When I was seven I swam in a country dam surrounded by gum trees and one mud brick house.
Leeches attached themselves to my once innocent skin and did not let go.
My father took a knife and scrapped the sluggish worms from my flesh.
“Or we could burn them.” He laughed.
My cousins shrieked and I squeezed my eyes closed with one squinted peek toward my right forearm.
“Don’t move or I’ll cut you.”
At the very last scrapping flick and the delivery of my mother’s praise oh Rachel darling you are so brave I averted my eyes to the rustic ground presenting twelve rubbery leeches writhing in the dirt.
I said, “Should we put them back in the water? What if they’re hurt?”
“You’re going to die. They sucked your blood.”
My older brother thought he was tough.
You’re the leech.
Put your mouth on this.
Hold my dick.
I wanted to cut him with my father’s blade.
Perhaps I could open my head and chest and feed the leeches with all of my unwanted secrets.
Feast on what I’ve been fed.
I never asked to be intruded upon and I never once said yes.
He forced his palms down on the scalp of my dread.
Beside the large black iron pot where I pretended to be a witch when my brother was not beside me, I did something I didn’t want to do.
I wondered if the greyhounds in their kennels ever got wobbly legs only ten steps from where I couldn’t stand on mine.
I hate you.
You should never hate anyone Rachel.
If only you knew.
Being seven and believing in heaven whilst kneeling in hell is confusing.
If you ever tell: I will hurt you.
It never felt good or right or nice and just like when I was a canvas for leeches I closed my eyes and knotted them tight.
An uncle bought me a gift in winter.
It was a fluffy soft white plush toy cat.
He sat on the edge of my bed, as l lay ready for sleep and put his hand on my thigh and said, “Isn’t this a beautiful little pussy.”
He crept his fingers like a spider toward the place where nobody unkind had ever been and traced them within my youthful between.
“You have a beautiful little pussy too. See?”
I clenched my eyes shut and pressed my thighs together.
DON’T TOUCH ME.
I wondered if he was going to make me do the things my brother did too.
The next morning, I decided to open my mouth for my father’s ears.
I didn’t say what I couldn’t though I told my father where my brother kept his cigarettes hidden.
That was the day I learned to play the game.
I am no longer a spotless child within and there are two of you to blame.
My brother waited for me on a large concrete step beside the laundry where the dirtiness goes and he surprised me with his presence and told me other lessons he thought I should know.
He held a butchers knife to my face and said, “If you ever fucking tell on me again I will kill you. Do you understand?”
I stared into his eyes and saw the red lines of his whites.
They reminded me of maps.
“That thing you make me do. I’m not going to do it anymore. And if you make me I WILL tell dad.”
He pushed the knife closer.
I turned abruptly and the blade slashed against my left bicep.
He apologised for the blood and didn’t suck it like a leech.
I pressed my palm against my red and said inside of my head I do not forgive you.
I stared into one line of his sorry eye and whispered from mine I hate you.
He ran away from home that day.
He may have followed the crooked trails of his darkened soul windows and became forever lost.
We were never close again.
There have been other leeches in my life.
Sucking from me the pure of my love.
Perhaps they remove the toxicity as nourishment for their own thirst.
Love should not hurt.
I am grown up now and I have been blessed with miraculous children of my own.
I protect them and have broken the chain of sexual abuse that linked my family in its silent lock.
I still slice my own leeches from me when I can reach them.
Some hide in places where I need the help of someone who cares for me.
I don’t throw them back into the dam of my life.
I let those fuckers die.
the little girl in the curtain by PJ Ryan