Login   Sign Up 



by Richard Brown 

Posted: 11 June 2003
Word Count: 2458
Related Works: Carol • Carol 10 • Carol 2 • Carol 4 • Carol 5 • Carol 6 • Carol 7 • Carol 8 • Carol 9 • 

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

The captive was taken to a house set on a hill at Morant Bay. It was dauntingly large and separated from the road by a spacious garden protected by cast iron gates which gave a fine impression of grandeur. In common with many houses in Jamaica, the structure was wooden, the roof zinc. There were attractive windows with green ledges outside and, within, inviting seats beneath. The territory behind the house extended to a cliff which offered dizzying views of waves crashing onto chaotic rocks. Beyond those was an extensive golden beach

For Carol, the enforced move marked the beginning of bewilderment. She was not oblivious to the physical advantages of her new environment but from time to time she would ask when she was going home. The answer that this new place was her home made no sense. When difficulties appeared, she cried for her mummy. 'Not you!' she would shout angrily at the attentive Anne, 'you're not my mummy.’

This attempt at deception, which the woman called Anne refused to abandon, soured the relationship between the two females. No matter what charm the impostor applied, the child could not be won over. The position with Robert was quite different. Nobody had ever claimed to be Carol's father and yet he did not press his case. In many ways he behaved like a parent but he exuded far less possessiveness than did his supposed wife. He gained almost all of the little girl's attention, a fact which, satisfyingly, seemed to irritate Anne.

There were delightful days when the witch’s spells failed and she fought furiously with her supposed husband. The noise of their conflict was frightening but Carol knew that once the battle was over, she would be welcomed by her father. There were also alarming times when, contrary to all sense, Robert seemed to value his tormentor. The pair of them indulged in displays of grotesque affection. Worse than this; whatever the state of their relationship, they never varied the routine of sleeping in the same secret-keeping bed. About this, Carol felt acutely uneasy.

‘Daddy,’ she risked one day as she sat alone with him in the Volkswagen pursuing some errands, ‘can I sometimes sleep with you?’

‘I’m afraid not, darling,’ answered Robert, trying not to laugh, ‘you sleep with someone when you're married to them.’

‘Are you married to Anne?’

‘To your mummy?’

‘She's not my mummy.’

Robert let it go.

‘Yes, we're married.’

‘Well, marry me as well.’

The laughter could no longer be suppressed.

‘I'd be a bigamist.’

‘A big what?’ asked Carol, sensing that she was being cute.

Robert could not speak through his merriment. Carol looked at him; his kindly face was creased with happiness.

‘I love you, daddy,’ she declared.

‘And I love you,’ said Robert when he had sufficient breath.

Carol did not doubt that Robert loved her but the scope and expression of it was insufficient. Anne was not the only rival; there was also his work, which took him away or which caused the invocation of a hitherto unknown adult rule called; 'Do not disturb'. 'Your daddy's writing. He'll play with you later,' became a detested formula from the lips of Anne who also would often retreat to this mysterious writing. The clattering of typewriter keys became abhorrent. Unable to relate to her malodorous cousin, Carol was often alone, dreaming of her former glory.

Supplementing the distraction of creative purdah was the problem of the visitors. In the other blessed household, virtually all callers had come expressly to see Carol. In the new place, few acknowledged her existence unless they tripped over her, or she captured attention with one of the outrageous tricks which her courtiers had loved but which invariably brought admonishment from Anne.

Often, the fear of the witch’s wrath overcame the delight in gaining the men’s attention. Then Carol would sit quietly in a corner, pretending to play with her new dolls but mainly listening. She understood little but she came to recognise themes. One, independence, she sensed to be a good thing. Another, called Britain or British, was certainly bad. There were names, too, which became known to her, especially Seaga and Manley. Occasionally the bodies associated with the names appeared. One glorious afternoon, the person called Seaga was so taken by one of Carol’s seductive tricks that he lifted her onto his knee and declared that one day she would be Miss Jamaica. Carol had no idea what this meant but from the murmurs of agreement, and a rare look of pride on the false mummy’s face, she reckoned that it had to be a good thing.

There was another name, though, which was never associated with a physical presence and which had entirely negative connotations for Carol. In her thoughts, the one they called Cleaver became a demon. He was the apparent author of a slogan, ‘Black is beautiful!’ which was often loudly uttered and which Carol knew could not be true. In her former time of happiness it had been her light skin that had brought her worship. More than once, she caught Anne’s gaze on her when Cleaver’s puzzling dictum was being declaimed and she began to believe that her kidnapper was ashamed of her.

At first, she tried to resist when she was told to go out and play dressed only in her knickers. The proper mummy had always covered her as though she were a delicate treasure yet the usurper declared that she wanted to see the skin burnt black. But Carol’s worst shock came when Anne took hold of her tresses and, with a teeth-kiss noise of disparagement, told her that all this fly-away nonsense had to go. In Carol’s eyes, the harvesting of her hair was impossible. It was silky and fine, it shone in the sun, it was black, it was entirely beautiful. It was the one aspect of her being which suggested that the Cleaver man was right.

First she ran but the witch raced faster. She fought but the tyrant overpowered her. She forced out her loudest, highest scream yet the piercing sound could not stop the scissors which, steely and cruel, came snipping,. How she sobbed as the tresses slithered, like treacherous snakes, to the floor. ‘No, Anne, no!’ the capitulating creature wept, enfeebled by despairing misery. Thereafter, mirrors, once loved, became planes of pure torture. The darkening skin and the close-cropped skull were the opposite of all that she had been brought up to value. She felt, when she glimpsed herself, like a photographic negative.
Too much had been taken away. The child started to turn inwards. A deep unhappiness suffused her spirit; she was mourning for her eliminated self. The dolls, which they had bought to replace the lost loved ones, became hateful. She mutilated one of them, diverting what, with more courage at her disposal, she would have perpetrated on herself.

She began to be defiant. At the nursery school, held under the shade of a giant akee tree, her behaviour was impeccable but at home she rebelled. It was forbidden for her to climb high up the mango tree, yet almost daily she climbed. It was a worse misdemeanour for her to go alone to the cliffs, where she loved to sit and watch the distant drama of a man exercising a noble white horse on the shining beach, yet repeatedly she went.

There was punishment. When Anne was angry, she would throw shoes with Olympian force and accuracy. When she was calmer, her method was to put the errant child behind a tall dressing table, set at an angle across a corner. At first this dark space was a place of terror to the infant but she prepared by secretly depositing toys there. This perversion of the course of justice was eventually discovered, and duly remedied, but the removal of the playthings introduced Carol to another strategy. Real objects, she discovered, were unnecessary. Incarceration became almost pleasurable, a time when she could dream undisturbed of a return to her former paradise.
There was another advantage of her prison. If she stayed very quiet, the adults would sometimes forget that she was there. They would talk about her and about their troubles. She learned much that a child should not know. Then she took to hiding in the hollows under the window seats, cursing when Robert and Anne were loving towards each other and wincing whenever they crashed into one of their earth-shaking rows. Yet the antagonism was welcome. It spurred her belief that eventually the witch would be driven out and she would have her daddy-husband to herself.

One day she was illicitly lying in the grass on top of the cliff with her new friend, Donald, from the nursery class. Below, in the distance, the white horse, driven by its owner, was galloping wildly on the sands. Unlike the odious Colin, Donald was compliant. She decided to trust him.

‘Donald,’ she began self-importantly, ‘my daddy is my daddy but Anne is not my mummy. She's very, very wicked and she took me from my proper mummy because I had been very, very bad.’ Donald was aghast. ‘What did you do? he asked. She thought for a moment and discovered that she could not tell him. It was, she guessed, something only girls could know. Carol jumped to her feet and ran back towards the house. Donald followed, yelling, ‘Tell me, tell me!’ but she shouted at him to go away.

Carol reached the yard just as her father was returning from an expedition. He was for once in her bad books because he had refused to take her with him and because he had, for an unacceptable number of days, been too preoccupied to give her the attention which she craved.

The chickens, which had scattered when the Beetle approached, had gathered together. Carol glanced towards the car and saw that her father was still in no mood to play. It seemed to her that something radical happened in her brain. It was frightening but it was also like the dawning of the mysterious thing called independence which all the big men visitors talked about.

She ran, waving her arms like a dervish, scattering the terrified birds. Robert bellowed a command but she did not stop, nothing could stop her other than the rough hand which grabbed her wrist. Anne came out, drawn by the noise. She told Robert how naughty the child had been recently and how she deserved a beating.

Carol’s heart thumped painfully even though she was not afraid. The new part of her was in a mood of careless celebration. Her captors seemed to have lost most of their power. Robert looked at her sternly, then let go of her wrist. A detached chicken came back to peck at a favoured spot. She could not help herself. It was only a wave of the arm to make the bird’s wings flap but her daddy yelled, ‘Go to your room!’

A long time later he came to her. He looked sad but she could not let go of her new self. She felt that he deserved his misery. He made a speech about how she left him with no alternative and how this was the saddest day of his entire life.

Robert sat on the edge of the bed and splayed her across his lap. She wriggled until a part of him was pressed against her pelvis. The slaps hurt but her screams were for effect. There was a pleasure too, a wickedness which only girls could know. ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ she howled as the hand impacted.

When the episode was over, she saw that her daddy was crying. She sobbed too and flung her golden arms around his neck. She told him how sorry she was that she had been naughty and that she would never misbehave again. The embrace was better than any she had ever had with him. They went downstairs, hand in hand, and when Anne seemed to smirk at her tear-stained face, she felt smug.

That night, Carol slept calmly until a noise woke her. She sat up, alarmed, convinced that the two of them were fighting much more ferociously than usual. Up her spine, across her shoulders and through every nerve fibre of her neck, discomfort ran. Anne's cries were throaty, as though she were being strangled. Robert seemed transformed into a marauding lion. Carol bounced out of bed and raced over the polished floors, night dress flying. In her mind was but one most perplexing thought; that Anne must not be murdered!

She skidded to the half-open door of the parental bedroom. Robert's sounds shook Carol's body. As she had anticipated, he was on top of his prey, exploiting all of his considerable strength. He rose and fell, squeezing out the remnants of breath. His failing victim gasped, far into her final anguish. Carol stopped in shock. It seemed they did not see her, neither did they hear her whimper when, at that instant, Robert subsided. The child turned and crept back to bed, stifling as best she could her sounds of weeping.

In the morning, Carol went alone towards the sea, hoping to see the horse grazing in the cliff top field. It was not there. She had not intended to stray beyond the permitted boundary but the need to see the creature overcame her.

The carelessness which had made her chase the chickens crept in like a liberator. She ran to the edge, lay down and squirmed forward until she could see most of the shoreline. Something white flicked into the corner of her vision. It might have been foam but her heart skipped. She crawled even further, her body sloping downwards, her fingers clinging hard onto unstable tufts of grass. There was something on the rocks, something being lifted then deposited by the washing waves.

She had dreamed, sometimes, of falling. In her prettiest white dress she would tumble, making everybody sorry for what they had done to her. Oh! then they would notice! then they would wring their hands!

She screamed. A short, fierce cry giving way to repeated hysterical yelling. Robert, hearing her from afar, raced. ‘My god!’ he cried and grasped her legs.

It might have been a time for punishment but she was in his arms, curled and held, her body shaking.

‘What is it, darling?’ he urged.

Shivering and sobbing, she pointed. His height gave him a better vantage.

‘Oh, my god!’ he said again as he gazed upon the broken, lifeless body of the horse.

He carried her home and administered no punishment. Not long afterwards he announced that they were moving house and she was glad.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

noddy at 19:07 on 11 June 2003  Report this post
Hi Richard,
This was a good read - certainly captures the manipulative nature of young children. Carol has the potential to become a very frightening little girl. Look forward to reading more.

Nell at 21:31 on 22 July 2003  Report this post
Hi Richard, I noticed that this had just entered the archive, so came to read and was held captive all the way through. It's amazing how you've entered the mind of this little girl, and somehow I identified very strongly with her, even though I've neither had a stepmother nor been cruelly treated. I didn't see her as manipulative - she was fighting back with the only weapons at her disposal, and I was on her side all the way through. I can remember sitting in corners listening too, and throwing little scraps of paper down the stairs with 'You'll be sorry when I'm dead' written on them when I'd been grumbled at and sent upstairs for some wrongdoing.

One sentence stood out a little, and I had to read it three times before I understood; 'Supplementing the distraction of creative purdah was the problem of the visitors.' That could just be me being dense though. And I stumbled a little when you described Carol as an infant - she seems to me to be around six or seven. These of course are small things, and only my initial thoughts. Best, Nell.

To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .