Elizabeth resisted the temptation to ask Cousin Terry for help with dinner, knowing that none would be given. A tiny part of her rebelled at the way her Aunt and cousins have been treating her. “Liz sweep the floor,” “Liz, wash the dishes,” “Liz feed the dogs,” “Liz, make dinner tonight, I have to go out,” and the list went on… the most hurtful was, “Liz, you shouldn’t go to the movies with the kids, you have to study”.
Tackling dinner by herself, Liz thought it would be nice to cook something extra. Chicken curry and rice with paratha roti was always a favorite. She decided on making a fresh pot of Green Tea, but noticed the canister was empty. She opened the cupboards, searching for more but none was found.
Finally she called out to her teenage cousin. “Terry, does your Mom have any green tea?”
Terry walked over to the kitchen and leaned against the counter, carefully not to get any flour on her hands. “Mommy wanted me to tell you that you shouldn’t make tea again, because you make it too strong and waste it, that’s why we ran out.”
That’s not true, the can was half full the last time I used it. “You mean there is no more?”
“Mommy bought some, but I don’t know where she put it,” Then she was gone, back to her homework or whatever she’d been doing.
As she washed the dishes, Liz could no longer keep the tears from flowing, they burned her cheeks and hurt her eyes as they spilled out silently. She wiped her damp cheeks with wet hands, careful not to sniff and give her secret away. Her heart ached at the insult.
It’s OK for me to wash and cook the chicken and to knead the flour and labor over the hot stove to cook the rotis, but I must not make the tea. It’s still Ok for me to clean up the kitchen alone after cooking, before I do my homework, but I can’t make myself a cup of tea.
She lingered as long as she could without calling attention to herself, then wiped her tears and swallowed, to get rid of the growing lump in her chest.
Lord, you know it hurts to keep quiet, I feel like defending myself, yet all I can do is cry silently and smile. I don’t know how much of this silent treatment I can take…..
She remembered the promise to her Dad, weeks before, to be respectful to her Aunt and family at all times. It seemed like a lifetime ago.
On impulse Liz decided to shower before dinner, allowing more time to compose herself. When she came out of the shower, her Aunt and Uncle were back and the family was having dinner.
“The food taste good, Liz,” Said Uncle Bob. “Come eat before it’s all gone”.
Liz went to get her food, but there was only one small piece of chicken and a little gravy remaining, not enough to eat one roti with. Silently she took her food . To her surprise her uncle noticed her plate, “What’s up, Liz? You don’t like your own cooking? Is that all you’re eating?”
Suddenly all eyes were on her, “I’m okay.” She stammered.
Liz chewed and swallowed, not tasting her food. She was used to being the last to get served, with very little left for her.
“Liz, did you make tea tonight?”
She could feel four pairs of eyes boring into her bowed head. Speechless Liz stared at her Uncle.
“Never mind, Terry can make the tea tonight, right Terry?”
Miraculously, Terry found the missing tea. After washing up the dinner dishes, Liz was free to do her homework.
On the day of her final exams, Liz thanked her aunt for her hospitality and said good bye. It was so good to go home after six weeks in the city. In her haste to leave, she had left her clothes and personal things behind.
The summer teacher’s training seminar she’d attended in the city was a learning experience for her, from the moment she left her parent’s home to this moment.
In all her eighteen years, she had never felt so unwelcome and abused, yet never an angry or unpleasant word was uttered directly to her. The silent treatment, she decided she could live without.
Or was it all in my imagination?
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