My Serenity

By: M. Clarke

PROLOGUE



Josefina



Most children were afraid of monsters, either in the closet or under the bed. They weren’t real. But my monster was real. She wasn’t made up. My monster was my mom—a living, breathing nightmare I had to endure day and night. The kind of monster I couldn’t simply run away from or wish away.

“Josefina! Get your ass over here, right now!”

My body stiffened, feeling like I’d swallowed stones. I always felt sick to my stomach when my mom yelled at me like that, and it was usually over something small. I dashed out of my room as fast as I could. Mom hated when I didn’t come immediately after she’d called my name. Even a second was too long.

“Yes, Mama?” I asked sheepishly. Standing by her bedroom door, gripping tightly to the hem of my dirty shirt, I prepared for her roar.

Mom didn’t say a word at first. It was the look of evil that got me shaking. She looked angry, and if she could, fire would have scorched out of her eyes. Wearing a pretty floral dress, she had accessorized with a pearl necklace and earrings. Her hair was neatly combed with a fake flower pinned at the side. Never had I seen a strand out of place, nor had I seen her without makeup. My mom wasn’t pretty. Although she was more on the heavy side, her clothes made her look beautiful. She pointed to the bottles of perfume lined up on her dresser.

“Do you see something wrong with that?” Though her tone was calm, it was as deadly as a rattlesnake’s venom.

Already knowing what some of them smelled like, lavender, honey, and jasmine fragrances filled my nose despite the fact the bottles were capped. The one at the end was slightly out of line, but I kept my mouth shut. My mom’s face was suddenly directly in front of mine. Her brown eyes turned darker—cold as a deadly storm. “Are you deaf, child?”

I held my hands together, preparing for what would come next. As always, the drizzle had turned into a full-blown hurricane. My lips quivered, desperately trying to find the words to bring calmness, but nothing came.

Mom grabbed the lobe of my ear, forcing me closer to the last bottle. I bit my lip, trying to stop the tears, and begged, “Mama, please. I didn’t do anything.”

“You lying to me?” Her voice got louder. “How many times do I have to tell you not to touch my stuff? You think I’m stupid? Well, I think you’re stupid. You’re seven years old and you can’t even answer a simple question.”

“I didn’t.” I tried to pull away, but the more I resisted, the more the pain intensified.

I stumbled backward as my mom pushed me away. She grabbed her favorite hairbrush—the yellow one with pretty crystals that were glued into the shape of a butterfly—the one I had wished for. That was before she had beat me with it. “Bend over.”

Tears streamed down my face. I covered my butt with my hands as if I could protect myself from her, and being that it wasn’t the first time, I could already feel the pain. “No, Mama. I promise. I didn’t touch it.”

Mom stood in front of the door so I couldn’t get out. Before I could blink, she grabbed my wrist and dragged me to the bed. With my body slumped across her lap and one arm holding me secure, she slammed the brush on my butt. Every word she spoke was a whip across my ass.

“Don’t—you—ever—touch—my—stuff!” Her breath was labored, beating me until she was tired.

All she cared about was her material things. And I, her daughter, was the object used to vent the rage that dwelled inside her.

“You’re ruining my dress,” she sneered and pushed me off her. My body thumped, landing on the floor. I felt broken, worthless, and not deserving of love. Curling my body into a ball, I lay there shaking and sobbing quietly. My butt felt like it was on fire. Mom hated to hear me. I knew she would beat me again and tell me to shut up. Usually when she was done, she would walk out of the room, but she didn’t this time.

“What are you staring at?” she snapped.

I wiped my tears and looked through my blurry eyes. My dad was standing by the door. He looked like he’d just gotten out of bed—more like he’d just gotten off the sofa. Dad’s jeans were unzipped and his T-shirt was molded to his Santa Claus belly. With an unshaven face and uncombed hair, he was holding a bottle in his hand, as usual.

Scratching his head he asked, “Why are you being a bitch, screaming so early in the morning? You woke me up.”

“It’s afternoon, idiot.” She pointed at me. “Your daughter touched my perfume bottles again.”

He took a sip from his bottle. “I don’t know if she touched them, but I did. I don’t think she deserved a beating.” His words were slurred, the way they always sounded. When he was sober, he didn’t sound like my dad.

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