The Claws of Trust by Zoe Fenster

The sound of new shoes on concrete. That’s mostly what I remember from that time; my hurried steps up the front walk, excited knock on the door. My dad travelled at a normal pace behind me. An open door, as always; before me, a woman. Tall, with hair like lace and skin like the sun. Glowing. For a girl with a single dad, she was a dream. A walk through the hall, grand and covered in marble. A sneaky kiss behind my back.
‘Shabbat Shalom,” she said, and gave me a hug. Shabbat. A time to rest, to trust, to eat. In a hurried rush to the kitchen, my nose led the way. Lo and behold, the grand prize, my favourite part of shabbat dinners; the kids.

Being an only child of divorced parents, the vision of a mom, dad and two kids in a pristine kitchen was inconceivable. But every Friday night, it became a reality. Two kids, my best friends, my role models, sitting at the kitchen table sneaking bites of the roast chicken. I remember the delicate hand, missing the armour of its ring finger, swatting away the clammy hands of her preteen nuisances.
“Ron, Julia, why don’t you three head upstairs so I can finish dinner uninterrupted?” Her voice was still warm despite the slight sting of her words. I remember my dad’s soft chuckle, and our obedient steps that followed. Up the curved staircase, lined with exotic plants, the carpet plush beneath my tiny feet. My tiny, dainty feet, exposed to no more than seven years of ground. My innocent feet that had no idea what they were walking into. The life lasting memory; a life long scar.

Down the hall, to the right, first door on the left. The biggest bedroom in the house, and our favourite playpen. For a few adolescents, me, seven, Julia, ten, and Ron, a wise fourteen, the creme carpeting and embroidered bedspreads were the perfect arena for our favourite game; tickle monster. Like every seven year old, I loved to play games. But the games I played always came with a set of rules. Some were written, instructions in a cardboard box to prevent any sly maneuvers. Most of the games we played though, were imaginary. There were no written rules, only unspoken ones. I guess Ron never read the fine print.

Sitting there, laughing away with Julia as Ron’s hands became claws that led to a ticklish demise, I was safe. Happy. Until Julia left for the bathroom. That’s when the real monster surfaced. She didn’t yet know it, but she left me vulnerable. Alone. Soon, the hands that once generated laughter had an alternative intention. The claws dug deep into my skin, hands in places deep down I knew they didn’t belong and this game isn’t fun anymore, my smile’s disappeared, game over, stop. I was only seven, unaware that past the point of no return my mouth would be sewn shut, words built up in my throat but never escaping. Telepathy only worked in fiction novels, the ones I read every night before bed, always ending on a good note, and he never got my message. Stop. 
I couldn’t even close the book. I became his story, and with each page he wrote, he wrote over my freedom, my stability. Page after page, growing more helpless. Lifeless. 

And then Julia came back. Ron flipped back the pages as if nothing had happened, except it had, and when I heard the familiar call down to dinner, the same padded steps down the hall, the same mouthwatering smell coming from the kitchen, nothing was the same.

It would never be the same.

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