I helped them pack the water inside the house, and dad stood there looking at me.
I know he felt guilty for what he was doing to me. He didn’t want to stop either.
It looked like he was under the influence of something.
I turned occasionally to see him looking at me.
He saw the determination in me to finish my studies.
I was ready to make sure everything was possible to achieve whatever I wanted.
Not even him or my stepmother could stop me.
I arranged the water, putting them in a big bowl and packing them inside the house bit by bit until I was done packing all of them.
It was the first time I was going to cross the major road on my own.
I sat down, thinking about how I was going to start hawking.
The road was very busy, and I had never crossed the road on my own before.
When we used to travel to the village, and my mom was alive, we used to see some people on the road selling sachet water and other things.
They were always running to catch up with the passengers in the car to get their money, and some would lose the money.
It felt like fun to me. I used to think they were free to do what they liked while I was always locked inside the house, from school to the house, and then back to school.
I didn’t even go out to buy things.
We had everything we needed at home. But it felt like it was God getting back at me for not appreciating what I had.
Soon, my stepmother called me to come and get the food she prepared.
She had warned me to stay out of her kitchen.
I will eat whatever she cooks.
Sometimes I wonder what attracted my dad to her.
She wasn’t even a good cook, and dad loved eating.
I just got the watery soup from her, without meat. I couldn’t even recall the last time I ate meat or fish in the soup.
She stored them in the fridge for her husband and herself.
I was the outsider and ate like a prisonēr. Who was I to complain?
I had a special container outside where I fetched water to wash the plates.
That’s exactly what I did, then went back to my room.
I knew my mom was seeing everything and probably regretting leaving me in the hands of my dad.
She was probably crying and trying to come back for me.
Whenever I sleep, I usually have a feeling that someone is watching me.
There was a day I felt a touch, but when I turned on the light, I didn’t see anyone.
It was already evening, and I had to sleep to prepare for the next day of hawking.
Before I slept, I had to go to where I dropped the water and pack the ones I will sell the next day into the bowl.
I was ready for anything, and that way, dad would be happy.
I woke up to water pouring on my body, and when I opened my eyes, my stepmother was standing by my bed with a bottle of water in her hands.
I had forgotten to lock my room door, and my stepmother came and poured water on me to wake me up.
It was time to start hawking, and dad sent her to remind me.
I followed her out of my room, only saying “Good morning, Mommy.”
Dad commanded me to start calling her mommy, but she didn’t even deserve to be my mother.
I went to the sitting room, and dad was already dressed.
When he saw me, he said, “Go on your knees, Catherine. What time is it?”
After wiping my eyes and finally seeing him clearly, I responded, “It’s 8 o’clock, Daddy.”
He didn’t let me finish and said, “Don’t ever call me Daddy. I’m not your daddy. Just call me sir.”
I responded, “Yes, sir,” while wiping away the tears that had already fallen from my eyes.
I was just tired of everything. He asked me to get up with a wārning, “Catherine, don’t sleep past 7 o’clock in this house again.
You are to start hawking by 7, and I will drop you at the junction every day for you to hawk.
You can find your way back home.” He said this with a serious expression, and I just nodded.
I thought he would ask why I was soaked, but he completely ignored me.
Then I turned to my room to go and bath then dress up, and he called my name, “Catherine.”
When I turned, he said, “There’s no need to bathe.
After all, you’re not better than those other children hawking on the roadside.
Just wash your face and follow me.” I went inside and washed my face, dragging my legs as I reluctantly followed him, forgetting the bowl I put the water in.
I opened the front door, and he shouted that I should stay in the back.
I knew that if he had his way, I would have been in the trunk.
Then he asked, “Where is the water you’re selling? You’re becoming stūpid by the day.
Do you remember anything else other than eating and wasting my money in this house?”
I rushed back to get the bowl of water, and when I came back, dad had already driven off.