Whatever Serena lacked in poise and politeness, she made up for in intelligence. Much as it pained Annabelle to admit it, she had to acknowledge that fact. It was with amusement that Annabelle noted the Serena had picked up on hymns and songs that she had been singing while she was completing the drudgery that had become part of her daily routine.
“What are you singing?” asked Serena.
“El Shadai,” replied Annabelle. She went back to folding the family’s clothes.
“Teach it to me!” cried Serena with much enthusiasm.
Encouraged that the child was doing something other than throwing a tantrum or her physical body across the floor, she paused from her work and pulled up the audio file online. Within minutes Serena could sing the verses to the very Christian ode to the Almighty in a croaky, but pleasant voice. She couldn’t wait to perform her newly discovered refrain for her mother…whom if you have not guessed by now is a Muslim.
“Ahh…wow Serena,” Anitha struggled. “And who taught you this song?”
“Ms. Annabelle!” Serena announced proudly.
“Perhaps Ms. Annabelle could teach you some other different songs as well?”
Anitha glanced over in Annabelle’s direction as she was sweeping the floor. Her attempt to make eye contact with her was only met with the turning of her broad back. The woman was not going to dictate what she sang during the day! Limited as their options were, even slaves had a certain entitlement over what songs they sang as they picked cotton in the fields.
On certain mornings when Serena wasn’t feeling quite so evil, she greeted Annabelle by calling for her from her bed.
“Good morning Ms. Annabelle! Good morning Ms. Annabeeeeeelle!” she’d sing again and again. This chorus would not stop until Annabelle stuck her head in the door.
“Good morning, Serena,” Annabelle replied sweetly.
It would seem the two would be off to a good start, until Anitha’s thin frame filled in the door.
“Good morning Serena!” she would interject. This of course sent the child into a fever pitch, as though her mother’s mere presence caused a latent demon to manifest within her. At those junctures, Annabelle generally left the room and let the unnatural take its course.
As a few weeks went by, Annabelle had come to the conclusion that Anitha did not truly want her daughter to gain Annabelle’s full confidence. She paid lip service to the idea, even going so far as requesting that Annabelle teach Serena how to read. The two crossed swords once the topic was broached.
“I really don’t think that Serena is in a position to receive instruction from me,” Annabelle cautioned. “She barely listens to me at all!”
“Well just give it a try,” said Anitha dismissively. “Put her on your lap and read to her.”
“Anitha. It is very rare that Serena even wants me to touch her. To brush her hair is problematic. I don’t think she’s going to want to sit on my lap.”
Anitha paused, as though attempting to choose her words carefully.
“Well, maybe it has something to do with your personality. You know, Serena likes warm, loving people. She likes lots of hugs. You should try that.”
Annabelle thought back to all the insults and rude behavior she had suffered at the hands of the child. This was asking too much. Asking me to hug that child is like asking me to embrace a cactus! she thought. It didn’t matter how infrequently it bloomed…it was still a bloody cactus!
As usual, she let the topic drop, knowing there would be no real resolution and certain that it would arise again.
Over the next few days, Anitha began to work herself into a tizzy over her birthday plans. She wanted to spend the weekend with Ravi, but he was going to a business dinner and there were no spouses allowed. There was no denying how pissed off Anitha was, and she made sure that everyone who lived in the house knew it. In a lame attempt to make amends, he ordered a birthday cake and an impressive bouquet of roses. After dinner, Anitha invited Annabelle to join them for cake and ice cream. Anitha gushed over the effort.
“This is the best birthday ever – because you’re here!” she said adoringly to her husband.
Ravi looked her in the eye, laughed mockingly and walked out of the room to get a spoon.
He returned to the table and the couple began to talk about their evening out. The conversation soon degenerated into an argument. Annabelle could not believe they were fighting in front of her. She was the help for God’s sake! She and Serena watched the verbal volley match between Mr. and Mrs. Rajwani, silently scooping blue icing off the cake. When they had finished, Ravi got up to retrieve his jacket, waiting for Anitha by the door. Annabelle grasped for something to say to lighten the mood.
“Gosh, I wonder how Serena will sleep tonight, after all this cake and ice cream!”
Ravi laughed again.
“That’s not our problem!”
His wife joined him in the scornful laughter and left the house for what Annabelle hoped would be a horrid evening together.
“Come on Serena. Let’s get you to bed.”
Grateful for the silence, Annabelle wiped Serena’s face and got her into her pajamas. Serena said that she had to pee, so Annabelle set her on the toilet and left the room while she finished up. She laid the child in bed and began to read her a story. Suddenly, Serena got very quiet. Then came an ungodly stench.
“Serena…are you pooping in your diaper?” cried Annabelle in disbelief.
“Yes, I am,” confirmed Serena.
“But you were just on the toilet…why didn’t you poop then?”
“Because my Daddy said I can poop in my diaper,” Serena answered impudently. “And yes, I am going to take my time.”
What the ****?!?
Serena wasn’t finished yet.
“Oh! And when I’m done, can you come and clean me up right away?”
Annabelle grunted at the child. It was her turn to laugh mockingly.
“I’m going downstairs to make a phone call,” she informed Serena. “And yes, I AM GOING to take my time. You sit there in your poop until I get ready to clean you.”
Annabelle left the stunned child in her feces and called yours truly, who laughed until Coke shot through her nostrils.