Through a Glass Darkly by Anna Taylor Sweringen

“Home again, home again, jiggity jog.”

With a glad sigh and a tired smile, Roxanna Mitchell recited the children’s rhyme and unlocked the double oak doors to the Victorian she had remodeled into her home and office.

She ran her fingers over the Ayas etched in the front doors’ glass panes. Pride warmed her heart each time she touched the Adinkra symbol for endurance and
resourcefulness. The fern-like design to reminded her who she had made herself to be, not who others said she had to be.

Her keys clinked as she dropped them into an aqua and turquoise South African basket. Straightening the Kente cloth upon which it rested, she smiled.

‘Perfect,’ she thought. ‘Say it loud. I’m Black and I’m proud.’

Her glass panes. Her basket. Her Kente cloth. Her home. The first real home she’d had since.She stopped the thought, took a deep breath and chided herself.

“Don’t go there. That was then. This is now.”

She looked with pride at what she saw reflected in the hall mirror: Roxanna Mitchell, child of God, surviving and thriving by grace. Woe to anyone who dared imply this wasn’t true.

A rogue gray hair sprung out from her otherwise neatly trimmed Afro. Now twenty- eight she had begun graying at thirteen. She frowned and reached for it when a memory stopped her.

‘Pull out one and two’ll grow back.’

A loving chide from her mother. She took another deep breath and slammed the door on melancholy. Fighting the pull of the past was always harder when she was tired. What she needed was a quiet evening with her head back, her feet up and her soul soothed by Ellington and Strayhorn. She patted the hair back into place and went into the living room. and flipped the light switch but the room remained dark.

“Oh, not again. I just changed this bulb.”

Before she could flip the switch again, a blow sent her spinning. Her temple thwacked against the floor. Someone straddled her. Fingers dug into her hair and
pulled her head back.

From out of the darkness, a male voice laughed. “Oh yeah. You’ll do just fine. Won’t you, sweetheart?”

Roxanna reached back, trying to free her hair. “Who are you? What do you want?”

A woman laughed, imitating Roxanna’s distress. “Who are you? What do you want? You’ll find out soon enough, honey.”

Roxanna squinted, trying to make her out, but pain and darkness sheltered the woman’s anonymity.

“Shut up and get the tape,” the man ordered. He clamped his hand across Roxanna’s mouth. “We haven’t got all night.”

The woman laughed again. “Oooo. Papa spank.”

Roxanna’s heart stuttered at the sound of tape ripping. She twisted her head left then right, but couldn’t prevent them from sealing her lips with a piece of the foul smelling adhesive. Her muffled screams joined the panic screaming in her head. She clawed at the gag. A pair of hands captured both her wrists and held them criss-crossed above her head while strips of the tape wound around them. Her forehead throbbed in a frantic cadence: “get up,” “get away,” “get up,” “get away.” She tried to move, struggled to break the sticky bond winding around her wrists. A knee in the small of her back pinned her to the floor.

“Hold still,” the woman hissed in her ear.

A needle pierced Roxanna’s right upper arm. Paralysis radiated in waves over her body. Caught in a kaleidoscope of sensation, her mind went limp, too. A pair of warm lips pressed a cold kiss against her cheek.

“I want her to watch,” the woman whispered, her voice, thick with menace and desire.

Slender fingers positioned Roxanna’s head so she could see to her right. She closed her eyes to whatever they wanted her to witness, willing unconsciousness to come to her rescue.

Mercifully, it did.

###

Roxanna couldn’t open her eyes. Something soft, but unyielding pulled taut against her eyelids. She struggled but couldn’t raise her hands to remove it; her arms were restrained, forcing her hands to remain in her lap. Her knees hit cold rough surfaces no matter how she shifted.

The smell of mold and the aroma of freshly baked bread wafted on the draft encircling her. A noise, like stone dragging against stone, broke the silence of the darkness surrounding her. Her stomach clenched when she heard it.

Light seeped through her blindfold, but she still couldn’t see. Fingertips, round and rough, brushed against her cheek, pried the tape away. Pain burned around the edges of her mouth. She pulled back from the feel of glass touching her lips. A sharp medicinal smell made her clench her teeth.

“Drink.”

“What-?” She paused, summoned courage to staunch the fear surging forward. “What do you want?”

“I want you to stop asking questions.”

The cold voice made her tremble, but she refused to be cowed. “Why are you doing this to me?”

“I said drink.”

His shouted words filled the space around her, crowded out her resolve. She closed her mind to the panic sweeping through her, fought the urge to beg, to plead: don’t hurt me. Please don’t hurt me.

“Don’t give me a reason and I won’t have to.”

She blanched, certain she had only thought the words.

‘Oh God, please help me.’

The glass pressed forward, knocking against her teeth with a dull click. Bitter tasting liquid burned her tongue and throat. She shook her head and tried to
pull back. A hand gripped her by the neck. His cheek rested warm against hers. His awful laugh stung her ear.

“Go ahead and fight me. I dare you.”

Her bound limbs stiffened in response with anger. She held the liquid in her mouth until it began to seep down her chin, then spewed it in her captor’s direction.

“Why you little–.”

She took a deep breath and tried to scream but her vocal chords constricted.




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