple. I don’t need anyone to tell me my knuckles are white. I fist them so tightly; they’re numb.
She’s in there; I know she is.
Why can’t I remember her?
The nuns tell me it’s not possible for me to have these memories, and they are merely nightmares. My mind is playing tricks.
Sister Francis opens the door to my bedroom. It’s always her. She is the only one with the patience to deal with me. Everyone else has given up.
I like Sister Francis.
Continuously growling until my throat burns, I avoid her worried gaze. She coos at me from across the room, arms open, but something stops her from providing the comfort I so desperately need.
My growling stops. Instead, I listen.
Father Robert holds Sister Francis back. They argue quietly. I’m not sure what is happening, but Sister Francis...her face crumples. She places her hands up in prayer, her face pleading as she begs. He shakes his head, his expression firm.
She dips her chin, covers her mouth and sobs. Father Robert’s expression remains unchanged. For a second, he looks almost apologetic. As he moves to enter my bedroom, she cries out, muttering and mumbling, trying in vain to hold him back.
My heart stutters even now, in the present.
Oh, the rage.
When he pushes her back harshly, she stumbles.
My body turns cold. Pressure builds in my ears.
I don’t like that. I want to scratch his eyes out.
I don’t even realise I sit here, statue-like, watching.
Without checking on her, Father Robert enters my room, and Sister Francis calls out over and over, “I’m sorry, little one. I’m sorry.”
For the first time in my life, I’m no longer angry.
Fear courses through my veins, pulsing through my temples with every beat of my racing heart.
He locks the door behind him.
“It is time you are taught, Catarina.” He pauses mid-step and stands in the middle of my bedroom. “You were sent to us, a gift from God himself. You will aid us in our cause.”
I don’t understand what he’s saying. My mind is too young to comprehend what it is he is telling me.
Pulling his shirt out of his pants, he walks towards me.
“It is time you are taught.”
My lesson that day was simple.
I am a gift and this is God’s will.
I take a moment to look around my room from my place on my cot.
Bare. My room is bare—just the way I like it to be. I have no need for material things. Material possessions mean nothing to a person like me. They are wasted on the humble-minded.
I slide off my cot and kneel by my bedside. My eyes flutter closed. I grip the rosary beads, place my hands together, and begin my silent chant of morning prayers.
Father Robert did as he said that day.
He taught me. Taught me things a child should not be taught.
But I’m different.
Don’t feel bad for me. God’s will must never be questioned. This is my lot in life.
I will tell you one thing, so listen carefully and heed my warning:
Things are not always as they seem.
“Dammit, Catarina,” he pants.
I puff out my own unsteady breaths. Sweat trails down my temples. Exertion does that to a person.
His hold on me is too hard to get out of. He grits his teeth and snarls, “Fight me.”
He likes when I fight him. It makes him happy.
So I do.
I do whatever Father Robert tells me to. He calls me his good girl, even though I’m anything but good. I’m constantly reminded of this fact.
I struggle in his hold and puff out, “I’m trying.”
He pulls me further into his body. “There is no try; there is only do.”
Dear Lord, please give me the strength I need to fight.
I need to fight. He’ll be so disappointed if I don’t.
His heavy breathing turns harsh. He’s angry at me, at my lack of trying. One arm clamps around my middle, the other around my neck.
I am not to submit. Not ever.
He pulls his forearm tightly around my neck and I begin to wheeze. The pressure on my throat becomes unbearable. Father Robert does this purposely. I have issues with people touching my neck. He knows this. I know what he’s doing: he’s forcing me to fight.
His coaxing works.
My anger builds, a slow burn in my stomach, searing my insides, turning me into exactly what he wants me to be.
A growl starts low in my throat.
Father Robert’s cruel laughter follows, “That’s it, Cat. Get angry.” I bring my knee up, and then slam my heel down onto his foot as hard as I can. He snarls, “Fuck.” His arms loosen a moment before he quickly recovers, “Good.”
Rage sizzles in my veins. I don’t want to hurt him. I want to kill him.
Baring my teeth, I snarl right back. My elbow connects with his ribs. He makes no move to show its hurt him, apart from the breath that escapes him in a whoosh. My rage continues to build quickly, boiling into fury. Body thrashing, head whipping from side to side, I let out an animalistic roar.
And he laughs.
He laughs at me.
I become frenzied. My anger so potent, my body shakes. I suddenly want to cry. I feel helpless, like a tornado being contained in a small box.
Gripping my hair, I yelp as he pulls on my ponytail hard. His lips hit the shell of my ear. “Use what you have.”
My mind clears a second before I open my mouth and bite the arm at my neck, sinking my teeth in hard enough to break skin.
Father Robert bellows as loud as he can. I can taste his blood in my mouth, and rather than feeling ill, it fuels me like gasoline thrown onto a fire. Pleasure courses through my pulsing veins.