Rhobin’s Topic for May, 2016: Confrontation creates powerful drama. This month, use one scene you’ve written (published or not) that shows confrontation between characters with a brief explanation.
Do leave a comment.
As I wrote to Rhobin, the problem is which of many such scenes to choose? I ended up with the first chapter of Anikó: The stranger who loved me, a multiple award-winning biography. Incidentally, this book is available both in English and in Hungarian.
1. Budapest, 1948
I am a typically traumatised war baby — my first clear memory is at five years of age.
The big room is dark, the well-known furniture has become shadow monsters like every night. I’m not scared; they are familiar, friendly characters in the stories of my imagination. The yellow glow of a streetlight below casts irregular stripes on the ceiling, and the red and blue neon sign across the road flashes on, off, on, off, rhythmically colouring my world. There is music too, a band playing at the Bistro down the road.
All this is usual, as is the sound of angry, raised voices through the closed double doors. I can see a rectangular golden line where the light seeps around the door’s edges.
I am nearly asleep when the door abruptly opens. A distorted golden oblong of light sprawls across the carpet, and Mother runs in, shutting the door behind her. She comes to my bed, sobbing very softly. She reaches down, trying to hug me. As always, I pull away from physical contact.
Again the door opens. I see Father’s silhouette, the moustache unmistakeable. The two adults stand next to my bed, shouting at each other in whispers. Their words are figuratively as well as literally over my head. I understand nothing but the emotion.
Suddenly, Father gives Mother a hard shove so she falls across me, then he is gone.
Once more Mother reaches out to cuddle me. This time, I am too terrified to resist.
This event was seared into Anikó’s memory too. At least she was on her own ground, in her family’s flat. It was no longer Tibor’s home. She took comfort from the old, familiar baroque furniture that had survived the War by some miracle; intricately carved, red-upholstered friends. She stood, facing three men: her husband, his lawyer and her lawyer. They were the enemy, united against her.
Árnold, paid to represent her interests, told her very condescendingly, “My dear Anni, I can do nothing, it is the law.”
She could hardly draw breath, so angry was she. Her jaws hurt from the tension of fury. She looked at Tibor, his round handsome face, his gymnast’s body. His eyes glowed with hate and hurt, and she wondered how she could ever have loved him. “I will not give up my son,” she managed to say.
Árnold still sounded like a teacher addressing a stupid child. He looked down his nose at her, as if her short stature was somehow shameful. “In Hungarian law, in the event of a divorce, girl children go to the mother, boy children to the father. The only exception is if there is demonstrated reason why that parent would be unsuitable. And Tibor has done nothing reprehensible…”
“Nothing?” She heard the shrillness in her shout, but didn’t care. “As soon as the Germans came, FOR A WHOLE YEAR, he safely cowered in the back room of a hospital, while I risked everything to keep that child alive. He is mine. You…” she glared at her husband, “…have lost all right to him, as you have to me.”
Árnold waved an agitated hand. “Anni, that’s not relevant in law. He is the father…”
Anikó again shouted over him. “Oh yes? Well, listen here, you all so mighty males. If this goes to court, I’ll stand in the witness box and swear that he is not the father!”
All three men gasped. The other lawyer spoke first. “That… that will destroy you socially. No lady could…”
“Well I certainly will!” With a sob she whirled and ran into her son’s room.
But Tibor came after her within seconds. “That’s a lie! How can you say that?”
“I’ll say it in court if you don’t give up.”
He was not a tall man, but seemed to tower over her. “He’s the child of our love!”
“What do you know of love? Coward!”
Without warning, he shoved her hard so that she collapsed across the low bed, then he stormed out, slamming the door behind him.
She’d won. Why then did she feel so devastated?
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