I stood, saying nothing and hardly breathing. Backed against the oak panels, what could I say? What do you say to a man who abused you for 12 years of your life? He sat in that leather chair staring at me with those black eyes, no expression, no feeling just a harsh solid stare from the face of authority. I finally spoke nervously but clearly, "What are you doing here?" "Oh now is that how you address your Uncle?" feeling like a small child again I shook my head in shame and annoyance, "Hello Uncle. You still haven't answered my question." he poured himself another glass of wine. "I am here because I was worried about you; I mean a young beautiful girl like you living in such a rough place like this, well it doesn't seem healthy." I felt agitated, an inner feeling to lash out and do to my Uncle what he had done to me "Don't lie to me, you've done it for 12 years and I'm not a little girl anymore. Tell me the truth." he put up no resistance he fell back in chair and continued drinking his wine. "How did you find me?" "I knew you be around here somewhere, it's here where all the theatres are. All I had to do was show your photo around the taverns." I stared at him with a long hard look. "I'm here because; I needed to tell you that your Father is in Paris."
A feeling of surprise and repression struck me "I never knew my Father why should I care if he is in Paris?" "He wants to meet you." "But I don't want to meet him. Why should I meet the man who never saw me at birth, and gave me up to an orphanage? Then to make matters worse allowed me to be taken in by you." I said in pure anger, then I felt the all familiar blow to my face, "Now listen girl, your Father didn't know I had taken you in, in fact I didn't know who he was, until a month ago." I reclined to my chair and started to cry, cry through the fear due to the blow of my past, "I am not meeting him" I turned my back on him, and walked towards the door. Just as I put my hand on the doorknob he called out to me "That's a pity, because without meeting him you won't know of your past or your mother." I paused realizing that what he said was true, I turned back to face him. I managed to speak through my tears "Look I want to know everything. I do not know who I am now; in fact, I have never known who I really am, or who I was. A piece of me have always been absent. Tell me who I am and who my Mother was." I shouted in a merciful tone begging to hear the truth, he stood over me watching me cry, he placed a comforting hand on my shoulder, "What I do know I will gladly tell you the rest will only come from your father." I dried my tears and watched him sit in his chair with another glass of wine. Then he began to tell me the story of, my life but not as I know it.
"It happened 18 years ago. Your Mother was my sister, Alice Hawthorn. She was the most beautiful woman in the world, you inherited her looks more specifically her eyes. Well in her youth, she was popular with men, one week it was one man and the next week it would be another. Anyway, she had an argument with our Mother and Father, about it and ran away. The last time I saw her, she picking up another man. She was a whore." I couldn't believe what I was hearing, I was the daughter of a prostitute, its not surprising then that I sympathized with such women and becoming one myself before joining the theatre, he continued to talk. "She came to me to tell me about the pregnancy, and I threw her out, she had become a disgrace to our bloodline and family. Instead, I gave her the name of a barber surgeon to perform an abortion; she would not be able to afford a doctor. That was the last I heard of her. She gave birth in a workhouse in Andover where you were brought up for 5 years. She died giving birth to you, in that small dark, foul room with rising damp and drunken nurses. She did not live long enough to hold you, but she did see you. 5 years later I picked you up." "How did you find me? You had no contact with my mother." I asked, "I wrote to the Times asking for any contact, about a month after that I received a letter from Andover workhouse telling me that you were born there so I made the long trip down. When I arrived, I was shown to the room where the children were born and looked after. Do you remember the workhouse?" "Oh yes I remember the workhouse, do you know what I remember most? The horsewhip thrashing across my back when we talked as we crushed the rocks, they did not care how old we were. Ironic isn‘t it that I was brought out of abuse just to be led back into it again." he spoke again "that is when I took you to Yorkshire to brought up in my family, decently and correctly, but you continually shamed it, by speaking out of turn and not paying attention to your studies." "Is that why you beat me? Because I spoke out of turn, because I didn't want to be part of your bloodline and society." "You were welcome in our society and our family." he said, but I argued back "I was not welcome in your society, I pushed out; at every dinner party I attended for you, I was given looks of disgrace and hatred because I was illegitimate, the spawn of a whore and daughter of a bastard. No I wasn't welcome in your society and I never will be". My Uncle looked at me in absolute amazement, he never heard someone talk to he in that way let alone a woman who happens to be his illegitimate niece. He looked straight at me, I had brought myself down to tears the truth stabbed the two of us and remained there like the sword of Excalibur in the stone. The pain of truth, is only realized after the lies are removed, the liar destroys the truth and its meaning.
An awkward silence ran through the room the two of us daring not to breath. Silence the only thing in this world, which is pure. Everyone contributes to it and no one complains about it. Silence gives us time to think and reflect I enjoyed it for that brief moment until it was broken by my uncle's voice. "I don't care what you think of me or my methods, I have told you your story and your Father still wants to meet you." I began to laugh, laugh hysterically, but at what? The suggestion or was I laughing because of the pain? "I don't want to see him. If he wanted me, he would have looked after my mother and me instead of abandoning her and letting her give birth in a workhouse." I got up, reached for my purse, took out some money, and placed it in his hand "It's for you to find a room." "I have been offered a room for the night" "I don't want you to stay, there is a tavern across the street they will have a room." he stood up and walked towards the door, "Your father will arrive tomorrow whether you like it or not, he is called George Sinclair. You will recognize him." he walked out that door it was to be the last time I was to see him. I followed him keeping my distance I shoved past Monsieur Artoir who called out to me I ignored it with anger. Marcus was sitting at the bottom of the stairs going up to the dressing rooms, I ignored him, but out of the corner of my eye I saw him injecting something into his right arm but I was to angry to care about it. He followed me up the staircase and along the beams calling my name out onto the roof of the theatre. It being the middle of December it began to snow and I began once more to cry. Marcus ran out onto the roof wearing a thin shirt already his skin was turning blue, "Come in Mary. It's freezing out here. Folk have died in this weather." I gave no answer, my mind spinning with anger and remorse. I thought of my mother and the pain she suffered, which she passed onto me I never felt so lonely. Marcus came closer to me I turned to face him. He wrapped his arms around as he did tonight at the Moulin Rouge, but this embrace was not out of comfort but adoration. He took me back inside and down to the cellar.
In the cellar was a bed, a stool, a table with a shaving mirror and a cutthroat razor and finally a photo of a woman standing with a man. I recognized the woman to be his mother and by his eyes, the man was his father. This was all he had that and the clothes he stood in. All the work he did. The sacrifices he had made. What did he have to show for it? Some ragged clothes and a rusty razor blade. He lit a small fire in the centre and began to speak, "Who was visiting you?" "My Uncle." he moved closer to me "What did he want?" "He wanted to tell me that my father wants to see Me." we sat in silence at this. When he got up, reached to the photo on the wooden table, and looked at it in silent awe, I had to speak "What would you do Marcus if your father wanted to see you, but you hadn't seen him in your life?" "Mary there is something I ought to tell you. I have met my father, years ago. He stalked my mother and I caught him, peering through the keyhole of her dressing room. This is my mother's photo and I took it, the man is my father. He didn't know about me. He was a bit shocked when my mother told him who I was. Do you want to know what he did to her? He raped her. He raped her in front of me I was only 10. Standing in the doorway my father moaning, my mother screaming and me crying, and all because I was born and because she wouldn‘t marry him. That's why my mother hates me; if I was never born she would have been happy, extending her career." I sat avidly hanging on every word he said beginning to dread meeting my father in pure fear of what he may do to me, "Do you wish you hadn't met him?" "I wish we had met under better circumstances, but even if we had I still wouldn't want to meet him again or have anything what so ever to do with him." he took of his shirt and wrapped shaving foam around his face as I sat thinking, but my eyes were drawn to his chest. His skin was pale and apart from the bruises, it was an example of the perfect posture, but his skin was stretched over his ribs like cloth on a loom. He picked up and unfolded the cutthroat razor, and sharpened it. He began to shave down his left cheek and I stared in silence at the fire, when Marcus let out a wail then I saw blood seep through the foam, you could see the pain in his eyes, I quickly reached for a clean cloth and gently wiped away the foam to reveal the gash. Marcus laid on the bed holding back the tears, I treated the sore with the iodine, but he didn't scream as I did instead he just remained; that only occasionally he would let out a wail of pain but no real reaction. When I finished he sat back up again and stroked my cheek in the same way I did his. "What should I do Marcus?" I said in a caring soft tone, he stood up again wandering around the room, thinking of an answer to give to me, "Go and meet him. You will only regret it if you don't." "I don't want to meet him; he left my mother before I was even born." I shouted desperate not to cry again he quickly wrapped his arms around me and whispered gently in my ear "At least if you meet him in person you can tell him what you truly think of him.", there was a mysterious undertone in his voice almost devious. I clung to him like a child clinging to her teddy bear and he was holding me even tighter tenderly stroking my blonde fringe, the tender strokes made me feel relaxed against his chest, I felt myself being swept of into a dream slowly falling asleep but still I could his chest breathing deeply against my face. Marcus draped a blanket over me and carried me to his bedside by the fireplace; he picked up another blanket slept on the floor. The night passed slowly but we comfortable the fire started to die down as dawn was approaching. I awoke early only to find that Marcus was not to be found, his blanket had been folded up and placed delicately on the wooden table. I got up out of the bed and wandered around the cellar in his absence.
Under the blanket was a small medicine bottle and a syringe out of idol curiosity I looked at the label. The bottle said the word ‘OPIUM', a sudden shock struck me coldly, and a fear ran down my spine I felt the blood drain from my body, feeling scared beginning to shake. I heard footsteps approaching me quickly replaced the bottle and syringe and stood back anxiously, Marcus came down the stairs with a tray of coffee and croissants, "I thought you might be hungry. Is something the matter?" he placed the tray on the table, looking up at me in confusion and concern. I shook my head but it was obvious that I was lying and that something was wrong he approached me and put his hand on my shoulders and spoke "Look I know. You are going to be nervous about meeting your father. But don't let him get the better of you, you don't have do anything he asks." he poured the coffee into the cups when my conscience got the better of me, I had to ask him, he picked up the cup, "Marcus, I found the bottle of opium" he dropped the cup which shattered into thousands of china pieces. He looked at me purely terrified; then he tried to deny everything "I um...don't know what your talking about Mary" he started to pick up the broken pieces. I knelt next to him with the bottle hidden in my hand "I'm talking about this bottle Marcus." he strutted across the room, the strut he obviously inherited from his mother. In anger, he kicked the bed and table across the room, and then he fell into a corner and cried. His secret had been revealed a secret obsession, an addiction that failed to go away. He sat in the corner his tears and sobs echoed around the room, he began to speak though the tears "You don't understand...it helps keep the pain away. It gets me through the day. You wouldn't know what it's like having to withstand abuse everyday of your life." he broke down again and so did I. But he was right I used to know abuse but even then, it wasn't everyday of my life. I walked over the corner and placed his head onto my chest, feeling it going wet with his tears, I had to say something "Marcus promise me something." he sat up straight "What?" I stroked away one of his tears "Promise me that you will give it up. Its not going to make you feel any better, also others may know maybe even your mother." he sat thinking about it continually sobbing into my chest "Ok I will give up opium. I promise." I kissed him in comfort and poured him a cup of coffee.
"When will you see your father?" "When he decides to arrive." I picked up the bottle of opium and began to walk out the door "I'd better go before everyone realizes I'm gone." "Can I see you tonight?" asked Marcus remaining in the corner, I stood and thought about it for a little while and nodded. A pleasing smile appeared on his face "I'll see you at 9 o'clock." I said and walked up the stairs towards my dressing room. It was early dawn and everyone was still asleep. I lay in my bed with the bottle of opium in my hand, still astounded that he was so lonely that the only option he had was to turn to this...foul drug. I opened the window and threw the bottle out into the gutter. Feeing contempt and proud that I stopped a young boy from making a mistake that could ruin his life forever. The hearing of the bottle break on the cobbled streets, gave me a sense of satisfaction and I knew that Marcus would keep his promise. About two hours later the maid knocked on my door, "Mademoiselle..." I gave her no time to speak "I know where I can meet him?" "In Monsieur Artoir's office and he's there too." I quickly got dressed into a crinkled red dress but slowly walked to the office, I had to think about what I was going to say and do. It was five minutes before I reached the office and before I could knock, Monsieur Artoir walked out and stood like a teacher in front of me, looking down his long nose "I hope you are not going to be as rude to your Uncle as you were last night. He has brought your father." I felt patronized, listening to a lecture of how to treat men who couldn't care less about me. I walked in my Uncle was standing in the centre of the room standing tall like the arrogant snob he was "Ah Mary, and how are you today?" he said in a patronizing voice "I was fine until I knew that you were here." "Well I wouldn't worry after your father has spoken with you we will be leaving. I will leave the two of you now."
I just stood there in silence. This was it the man sitting in that burgundy leather chair was the man who abandoned my mother before I was born. He never even knew about me before he spoke to my uncle and I was about to see him. I began to walk towards the chair my heart in my throat and my head spinning. I had to rest for a minute on the back of the chair before I found the courage to walk around to the front. It was only 7 am and already I could tell that he had been drinking. I walked around to the front of the chair and stood swollen with pride before him, he was drunken and clean-shaven.
But he spoke first in a drunken northern accent his words were poison to my ears, but credit where its due they were the only words he could say in the circumstances and the only words I could hear, "Hello Mary I'm your father. George Sinclair. Why don't you sit down?" and so I did, and I waited to hear the second part to the story of my life.
© Copyright 2017 Emie Ruth. All rights reserved.
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