Copyright 2013 by Murray Kibblewhite
The shouting woke her. As she regained her senses, the vicious sounds smashed into her brain. Pushing back her duvet, she sat up, listening intently to the words.
‘You lying pig!” her mother screamed. “You have another woman!” A pause. “Don’t deny it!”
After a short interval, she heard her father’s muffled reply, “It’s not what it looks like”.
The weak response only spurred her mother on. “You have been going with her behind my back, you scheming bastard,” she spluttered.
Shanshan cringed pulling the duvet back over her head, trying to shut out the dreadful sounds. Her parents had been arguing more and more over the past few months, but this was the worst time. She felt sorry for her mother not being able to trust her father. It was a difficult time and she was becoming scared of her father.
“Do you want to go inside?” Michael, her male companion gently asked. They were standing in front of the inner Prayer Room within the Buddhist Temple in the Eastern Suburbs.
“No, it’s OK.” Shanshan felt slightly over awed by the size of the Temple and from the doorway, she watched others light their tapers and skewer them into the sand in front of the large statute of Buddha. Would their prayers be answered?
“Come this way.” He lightly gripped her arm to lead her down the steps off the veranda onto the pathway into the formal garden. “Let’s go over here!” Shanshan smiled her consent and followed him to a small structure shaded by a palm tree. Looking closely she could read on the brass notice ‘Wishing Well.”
I must pray for my mother, she thought to herself before her companion’s voice broke into her contemplation. “… for each wish. Do you want go first?”
Shanshan stared at him with a puzzled look, ‘What do I do for each wish?”
‘‘You must repeat the wish three times. Kneel down, say it three times in your head, then ring the bell.” Shanshan nodded, showing she understood and let him direct her to the platform.
“I suggest a prayer for someone else would be in the Buddhist tradition,” he murmured into her ear as she moved onto the platform.
It seemed a long moment as Shanshan considered her wish. But her decision had already been made. It had been her only desire since she left China…support her mother; support her separated mother; support her grieving mother.
It was a brutal sound…a combination of a slap and a punch that somehow held up in suspense of quietness, for a moment, almost in surprise waiting for the enviable outcome. Then her mother screamed…a howl of fear, pain and anger so intense she had no time to curse him as she sucked in huge breaths of air, waiting for the pain to subside. Locked in her room Shanshan, shrieked in fear as if she had felt the blow herself.
It had started when her father arrived home very late, drunk again, but this time with lipstick on his cheek. Her mother had challenged him and he had shouted back “it’s none of your business!”
Realizing the situation, her mother had pushed her away. “Go to you room, Shanshan and lock the door.”
Cowering on her bed Shanshan thought, Why has he done this? What has made him into such a monster? Why had he hit her mother? Inside her feelings screamed with compassion towards her mother. Was she hurt? Should she open the door and go and help? What would her father do to her?
Other thoughts ran through her mind as she reviewed the loveless relationship she had with her father. He was never at home, often drunk and never took notice of her. It would have been different if she was a boy. He had said that so many times?
The argument had raged for over half an hour until her father in a thick slurred voice began to shout in a threatening manner until he hit her.
“Get out! Get out!” her mother screamed at her father. “Don’t ever come back!”
“What did the psychologist say?”
Shanshan looked up from her coffee, her mouth twisting as she considered her reply. She had asked Michael to meet her as she needed to talk to someone older, and as her first employer in New Zealand, he was like an Uncle to her.