Anna

While her aunt typed up the bulletins for the next day’s sermon, Anna wandered through the gathering room out to the foyer, down the stairs to the basement, where soup kitchens and fish-and-chips dinners were held. She’d found a small hidden room behind the unused stage. It was at the far end of the large room and through a short, solid, wooden door that was never locked. She entered and passed through, into a first room behind the stage which contained some old signs with passages from the Bible that she never understood. She tip-toed through this area and found the cubby-hole door at the back wall around a corner. The door knob turned, and the door opened easily and quietly, which was surprising for its rusty hinges. She bent and stepped into the tiny empty room. The walls and floor were dark, musty wood, and the only light was a small rectangle window at ground level at the top of the right-hand wall. She made this her own church, with a porcelain female doll in one corner to the left of the window. An old light blue blanket sat rumpled in the opposite corner, to the right of the door. She spread it over the floor. She’d learned something in health class at school, something her mother was supposed to tell her but never did. She sat down and picked up the doll and undressed it. She studied the doll’s figure and noticed it was the same as hers had been when she was 10 years old. Now she had what were called breasts growing from her chest. They were bigger than the other girls, and they noticed this change in September when they returned from summer vacation. They teased her about not wearing a bra; she was more comfortable in her little girls’ T-shirts, and she felt a little afraid about wearing a bra because of the wires. What if she got electrocuted? Or are they the wires that hangers are made of? She didn’t know and didn’t care. The teacher said that when this happens, that means a person is going through puberty. She felt weird having her private parts projected on the overhead screen in the classroom and wondered if the boys in her class felt the same. The teacher said they didn’t need to feel embarrassed about this because everyone goes through it. The teacher said this is the time when your private parts begin to feel sensations that are strange and hair starts growing and you begin to break out because of hormones. The teacher spit out these odd medical words that she hated the sound of as they were said. The teacher explained how babies are really made, not the way she’d imagined as her mother had explained it. She liked her vision of a cherub floating down and waving a wand and fairy dust sprinkling onto a female and it enters her skin like soaking in water in a bubble bath where the bubbles are millions of iridescent spheres that are soft against her cheek. She smelled so clean then, though she hated the first moments of getting into and out of a bath because her body had to adjust to the temperature changes. She didn’t like the coldness of evaporation and water cooler than 98.6 degrees. This room was hot and dry but as she examined the doll and traced her small fingers over the features, she felt a sensation at her V, as she preferred to call it. She liked the letter V because she thought it was a beautiful looking letter that sounded soft. V started words like violet, violin, and vocalists that sung in choirs and on the radio. The teacher said this feeling is sexual and if the area is rubbed, it may lead to an orgasm, a strong flexing of those reproductive muscles that most people thought felt pleasurable. She rubbed the area on the doll and thought how it would feel on her. The doll felt nothing, didn’t go into any convulsions. She glanced out the window to make sure no one was staring in, and listened for her mother as she silently unbuttoned and unzipped her jeans. She pulled down her pants and underwear and bent to examine herself. It wasn’t a pretty sight and it smelled like pee. But it was her own smell that became familiar and stronger when she put her right index finger to the wet, pink folds of sensitive skin. The muscles moved and gave her a welcome feeling that she couldn’t describe. But she continued to caress herself, hearing nothing but her own breathing that she tried to keep contained so her mother wouldn’t hear if she were to come down. She felt her heart pounding in her chest and in her cheeks and her body temperature rise and perspire. She reached up under her shirt and grabbed one of her new breasts with her left hand and was more turned on. She thought of God and how he must think she’s sinning in the basement of His church, as close to the Devil as she could possibly get without sticking herself in an oven or fireplace, like the witch in Hansel and Gretel. It was winter outside, and she silently asked the small icicles hanging off the window ledge to distort any outsiders’ vision so they couldn’t see her sinning in such a fun way. She moved her hips around and up and down as she rubbed until she reached what the teacher called an orgasm, but the word orgasm didn’t suffice to her, so she called it bliss, nirvana, as her mother had once described to her, but it wasn’t a vacant, meditative, numb feeling like from sleep, but a release of repressed angers and frustrations, both emotional and physical. Maybe this is what it feels like to die, she thought. God, is this what you feel like? Those pray-ers upstairs on Sundays must not know this feeling she discovered because they’re too good. They see God as just a powerful man. She thought she wanted a real powerful man at that exact moment of bliss to thrust his private parts into hers. But then, she’d get pregnant and then what would her mother and the pray-ers say? This was her secret to keep and never reveal, she decided. It would be shameful and embarrassing, she thought after she’d relaxed, sprawled on the blanket, wiping the smelly slime off her fingers. She felt no pain; she felt like sleeping. But that would be too dangerous. She would be found out for sure, so she pulled her pants up and fastened them and prayed for forgiveness, vowing to God that she would never do it again, but knowing she would.
********
Anna stepped off her front porch at age 9 and watched the sunrise. She did this every morning until interruptions in her ritual took her away, like day camp that her mother insisted that she go to for a week or two in the summer where she would sit with 50 other girls of varying ages who came to learn to tie knots and get off their mothers’ hands for a while. She sat on the porch, examining the changing colors from navy to red-orange to yellow to light blue. Day after day it would be the same unless there were clouds, in which case, the sky went from near black to cottony gray. The colors on these days weren’t as metallic as the bright, clear ones which she loved more. She would find a patch of light that suited her and pretend she was in a spotlight, imagining her eyes were marble-clear and her hair shone in many brassy colors like copper and gold. She pictured how the shadows played across her face, unveiling her true face that she wished others could see but was masked by the grayness of everyday life, as she thought it was. But she was not one to complain. She left that up to her mother, who seemed to have nothing better to do. Anna decided to start singing a song she’d heard on the radio and memorized. She sung as well as she could, imitating the voice on the radio. She liked the feel of her vocal chords, early in the morning, vibrating in her throat as the notes floated up and out easily, as if possessed by some entity. She wondered who the Goddess of Music was; she’d have to look that up, she thought. Her mother stunned her every morning by opening up the bedroom window on the second floor and shouting down to Anna, singing in the yard, to shut up and get inside. Anna was shocked out of her private world everyday, in school, also, when she sat daydreaming and her teachers would call on her to respond or wake up. She hated that surprised feeling and learned to anticipate it so she wouldn’t get caught anymore. By her teenage years, she had mastered her own deception and had created a world in her head so different and more exciting than her real one. She was not crazy. She lived normally, but happier with this internal life. One morning, at age 9, she sat on the front porch in the metallic wrapping paper light, as she liked to think of it. She was lost in an open-eyed daydream as she stared at the horizon, not at the sun or else she’d go blind. She didn’t hear the footsteps walk up the dusty path that lay almost indiscriminate from the rest of the dry ground. The black boots stopped at the first step of the porch and a finger tapped her shoulder. She was startled, and when she glanced up at the figure between her and the light, she became afraid. It was just a black silhouette of a person because her eyes needed to adjust to the change of light. The black figure scared her because she thought she’d gone blind because she couldn’t make out the features right away. The figure waved to her before passing into the house. She was angered by the figure’s audacity to barge into her property without any warning and without her knowing who this figure was. She watched the figure enter the front door, and she followed him in, but he smiled and patted her head and directed her outside again. She sat on the porch wondering what was going on in there. She wondered if he was robbing their house or smothering her mother, for there was no noise. He came outside a while later and waved to her again, walking away from the house without a word.
“Hey, who are you, anyway?” she called after him. He didn’ t acknowledge her question, only kept walking.
After this incident, she wondered if the figure would ever come back, so she could get some answers, since her mother always changed the subject when Anna brought it up.
Her mother had a meeting to go to one day, so she left Anna alone when she was 15, a few weeks before her 16th birthday. A strange car stopped at their door and picked her mother up in the afternoon in the beginning of September. Anna was coming home from school as she was leaving. Anna watched the fancy black car pull away from the porch of the house in the middle of the dusty field. Her mother rolled down the window as the car paused near her and said supper was already prepared and all she had to do was heat it up and she would return soon. The window rolled up as her mother waved goodbye. Anna waved and figured her mother was just going to another one of her meetings. All the windows of the car were tinted so she couldn’ t see the others inside. She watched the car leave the property and speed away down the tree lined road. Anna’s eyebrow twisted in thought and amusement. She had the house to herself, but her friends were far away. Her mother wasn’t there. When she went inside and closed the front door, she checked around the house to make sure no one was there. She changed into an old house dress that her mother gave to her when it got too small for her. This house dress was the most comfortable and indecent piece of clothing she owned. It was stained and littered with small holes in the seams and tears in the material from getting caught on things. It’s patchwork made it one of her ugliest dress she had. She went out back with her radio with batteries and turned on a tape that she sung to all the time. The sun was directly on her and the breeze was soft and warm. She touched herself until she was satisfied then laid down in the sparse grass, continuing to sing. She stayed there for about 15 minutes, though she wasn’t counting, letting the sun soak her skin, feeling it burn her face and arms and feet. Gnats bounced off her face, itching it, so she swatted at them and rose. She opened her eyes, and everything she saw was tinted blue with burnt retinas. She glanced at the house and saw a darkness in the back door. She stared until her eyes refocused, until she recognized the black figure she’d seen come by here once before. She became afraid.
“How long have you been here?”
“Long enough,” the figure said in a deep enough voice to be male.

-KML circa 2000-2001. Don’t worry. There was no violence in this story. I wrote more but it wasn’t very good.

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~ by Karen L. on July 17, 2017.

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