Emelia Clair DeBrosse: My mother was an artist, a photographer of sorts, a weaver of black and white, a conquer of beauty, an ensnarer of pain and a destroyer of the grotesque. And she told us once when we were little that when she took pictures she tore the soul, the essence from the thing. And we, my sister and I, seemingly soulless were often her subjects and she would capture us, two beautiful children in some strange but pretty attire of dress, our long hair differing in shade’s curling at our shoulders, like two sugarplum fairies, kidnapped from a mid summer nights dream. But our souls, she always gave them back. And there on the wall we’d hang, a marvel to be appalled at, and she would smile shyly, shaking of the compliments of her peers as they walked the isles of her work, imprisoned in the countless stories told, forgetting that the gallery walls only held the voice of one creative mind; Maria Bella’s
And it was from beauty to destruction that we, two tiny children, watched things change. Afraid to treed wrongly and emit an echo as the applause grew quite, the pictures stopped hanging, and Momma stopped smiling. Things as they tended too were not at all working out.
February 8th 1976
Marie Helena DeBrosse: “It t’ isn’t silly, noo it t’ isn’t silly” Emelia sings, an imaginary microphone before her. I smirk, my arms entangling across my chest without my knowing, she sounds like a baby, one who can’t even get her pronunciation of the best song in the world right. And it doesn’t even matter that at four she is still, well mostly a baby, defiantly still infantile anyway. My own imaginary microphone materializes in my five year old hands and I’m singing, mostly in key with Paul McCartney and the wings. “Love isn’t silly at all”
Then Emelia and I are head to head, a curtain of midnight black and amber orange hair descending between us as we sing, smiling, enjoying every moment. And momma is there of course, her camera with its dark lenses’ and funny square shape, poised delicately between her ebony fingers. She watches us dance and sing and strum our invisible instruments. She cheers for us, egging us on encouragingly. And we twirl, wind, twist, bend, loop, whirl and spin until we are dead on our feet and four songs later I collapse, breathing hard but still laughing as Emelia continues to spin in a circle, going nowhere and looking silly. Eventually, finally seeing that the game is over she plops down beside me, smiling toothily, barley out of breath and momma clicks her camera, on and on, only relenting when it snaps unkindly, telling her she’s out of film. She smiles at us, lying side by side and joins us on the carpet. We giggle, parting and making room for her in the middle, dragging our heavy dresses with us. Momma squeezes in and kisses us both, the clock looms over us, its 6:35, I know this because we learnt to tell time in school, while Emelia knows this because she learn it as the time, or rather around the time, that daddy gets home. Our green eyes meet dawning on the same thought. Momma is unmoving between us, her eyes closed, her chest heaving slightly. I tilt my head, nodding it at momma, ask! I mouth to Emelia and she crinkles her nose venturing forward an inch or two and when close enough she shakes momma’s arm.
“Mama what’s for ‘inner?” She asks her tone a baby’s gurgle. Daddy will be home any minute now and…
Momma’s brow creases over, forming the only wrinkle on her young and pretty face.
“How about fairy bread and chocolate milk?” She chimes and Emilia’s excitement gets the better of her.
“Oh yes, yes please” She receives a tickle for her enthusiasm. I decline mine, sitting up as momma reaches for me.
“We need real food, you promised daddy. You lied” My finger is outright and accusing and I don’t realize that it’s the same pose in which daddy holds while they yell and argue, a daily ritual.
“Please momma” I beg, but she’s much to stubborn.
“I’ll cook when I’m ready” She says and jumps up taking Emilia by the hand and twirling her. “I’m no-ones slave” She mutters under her breath, with a smile.
I watch them, my mother and my sister, Maria Bella; Beautiful Mary and Emelia Clair; striving and bright and to my eyes, to all, they are a pair, a set of ruby red twin’s. The mother and her mini me. I stare on slightly jealous, but not so envious of momma, for daddy will be home any moment and she will get what is due to her. My pout lessens as my attuned ears hear the front door unlock and slide gently open. Momma and Emelia don’t hear a thing until suddenly, daddy is upon them.
“Where’s dinner?” The words come out of his mouth a harsh growl. Momma stumbles slightly surprised, her cheeks flushed.
“Where-is-dinner?” He’s yelling now, furious. Remnants of yesterdays fight flutter into my mind and things replay ever so slowly, first they yell, then they swear, cursing each other, pleading their cases, then… Daddy leaves.
When I’m back in the present the steps have already been played out, the actors stand inch’s from each other swearing themselves black and blue, Emelia clinging to momma between them. Then something new happens and Emelia is trust at me, we collide and tumble over, she fall’s forward, on her stomach, catching her lip on my bony shoulder and it’s the blood not the pain that make’s her cry out. I sit up quickly, to pat her back, as the insults rage, I look up, they are face to face, a harsh word on each tongue, then I freeze, silence, I watch it happen, I see it happen. The twitch in daddy’s hand, the position of momma’s feet as she stands her ground, the reason Emelia is now weeping bloodily into the frills of my lavender dress. And with that daddy slaps momma. She flies backwards, like a dandy autumn leave picked up in a sudden gust of wind and smash’s front first into the bookshelf behind her. I scream, she doesn’t get up, she doesn’t move. I’m up in a moment, pushing Emelia forgetfully aside, daddy is stunned still as the silence prevails. I run to momma, I shake her, nothing, I try again.
“Marie, don’t” The voice behind me is gentle, the face serene, he seems calm now. I’m taken by the arm in a sweaty hand, Emelia is taken in the other. Daddy takes us to the front door, out of the apartment and we pause lingering on the doorstep of apartment 52. Daddy looks down at us in our bright flower dresses, he take’s in the black hair that is his, borrowed with permission, then the scarlet hair Emelia was blessed with, a humble gift from momma, then last the green eyes we both share, momma’s gentle, kind and loving eye’s. He hugs us gently and whispers into the quiet.
“Don’t tell anyone, understand”
I stiffen, but Emelia nods as if for both of us. Daddy nods back and knocks on the door we are standing at. An old lady in her sixties answers, her gray hair pulled back, she’s smiling until she see’s us, swollen lipped, bloody skirts. Daddy jumps right in, explaining, lying.
“Maria had a slight car accident and I need to get back to the hospital, can you please watch the-”
His dishonesty is cut short as Mrs. Linford yank’s us in. “Of course, go! Go!”
And that was the first time it happened, but not the last. Emelia cried herself to sleep, I didn’t cry at all, we never, either of us, our whole lives’, told another soul. I just watched momma being driven away in our undented car and wondered wither or not momma was alright, if she was even alive. She was. We got lucky.
Emelia Clair DeBrosse: “Did you ever love her?” I ask my father, my face turned away from him, staring out over the stone covered hills as the sun sets in an array of pastels, the shadows dancing. I feel him shift his weight beside me, from one spit shined foot to the other. He takes his time thinking it over, perhaps forming a comfortable lie. I’m surprised when he sighs, deflating, his hands opening to seize and conceal the head that falls heavily into them. He’s crying, as he has been doing every few hours throughout this saddened ordeal. I trace his graying black hair with my eye’s, the wrinkles at the corners of his mouth, his crumpled opal eyes, as I take in the musky, father smell of him. The tears I guess answer my question, better than words could describe. I don’t hug him, I don’t dear as we stand just inch’s from the upturned soil of my mother’s grave, the women who spent the good part of her life despising this weeping man for something he did, what 35years ago I suppose. Instead I walk away cruelly, I need a hug, only intimate exchanges from relative’s I seldom saw, or supposed friends I’ve never met, don’t seem to tickle my fancy. And so I’d rather just cry alone and do so silently, without a sound. For if anything I am crying for myself, for detesting my father, for still, half-heartily hating my mother, for missing my sister,Marie…