Malkah was two. Or maybe three. Or somewhere inbetween. I don't remember. I only remember one thing about that moment. And that would be the door.
The door was huge. And the adults who answered the door seemed huge as well. Malkah had been taught, I guess, her politesse. She was dressed as well as she could be. She was soft spoken and polite.
The door opened. And so she said,
"Hello Mr and Mrs S—" and the two of them loomed over her from inside.
The door opened wide enough for her to step inside. I think she had a little bag of stuff with her. A change of clothes, probably.
The house smelled funny. Not bad, just funny. Unfamiliar. Later Malkah would identify that smell as cooking smells. But I don't remember what. So. Smells, the first impression. That's more the point.
The door closed with a decisive click.
And he smacked her one. Loud and hard, right across the face.
"That's for not calling me 'daddy,'" he said.
He glared down at her. His jowls had turned bright red.
Here's what I wonder.
I wonder if anyone had bothered to tell her what was about to happen.
I wonder if she had any idea of how long she would be staying.
I wonder if she had visitors.
And most of all—
I wonder what that first day must have felt like.
All I know, is that after dinner the whole extended 'family' went into the living room to watch TV. Papa bear sat in his big overstuffed arm chair. That was the only thing that Malkah noticed. The only thing that mattered.
She found in her hand a giant pair of scissors.
Quietly, she slipped behind Mr. S's chair and sat on the floor behind him. She grabbed a handful of her long dark hair.
And started cutting.
The sound of cutting. Soothing and safe.
Until the yelling started all over again. And the smacking. And the burning.