Bambi was six years old when she arrived in Kitchener, but there’s no birth certificate or family history.
There was a constant feeling of confusion in her at that time and the details of her days kept disappearing, just as the daylight had disappeared from her life. Even the details of her mother’s face had become blurry. Her mother was with her daily and yet it felt so long since she had actually seen her mother’s face. Bambi tried to picture her mother’s face the way it used to smile at her, trying to calm herself. Her entire, skinny frame was being pulled by her mother’s unbelievably slim yet powerful hand. Her mother’s face was obstructed almost completely from view by a black hat with a long veil of decorative, black netting hanging off its front rim.
Bambi’s skinny legs were doing their running motions under her long, dishevelled dress mostly in the air. Her mother pulled her so fast that the barren ground around her was a blur. Hadn’t there been trees there? Forests…grass…green? She had no time to process. She heard voices, commotion and a roaring sound. A burst of thunderous light exploded right in front of her face and she screamed, pulling back, but her mother grabbed her tighter and with one hand forced her right into the bolt of lightning.
Bambi shut her eyes tight and screamed at the top of her lungs but she didn’t feel pain. What she suddenly felt was wet mud under her knees and she smelled air filled with the sweet smell of nature. Her tiny, malnourished body shook and her jet-black hair was plastered in long tangles around her face as she opened her eyes. She had no time to get acquainted with her surroundings though because her mother pulled her upright and shakily began to pull them away from the tremendous bolt of lightning, which still hung, suspended in mid-air.
Bambi’s knees rattled against each other and she raised her arms towards her mother, asking to be lifted as her mother often used to do. Her mother looked down at her, breathed in deeply and let out something between a sigh and a cry. Then she pushed Bambi’s malnourished body away with one hand while pulling her forwards with the other.
They didn’t run this time though. Her mother pulled her along at a walking gait now, distancing both of them from the lightning bolt, which had somehow been a doorway to this place. Her mother’s head was darting from side to side, following every noise and flash of light that reached them through the trees, apparently as fascinated as Bambi was by their new surroundings.
Around them was still the same darkness that Bambi had gotten so accustomed to and yet there were smells and sounds everywhere that she had almost forgotten existed: the wetness of the dissipating rain on her face, leaves rustling, the wings of birds flapping, faraway sounds of insects and the pure smell of life. Mingled with all this were strange things Bambi could not identify: rumbling noises of some sorts of machines which seemed to be tumbling down some distant road and flickering lights in strange, unnatural shades, going on and off in the distance.
Suddenly they pushed through into a clearing and Bambi saw that the lights were coming out of houses, standing separately, spaced out, with clear-cut grass surrounding them and ending at the forest from which they had just exited. Her mother was pulling them to the right of one of these houses and Bambi stared at it in wonder.
As she looked at the house a large glass window opened and a child climbed out of it. It was a girl who looked around the same age as Bambi. Bambi gasped. She had never had much contact with other children and for so long now she had not seen any other human being besides her mother that the surprise of seeing another child stopped her right in her tracks.
The girl had huge locks of blond hair flying wildly all around her big-eyed face and she wore no dress but some strange peasant pants and shirt. Her socked, shoeless feet and outfit would have suggested she were from the lower classes, but she was perfectly clean and healthy looking with her strange outfit dyed in colourful designs, rather than the drabness that suggested the poor. And she had that golden hair.
The colour and shininess of the girl’s wild, curly hair was just like the golden strands that Bambi had seen only once in her life on a beautiful woman. She visited that woman with her mother in some faraway place just before things went all dark. She would never forget the breathtaking beauty of that hair, tumbling all the way down to the woman’s knees in a shower of pure gold as the woman spoke strange words to her mother in hushed tones.
Bambi was frozen in her spot, staring. The girl stumbled while walking and her hands landed in the wet mud. Standing herself up, she wiped her sopping hands against themselves. Bambi instinctively lowered herself to her knees and placed her own hands in the mud around her feet, feeling its squishiness between her fingers. She looked down at her hands in awe at the wonderful and almost forgotten feeling of mud, dirt and earth and raised her eyes to her mother, smiling up at her in wonder.
Her mother’s hands were at her sides and Bambi just now noticed that her mother had stopped pulling her, let loose her grip, and was frozen in her spot just as Bambi was, staring at the golden-haired girl. But she wasn’t smiling. Her hands were shaking. They were opening and closing in a harsh grip and a sound was coming out of her mother that was frightening, like that of a low growl of a wolf.
“Mamma?” Bambi took hold of one of her mother’s hands, and petted it gently, her eyes wide. Her mother, as if hearing her from a distance, began to breathe deeply in and out. Suddenly they heard a slashing sound and turning towards it saw through the trees the gleam of steel pushing through the same bolt of lightning that they had come through, forcing it wider apart. There was the flicker of a gleaming red jewel in the steel of the sword at which her mother’s hand grasped hers tightly and Bambi flew through the night again, everything in front and behind them a blur.
When she came to Bambi was in a dark room. She didn’t know how or when they got there. Why did everything seem to go in and out of her memory like wisps of clouds?
She sighed sadly, convinced that all those smells, sights and sounds had been a dream, but then her nose told her otherwise. There were smells here too and she became suddenly, desperately hopeful.
As her eyes were adjusting to the darkness she realized it was not the same, dark, cold room she had become accustomed to. There were small windows near the ceiling suggesting that this room, although a basement, was not fully underground and although dark curtains covered the windows, the suggestion of evening light entered ever so slightly into the room.
She also realized that she felt warm, as she had not felt for a long time, and there were strange, puffy sitting spaces around the walls, and a bizarrely low table in the middle of the room. There were shadowy pictures on the dark walls and strange shelves with indiscernible things on them. Bambi looked down at her own body and realized that she was lying on one of those puffy sitting spaces, covered in blankets. She felt the softness of one of the blankets between her fingers. She was scared it would disappear like all her memories and gripped it tighter.
Slowly turning her head, she saw her mother in a sitting position, on a leathery looking chair, in a corner of the room. Her dark silhouette was barely visible. Bambi got up shakily, and still gripping the blanket dragged it along the floor as she quietly approached her mother. When she reached her she had the sudden urge to pull up the netted veil off the hat and see her mother’s beautiful, deep, dark eyes looking at her with love like they used to. Maybe in this safe, warm room it could be possible?
Bambi’s fingers slowly reached out to the tip of the netted covering and just as they brushed it, her mother gripped Bambi’s arm tightly and with hard control moved it away from herself.
“Mamma, is this our new home?” Bambi whispered. “Can I go outside here?”
“Not today but maybe soon. Wait here, my amore. I will bring you food.”
“Mamma, why are you shaking? Are you still frightened of the thunder?”
“I am hungry, just like you must be Bambi. I will return and you must wait here quietly like a good girl just like I taught you.”
“Can I kiss you?” Bambi asked desperately and came even closer to her mother, her arms outstretched in front of her in an embrace. Her mother had been caught off guard and Bambi’s little face managed to move right up against the dark veil of the hat before she saw the flash of red from within and heard the loud groan. Then everything was black again.
When Bambi awoke this time, she was lying on another puffy sitting spot and a plate of cold chicken and fruits lay on the low table. She smelled it immediately and without thinking stumbled to it, grabbed the food with both hands and began shoving it in her mouth in a way that her mother had once told her was absolutely unacceptable for a young lady. But her mother only sat now in the leathery looking chair in the corner, watching silently through the darkness of her veil.