Riptide, Part 2

(Missed Part 1? Find it here!)


Mother raised her left arm high, the birch switch quivering at the end and almost reaching to the ceiling. Rachel knew the moment where control would be lost was coming; when Mother was willing to swing from there, she had no intention of holding back. That meant that the ointments and splints would come next, and those were almost as bad as the beatings themselves.

Mother was not gentle in administering first aid. Rachel had often thought that Mother was somehow broken, incapable of gentleness; even in so thinking, though, she frequently corrected herself. Mother was perfectly capable of it… at least, around others.

When she was alone with her eldest daughter, however, all bets were off.

A single tear tracked down her rapidly swelling cheek, the cool saltiness of it burrowing into a fresh cut with a sting that was almost sweet; compared to her backside and her arms, the sting of the salt in a fresh cut was practically pleasant, a brief reprieve, something else to focus on.

At sight of that tear, Mother roared and started her swing. Rachel brought her arm – careful to use the left, as the right had already been thoroughly assaulted today – in front of her face, knowing it would earn her worse and not caring, only hoping today wasn’t the day she lost an eye.

Something louder than Mother’s hollering, something that seemed almost in answer to Rachel’s half-hearted prayer of a moment before, came from outside. A snarling sound, something snapping, then a high shriek. Celia, screaming.

Mother’s arm froze halfway down, her head jerking towards the window and thrusting at the air like an angry chicken’s. Her eyes narrowed and she glared down at her daughter for a moment, letting her tongue slick across her lips like a snake’s.

“I’ll finish with you later, whorelet.”

She spun on her heel, slamming the stout wooden door as hard as she could. Rachel knew better than to dive for it, try to stop her. Mother was fearsomely strong when she got like this, and the door was thick and heavy; she’d almost lost a finger trying that stunt before. A moment later she heard the hollow and somehow deadly thud of the bolt being shut, and the lighter click of the switch being laid beside the door.

Celia had stopped screaming, but Rachel knew that it wouldn’t stop Mother’s progress to go and check on her youngest. She watched her very carefully, after all. Wouldn’t want her to get the devil in her like Rachel had. Mother’s tread thumped down the stairwell, and only when the door at the base of the lighthouse gave it’s familiar shriek did Rachel remember to breathe.

She’d prayed, and something had answered. It wasn’t the first time. But it may have been the first time the thought that followed it had occurred to her:

Just what had she been praying to?

(Want more? The story continues here!)

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