Part IV: Little Girl Gone
Trigger Warning: This short story, fictional work is Part 4 of VI and will have explicit details about pedophilia/familial child rape, abuse, poverty, and neglect. If this is something you think you should not be reading, please, do not continue.
Phara is listening to her Grandmother talk to a neighbor over the phone while cooking lunch. The hum of the refrigerator disturbs her as she waits patiently at the dinette. Spaghetti is on the menu. Spaghetti is Phara’s favorite. The apartment is airy with peaches and moth balls. An odd blend, but one that Phara has come to appreciate. She is wondering what the children in the neighborhood thinks. She hears her Grandmother talking about her, sharing details, belittling the little thing that she is, but in a maternal way. The timer buzzes on the stove for the noodles and Phara moves a bit in the chair, careful not to make much noise.
“Girl, this child is in here, she’s hungry. That buzzer done went off and I needs to get her this meal. She ain’t been holdin’ down much. Stomach’s all sensitive now. No cravings yet. Corinne and Sheila ‘sposed to take her to Sheila’s job so they can find out what’s what. She’s pregnant. I feel that in my bones. Bennie, ole no-good-for-nothing! I got some words for him, Clara Mae, and they ain’t holy!”
Little girls know not of their place in their families, let alone the world. Who will speak up for them when they cannot speak for themselves? Who will honor them when nights are long and days are heavy with woes? Where is the comfort? Who wants to save them? No one ever volunteers.
“Hang on a minute, Clara Mae. Lemme see what this child wants.”
“What is it, baby? Your Granny’s almost done. Lemme finish up this call with Ms. Clara Mae, okay?”
Phara feels her stomach turning on itself. She scrambles away from the table and runs down the hall to the bathroom.
There goes breakfast.
“Clara Mae! I gotstago. That child is at it again. Breakfast coming up from every whicha-way. I can hear it all the way up here in the kitchen. I’ll call you later.”
Granny busies herself in the kitchen and finishes preparing a late lunch. She finds herself buttering rolls for no reason now. Mama has to work late. Phara cannot seem to hold anything down. And as much as she loves to make spaghetti, she doesn’t even like it.
Phara appears in the hallway. Her limbs are limp and dangling on her body, fearful of moving. She is trying to focus. She looks up at the wall. Pictures are stacked on top of one another. There’s no space between them. She spots a picture of Mama when she was younger, just before she met Daddy. Her Grandmother hears her and runs to her aid.
“Child!!! You make some room for lunch or you want soup? Goodness! Look at you, baby. You ain’t gonna make it, not in this frail body. Let’s get something in your tummy. Something you’ll hold down.”
“Granny, how old was Mama in this picture? She was so pretty. I love this one of her.”
“Your Mama was 16 in that portrait. Nate, the older guy up at the market did that one up of your Mama. Got her lookin’ right nice. It’s the best one up there if I do say so myself. Corinne made those earrings for her. Wasn’t she a pretty little thing? You look so much like her, Phara. Too many women in this family. Lawd, too many women!”
“She looks happy. She didn’t have Daddy, then. She isn’t happy anymore. She’s always tired. If she isn’t tired, she’s angry. If she isn’t angry, she’s crying. I’m killing her.”
“Oh no, baby. You ain’t killin’ her. It’s this whole mess that’s gettin’ to her. This shouldn’t be happening. Your Mama is okay. She’s just feeling her way through the go-through, baby. Ain’t no easy thing losing your husband and your girl-child in the same day.”
“But, I’m right here. I am not lost.”
Phara looks at her Grandmother unbeknownst of the changes that have already taken place in their family. There is no little girl anymore. She is gone. Gone without her awareness. She is something new. Something different. She is and will never be a little girl anymore. Adulthood knocked at her door, crawled through her legs, and settled in its new home. She is a relic. There’s no getting her back.
“Baby, you ain’t the same. Now, your Mama and Aunt wanna pay good money to go and have someone tell them what we already know. You carrying a little one inside-a-ya and as I live and breathe, he or she is putting a hurtin’ on ya.”
“I don’t want to be pregnant. That’s not right. Little girls aren’t supposed to have babies. I’m too young. Why is this happening, Granny? What did I do? I just want to be happy again. I just want to be normal.”
“Baby, normal left you a long time ago.”
The hush of the apartment washes over them. A sadness befalls each one as they stand in the hallway; one reminiscing, the other — yearning for a better future, a better life.
Where is the comfort? Who wants to save them? No one ever volunteers.