Friday, May 26, 2006


Tina parked her car in her mother's driveway and decided to sit in it for awhile before stepping out and walking into the house.
She takes a deep breath to gather courage.
I can do this, she thought.
I think I've put up with this for long enough. They should hear me out. They should listen to me for a change. I'm sick of being the scared one.
She told herself, while checking out her eyes in the rear view mirror. The traces of redness and puffiness were no longer there.
She caught a glimpse of her mother's potted plants in the reflection. The bright, strong colours shining back at her. What a contrast to her pale skin.

When she stepped into the house, the smell of freshly baked muffins and the tinkling of the brass bells that her mom installed on the front door welcomed her.
"Tina, is that you?? We're all in the kitchen" she heard her sister called out.
She walked towards the back of the house, shedding her scarve along the way.
Her mother and her sister, Lily, was sitting at the kitchen table with a coffee mug each.
"What took you so long? I thought I heard your car drive up almost 10 minutes ago" her mom asked.
She took a mug from the mug tree sitting on her mom's counter top while she tried to come up with an answer.
"I.. uhm.. I forgot to put on my lipstick" she managed to lie while pouring herself some coffee, and flashed her mom a sheepish grin.

"Okay, now that you're here, let's get down to business" Lily said, putting down the muffin she was nibbling on.
Tina sat next to Lily and glanced at the notepad that her sister was scribbling on.
"So, we've decided we should do the party next-next Sunday, which is the 15th. Can you make yourself free?" Lily asked.
"Sure" Tina answered, slowly sipping the coffee while stealing a look at the guest list.
They discussed the menu and argued over what should be served with the lamb soup, rice or just bread rolls. Tina didn't even remember what was decided. She was distracted by the guest list.

"Set then. Can you call the caterer? I mean, since you know them better than I do.. Mom and I will handle calling up the relatives to invite them." Lily finally said.
Mom stood up to wash her mug and Tina decided to say something before she leaves the table.
"Uhm.. about the relatives.. will you .. will you be inviting him?" She hesitantly asked.
"him? who?" Tina's mother feigned ignorance.
"you know.. " Tina won't even say his name.
"Oh, of course." Mom says, and started to walk away. "It would be awkward if we didn't. You don't mind do you?"
"Actually, mom, I do mind" Tina said, trying not to look at her mother and betray her dissapointment that they still did not get it.

"but honey, what would people say? How would he feel if he knew he was the only one not invited?" Mom argued.
Lily just sat there, looking at Tina wide-eyed, but with a blank expression that says i'm not getting into this.
"What about how I feel about him being there, mom? Doesn't that count?" Tina tries hard to control her tone of voice. She has to stay strong. She cannot shake.
"Well," Mom acts a bit flustered, not knowing where to put her mug. "Your feelings do matter, love, but you've been okay with him being around before.."
"That's the problem. I was always the one who has to give in, who has to endure, who has to do the dodging and avoiding. I'm tired mom. I won't do it anymore." Tina's voice raised a note.
There was an awkward silence. Lily let out a gentle cough.

"It's either me or him, mom. If you invite him, then I won't come." Tina said finally.
"Honey, that's unreasonable." Mom sighed and finally put her mug in the kitchen sink. "Can't we just forgive and forget?"
"Forgive and forget???" Tina started to sound abit hysterical, but she collected herself. "No mom, even if I can forgive, I can never forget what he did to me. Besides, he never ever did come to me to apologize or say anything. He's acting as if nothing ever happened and that it doesnt affect him. But it affects me, mom. It affects me a lot." Tina tries to make her mom understand.
"Don't you think you're over-reacting though, Tina?" Mom says in the calmest voice she could muster, " I mean, it happened so long ago. And anyways it's not like he raped you or anything". She said it with a shrug, as if trying to let it slide off her.
Tina felt like pulling out her hair.
"The fact that he did it to me when I was so little should make it all the more disgusting. And just because he didnt stick his dick inside me, does not mean that he. did. not. rape. me." Tina tired so hard not to scream, that the words came out through clenched jaws.
Lily gasped and covered her mouth.
"You do not use that language inside my house, young lady" Mom glared from behind the kitchen counter. Tina pictured her mother wringing the dish towel she was using to wipe dry the mug she was holding a minute ago.

Tina buried her face in her hands.
"I just don't want him to be around me, mom" Tina sighed "And I'm tired of running away. I was hoping that you, of all people, would understand, or at least, agree and support me".
Mom put her mug back on the mug-tree in silence. Lily stood up from the table and brought her mug to the kitchen sink and started to wash it. Tina just sat there at the table. Waiting. Waiting for someone to understand.
Tina feels like giving up. Perhaps she should just accept whatever is being dished out to her. That is certainly much easier than having to go through this.

"Okay." her mom sat back down at the table.
Tina looked up to face her mom.
"If it makes you feel better, I won't invite him" Mom said, "but what will I say when the others ask why?" her eyes challenged her daughter.
"Tell them the truth." Tina said bravely.
Mom shook her head.
"Then tell them to ask me." Tina said courageously, feeling like she's finally climbed the hardest part of the mountain. "Then I'll tell them the truth"
Her mom looked at her doubtingly "Wouldn't you feel ashamed?"
"You know what mom, I think it's high time I stopped feeling ashamed" Tina tapped the table for effect. "It's high time that he should be the one who is shamed for what he did. I should stop being scared of meeting him. He should be scared of meeting me. I should stop worrying about who knows my secret. He should start worrying about who knows about the secret he made me keep all the years. I should stop shrinking. I should.. I want to start to shine again."
For the first time since the conversation started, Tina saw Lily, who was behind the kitchen counter, smile and look at her with pride.

Two weeks later, they were back in the kitchen. This time it was filled with the aroma of spices wafting out of the huge pot of lamb soup. Lily was ladeling soup into large tureens. Tina was piling bread rolls in a cotton-lined basket, while Mom was busy chatting with guests outside.
Tina was setting the bread basket on the buffet table when she saw the car pulling in to park at the roadside in front of the house.
Her heart sank.
She turned and looked for her mother.
She finally found her mother in the kitchen, listening to her aunt rave about the delicious soup and can she have a bowl of it to take home?
"I can't believe you invited him, mom" Tina interrupted.
"Tina, please, honey, I just want you to learn to forgive him" her mother pleaded. Her aunt looked on, slightly confused.
"You still don't get it, mom" Tina said, and went to grab her car keys.
She stormed out of the house, brushed by her tormentor at the front door, and headed for her car.

Lily caught her just as she was backing out of the driveway.
"Tina.." Lily tried to reason through the driver's window, "Please understand.. you're asking her to choose between her brother and you".
Tina stopped the car and looked at Lily.
Lily saw for the first time how much her sister is hurt.
"The thing is, Lily, it's obvious that she already made a choice. She chose him over me." Tina swallowed hard. "Why didn't she choose me?"
Lily let her go.
Tina drove off, watching her mother's house look smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror.

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