By Yolanda A. Ng’oma
“Tracey.” Sara whispered as she gently shook her sister.
Tracey stirred in her sleep and turned around to face the wall.
“It’s time to go.” Sara said as she attempted to wake her sister up. She had to be quiet otherwise he might hear them. That was the last thing she wanted. If he discovered they were running away, he would lock them up and throw away the key.
“Tracey” she shook her again, this time with a little more force. Tracy opened her eyes and stared sleepily at her sister.
“Get your coat.” Sara instructed her sister. The frail and thin girl pulled herself up from her sheets and did as she was told. Sara stared at her sister as she put on her coat and she fought back the urge to cry. She remembered what things had been like when their mother was around. They had been happy and healthy. They used to laugh and joy had filled their souls but all that had changed when ‘Uncle Ted’ had shown up in their lives. At first he seemed to make mother happy but after he moved in everything changed.
It started with small things like him losing his temper when the TV volume was ‘too loud’, banging and throwing things around when he and mother fought and then his true colors came out when he started to beat mother. Sara would cover Tracey's ears when they heard their mother screaming in pain as he beat her mercilessly. Sara always knew when he was about to lose it. He got this crazy look in his eyes, he looked possessed and maybe he was. Either way he was dangerous and mother had learnt the hard way.
She recalled the day when she had come to the lounge to check on her mother after one of his beating sessions. She had stepped into the lounge and her mother’s body was lying there on the floor. She rushed over to her and touched her shoulder but she got no response. She grabbed her hand and it was cold.
“Ma?” she had called out to her but still no response. She shook her vigorously as the tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Wake up” she had pleaded but it was useless, she was gone. She left them, left them to fend for themselves. At that moment Sara knew that she had to leave, grab her sister and run before he did the same to them.
“I’m done” her little sister said jerking Sara back from her train of thought.
“Okay, you have to be really quiet” she warned her gently.
Tracey nodded to show she understood. Sara took her sister’s hand and quietly led her to their bedroom door. She slowly opened the door, hoping it wouldn’t creek. She scanned the corridor for signs of ‘Uncle Ted’. When she was sure the coast was clear, she stepped into the corridor pulling Tracey’s hand behind her. They tip-toed to the staircase and quietly descended them. When they got to the bottom of the stairs Sara led Tracey to the front door, she had just opened it when she heard a gruff voice say
“And where you think you are going?” Ted asked gruffly.
Sara stopped in her tracks, paralyzed with fear. Her heart beat increased; she could feel herself begin to tremble. She didn’t know what to do, quickly impulse took over and she tightened her grip on Tracey’s hand and started to run. It was dark outside but she didn’t care, all she knew was that she had to get away from him. Get away from all the pain, the stress, the slow degrading feeling that seemed to eat at her every minute she spent in that house. She tugged at her sister’s hand to encourage her to keep up with the pace. She could hear him screaming in the background as he attempted to catch up with them in his drunken state. She refused to look back, she couldn’t, she would let herself see him, she only had one goal and that was to get her and her sister to safety.
They had been running for what had seemed like hours before Sara stopped by one of the trees in the woods to rest. Tracey was exhausted and Sara did not blame her, her little body could not take so much vigorous activity at one go. Sara laid down her cloak on the earthy roots of the tree and sat down and gestured for her little sister to sit by her. Tracey complied and hugged her sister tightly. Sara wrapped her sister back in an attempt to keep her as warm as possible.
“Sara, I am scared” her little sister said as she heard an owl hoot in the distance.
“Don’t be scared, I won’t let anything happen to you” Sara promised.
She looked up at the shielded evening sky and sighed. She missed her mother but she knew she had to be strong, not just for herself but for her sister as well. She had to do what ‘Momma’ failed to do. She had to protect Tracey.