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"How are you feeling, Frances?" James asked, then, without pausing so that I could answer, he continued, "Did your week off help?"
I nodded before saying, "I think it did. I had time to think about things."
"Is writing more about your life before you met me going to cause you more emotional pain?" he asked, watching me carefully.
"Probably, but I think maybe I should do it," I answered after a moment of contemplation.
Later that day I sat reading Randi's story. She hadn't written much yet so I didn't have much to learn about her past. But what I was learning was as disturbing as revisiting my own past had been to me lately. In fact, as the other people on Heinlein Station shared pieces of their stories with me, I was finding that I was not nearly as alone in my pain as I'd imagined. James had suggested that we all write our various life stories so that we could all remember where we came from and also to help us differentiate between one day and the next since we'd all come to live inside a station set deep in space.
The reason we were here, so we'd been told, was to study Sa'arm communication. Sgt Staunton had been the second marine stationed here, but the first one had gone insane from being alone. At least that was what James, my sponsor, thought. From my reading of psychology, I couldn't disagree with that diagnosis. Corporal Winter had tortured his concubines to death before Sgt Staunton had arrived. If some of the video that I'd seen was any indication, he had intended to do the same thing to Sgt Staunton. The only reason he had not was that she too was a sponsor. And even that wouldn't have slowed him down much if Sgt Staunton hadn't been enhanced in size and strength to the standard that most marines took. The fact that he started his assaults on Sgt Staunton's concubine, Helga, was also a mistake. That was because Sgt Staunton regarded her concubines -- even her ex-husband whom she'd dubbed wimpy -- as members of her family rather than as disposable property. If the man had been in control of his impulses and waited to get a hold on Sgt Staunton, he might well have succeeded in catching the woman unaware. However, for some reason Corporal Winter had chosen to damage Helga, who was no shrinking violet even without Confederacy technology helping to augment her strength and size.
I felt sick to my stomach as I read Randi's recollection of seeing the large woman with a broken arm. That sort of damage was impossible under normal circumstances in the small space that had been Heinlein Station at the time. To put it mildly the facility had been cramped and cumbered about with Confederacy safety measures that were nearly the equivalent of wrapping the residents in cotton wool.
What was nearly as heartrending as anything else though was my beautiful friend's confession that she had contemplated asking her mistress to give her to Corporal Winter because she felt that she deserved to be hurt. She told about all of her life growing up as a boy and being so terribly sensitive to any slight of her manhood that she'd become a veritable tyrant to those around her. Actually thinking about Brandon, as Randi had been named then, growing up as a man and boy was difficult. Now Randi was a gentle happy woman, well mostly a woman; then Brandon had been an unhappy and mean man.
I put Randi's story down so that I could get up and go for a walk. It had given me much to think about. Certainly she had told me that she'd had trouble and been the cause of much pain. I hadn't believed her though. Now, I had questions, some for Randi, but more for myself. I headed out to the walking path. On the way I made a short detour through the women's barracks. I didn't really want to talk to anyone, but knew that the only way the women who hadn't been chosen yet as concubines would become members of our community was if they were encouraged to see us in a way that wasn't adversarial.
As I walked through our small community, I mulled over what I had learned so far. I asked myself if I wanted to continue to write about my past. I knew I didn't want to do that. Yet as I thought about it I knew that I needed to do it in order to get past some of the hurts; to properly salve and heal my wounds. I paused to stretch and pulled the first horrid thing from my memory. I realized that my father could have killed me or at least permanently injured me on several occasions. How he had managed not to do so was a question I hadn't really examined. I would need to consider that. I might even ask James to help me set up a sleep-trainer to see if it could do something on the order of a CAP test with my memories and help me observe what had happened from a point of not being the recipient of the blows.
Not quite as horrible, but still a sore point, was whether or not Mr. Jacob had molested me that day? I wasn't sure if that was when the molestation that he did to me began or if it was later. My reading on psychology suggested that if he had not molested me that day, he had certainly begun to groom me to accept his molestation as normal even earlier than when he'd tended my wounds. That thought made me think, had my father wounded me? I decided that, no, he had not broken my skin but he had definitely left me bruised. So bruised, in fact, that I'd been limping. I had been wounded.
Acknowledging that my father had intended to wound me, had wounded me, and had evidently had enough control to not wound me worse than he intended, sparked rage in me for a few moments. Then I asked myself: what can I do about this now? Nothing, was the answer. Therefore dwelling on it and allowing it to rule my life now was foolish. I knew that a momentary decision like the one I'd just made wouldn't keep the hurt I'd felt from resurfacing, but I could look at James and the rest of my family and understand that whatever my father had intended to accomplish had not entirely worked out. Or it had worked in a way that left me with wonderful people who cared for me and who made it obvious in many ways that they wanted the best for me, including for me to grow as a person. And they didn't use pain and intimidation to get there!
At least I thought that my parents' torment and harsh treatment had been to force me to move out. Then I thought to ask one other question of myself: what if they had been grooming me as a specific sort of sex toy? That question rang in my mind like an overwhelming bell. It caused my stomach to churn and I sat down on a bench beside the path. I wasn't sure that the facts as I knew them fit that scenario either. Still I had just found one more thing to think about. In the meantime, I sat and quietly wept at a fresh new hurt.
I'm not sure how long I'd been sitting and weeping before a small hand touched my cheek and a small voice asked, "Are you okay, Mommy?" Trust Missy to think of me before anything else, I thought. Already she was beginning to show every sign of a tendency to be a caregiver, to mother even Serena or me. Serena, who had since James picked us up, become almost more her mother than I'd been as I'd taken up the task of being the official med-tube operator for the colony. Certainly Sgt Staunton could operate the med-tubes, but she needed to be available for other tasks. The same couldn't be said of me. The only thing I had to do other than operate the med-tubes was care for my children. And to be honest, Serena was doing a wonderful job at that task, especially considering that she was barely six months past her fourteenth birthday.
"Yes dear, I'm okay," I told my daughter.
"Why are you crying if you're okay?" Missy persisted.
"I'm crying because I remembered something that made me sad," I explained.
"Did you have to remember what made you sad?" Missy asked.
"No," I admitted.
"Then don't remember what makes you sad!" she said with as much authority as a five-year-old could muster.
"Do you get scared when you remember Mandy falling?" I asked.
Missy nodded solemnly.
"Do you sometimes remember Mandy falling when you don't want to remember it?"
Again, Missy nodded.
"Do you even remember Mandy falling if no one reminds you of it?"
Missy nodded as tears appeared in the corners of her eyes.
"So, while I might not want to remember past hurts, I cannot just not remember them," I explained to my daughter. Again she nodded.
Then she hugged me and said, "I love you Mommy!"
I smiled at her. "I love you too darling, even if you see more of Auntie Serena than you do of me anymore."
"I know you love us Mommy, but everyone is happier since they think you're our doctor. I know that Mandy is glad you were there for her," my daughter told me as she patted my hand.
I spent a little more time visiting with Missy, then I moved on. I had exercise to complete, and thinking that still needed to be done. I had told Missy that I couldn't control the memories I had. And I expected that I hadn't told her a lie. But I also knew that I could control, at least in part, my reaction to those memories. I didn't have to be debilitated every time I remembered my home life before Mandy had been conceived. My father, mother, or anyone else in my past had no power to hurt or haunt me here if I didn't give them that power.
.... There is more of this story ...