Don’t blame your misfortune on me, foolish girl.
Ritva was in a fine state, splattered wine dripping down her chin onto her linen blouse fluttering untucked at her waist when her hand had hastily jerked at the sound of the voice behind her. Why, oh why, wouldn’t the voice shut up? She had hoped enough wine would at least dim the irritating nasal quality, but all it seemed to do was frame it in stark relief, rather like a washed out photograph mounted on brilliant purple cardstock.
You made your bed — go lie in it. Isn’t that what your mother always said?
The last year really had been hell on wheels, Ritva decided. Which was why she had chosen to go on a lengthy holiday rather than remain at home with her aging parents, counting medications and bowel movements.
It was an odd and uncomfortable thing, to watch the steady decline of one’s parents — especially when they had been such pillars of their small community for so many years. Ritva’s father had served as mayor for most of Ritva’s life, her mother the local schoolteacher for the small mixed age single room schoolhouse.
“It’s your duty to car for those less fortunate than you, Ritva, never forget that.” Ritva had lost count of the times she had heard those words from her mother and father. “Shut up!” she screamed inside. “Why can’t I have a life of my own? Why must I always take care of others? Who will take care of me?”
Ritva had always felt trapped by her parents, their life, the community. There had been no way to escape, to strike out on her own. Her mother’s health had started to fail before Ritva was done with high school, and her father was unable to cope. And so began Ritva’s own slow decline into lost dreams and niggling resentments and a fear of growing old and dying, never going farther away than a day’s travel by car.
And who came to help you free yourself, silly girl?
The crotchety voice purred next to her ear, and Ritva froze in dismay. The voice was back — maybe it had never gone away? She could feel the panic well up in her, feel her throat closing and she gasped for air. Where had she gone wrong?
Just a mere two weeks ago, this same crotchety voice explained to her how to be free, but that the price was to relay the voice’s message exactly as instructed. The voice meant for her to raise her flag of freedom, but only after she had permanently rid herself of all encumbrances. In fact, the voice has been most clear about the required actions to gain her freedom.
So, Ritva had filled a metal bucket with the blood of those she once cared for, and painted the voice’s message haphazardly thoughout the town. Then she carefully washed and changed, and packed a small overnight bag before taking the keys to her father’s old Buick and every dollar she could find. She drove through the night to the nearest airport, boarding an airplane for destinations far removed from the slow decline of her once vibrant parents.
You really didn’t think you’d be free from me, did you? The voice cackled, and Ritva began to laugh and weep, tasting despair.