My bedroom door jangles, shaken to its hinges with the force of the slam.

“I hate you!  You don’t understand anything!”

The words spat in vitriol, in a haze of hormones, hang stiffly in the air.  Unsheathed now, they must draw blood.  I know I have gone too far, said too much, but the words hover ominously, waiting to pounce.

Mother is frozen momentarily in her pursuit.  I see that she’s wounded, and the core of me is cowed in shame and regret.  I want to snatch back those words, fling open the door, run crying to her as I did when I was little.  I want to fall into her arms sobbing, to feel the sanctuary of her embrace, to hear the comforting beat of her heart, and feel the warmth of her bosom.

But it’s too late.  The door, stern and disapproving, stands between us, reinforced by the portcullis of too hastily spat words.  My hand reaches for the key, defies my objecting eyes, and turns it.  The sharp click as the bolt finds its home, reverberates off the walls, echoing endlessly in the rigid silence.

For an instant I’m horrified by what I’ve done.  I wonder what has happened to the little girl, perpetually bound to her mother’s skirts.  Who’s this shrieking demon that has so surreptitiously possessed me?  It’s a fleeting thought that flares and fades, replaced now by the cheek-burning memory of Mother’s objections, her disapproval.  Was that disappointment I saw flickering in her eyes?

The tide of rage and embarrassment swell, flushing my ears vermilion.  My throat constricts, rasping my breath, tears pause at the lip of my eyelid, gathering in number before being pushed on their slippery descent down my cheek.  I am forlorn.  Torn between my longing for the comfort I’ve always relied on, and my sense of betrayal.

“Leave me alone!”, the words splatter from my lips before I’m even aware of speaking them.  Mother’s breath, sucked between her teeth, hisses around the solid wooden door, coiling into my conscience.  Who’s this harridan, this harpy, that speaks with such brazen disrespect?  She’s unfamiliar to me, this teenaged girl-woman who now co-opts my words, controls my actions.

A choking silence blankets us once more, the door a seemingly impenetrable barrier, forcing an uneasy truce.  A soft sobbing begins from somewhere.  Had I burnt my last bridge?  Would there be no redemption from here?  Did my poison dipped words find a home in Mother’s heart?

A wetness seeps into my consciousness, and I notice fat teardrops landing one after another on my hand.  The sobbing, I realise, is coming from me.

The venomous words did strike deep, but they flew off course, and into the wrong heart.

“Sweetheart, please,” she pleads balefully through the door.

Hesitantly, cautiously, my hand once again reaches for the key.


©Asha Rajan

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