The Daughter

Shanette Monrose

i 

Zaniah, if I tell you something, do you cross your heart and hope to die, and do you promise not to tell anyone? Say you swear. Okay? Well, since it’s a secret, you must come closer. I cannot shout. You see, I don’t think my daddy loves my mummy. Why do I think that? Because they don’t hug or kiss like your mummy and daddy do. Yes, they kiss me hello and they kiss me goodbye, but they do not kiss each other. 

I know kissing is gross, but all the adults seem to like doing it. I cannot even remember if I have ever seen them kiss. Oh, yes! Duh! I did, on their wedding day. Mummy was so pretty in her white dress, but she didn’t have a veil like Liz did when she got married. Daddy was so happy, but mummy didn’t smile much; daddy had to keep reminding her to smile as the photographer snapped pictures as they stood outside the church. It was not a long kiss; mummy pulled away fast. She always gets nervous when she is the centre of attention. Mummy and daddy didn’t even finish their first dance because mummy pulled away again. I know when too many people are looking at me, I get butterflies in my stomach and maybe that’s what was wrong with mummy. Maybe the camera flash gave her headaches. I know that I cannot stand flashing lights in my eyes. And Zaniah, later that night, as mummy and daddy were preparing to leave for their honeymoon, I heard my mummy tell my granny that daddy has a fair. There were tears in her eyes, but I do not understand why because having a fair is a cause for excitement. I kept thinking that maybe we – my mummy, my daddy, me, you, and all our cousins from the village – can all go to that fair. It’s been such a long time since I had cotton candy and popcorn. Zaniah, I will ask mummy and daddy if we can all go to this fair as soon as possible. I think it will be awesome. 

*

Mummy cried when I asked her about the fair. And then she got mad and then when I explained that all I wanted to do was eat food, she laughed loudly but it was a scary laugh. I was very frightened. I have never seen a crazy person before, but mummy may be one. Adults are so weird. And later that night, she demanded daddy stop the fair because I knew. Why would daddy care if I knew he owned a fair? That makes him the coolest of daddies the world has ever seen. 

But then he said he didn’t have a fair and that she was mistaken. But my mummy thinks that daddy was lying and that’s what my granny thinks too – She and my mummy were on speaker phone and my granny said that women must learn to trust their guts. Have you ever eaten fish guts, Zaniah? It is so gross. I do not like it one bit. Once, Daddy took me out to get a fish wrap and he bought fish guts, and the smell made me throw up inside of his car. Daddy didn’t get vexed though. My mummy would have begun to cry if I got sick in her car. I just don’t understand my mummy. I don’t want to become a woman if it means crying all the time. 

ii

You know what, Zaniah? I’m sad. Mummy and daddy were quarrelling last night. It was not loud like how Ms. Julie quarrels with Mr. Dolcy when he forgets to tie the dog at night. No one was shouting but I heard; they thought I was sleeping but mummy used that word ‘guts’ again. She said she had a strong feeling, and then my daddy laughed –only it was not a jovial laugh, and it was not a crazy laugh like my mummy gave that one time, but it was almost like a wicked laugh, and then he asked her for proof:pictures, messages, something, anything other than feelings. Daddy always says such things. 

When I told him that Teacher Mildred hated me, he asked me to list specific events. I could not, and then he told me that he would only entertain my report if I could provide him with proof. This is the way he speaks to me, like I am a little adult. He says that there is no use in using baby talk with me because the real world does not speak that language. Then I heard daddy tell mummy to remind him of any day he had not slept in his bed. I didn’t hear mummy’s answer, but I know that we have never gone outdoor camping. I desperately want to camp outdoors because all the other girls in our class have gone camping already and big-nosed Rachel likes to throw this fact in my face. Maybe I can ask Daddy to buy a tent from Amazon. Maybe you and I could have a sleepover in the backyard and then Mummy and daddy could be in their own tent.

iii

I’m mad or sad…maybe both. I am confused, Zaniah. I really don’t know how I feel. Today, Daddy picked me up from volleyball practice because Mummy was at the spa and, listen; he brought along a friend. But this friend had no name, and she was the prettiest woman that I have ever seen. She was prettier than Arianna’s mother and my granny says that Arianna’s mum is so pretty because she is of mixed blood. Remember when I thought they mixed her blood at the Saint Jude lab and I asked my mum whether we could pay to mix my blood so that I could be yellow or even brown? Some of the mean girls used to taunt me and call me ‘darkie’ but my daddy said–and he still says–that I am the prettiest young lady that he has ever seen. But even if he says that, this pretty no name lady he brought along with him was prettier than me. I swear she was as pretty as Zozibini Tunzi.

Now, they were not being indecent or anything, but I felt a vibe. She was not intrusive and smiled politely and barely looked at my daddy, but it was as if they were trying hard to convince me that they were just friends. She was climbing into the back seat of the Range Rover. I just love when Daddy picks me up in the Range Rover. Sacha gets so jealous that her face puffs up more than usual. One day I think I will pop her with a needle and burst her face,haha, but I was climbing into the back seat of the vehicle too and she told me in the sweetest of voices that I was old enough to ride at the front with my daddy, so I should go there and keep him company. But I am not used to being at the front because you know I like to lounge on the back seat where I read and message you. But I went to the front and Daddy and I talked about all sorts of things but most importantly we discussed what country I wanted to travel to later in the year and never once did she chime in but, as we drove home, I felt as if I were the intruder. I kept glancing at her, but her head was always bent towards her phone and she looked like she was typing something or some things. In spite of this, I felt excluded and it bothered me: one, because I really had no right to be feeling this way; and two, because the lady was doing nothing wrong. She was literally just sitting there most likely responding to emails. But, before I could think more about it, Daddy had pulled up to a Park and Ride and the lady had disappeared, but her scent of jasmine, orange blossoms and patchouli haunts me. I do not think that I could have described her if the sketch artist at Daddy’s police station had asked me to, but the scent of her perfume will remain with me until the day I die. And as soon as we go to Copenhagen – that’s where I want to go for the summer – I am hoping that at a perfumery there, I will be able to replicate this alluring scent. I will get you a bottle too.

iv

I hate being their child. I am so happy I have you, Zaniah. You are my best friend and I need you now more than ever. Promise me you will never ever leave me. My father’s always home, and there are no late nights these days. This is what my mother always wanted, what she asked God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit for, yet she is as miserable as he is. 

My father is sulking. 

And my mother is crying. 

I am appreciating the new freedom that their emotions allow me. 

I heard my mother tell my grandmother that this is the beginning of the end. The end of what? The end most likely occurred before their wedding day. Some days I wonder why they even got married. Oh, they are the best couple on paper, but in real life? It’s happily never after. You don’t know how thick the tension is in that mausoleum that I live in. You need a knife to cut through the tension; only the reward is not a juicy succulent Nusr-Et steak. Bah! 

You are correct; it’s not like I actually want them to get a divorce but it’s the most logical thing. I mean, maybe they can wait until I go to study because right now I would have to choose which parent to live with. I don’t want my lifestyle to change. Why can’t they both choose a room on opposite sides of the house? This place is big enough that they would not have to run into each other, and I would keep living the life I love. 

But life and the choices that we make are so hard. Take the choice that I must make between Raymond and Daniel. Ewww! No, I cannot tell my father about Raymond and Daniel. I think he would shoot any boy who says he likes me like that. I must wait until I’m 18 before I can even begin to think of talking about a boyfriend, although 16 is the age of consent. But I’m not ready anyway. Hey, between you and me, I let Raymond enjoy himself a bit more than usual. It was the most perfect thing. It’s not true, there are no fireworks, but I did get a warm fuzzy feeling in the pit of my stomach and maybe if my mum and dad fondled a bit more, they would not be so sour. Ha!

v

I have a piece of cake for you from mum and dad’s anniversary party. Yes, I ate cake. I sneakily ate a piece of the most delicious black forest cake -there is something scandalous about eating forbidden fruit. One day, Zaniah, you must take a bite of sin. 

How was what? You mean that show my mother forced upon my father and me? It was the most awful five hours of my life. Like, why do they even pretend? Daddy spent an awfully long time in my shower. He claimed that he wanted to be away from the noise, but I am not 12 years old and I know for sure that he was talking to someone. Okay, okay…well I don’t know for sure, but I feel it in my guts that he was on the phone with the she-ghost. Plus, when I don’t want anyone to overhear me talking to Betrand, I let the shower run too. Like father, like daughter, eh?

vi

Some days I hate my father. Some days I hate my mother. I think that they are cruel to have put me through this. When I took your advice to have a non-confrontational conversation like three adults, my father said that he and my mother did the right thing by creating a stable home environment for me. But what is a stable home environment when memories of us as a loving family are dim and far away? Perhaps if they had never gotten married, perhaps if they had called it quits, then I would be a better adjusted individual. I mean, perhaps my vices are a result of theirs. Maybe I sleep with the married man because I was traumatised in my childhood. Maybe I slip between the lecturer’s sheets because I seek the warmth that was denied me in my formative years. Let’s leave this topic for our next session okay? My hour on your couch is up.

vii

You know what? I am too busy living my life to actually care what decision my parents make. I have decided that when I am done with Saint Augustine, I am going to Mona for clinicals. Yes, I will miss Zaniah, but she can add Jamaica to her list of countries that she will have to visit. 

So, as I was saying, they can divorce now for all I care. They should have done that a long time ago. They are both unhappy. My mother is concerned about where I will stay, but I’m not going back to that house on the hill. And quite frankly if I return to the island, it is to bury one of them. 

I must focus on myself. I have to make myself happy, no? Maurice is out of the picture, but I must tell you now about the cutest Trinidadian boy I met on campus. That accent? And when he says my name, I die a little inside.

Shanette Monrose is a Saint Lucian secondary school teacher who teaches English Language and English Literature.

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