Anita's Haven

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ETERNAL LOVE – I accepted a duel challenge from L.A. Ramirez

on 24/02/2015

(This story is my reply to Linda Ann Ramirez’s photo challenge. Thank you, Linda. It is also an addition to the novel I have been working on for over four years – The Forest of Trees. It is told by a subordinate character, Mrs Jackson, an abused woman who is just so afraid and empty. She is one of those characters you want to grab out of the book with your bare hands, shake by the shoulders, hug some sense into, and make her change her life for the better. Whenever I write about her, I feel heavy and sad for a long time. If I don’t write about her, I feel as if she’s even sadder, to think that even I’d forgotten about her. Stories have this magic power, which is not always white.)

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ETERNAL LOVE

He’s finally gone. Everyone has gone actually, the farm workers, my husband, the kids… All  off to somewhere or other. Well, all except for the youngest, but he’s asleep downstairs.

So here I am, in the attic, digging through a box of my old stuff, digging for my past, digging for some pride, for traces of me, glimpses of who I used to be when I was happy.

My name is Florence, Florence Jackson. Well, people used to call me Florence, till I got married and everybody started calling me ‘that poor Jackson woman’. And they’re right; I don’t blame them. I should have known from the start. The first time he insulted me, the first time he hit me, the first time he got drunk and forced himself on me, the first time he cheated on me. Yes, my husband did, even before he was my husband.  And I was so endlessly stupid, so beguiled by his sexy, mischievous smirk, so misguided by taking his physical strength for mental power, thinking he would protect me from bullies, so naive to trust him when he said I deserved his ‘schooling’ me, so blindly in love. Well, blind enough to think it was love.

Funny enough, I was so good at convincing myself, that I convinced everyone else I was doing fine and didn’t need their help. Or so I thought. Everyone soon gave up on me and stopped trying to lead me on the right path. My dad hadn’t been in the picture anyway, and mum was weaker than me. I was married, pregnant, quickly became a mum of five, constantly surrounded by violent men; my husband, his dad, their farm workers and my growing sons. The twins grew into the spitting images of their dad and grandpa, and I hated them for it. By the time the girl came, I was a shell. I could barely remember there was such a thing as love. I thought she’d grow on me with time, but no. I was brain-washed and emptier than a beggar’s wallet. Then I bore two boys again, a few years apart, no changes. And all Jacksons. The youngest is now three but I think he won’t escape the cruelty written in his blood. 

No peace, no joy, no laughter – such is my life. Bitter insults, heavy hands, the taste of blood in my mouth blurring out the taste of soup. I never fought back. I never defended myself, or my children. I never tried to run. What’s the point? The Jackson men would just hunt me down and rail me back in. Teach me some manners, too. Some more manners, in their own particular way which leaves you barely able to walk. I am too weak. I am too sad. I am a coward. I don’t deserve my children. I don’t deserve myself. I can’t love any more.

But HE could. He always could. My brother. My trustworthy Henry. This little boy in the pale photo gripped by my shaking hand. Two years older than me, he always had my back. Always. He always believed in me. Took the blame for me when I broke something. Put the village bullies in their proper place if they disrespected me or mum, or anyone for that matter. Broke his leg once, jumping into a raging river to save clumsy moi from drowning. Lost a thumb nail trying to fix a window I’d broken using dad’s heavy hammer. Didn’t cry a bit. Pulled my hair a bit, but combed it as well. Whistled in the meadow so I could dance to the tune. Oh how I loved dancing!

I met Jackson when Henry was in the army. Henry was so proud to serve, and so helplessly furious when I married Jackson in his absence. He knew Jackson, he knew his breed, he’d met plenty of them in the army, too. And he knew me, only too well.

When he came back, he was the only one I couldn’t convince. He saw through my disguise, through my smiling lies, he saw through my sparkling eyes and into my horrified soul. And Jackson knew he knew. The two of them were like raging werewolves, no words wasted, just brute force. But Jackson wasn’t alone. They never are. Old Jackson had Henry imprisoned and I was taught to forget the incident and my brother, by means of a baseball bat behind a locked door. The lesson was revised several times for better retention.

A few years later, I heard from a passer-by that Henry moved up west, got married and started a lumberjack business. I know he hasn’t forgotten me. I know what they did to me, had a pretty good idea of what they had done to him, and I was only too happy to hear he was far, living a new, better life, far away from my cursed weakness.

My brother. Somebody’s caring husband. A fun dad. A boss, tough but fair. A friend. My brother.

Now I remember love. It’s just a distant breeze but it warms my heart. I remember love.

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(Final photo edited from Zedge)

Anita Kovacevic

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