The cord

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Sitting on the last step, stopping to reach the landing where they would wait, she hugged her knees and hid her face. His wet hair was a curtain, darkening the day for him to rest. He did so.
When she opened her eyes again, she felt warm, accompanied by sheets of eggshell, so soft that they seemed unlikely. He saw his mother rise up in an uproar of salvation, and soon the room was full of brothers.
He did not hear the questions, as if he had forgotten the habit of reading on his lips. It was at this moment that the stepfather entered, and she, more by instinct than by remembrance, pressed in her hand the match she had found lying next to her body, several flights below, when she had succumbed under that authoritarian body that had stolen her childhood.
He guessed the silence in their still mouths. He guessed the pain in his mother’s low gaze. He guessed future repetitions in his stepfather’s confident smile. And decided.
He pretended to be worse than he was, to have the right time to carry out the plan. He kept his distance, so he would not be surprised at how much he cared for the stepdaughter he had always despised. Always, until you have a girl’s body. The plane was advancing, the cord too. He had just had that unfinished woolen yarn his mother had forgotten about in the dresser. This, and the match, acting as a needle, can weave a thick thread.
He slept, or rather pretended to sleep late, which would give him time to set the plan on the right day.
She slipped out of the room at dawn. He tied the cord to the second step of the stairs, having as accomplices the iron railings that flanked it. Only the stepfather would come down before everyone else, and she knew it.
When the crash put an end to the abuser, everyone ran in fright. He lay idly at the bottom of the stairs, glassy eyes in a broken life. Only the mother saw the cord. Only the mother understood the whole course. Only the mother knew how to remove it, eliminating the suspicions, if anyone had them.
They embraced with relief and watched the brothers’ ingenuous cry. It made no difference, none of them, especially the youngest, would know the reasons.

About Author

Margarida Fonseca Santos nasceu em Lisboa. Foi professora de Pedagogia e de Formação Musical em várias escolas. Começou a escrever em 1993 e tem já uma vasta obra publicada, a maioria na área infantojuvenil, e grande parte dos seus livros estão incluídos no Plano Nacional de Leitura. É responsável pelo blogue «Histórias em 77 palavras», uma plataforma de desafios de escrita para pessoas de todas as idades.

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