“Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.”
“When a little girl screams and no one hears, the scream cannot be silenced. When a little girl bleeds and no one heals her, she wears the blood; an unworthy mask. Will no one help us, will no one seek our justice?”
My Thoughts, Tess’s Journal
My Thoughts …
Sixth grade graduation. What a joke. It wasn’t enough that I had to wear a yellow lace dress which highlighted my white, white, legs, but mom made me wear her God-awful black strapped sandals. Hello 1950’s. What a character I am. I feel my two bucked teeth growing larger by the day, and I started clipping the skin around my toes. Maybe if I can cut enough skin away, eventually my big toe won’t be so darn big. So far it hadn’t been working. The dead skin just keeps growing back.
I didn’t want to go in the first place and just when I started feeling good about my family coming to cheer me on, Christie pulled everybody’s attention away. As usual. Those pretty, bouncy blond curls make people chase her. Oh – what a cute little girl, the exclaim. I’m tired of hearing how ‘precious’ she is and how I must just be so proud to have a sister so pretty and sweet. I want to puke all over their shoes. If only I wasn’t afraid to stick my finger down my throat like Rebecca. She tried to teach me how to do it, but I didn’t have the guts to go down that far.
She danced and paraded around her room in a little silk lavender dress. Pretty patent white shoes, and shimmering white tights. And so damn happy too. I wanted to smack her.
Besides the teasing and taunting, I made it through. Walked up on the stage, almost tripping in my mother’s ugly old shoes. Shook Mr. Herr’s hand, and wondered if he even recognized me. Yes, I wanted to say, I have been in your class all year. The ugly nerd.
We sang a stupid song, and Quinton brought to me the only smile I’d had the entire day when he hoisted himself up on mom’s lap and shouted out, “Look at me Tessie! Look at me!” I laughed out loud.
The only part of that night I really wanted to write about was Nonnie. How proud she looked when I came out of my room wearing the dress she bought. How I thought to myself that I looked hideous in it, but she was gleaming from ear to ear. I smiled for her. “Oh, it’s so beautiful!” I lied to her. I’d wear anything she bought me, just for the hugs I got to give her when I thanked her.
The moment just before we left for the school, when she sat me down on the couch next to her and handed me the black velvet box, I could smell her. She didn’t smell like a grandma at all. She smelled like the other side of a rainbow.
I made sure to touch her hand when she gave it to me, her pretty perfect nails painted a light red and her skin, though thinning, so soft and so smooth. I opened the box.
“Oh Nonnie! My first ring!”
She laughed then, loving me for my excitement, “Try it on dear.”
I pulled the ring slowly down my finger, knowing it would fit perfectly. Everything Nonnie bought was perfect. The ring was gold and had a ruby inset into a cluster of six small diamonds. I saw the ring on my finger, but I didn’t see that the finger belonged to me. It was someone else’s ring. Beautiful, but not mine. I could never wear something so perfect. I remember taking the ring, I remember seeing the ring. But, I didn’t think or believe that it was mine. I was just wearing it until the worthy person took it back.
I hugged Nonnie. The best part. She was so soft and complete. She was short, and even shorter sitting down. When I hugged her I felt like I was in a major department store, hiding in the most expensive comforter’s they had to offer.
“I’m so proud of you Tess Ann,” she said, letting go of me.
I just smiled at her.
“You’re a good girl,” she said.
I wanted to cry, almost did, but as my dad called out from the drive to hurry up, I just said, “I love you Nonnie.” If she only knew how I’d failed her.
The end of the week took me to our ditch, just warming up from Spring and tired from the freeze. Rebecca’s wounds healed enough for keep what blood she had left inside, and the scars were just turning purple. I knew when she came, I’d have to tell her what was going to happen, but a part of me couldn’t, a part of me didn’t believe it really was happening.
“I don’t want you to go,” She said, pieces of anger on her tongue.
I took her hand in mine, feeling every bone beneath the translucent flesh, she’d lost at least another ten pounds and weighed maybe fifty at the most, and with her standing only five foot three and only thirteen years old, I worried she would wither away, “I don’t want to go Rebecca.”
We sat down, tilted by the side of the ditch. Still clutching one another’s hands. We both knew my father and mother getting back together was a good thing, but that it meant we were moving to Westcliffe, which was more than five hours away, devastated us. Just as with another new school, so was my father with another new job. I would have to start all over again in a new place, with no new friends.
“Remember when I told you bridges were for hiding under?” She asked me.
I did, “Yeah, I remember.”
She looked at me with a piercing eye, a look that knew things no one else did. A look too old for her, as her soul made its final goodbye, “You’re my bridge Tessie. You’ll always be my bridge.”
I held her close, her little body barely there, her soul slipping into my embrace. We cried. Tears not from beatings, or incest, but tears for the moments we belonged to something. Together, we were stronger than we’d ever be apart.
She’d grow up carrying the sin of her father’s hand. I’d go on to tempt men in evil ways; the devil inside of me to use me. We didn’t have to tell each other what we knew. I knew that she only wished for love. I knew that she didn’t understand why her father beat her so badly, when all he had to do was just hold her. She knew that I needed someone to protect me. We both did. no, the things that we needed wouldn’t be given just by asking for them. We’d spend our whole lives begging.
“Tess, will you write to me, wherever you go and no matter what?” She squeezed my hand.
“You really want me to?” I squeezed back.
She smiled, “Yeah. I’ve got to have someone to tell when I finally get revenge, if he never loves me, that’s what I’ll do.”
I looked seriously at her, “Revenge?”
“Yeah,” she sighed, “I’ll spend my whole life breaking down bridges if I have to.”
She spoke the last words as her eyes swept over the empty ground where our own bridge once stood.
“We’ll never be able to break down enough bridges Becca.”
“There’s no choice.”
I swallow hard, “Yeah, I think there is.”
She looked over at me, “Please, not God again.”
“No, not God. What about instead of breaking them down, we just cross them?” I remembered my first day, a year ago, when I had the vision I’d forgotten along the way of our friendship.
She laughed a scared laugh, “Why would we do that?”
I lifted my hands and cupped her face in my palms, “Becca, we’ve gotta walk across the bridge and take back what belongs to us.”
Tears fell through my fingers as she let go of numbness, and we clung together then, the wisdom of what lie ahead only possible because we had each other, our stories.
A the sun fell around us, and the cold woke us from reckoning, Becca said her last words to me, “Maybe I’ll just leave our bridge intact for a while then. We’ll just see if you’re right or not.”
As we stood to part, I put my arms around her shoulders, caressed the back of her hair, feeling the familiar mat of tangles, “One day Becca, one day we’ll carry back across our bridge the two little girls we’ve tried so hard to leave behind. One day girl, it will come.”