As she wandered back to her cabin, searching for any fond memories she might have buried from her childhood, light faded everywhere around her.
How about the coloring? Children enjoy coloring, how about that? She’d spent so many hours and days on her art. It was as close as she could remember to having her Mamma stand over her with anything even remotely resembling approval. Her books and comics could be tales of Jesus, but coloring books had to be Old Testament because “No child’s impure hand could touch a crayon to the sweet beautiful face of our lord and savior Jesus Christ.”
So the little girl had scrunched down over Daniel in the lion’s den. Samson, screaming, being blinded with daggers and torches. The redder she made the flowing wounds of a man of God shot full of arrows, or stoned to death, the richer the flames of three men being burned in a box, the longer mamma let her stay out of that closet.
But the men still came. Mamma had no say over that. The Cleansers from the church had to step in as her father, since women were weak and needed men to set them straight. Mamma had done the unmentionable, and that sin must be cleansed from the girl child.
Paulette had fought so hard not to hum while she colored, since music was sinful. Now she fought to lock that vision back into its box. It was as close as she came to a happy childhood memory, but even this one gnawed away at her insides.
As that long night of deepening terrors took hold, her room grew colder. The trees outside began to quiver, then wail. The winds rose up, gathering the darkness in around them.
She heard rivers running everywhere, whitewater roaring far off.
But it was only those ominous winds, scraping and clawing through long-dried leaves that should have been left to lie still, and die quietly.
– From today’s chapter of “The Gardens of Ailana”