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Carol 2

by Richard Brown 

Posted: 18 March 2003
Word Count: 1612
Summary: The next few pages of the Carol story...
Related Works: Carol • Carol 10 • Carol 4 • Carol 5 • Carol 6 • Carol 7 • Carol 8 • Carol 9 • Carol3 • 

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Carol 2

Because the weekend visitor was reluctantly accepted by the household, Carol assumed that there was diplomatic agreement and when the visits ceased, she was not perturbed; the missing presents could easily be replaced by gifts from other admirers. It was only when the adults started to behave oddly that the four-year-old began to worry. Even so, it never entered her head that there might be an actual war.

Once hostilities started, she went from being sublimely free to being almost a captive. No longer was she allowed to skip down the street to spend enjoyable moments visiting her courtiers. Every movement was watched. Her admirers had many urgent conversations which she was not allowed to hear, yet she knew that she was the subject of their plotting.

One day she was playing with her loyal dolls when there was the sound of a car engine on high throttle accompanied by horrid shouting . Then the royal photographer was rushing into the room and, instead of treating Carol like a precious butterfly, he was snatching her up, putting his hand roughly over her mouth and bundling her brusquely into a cupboard; treatment, the recipient thought, which no royal personage should ever, ever, endure. She wanted to stamp her foot but there was no room.

Her servant knelt to tell her that she must not move and that, however afraid she was, she must not cry out. Fear then came so powerfully that Carol could not have disobeyed the order however hard she had tried. In fact, she found that she could only just breathe. With a nervous nod, she acquiesced, understanding much more than the adults suspected. There had been war in her kingdom, the assassins had gained power. She was in danger just like the princesses in the fairy stories.

In the darkness she crouched, shivering a little but being brave. She had confidence in her army, even when the shouting became more threatening and the curses of physical battle penetrated into her cell. The engine roared louder and then, with an angry burn of tyres, the vehicle was gone.

Mummy came, picked her up and held her so tightly that there was almost as much threat from squeezing as from the enemy. ‘It’s alright now darling,’ she told Carol.

The two of them then went far away from Kingston to a smaller place beside the bright blue sea. Carol enjoyed the new environment for a time but soon she was pining for the old admirers, the sessions of photography and the thrilling noises and odours of the Kingston streets.

There were frequent questions as to when they would be going home but nothing happened until the day when the postman’s visit was followed by a female howl of misery. Carol knew at once that the cry related to her, as did the urgent whispered consultations. ‘We’re going back to Kingston,’ she was told, so coldly that she trembled. She looked for love in her mummy’s eyes and found none.

In the Kingston house, where she might have expected a crowd and a rapturous welcome, it was as though there had been a death. Even the photographer could manage only a grim-faced nod. Carol knew that something terrible was about to happen. She tried all her wiles and maximised her goodness yet nobody smiled. One day, a car came to a halt outside the yard. Unlike the day of the raid, it did not furiously roar. To the child it seemed like a totally confident vehicle.

Peeking cautiously from a window, she watched most of her courtiers gathering, some running so as not to miss the show. She saw, also, the woman who used to visit her at weekends. With her was a very tall, bespectacled, bearded, man. He had wild hair and he kept looking ostentatiously at his watch as though it were very precious. Then, as if people were not paying it sufficient attention, he pointed to it. The thought crossed Carol’s mind that the man might be Father Time or even God the Father.

God or not, she saw mummy treating the time-person to a contemptuous stare before turning and walking slowly towards the house. The child ducked away from the window and grabbed her two most treasured dolls, clutching them defensively to her chest. Her mummy entered and said, curtly, ‘Come!’ There was a chill in Carol’s heart that she thought might kill.

Outside, the heat hammered her head but it could not warm her heart. She looked about, waiting for the assembled friends to take action. None met her eyes. She could tell by the set of shoulders, the tilt of heads and the way feet scuffed, that people were embarrassed but against her. The weekend visitor woman was holding out her arms. She was saying, stupidly, arrogantly, ‘Come, darling, come to mummy.’ Carol’s grip on her little people squeezed them to distortion.

Real mummy turned quickly, contempt on her face. ‘Here,’ she said roughly, ‘give me those!’ Vision suddenly impaired by tears, Carol pleaded, ‘No, mummy no!’ but the outstretched hand made as if to slap and the voice shouted, ‘Now!’ with a force that shook the ground. Looking up, her eyes wide, her mouth agape, the child solemnly handed over her little people, who were tossed contemptuously towards the house. They bounced haphazardly, hurtingly, in the dust. Carol looked soulfully to her photographer for rescue but everything had turned to metal.

Inexplicable was the apparent loathing. The traitor shouted: ‘She came with nothing, she goes with nothing!’ Carol yelped in wetting terror, then sobbed another plaintive plea for mercy but nothing could prevent the humiliation. Once-gentle hands reached roughly out, took hold of the workaday dress and hauled it crudely off.

Carol stood in her briefs and everyone was watching.. She realised, then, that she had been terribly mistaken. She was not a princess at all but a villain, someone terribly bad whose crimes had just been discovered. Of the sins she remembered nothing but she knew that there must have been a trial.

Through the salty water she gazed beggingly at the distorted image of her mother. For a moment it seemed that the hatred was relenting. There was the curl of a smile, just the beginning of a grin, which might tell that it was all a charade, but then the hands were being once more extended. Carol trembled, yearning to run yet incapable of movement. ‘Please, mummy!’ she whimpered but the soft words were futile. With a whip, a whoosh, a bitterly triumphant jerk, the one-time mummy peeled away the last of her baby’s clothing and in the concentrated gaze of the hypnotised throng, Carol was entirely naked. She began a piteous howling.
The giant stepped forward. He was dressed as she had seen men dressed for funerals. The dark jacket was swiftly removed and wrapped around her as a blanket, the strong male odours imprinting instantly. He picked her up and, to her astonishment, she found that she did not mind. Carol knew, by the softly awkward way she was being carried, that she was not going to be executed.

The man put her down and squirmed his great form into the driver’s seat of the venerable black Beetle. The thin woman took Carol’s hand and pulled her firmly into the front. In the back was a brand new tricycle and, beside it, a most horrible red-haired little boy who was smugly spinning the wheels.

Away from the immediate neighbourhood, the car stopped. Carol knew that she cut a comic figure, swathed as she still was in the giant’s jacket, but the woman did not laugh. ‘Carol,’ she said softly, ‘you remember me don’t you? I used to visit you. My name is Anne and I’m your real mother.’ On the latter point Carol knew for certain that the abductor, smiling as though her pearly teeth guaranteed truth, was lying. ‘And this is your father, my husband, Robert,’ she added.

The man smiled differently, warmly, and said a gruff, almost shy, hello. Carol knew about mummies and daddies. This, she decided, was most certainly her daddy yet it was an absolute mystery as to why he was allegedly married to someone who could not possibly be related to her in any fashion.

‘And this,’ Anne continued with an infuriating talking-to-a-child lightening of tone, ‘is your cousin Colin. He’s staying with us and you will be able to play with him.’ Carol looked away from the monster and grimaced in deep displeasure.

‘Whose is the trike?’ she demanded, ignoring the stupidly grinning boy.

‘Yours, darling,’ said Robert, ‘we bought it specially for you.’

‘Then tell him to stop spinning the wheels!’ Carol shouted.

‘You’re coming to live with us,’ Anne persisted, ignoring the tantrum. ‘We’ve been trying to get you back for a long time but now a very wise judge has said that you belong with your proper daddy and mummy.’

Carol knew that this was another lie. She had been snatched from paradise because of her secret badness. Her daddy was sorry for her and would not be cruel but the witch, who had probably stopped visiting because of the wickedness, was bent solely on punishment. Hunching self-protectively into the jacket, she succumbed to tears until the giant reached out and touched her hair. Some of her misery travelled relievingly into his soft-skinned fingers. She looked at him and smiled.

‘When will it be time for tea? she asked and daddy’s huge frame shook with laughter. To her astonishment, Carol laughed too and soon all four of them were laughing, about nothing she supposed except her customary cleverness.

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Comments by other Members

Jibunnessa at 12:22 on 06 April 2003  Report this post
As with the earlier part of this book, Richard, you've managed to brilliantly get into the mind of a small girl with such gentle understanding. Carry on and let us have more.

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