You know how some stories begin with a voice in your head that won’t shut up?
The ones crowding into my head for the last few weeks are too loud for me to hear anything else. They’ve certainly drowned out the few pages of that historical fantasy that has been ever so slowly gathering speed; a fantasy of a kinder, gentler place and time.
Yep. That’s what the Italian Renaissance looks like to me after a tour of the morning news.
My sister called from the village. Last week they took my niece. She is fifteen and they said she was ready for the honor of being married to one of their men. My daughter stays home from school now, hidden in a back room. She says she hates me, that I’ve ruined her life. She will hate me more when I tell her that I’ve arranged her marriage to a man three times her age. But he is a kind man, and may be powerful enough to protect her from her cousin’s fate. She is thirteen now; there is no time to wait.
I am afraid.
No. I’ve read about the horrors being visited on girls and women. I don’t want to write about them.
At least her daughter has lived for thirteen years. I will never know if mine sees her second birthday. My husband and I both worked for the foreigners and our names are on a list. They promised to get us out of the country but they lied. We were beaten when we tried to get to the gates but I managed to protect my little girl and we did not give up. We did not give up until the foreigners refused to open the gates for us. I passed my baby over the barbed wire. I saw a soldier take her. They say the foreigners are kind; maybe one of them will give her the life in a new land that they denied us. Now there is nothing to do but wait.
I am afraid.
No. I can try to imagine what would impel a woman to try and throw her baby to safety. I can’t know.
I have been in the hiding place we constructed for three days. They searched the house once but did not find me. But they know my name, they know I lived here, and they said that when they come back, if I am not here they will kill my family. I must go out and give myself up, and then maybe the others can live.
I am afraid.
I am not the person to tell these stories! I have no right to even try! I’ve lived an easy life in the safety of a great nation. How can I even guess what it feels like to be there? Please, voices. Find somebody with the skill and the depth of knowledge and understanding it would take to tell your stories properly. I can’t do it. I don’t write tragedy. I don’t write despair. I write silly little stories in which I once had an elf turn into a backyard rodent just so my character could say, “I thought there was something squirrely about him.” Is that the kind of flibbertygibbit you want writing your stories, stories that should be written in blood and fire? I can’t do it. I’m not up to the task.
But I can listen.