The lamplight reminded her of the home she had grown up in and the night she left it for good. She wondered what would have happened if she hadn’t followed the voice in her head that kept urging her to leave, every single night of the twelve years she was living there. She was three when she was adopted into the family, introduced to a new home, her shelter of protection and refuge. She didn’t really have any early memory except for vague instances of her mother feeding her on the swing that hung by the tree in the courtyard. She remembered laughing, a happy sound that turned into a melancholy solace over the years. Her mother, was a good woman, who cherished her and loved her as her own. The few good memories she had of her father, was him throwing her up into the air and catching her while she heavily chuckled in his arms. They were a happy family, but happiness in this world, like every thing else, is short lived.

One night of drunken driving by some teenagers was enough to cripple her mother and ruin her life. Things took an ugly turn for her from then on. Bedridden, her mom could no longer keep the house  and at ten, Kristine, found herself taking care of the entire home. Her father helped in the beginning, making it not so difficult for her, till he was fired for no good reason. Some colleague turned friend had misused his trust and he paid a heavy price for that. Humiliated, he took to drinking which got worse, each passing day. He began to swear at home, at his wife, little Kristine. She began to get anxious of his presence in home, keeping to herself mostly, away from the living room, or in her mothers room. Soon, they ran out of money, and he ran out of all good sense.

There was not a penny he would spend on his wife’s medication or on food for his child. Whatever little he had he drunk it away all day and night, till he was in multiple debts. When his wife confronted him, he beat the poor soul. Kristine was more resilient to his brutality. As the physical abuse increased, so did her resilience and her fear of him was replaced by strong resentment and anger. Her mother sobbed helplessly every time she saw a bruise on Kristine’s tired face. She would apologize to her, for not being able to protect her, for bringing her here in the first place. Kristine would just lay beside her and comfort her. They had no one but each other against the saint turned monster in their house.

One night, as she was feeding dinner to her mother, her father came home as sober as a judge. I have found a solution to all our problems, he announced, much to their surprise. He then eyed  Kristine maliciously, that gave her mother goosebumps. She grasped her hand tightly beneath the sheets. He pulled Kristine by her arm and jerked her up to her feet. Eyeing her from head to toe, he smiled cruelly. She has turned into quite a little woman, he spoke in the air, his words resonating the lust in his eyes, she is my jackpot! Kristine did not understand what was going on, she was but eleven. Her mother was petrified at the wickedness in her husband. He was not capable of that, the man she loved and was married to. She rebuked him for his wild thoughts, while he ignored her, laughing sinfully, his eyes set on Kristine. That atrocious gaze and the sound of his evil laugh replaced all the other memories she ever had had of him.

He took her amidst her mother’s shrieks and yells, her failing efforts of trying to leave her bed, fighting to stand, desperately, helplessly, crying her lungs out, shrieking in the horror of the pain, that was about to come on her little darling. Her father slammed the door shut on her cries and dragged Kristine to her room.Fear gripped her on seeing a man smoking on her bed, smiling at her sight. He nodded his ugly head in some kind of approval, and her father left her room. Unaware to what was coming, Kristine was paralyzed by some unknown fear. All she remembered of that night was pain, horrendous pain, she could not bear. She thought she would die. She yearned for her mother, whose was still screaming, till she was a little faint in her unending pain.The merciless night broke into the darkest day of her life. She lay there, on her bed, curled up, in fear, in shame, in tears and in pain.Her father laughing, the ugly man ripping apart her soul, tearing her to pieces, was just a beginning of her worst nightmares.

For the next few months, she hardly had any sleep. Night, after night, her father would bring someone to her room. Her mother would scream and cry, her father would beat her shut, and on occasions gag her,in response to the complains. She died every night in the bed, a little part of her soul damaged. In the days, she was a ghost of a broken soul. Her agitated mother compelled her to run away, to leave the house. Kristine was no longer in the senses to understand her pleas. Run away, before it gets any worse, darling, I am begging you to run away, she would say. I am sorry. I am sorry, my love, she would sob endlessly. Kristine had turned stone deaf to her pleas. Her father had ruthlessly beat her up after the first time, she tried to tell someone about what happened. It was her mother’s desperate attempt to seek help for her daughter. That was the last of it, he ensured her silence by threatening to kill her mother, to send her to a whore house for the dirty girl she was, other times to an asylum for being mad, if she tried something again.

Kristine was closing in herself. She was feeling ashamed, guilty and somehow dirty, like she was some sort of a filthy soul. Her father viciously imposed the sense of shame into her, to cripple whatever little strength she had, to seek help or revenge.He was the cruelest man that could be, she later realized. Her mother would think of new ways for her to escape, urging her to leave every second of the day, all in vain attempts to stir her strength. Every day she saw the ghost of her happy daughter, playing on the swing, laughing with her on the bed, small chubby hands touching her face, pulling her hair. She had a severe heartache. Every night, the pain would start and in the mornings, her heart would explode looking at her daughter, her little Kristine.

One night, things got violent. It was three this time. Her father’s cruelty and sense of shame had no end, they  had only increased as had his greed. Kristine was overwhelmed by the kind of pain she was inflicted with on that night. She was angry. She fought back only to aggravate her demons. She cried, she begged, she implored. That night, she felt her soul lift off her body, like a heavy weight. She went into a trance where she longer felt any pain at all. She was only angry. She could take it no more.Furious at her helplessness.

Next morning she went to her mother, snuggled besides her, let her mother untangle her messed hair, acknowledging her silent tears. Run away, my darling, please, for me. I can no longer bear this pain, she said softly. She kissed her, spoke of love to her. She put the seed of courage and a hope of new life, a better life, in her heart. Kristine laid besides her, till night, listening to her mother speak of her childhood, how naughty she was as a child, how stubborn, how loving. She smiled, for the first time, in years, it felt to her. She realized her mother’s comfort. She felt protected by her side, even though she knew she was not. The evening passed in reminiscence of a long gone good time.Suddenly, fear gripped her, as she heard her father turn the knob.

He had no company, tonight. He said it will be taken care of in the weekend. He smirked at his cruel joke. Her mother hurled all kind of abuses at him, for the monster he had become, cursing him, admonishing him, cursing him to the deepest pits of hell. All her helplessness vented out on him. It pissed him off. Enraged he broke his bottle against the wall, smashing wine and glass everywhere. He threw himself on the bed, grabbed his wife’s neck and choked her, swearing at her. Kristine pulled him back with all her might, but he wouldn’t budge. She slapped him, kicked him, bit him, but he wouldn’t release his grip on her mother’s neck. She looked at her mother, turning pale, eyes bulging out, giving way to her soul to abandon the crippled body that now lay, motionless on the bed. She screamed and wailed.

Kristine was furious at her loss.She would have killed him, if she could. She forced herself into the kitchen,to make some food for the murderous monster. He was not sober yet and wanted to eat. Tearing her apart from her mother’s body, so soon. Merciless Demon. It was in the kitchen, her anger got better out of her. A little voice in her head kept hinting at it. Leave the stove open. She kept ignoring it, until the voice grew stronger and familiar. Her mother’s voice inside her, run away, darling, run away. Leave the stove open. Run away. Here is your chance. The voices grew louder in her head. She turned on all knobs of the stove. Sneaking into her room, through the living room, she packed a little bag. A change of clothes, her bed side pictures, her mother’s pendant. She went into her mothers room, knelt besides her. I love you, she kissed her cold cheeks and memorized her sweet face for a whole minute. I am sorry mom, she wanted to say for what she was about to do, but she knew her mother would have understood.

In the kitchen, she saw the smoke rising off the greased oil pan. She turned the oven to maximum, to make sure her plan did not fail. In a matter of seconds the greasy pan caught up a flame, she quickly went out through the kitchen door and ran as fast as she could through the field to the other side, without stopping or looking back. Only when she was at a safe distance from the house, across the road, at the threshold of the forest, she turned around. Her small house, was already up in flames. She was sad but somewhat more relieved. She ached for her mother, but she let it pass. She kept running into the forest, running harder, tears flowing, till she found a resting place.

Kristine closed her eyes, tears flowed down her cheeks. Years after, that night had come chasing after her and in the flick of the lamplight, she had relived her past.She dried off her tears. She had promised herself not to cry anymore on that. She had survived, put behind the cruel years. It had not been an easy journey from the forest to where she was today. Her struggles had not end just there. She had run from her cruel father into an even more cruel world, where her vulnerabilities were taken advantage of. Where she was looked down upon, for her past. Where she had been told, she might be a retard, that she should rather die than bring to the light, her shame, of what she had undergone as a child. But unlike with her father, she had fought every person, every system that had tried to pin her down. She had wanted to survive and was determined to heal. She had fought valiantly , all the battles inside and outside of her, and the hardest battles she won were with her own mind and soul. But she had won, after years of turmoil. Not giving up on hope, on herself, on life.

She pulled her mother’s pendant from her neck onto her lips and kissed it. Her mother had instilled in her heart, the hope of a new life, she was always with her, as the empowering voice in her head. She always remembered her mother’s sweet face. She was at peace with her and her small world. Of books and cafe, of little children who had no home. She had survived and was now helping the children of the street to survive. Her foster home was helping them to live a more dignified life, protected and safe from the vultures out there,a life of love and protection that all children are worthy of.  



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