Copyright J. S. Raynor 2017
Chapter Six : A chance to escape
Raffaele and his younger siblings were helping their mother in the kitchen. This was much preferable to being in the room with Enrico, their brutal, intolerant father.
Dolores, a sullen, eleven-year old, who closely resembled her mother, was helping Maria to find pieces of beef which were not already rotten. There seemed to be more bad meat than good, but, eventually, they managed to collect enough to make a simple stew. Raffaele was busy preparing vegetables to include in the pan. Marco, an energetic eight-year old was washing dishes in the sink, while five-year old Rico was drying the dishes, ready for their dinner. Isabella, after being dosed with medicine, was now sleeping in a small cot, not far from her worried mother.
The smell of the stew cooking cheered up the children, since it was rare to have a decent meal with the little money that was available. They were all aware that their situation would not be so precarious if Enrico would forsake his beer and cigarettes for the good of the family or, even better, seek employment, but this was unlikely to happen.
Eventually, the dinner was ready and, although the children were looking forward to their meal, Enrico’s presence in the kitchen was feared by all.
As Maria finished serving the stew, she signalled to Raffaele.
Plucking up courage, he gingerly opened the door. “Dinner is ready, Papa.” He wished he could have sounded more grown-up, but his intimidating father had always weakened his resolve.
Enrico did not bother to switch the television off and looked half-asleep as he came into the kitchen and, without saying a word. He sat sullenly at the head of the table. All were silent as they began their meal. Enrico chewed on a piece of meat and, to everybody’s disgust, spat the meat out on to the plate, splashing gravy over the table. ”This food is shit!”
Maria grabbed a cloth and began dabbing the spreading stain on the threadbare tablecloth.
“Stop fussing, woman!” Enrico grabbed at his wife’s hair, but, at that instant, both adults disappeared into thin air.
There was a stunned silence as the children stared in amazement at the space where their parents had been only a few seconds ago. It was Marco who spoke first. “Where have Mama and Papa gone?”
With increasing consternation, they looked at the chair where their father had been sitting a few moments ago. Now, all that remained was a pile of the few scruffy clothes he had been wearing.
Raffaele blinked his eyes, as if this might make a difference. “Perhaps God has taken them, to save mama from Papa’s cruelty.”
“If that was true, he would have left Mama to look after us. We could have managed without that cruel beast!” Dolores stated the feelings common to all the children.
After the initial shock, the children decided that, since they could do nothing about their parents’ disappearance, they might as well continue with their meal. At least, they appreciated the food, even though the meat was a little on the high side.
After their meal, Raffaele went into the living room, thinking he had better switch the television off. He stared in amazement at the screen. A few minutes earlier, the players had been moving swiftly around the ground, cheered loudly by thousands of spectators. Now, there was just a ball and the odd-looking piles of shorts, shirts and boots on the pitch, yet no players and no spectators. There was not even a commentary. The awful truth that all adults had vanished in an instant, hit him hard. He switched the set off and ran into the kitchen.
“It’s not just Mama and Papa who disappeared. I think there are no grown-ups left in the world.”
“But, why? Why would God leave us on our own?” Dolores looked despairingly at her brother. “We really need Mama.” She began to cry, her shoulders shaking from the shock of her loss.
Unusually, Raffaele hugged his sister. “Don’t cry, Dolores. We’ll manage, somehow.” He really hoped there could be a future for the five of them.
Feeling at a loss, Raffaele took charge and suggested that they all go to bed and Dolores, accepting the role of her mother, took responsibility for Isabella.
When his brothers and sisters were settled down, Raffaele slipped out of the house and visited his friend, who lived a few houses away. His worst fears were realised as, Jose related how his parents had also suddenly disappeared. To make it even worse, his twenty-year old brother had similarly vanished into thin air, confirming their worst fears.
With a heavy heart, Raffaele returned home, his role as the head of the household being confirmed. He wrapped a blanket around himself and lay down on the floor, near to his brothers and sisters and tried, with great difficulty to sleep. What was to become of them? Would his parents return? If only his mother was there, he knew everything would be alright, but he had an awful feeling that this world without adults was now permanent. He managed only short, fitful spells of sleep and, by six the next morning, he arose, tired and worried. Without disturbing the others, he slipped quietly out of the house. The morning sun was already hot as he weaved his way through the maze of small, ramshackle houses. At last, he entered a more affluent area, where he headed for one house in particular. Maria, Raffaele’s mother had earned a few extra pesos by cleaning for an elderly woman in the house on the corner in front of him. He reasoned that, if the old woman had gone, the children could take over her house and live in greater comfort.
Doubts began to fill his mind. What would happen if only the poor adults had disappeared, leaving the wealthy ones alive? Then, he thought of the ball game and how everybody had disappeared, regardless of wealth. He went around the back of the house and pushed at the kitchen door. It swung open silently. Cautiously, he slipped inside and wandered around the building. He expected that, at any minute, the old woman would appear and ask what he was doing there. It was with great relief that he found the house to be completely empty. Now he knew what to do. He ran back home and quickly woke up the others.
“What is it?” Dolores was tired and felt annoyed at being disturbed by Raffaele.
“Quickly, all of you. Get up and dressed. Pack some clothes into any bags you can find. I’ve discovered a new home for us.”
“Is Mama there?” The look on Marco’s face showed that he still hoped for the comfort of his mother’s arms.
Raffaele hung his head and shook it slowly. “I wish I could say that she is there, but no… She’s gone.”
Dolores held Isabella, while the boys carried what few belongings they had, following their brother. When they reached the big house on the corner, Raffaele pointed, saying, “That’s were we are going to live. A mansion of our own.”
As they entered through the kitchen, Rico said, “It smells of old people.”
Dolores eyes sparkled on seeing the extent and luxury within this house. “We can soon get rid of that, no problem.” The four of them ran from room to room, seeing what was there to discover.
Stopping for a moment, Marco said, “What happens if the old lady comes back?”
Rico said with a cheeky smile, “We will just say that we were looking after the house while she was away.”
The others laughed at his answer.
In a more serious tone, Raffaele said, “I just hope she has some food in the kitchen.” They wandered into the huge kitchen area and began to look for anything to eat. It seemed as though the old woman had quite a sweet tooth, as they found masses of sweets, chocolate bars, cookies, fresh fruit and fresh juice. Not used to such luxuries, they all over indulged, particularly on the chocolate bars. Marco, with mouth nearly full and chocolate smudged on his lips had a sudden thought. “Does this mean that we don’t need to go to school any more?”
Raffaele laughed. “Well, you can still go there, if you want, but there won’t be any teachers to shout at you for getting things wrong!”
They all laughed and clapped their hands in excitement. Just twenty-four hours earlier they would have been in serious trouble with Enrico for making such noise, but, now, they felt the exhilaration of freedom from their tyrannical father.
After eating their fill, the children had a look at the bedrooms. Although the old woman lived on her own, there was a second bedroom and, best of all, there were actually beds. Real beds! After years of sleeping in rough blankets on the floor, this was pure luxury.
When the children walked into the en-suite bathroom, their eyes grew wide in amazement at the sight before them. Never had they seen a proper bath or a flushing toilet and, without shyness, they all queued patiently to use the convenience.
When they had all exhausted their curiosity, Raffaele spoke quietly to Dolores. “I’m just going back to the house to get a few more of our belongings. Will you look after them?”
“Yes, of course, but don’t be long.”
Raffaele left the house and made his way back to the shack that had been his home for the past fifteen years. It seemed very strange as he gathered some more belongings and pushed them into a couple of carrier bags. He would not miss this place of so many bad memories and hurried to get out, once again.
As he left, his friend, who he had spoken to on the previous evening, saw him. “Raffaele! I called and found nobody at home.”
“We moved out to a proper house in the suburbs. Why did you want me, Jose?”
“I’ve been talking to a few of my friends about what we should do, now that there seems to be no adults. Pep’s father had driven the school bus and Pepe, after learning from his father, feels that he could drive us anywhere we wanted to go.”
Raffaele looked puzzled. “But, why would you want to go away from the area?”
“Because we can!” Was Jose’s simple answer. “Just think of it – we could go anywhere and there is nobody to stop us.”
“But where would we go? We know just where we are if we stay here.”
“True. But, what would you say if I told you that we were thinking of going to universal studios and Disneyworld in Florida?”
Raffaele’s jaw visibly dropped at the thought of going to the place where most poor Mexican children could only dream of. “But, how?”
“Just think of it, Raffaele. There’s no more President Trump and no border patrols, so no problems getting into America, any more.” A huge smile lit Jose’s face at the thought of freedom of movement throughout the country.
“We don’t need any money as we can just take what we want and the bus can fit about forty children.”
“It sounds good”, Raffaele admitted. “When?”
“Tomorrow morning. Pepe is busy filling the bus and making certain that it is ready for such a long run.”
“ Let me speak to the others. If they agree, then we will be here, tomorrow morning.”
As Raffaele returned to their new home, he had mixed feelings. The idea excited him, but it would mean moving out of their new-found luxurious accommodation.
Dolores could see the troubled look on Raffaele’s face, as he returned. “What’s wrong?”
He quickly explained his dilemma.
The idea did appeal to Dolores, yet she said, “We need to ask Marco and Rico. If we do it, we do it as a family.”
He agreed and they, without delay, explained the idea to the younger boys.
“Will I get to meet Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse and all the others?” Rico was excited at the idea.
“I hope so”, Raffaele lied. He felt certain that all the Disney characters were just ordinary people in costumes, so was doubtful about keeping the promise. Marco was equally keen to see the magic of Disney and, although they now had a comfortable lifestyle in their new house, the attractions of Florida were too strong to resist.
For the rest of that day, the four children enjoyed the foods they could find, while Dolores made certain that Isabella had enough nourishment.
That night, for the first time in their lives, all five children slept in comfortable beds. Somehow, it seemed a shame to lose this for an uncertain future many miles away, but the life-changing decision had been made.
Copyright J. S. Raynor, 2013, 2017
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