A chapter of fragmented memory from another life; a life that could easily been mine, or anyone elses.
As she pushed herself off the chair she knew it was about to happen.
All hell would break loose in a moment or two, and she did not want to be there to witness it. It was, unfortunately inevitable. Her mother attempted to mediate in a tentative manner,
'Paul, don't be like that, why would you say something like that?'
It was a quiet, subdued entreaty, one Anne had heard a thousand times before. She knew her mother could do nothing. Anne was glad she did nothing. Later, she would question why. But she never wished harm on her mother. If Anne could take the wrath in place of her, she would.
Anne looked at her sister's face across the table. Her face was flushed, her eyes brimming with translucent tears. Anger excuded from every pore; the room felt hot with it. Their baby sister, Scarlett, completely unaware of the course of debate, continued to smear mash potato across her face.
'I'm just sayin'. She's not like, a girly girl anyway. People probably assumed she was a lad, ha! You don't mind do you Kate?'
Kate bit her lip hard. Anna could see her dad's smug, self-satisfied expression in her eyes; basking in the knowledge that he controlled every person in the room.
'Come on Paul, leave her alone...you know that's a sensitive issue for her...'
Anna paused at the door. She had slinked unnoticed in the course of this excrutiating scenario. Scarlett looked up at Kate, wondering why her sister looked so upset. She reached out her food-covered hands towards her; a gesture of comfort.
'Well, you know everyone gets bullied, don't they? We got all that sorted. It's not like you're a gorilla Kate...darker hair is more noticable on pale skin.'
He was pulling at a thread of silk, enjoying the tension. He was feeling it quiver, with that grin, that punctured Kate's heart.
It's not your fault you've got hairy arms and a bit of a 'tash-'
Oh no. Anne knew. Snap.
At that moment, a number of things happened simultaneously. Kate jumped from her seat, grabbed the nearest mug and launched it at her father's head, which missed by inches and smashed against the duck-egg wall. Her mother grabbed the baby from the high chair and nestled her in her bosom, protecting her for what was sure to come. Anne ran out of the room, hands over her ears, fear spreading fluidly beneath her skin.
'I hate you! I hate you, you stupid prick!'
Kate screamed through her raining eyes, louder and louder, pulling at her hair in utter anguish. Her lungs expanded and her breath became short. She turned away and tried to control her spontaneous gasps and sobs. All soon became silent. Too silent.
'What did you just call me?'
'What the hell did you just call me?'
'Paul, please, just don't-'
'Get out Mags. Get out now.'
Anne slowly peered around the door so she could see her sister's streaming face. She wasn't scared. Anger oozed from her eyes, but no fear. She stood, acknowledging her fate.
'I'm not going anywhere! You dare lay another-'
The man moved towards their mother and raised his hand above her as if to strike, and she recoiled. Scarlett's little vocal tracts started to strengthen.
'You -' He pointed at Kate 'You say sorry now. Now, do you f**king hear me?'
Anne watched as Kate lifted her tear-streaked face in defiance.
'You don't have power over me anymore - father. You are noone.You are nothing. Your pathetic, you know that? I'm a girl; do you understand that? You think you've got to prove you're stronger, that you have power? Well you don't. I don't respect you. You're dirt. You are not my father.'
Anne's heart overflowed with love and absolute fear for her sister, whose beautiful fiery eyes burned for that moment, an image never to be doused from Anne's mind.
All to suddenly it happened, and he lunged.
Anne quickly slammed the door shut, backing away. A mixture of her mother's screams and her baby sister's tiny voice sounded surreal from behind that dark door; the walls began to melt and her brain cells would not function. She continued to back away, to scared to run, to hide. There was no escape. Anne shrunk into a ball, slowly rocking herself backwards and forth, hands over ears, body and soul whithering away.
The noises ceased. All to be heard was the wail of a baby and thepulsating sobs of a woman who could not protect her child.
That was the last time Anne saw her sister.