Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Heroines Meet

A stronger gust hit the tree taking Janey by surprise and causing her to lose her footing. She squealed when her foot slipped from the branch and at the last second she pulled herself into a bear hug death grip to the trunk of the tree. Her fall had not completely halted by the time she was cheek to bark with the tree, and she paid the price for it with an unpleasant scrape across the side of her face. When she regained enough of her confidence that she wasn’t going to fall she relaxed her grip on the tree and pulled her face away from the tree. It stung mightily. Tenderly touching her temple, the tips of her small fingers came away with blood and tiny bits of bark clinging to them. At the sight of the blood and the realization that she had hurt herself, tears pooled up in her eyes and overflowed in a single quick gush. She tried to dry her eyes with the back of her arm and then began the process of climbing back down out of the tree; never as easy as getting into the tree, it seemed. She was very aware of the stinging side of her face as she worked to free herself from the tree and paid careful attention not to let anything else touch it.

Back inside, she made straight for the bathroom. In the mirror it didn’t look nearly as bad as it felt. After she had washed it clean with soap and water, wincing the whole way, it was little more that a small pink abrasion above her cheekbone. She decided to not even tell Mommy about it, unless she specifically asked.

As she passed the closed door of Mommy and Lee’s room on her way back outside, she heard Lee. He was talking in the same way that he would sometime talk to Janey when it was just the two of them. The way she hated. She shuddered and ran back through the house and out the back door, her boo-boo all but forgotten.

She found a fallen branch that was slightly taller than she was and started using it alternatively like a broadsword and walking stick as she made her way to the road. She was going for a walk and was pretty sure her absence wouldn’t be noticed since Mommy and Lee would usually stay in their room for a few hours when the door was all the way closed like she had just seen it. She strolled along the road, figuring she would drop in on Laura and Mark. Maybe even get some sympathy cookies or something like that if she milked her new injury just right. The building wind was making a mess of her hair, but she barely noticed; too caught up in whatever adventure only her eyes could see as she meandered along. She failed to even notice the darkening thunderheads that she was walking towards.

Laura pulled her head out from under the water. The headache was still very much there, but the cold shock of the water had helped bring her alertness back to her. She had also managed to get some of the blood out of her ear, eye and nostrils, so that was an improvement as well. She pulled back her soaked hair with both hands, gingerly avoiding the large knot on the back of her head. Cold water flowed under the collar of her shirt and straight down her back. The water felt good. It gave her an idea.

Standing in the down pouring rain with her eyes closed and her face turned skywards, Laura had temporarily forgotten that the person who had dragged Mark away could, and probably would, be coming back soon. She let the rain soak her and she listened to its sound and focused on the rhythm it made as it hit her face, neck and shoulders. The thunder was still there but what she seemed to hear the most was the rain as it hit her and everything around her.

She finally opened her eyes and wiped the extra water from her face. She turned to go inside, already planning her route through the house, dreading the prospect of having to face all that blood again. She would check to see if the phone in the bedroom was still working, then she would grab the keys off of the writer’s desk and drive the Rover straight to the sheriff’s station. But when she turned back towards the house, she wasn’t prepared to have someone standing quietly on the back porch watching her. The shock of it was too much for her in her current state. As the world turned into a dark tunnel and upended itself, the last thing she saw before she blacked out was the person running towards her as she lay limply in her own back yard.

For the second time today, Laura slowly opened her eyes and found herself again lying on the ground and, again, not alone. She stared up into very worried little hazel eyes, framed by stringy wet tendrils of hair that hung towards Laura’s face.

“Laura! Are you okay? You just… fell down,” Janey pleaded, trying to make sense of what she has just watched, “It looked like you were praying or something when I got here so I just waited quietly on your porch for you to finish. …and then you just turned around and fell over.”

Laura reached up and gently touched Janey’s face, not believing until she touched her wet hair that she was real and not some hallucination brought on by the far too traumatic events that had so far made up her day. “Janey, sweetie, what are you doing here?”

The thunder rolled again, but where it left off a different kind of rumble continued along with the crisper crunch of gravel. Laura sat up FAST grabbing Janey and appearing to stare straight through the house. Janey saw Laura’s mask of absolute terror and immediately became frightened as well, even though she had no idea why they were both suddenly so scared. Laura’s eye’s welled up with tears that mixed unnoticed with the rain that continued to hit her face. He was back.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Sink

It had been a long time since she’d heard the stranger’s pickup start up with a wheezing rumble. Laura had heard the tires struggle for traction on the gravel driveway followed by the rapid clacking of several small pebbles sent hurdling against the house by the spinning tires. Now it was quiet. The spot of sunlight on the floor was now just a fuzzy shape, much grayer and less brilliant than when she had first noticed it on the table.

She shifted her weight and rolled over onto her back, barely thinking anymore about the mess that still surrounded her and was now soaking into previously clean areas of her blouse and jeans. She flinched as her damaged head banged too quickly on the hard floor, her vision blurring for a second from the pain. When it had passed she was looking up at the flower pattern plastered into the ceiling. Even this minor change in scenery was a relief after hours, it seemed like hours anyway, of lying motionless, forced to look in only one direction. The left side of her body was slowing waking up; the pins and needles were right on cue. She flexed her fingers spasmodically, not yet in full control of them.

After five minutes, that seemed to stretch on for hours, of mentally preparing herself she sat up with one quick and ragged movement. She planted her hands on the floor behind her to keep from falling back over. The room was spinning and she was about to be sick. She closed her eyes and concentrated on staying in control, determined not to pass out and have to start all over. Slowly the nausea subsided and she opened her eyes.

The phone was still on the wall. The cord that had connected the phone to the wall plug had been neatly clipped. Well that would be too easy, Laura, she thought as she looked around the kitchen, her gaze snagged and held captive momentarily by the shards of glass under the table and the shattered hutch just beyond. The scene she was sitting in the middle of didn’t look any better now, but all least she could see all of it without fear of who was watching her.

She crawled over to where the sink was, leaving smeared handprints on the floor. Reaching up and grabbing the edge of the counter where the sink was she began pulling herself up towards the sink, trying to get her feet under her and slipping several times before finally standing up. She was trembling weakly and could feel her legs about to give out and the pit of her stomach rolling hard. She looked up from the sink and out of the little picture window, searching for any movement in the driveway or the strange truck that she had seen the last time she had stood here. At that thought, she whipped her head around, positive that someone was behind her. But all that she was rewarded with was a fresh bout of nausea and blurred vision and another unsettling view of where she had been laying minutes before.

She turned back around, her fingers white, gripping the edge of the sink, and retched. Unlike when she normally threw up, usually after too much drinking and dancing, this did not make her feel better, at all. Without looking back up, for fear of getting sick again, she fumbled with her hand until she found the lever and turned on the faucet. As she washed and scrubbed at her bloody hands she slowly looked back out of the window, not sure what she would do next and not caring. Each little thing she did seemed to take all of her energy and concentration. Planning beyond the task of getting some of the blood off of her hands and face was simply too much.

A few fat rain drops hit the window and raced down, leaving trails of smaller drops above them. Laura watched the drops slide down the window, her scrubbing slowing almost to a stop. A second later the window was a blur of water, all solitary trails of droplets gone. She looked back down at her hands, now covered in pink suds, and started rubbing them together again. The rain beat a fast rhythm against the glass underscored by a steady rumble of thunder like the growling of some great chthonic beast. Laura closed her eyes, braced for the dizziness and nausea, and put her head under the flowing water.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Chapter 2: Janey (Part 2)

Her clothes were on her bed, as her mother had promised. She changed quickly, leaving her dirty sundress a crumpled pile on the floor next to her bed. After pulling her shirt on, she looked down at her dress, lying next to the space between the bottom of her bed frame and the floor, thinking about the empty darkness that filled that little area.

Taking a running leap to land in the pile of blankets and plush animals waiting to envelope her was her preferred method of getting in bed each night. Standing with her bare ankles and shins exposed to that emptiness always seemed to overpower her rational senses. Her imagination was strong and would work against her whenever she stood next to her bed and would happen to notice the darkness underneath.

Her heart fluttered and sped up as she snatched the dress up off of the no man’s land around her bed. She flung the dress into the corner of the room, onto a pile of used paint-with-water coloring books as she bolted from the room, too afraid to look back at her bed for any sign that something might have just missed grabbing the dress.

By the time she had made it down the hall and back into the kitchen she had forgotten about the mysterious space that lingered beneath her each night as she dreamed. Mommy had already started making lunch, and was peeling potatoes over the sink. Janey grabbed a slice of potato skin out of the sink and popped it into her mouth as she made for the back door.

“Stay on the porch, sweetie,” called her mother, “I don’t need you running off somewhere or getting all dirty again right before lunch.”

Janey walked to the edge of the cement platform that they called the back porch, and sat down with her legs dangling over the edge. She traced a ‘J’ on the bare cement of the porch; kicking her legs idly. The breeze had gotten a bit stronger and more regular since she had been inside the house but it was still a wonderfully bright and beautiful afternoon. She noticed a glare in the grass where she had been playing. The tiny windshield of the abandoned jeep was reflecting the sun into her eyes. She started making a mental list of all the fun things she would try to do after lunch.

Lunch was mashed potatoes and meatloaf. Janey ate quickly and even had seconds on the potatoes, but was disappointed when she learned that the cinnamon rolls were meant for some other time. Her mother and Lee were talking about some movie they were interested seeing. Janey had a hard time understanding the appeal of a movie where the only thing that ever seemed to happen was talking. Where was the fun and adventure in that?

“Mommy, can I be excused,” Janey blurted, ignoring the fact that she had just interrupted something Lee had been saying, “I’m done eating. Can I go outside and play?”

“Sure Janey, just stay where you can hear me ok?” her mother replied as she stood to clear the dishes from Janey’s place at the table.

Returning to the site of the Siege of Mr. Fluffy Bottom, Janey gathered up the toys; pulling the bottom of the front of her shirt out to make a primitive basket that could hold more toys than her arms alone could. Returning to the back door, she stepped inside and let go of the bottom of her shirt, dumping the toys carelessly inside the house and leaving again before her mother could see what she’d done and tell her to put her toys away properly.

She wandered around the yard, stopping to pick dandelions here, or watch a trail of ants somewhere else. She quickly lost track of time, caught up in her own thoughts, and eventually found a tree to climb. The tree wasn’t technically in the yard, but she was confident that she could hear if called.

She stood in the tree and tried to make herself invisible to the environment around her. Standing on a branch and holding onto the trunk of the tree, she could see a horizon much further away than any she had seen before. She smiled as the wind rustled the leaves all around her and blew her hair gently back from her face. The wind was getting stronger, the tree swaying with her in it. The leaves rattling against each other made a sound that reminded her of the loud static sound of a TV without a signal. Beneath that she could hear the slow deep rumble of thunder in the distance.