I looked out the window at the dry, cracked-up land. I was gripping my green princess dress, shifting my attention to stare at my Tiana pendants stitched on my dress. I thought about what I would say. He had been there for six months. He had been in that impenetrable castle for six months.
“Mommy, why can’t he just come home?”
Always the same response, “There are magical guards keeping him there. He can’t leave until the time is right.” My six-year-old mind conjured up millions of ways I would defeat these magical guards, so my dad could come home.
Thirty long, anxious minutes later, we had arrived at the castle. I stared at the sharp, winding pieces of metal hanging like ornaments on the walls. Tapping my fingers against my thigh, I took in the cold and stern faces of the magical guards, their blue uniforms, and their alert eyes. I remember it was a long, cold walk to the front door. My mom pointed out this long stretch of land, where she said all the men in the castle play. I wandered off, drifting over to the fence that contained the land. As I drew near, my eyes started to burn. I had tears streaming down my face uncontrollably, and I didn’t understand why. Seeing my struggle, my mom rushed over, picked me up, and carried me to the front door of the castle while I regained myself.
As I looked at the big, dreary castle, I wondered why this castle was so different from the ones I’d seen before. No alligators lapping in a river, no poisonous thorn bushes. As we went through the door, I thought, This is no castle for my dad. This is a castle for a villian . . . This blaring alarm interrupted my thoughts, causing the guards to pull us away and ask if they could search through our belongings. One of the guards kept sneaking glances into my eyes, probably noticing how red they were from the crying. After some time, he said, “Sorry, Ma’am. There was an altercation between inmates earlier, and we had to use tear gas.” Tear gas? That was probably a potion the magical guards used.
After the bag check, we headed over to the visiting room in the castle. We hadn’t even fully made it there yet, when I saw him. He looked so different. He had bruises all over, and it seemed like he had a permanent scowl stitched on his face. He was in the face of some man, when he pushed the unknown man and the man punched him. Guards ran out, trying to break up the two, but they just kept fighting. Blow after blow, tears were streaming down my face as I screamed out his name, causing him to be momentarily distracted as he took in my appearance. The man’s eyes glazed over when he hit his possibly fatal blow, right between the eyes, and knocked my dad out. My mind shattered as he hit the ground unconscious, my screams and cries echoing off the walls as I was dragged out of that fenced castle. The last thing I saw was the guards containing the man and trying to help my dad.
“How could something happen in that fantasy, fenced castle?!” I screamed at my mom, confused, angry, and sad. Why? I was confused for a long time, but she told me the truth, the truth about the fenced castle. That truth ate me up inside, thinking he was in that place for the next few days. I struggled to make my peace with it, peace with the truth. The truth of the fenced castle.
This piece was originally published in A Dazzling Rainbow on the Side, available in our store.