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Ties Within the Tree
Her lips were rosemary pink, Rosemary, her name. Her eyes were blue with various tints of gold and grey. Her skin was pale and her hair was dark and stringy. She resembled an old fashioned doll.
Her mother was knitting by the large, stone fireplace, “Rosemary, they just aren’t like us. They wouldn’t understand you.” She explains.
“How are they not like us?” Her mother sighs, unable to explain such a fate to the small child.
“I’ve met several of them, and each of them was a replica of their mother, not like us, not like my father.”
She didn’t understand what her mother was trying to explain to her, she had friends that were not like her, friends that had different interests and hobbies. “But what makes him like us if all of the others were different?”
How was she supposed to explain to her eight year old daughter that her grandmother was raped and threatened by such an authority figure? She had difficulty believing it herself, even when her mother was pregnant she had not noticed the growing belly or the early mornings filled with puke and tears. How was she supposed to explain the things that her parents had been through, the way her father had left her and the way her mother had beat her? She could not even tell herself why the child held so many similarities.
“Aren’t we supposed to be with family?” She nagged.
“Rosemary,” she pauses, “Sweetheart, I have only seen these,” she felt the word, ‘mistakes,’ about to slip off of her tongue, “people,” she forces herself to say, “few times in my long lived life, they don’t understand how we live. Do you remember the Pattersons across the street?”
The little girl thought of the Pattersons, the strange mother stayed at home all day, slaving away in the large, pampered house unless it was a Sunday, when she left with her five children who clung to her long, proper dress. The father was unusually strict; he would hit his children for doing simple things, like saying that phrase her mother always does, “God damnit.” He always left in the morning and came back at night, with the same proper attire and the same solemn look. During the holiday centered on the fat man that scared her so dearly, because she knew how fond he was of watching little girls, the Pattersons put up strange figures in their front yard. The arrangement changed every year, but had the same wooden homeless looking man with a long uncombed beard. She had always wondered, why would anyone want to make a shrine over a man like that? She had seen men that looked just like him in the neighborhood with all of the big buildings, and daddy had always told her to stay away from them, that they were dangerous. But the creepiest thing they did in that fat man worshipping holiday, was dress up in strange outfits that she had seen in the old story books her father had read to her, and sing in the most ridiculous tones about the strangest subjects.
Rosemary scrunched her face up, “They’re weird,” she remarks simply, and then adds, “I don’t like them.”
Her mother nods, the reaction she was hoping to get, “Nathan,” she again pauses, “My father, was a troubled man. He had many wives and children with each of them. Those children were not as fortunate as you are; Nathan left them with their mothers. They had no fathers and grew up differently than everyone else did.”
She stood confused by this explanation, but her mother’s father had left her too. And she didn’t act nearly as crazy as the Pattersons, as so she thought. She was too young to understand the different kinds of insanity. But she knew not to bring up this subject, her mother turned sour on the rare occasion that she did.
She imagines a little girl that looked similar to her self, but a girl that acts like her confused neighbors. She shudders, I was lucky to be born with such a normal family, she thought. “Oh,” Rosemary says, and then walks away, finally leaving her mother to solidarity peace.
Her father had been working on a project for weeks now, the fourth as of tomorrow, Monday to be exact. She loved to play in the garden with her imaginary friend, Sally. She was not sure what an imaginary friend was, but when she introduced Sally to her mother’s few friends, her mother would look slightly ashamed and mumble those words, “Her imaginary friend.” Sally was beautiful and tall, she was dark skinned, the type of woman that her mother had told her not to talk to. But she never seemed to notice Sally’s skin condition. Rosemary had a theory as to why, though, it was because Sally was special.
She sprinted towards her sweaty father who had been slaving over his tools for hours now. Sally ran after her, Rosemary loved the way she moved, so elegantly, much better then all of the other white girls at school, who were so snooty. If she talked to anyone the way those girls talked, her father would be sure to smack her upside the head.
“Hi daddy!” She chirped, her father did not hear her at first, so she tapped him on the back.
He grunted and turned around, making a sound with his throat that sounded kind of like, “Mmmhm?”
“Hi daddy,” she repeated, “Rosemary and I came to help you!”
He talked slowly, as if he was rethinking every word that came out of his mouth, even the simpler ones, “Help me with what, dear?”
Her father did not give her the mean look that her mother did when she talked of Rosemary. Sometimes he would smile, other times he would not even pay notice. “Well, what are you working on, daddy?”
She was a curious girl, and this never seemed to irk her father the way it did her mother. She knew why this was though, her father had explained it to her before, her mother was older than most mothers of girls her age, she was going through the dreaded, “M.” It made her grumpier than normal women, but after so many years of this behavior, Rosemary concluded that she was broken.
“It’s a surprise for your mother, so you have to promise not to tell,” he winked.
She loved secrets, “I swear on it!” She whispered, because she had been constantly told not to swear by her mother.
“That’s a good girl,” he said, then patted her on the head like a dog, “I’m making your mother a new room, for the baby.”
This confused her, her father had told her because of M she was not going to have any more children. “But I thought mommy couldn’t make me anymore sisters or brothers.”
“Well, Rosemary, that is true, but you’re getting a little brother. We’re adopting him from a nice lady who organizes those sorts of things for mothers like yours,” he explains.
A baby brother, she thought, she could teach him how to do so many things, he could even meet Sally. She smiled, “Does she know yet?”
“Of course she knows, it was her idea, besides, you know how she gets when I don’t tell her about big events.” She knew very well.
The project had made sense to her now. On the opposite side of the house, close to her parent’s room, lay many large boards, several times bigger than her. Her mother had not seemed to notice, probably too busy with her constant knitting or slumber.
Her father let Rosemary help him carry the smaller boards, the few that she could. Sally, however, could not help because when she was a few years younger than Rosemary she caught a disease that crippled her hands. This was rarely a hindrance to Sally, she overcame most.
Her father’s hard working weeks continued, the room’s foundation growing as well as her anticipation for her little brother. After a day of directing work at his favorite mill, one of the many franchises he owned, he would come home and get back to work until the sun no longer provided light for him.
Her mother, on the other hand, slaved away with her knitting, making tiny sweaters, socks, and pants, a whole wardrobe for the incoming baby. She would blankly stare at the colored television for hours while her fingers did the magic work, if a show was at a constant rerun her mother had the tendency to memorize the character’s lines. She would repeat them as they talked, in a similar voice of each character.
On a day a few summers ago, her mother had run out yarn and she went ballistic. Rosemary scarcely remembers it because she was a small girl, maybe even a toddler. Her nerves were finally calmed when Mr. Galen, her father, had gone out and bought tons of yarn. Mr. Galen had an unbelievable amount of love for her; he even went to the measures of buying a yarn producing factory so they would always have a constant cheap supply for his beloved wife.
The day the baby came, Misses Galen had put on make-up and brushed her hair, a ritual that she only did on the most important occasions. Her eyes were alive, which was a significant difference compared to their usual dull, zombie-like look. A short plump lady in a woman’s suit came to the door with a small pink baby wrapped in a blanket; she had a short meeting with her parents and left, a full briefcase in hand.
Her mother squealed at the sight of the thing, but Rosemary thought it looked like an alien with the color of a pig. Her father did not care for the baby, Rosemary could tell, but the sight of his wife’s happiness made him blissful. His construction project was done and his wife was smiling. The house was finally right.
Rosemary did not like the baby; it made a racket with its crying and its squeaky laughter. It always spit up and pooped, and her mother loved the damn thing to such an extent it was sickening. She never noticed the unaffectionate attitude her mother had towards her until the pink alien came into the house. She kissed the baby, Rosemary had never been kissed by her. Her father was a smart man; he predicted the green monster that would captivate Rosemary’s mind so he hired a nanny to keep her attention. A nanny is nothing like a mother, but Misses Gallen was less like one, so the nanny fit the job perfectly. Her newfound resentment towards the baby never quite faded, but her nanny who she called Bubbie quelled it to a reasonable extent.
She scared her at first, her big round head and her giant lips. Her mother scowled at the sight of her, a big black woman was going to live in her house and take care of her daughter. It was unacceptable but she stopped caring after a day or two. Sally had told Rosemary to not judge a book by its cover (or color in this case), a saying that her father had always told her, and she was later glad that Sally had given her this advice. She would sometimes dream that Bubbie was Sally’s mother and that she would one day adopt Rosemary and they could live together far away from the alien baby.
The baby began to grow hair after a matter of days, bright orange hair, like a lion’s mane, her mother would say. The baby was named Ginger, Ginger the ginger, Rosemary would think, silently smirking to herself. It was quite a silly name for a boy, but any negative comments on it would lead to an unpleasant commotion. Her mother eventually forgot her, ignoring her presence, her attention could not be split, her baby boy was too important.
Years later, Rosemary and Bubby walk down an unpaved road when important men in a shiny new car will pull up next to them. They call Bubby the names that always made her upset, especially the one that started with, “n.” That is how they would refer to her, that word. She does not like how they treated her beloved Bubbie. Bubbie did not retaliate; instead she kept walking, pulling Rosemary by the sleeve. One of the men gets would get out of the car, Rosemary had seen him in pictures, but his face was the same age, maybe younger, than the man in the picture.
Bubby stood tall, aware of who was in her presence. She was earlier warned of this, and was carefully advised on her actions. She had already disobeyed her superior, Rosemary’s mother, when she tried to get the men to leave. She was in no position to be disobedient.
“Are you Rosemarie Galen?” The man asks.
She gulped and looked up at a worried Bubby, “Yes,” she says quietly.
“Come with me,” he commands.
She knew better to talk to strangers, but was this man a stranger?
“Who are you?” She boldly asks.
He was silent but she was very aware of who he was, even before she had asked, with only some doubt in her mind because of his stunningly similar looks to his father. She froze, as if she was trying to make herself invisible to the man.
Bubby stepped back, leaving Rosemary to her uncle, knowing her place in these men’s eyes.
Rosemary looked at her nanny, her eyes sorrow-filled, please don’t leave me, she tried to say. The man took her hand, she tried to scream but it wouldn’t come. Then he grabbed her and threw her in the car, Rosemary tried to catch Bubby’s eyes but she refused to meet them.
That fateful day her name was changed to Rosemary Wills. She would not know what he wanted until hours, maybe days after, when they arrived at the lonely plantation. He wanted a commitment. Her mother was wrong, he was nothing like them. He was a monster.