Date Of Birth

Entry by: chloe_eliza

26th October 2015
On her 43rd birthday, Marian's family huddled around the computer screen and waited anxiously. Andre felt sick. In silence they watched the contacts list as Mari_EleCruz remained stubbornly offline. They waited over an hour, as the allotted time frame in which they hoped to see her pixelated face painstakingly expired. The younger children fidgeted and were upset, without really understanding why. They knew their father was anxious and this made them scared. They didn't know why their mum hadn't been in the computer recently, only that it was bad. They missed her. The older girl stayed silent. She was beginning to grasp the implications and they terrified her. But she was aware of her dad's fear and wanted to help him and protect the little ones. So she kept her terror to herself and felt it gnaw at her insides. The hour came and went and Andre got up without a word and began to get the dinner ready. No one ate much. It didn't feel like a birthday.

Over 5,000 miles away, Marian hunched herself as far into a corner as possible. The feeling of walls on two sides and the floor beneath her gave her some sense of support, of a physical presence outside of herself, something to cling to. She forced herself to think of her family. The easier option would have been to forget them; to block them out and try to shut out the agonising thought of their despair, their worry. But she knew she mustn't; the thought of them and how they were suffering gave her the strength to endure each new second, and the seconds turned into minutes, then hours, then days. She thought vaguely that it might be her birthday. It was something she had wondered a few times lately, as she knew that on the day she was locked in the darkness, her birthday had been four days away. Thinking of birthdays made her think even more strongly of her family, her two daughters, her baby boy, Andre. She held her face and wailed without making a sound.

It had been for her family that she'd done this. Nicolette had almost finished school; there was no money to pay for a college education. She had wanted a way, any way, of giving her daughter the choices she'd never had. Life in the Philippines was tough for many and the employment prospects that came with working abroad were hard to resist. She had told herself and her family that it would not be for long, just a couple of years, that it would be worthwhile. She knew other women who had done the same thing, and she had seen the wealth that dripped back, wrung from their hard work, their sweat maybe, but it worked. She knew now that it was a roll of the dice, nothing more. You could end up with a good family, who would pay you what they promised and treat you well. But you were reliant on the utterly fallible and fickle fate of human charity. You were at the mercy of a stranger, who had complete power when you had none. And the cruelty that can emerge in that dynamic is one that confounds a healthy mind.

The first family Marian was placed with had refused to stick to the pay agreed. When she complained and refused to do the work they sent her back to the agency, furiously demanding a replacement. When Marian heard she was to be sent on to another family, she felt hope. It had been an unpleasant start, but now surely things would be better. Instead, the unthinkable happened. Her room was little more than a cell. On her first morning, she awoke in terror at 5am. Blinking and disorientated she barely had time to recognise her new employer, who was screaming at her for oversleeping, before the kicking and punches began. Terrified, and with tears rolling down her cheeks Marian, half crawling, followed the woman to a subterranean parking lot, where 27 luxury vehicles were waiting to be cleaned, inside and out. 20 hours later, Marian was sent to bed. After four hours of shattered, nervous exhaustion, her ordeal began again.

She rapidly realised she was effectively a prisoner. She ate her meals with three other domestics, one of whom, Terry, was also Filipino. Terry didn't know how long she had been there, and lived in fear. During mealtimes, they were fed scraps and ate on the floor like animals, supervised by an armed guard, who would hit them with the butt of his rifle if they spoke to one another.

After six day, Marian cracked. On her knees, sponging the wheel caps of a gleaming car, she saw a glimmer of daylight as one of the vehicles was driven out of the parking lot. She threw her sponge aside and ran. She ran silently, adrenalin surging through her body, her weakened, under nourished and beaten body barely feeling the effort and her mind focused on nothing but the light. She barely heard the screams of the guards of felt the cracks of her bones as the rifles landed on her head, her legs, her back. She didn't remember much after that, only waking up here, in the dark. She rocked silently, her back against the walls, and clung on to the mental picture of her family. I love you, she thought, I love you forever.