Edgar was a prick.
Edgar hated Cordula, because she was not his daughter.
Genevra was Edgar’s daughter…and Cordula did not exist…except when Edgar felt poorly about the fact that he was a complete failure who married Audacity for her parents’ money and could not, would not hold employment of any kind.
He hit the jackpot when Audacity became pregnant with his child a little more than a year into the marriage.
Even at 6, Cordula was aware that things were about to change.
Then, out came Genevra.
She was beautiful.
She was the most beautiful baby Cordula had ever seen.
She was so tiny.
Edgar loved Genevra.
She looked like her mom’s side of the family; Cordula did not.
Suddenly, Cordula disappeared.
…except when she was in trouble.
Suddenly, Cordula got into trouble for really stupid things.
Truly, ridiculous things that to this day she cannot imagine a child should be punished.
One time, Cordula got in trouble for crossing a large street.
She was 7.
She did not cross it alone. She was assisted across the street by a known adult, but that didn’t matter.
She had been tired of sitting in a car waiting for her mom and simply wanted to get to her.
She knew where her mom was, and it was across that street and around the corner.
She asked the adult friend of her mom’s if she could go, and was allowed to do so.
Cordula crossed the street and went to the shop where her mom stood talking to the owner.
Her mother came unglued.
Her beautiful green eyes turned the color of fire and then cracked like heated glass.
Cordula’s brown eyes got huge as she quickly scanned her brain for the cause of this new fresh hell that was about to be released.
(It was moments like these during which Cordula genuinely pondered her own tangible intelligence. She could never put her finger on exactly what it was that she did to make her mother turn such interesting shades of crazy, but she always regretted it and always wanted to make it not happen.)
“Just WAIT until I tell Edgar about this! Just WAIT!”, Audacity screamed at Cordula while dragging her down the street; her hand securely gripping Cordula’s jacket collar.
Cordula’s stomach filled with dread.
Her 7-year-old mind instantly shot back in time to “The Bad Day”…
The Bad Day happened when Cordula was 5.
Audacity and Edgar had recently married and Cordula had started her very exciting Kindergarten experience at St. Thomas Aquinas.
Cordula loved Kindergarten and the half days she spent there with the teacher who was nice and wore glasses and let her help out with classroom chores.
Cordula secretly loved her Kindergarten teacher because she allowed her to use the big girl scissors and make paper cut-outs and snow flakes…no matter what season it was.
Cordula also loved that her teacher taught her how to make beautiful art with crayon shavings, wax paper, and an iron.
(Audacity was not as big of a fan of that last item.)
That year, early on, Cordula had to go to the hospital to have a procedure to fix something wrong with her bladder.
She sometimes could not control her bladder and had accidents.
These were humiliating for Cordula, and she was excited that things would change after the procedure.
One morning, soon after this procedure, maybe 2 weeks or so, Edgar came into Cordula’s room to wake her for school.
Audacity worked nights at the hospital and was not yet home.
Cordula jumped out of bed and immediately felt the sheets to see if she had had an accident.
In her mind, she had not.
The bed was cold, but not wet.
She was 5 and did not realize that the cold was actually damp and that she had in fact had an accident.
When Edgar asked Cordula if she had had an accident, she beamed a huge smile of pride and said, “NO!”
She was genuinely happy and excited.
Edgar must have known.
He was an adult.
He had to have seen it…
Yet, he didn’t care to absorb the fact that Cordula clearly did not know the difference between damp and cold.
(It shouldn’t have been difficult to absorb. She was 5 and both bedroom windows were wide open on the New York autumn morning. It was not exactly warm outside.)
Edgar reached down and felt the sheets, never breaking eye contact with Cordula.
A snarl crept across his ugly face and pure sinister evil rose up into his eyes.
“COME HERE!” he yelled at her.
She walked around the bed to where he stood; still confused at his anger.
He grabbed the back of her neck and smashed her nose into the sheets as she had seen him do to the dog when the dog had an accident.
Cordula had wet the bed.
She still did not understand why he was angry, as everyone knew she had this problem.
She had never before gotten in trouble for it and was unsure what to do at that exact moment.
It was decided for her.
“YOU. LIED. TO MEEEEE?!?!?! WHOTHEFUCKDOYOUTHINKYOUARE?!?!?!”
Cordula had no clear idea who she thought she was at that moment as her brain rattled around in her head.
Edgar began to spank Cordula hard on her bottom as her face was pushed into the soiled sheets.
She squirmed away…or tried to…as his large and heavy hands smacked down on her bottom.
She screamed a scream unimaginable and heavy with very real terror as Edgar removed his leather belt from his jeans.
He snapped the belt in the air to scare the shit out of her and she squeezed her eyes tight as the first crack of the belt slammed down across her butt.
He yelled and screamed at her for lying and disrespecting him and when she turned her head to plead with him, she was frightened by what she saw on his face.
She tried to beg and promise that she had not lied.
She tried to explain.
She was certain that he heard not a word.
He pulled her nightgown up, pulled down her underwear, and whipped her bare skin over and over with that horrible leather belt.
When Cordula covered her butt with her hands, he whipped those.
She started to cry in that way that has long pauses of quiet exhaustion and her mind shut down as she resigned herself to the fact that he would stop when he would stop and not a moment sooner.
She sobbed for her mother and wondered where the woman was.
She had to come home soon and drive Cordula to her happy place…Kindergarten.
Cordula had no idea when Edgar had actually stopped whipping her.
He never said a word.
She was simply alone in her bed, on her stomach…exhausted.
Her butt hurt.
She reached down and pulled her nightgown down and it burned her.
Her skin was hot and raised.
She had welts.
Cordula wanted to blow on her butt like her mom did whenever she got a boo-boo, but even she knew that was impossible.
She reached over to her night stand and picked up her picture book.
She flipped the pages and waited for her mother to come home from work and blow on her butt so that she could get on with the business of Kindergarten.
When her mom came home, she walked into Cordula’s room and asked her why she was not yet dressed for school.
(Typically, Cordula picked out her clothes, prepared her cereal, and was planted in front of “Tom & Jerry” cartoons when Audacity returned from work to drive her to the school which was far away.)
Cordula looked at her mom.
Her bottom lip, which should have transferred her mom into…well…a mom, came out and trembled.
Cordula lifted her nightgown and silently showed her mom her butt.
Audacity’s face was anew with expressionless confusion.
She did not ask Cordula any questions.
She did not ask her if she was alright.
She simply stared, as if in a trance, at little Cordula.
Very quietly, with her face red and hot with embarrassment and regret, Cordula simply said, “I wet the bed.”
“Well, you’re not going to school today,” Audacity stated in response and walked out of Cordula’s room.
Cordula was very confused.
She had hoped her mother would explain things to her; help her understand what had happened.
Cordula laid in the bed all day.
She would sneak into the bathroom and quietly stick her mouth under the faucet and then sit on the toilet willing herself to pee there.
Then she would tiptoe back into her bed, not wanting to draw attention to the fact that she was still there.
She had no idea if Evil Edgar was home, but the house was quiet.
No one checked on her.
No one said a word to her.
She was not called down to dinner that evening.
The event was never mentioned again…
Now that Cordula was 7 and about to be in trouble for crossing the busy street.
Cordula had no idea at that time that Edgar had been spoken to in a way after the event that made it clear to him that he would never again lay a hand on Cordula.
No one bothered to let Cordula know that Evil Edgar reigned no more…at least not in the way that would have mattered.
Even if Edgar never touched her again, that one beating would be used as a weapon and a tool of fear to control Cordula for five more long years.
That fear was rising up in her throat at that moment as her mother dragged her to the car.
She started begging and sobbing.
Her mother only became more angry.
When they returned to the car, her mother’s friends listened to her rage and no one said a word as Cordula begged and Audacity ranted.
No one tried to calm Audacity.
No one defended Cordula.
Cordula became very quiet.
They knew Edgar. They knew he was not nice. Did no one like Cordula? Was no one going to save her? Really?
Upon arrival at the family home, Cordula was ordered to her room.
“Get upstairs and pull your pants down and wait for him to get home. NOW!”
Cordula wondered how that woman could make a three-letter word last so long and vibrate so thunderously.
If she had not been scared out of her tiny little mind, Cordula would have paused to be impressed.
As it was, she was scared shitless and racking her brain with ways to crawl out her bedroom window and get to her grandpa’s house…or even a pay phone so she could call him.
Cordula opened her window as quietly as she could and looked at the roof below.
She removed the screen and laid it quietly down on the roof and climbed out.
She knew that the kitchen was below her bedroom…and therefore knew that her mother would not be in it to hear her escape.
Their house was attached to another house.
She crawled across the roof and looked in the closest window and considered knocking on it.
It was owned by an Irish family with a gazillion kids, almost all of whom made a lot of noise and who would tease her if they knew that she was in trouble and frightened.
She was supposed to be fearless.
Every kid in the neighborhood knew Cordula’s mom and they were all afraid of her.
As often as Cordula got into trouble, it appeared that she was not afraid of her mother and was in fact fearless.
Nope. Cordula was certainly not fearless. She simply had a special gift and unnatural clumsiness for falling into trouble.
Cordula felt herself starting to sweat in the cold air and knew there would be hell to pay if Audacity caught her with the window open, let alone outside that window on the roof.
Even Cordula realized that this would be justified cause for anger.
She watched the boys playing with their Matchbox cars on their track and wished not for the first time that she was part of that family.
She crawled back in her bedroom window, hitting the screen with her foot.
She watched in horror as it slid off the roof and landed in the backyard.
The dog began to bark and she quickly shut the window not quite 100% so that it didn’t make noise and leaped into her bed panting and sweating.
Cordula laid there…waiting for the sound of the angry footsteps across the parquet floors and up the hard wood stairs to her room…
She waited and listened as her mother watched television.
She heard the door open as Evil Edgar returned home.
She heard the sound of dinner plates and her little sister’s baby sounds and waited…
Cordula waited and waited and waited…
When she finally heard the footsteps, it was many hours later and Cordula was exhausted.
The steps continued past her bedroom and to Genevra’s room, where the infant was likely placed in her crib fast asleep and naive to the hell that she had been born into.
Cordula waited some more, but finally fell asleep.
Edgar never came for her.
Nothing was ever said.
Cordula never knew what happened.
She only knew what had not happened.
She knew that she had not backed down or run…even though she had thought of it.
…and she knew that she could wait it out through any hell that came her way.
She had indeed become a very curious breed of fearless…while still quite often being incredibly frightened.
…and that’s OK.