Running from Solace casts a new glow on an old situation. According to Childhelp.org, The U.S. has the worst record in the industrialized nation, losing 5 children every day due to abuse-related deaths. Did you know that every 10 seconds a report of child abuse is made? Alarming statistics especially when a child’s worst nightmare is not some fictional monster hiding in a closet like in a fairy tale where they have the opportunity to leave a chapter unfinished because it’s too painful to read. Close the book and live happily ever after without knowing or thinking about the truth. Children are defenseless. I wrote Running from Solace for those children who do not have the luxury of a good night’s sleep—every night is a horror.
Running from Solace
Chapter One: Naomi
Once, she flung a heavy ashtray at my head and blood spewed onto my new pink summer dress like red polka dots because I didn’t respond to her calling me, “Naomi! Naomi!” I was trying frantically toreach her special ashtray with the real stinky cigarettes in it from underneath the bed, so I barely heard her the first time. From the tone of her voice I could tell she was getting mad, but I almost had the golden colored ashtray in my hand when I heard her say, “If I call you one more time!” That did it for me; I knew I was getting a whooping. I took my time walking back into the living room.
“Don’t make me call you again, Naomi!” Mama said just as I approached her.
I left a small distance between us as I presented her with what she had been impatiently waiting for. She went crazy. Mama hit me right on top of my head over and over again with the ashtray.
“You ungrateful little bitch!” she yelled repeatedly in my face.
I tried to cover my head with my arms, until they grew tired and I gave up. Fury danced in her eyes and spit sprinkled over me like morning mist. My eyes burned from the tiny flecks of ashes that fell from the ashtray. I tried closing them tightly. Warm blood trickled slowly down my forehead and penetrated my eyelids and cooled the burning sensation.
“Yeah, you must like getting’ hit!” Mama screamed so loud I wanted my ears to close. I preferred the times when she whooped me and she was silent. Out of sheer luck at some point during the beating, I passed out. I usually did. Thank God.
When I woke up, I was lying on my bed, which almost never had any sheets on it. I was still wearing what was left of my tattered dress. It was covered in dried blood, more red polka dots than pink now. I didn’t have the urge go look in the mirror. I knew already, since this was not the first time. My eyes would be really fat, and this time, one was closed, I couldn’t open it. I was able to peek out of the other eye. Raised, sweltering, purplish bruises would cover my arms, back and face—the usual damage. I yawned and my head throbbed. I couldn’t lift my arms. I was afraid to move anyway, afraid to breathe. I lay there as still as I could. I followed the dingy, white, lace hem of what was once my pretty dress down from my knee to my ankle and across the dirty mattress, as it fell off the bed onto the floor where I could see it no more. I wanted to cry so badly, but no tears came. I must have run out of tears, I thought to myself as I managed a painful smile that made my head sear from pain.
“Nobody likes ole crybaby, bad assed kids! Shut. The. Fuck Up!” Mama would always say.
She hated it when I cried. She always said I only wanted people to feel sorry for me. So, if I had run out of tears that would’ve made my Mama very happy. I would never have to hear her call me a cry-baby anymore and maybe she would smile at me like she does when I light her cigarettes on the stove. Well, not like the time when I lit the skinny white one on both ends. I shivered a little when I thought of the whooping I got for doing that. How was I supposed to know, when it didn’t have the brown paper on one end of it? She’d always taught me to light the white end only.
Ever since that time, I always asked first, “Which end, Mommy?” I didn’t want to disappoint her again or make her mad.
I had an urge to go pee. I was comfortable and warm. I didn’t want to move, plus that’s when the pain reverberated through me. Of course my head hurt and I had some aches all over my body, but as long as I kept really still it wasn’t all that bad. It could have been worse, like some of the other times before. Moving was painfully impossible and I knew it, so I didn’t. I yawned again this time without opening my lips.
More than the pain, more than anything else, I didn’t want Mama to wake up. She was lying right behind me. Her arm was gently positioned around my waist. Her hand rested on my stomach. I was balled in a knot with my back touching her stomach. I knew she was still asleep. I felt her breath blowing softly on the back of my neck. It felt nice. Every few minutes or so, I could hear her teeth grind against each other or her jaw making a popping sound. Although the noises she made in her sleep terrified me, those were the times when I loved her the most and felt the safest, when Mama was lying next to me—asleep. I didn’t have the nerve to wake her up just to go pee. So, I just lay there quietly and watched the torn lace through one eye as I listened to her breathe peacefully until I fell asleep again.
It seemed as if I’d only been asleep a few minutes when Mama nudged me awake with kisses. Her juicy lips left wet marks on my cheeks. I opened my eye slowly. The day had allowed dusk to run its course and only a small amount of natural light filtered through the dirty window and it gleamed right on me.
Mama gasped as I turned towards her. Then she smiled, “Hey Mama’s baby,” she cooed.
“Hi, Mama,” I said drowsily.
I felt dampness on my back and I wondered how long Mama had been up. Did she know? Did I pee on her? So many thoughts raced through my mind. I didn’t know what to do, so I pretended to be terribly exhausted. Mama kissed me over and over again as she explained what I needed to do so she wouldn’t have to whoop me anymore. I needed to be a good girl and do exactly as she said so she wouldn’t have to get angry anymore. “It’s not good for little girls not to listen to their mothers,” she said with tears in her eyes.
“Yes, Mama,” was all I answered over and over again after every statement she made. I wanted her to go away. It hurt too much to nod my head or move my lips for that matter, “I promise. I will be a good girl, from now on,” I only hoped that I looked as sorry as I felt for making Mama angry again. That’s what she was waiting for anyway, for me to forgive her so she would be okay—until the next time. I agreed that I was wrong for not hurrying or answering when she called my name.
“I love you baby,” she said as she reached towards me.
I flinched in anticipation thinking maybe she saw it, felt it. She saw me flinch and then she snatched back her hand. I closed my eye quickly in preparation of her smack across my face. Mama hated it when I flinched. The hit took too long to come, so I peeked through my eye again. She was already walking out the door closing it softly behind her. “I love you too Mama,” I said to the empty room.
I had to get up and get changed before she came back. I remember willing my aching body to move. I was tired, but Mama hated when I peed in the little bed we shared. I couldn’t let her find out. There were already so many old stains on the smelly mattress and just as many spankings for creating them. No sooner than I raised myself up off of the bed, I heard the door open. I didn’t turn around. I stared at the dust around the window sill over the bed. The tattered lace from my dress dangled and tickled my knee as I stood there imagining myself invisible.
“Naomi. Baby, did you pee yourself?” she didn’t sound mad. I didn’t say anything, I took a moment to decide whether I should tell the truth or not. “MiMi?” she waited. Okay, she wasn’t mad or maybe she was trying to trick me. The only time she ever called me MiMi was when she was in a good mood.
“I . . . I’m sorry,” I stammered. “I peed when I was . . . when I was sleep.” I said without turning around.
I lowered my head and looked for the wet spot on the mattress with my one good eye. My wet underwear suddenly felt colder. The air hitting my damp back sent a chill over me and I shivered or maybe it was the impending beating that I knew was coming. I still didn’t move, not even when I heard her sigh loudly. The pain all over my body began to come alive and my aches began to scream. I continued to stare at the window sill; the dust seemed so interesting and if I stared really hard I could see shapes. There’s an N, like the N in Naomi. She started walking towards me. She put her hand on my shoulder.
“MiMi, you have to learn to wake up. Big girls don’t pee on themselves while they sleep. You are almost six years old now.” she said.
Just like I thought, no more tears, there were no more to cry. I waited, silently. She moved her hand and my shoulder tingled warm from her touch. I knew that was it; she was going to hit me. I heard her pull the zipper down on the back of my dress. The air hit my naked back and made it sting. I felt her hands tugging the dress off my shoulders and down my waist it fell into a heap at my ankles. We stood like that for a moment. I felt her eyes piercing through me from behind.
“Take those wet panties off,” Mama ordered as her heavy footsteps made their way out of the room. I wasn’t sure what was happening. Was she going to whoop me naked? I took my time removing my underwear. It hurt my stomach to bend down and I cringed as I pushed my panties down on top of the dress. My panties were so stretched that I was able to step out of them along with my dress at the same time.
I heard bath water running from in the next room. Mama came back in and started shuffling through the laundry hampers where we kept all of our clothes, both clean and dirty. She sniffed a pair of panties, and then pulled out one of her shirts. Finally she turned towards me. She was acting very strangely. “MiMi, what are you just standing there for?” she asked with a puzzled look on her face. “Go get in the tub, baby.”
I walked out of the room confused. Mama almost never ran my bath. Maybe she was going to whoop me in the tub. I stood on my tiptoes and caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror as I passed it. I wasn’t surprised at what I saw, same damage as usual. My legs didn’t hurt that bad, so I lifted them easily over the side of the tub and sat in the really hot water without complaining. It was up to my waist. Mama came in and turned the water off. She sprinkled a white powder into the tub.
“This will make you feel better,” she said softly. She sat on the toilet while she bathed me. I ignored the stinging sensation of my bruises as she washed me gently. She hummed the only Christian song I knew, “This Little Light of Mine.”
“Lean back,” she pushed me down in the water. It almost covered my entire head, but not quite. The warm soapy water stung as she poured it over my matted hair from a red 7’Eleven cup that she kept on the side of the tub. She never attempted to wash my face. She hummed softly the entire time.
“Are you hungry?” Mama asked as she dried me off and rubbed oil all over my body.
“Yes, Mommy,” I felt so much love for my Mama that I kept trying to rest my head on her chest as she helped me into the clothes she put out for me. Her shirt was big enough to be a dress on my small body. It was hers and I was happy to wear it. I put the beating from that morning out of my mind and fell into her arms as she hugged me and told me how much she loved me.
“What do you want to eat for dinner?”
“Umm, Umm. Cereal!” I exclaimed happily, “Captain Crunch Berries!”
Mama brushed my hair gently, “MiMi, you know cereal is for breakfast. Plus, you don’t need all that sugar.”
My heart sank with disappointment. Maybe I was asking for too much. “But, you can have it for dinner, just this one time.” she said as she smiled at me, showing all of her teeth.
Everybody always said I had a pretty Mama and that I looked just like her, only darker. When she smiled, I thought she was pretty too. Mama showed all of her teeth when she smiled. I didn’t. Her teeth were all even and much whiter than mine. Mama said when I grew up I would probably have her pretty teeth too, that pretty teeth ran in her daddy’s family. She said that my chipped front tooth would fall out and come back in perfect like hers one day. That’s why we didn’t get it fixed when she pushed me down the front porch steps and it broke.
Mama finished brushing my damp hair into a ponytail and I followed her into the kitchen. I sat on the empty milk crate next to the stove and waited patiently as she prepared my cereal. She placed the big, plastic, margarine bowl carefully on my lap and told me to be careful and not to drop it because there was no more. I held onto the bowl tightly and savored every sweet bite. I kicked my feet with glee because cereal for dinner was a special treat.
The phone rang and I listened to Mama talk on the phone as I ate. She laughed and twisted her hair around her finger. I knew it was a man on the phone. Mama had mostly men friends. I had to call them all uncle so I wouldn’t forget their names and get her in trouble.
“Yeah, I’ll see you later tonight,” I heard her say as she hung up the phone smiling her big smile again.
I already knew what that meant. I was going to bed and Mama was having company. Mama put me to bed early because she felt like I needed my rest. As though I didn’t hear her making plans. She sprinkled the mattress with baby powder and laid a sheet over it from the hamper. She covered me with a thin holey blanket and gave me some medicine to help me sleep because I’d had a long day, she said. I heard a knock on the front door just as she kissed me goodnight.
“Say your prayers. And don’t forget to pray for Mama,” she told me as she walked out the room. She turned off the light and shut the door behind her.
After a few minutes I heard my Mama laugh out loud. I could hear the two of them talking and tousling with each other, causing the raggedy sofa to creak. “Come on baby. You always teasing me,” he said. Then I heard smacking, wet kissing sounds. Not too long after, Mama opened the door to the room we shared and whispered out my name. I knew not to say anything because she thought I was already asleep.
“Baby, get back in here,” he barked at her. He sounded irritated, “Before I give both of y’all some.”
“What you was about to say again?” she slammed the door closed and went back to confront him.
“Oh, pretty girl, I was just playing,” he said laughing trying to lighten the tone of his voice.
I wondered what he had for me. What is some and why was Mama upset when he said he wanted to give me something too? She never got mad at any of the uncles.
I fell asleep listening to him moan loudly, telling my Mama “That’s it. Suck it real good and daddy’ll give you some of dis.”
This excerpt has been taken from Running from Solace, a novel by Nakia R. Laushaul ©
Barnes & Noble: www.barnesandnoble.com/c/nakia-laushaul
Nakia was born and raised in southern California, and now resides in Houston, Texas with her lovable
Inspired and fueled by attempts to be molded into the norm, Nakia began to write her first collection of poetry and essays titled, “The Truth As I See It: In Poetry & Prose” which was released in 2010 by Serendipity Bound Books. Her sophomore project, “Running from Solace,” a novel was released in 2011. “Running from Solace” is the 2011 USA Book News Best Books Award Winner for African-American Fiction and a 2012 Finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Chasity Rules, a novella was released in July 2013. Nakia is currently working on new book and film projects.
Nakia truly believes that by doing what you love, you become happy! She hopes that you will go find your happiness.
Visit her website: www.NakiaRLaushaul.com or blog, Random Rants of Truth of a Social Butterfly: http://nakialaushaul.blogspot.com. Or for literary questions: www.AReadersPerspective.com
or Twitter: www.twitter.com/nakiarl