This scene was particularly difficult to write. I'm exhausted, my back hurts, and I couldn't remember what the book covered on this.
His eyes were as good as useless at night. Celestin had enough trouble seeing in the dim light of his house, with the flickering light-bulbs and the lone torch with its dying battery, but night was worse. At night it was too dark. He saw nothing. Blinking rapidly, the boy reached forward - hands grasped tightly on what he supposed was the wooden bed-frame. Maman rolled over, muttering in her sleep.
'Maman!' He had not been this close to the bed in years. 'Maman, j'avais besoin d'utiliser la toilette!'
Maman grunted. 'What is it, Celestin, at three o' clock in the morning?'
'C'est la toilette,' he cried. 'It's broken, Maman.'
Maman sighed. She listened as Celestin described the toilet's gurgling noises and overflowing water, all the while yawning and kneading her eyes with tired fists. 'Go back to bed, Celestin, before you wake your papa,' she said when he finished. Celestin looked mortified at the thought.
'Mais - ' he began. Maman cut him off.
'Go to bed, Celestin. We'll fix the toilet in the morning.'
He left, his eyes twitching and useless all the way back to the crawl space.
By the time morning came, Celestin was curled into a ball, nestled between his blanket and pillow, a content look on his pale face. He smiled and opened his eyes, glancing around his little bed. The world was always a blue for Celestin Moreau. He could see shapes, and sometimes finer details, like a nose or a fork, but things tended to bleed together in his eyes. They twitched, and the table was nought but a blob before him. They always twitched, especially when he was upset. It made him angry, the jumpiness. He saw his mother's face one minute, stretched and tired, and then she was smudged, as though he was trying to look at her through a dirty glass that was always moving.
He sighed and threw open the door to the crawl space, striding out in his underwear and looking for Maman and Papa. It did not take long for the whispers to reach his ears. He had good ears.
'Damned thing!' It sounded like Papa. Celestin edged loser to the water closet, squinting at the door and begging it to focus for a moment. His eyes were as jumpy as he felt, for he knew in his gut that Papa had seen the clogged toilet, and the broken plunger.
'He's only a little boy!' came Maman's pleading. A moment later, the door burst open, Papa striding out with Maman in tow.
'A little boy, my arse! He is a monster! He is a mistake!'
They argued as if he was not there, as if they could not see him. He went to the kitchen and back; they were still at it. Sitting with a bowl of milk and a piece of bread, he turned up his head to watch the show. They made his eyes jittery, with their constant movement and loud shouting, but one did not need 20/20 vision to watch a fight between Mademoiselle Franck and the father of her child.
'He didn't mean to, Marcel! You know he didn't - '
Papa slapped her. Once. Again. She slapped back, but weakly. Celestin chewed his bread.
'Please, Marcel, we can fix it,' she pleaded. Her eyes were watery and blurred. Finishing his milk, Celestin stood. Still, they ignored him.
'You - will - not - talk - back - to - me!' Each word punctuated by a slap and a flinch, and Papa stood back, as if to survey his handiwork. Maman's cheeks were red, even Celestin could see it. she shook heavily, and he knew it was not his eyes. She dropped to Papa's feet with tears on her cheeks, and the boy turned his back, walking to the kitchen.
They followed him in, Maman cowering and rushing to pour a mug of coffee, Papa sat in his chair, face twisted into an ugly snarl. Celestin wondered who the real monster was.
And then Papa noticed him.
The world seemed to freeze as they stared one another down, like animals. Celestin was wary, Papa furious.
'Vous,' he hissed, his neck quickly turning a brilliant shade of purple.
'Moi, Papa?' he asked innocently. Red eyes blinked slowly, trying to focus. Papa leered at him.
He stayed where he was, listening to Maman rushing around behind him, trying to make porridge in half the time.
'I said, come here.'
He glared, feeling Seraphin creeping into his mind. Seraphin said not to worry, and he didn't. He glared.
'If I have to leave this table, boy, so help me - '
'Breakfast!' Maman set the bowl down so quickly it nearly cracked. She hurried Celestin to the sink, instructing him softly to wash everything inside.
He was drying the chopping knife when he heard it - the unmistakable sound of a heavy kick, coupled with his mother's moan. Papa did not stop there. Face pink, he kicked until Maman begged him to stop.
'S'il te plait! Marcel!'
Papa grunted, yanking her up by the crown of her head. He turned, pushing past Celestin, to drop Maman in the centre of the kitchen. She sat on the floor as he insulted, clutching her ears and muttering.
'Slut! Bitch! I'll not have you in my house - not in my - giving me that bastard - you'll - burn - I -'
He did not finish. With the stealth of a cat, Celestin crept up behind him; in his hand, he held the knife. His face was set. Papa turned, it seemed, in slow motion, jittery and blurry in the boy's red eyes.
'What are you - ?'
'You are not going to hit Maman anymore!' he shouted with all the force his tiny body could muster. Papa froze, his brown eyes wide as they had been the last time Seraphin rebelled. 'You are not going to hit Maman anymore!'
Papa started toward him, but he kept up his chant, brandishing the knife as one might a torch. His eyes shook worse than ever.
'YOU ARE NOT GOING TO HIT MAMAN ANYMORE! YOU ARE NOT GOING TO HIT MAMAN ANYMORE! YOU ARE NOT GOING TO HIT MAMAN ANYMORE, YOU BASTARD!'
His tiny face had more colour in it than it ever had - red and purple and sickly green. He jabbed with the knife, missed, and jabbed again.
'BASTARD! MONSTER! JE VOUS HAINE! YOU ARE NOT GOING TO HIT MAMAN ANYMORE!' He blinked back his tears, willing his eyes to straighten for a moment and allow him to see Papa better, Papa the moving target that stared dumbly as though he had never seen his son before. 'YOU ARE NOT GOING TO HIT ME ANYMORE! I'LL KILL YOU! YOU CAN'T HIT ME ANYMORE!' He stabbed, slicing into Papa's back as though it was nothing more than a chocolate cake. Red bled into white hands and a little boy as pale as snow dropped his knife and fled.
The words ricocheted around his head, taunting him. Je suis morte. I am a ghost.
He wiped his eyes, and kept running.