A Calico Dress
She dreaded going home. In her house, a person never knew what they would find. Ann had spent many days standing outside, trying to intuit the mood of the adults within. And today she anticipated trouble. She glanced down at her new dress, fingered the tear. Sighing, she continued walking toward home and the inevitable.
Yesterday had been such a lovely day. Samantha, Ann’s mother, had finished the new dress. She held it up for Ann to admire.
“Well, Honey, what do you think? Do you like it?” Five year old Ann nodded, and reached out to touch the soft calico fabric.
“Can I try it on?”
“Of course you can,” her mother said with a smile. “And tomorrow you can wear it to school.”
Today wouldn’t be so nice a day.
Ann opted for the back door, the one that entered onto the kitchen. She hoped she could slip upstairs and change clothes before her father saw the damaged dress. Perhaps her mother could repair it before he noticed. But, when she entered the kitchen, she found him sitting at the table with a bottle of Budweiser. She could tell by his expression it wasn’t his first. He noticed the tear immediately.
“What the hell? God damn it, girl, what the fuck did you do to that dress?” He was on her, grabbing her by the arm, practically lifting her in the air as he examined the dress. He shoved her, sending Ann sprawling on the floor. Before she could regain her feet, the first kick sent pain ricocheting through her. The second knocked the breath out of her.
“Daddy, I’m ….” Ann tried to apologize.
“Shut up! You think your whining makes it all better? Do you know what that fabric cost? Do you think we’re made of money?” Roger continued to kick Ann. It reminded her of the man on the television, the one who kicked the football. Roger had called it “punting.”
By now, Samantha and Ann’s siblings had come in. They watched, everyone crying.
“Roger, I can fix it, it’s only a little tear,” Samantha pleaded.
“The little bitch has to learn to take care of her shit.” Ann was curled in ball, trying to protect herself from the blows. Each kick took the wind out of her until she could no longer breathe. Though in pain and desperately trying to catch her breath, Ann didn’t question why no one intervened. At five, she already understood. Instead, even as the kicks and blows rained down on her, she wondered if her mother really could repair the dress.
Roger’s rage finally subsided.
“I’m going out. No doubt you’ll mollycoddle the little brat once I’m gone.” He slammed the door on his way out to his truck.
As soon as she heard the old Dodge’s engine start, Ann’s older sister ran to her, cradling the child in her arms.
“It’s okay, Annie, he’s gone.” Samantha came and knelt down beside them, handing Mary a glass of water. Mary held it steady as Ann, finally succumbing to tears, tried to swallow. Her mother lifted the dress. Ann was already bruising, Roger’s boot prints clearly etched on her skin. Samantha hoped none of Ann’s ribs were broken. But there would be no doctor visit, no x-rays. Roger wouldn’t allow that.
“Come on, Honey, let’s get you in the bath. Then, I’ll fix that tear.”