SHE SCREAMS IN THREES :: Seth Harding
It wasn’t love that made her still. It wasn’t lust or fantasy or even the delicious feeling of being controlled. It was defeat. The first time the whip stung her back she screamed. Not in pleasure like he thought, but in shame.
Theresa had grown up with privileges that most southern black girls in those days didn’t have. She grew up with real luxuries: a first-class education, a nice house and a car on her sixteenth birthday, family vacations. But most of all, opportunity. She’d had a shot at an Ivy League university but she’d given it up for Jeffrey’s smile and his promise to take her places her dreams never could. Things were pretty good before the baby. Actually, they were really good. People always said that babies changed your life. That was true. Even if they are never born they leave long, thick scars.* * *
When Jeffrey took her to her first party she was nervous, not that she didn’t know what to expect. They’d watched bondage videos and she felt prepared. They played with handcuffs and blindfolds at home. Jeffrey liked to lead her around with a leash. It turned her on to see him so in control. The sex wasn’t what she enjoyed about it, unless she was masturbating. It was more about watching him shine in his element. It was the only way she’d found to make him happy.
She wasn’t prepared however. Not even close. She watched him turn from being her sexy master into a maniac. He hit her harder than ever before and even ignored her when she used the safe word. He bent her over a stool near the kitchen and put on her collar. He pulled it too tight and as he was closing the buckle she coughed.
“Claudia,” she squeaked. Claudia was what she’d wanted to name their baby, but she never told Jeffrey that. She said Claudia felt ‘safe’ because she was her favorite childhood friend.
Jeffrey grinned but didn’t loosen the collar. Instead he pulled her hair and grit his teeth.
She choked back a tear. “Claudia. Please, Jeff.”
He licked his lips and pointed her face toward the writhing couple next to them.
“Watch them,” he said.
The night Jeffrey Wayne was born was the happiest night of Edith’s young life. She had a son. A real son that cried and squeezed her finger and nobody could take him away from her. And nobody could make him not love her. Nobody.
Never mind that it was the forties and a teenaged unwed mother couldn’t make it very far. Never mind that she couldn’t tell anyone who the real father was. “Some boy from school,” they all whispered. But they were wrong. There were only three people in the world that knew the truth and they weren’t telling.
Edith knew Jeffrey wasn’t quite right very soon after she brought him home. There was something strange in his eyes, something cold and strong. Something knowing. He scared her. He was only days old and he definitely knew more than she did. He mocked her with his tongue. He’d puke whenever she did something he didn’t agree with. He hated her. She could feel it. He shouldn’t have been born. He knew why, somehow, and he’d never ever forgive her for it.
When he nursed, he’d bite her nipples till she bled, even without teeth. He’d cry as loud as he could all night long so that her mother would come in and give her a beating for keeping everybody awake with her awful mothering. Jeffrey was only three months old, but when she’d cry she’d look over at him and catch him smiling.
She knew that God was punishing her for letting her father touch her like that. And not just for letting him touch her, but for wanting him to. She also knew it wasn’t normal, the things he wanted to do. She’d been with lots of boys before and they never wanted to do what her father did. They never tied her up or put tape over her mouth. They also never made her come. She knew God hated her for everything she’d done and he’d sent her Jeffrey to make her suffer. She tried to scream in silence, but Jeffrey always knew.
* * *She watched them through the veil of skin and blood, breathing by osmosis, feeding through the long cord that connected her to the big balloon. She listened to the sounds outside. The woman cooed to her, sang her songs and called her Claudia. She liked that. The man was not as soothing. He was loud and scared her. When he yelled, Claudia kicked at him. The woman would say, “Stop it. You are scaring the baby”. Claudia wondered what a baby was.
Whenever they’d talk about the doctor or the appointment, the woman would cry and Claudia could feel her whole body shake.
The man would say, “We don’t have a choice.”
The woman would say, “Why can’t we keep it?”
The man would say, “Because we don’t want it.”
The last thing Claudia remembered was hearing the woman crying and another woman telling her, “Shush, shush. Everything will be okay.” Claudia liked hearing the calm woman’s voice; liked hearing that everything would be okay.
Claudia closed her eyes and screamed as she went through the long tunnel, prepared to open them on the other side.
BIO: Seth Harding is a writer living with a wife and three girls in Washington State. He doesn't know much, but he knows he's tired of the rain.