Okay, so we have met both Barrington and Regina. And Regina has told us her side of the story. But, what about Little Anita…by now she should’ve arrived back in Hope Town, which is walking distance away from Mona Estate.
What will Puncie say when she sees her? What will she do?
Let us find out!
Puncie was in the backyard labouring over the large, oval-shaped metal bath-pan of clothes when she heard the zinc gate opening noisily. Maternal instinct told her it was Anita.
“Yuh si’im, Nita?” she bellowed. Anxiety had almost been the death of her as she had listened to François’ radio programme and counted down each passing half hour; her unruly mind picturing all sorts of drama unfolding at Mona Estate.
When she heard Anita’s footsteps but no reply to the pertinent question, Puncie glanced over her shoulder. The sight she beheld almost cancelled her heartbeat. Her younger daughter was standing at the corner of the house, tears streaming down her face, hands wringing the hem of her t-shirt which appeared to be wet. A second look told her mother that she was, from the top of her head to the soles of her skinny, crepe-encased feet, soaked. It was not raining, in fact, as far as Puncie could tell, there was not one cloud in the sky. Maternal instinct screamed that something was dreadfully wrong. Puncie jumped up from her concrete-block seat, wiping soap suds onto the front of her oversized “Jamaica – No Problem” t-shirt as she rushed towards the distraught child.
“Nita! How yuh wet soh? Why yuh crying? What happen to yuh?”
Anita hung her head, her shoulders started to quake as anguished sobs began to rack her little body. Puncie held onto her. “What wrong wid yuh, Nita? How yuh wet up soh?”
But, Anita’s only response was to cling tightly to her mother as the pitch of her bawling rose higher. Puncie cradled her offspring, rocking her against her bosom even as she inclined her head to the sky. “Lawd Jezas! Beg yuh teck di case an gi mi di pillow. Hush, Anita…hush, baby and tell mi what happen. Is who wet yuh up soh? A Barry? Tell mi seh a nuh Barry wet yuh up soh?”
Through the weeping, Anita shook her head from side to side. “Is not Barry?” her mother prompted. Another shake of the damp head. “Soh a who, Nita? Who wet yuh up soh? Why yuh crying? What wrong?”
The sobs intensified; the convulsions became more violent. Puncie realized that her interrogation was in vain. There was nothing to do but to wait until the child had calmed down. Finally, after what felt like an eternity in which Puncie took Anita to the pipe, washed her tears away and gave her some water to drink, Anita stopped crying. When she had finished blowing her nose into the tail of her t-shirt, her mother rounded on her again.
“Yuh feel better now, Nita?” One forlorn nod. “Then tell mi what happen.”
Anita looked up at her mother for a fleeting second before looking down at her hands.
“Talk to mi nuh, pickney?”
As she started to speak, the first hiccup racked her small frame. Her lips started trembling. “I-I-Is him wife!” Sniffles.
“What yuh seh? Teck yuh hand from yuh mouth and talk loud, Nita!”
“H-H-Him w-wife, Mummy…”
“Im wife? Im wife!”
Anita nodded once.
“What yuh mean ‘im wife’?” Puncie grasped Anita’s shoulders and shook her harder than she intended to. To Puncie’s ears, Anita was not making sense. Why would Barrington’s wife have reason to talk to, let alone throw water on a child who had no business with her? A piece of the story had to be missing. “What yuh mean by ‘im wife’, Nita? Who fa wife?”
Anita’s eyes suddenly shot bullets at her mother. She folded her arms and pouted impatiently. Her mother was behaving like she could not understand English and this was quite disconcerting. She flounced off Puncie’s steely grip and stomped her foot in frustration. “Daddy wife, Mummy!” she yelled.
Puncie took a fraction of a second to recover; Anita’s sudden impertinence had taken her by surprise. It was uncharacteristic of Anita to “pass her place” with big people, least of all her no-nonsense mother. Puncie chalked it up to the fact that she was angry about the situation they were in and so she forgave the transgression. She laid gentle hands on Anita’s shoulders now and lowered her head so they were at eye-level. “Explain to mi, Nita – what exactly yuh seh Barrington wife duh?”
Anita rolled her eyes and exhaled her exasperation. “Is Daddy wife wet mi up, Mummy!”
The words registered in Puncie’s brain instantaneously and the impact was like a runaway eighteen-wheeler slamming into her defenseless body. She released her daughter and took one step back; one hand went to her disheveled ponytail, the other went to her hip. She shook her head about a hundred times in disbelief; disbelief that she – Ivette Maureen Black – had come to this; that her child, her innocent child, had had to be subjected to such cruelty.
“Yuh mean to tell mi dat Barrington red woman dash water pon yuh, Nita?” The rational part of her brain sought clarification.
Anita shook her head in the affirmative.
Puncie covered her mouth; a part of her did not want to believe that Anita was telling the truth. “Yuh really mean fi tell mi seh dat likkle copper-colour, ugly gyal dash water pon yuh?” she exploded. Anita nodded once more. “Why shi duh a ting like dat, Nita? What you an har have?”
“Ah neva do anyting, Mummy,” Anita said. “Ah was at the gate calling Daddy when shi run out of the house an start cuss an tell mi fi move from har gate. Soh mi tell har seh mi mother send mi to talk to mi father and shi just teck di hose an-an-an s-suh-suh-s-spray m-m-mi!” She dissolved into tears once more.
“Soh what yuh father duh?”
Anita blew her nose into her t-shirt again and rubbed away the tears. “H-Him neva do anyting…him not even come outside!”
Puncie held her head, trying hard not to lose control. She could feel the heat pouring out of her ears. She was losing her temper and only God knew what she would do when she lost it completely.
“But, dem lick dem head!” she heard herself explode as she began pacing the patch of dirt yard angrily. “Eh? A kill dem waan mi kill smaddy! Barrington nuh know mi yet? Eh? A chop dem waan mi goh up deh goh chop up dem raasclaat nuh! Im mek im stinkin crotches, crawny badi gyal dash wata pon my pickney! No man! A mad dem waan mi get mad! A prison dem waan mi goh today!”
She made a mad dash through the back door and Anita heard a commotion in the kitchen seconds before she ran back outside brandishing the kitchen bitch. “Come, Nita! Wi goin’ up deh right now!” Puncie shoved the big knife into her skirt waist and seized the child by one elbow. “Watch me an dem bumbobloodclaat dis mawnin!”