Work? What does daddy mean by work? Does he mean cleaning the table and washing plates? If that’s work, then I can do it. Mummy always said the plates sparkles whenever I wash them.
‘I’ll work very hard daddy. I’ll work harder than ever just let me stay.’
He looks at me and says nothing more. I’m not sure what to do next but I don’t have to wait long. I see him reach his back for something and brings out a small black plastic bag.
Daddy says this while tossing it to me but I’m too tired and it falls on the floor in front of me. The plastic bag feels warm as I open it to see a single piece of boiled potato.
‘You know what that is right?’
‘No. That’s your pay. Finish it. Since you’re so eager, you can start work tonight.’
He says this and leaves. my tummy rumbles as I stare at the potato. If I get one potato for cleaning the table and washing plates then my tummy won’t rumble again. Nothing beats Mummy’s noodles and fish but we rarely have potato and I had almost forgotten how sweet it could be. I can’t wait to start working. Maybe daddy feels sad about mummy and now he wants to take care of me. I miss mummy.
I quickly bite into the potato. It gets stuck in my throat and I have to drink some water for it to go down. This makes me cough. If mummy was here she would rub my back while telling me ‘sorry’. I try to do it myself but it’s not the same.
‘Mummmmmmyyyyy! Mummy why did you leave me?! Mummy why?! You’re not here to hug me, to tell me how much you love me, to whisper to me that everything will be ok.’ More tears fall from my eyes. ‘Cause it won’t be ok will it? Now that you’re gone It’ll never be ok!’
I will give all the noodles and fish away if it will allow me to see mummy again. If it’ll allow me feel her arms around me.
My chest feels tight. It’s as though the hand that was squeezing my stomach has moved up to my chest. My head aches badly. Even worse than the time daddy threw me and I grew a little puff puff behind my head. But I can’t stop. No matter how hard I try, the tears don’t stop falling and the questions keep coming.
I open my eyes and see daddy staring at me. He’s carrying a torch light because everywhere is dark. I must have slept for a while.
‘It’s time for work.’
Work? How? I can barely see and it’s so late.
I push myself up off the floor.
‘But it’s dark.’
I’m rubbing my eyes. Trying to wake myself up fully.
‘That’s the best time for the job.’
I don’t understand. How is it better to clean the table and sweep the house in the dark when I can barely see? Oh! I’m sure daddy wants me to put on the candles so we can see and I can work.
Once I’m fully awake, I slowly stand up, careful not to bump into anything as I open the kitchen cupboard in search of candles.
‘What are you doing?’
‘We need candles for me to work. It’ll help me see better.’
‘The work I’m referring to doesn’t need candles. Come.’
Without waiting for my reply, daddy pulls me away from the cupboard and out the door.
I rarely leave the house. The only other time I’ve left the house was around our backyard and mummy was always with me. I remember choosing it as a hiding spot one time. Daddy didn’t find us that day but… for some reason, mummy never allowed us hide there again. Now that I think about it, I remember seeing mummy’s eye swollen the next day. When I asked her, she said she fell. Thinking back, it may have been daddy.
I feel tiny bumps all over my body as daddy pulls me away from the house and in the direction of an old looking car. The same tiny bumps I felt all over my body when daddy told me mummy is gone and will never come back.
He opens the car door and tells me to get in. I obey. The last thing I want to do is annoy daddy.
I’m sitting in the seat and I feel a rumble just like the one my tummy makes when I’m hungry but this one is louder and it’s everywhere. I grab the door but daddy stops me.
‘Be quiet. It’s just the car.’
It’s not easy but I try to remain quiet and once the car starts moving the noise reduces.
I can’t help but wonder where daddy is taking me this time of the night and the type of work he had in mind.
We both say nothing as we move farther and farther away from the house. I have never been this far away from the house. Ever. That mummy isn’t here with me scares me more but I have to be strong. Whatever happens, I have to work hard so I can eat. If I don’t work, I won’t eat.
I see more houses as daddy continues driving, most of them are dark because it’s late but some have their lights on. Daddy corners into a road by the side of a dark house and stops.
I obey without another word. What are we doing here? Is this where I’m supposed to work?
‘You see that house over there?’ Daddy says pointing at a house not too far off. Looking at it, even though the lights are off and it is dark, it looks so fine. ‘You’re going to that house.’
I turn to look at daddy. ‘What am I going to do there? Do you know the people that live in it? Am I cleaning for them?’
‘No. You’re going to take from them.’