My Grandmother's Secret - Chap 2
Sorry for leaving so abruptly last time. I don’t know how long I have this time around, so forgive me if it comes out rushed. Now where was I? Oh I remember…
I spent a few minutes outside the door of the forbidden room. My palms were sweating. I was scared to push through it and venture past the threshold; to do so was prosecutable in Grandmother’s eyes. Was she testing me? Is that why she had not locked my room? Would she be behind the door waiting to punish me? Or perhaps Grandmother simply forgot? She had been looking more ragged than usual lately. Spots had begun forming on her skin and she was complaining of headaches; even napping during the day during studies, which never happened. Yes, maybe she had just been careless, I assured myself, and carefully walked inside.
I was in awe of what I found on the other side of the door of Grandmother’s secret room. It was not only another room completely, but looked as though it belonged in another house; in another world. The walls were painted a deep red. The huge mirror, the one I had seen years before, stood to the side. I had never noticed the dark stone frame that surrounded the mirror with its intricate designs before. It was the first time I could see myself – my whole self – with exact clarity. I smiled at my reflection. Bursting with curiosity, I walked deeper into the room.
The room seemed to have its own pathway – like a smaller version of the hallway – though it could have been my small hesitant steps that made it feel so long. My heart was pounding so loudly; I didn’t hear a car pulling into the driveway. Slowly, I kept walking deeper into the room. I tried not to make a single sound for fear of what lay before me. The small hallway led to another room, larger than any other room in the house. There was a bed directly in the center of the room that looked as though it could sleep a whole family. The sheets on it were dark and silky. I couldn’t help but be drawn to them; to touch them. I grazed my hand over them, letting the silk run through my fingers like water. I had an urge to jump under them and roll around between the luxurious layers, but then was distracted by the closet that lay just to the left of the bed. The door was cracked open slightly. I went over and opened it all the way. The door let out a creak, loud enough for me not to hear a key sliding into the front door.
The closet was filled with clothes that could not have been Grandmother’s. Grandmother didn’t wear nice clothes like these – soft and colorful; shiny, beautiful dresses. But if these weren’t Grandmother’s things, whose things were they? I slid the clothes from right to left to get a better look at them individually. I was so enthralled I didn’t hear the footsteps coming down the hall.
When I finally heard voices, it was too late. I was scared of being caught by whatever lived in this room; whatever was coming back to its bed. I jumped into the closet and hid behind the beautifully draped clothes, hoping they would shield me long enough to figure out what to do. I peeked out through the clothes, frightened yet curious to see the creature that called this room its own.
The room was still dark, but I could see a large shadow on the bed, moving its bulbous form. There was laughing, and moaning, then a harsh squeaking from the bed, as if it were about to give way. The moaning got louder and louder, then all of the sudden it stopped. A silence filled the room, along with a low sound of panting. Then a strange noise that I couldn’t place. A sound similar to sucking air through a straw. Then it was silent. As if all the noises in the world stopped. I could only hear the pounding of my heart and my breathing, which seemed amplified in the small closet. After a few minutes of waiting, I finally heard some rustling coming from the room, then the sound of footsteps leaving back down the hallway where they came from. I sat in the dark of the closet, unable to move. I was worried that whatever monster lived in the room could still be there waiting for me. Or worse, what if it saw my door open and went inside my room to wait for me? All the possibilities that I conjured up in the back of the narrow closet did not have a good ending. So there I sat. Too scared to move, and too scared to blink. Suddenly, the lights turned on.
It was the first time that I could remember being really scared. The type of scared where your body shuts down; the type where you believe that your fear will swallow you whole. But it wasn’t my fear that pushed the clothes back and revealed my hiding spot. No. It was Grandmother. She looked… different. So different in fact, that for a second I didn’t believe it to be her. Her hair was down – she never wore it down. She wore a short tight black dress instead of her normal boring brown, and the neckline was low, revealing the curves on the top of her breasts. I was in awe. Her cheeks were a soft pink and her mouth had a red juicy tint to it. She looked radiant. Not tired like Grandmother had looked the last few days. There were no spots on her skin. It wasn’t until the woman spoke that I knew it actually was Grandmother. I was petrified about my punishment; not only was I out of my bedroom, but I was caught in a room that was off limits. Forbidden. I knew the punishment for breaking a rule, I knew it all too well, and wished I would have hidden more contraband down in the cellar instead of exploring secret rooms. But Grandmother just smiled. She helped me out of the closet and back down the hall to the open door that was my room. She put me back into bed, pulled the covers over me, kissed me once more on the forehead, and for the first time in my entire life, she left the door open.
The next day, exactly three weeks before I was to turn sixteen, Grandmother changed my curriculum. Grandmother was back in her brown sweater and skirt, her hair pulled back tightly into a bun behind her head. She didn’t bring up what happened the night before; in fact, it was never discussed. Her skin was spotless, and her face looked radiant; her skin tighter. She didn’t seem angry at me for breaking the rules, which made me wonder if this person was Grandmother at all. I pushed the thought to the back of my head.
Some of the new curriculum was quite unknown to me, like Human Anatomy, Human Sexuality, and Proper Grooming. Little did I know what plans Grandmother had in store for me. How from there on out, my life was to take a completely drastic turn, one I would never recover from.
Grandmother had also started leaving my bedroom unlocked at night. One night I woke as I heard Grandmother leave the house once more. I contemplated sneaking back into the secret room, but decided on staying put and fell quickly back to sleep.
The next day I woke to quite a surprise in the living room. It was a boy, or a man rather, around the age of 18. He sat quietly on Grandmother’s chair, his hands folded properly in his lap. I politely said hello to the young man and reached my hand out, like Grandmother had taught me. But the young man did nothing and said nothing, until Grandmother came in.
“Jonathan, say hello to Tuesday. Shake her hand.”
The man tilted his head and reached out his hand almost mechanically and greeted me. His hand was cold – so cold that it frightened me. I quickly pulled back my hand.
“No need to be scared, child,” Grandmother spoke from the kitchen, “Jonathan has volunteered to help out with your lessons today. Isn’t that right Jonathan?”
“Yes ma’am.” Jonathan responded solemnly.
“Now Tuesday, it is time to get started on breakfast.”
Jonathan joined us for breakfast, but didn’t eat. In fact he didn’t really move at all. Then it was time for lessons. I cleaned up and joined Grandmother and Jonathan in the study room. I was very curious, but mostly frightened. How was he going to help with the lessons? What possible help could he be? He was like a statue that moved occasionally. What help could a statue be? Grandmother closed the curtains to the room and turned on the lights.
“Today, Tuesday, is going to be different than any other day. You’ll be eighteen in a week, and it is time you put your learning to the test. Reading is always different than seeing, touching, experiencing.”
I was confused about what Grandmother meant by that, but I found out soon enough. Grandmother summoned Jonathan to the middle of the study room, and in the same tone she used to have him shake my hand, she used on him again.
“Jonathan, please remove your clothing.”
I was frozen. I sat at my desk and didn’t blink once. Jonathan slowly took his shirt off; the lamp in the room brightening his bronze skin. I thought he looked like a painting that had come to life, or a sculpture that suddenly walked off its platform. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I could feel Grandmother’s eyes upon me, watching me watch Jonathan. He brushed his shiny black hair out of his face, and began to unhook his belt and unzip his jeans. His jeans hit the floor, and he carefully stepped out of them. His legs were toned. I couldn’t help but get excited. This was the first man (or person even) that I had been in a room with, other than Grandmother. The first man I had ever seen without clothes on. He was breathtaking. Thanks to Grandmother’s extensive teaching, I knew the feelings I was feeling were normal. The fear. The excitement.
But this was a whole other thing compared to my studies. Was this a test? Wasn’t everything a test? Jonathan took his underwear off, and although there was no shame in Jonathan’s face, I felt awkward. I looked away as if to save some humility for Jonathan. No sooner had I turned than Grandmother’s ruler came down hard upon my desk. I jumped in my chair, almost toppling over, but Jonathan never moved a muscle.
Grandmother made me get out of my chair and walk up to Jonathan. She made me touch his chest, feel his skin. I ran my hands over his muscles. His skin was soft, although it was still pretty cold to the touch, as if the center of him was made of ice. Grandmother made Jonathan turn around, and I ran my fingers along his back muscles and arms. I got nervous when my hand drifted down to his lower back and closer to his bottom, but Jonathan didn’t flinch. He didn’t shy away from my touch. After a few minutes, I looked at Grandmother as if to ask, “Is that enough?” And for the first time I saw Grandmother crack a smile.
“Jonathan, you can put your clothes back on now,” Grandmother said, “and please go wait for us in the living room. I need to have a conversation with my granddaughter.”
I was stunned. Grandmother never referred to me as her granddaughter. I loved it. It was as if that affiliation had somehow made me more powerful; that we were more connected somehow. As soon as Jonathan left the room, Grandmother walked over to me. She took my hands and held them in hers.
“I know this is a bit scary. Sometimes the unknown is scary, but if you’re open to the idea, the unknown can be exciting and powerful. Do you understand?”
I didn’t understand in the least, but I shook my head in agreement anyway.
“I want you to think of Jonathan as a gift. As someone you can practice on. More of a hands-on learning experience than what we’ve been studying, yes? He will be in the room at the end of the hall, whenever you are ready. That room is no longer off limits to you, seeing you are a woman now.” She patted me on the shoulder and walked out of the study room.
I sat back in my desk, digesting all that had just happened. I looked up at the clock that hung on the wall and watched the hand move. I waited until the clock read 12:00, then I got up and went into the kitchen and began to make lunch.
Days passed, and my curiosity of the handsome stranger grew. I couldn’t help but feel that Grandmother was preparing me for something. On the night of my eighteenth birthday, after I blew out my candles on my birthday cake, I found out exactly what Grandmother had been preparing me for, and the secret she’d kept from me for eighteen years.
I hear Grandmother in the other room; I must go now. I’ll have to tell you her secret next time.