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La Don-a: The Rise of the Swan - 3

Updated: Apr 22

Author's Note: Warning this chapter of this Historical YA contains domestic violence, child abuse and mentioned/implications of rape.


3 Glasses of Champagne: To the strings on the puppet master


“It’s so nice of Salazar to bring such a treat for us to enjoy…” A man jeered like a snarling tiger staring down their prey.


“Watch it! Moretti’s got his eyes on that one.” A shorter man's eyes widened and looked around worried that his friends words would get them in trouble.


“Damn! That’s too bad, maybe when he’s done...” The friend was not deterred and instead licked his lips obscenely so.


“Do you really think there would be anything left when he’s done…?”


Two men hackled and laughed like wild hyenas but with the faces of a walrus and a rat. Their target was a thirteen year old girl yet they seemed completely unbothered and amused by it, even though she could be their daughter or granddaughter. Geraldine glared in disgust at the words that they weren't even trying to hide from her and the behavior of supposed grown men, although it was not the first time so she was used to it. Every night she walked into the tavern behind her father the perverted men with no morals would hackle her like the wild animals they condemn. It was jarring at first but over time she grew used to the behavior although she did go through stages before she reached that point. Stage one was confusion, followed by fear and then came insecurity; their words made her hated her appearance which made her angry at them for making her feel that way -that stage got her a few beatings from her father for making him look bad by cursing like a man instead of a lady.


“I did learn a lot of useful words and phrases that I get to use today, so it wasn’t a complete waste…”


The one thing she could appreciated about her situation was the fact that being consider Joey Moretti's offer certain privileges although she was still too naive to figure out what a woman belonging to a man truly meant. She got a twisted satisfaction watching them tremble under Joey’s glare and at the time that was enough for her. They were big strong men to hackle a little girl but when it came to the man that was twice their junior they all trembled and wet themselves like scared puppies.


Joseph Moretti had grown into himself from the silent smart mouth to a calculating man at twenty-three, he always seemed to have a plan or a solution for everything. He had a darkness in his eyes and that surrounded him like a cloak that felt a lot like a silent bomb that could explode at any moment and had the power to destroy entire cities. The darkness only grew more menacing as he got older, Joey’s anger did not discriminate and Geraldine even saw him slap his own mother when she tried to get him to go home. That was the moment when she knew that she was not and will never be safe with this man or from his wrath. To Geraldine the man was much like Miguel, much like her father his appearance was deceiving; while Miguel held the traditionally Spanish looks, Joey was all Italian with olive skin, black hair with sild curls that in the last few years was always swept back and shiny as well as bright golden green eyes. He had grown taller and wider over the years, according to the girls and women that hung around, he was dreamy but all Geraldine saw was the fangs and claws beneath the soft fur of that wolf.


“I knew that I was a deer in the wolf’s lair and that he was just playing with me but once he grew hungry…”


“You would be the first thing he goes for.” Helen finished for Geraldine with a sympathetic look that the older woman ignored because a woman like her did not want nor needed pity from anyone.


“Exactly, it was all a game that I wasn’t aware I was playing or even knew the rules to if I wanted to play, despite that for my own survival I needed to be able to win.”


Like he did every night, Miguel led his young daughter to the Moretti table like a farmer leading his cow to slaughter. For the rest of their time there -which was until Joseph grew bored and sent them away- she was meant to keep Joseph entertained. The location had changed from a tavern Joseph’s family owned to a pharmacy that was the front for a tavern. With the new laws many tavern and bar owners have had to get creative to hide their businesses and the Moretti’s were no exception. Even with that she had always thought that Joey was just the arrogant son of a tavern turn pharmacy hiding a Drum [speakeasy] owner but over the last months she began to realize that Joseph was much more than that. Everyone seemed to fear him and listen to him -and it was for much more than his dangerous temper-, sometimes people would come up to him and beg at his feet if his father wasn’t present. Those times the man would send her to the bar with a patronizing “go nibble one, doll.” Geraldine had grown to hate the term but as brave as she thought herself to be she knew that Joseph was different from Miguel, it was like comparing a snake to a worm.


“Don’t call me that. I have a name, use it.” Although she could not fully control her mouth, fortunately it hadn’t gotten her pop[kill]…yet. The first time she did that she got a gasp from everyone around them and everything suddenly went silent but Joseph simply laughed like she was a clown at the circus that sprayed him with water, might be disrespectful but it still amused him.


“...she has fire, I like that!”


Her father had scolded her the first time, almost beating her but stopped being too scared that it would anger Joseph as the man had glared when he saw a bruise on her cheek one time. This time she couldn’t stop herself although she was smart enough to not do it when the man was clearly in a bad mood. One of the first things she learned about Joseph was how to read his moods because they were what kept those around him alive, he was like the psychotic English king she read about in history books. Geraldine had seen the man break a bottle on another man’s face as everyone just turned a fearful blind eye to it. It was the modern version of “off with her head…” That time she had flinched and gasped loudly, it was her first time seeing such violence, even her father mostly used his hands or a belt to beat them. Joseph had taken it so casually although his eyes were like amber flames that would even scare the devil. “you see that, you upset my girl…” It had been a shock for the young girl who at the time was only eleven to watch the bleeding man be dragged away begging for mercy that most likely was never given.


“Why is there no music?” The man demanded and immediately the music had started to play and everything went on like nothing happened, no one asked any questions and Geraldine was too scared to even bring the issue up.


“This was a few months before the government had implemented the 18th Amendment which banned the manufacturing and sale of Giggle Juice although somehow people like the Moretti’s knew what was coming and seemed to be able to prepare. Everyone had thought that it was just the new craze to have a hidden gin mill [bar], they loved keeping the secret and feeling like they were somewhere exclusive. The hidden gin mills also had no rules or restrictions which was an extra incentive for the people. Women could party as hard or even harder than the man, Canaries [woman singing] would get up on stage or just flirt without the consequences of being branded a chippy [woman of easy virtue]. It felt like a safe space for women that wanted to have fun, of course no place was truly safe for women but it felt like a judgment free space mainly because everyone was too smoked [drunk] to care or even really remember. At the time only those with some power or connections knew what was brewing in Washington and what was coming our way.” Geraldine explained to the young woman, she knew now Washington was just corrupted, they pretend to look out for the people's interest while behind closed doors only care about their own. At the time of the Prohibition they had told some bar owners and distributors about the law that would implemented because although they voted for it, they didn't really want alcohol ban. It is the hypocrisy of politics and politicians, she had not respect for any of them. She stared at the young girl who was busy writing and she wondered why such a naive girl would wanted to join such a club.


“When it finally hit, I thought that the religious nuts had their first orgasm, they were practically wet with excitement while the ones like Miguel that had giggle juice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, were very upset. At first most people found their way around the situation, seeing as doctors were still allowed to prescribe alcohol for medical purposes suddenly a bunch of people had conditions that required an alcohol prescription -you got to admire the ingenuity of an addict- the law was already very vague, the old bastards in Washington made it that way on purpose. They did not want to pass this as much as the people did not want it passed.” Helen looked up at those words, she seemed startled by the older woman's declaration. Geraldine rolled her eyes; in her opinion there were only two people that wanted to go into politics, they were the extremely naive that believed they could make a difference and the very greed that saw an opportunity to gain power and wealth at the expense of the people that were stupid enough to believe that they actually cared.


“Also a lot more people started going to church for the sacred wine that got a little stronger and less sacred. It was a free for all but I didn’t really care since I wasn’t much of a drinker, except that I got to meet my father sober for the first time in my life and to my shock he was actually much more tolerable. So to me this prohibition seemed like a good thing but I didn’t know that there was much more being planned under the table than what we were all seeing and hearing. The puppet masters were being controlled by someone much more powerful, whose appearance was very deceiving. ”

 

Miles away from New York but only steps from Washington D.C in Richmond, Virginia stood a grand red brick colonial home that screamed money and prestige. The brick was bright red while the moldings and accents were crisp white. Stairs led up to the porch that was held up by bright white columns that were only found in palaces and grand city halls, the top served as a balcony as if for a king to address his people. The windows and door were wrapped in elegant molding, the door was made of a rich wood that was framed by elaborate metal lanterns that lit brightly in the night like beacons. It was all grand from the minor details to the bigger accents, it seemed that every aspect of the house was crafted with care or strict instructions. The inside continued the grandness with a crystal chandelier, paneled walls, and rich oak wood floors. The ceilings made it seem as if someone larger than life lived there, it was a miniature palace fit for monarchs. Rich wood bookcases covered the study making it dark yet classic, it screamed that important decisions were made there. Behind a mahogany desk sat a woman celebrating her great accomplishment. The desk dwarfed her smaller frame but at the same time she seemed to carry herself with an air of power and confidence that also made it seem too small.


Gertrude Jones ‘nee’ Allerton likes to view herself as a simple woman, who’s only aspiration was to be a doting wife and a good mother much like her own mother before her. She was born to a blue blood family that were practically royalty in American politics, some even fought for the country’s freedom alongside George Washington which earned them the respect of all good patriots. Growing up she never wanted nor needed anything, her father was a senator that earned a great deal and provided for them while her mother was the perfect wife. She was the one to teach Gertrude everything she knew about being a wife and mother, unfortunately the great Lord did not bless her with children but she had made sure to be a doting and devoted wife. If she turned a blind eye to her husband’s indiscretions then that was her penance for failing at providing him with a child. She had made sure that her life, her every being was devoted to her husband and what made him happy. She was never anything but spotless and put together, always wore the latest fashion but modest, never showed too much skin or sometimes none at all -using high collars and long sleeves, the Virginia harsh winters and cool summers really helped her with that-, her blonde hair was always flawless, never a strand out of place because her husband thought that it was too messy and that, loose hair tempted man and provoke impure thoughts. “I do not want my wife to draw that sort of attention. You are not a whore!” She wore very limited makeup only to conceal and keep the appearance, every bit the natural beauty she was raised to be.


Gertrude reads the newspaper that declared the new law of prohibition has taken effect and she rejoices that the devil’s juice will no longer cloud the minds of Americans and lead them to sin as it did her husband “May God forgive him…” Losing her husband to alcohol had been hard but Gertrude knew that it was God’s way of leading her down the right path. She knew that she was doing the Lord’s work and she was proud of that because in the end that was all that mattered. Gertrude would continue doing God’s work until he called her to him.


“I didn’t know it back then but Gertrude was the puppeteer behind the ‘puppet masters’ in Washington. She was a woman above men even at twenty-eight years as she was at that time. As much as she later became a thorn in my side, I admired her for her ability to manipulate men and still make them think they were in charge. She had the skill of commanding from the shadows down to an art form and she was Picasso, unfortunately Gertrude was the type of woman that much like men in power believed this art should only be mastered by her and no one else. She didn’t share the wealth or the knowledge with other women or even tried to change our situation. Gertrude just cared about herself although she did a good job about showing otherwise.”


Gertrude smiled at the letters she got from senators asking for her support which meant they wanted her to donate a hefty amount to their campaign. With Elections coming soon she had known that it was the perfect time to push the agenda that God had assigned her. “Madame, the ladies have arrived…” a servant stood at the door of the study, her head down deeply barely hiding the scarring that covered half of her once beautiful and young face. Gertrude stared at the poor servant that had once lost her way. Just a lost little lamb that she had to corral back to the light, like a good catholic she helped the young servant back on the path of good but even Gertrude could not save her from the penance she had to bear. Ever since that day the servant has been the image of everything a servant and woman of low birth should be.



“Gertrude always envisioned herself the female Jesus, the daughter of God that was sent here to perform miracles and save us mortals.” Geraldine rolled her eyes, it was such a waste that a woman so powerful had such a stupid weakness.


“And she wasn’t?” The older woman stared at Helen as if wondering if she was serious or just trying to be funny.


“No...” Geraldine assumed that by now it was obvious that no one she talked about was or will remain innocent as the story progress. “She was the complete opposite, but you have to admire the woman because she had everyone fooled, even at one point…me.”


As Gertrude rose from her chair the servant flinched and tried to make herself even smaller than she was like a turtle hiding in her shell. “At ease child, you have atone for your sins so you have no need to worry for the Lord’s wrath will not fall upon you.” The words were meant to be reassuring but they held a certain edge to them that spoke of a deeper meaning. Almost a menacing threat like a lion covered in flowers. At that point the young servant was trembling so badly that she could not stay in one place but had to force herself not to flee. She knew what her mistress meant and she knew how easily the woman punished others in the name of God. Whether a person was guilty or not, it did not matter as long as Gertrude believed them to be guilty. She was police, lawyer, judge, jury, jailor and executioner all in one unassuming package that left many unsettled. The older woman’s soft brown eyes seemed kind while her blonde hair almost made her look like an angel but it was all a disguise.


“Unless you have committed another sin?”


“No! I would never do such a thing. I have learned my lesson after your punis…”


“The Lord…! It was the Lord’s punishment. He was the one to punish you, do not forget that.”


“Of course, forgive me.”


Gertrude dismissed the servant as she checked her appearance, she had an image to uphold and she had to always be immaculate at all times. Her black knee length dress expressed her state of mourning despite being more than a year since her husband’s death. The dress was still designer in accordance with her prestige. Her black shoes shined more than a freshly clean mirror and it was accented by also black laced stockings and gloves. Gertrude’s golden hair was always kept high and tight, without a strand out of place, something that stood with her even after her husband passed away. She was the image of a dignified and proper lady of high society, a modest housewife and devoted daughter of God. She left the study holding the gold and jeweled crucifix that was in her family long before America was founded. It was said to have been given to them by the Pope at the time. Gertrude walked into the parlor to be greeted by a group of women all conservatively dressed much like her but none with her beauty and elegance.


“Ladies, are you ready to continue the Lord’s work?”


“Yes!”


The resounding yes made Gertrude smile, ever since she took over the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), she has made sure to lead them down the right path instead of the extremist one they had been following. Gertrude focused on more important issues, the ones that women should be focusing on and while they have lost some members, under her command they were still going strong.


“First, let us celebrate a great victory.” There was a pause as the ladies cheered “We have done it ladies, we got rid of the devil’s juice that has been tempting so many of our husbands and sons. It is just proof that the Lord is on our side, we are on the right path towards salvation!”


“Amen!”


“Yea, the woman was a little off and unfortunately she had a group of followers that she could infect with her craziness.”


“But isn’t this a good thing? Another woman in power opens the door for other women…”


“Unless it’s not done right or if the woman closes the door behind her. Look at the first woman senator, when her term was up she supported the man running for her position instead of the other woman. When asked she said ‘not all women can handle what I do.’ See that’s the problem with women, we so rarely get power that when we do we all want to believe that it was because we were special and worked hard for it, which more often than not it is, but the problem is that we also want to be the only one. The first but also the only woman to do something, we don’t share the spotlight once we have it. Once we break through the iron doors we close them so that if other women want to get where we are, they would have to do it all themselves as we have. They would have to make the sacrifices, take the pain and push their way through. They all believed 'why should I make it easy for some other woman when it wasn’t easy for me' and unfortunately more think like this than like you.”


“Is that what you think as well?” The young woman sounded like a child asking their mother if she loved them and being worrying that the answer would be 'no' but they still wanted to know.


“If it was, I wouldn't have taken the time to talk to you, let alone listen to your request for my support in your endeavor. I’m saying this because if you truly want to be the first female president of the United States, you have to know that in this country and the world, you want to be involved in, the men aren’t the only obstacles you will face. You will learn that women are far more vicious and have longer nails that cannot only hurt but also kill.”


“Like yours?”


“No one has nails like mine, you should remember that before you have them directed at you.”


“Anyways,” the immediate change of tone was jarring as the woman went from dangerous and deadly to calm and casual, “...let's go back to New York, so prohibition had started but people got pretty creative, this was where the American ingenuity shined. Beside priests and doctors many were finding their own way around the law, like bootleggers and rum runners. In those times everyone became a bootlegger. Since the IRS couldn’t keep up with enforcing the law, people were even making alcohol in the bath tubs of their own homes. When command was transferred to the BP or Bureau of Prohibition things got dangerous but people were willing to take the risk. This was when Joseph’s family began to rise from simple business owners and loan sharks -later turned Drum owner- to gangsters. The family became well-known in New York as the people you did not want to mess with. They had more power than the idiots that governed the city and the whole state. But while his family was rising…my own family was falling lower than the lowest low.”


“What happened?”


“My mother’s meager pay wasn’t cutting it and Stella gave all her money to Miguel who drank it all, so things were tight. Even her pay wasn’t enough to satisfy the man’s thirst so he turned to his favorite money making scheme, he sold another one of us…”


When Miguel made the announcement no one reacted, they all knew that it was coming and were resigned to their fate. Apparently the man owed money to a Drum owner, money he didn’t have which meant that one of them had to pay it. This time it was the seventeen years old Dorothy’s turn and the news completely shattered Stella while surprising everyone else. It was the second time that Miguel had skipped the second oldest in favor of a younger child. Although Geraldine wasn’t surprised as Stella was the only one that listened and gave their father all her money so he could drink. Even Miguel could see the lost in marrying off the twenty two year old. “But father, what about me? I'm older than Dorothy and Anna yet I am still not married, have I done something to upset you?” It was the first time that Stella had talked back to her father although her voice was soft and her tone docile, for someone like Miguel it would still be considered talking back.


“I was actually impressed and for the first time felt a little pity for her. Out of all of us Stella was the only one that actually wanted a husband, she wanted to do all things that women were ‘supposed’ to want to do. Which in my opinion made her a brain dead idiot but I try to never fault anyone for their desires, no matter how stupid they were.”


“Are you questioning my decision?” The dangerous tone in the man’s voice had them all stepping back and away from striking range. It was filled with a promise many of them have already felt and had no interest in feeling again.


“I would never do such a thing father! I just…will I not make a good wife?”


To the side thirteen year old Geraldine rolled her eyes and gagged as her little sister hid behind her like she did whenever their father was in the room. At eight years old Elsie was a quiet child, even more so than Anna ever was, but Geraldine realized that the little girl was an observer and within that silence hid a brilliant mind. Over the years Elsie had grown into a real beauty almost like a doll, she seemed to have gotten all of their parents best physical qualities.


“She got mother’s light honey colored eyes and plump lips but Miguel’s wavy black hair and delicate features as well as lighter almost milky white complexion although that could also be due to the fact that she was hardly allowed outside. The few times Elsie had ventured outside people would stop and admire her almost ethereal and perfect beauty, some tried to convenience Ruth to have the little girl model, parents tried to ‘reserve’ her for their son’s and some didn’t even have sons, while the more perverted ones wanted her for themselves despite being almost ten times her seniors. Miguel insisted that for her own protection she had to stay home and take care of the house while we all worked, he even refused her getting an education although once I started going to school I made sure I shared the knowledge I got with her, which wasn’t really much.”


When Geraldine was home the little girl would become her shadow and was the only one to know about her older sister’s gift. They both stood in the background and watched as Stella ‘stood up’ to their father. Geraldine thought that her sister’s bravery was nothing but a joke, in her opinion what she was fighting for was not worth it. She thought that if her sister was dying on a hill, it might as well be a good one.


“You will be married when I say you are ready,”


“In other words, whenever you need to pay another debt.”


“Geraldine!” Ruth whispered harshly as she heard her daughter mumble, Dorothy elbowed her as if to warn her against poking the sleeping lion.


“What was that?!” Miguel used a tone that Geraldine had long stopped being scared of, the man had shown her all he could do and she was no longer scared of him although she was scared for her mother and sisters.


“Nothing, I was just wondering when we get to meet the groom.” Miguel knew that was not what she said, his second youngest had become quite rebellious in her teen years and had been challenging him at every turn. The beatings seemed to stop working on her but fortunately punishing her sisters and mother seemed to still work so the man knew he still had control but at the same time he could feel it slipping. Miguel knew that Geraldine was trouble, there was something about her that put him on edge as if she was somehow a danger to him. He didn’t like her lack of fear even if he could still control her and he knew that he would have to get rid of her soon before she thought that she could actually challenge him or even worse began infecting his little princess.

Eventually a slap to the face stopped Stella’s moment of bravery and pushed her back to quiet obedience. Geraldine rolled her eyes at the clear lack of backbone from her older sister, despite eyes glossing over with tears Stella glared at her younger sister shoving her harshly as she went to hide and lick her wounds. Geraldine could not help but hiss at how hot Stella felt, it felt as if she had touched the radiator during the rare occasions in winter when it was turned on for a few minutes, hours if they were lucky or the landlord was in a good mood. She found it strange but focused on Dorothy who actually seemed excited to be married off and wanted everyone else to share her excitement.


“I wonder what he would be like? Where does he live? What does he do…?” Ruth smiled at her daughter, she was happy that at least one of her girls seemed happy about their situation. She knew that both Margarita and Anna were not happy, Margarita was always busy or overworked and Anna they barely had any contact with. She hoped that Dorothy would not be the same, she hoped that the girl’s bright and happy energy will carry her through and keep the smile on her face no matter what.


The woman turned to watch her youngest daughter and she could not help but hope that Elsie would be next. She knew that the girl was far too young but she was beginning to worry about her husband’s protectiveness over her youngest. From any other father the gesture would be comforting and even sweet but from Miguel it was worrying especially because he had never shown that level of protection or care, for any of their other daughters. She also noticed how the man avoided beating Elsie and that the little girl was practically Geraldine’s shadow. Elsie would even get teary whenever the girl had to leave. It all painted a horrifying picture of things to come that she wanted to avoid.


“What if he’s like Miguel?!” Dorothy exclaimed pulling Ruth out of her thoughts, Geraldine simply shrugged her shoulders.


“In that case better look up ways to bop [to kill] him…”


“Geraldine! I swear, your father should stop taking you to that place. You are learning bad habits…” Ruth knew that it was a bad idea to take Geraldine to that speakeasy filled with flappers and flaming youth [male flapper] as well as trouble boys [gangsters] but all her concern got her was a black eye that left her blind in one eye for days. She knew that someone as curious as Geraldine, in the impressionable age she was in, would only learn and copy bad habits from people like that.


“What? You don’t want her to end up like you, right?”


Ruth flinched, those words stung more than Ruth showed but she knew that her daughter was not wrong, she didn’t want any of her daughters to end up like her. “But violence is never the answer. You don’t fight fire with fire, you fight it with water…” Ruth noticed the light in Geraldine’s eyes and she wondered if the girl would take her words as approval to do something dangerous. “Geraldine…” Ruth had hoped that after her talk with the girl, she would understand the gravity of the situation but she knew Geraldine still used her magic. She caught the girl making ice sculptures in the bathroom to make Elsie smile. Fortunately the young girl kept the use of her magic very minor, only doing trivial things and most importantly only when no one but Elsie was present. She had even refused to use her magic in front of Ruth and it hurt because it felt like her daughter did not trust her. Although her heightened sense of smell had helped them a lot since she could smell her father a block away.


“The bastard had a very distinct scent that made me sick, it was like alcohol mixed with sweat and a smell that could only be described as unbathed man. Every time I smelled it, I wanted to barf but I had to hold it in. When he was in the house the smell that I later recognized as the smell of sex joined him even when my mother wasn’t home. That was how I figured it out…”


“Figured what out?”


“That Miguel Salazar was an even bigger monster than we all thought. See, I was mostly in school; somehow I got Joseph to convince Miguel to let me attend although it was in exchange of a kiss but I really wanted to learn so at the time I thought it was worth it. I thought that if I became smart I could make lots of money and get my mother and sister out of the hell we lived in. But I didn’t realize that there were hurdles put in place for women not to succeed, so that we would give up and go back to being the pretty and abused dolls of our husbands. I was just walking down a path many women have tried to walk down and failed as they were intended to.”


Geraldine stared at the massive brick building despite it having the look of a nut house, the bars of a prison and the feel of an orphanage. There were children playing outside almost as if enjoying their last moments of freedom. Geraldine remembers her first day in school, she had been so excited that she almost caused a small snow storm over her head and it was the end of summer so that would not have been taken well. Small flurries still followed her around but fortunately only Elsie noticed and the little girl simply found it amusing. The first day of class had been horrible, it was a rude awakening to the world she was walking into. Most of her teachers either ignored her in favor of the boys or simply scolded her for wanting to learn. They obviously did not have money for the uniform but fortunately a bootlegger in their building had a son that had gone to school and had given them the old uniform in exchange for their silence. She had been so happy and had washed the uniform extra well to make it presentable but others did not approve.


“You’re a girl, you must dress like it!”


Wearing a boys uniform got her sent to the principal's office and scolded before she was sent home for inappropriate behavior. She probably did not help her case by talking back but she had found the situation infuriating and stupid.


“Unless you’re going to buy me a girl's uniform, I will continue to wear the one I have!”


Those words got her suspended for a week, Miguel had been furious despite never caring about her schooling before. That beating was one of the worst but she just took a bath and healed as much as she could without drawing attention to it. Geraldine still wanted to learn despite the horrible teachers so she borrowed her books from her classmates since she couldn’t afford her own and studied. She knew that Miguel was given money for her from Joseph but she never saw that money and she didn’t have enough interest in it to ask or demand it. To her it was just something she would need to owe to the gangster. Her mother had tried to give her some money but Miguel had found out and beat her so bad that were it not for Geraldine’s powers the woman would have no doubt died. It was almost as if the whole world was telling her that she was not meant to get an education. Not really ‘as if’ the world was literally telling her that she was not meant to get an education, at least not the one she wanted, some even out right said it for there to be no doubt.


“As long as you can cook, clean and open your legs then you’re fine. That is all a woman needs to know.”


But she refused to give up and she was back every day after her suspension. She sat in her seat in the back -where her teacher had sent her off too because she was disrupting the class with all her questions- and waited for class to begin. Her favorite teacher tried to explain things to her and advised her to keep her head down but that was not who she was. Geraldine was not someone to lower their heads and take the blows or at least that was not who she wanted to be. She let her mother braid her hair into pigtails to make her more approachable. The woman even boiled water and used the boiling water pot to iron out her uniform. It had become a little tight around her hips which Geraldine noticed got her more looks and even made some of her teachers nicer while others were even more cruel. They all whispered how obscene it was but despite that she was never asked or ordered to change or was suspended again. She had never understood why women played dumb or helpless around men until many of her classmates tried to help her and the teachers offered to tutor her which translated into watching her like perverts and her letting them touch her a little too friendly.


“You will learn my dear that men don’t like women to be smarter than them. They feel threatened,”


“Why should it be my job to make them feel secure?”


“Because a threatened man is a dangerous man.”


While Geraldine was at school, back home Elsie had been left alone to take care of the house. She was in the process of doing laundry when she heard the door open. Her whole body began to shake and she felt what little she had to eat push up her throat trying to get out as the familiar footsteps grew closer. They were followed by the voice that haunted her nightmares, she knew it was coming but she had hoped she had more time to get some chores done, her mother was beginning to wonder “where is my little princess?” Elsie counted the hours until her big sister would come home, she almost dared to pray that she would come earlier. But she knew it would just upset them and put them in danger so she took a deep breath before walking out the bathroom.


“Here I am father.”


“Come sit on your papa’s lap.”


“He wouldn’t…?!” Where it not for the anger and disgust that refreshed itself at the memory, Geraldine would have been impressed that the young woman put two and two together. It seems she wasn't as naive as she seemed, at least not in certain things.


“Oh he would. Like I said Miguel was an even bigger monster than men like Joseph. He preyed on the weak and innocent to fulfill his perverted desires.” The older woman snarl like a ferocious wolf being faced with someone hurting their pup.


“How could you not know or notice?! I mean with your enhanced senses…” Helen backpedaled once again remembering who she was in front of and what this woman was capable of.


“Like I said before Elsie was smart, she was the only one that knew what my element and my sense was. Miguel did a good job at filling her with so much fear that the idea of us finding out was scarier than what she was going through. She bathed every time after, I could almost smell it on Miguel but I always figured he was bringing someone over although he always had an undertone of Elsie’s scent on him but my sister made sure to always smell different so that smell could just as easily have been from someone else.” It was clear from the tone and expression that the woman still carried the guilt and fury of not noticing before things got so bad that they permanently scarred Elsie.


“Why would she protect him?”


“She wasn’t protecting him, in her mind she was protecting us.”








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