Black Absinth@Deviant Art
The party was in its final hour. I was 12 years old, the decorations reflected my maturity but the change seemed too abrupt, too inclusive. There were no games, no presents beyond those of practical necessity, even the guests had aged considerably. The children who had been coerced in previous years to attend were no longer made to do so. I had no friends and I found myself nostalgic, missing my cousins who had been the only genuine guests I’d ever known. I was miserable, a state I was all too happy to inflict. It was bad timing that my mother should cross my path in that very instant, when I was so very near an eruption. I did not think that I would cry as I was advised never to do so and I did not think I would scream because the character of my voice scarcely permitted it but my words were at times formidable.
“How did they die?” I took the stack of emptied dessert plates from my mother’s bony hands. She looked resentful for my consideration. Her smile was a glitch, a snarl that she could not in company fashion.
“Who do you speak of Eli?” She asked distractedly, her voice unusually sharp. With the party nearing conclusion her anxiety had risen and she was no longer able to effect an aura of complete civility, particularly among those for whom the facade was not quite so necessary.
“The twins…” She grabbed me by the elbow and guided me into the kitchen.
“We’ll discuss this later Eli…we have guests….how would Emilie feel if she overheard?” She looked genuinely concerned as she peered out into the sea of writhing voices hoping perhaps to extract that singular tone. Emilie was not in attendance but I did not dispute this point. I sympathized with my mother I knew that she loved her sister and that her concern now went beyond diffusive posturing. I also knew that she would never speak of this in private and that if I upset her too much I would draw the wrath of my father. To attack her with an audience prevented her from causing a scene, it was a dirty trick but the only means by which I might derive an answer.
Though it was cruel, I held a single dish over the wastebasket , the color drained from my mother’s face. I have no idea what I intended in making the gesture, much less if I would carry the threat to completion but my mother knew. She closed the kitchen door and motioned for me to sit the dishes in the sink.
“You must understand those children were Emilie’s whole world…she would have gladly died a thousand deaths on their behalf….she was a good mother…as girls we made a promise that we would never repeat the mistakes of our parents…a promise she alone kept…” My mother’s wounded face made me angry. How could I subject her to what was so obviously a traumatic memory?
“Foster has something of a temper…don’t misunderstand me he would never raise his hand against a woman or a child but he has a temper which has not served him in matters of employment…his education is limited and his reputation has all but blacklisted him….he takes on menial jobs from which he is soon fired…Emilie took up teaching to help supplement their income…” Foster was my uncle. I was aware of his faults and of the great affection he had for my aunt.
“The children being so young….I sent her a nanny to help look after the boys…I-I thought I was doing the r-right thing…Lillian came so highly recommended…I was only trying to spare them…the thought of three young children running around the house…the mess….and her boys were so energetic…so happy I could not bare to look at them and then to see your sullen face in comparison…knowing that I had made you so….” My mother was doing her best not to cry but it was having a terrible effect on her appearance. Her lips had a queer bluish tint as if she could not reconcile her breathing. A deep breath would have turned into a sob, a sob into heaving, which would have slowed the momentum of her delivery. She wanted to be finished with the story that she might never again be forced to speak of it. I was moved by her honesty.
She put her hand over her face as if to effect a veil. “Lilian came highly recommended and her services were exemplary….the boys adored her….” My mother shrugged helplessly and let her hand fall.
“Lilian fell pregnant…she was married so it was not so strange but she had had many miscarriages before and was afraid to announce her pregnancy too early….a superstition but one that is very difficult for any woman to dispute….time passed and her condition became such that she could not conceal it…Emilie threw her a baby shower….we attended….” I could only dimly remember the event in question, but I could not recall the guest of honor. I found it strange that the nanny had my mother’s name.
“She continued to work for Emilie into her 2nd trimester even though her obstetrician advised against it. Emilie kept her chores minimal as a precaution but she could deny the need for assistance.
Lilian was careful and for a time it seemed that she really would become a mother.” My heart sank watching my mother dismantle the roses in the vase before her. The demolition was a way of distracting herself from the words she did not wish to speak out loud. The pain of the thorns tearing at her flesh lulled into her into something like a hypnagogic state.
“Lilian was with the boys when it happened…the contractions began…she was six months so it was still too early…she was small to be so far along…the fetus she carried was small….she prepared a bag…but the situation must have taken a turn for the worst because she never left the house…” I did not look at my mother as she spoke but at the petals coagulating underneath her distressed fingers.
“I do not know exactly what happened…but she began to bleed profusely….she locked herself in the bathroom so the boys wouldn’t see but they’d witnessed enough to be scared….she lost her child…that far along it is quite a horrible thing to see…her previous miscarriages had all taken place in the first few weeks…this was more than her psyche could withstand…something within her broke Eli…she went mad….she was not herself not the woman I-I hired to watch my n-nephews….she was so weak from blood loss I have no idea where she found the strength….” My mother’s eyes were dead, her voice fissured, she did not look at me.
“She filled the bathtub with water…she got in….I think she meant to die herself but the boys were likely pounding and shrieking at the door….she drowned them Eli and then died herself…for a time at least but she alone was revived…perhaps she was dead when she committed the murders…she loved those boys Eli…you must believe me…I feel myself more a murderess than she…” She looked at me now her eyes were dry and panicked. She seemed on the verge of screaming, she grabbed my hand before I could move. Her blood should have been warm but it was ice cold.
“Do you believe me Eli? You must believe…I loved those boys…she loved those boys…the baby wasn’t right…Lilian’s baby…it wasn’t going to be a normal baby…she can’t have normal babies…you were so perfect Eli so beautiful on the outside…” My mom was scaring me now, I broke her grip and fled upstairs in a panic. That’s when the screaming started, the bone tunneling howl, that went on for days. I had heard that scream before but I could not place it chronologically.