First of all, I would like to remind you that there is a Block Party going on as you read this. A few people are already mingling (or sitting in a corner by themselves, or are passed out with an empty bottle of booze in their hand), so do not be shy and join them once you finish reading this post.
My annual Block Party is right –> THIS <– way.
“Write a story inspired by the word “shield”.”
– a prompt for this week’s CW piece.
“Can we go outside today, Mommy?” – I remember myself asking throughout my childhood, but the answer was always the same.
“Not today, Sweet Pea” – my mother would respond with gentleness in her voice.
“Why not?” – I would ask, folding my arms with dismay.
“One day, when you grow up, I will tell you and you will understand that all of this is meant to protect you. To shield you” – was her go-to reply as if she learned it by heart.
“But Daddy goes outside every day” – I tried to reason with her.
“That’s different. Daddy goes out so you don’t have to” – she would respond.
No matter how much I pleaded with her, she would not allow me to even peak out the door when Daddy was leaving in the mornings.
Talking to Daddy was even worse.
“Will you take me outside with you, Daddy?” – I would ask as he put on his shoes, getting ready to leave.
“No” – he would say.
“But WHYYYYYYYYYY?” – I pressed on, hoping for some pity.
“I said “No”. Now, stop the theatrics” – he would say sternly, seeing tears in my eyes.
“I told you he wouldn’t” – Mother would say once Daddy disappeared into the transition room.
To make sure that I never even looked outside, my parents divided the hallway into two parts, with one being a part of the inside of the house, and the second serving as a transition room. Only Daddy was allowed inside. The door to the outside was on the opposite end of the room, but I never even got to see it, because it was always pitch black in that room.
Smashing the windows did not get me any closer to the outside world. They seemed to be unbreakable. One time, however, when I did manage to smash one with my chair, what I saw beyond the window utterly defeated me. There was yet another window. There was no way out. And my metal chair was swiftly taken away and replaced by a plastic one the very next day.
“Can I have a book to read” – I asked one day.
“Sure, Sweet Pea. What subject?” – Mother asked.
“None from school. I want one of those that you used to read to me when I was little” – I demanded.
I could have sworn I saw the shock on my mother’s face for a brief moment.
“Which ones? I’ve always read from these books” – she said, pointing at a shelf with books she used to home-school me.
That day I turned the house upside-down in search for at least one of those books but came out empty-handed.
My parents could not understand why I wanted to go outside so badly and I had no idea why they would not let me see what is out there. When I was younger, Mommy used to read stories about the outside world to me. They were stories about Princesses and Princes and horses and dwarfs. All I ever wanted was to go outside and see all of that.
The day that Mother broke her leg was the happiest day of my life.
“Hand over the key to the transition room” – I asked politely, but with visible excitement.
“No” – she answered, petting her left leg as if her touch could put the bones back in place.
Even I, at the age of 13, knew that a bone sticking out of your leg is not a good thing.
“The key” – I said louder, extending my hand.
Mother clutched the key hanging from her neck in between her hands.
“I’m trying to SHIELD you. Can’t you understand?” – she asked with a mixture of fear and sadness in her eyes.
“From WHAT? Princesses and unicorns?” – I asked mockingly and headed towards the kitchen.
The knives were drying next to the sink. Their blades shimmered in the artificial light coming from the chandelier. I gently ran my fingers through the backs of the knives, picked up the longest one and went back into the room where Mother was laying on the ground.
“The key” – I asked again, this time with urgency in my tone.
“Sweet Pea, please” – Mother tried to shield herself.
The knife really was sharp. With a single cutting motion, I had what I wanted – the key to the transition room.
“Don’t” – she said, but I was already on my way out.
The lock on the transition door was no longer an obstacle; I had the key. Once in the room, to my surprise, I saw three different doors. Two of them were not locked and led nowhere. There was a brick wall behind them. The final door was locked, but the keys hanged right by it. I was not meant to make it this far. And if I did, this was supposed to slow me down. Three locks on that door and more than 15 keys. It took me a moment, trying different keys.
“Trust me. You don’t want to go outside. You need to stay here. I need to shield you” – Mother said from the threshold.
She must have crawled her way towards the transition room.
“You’re really persistent, but give it up now. I’m going outside” – I said as the final lock gave way to my key.
“Please. Don’t” – she was sobbing now, but all I could think of was the outside world that I was going to witness.
I could not believe the beauty I saw before my eyes when I stepped outside. It was just like in those stories Mother read to me when I was younger. There was a forest to the left and to the right of me. A green meadow covered in poppies ahead of me. I brushed my hand against every flower as I walked towards the waterfall in the distance. The mountains it was falling from were majestic. Their peaks covered by the clouds. The lake shimmering in the sun. Birds were flying from tree to tree. Does were slowly running around as if playing “Tag”.
I closed my eyes, inhaling the smell of nature.
“Are you lost, Little Girl?”
I opened my eyes and saw a handsome man standing in front of me.
“I just came out for a walk” – I answered, pointing towards the house now barely visible on the horizon.
“Great. Now you can come for a walk with me” – he said as he grabbed my hand.
“No” – I said, pulling my hand out from his hold.
“Don’t fight it. We’ll have fun” – he said and slapped me across my face so hard that I fell to the ground.
The next thing I knew, I was tied and carried over his shoulder.
“I’m trying to SHIELD you” – my mother’s words came to mind.
“What have I done?” – I wondered.
After a few seconds of feeling sorry for myself, I got angry. The angrier I got, the hotter I became.
“Knock it off” – my abductor said, throwing me onto the ground.
But I did not listen. I was burning. Soon, I was on fire. His face melting away as if it was a wax candle.
I turned around and saw all the trees around me on fire.
I could not make it stop.
I felt the heat, but it wasn’t melting me into ash like everything else in its path.
The lake I jumped into extinguished my flame.
I could have sworn I saw my mother in the doorway, but surely that was a mirage.
She was shielding me from the world, but she was also shielding the world from me.
P.S. As always, you are more than welcome to use this prompt to inspire your post. If you decide to write something, be sure to pingback to this post, so that I can get an alert and check out your post. (A post on how to do pingbacks can be found here.) If pingbacks are not your thing, feel free to simply leave a link to your piece in the comment section below. The more, the merrier!
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