ANAGRAMS OF RED

By Elisha Oluyemi


CTW: Blood, Violence


“Your dad is not worthy of your love,” Mum whispered, looking right at me, her two hands cupping my face. I was six, but I knew the colour of hatred. Hatred is always red—any shade of red. And it has a watery colour, so that it looks like red tears in the eyes of the hater.

When Mum said that to me, I saw that colour of hatred in her eyes; and it was deeper than the blood that trickled down her jaw the night Dad smashed her head against the wall.

I blinked and blinked, and wanted to look away. But my face was in Mum’s hands, and her reddened eyes were making sure I wasn’t distracted.

“But he loves me,” I said with a drawl, hoping Mum wouldn’t repeat what she had just told me.

Her hands cupped my face tighter as if she were going to crush it. “He buys you sweets and chocolates, and he takes you out all the time, so you think that is love?”

I stuck out my lower lip, and I frowned. “But, Mum, he says that too. Dad always says he loves me.”

“Dera!” Mum blinked rapidly, forcing repeated sighs. I stared at her face and I saw a red mark. Dad put it there for sure. He always put it there at night and Mum would rub it and rub it and apply ointment. But it never disappeared. “You see it, too, Dera,” she said, “what your dad does to me.

I nodded, and I reached for her face, touching her bruised chin with one hand and her bandaged forehead with the other. “Daddy told me you don’t always listen to him.”

She frowned, slacking her jaws. “He told you? You asked him?

“I wanted to know why he beats you every day.”

“And he told you that?”

“Yes.” I nodded. “He told me I’m obedient. That I’m not like you.”

She released my face and pulled away from me, the red in her eyes turning brighter. “Do you believe him?”

I looked in the direction of the door. “Dad says there’s trust when there is love.”

The door opened at that moment, and he came in. Dad.

I didn't rush to welcome him as happy children liked to do. I didn't want to leave Mum sitting on the floor. But his eyes settled over me as though I were a smaller version of Mum—the disobedient wife he liked to beat.

As he inched close, my fingers trembled like they did the night Dad broke Mum's head. I pull back against the sofa and glanced at Mum, hoping she would snatch me away from her enemy. But Mum was staring wide. She probably wasn't bothered because Dad had never hit me.

And Dad eventually leaned over me and hefted me into his arms and pulled me up, laughing into my face. “Little princess,” he said in a sing-song, turning clockwise.

But by the time he placed me down, he had stopped smiling. And a frown already spread across his face. Mum was glaring at him, that colour of hatred taking over her face. She looked so… jealous. So red.

“Don’t ruin this moment, Amy,” Dad muttered. He inched a couple of steps toward Mum, his eyes burning with the same colour, only that there was no watery texture in them. “Try to be responsible tonight, okay?” he said to Mum. “Try to be like our little princess.”

With those words, Dad turned away and headed for the bedroom. Mum remained, glaring at me for a long time. I only stared at her, wondering what was really wrong with us. She crouched before me, cupped my face, and sniffed a sob. “When you hear his voice, Dera, come over to watch him,” she whispered. “Let us test him, okay? He loves you, right?”

I blinked and looked ahead as she stood up and wobbled into the kitchen. I stood there watching as she hurried out. I stood there watching as she entered the bedroom. But I hurried over immediately after I heard Dad scream.

When you hear his voice, Dera, come over to watch him.

Mum was atop Dad, pushing a knife into him, the red in her eyes filling his chest and stomach. It was thick. It was so deep. It was so much. And she was telling my crying dad, “Tell us, do you love Dera? Tell us!”

Daddy wanted to live. And maybe because the pain was too much, he shook his head and growled. “No, Amy. O-on… only you.”

Mum kept stabbing Dad, blood staining her dress and face. And she was crying. And she was cursing. “Liar! You’ll never lie to us anymore!”

And truly… he never did. Anymore.

But once Mum was done testing Dad, the colour red began dripping down her face, her hands, and her blouse. It was glowing in her eyes.

So, I started to panic, pulling back steps. Because I didn’t know when Mum was going to test me too.


 

About the author:

Elisha Oluyemi works as a freelance writer and editor. He's the editor-in-chief at Fiery Scribe Review. He won 1st runner-up prizes at the second 2021 Shuzia Short Story Contest and 2022 Shuzia Flash Fiction Contest. His short stories have appeared in several journals and anthologies, including Nymphs, OBBLT, Mystery Tribune, Brittle Paper, Shuzia, and Terror House Press, among others. He has recently bagged a B.A degree in English.

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