The sound came from the basement, It was Nancy’s voice, “There are a bunch of old pictures in Dad’s dark room!”
“Show them to me, dear!” Scarlet shouted back.
Nancy and Scarlet go through the old photos. Nancy picks up a picture that surprises her, “Hey mom! Why were you running on your wedding day?”
It was a photograph of Scarlet running on the road in a wedding gown. Scarlet looked at the picture, and remained quiet. She stared blankly through the window, lost in her thoughts, at the leafless Cherry Blossom tree.
“But is it you mom?” Nancy insisted, looking at Scarlet.
“Yes, it is me!” Scarlet answered, looking at Nancy for a second.
Nancy’s eyes sparkled with wonder and excitement, yet she kept quiet.
“That was the first time Richard ever clicked me. Because the photo reminded me of my horrific past, he constantly held it away ” Scarlet’s voice trembled, eyes almost wet, as she gazed at the floor gasping for words.
Nancy held her mother’s hand softly, “Tell me momma.”
Scarlet took a deep breath, “My father died when I was ten. My mother remarried. My step father convinced my mother to quit her job and move.
Since then our miseries had started. My mother would send me to bed before my step father returned home drunk and beat up my mother every night. I would awaken to my father’s yelling and my mother weeping, night after night. I lay quietly on the bed trembling in fear.”
“Why didn’t grandma go to the cops?” Nancy sounded angry.
“She was afraid that he would harm us. Mom constantly coughed and had fever. The day she could not get up from the bed, he took her to the hospital. Mom died on the way. I had nobody to help me. I did as he said, in the fear of getting beaten. He lost his job and was forcefully getting me married to a pub owner almost his age, to get his free liquor.”
“Why didn’t you run to the cops or the neighbors for help?” Nancy asked.
Scarlet looked into Nancy’s eyes, “Have you seen a giant elephant tied by by a chain? He can break the chain, but he does not try. Do you know why Nancy? He has lost belief in himself. He tried when he was young, but could not. That is what he believes even today. I became used to obeying. I thought of running away, but never gathered the courage. The fear of getting caught and the torture to follow, made my legs heavier.”
“Then what happened?” Nancy curious to know the rest of the story.
Scarlet after a pause finally spoke, “It was 18th May1980, my step father got me dressed in that wedding gown and took me to the church. He was about to walk me down the aisle. Just then, Mt. St. Helens erupted. The heavy earthquake panicked everyone inside the church, people screamed and ran. Seeing people run, I too ran out and kept running. I did not know what I was doing! Where I was going. Maybe a feeling of freedom kept me running.”
“Finally, you ran!” Nancy exclaimed, and asked, “How did you meet Daddy?”
“Richard, a news reporter, was catching images of the earthquake stricken town. He spotted me running in a wedding dress. He photographed me for his news story but he never submitted my picture to the paper.
The rest is the beginning of our story together.” Tears rolled down Scarlet’s cheeks as she stared at a photo on the mantle in which she and Richard are all smiles, looking very happy together. Scarlet whispers, “Miss you love!”