Missy likes to hide in cupboards. She stifles giggles as her mother looks for her, impatiently stomping, size 1 shoes in her hand. She squirms, a can of baked beans is pressing into her back. The cupboard is quite empty, which makes it good for hiding in. Missy’s smile fades. ‘Ugh, beans for dinner again‘ she thinks. She’s about to emerge, looking forward to her mother’s face, half cross, half laughing, when she shows herself. But. There’s a noise. It’s the kind of noise that makes you freeze and concentrate all of your mind on listening. It’s the kind of noise she remembers. From before.
“Missy, stay in the cupboard!” her mother commands. Missy is half upset that her mother knew where she was all along. But it only lasts a moment. Then she feels the fear trickling down her spine. She bites her lip and tries to breathe long and slow like Mama taught her. In two three four, out two three four. It makes the nightmares go away. She quietly moves the can of beans in front of her feet so she can press her back tight to the side of the cupboard. With her arms wrapped round her knees and head down, she waits.
The noise is still going. Banging and thumping. Shouting voices. She can hear her mother muttering under her breath, “What do I do? What do I do? I don’t know what to do!”. “Mama, hide!” she whispers. There’s a big crash. A really big one. And the voices are louder. They’re right outside the cupboard. Her mother’s voice, high pitched and afraid “Please, no, I’m sorry, I will get the money! I promise, just wait!”. “That’s what you said last time” comes from a deep gravelly voice “and the time before that. No more waiting!”. Her mother gasps as the men push her against the wall.
Missy puts her hands tight over her ears and tries to breathe. She’d like to hum or sing to try and stop the other sounds, but she knows she must be silent. Eyes closed, tears seeping out, in two three four, out two three four, in two three four, out two three four. Nothing can drown out the noise. Her mother screams and thuds to the ground near the cupboard. “Please, no, no, don’t!” she begs.
Missy tries to imagine it nicer. “Mama fell over from dancing and laughing too much, she was spinning and singing, that’s why she fell” she tells herself. It doesn’t work. She wishes she was big and strong and could stop them. She is too small. She knows she must stay quiet, she mustn’t scream or cry, but it burns up within her, bubbling up and up, until she can’t stop herself from screaming out “Leave my mama alone! Now!”.
And suddenly all there is is light. There’s a whistling sound, someone screaming, all the cupboard doors fly open, the can of beans shoots out and smacks one man in the head. The others are yelling silently as the light swirls around them. Missy is standing now, staring right at them. They step back from her, but something is holding them there. Missy’s arms spread wide and she hums. Her fingers shine like sparklers. She hums louder and lounder, takes a deep breath… then she hears it, a quiet voice, so soft and tender. “Stop love, stop, you’ll kill them, stop, don’t let them make you do this!”. She pauses… “Mama? What’s happening?!”. She feels a touch on her ankle, and looks down. It’s her mother, she’s ok, she’s still there, she’s even smiling.
The lights fade as Missy stares down into her mother’s eyes. “Mama” she says with a smile, “you’re ok”. “Yes love”, her mother replies, “We’re both ok, now remember to breathe love, remember?”. “In two three four, out two three four” they chant together. Missy closes her eyes and breathes in deep, then she blows out the breath, letting her arms fall slowly to her sides. When she opens them again she sees the men run, they run like little frightened kittens, freed from her hold.
Her mother reaches for her hand “hey, love” she says, “thank you my darling girl, now come here and let me wipe your tears”. Missy helps her mother to sit up, leaning on the fridge, then snuggles down beside her. “Will they come back?” she whispers. “No, love, I don’t think they’ll ever come back now they know what you can do. But we need to go. Who knows who they’ll tell, it’s not safe.” Missy feels her body relax into her mother’s. “But first” says her mother, “we’ll just take a minute to catch our breath”.