27
Jan
18

Riptide, Part 4

(Missed the beginning? Click here!)

Riptide.jpg

Rachel wasn’t sure when Roberta had come into her life. There was no one moment she could point to and say “There, that’s the day it happened.”

There’d been a slow escalation, starting when she was young. Only three and locked in Mother’s attic for the first time, bawling her eyes out. A fresh gouge in one cheek, blood pouring down her chubby chin, wailing and bruising her tiny fists as she thudded them uselessly against the heavy wooden door while her mother raved from the other side.

How long she’d gone on like that she didn’t know, but she did remember hearing a voice, one she almost thought she could make out. It seemed to be offering words of comfort, telling her that it would work out in the end and not to cry so much over someone that didn’t really matter.

She was too young to accept the concept then. Mother was the world, Mother was the ultimate in authority, Mother was God. But the voice continued. It came to her when Mother would lock her away again, when the colorless shift replaced brighter clothes, when the manacles and birch rod took up their silent watch just outside the door.

As the years wore on, the voice grew louder, and then the visions started. Flickers of someone or something just at the edge of Rachel’s vision, typically right before she fainted from the pain and the stress. A vaguely female form, floating just out of reach, seeming to extend one luminescent hand to her in succor.

Then, when Rachel had been twelve, Mother had gone overboard, even for her. She’d administered a beating that had seemed it would never end. For hours she slapped at Rachel’s back, buttocks, and thighs with the switch, and when that didn’t seem like enough, she went to work with her fists. Though she’d suffered hundreds of beatings by then, and rarely remembered the offense – real or imagined – that had led to them, that one was clear enough.

She’d awakened that day to a terrible stomach ache and a spreading red stain on her sheets. She’d begun to scream, certain that she was dying. The screaming grew louder when she realized the source of the blood.

Mother had all manner of things to say on that occasion, most of them rooted back in her belief that Rachel was the devil’s whore. But after hours of it, both eyes almost completely swollen shut, several teeth loose or knocked out, one nostril caved in and the other barely able to draw breath through the large bubble of blood that swelled and sank with her panting, Rachel saw Mother swinging the rod towards her head and thought that would be the end of it.

There was a period of darkness. How long, Rachel didn’t know. Maybe minutes; maybe days. Maybe even weeks. Time didn’t mean anything. But in the darkness, she started to realize she wasn’t alone.

She saw a figure, the female body she’d seen before, standing in front of her. Hovering in the darkness, at first, it was nothing more than a brilliant shape that seemed to call to her. Rachel stared at it for an unknowable period of time, before she realized it was losing some of its light, filling in with colors and definite shapes.

That shape was a girl, maybe only five years older than she. Short, heavyset. A round face with a dimpled chin, pouty lips, and bright green eyes. Hair hanging to her shoulders in a ragged bob, dyed white on one half, black on the other. She was wearing a black and gray striped sweater that looked a size too small, black jeans, and a pair of black leather boots.

Rachel was in awe of her; the girl floating in front of her was just about everything she wished she could be, with a devil-may-care look that said no one should ever mess with her if they didn’t want their ass kicked, a cool fashion sense, and best of all, not scarred and marked by the signs of a Mother.

Rachel wasn’t sure how long she’d stared, before the girl finally quirked one bushy brow, grinned at her, and spoke.

“Got anything to say, or just gonna stare all day?”

Rachel shook her head, not sure how to respond to that.

“That’s fine. We’ll talk plenty. In time. I’m Roberta. But you can call me Bertie.”

“Bertie,” Rachel had managed, tasting it. Liking what she tasted. The name felt powerful in her mouth, like speaking a magic word.

“Yep. That’s my name. Don’t wear it out. But kid?”

Rachel cocked her head, watching as Bertie had come closer to her, barely registering that the black space around the other girl was filling in with details of the bedroom which was her haven and her prison.

“Don’t forget to call when you wake up.”

Rachel had snapped awake then, and the girl was gone. The room was as she had seen it, as was she; tied to the bed again, though the bloodstains were cleaned up and she was wearing a freshly washed dress. She could hear Celia outside somewhere, laughing, and the heavy tread that said Mother was coming up the stairs.

“I won’t,” she whispered.

That was the real start of it.

(Want more? The story continues here!)

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