Three times Dosia had tried to speak to her on their walk across town. Each time, Marcelina had quieted her with a look. She was furious. Too furious to speak and she’d even thought that maybe Jory had been right. Maybe she should have let him handle it. Well, too late now.
The door to the church was unlocked and Marcelina led them inside and down to the basement. In an unlit hall that carried a faint odor of mold she stopped her daughter. The single point of light came from the open door a few feet away.
“Tell me why you’re here, Dosia.”
“Mama. I said I was sorry.”
Marcelina felt her wings flutter and shoved her arms behind her back. Because otherwise, she might give into the urge to slap her daughter and she would not give into that urge. Dosia’s sullen expression was easy to read.
“Enough,” Marcelina hissed. “Just enough, Dosia. I have raised you better than your behavior today. What you did…” She forced herself to stop and draw in a deep breath. “What you did today was the worst thing you’ve ever done, Dosia. All of the apologies in the world will not take away the hurt you caused to Atefeh.”
Dosia glanced away. Her expression didn’t change much. Marcelina shook her head.
“You will sit quietly in there and listen. If you decide to cause trouble, I will…”
She did not know what she would do.
“What, mama?” There was a bit of challenge in her tone.
Marceline leaned closer to her daughter and watched her eyes widen in alarm. “You don’t want to know.”
“You don’t know.”
“I will let your tata decide.”
“You don’t know.” Now she smirked.
“I do know. And I know your tata would declare it extreme and he is likely right so I will not decide. Because I am furious at you.” Marcelina stepped away from her daughter. “You did not think, Dosia. And were needlessly cruel. I am ashamed.”
Marcelina laid her hand on her daughter’s shoulder and led her into the support group. It wasn’t often she came here. For the most part, she’d accepted what happened to her. Jory helped. He’d never once treated her like she’d changed. She did the same to him, despite his own losses. So, she didn’t come often, because she felt guilty.
“Marcelina!” Themba’s smile lit up his face. He waddled forward, small legs barely supporting his large frame. Powerful arms engulfed her in a hug and she hugged back because one always hugged back when Themba held you. She was set down and her wings ruffled.
“And who is this?”
“This is Dosia. She’s here to listen.” Marcelina looked at her daughter. “And she has nothing to say.”
Dosia crossed her arms over her chest and dropped her eyes to the floor. Well, if she was quiet, Marcelina was happy. They crossed the floor to sit in the circle of chairs. Marcelina found a stool to use. Plenty of people who showed up did not fit in a folding chair.
Themba waited until everyone was seated before the meeting began. After introductions were made, a noise by the door drew Marcelina’s attention. Atefeh lurked in the shadows and so Marcelina left her seat after a warning look at Dosia.
Atefeh was a pretty girl with blemish free brown skin and black hair that hung down to her waist. She was a little shorter than most girls her age. Although she was not here for being short. Marcelina took the tentacle hanging where her left arm should be and stroked the leathery skin. Atefeh stiffened, but did not pull away. Her other tentacle flailed.
“Please, Atefeh. Come sit.”
“Why is she here?” Black eyes narrowed as she caught sight of Dosia.
“Because of what happened. You needn’t sit by her. Themba is happy to make room for a first timer near him.”
Atefeh tugged her tentacle free and marched with her back straight, eyes forward, towards Themba to sit in a hastily found chair. Marcelina went back to her own seat. Throughout the meeting she watched Dosia and Atefeh cast wary glances at each other.
Themba never invited the new person to speak, but he did cast a significant look towards Marcelina. She sighed. Attending the meetings was one thing. Speaking was another. Especially with her daughter present. Still, when everyone else who wanted to speak finished, she rose from her stool.
“I think everyone knows me. I’m Marcelina Couch. I hate talking. I know it’s been awhile since I’ve been here. Things have been ok, I guess. I still don’t have work. Although, Jory says it is because of my attitude and not my condition.” A few people nodded their heads. “I still feel like a freak sometimes. The other day I tried to dust the tops of the cupboards and knocked half the groceries on the floor.”
“Always finish one job before starting another,” Lenny said with a grin.
Marcelina scowled at Lenny until she grinned as well. It was hard to get annoyed at Lenny. If only because he’d been through so much.
“I feel like a freak.” She did not look at Dosia as she spoke. “Sometimes, I’m standing in the shower and it just hits me. I’m not normal. I’ll never be normal. And everyone I see that day, I know they’re thinking the same thing. That I’m a freak. And maybe I’d have been better off dead.” Marcelina hated crying in front of people. Which was the main reason she did not come to the meetings.
“And I am still terrified that I’ll get pregnant again. Not because I wouldn’t welcome another child, but because I might not be lucky this time. Because this time, what if I had a freak? Like me. I was so lucky the first time. I spent nine months being terrified.” Marcelina shook her head. “I don’t know.” She sat down abruptly. “I miss being normal.”
No one spoke.
Everyone was silent long enough that Themba stood finally and closed the meeting.
Marcelina slipped out to the restroom. Dosia would have to be trusted on her own. Once she’d washed up she left, hoping everyone else would be gone. Themba was in the hall and he lifted a finger to his lips before she could speak. He signaled to the meeting room.
Themba left, grinning, and Marcelina wondered what was going on. As Dosia was still in the room she crept towards the door and peered inside. She never said a word. Only went to the bottom of the stairs and waited for her daughter.
Dosia said nothing, but once they were home she hugged Marcelina tight. They both pretended neither had tears in their eyes.
“They were kissing,” she said later to Jory, when Dosia was asleep. “Kissing, Jory! She’s too young to kiss someone.”
“We kissed for the first time around her age.”
“And look where we wound up!”
“No! Well, I mean…you don’t understand!”
“I thought you wanted her to be more empathetic?”
“Empathy does not involve kissing!”
Jory laughed. Then he kissed her. Which allowed her to stop worrying about her daughter at least for the night.