I sorted laundry into piles, the chug chug chug of the washing machines behind me gave the mundane task a pleasant rhythm. The sun streamed through the window and the smell of bleach and detergent made even the moist heavy air feel clean.
Ruffled baby jumpers, gym uniforms, my husbands work clothes and my sons Spiderman pajamas. Each item reminded me that in the midst of this tedious labor was the dream. Imperfect for sure, my large exuberant family filled my days with happiness and filled my heart with love.
Frustration broke the mood as I spotted the diaper bag from last week’s trip to church. The bag was turned over on it’s side, the contents spilling out of the open zipper. There, half exposed, was the dreaded plastic bag. I could see beads of moisture inside the bag that had fermented for days in the sunny room. The bag held two year old Luke’s wet pants and underwear from an accident on Sunday.
I took a deep breath and opened the bag. The smell exploded in my face. Sharp urine and pungent, noxious mildew mixed with a faint scent of detergent and the sweet warm puppy smell of a busy toddler. Suddenly, I was in another place.
My heart pounded, the world was spinning, a meaty hand shoved my face onto the floor. I was aware of the other woman, the one straddling my legs, messing with my skirt.
I gasped, cold rough hands groped my calves and thighs.
I tried to squirm or kick but the woman squatting on my legs had them pinned. The large woman on my back grunted as she held my hands above my head, her knees were a vise that smashed my face into the stale, old fashioned, blue shag rug.
I was aware of a peculiar and distinctive smell in this room as soon as I had entered it moments before. Now; face planted in the sea of blue and green flecks, helpless, panic overwhelmed my senses. Were they lifting my skirt?
What was happening?? What were they doing to me?
Immobilized and vulnerable, I realized I knew the smell, a pungent mixture of urine and sweat. FEAR.
Pastor Williams loomed above me. I felt his presence but could not see him. The air whistled and he let out a grunt of exertion.
The board hit my backside with such force I could not even scream. I desperately sucked air back into my lungs even as I was aware of the whoosh of another blow descending.
I thought of the pretty street lined with lovely Tudors with manicured lawns right outside that closed and shuttered window. Only a few feet from me was a sunny day and regular people going about their regular lives.
I was dragged to my feet. Each of the female captors had a vise grip on my upper arms. My legs felt like spaghetti.
“Sue”, I looked up at Pastor Williams’ face, he was smiling, yes smiling. His thick grey hair and broad face made him look as harmless as Gomer Pyle, deeply etched laugh lines made him look downright jovial.
He chuckled. Shaking his head as if amused at the antics of a beloved toddler.
“Sue, no-one can hear you. I will just keep going until you are quiet. OK, Sue?”
“OK,” I managed to respond in a low strangled whisper.
“What was that?”
The bigger goon who held my upper arm pinched hard.
“Now lay back down and take your punishment like a good girl.”
There was no way out- the women expertly maneuvered me back to the face down position on the floor. Once again one straddled my legs and the other sat on my upper back pinning me to the floor and holding my arms above my head.
While we assumed the complex position Pastor Williams spoke to me, his pleasant , cheerful voice belied the malice of his words,
“You are a runner Sue, but there is no where to run here. The neighbors are my friends and have returned many naughty girls who have tried to go to them for help. The police also are good friends of mine and bring back every misguided girl who manages to escape. Your days of running are over.”
I heard the whistle of the board slicing through the air.