What next?

“Dear Madam,

We are sorry to inform you that you have not been selected to join this year’s program in…”

So began the letter that was to shatter all my dreams. I could not read anymore as the words began swimming in front of me as I wept for my aspirations and my future. I really had put all my eggs in this basket.

I wondered what did the person who typed out the letter think? Did he or she consider the effect that those words would have? Or did they have a template; a kind of standing order?

“Judith, be a darling and send out for me 1000 rejection letters. Thanks, you are a sweetheart! Oh wait, they do have to be personalized don’t they? Aw shucks! OK wait, let me get the list of those who made it in… should be easier for you don’t you think? Be back in a sec.”

Anyway, what did it matter? I was not leaving to go to my dream school. I was stuck here. With Them. God, how I had envisioned this moment; obviously it was not going according to plan. I had played it all out.

“Dad, I have been accepted to do law in the US,” would have been my opening statement.

True to form, my step-mother would have looked up at me coldly and said, “We cannot afford it dear.” My father would have continued to hold the newspaper close to his face as if he was myopic.

This was meant to be the point in which I would have triumphantly retorted, “I do not need your money. I have a full scholarship that also caters for my living expenses.” And to the question of my air ticket, I would have said, “Aunt Mary and a few others are willing to help me put together money for it.”

I had seen it all. How I would have prepared to leave within the month. How I was finally free from their bondage. And how I would have shown them that I was capable of making it on my own and that I was not useless, after all.

How I missed mama. She with her sweet words of encouragement. Always telling me that the only other person better than me is myself. How she believed that I would amount to anything I put my mind to. “My darling, the doctor,” she would say with a half-smile. “Or maybe a teacher. No wait, she’ll be a pilot!” and I would giggle and argue with her, my childhood dreams safe in her. Mama. Disappeared without a trace one morning. I was twelve. Back from school expecting a hug and a hot meal from my mama. Nothing. Years went and still no sign of mama. It was as if she disappeared into thin air.

I was 16. Papa came home with Her. She hugged me and simpered, “She is so beautiful!” I can never forget the way her perfume smelt so pungent and clung onto me. Her nails. Red Talons. I hated her from the word go. Three years later, we bore battle scars of our incessant fighting. I had to leave.

Not anymore. “Nina, can you come downstairs and help me prepare the food.” My step-mother yelling from the kitchen. I dried my eyes and walked out of the room, weak and ill-prepared for this battle.