This is my first attempt at a fictional piece for the internet. I haven’t done much editing. Or plot-planning. I wanted to focus on the language for this one. Allow it to tell the story. Feedback would be awesome.
The Grandmother was standing in the doorway. Her fists were planted on her hips whose girth forced her elbows to jut out in an awkward manner. From where she was seated, The Niece could see the slow up-and-down of her chest — could imagine the old woman’s lungs expanding hungrily as she took huge gulps of the room’s musty air. For some moments The Grandmother did not speak. Instead her eyes were all over the room. First they darted from wall to floor then from the night-stands to ceiling. Then they crawled slowly over the inanimate inhabitants of the room – for they were so many, piled up in corners, flung over headboards, crowded on every above-ground surface, hanging over closet doors. Her eyes drank in the layer of desperation that seemed to cling to each of them. The Niece had imagined that The Grandmother had planned to speak as soon as she arrived. She imagined that the opening of the door, the positioning of hands on hips and the darting of eyes around the room had been actions that were scripted by The Grandmother as she walked up the steps to The Niece’s room. Actions that would be immediately followed by some words. But she instinctively got the feeling that this part had not been on the itinerary. The slow sweep through the room carried out completely by her eyes had resulted in something neither of them expected. With every part of the room that The Grandmother’s eyes went over her face changed.
When she had first arrived, and The Niece suspected even before that, she had had the face of a fighter. An expression that made it clear she had little patience for foolishness. The Niece’s hand had instinctively flown to her back as she recalled the childhood beatings that often followed such a look from The Grandmother. But the look on The Grandmother’s face was no longer that of The Grandmother that had beaten her all those years ago for stealing sweets from a tuck-shop. This expression was one The Niece had seen only once before. At The Grandfather’s funeral three years ago. Hopelessness. It dawned on The Niece that The Grandmother may have underestimated the gravity of the situation. She may have been told details by The Step-Mother but clearly she had needed to see it for herself to truly understand what it had done to The Niece lose everything. When The Grandmother finally spoke her voice was raspy and quiet — decibels below the level both women were accustomed to. To the room, she whispered,
“How long have you been living like this?”
Her eyes had taken all they could of the room and were now resting on The Niece’s outfit: a t-shirt and men’s boxer shorts. Both items serving the purpose of emphasizing the fragility of her frame. Neither part of the outfit clean. Nothing between it and her bare, sweaty skin. But still, The Grandmother’s eyes had not met The Niece’s. They seemed to regard The Niece as just another object in the room, needing only a quick sweeping over before being added to the file The Grandmother appeared to be building in her head. The Niece had not spoken to another human being in days. Knocks on her door from The Step-Mother had solicited from her only grunts. Even the words from Papa were retorted with scribbled words on small pieces of paper. But The Niece had known as she had been unlocking the door that The Grandmother would have little patience for what was surely foolish behavior in her eyes. No. She would be expecting civility. The Niece’s eyes dropped to her fingers which had been fiddling with the draw-string on her boxers since The Grandmother had entered the scene. She cleared her throat and lied,
“Not for long.”
“Your mother says you’ve been in here for two weeks now. Not speaking to anyone.”
The Niece was unsure if a response was expected. So she said nothing.
“Why are you doing this?”
Again, she remained silent for some moments. She was unsure that the only response she had would be enough for The Grandmother. But when she glanced up at The Grandmother she found her eyes had finally settled on her own face and were unflinchingly searching for some understanding. Even her stance had changed. At some point while The Niece had been studying her fingers’ interaction with the draw-string, The Grandmother’s hands must have floated down from her hips to the position they were now in — dangling dejectedly at her sides. Before she could respond the previous question, The Grandmother continued with a muted passion,
“Why are you letting this man destroy your life like this? Why?”