May 20, 1994
In examining the works of Elizabeth Beck for my own research in writing my novel, I discovered a letter hidden between the pages of Freedom, Elizabeth’s first publication, in 1849. This first edition soft-cover was found in the London Library, the only one of Elizabeth’s written works archived under the pseudonym, Edward Blake. I note today that this letter, although in worn condition, remains in its original state. Now that it has been unveiled, I will let Elizabeth’s words be exposed to the eyes of London’s finest; and perhaps, eventually, Elizabeth shall be seen as not just a survivor, but as a hero.
July 6, 1889
I was told that literature cannot be the basis of a woman’s life, and perhaps the statement is true. But a woman is capable of multiple foundations, and I personally do not agree that the aspect of getting married and producing children are what defines her as a woman. There are much greater things in life. I believe in that, although I have been warned.
When I was a little girl, my mother believed my long, blonde curls were better left alone. It’s for the men, she would say. No man will marry a lady if she looks like a man herself.
I was twelve.
I had not cared about her accusations until mother died. It was the first time I had ever seen so much blood. The scent was overwhelming and I held my nose until father put down the gun and locked me in the closet. To this day, I do not understand why he was so determined to destroy my mother. All I know is that was when I began to fear living in my own home. My mother’s presence no longer lingered in the halls and I felt as though it was just a house with a roof over my head, and nothing more.
At this moment, my hand is trembling. Although I wish for my true occurrences to become public, it does not make sharing this part of my life any easier. My father looked different from both my mother and myself. He was tall, stood at 6 feet 2 inches, with dark brown hair which was almost black; the colour of darkness. For I never once saw him smile. I never once heard him laugh. What I did witness was worse. Much worse. Where my mother was kind, patient and affectionate, my father was aggressive, cynical and impulsive.
I wish she never had to die.
I wish my father never locked my bedroom door. With him inside. I can still smell the strong whiskey on his breath. I can still feel his sweat as it dripped from his forehead and landed upon my bare skin. The way he moved inside of me was as though he were some kind of animal, devouring his prey. It didn’t stop there. He grasped my throat with those predatory fingers and pressed down tight. This will be our little secret, you hear me? He cut off my circulation.
I couldn’t breathe.
I wanted to die.
If you tell on your daddy you’ll be in big trouble, you little slut.
I had to cover the marks he left on my throat with a scarf the next day when I went to the food market. But I realised something I had not seen before. When I looked hard enough at the women tending the stalls, I noticed slight differences in their outfits. I was not the only one. They, too, were hiding the marks of violence that tainted their skin, which made me wish we could have run away together, to a freer, safer place.
But I knew it was impossible.
Each day, I was forced to wash my father’s clothes. He worked at the foundry in town and would always come home a mess. Not only did I wash his clothes, I searched through his pockets. There were always a few coins left over from his pay that he would forget to remove if he came home drunk. I hid the coins from father in a small wooden box under my bed, alongside the only picture that remained of my mother. Father had destroyed the rest. We don’t need any bad memories around here, he’d say. All I need is you and your pretty little face to keep me company.
After a few months I had found enough coins to buy paper from the local trader. It was not much, but I would cut the sheets into smaller pieces. From that, I would use candlewax to seal them together, creating a sort of book. Up until I was seventeen years of age, I wrote for an hour every single day. I wrote about my mother and how I missed her so. My father and the horrible acts of insanity he would bestow upon his daughter, and my utter contempt at life.
Unfortunately, it did not last.
I ended up with more diaries than I had room for. So I began to store them in the closet. Behind my desk. In small spaces around the house where I knew father would not find them. But he came home early from work one day. I could hear him stumble in through the front door and knew he was drunk. But I did not have enough time to pack away my diary before he intruded on me. Father caught me. The next few minutes consisted of him yelling slurred words that I cannot even begin to recall. He took hold of my dress, pinned me down on my bed and took what he wanted most. My vulnerability.
I was seventeen, but I was weak.
I was small.
Eventually I drifted into a slumber and I woke to the smell of ash and smoke. I could hear the crackle of fire and feel the heat protruding through the walls. I knew exactly what father was doing and there was no way I could stop him. He was burning my diaries. Destroying my memories.
You see, Lilly, you are the most special girl in the world. Not only were you born nine months later, but the first time I saw you, I saw me. Big, beautiful blue eyes. Small, soft hands; so innocent. Father took you away from me. She’s an abomination, he would say. She never should have been born. After that, I had him killed, although not soon enough. He took everything from me and deserved nothing, so I took my time to destroy what little he had left. One evening, when he was drunk, I took to smashing his alcohol bottles. This is the end, father, I said. No more. No more hurt, pain and suffering. This is what you get for ruining my life. I lit the match and as my hands trembled, I watched it fall to the floor, burning everything in its path.
Do not worry, Lilly, for I escaped without harm. But I did not know where I belonged, everything was different. The only place I found solace was in my writing.
I do not know where you are, or who is taking care of you. All I know is that you would be a big girl now, twelve years old. If you read this, or any of my works, please understand one important thing. These are all for you. Everything that I’ve ever written has been because of you. From a mother to a daughter, there is no greater bond.
It is unfortunate that I will not get to see your beautiful eyes again. Your mother is very sick. The doctor said I do not have much time left, but know that I will leave this world peacefully, and I will remember you, always.