I remember very little of my fourth birthday but where memory wanes I have comparison. My birthdays were always a spectacle though my preferences were seldom present in the presentation. There were balloons on this occasion but they were merely for display and I was not permitted to touch them. I was not permitted to touch anything as my mother’s entire life was mandated by the illusion of perfection.
My gifts were opened by my mother lest I shred the wrapping paper or sever the ribbons that she loved to save. I remember that year I received a set of building blocks, several books, and a wooden xylophone. I sat on the oriental rug by the fire running the mallet contently over the bars. I had two cousins of approximately the same age and they sat beside me playing with blocks. I cannot recall what happened to them only that they did not attend subsequent birthdays and were spoken of only in hushed tones after. I had found them tolerable. Friends of a sort. They came for biweekly visits prior to that night. We took swimming classes together, so I am told.
“Come now Eli…there’s someone I want you to meet..she’s traveled all the way from Windspur just for you…” I did not know then what Windspur implied but it seemed to me the sort of place where elves might live. I had no doubt that elves existed and it was this unwavering belief that probably led my father to remove fanciful books from my bedtime story rotation. Needless to say I was excited.
“Please don’t make a fuss when you see her Eli…there’s no reason to be scared…she’s your great grandmother and she’s really looking forward to meeting you…” I turned my brave beaming face up to meet my mothers. “Does that mean I am an elf too mummy?” My mother looked positively aghast. “Come now Eli…” My mother tugged my arm impatiently. I felt my smile fall but could not retrieve it.
I stood behind mother. I had never seen a wheelchair before and it both frightened and intrigued me. “That’s a funny looking bicycle…how come she gets to have a bicycle inside mummy?” I asked but my mother did not have the time to provide an explanation.
“Come here child let me touch your face…” The voice startled me and I ducked further behind my mother’s minuscule frame.
“Go on Eli…otherwise she can’t see you…” My mother’s words brought no comfort but the push she gave me from behind forced me forward just the same. I tried to back away but my mother stood there immobile, her features pinched. I stepped up to the chair. “Take my hand child…” I couldn’t find a hand. The woman’s arms were hidden under her sleeves. I looked up at the woman’s unfinished face and started crying.
“Eli don’t be rude…” My mother’s hand clamped over the pulse in my wrist. “She d-doesn’t h-have…e-eyes m-mummy…” I stammered. My mother knelt down in front of me, holding my shoulders in the crux of her emaciated hands. Her expression had softened. She didn’t want to create a scene and my crying had alarmed her.
“She’s blind Eli…that’s all it is…there’s nothing to worry about…” And then leaning forward she whispered her next words into my ear.
“Some elves are born underground….”
“Like a mole mummy?” I liked animals so this seemed an acceptable comparison and was not intended in offense.
“Yes like that Eli…her hands too so she can dig…and the chair is because she can’t walk so good above ground…” I suppose my mother knew me very well to risk making up such a creepy story, that are she was desperate.
My mother led me back to the chair and this time I picked up the old woman’s hand emboldened by my curiosity. Her hands were like shovels and I could barely distinguish the bones for all the webbing between. There were no fingers as such.
“Mummy doesn’t let me play in the dirt…” I commented hoping perhaps for sympathy. The woman let out a distressed wheeze that might have been a laugh.
“Well you don’t have shovels for hands…” The woman replied without discernible emotion, apparently she was not hard of hearing. I looked up at my mother who looked as if she’d just met the proverbial boogeyman in the closest.
“Don’t be scared mummy…she only looks like a monster…” The old woman began again, her terrible empty laugh like an echo burying into the lengths of my bones. I could not tell if she was happy or sad until she patted my hand reassuringly and made a grimace which I took to be a smile.
I wasn’t satisfied with this one and I might erase it my mind and emotions wonder so when I write stories!