“No Way Out” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2016 written by Lavanya Atmaram, Hyderabad, India.
No Way Out
I remember the first breath I took. I remember the cold air entering my lungs, and sending my entire body into a shiver as I let out my first deafening wail. I remember this even after fifteen years of memories. It all eased when I was first put into my mother’s arms. I gladly welcomed the warmth.
That time has passed. I don’t feel warm at all. My chain of thoughts was interrupted by the sharp notification from my phone, bringing me back into reality. Dinnertime, I remember. My head spinning as I stood up, I made my way downstairs.
My lazy walk turned into a sprint as I heard my dad cursing out drunken strings of words at my mom at the top of his voice. The only thought rushing around in my head was ‘protect mom.’ I knew he would single her out. And I reached there just in time to stand between her, and the belt, and to hear the belt come down the side of my face. I heard it before I felt it. But I still managed to stand through the blaze of pain burning my face. I winced at my mom’s feeble attempt to stop him. He raised his arm with the belt clutched so tightly that his knuckles turned white. I winced, preparing myself for the pain, but none came.
I opened my eyes to find the belt wrapped around my mother’s forearm, her standing so close to me, I could smell her lavender smell, her teeth gritted with pain. I felt warm. In the midst of all this anger and terror, this is when I felt warm.
Dad stormed out of the house, using curse words that made me wince. Once I heard the door slam, I collapsed in the nearest chair. My little brother Tyler came out to the sounds of my mother’s silent sobbing. He ran upstairs to fetch the first aid kit, as I smiled at my brother’s immense interest in medicine. he somehow
Days passed until he came back and lathered us with apologies and managed to convince mom that it would be the last time. Nothing changed. He would come home many nights drunk, throwing up in the sink or laying himself on the couch, passing out. It all led up to one night. I went to bed a little bit earlier than usual. After all, tomorrow was the school prom, and I could not be more excited. Mom had designed a fabulous dress for me to wear; it was so beautiful and elegant.
I woke up early the next morning racing down the hall screaming out in excitement. I burst into her room with the biggest smile on my face, only to be stopped by the sight of a spilt container of pills on her bedside table. I knew what she had done. Tears welled up in my eyes as I took the note left on her pillow, next to her long limp hair. “I’m sorry I had to leave, my dear children Ashley and Tyler. I will love you forever an always and I trust that you will grow up into the most beautiful children there ever are. Don’t you worry about the scars dad left; scars can be beautiful as well. I know this note is short but I want you to go collect a clip from the bank when you turn old enough ok? I’m sorry for being so selfish. Goodbye.” I held the now tear stained note in my hands. Shaking, trembling, all warmth seemed to be pulled out of me. Tyler had now joined me as we sat together in a comfortable silence. We cried over the loss of our protector. A guardian. But most importantly, we cried over the loss of our mother.
Three years later, I was saying thank you to the nice lady who had given me what I came for at the bank. I sat down and started to read it with Tyler. It was long. She was telling us so many things we didn’t know about. But one of the most important things was that our dad was not our dad. He was our stepdad. Well, one could feel a lot of things upon such a discovery. I felt angry, yet happy. I realized in that moment, as long as I had those who loved me, physically or spiritually besides me, I would be fine.