My Grandmother's Secret - Chap 1
I’m not sure how long I have until Grandmother gets back, so please bear with me if this comes out rushed. I need to tell someone, anyone, what’s been going on in this house. How my life changed after learning Grandmother’s secret, and the harrowing events that happened after. I don’t want to relive it; it’s much too awful of a story, but I need to get it out of my head, off my chest, and I have no one else to talk to about this.
The problem is, how do I start? I guess like everything else, I’ll just have to start at the beginning. The very beginning.
My name is Tuesday, though I was born on a Sunday afternoon. It was a difficult labor I was told, and my mother didn’t make it. But before she passed, she let out one word: Tuesday. The nurses figured it was what she wanted to name her little girl, so out of respect the name stayed.
I grew up with Grandmother. She is a stern looking woman with a very long neck. She never spoke of my mother. Or my father for that matter. In fact, the only time that I ever brought up the subject was when I was around the age of five. It was Career Day in our class and Johnny’s dad came in to speak. He showed up in doctor’s scrubs, which to me looked like blue sheets sewn together, and gave all the children lollipops. At the time this confused me. I didn’t know what lollipops had to do with being a doctor. I had never been sick before, so had never been to a doctor, and Grandmother refused to take me if there was nothing wrong with me. But I didn’t ask my question about the lollipops, I stayed quietly in my seat just as Grandmother instructed me to do when I was at school. But it was when Johnny’s dad was leaving that really perplexed me. Johnny ran up to him and he kneeled down and squeezed his son so tightly, I was curious to know if it hurt Johnny at all. My question was answered when they separated with big smiles across their faces.
Needless to say, I had a million questions for Grandmother when I finally arrived home after school that day. I was so excited that I forgot all of Grandmother’s rules and started blurting out all of my questions.
“Do all fathers squeeze their kids? Or is it just their sons? Do fathers give out lollipops or is it just doctors? Do I have a dad? Can I meet him? Do you think he would bend down like Johnny’s dad did and squeeze me? Then we’d both smile really wide, and we’d be really happy,” I belted the words out so fast I forgot to take breaths in between. When I finally paused to catch my breath, I looked up at Grandmother for a response. All I saw was Grandmother’s hand coming down swiftly across my cheek. It made a loud slapping noise and knocked me back about three feet. Grandmother then took me by the elbow and walked me to the cellar door. She guided me inside and locked the door behind her. I spent two days in the damp darkness of the cellar, and never asked about my father again.
Very soon after, I was taken out of school. Grandmother thought it was best if I was home-schooled. Less distractions. She had set up a strict schedule for my new schooling. It began with waking each morning at 6:00 a.m. Brush teeth, get dressed and have breakfast before studies started at 7:00.
After my schooling I would begin dinner for myself and Grandmother, and in the evening was allowed reading time, which we would do together in the living room. Then it was shower, teeth and in bed promptly by 7:00. Grandmother would always say goodnight as she tucked me in, followed by a kiss on the head. This was the only affection that Grandmother ever allowed. Then she would switch the light off, shut the door, and drag the long metal lock on the outside and leave me alone in the darkness.
I always looked forward to the weekend, as I’m sure most kids my age did. The week was dedicated to studies, but the weekend, well that was something entirely different. The weekend was mainly dedicated to cleaning and running errands. The cleaning I never minded; it was the time I was allowed to be alone. Alone with my thoughts and imagination. I loved to imagine I was a conqueror like those in my history books, discovering new lands that needed to be harvested (cleaned). I would always make sure to keep my adventures in my head though, for fear Grandmother would overhear me. Grandmother doesn’t care much for adventures.
I looked forward to running errands as well. If I was well behaved that week, I would get to accompany Grandmother into town. I loved going into town. I loved seeing all the people and imagining what their lives were like. I loved being able to see my reflection in the big doors that opened as we walked up to them. In those few brief seconds I awed over how I must appear to others. I was quite tall with big green eyes and dark wavy hair that stopped just below my shoulder blades. I didn’t stare long though, for fear that Grandmother would not approve and punish me for it.
Grandmother’s house has only two mirrors. One is in the bathroom; it’s a small circular mirror. It’s quite small, smaller than my hand, and I can only see parts of my face at a time in it. There’s another mirror in the house as well, but I’m supposed to know about it. It’s in Grandmother’s special forbidden room. The only reason I know about it is because I once snuck a glance before Grandmother shut and locked the door behind her. It’s the largest mirror I’ve ever seen; it goes all the way from the ceiling to the floor. Similar I suppose to the doors of the supermarket, where I was able to see all of myself at once.
As the years went on, I would see myself grow in those doors that opened into the supermarket. I would see my hair grow longer; my legs grow longer. But Grandmother always seemed to look exactly the same. Grandmother held herself perfectly upright, with her hair pulled back tightly into a bun. Her skin was smooth, touched with only a few wrinkles.
As I grew, I became more curious about the outside world, as I’m sure most young adults often do. It was curious to me that the few people that we did encounter – the men that worked over at the gas station, and everyone who worked the checkout line at the grocery store – all seemed to have aged with time. But not Grandmother. I started to wonder why, and I became even more curious about her secret room and what she kept inside.
There were times though when Grandmother looked tired and ragged. She would complain about aches and dark splotches would appear on her chest and face. The perfect skin on her face would start to sag, but in the morning, she would be right as rain. Grandmother would catch me staring at her reformed face, and would always respond with “Just needed proper sleep is all.”
One night after Grandmother had started to look wretched once again, she had forgotten to lock the deadbolt on my bedroom door after kissing me goodnight. I laid in bed for what seemed like hours before I mustered up the courage to sneak out and investigate. The door to my bedroom made a loud creaking sound as I slowly opened it. My heart thumped in my chest. There was a mix of fear of what would happen if Grandmother caught me out of my room, and a rush of excitement knowing I was breaking the rules. The light was off in the hallway. I walked slowly through the darkness to Grandmother’s room. The door was left open, but the light was off. I waited in the silence for a sound. Her moving or breathing. When I heard nothing, I mustered up the courage to whisper, “Grandmother?” but there was no reply. I carefully stepped into the room. I held out my shaky hand until it found what it was looking for – Grandmother’s bed. The blanket that covered it was soft, but not warm. I patted around lightly until I realized that Grandmother’s bed was unoccupied.
I delicately walked down the long hall to the front of the house, She wasn’t in the living room or the kitchen. I pulled back the curtains that covered the large window and peered out into the night. Grandmother’s car was not in the driveway. I glanced as far as I could down the street, my face pressed hard against the cold glass. The world was quiet and still, except for the soft fluttering of the moths that circled the streetlight. I closed the curtain and walked over to the door of the cellar.
Grandmother never went into the cellar; she just sent me down there when I had misbehaved or had broken a rule. I switched on the light and walked down the wooden steps to the cellar floor. The concrete was cold on my bare feet. I looked around; everything was exactly the same as it was the last time I spent a few nights down there.
There was an old metal bed frame in the corner of the room, with a thin decrepit mattress on top. There were no sheets, no pillows, just a ratty green blanket that I would wrap myself in. Next to the bed was an old lamp and an old rug that was sometimes more comfortable than the bed. I went over and pulled at the corner of the rug, lifting it up tactfully and folded it over so I could marvel at what lay beneath. Hidden under the rug were all of the drawings that I would do every time I was locked in the cellar. I was lucky enough to sneak in and hide some pencils and color pencils when Grandmother wasn’t looking once. As well the book under the pillow and the snack bars taped to the back of the metal bed frame. This place of punishment transformed from that day and became my sanctuary, and under the rug lay my masterpiece. Mountains loomed over crystal cities and green rivers, buildings I remembered from my history books, places that I so longed to visit one day. I methodically placed the rug back on top, making sure not to smudge the world I had created, and went back up the stairs.
Grandmother was definitely gone. But where I wondered, and why would she leave me alone? I walked down the hallway back to my bedroom door. I stopped outside of my door and stared down to the very end of the hallway, to the door of Grandmother’s special room. It was off limits, but I was curious to know what Grandmother was hiding behind there. I walked over to the door. There was no way that Grandmother would leave this unlocked, I told myself, almost hoping for it. I placed my hand on the large brown doorknob and turned it slowly. Click. The door opened.
Shit! Grandmother just pulled into the driveway. I’ll tell you what I found behind the door as soon as I can return and finish my story. Until then!!