Up until nine months ago, I could count the things I knew about my mother on one hand. I knew she had curly brown hair and brown eyes. She traveled all over the world as a fashion photographer and Italy was her favorite assignment. She was twenty-five when she was murdered. Her killer has never been caught.
It’s dark outside, cloudy and starless, when Russell calls me into the living room and aims one long finger down. The hardwood floor is stained, spoiled, like footprints left in wet cement.
Earlier this afternoon I cleaned my shoes using something I found under the kitchen sink. They were gleaming white by the time I set them on the living room floor, but I guess there was till some bleach on the soles.
“You have to learn to respect other people’s things,” Russell says, his voice calm and steady.
“I’m sorry. It was stupid.”
“Yes,” he agrees. “It was.” He pauses, and my stomach knots while I wait for him to decide.
Then he says, “Go get it.”
I freeze for a moment, then walk to the massive cabinet against the dining room wall. Whenever we used to visit this house, my mother would always say how beautiful the cabinet was, the dark cherry wood with shelves of antiques and paper-thin dishes.
I open the long drawer at the bootom filled with lacy tablecloths and napkins. Underneath them is a thin willow switch. I watch my hand shake as I reach out for it, then return to the living room.
I put it in his outstretched hand.
There’s a sudden leap in his throat and the slightest catch in his voice when he says, “Take off your shirt.”
If I really had powers, I could turn off pain the way I can shut my eyes. But I can’t. I feel it. Skin doesn’t get thicker. Instead, it remembers.
Clarion had a difficult time keeping track of how many days had passed. It was easier to pick up on feelings. Snatches of conversations. Glimpses of what went on around her. “What is this slop?” A bowl clattered against a table. “You call this food, woman? Did you ever learn to cook?” “No, I did not . I had people to do that for me. Starve, for all I care! What do I those voices, and she’d remember: Mack and Elena. She’d done something, wished something… For both of them. But then part of her would slowly come to understand what they said and how they said it, and her cognizance would wither again.