She was manipulative and controlling, often venturing into cruel if her family didn't follow her wishes. Although she successfully portrayed herself as the doting matriarch to the rest of the world, her adoptive son knew the truth. Sebastien carried many scars, both physical and emotional, received at the hands of Augustina.
One of his earliest memories was seeing the cross in the sky. Years later he would recall the evening that he played outside with his siblings and cousins, and looked up to see a beautiful, glowing cross in the late evening Summer sky, and he remembers the simultaneous peace and excitement it brought him. He ran inside to tell the adults who sat around the kitchen table playing cards. Four-year old Sebby could barely contain himself. "Mama! Papa! There's a cross in the sky!"
Augustina and the others immediately became furious, shouting "you must never say that!", Gussy hitting him about his head and upper body in an effort to silence him. How dare the boy embarrass her! To Augustina, shame and embarrassment were the worst sins a child could bring upon a parent, and Sebastien seemed to be a repeat offender. The other adults never flinched at her abuse; each had either witnessed or participated in similar behavior their entire lives, and in this case, they all felt as though he deserved it. To see a vision such as that would indicate that he was favored, and they all agreed that he was not. As an unwanted child, he couldn't possibly be. They would make sure of it.
Although his adult memories of the time period following that night were hazy, Sebby recalls being taken to "the witch doctor" for several visits in an effort, he believes, to remove the cross from his conscious mind. It never happened. Although he never spoke of the incident to Gussy or any of the other relatives around the table that night again, he certainly had not forgotten.
To him it was a sign of hope, much like the 4th Century tale of Constantine who had witnessed his own cross of light the night before battle, he believed it indicated blessing and triumph. Years later, Sebastien would bring it up on occasion to his wife and children, the only individuals to whom he felt safe relaying the information. He believed he was chosen to receive the sign and the adults were merely angry that it was him who did. Had his sister, Ava, Gussy's biological daughter and the family's Golden Child, been the one to see the cross, he was certain the adults' reactions would have been quite different. As it was, anything that drew attention to what an exceptional child Sebby was and gave hint of the extraordinary man he would one day grow to be, had to be suppressed.
Augustina took that duty seriously, and through the years drew sick and twisted pleasure in preventing Sebastien from realizing and reaching his true potential. He was subjected to constant reminders of his place in the family pecking order, being overlooked when his father, Arthur, brought home gifts and trinkets for Ava. Arthur would come home and stand just inside the door with a doll or a hair ribbon and call Ava to him, oblivious or indifferent to the fact that Sebby was a few feet away desperately wishing for a small toy for himself, a sign that he was loved after all.
Painful as being neglected might be, however, he learned to prefer that to the times he was noticed, like that Friday afternoon when Sebastien came home from school with a note from his 4th grade teacher.
Mr. Thompson had written to Art and Gussy to let them know that Sebastien refused to sit down in the classroom, and when questioned about it, revealed it was because his legs hurt. Upon further investigation, Mr. Thompson found the backs of Sebastien's thighs severely bruised, Sebby telling him he fell backwards off his bike; his teacher simply wanted to make sure they were aware of the situation.
Gussy, knowing the real reason for Sebby's bruised thighs was that she had taken a wooden spoon to them for sneaking a brownie the day before, became enraged. Dressed for a night out, she took off one of her high heels and struck Sebastien on the head with it, causing a swollen, bloody knot to form. "Don't ever embarrass me again!" Turning away, she continued mumbling to herself, pleased that she had come up with a solution that would allow her to continue the beatings without visible proof. "Let that nosy teacher find that mark!"
That was the last time Augustina ever raised a hand to Sebastien; he learned to protect himself after that, growing stronger physically and learning the telltale signs that she was about to snap. In those instances, he would simply make himself invisible, which in truth wasn't very hard for an unwanted child.
He could never escape her emotional torture, however, and he spent the remainder of his childhood being forced to listen to what an ungrateful embarrassment he was to her. Despite her constant "reminders" to the contrary, he remained optimistic, always believing, always hoping that one day she would change her mind and see that he was a caring and considerate child who only wanted his mother to love him.
Sebastien died many years later still waiting.
[This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.]
© 2016 Many Faces of Cheri G All Rights Reserved
Published by Cheri G