Copyright 2001 Kim Pritekel
For complete disclaimers see part 1.
Note: This one you might keep a hanky handy.
If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am, or that I royally suck,
feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com
I directed my father and Ron around the corner, opening the bedroom door as far
as it would go so they would not bang up the wall with the headboard. With a grunt,
they set the heavy piece of furniture down, and headed back upstairs to the truck
in the driveway to get the other parts. My mother and Aunt Kitty were in the kitchen
making a schedule for my aunt's doctor appointments.
Coming through! I backed up against the wall to let the guys come
by with one of the mattresses. After they'd passed, I went outside. It was early
spring, and the end of my junior year in high school. I would be eighteen in the
summer, and could not wait to get through my last year before I was off to CU
Boulder for law school.
Aunt Kitty had gotten worse in the last year. The dialysis had been going fine
until the tubes they had put in her arm to hook her up to the machine, kept plugging
up with blood clots, and one by one her veins were collapsing. Now it was down
to one last graph, as they call them, and a place on a donor list. I knew my mother
was beyond worried.
I walked into the kitchen, and leaned back against the fridge and watched the
two sisters talk. Aunt Kitty looked nothing like her old self. About nine months
ago she had cut her hair off short so it would be easier to deal with, and the
weight she had lost. She was a shadow of herself, and it made my heart hurt.
I left the house, and sat on the front porch, my gaze drawn to Beth's house.
Beth and I had not spoken in nearly two months. I turned my gaze away, and stared
at the Nivens' house across the street, trying to get my mind off of what had
happened, and how stupid it had been.
I looked around as the silver Camry made its way down a familiar tree-lined street.
In the past ten years this neighborhood had not changed much, though my mother
had said that a lot of the houses had been sold, and turned into rentals. What
a shame. A renter would never take care of a house the way an owner would.
I saw the Donner house to the left. I guess old Townsend Donner had finally died
the year before, and his house was still being fought over by his eleven children.
I always wondered just how the hell he and his wife, Martha had raises so many
kids in just that simple three bedroom house. I tore my gaze from the old place
to see my parent's house just up ahead, and to the right. Rebecca was looking
around as much as I was. She had only been here once. The other times my parents
had come out to New York to see us.
You know, honey, you really need to get out here more. She said, her
voice hushed in the quiet car.
I know. I agreed. With a deep breath I pulled the car off to the curb,
and pulled the break. My brother's truck was in the driveway, and I could not
wait to see him and his family. Lord, it had been way too long.
No sooner was my door open, then I heard a whoop, and saw Billy running across
the front lawn, and grabbed me up in strong arms, pulling me to him. I clung to
him, so happy to see him.
Where you been! he exclaimed into my ear, his embrace nearly crushing.
Don't ever stay away so long again, Emmy. I mean it. He pulled away
and set me down on the ground again. I looked up at him with appraising eyes,
and was surprised to see a full beard, dark like his eyebrows in contrast to his
God, you are such a good looking guy. I grinned. He smiled back.
I know. He winked, and turned to Rebecca, giving her nearly as breathtaking
a hug as he'd given me. I looked up to the porch to see my parents, and Billy's
wife, Nina waiting for their turn. A little girl, about seven stood behind her
mother watching us with curious green eyes, much the color of mine. A smaller
boy ran around the front grass with an airplane, making flying noises as he ran.
In Nina's arms was yet another baby, a little girl who was asleep, tiny little
head resting against her mother's breast. I turned to Billy.
When did you get so many kids?
Well, if you'd come home now and then, maybe you'd know. He walked
over to flyer boy, and put a proud hand on his narrow shoulder. This is
Kyle. Little Heather is playing shy behind Nina, and our newest bundle of joy,
Rachel. Rebecca turned to me with a huge smile across her face. She adored
kids, and I could tell that the new babysitter had arrived.
I headed up to the porch, and I was swept into another powerful hug by my father,
and then taken into the warm, safe embrace of my mother.
I'm so glad you're here, honey. She whispered into my ear.
I am, too, mom. I wouldn't miss this for the world.
It had been early February, and southern Colorado had been hit with a massive,
out of nowhere storm that had dumped eighteen inches of snow on us. The town had
been shut down for two days, and things were finally opening back up as the sun
came out, and began to melt the snow.
I had bundled up in my winter jacket, and was beginning to shovel the sidewalk
when something very wet, and very cold hit the side of my face. I gasped in surprise,
and glanced to my right. Beth stood at the line between our two yards with a mile-wide
smirk on her face, and a raised brow.
Why did you do that? I asked, my voice calm, belying my incredible
need to pick up a nice handful, and chuck it at her.
Because I can. She answered just as coolly. We stared at each other,
neither moving, awaiting to see what the other person would do. Then as if an
imaginary gun had gone off, I tossed the shovel, and she hit the deck as we both
started making snowballs as fast as we could. Ready? she called.
Yeah. Go!! we stood, and began to throw as hard and as far as we could
while trying to use as accurate of aim as possible. Within minutes we were both
screaming as we were plowed one after the other, our hair hanging limply in our
eyes as the snowballs exploded on contact. Peace! I cried as I ran
out of ammo, but Beth's kept coming. No! I yelled as she moved forward,
pelting me as she went. I fell to the wet ground, and covered my head with my
arms as I took attack after attack, our giggling filled the air. When she ran
out of snow, Beth collapsed next to me, and began to tickle me. I screamed out
again as I twisted in the most bizarre ways to try and get away from torturous
Say it! Say it, Em! she laughed.
No, I cried, almost out of breath from laughing so hard.
Come on, uncle. Say uncle!'
Uncle! I finally exclaimed, about to pee my pants.
Good girl. She got off me, and helped me up. Snowman?
she asked, and I readily agreed.
Beth and I worked diligently trying to gather as much snow as we could to build
a mammoth snow creation. The bottom ball was at least four feet around, and the
entire thing close to six foot in height. We laughed and giggled like children.
I'm gonna go get us some stuff for him. I grinned, and ran to the
house, taking my boots off at the front door, then running full speed ahead.
Whoa! my mother called from the kitchen. Where's the fire?
I was half way up the stairs, and yelled as I ran.
I've got to see this. She said. I ran into my room, and grabbed a
long scarf, and some extra buttons from an old pair of pants, and my old cowboy
hat. Just as I was about to head out, I glanced out the window, and gasped.
Shit. I breathed as I watched Beth. She was making our snowman into
a rather voluptuous snowwoman. God, I muttered as I ran down the stairs,
nearly knocking my mother over at the front door, her Polaroid in hand. Hang
on a sec, mom. Um, let us get her-it set up. I smiled as innocently as possible,
ignoring her you've lost your mind, look. I ran outside, nearly falling on my
butt into the street. I turned on Beth who was still quite into her creation.
What are you doing?! I asked, watching as large hands sculpted, and
molded the snow into very realistic-looking breasts complete with very erect nipples.
She turned and grinned at me.
I'm making old Frosty here a Frosty-et.
So I see. I glanced back up to the house to see my mother opening
the front door. Turning back to the snowwoman, I threw the scarf around its thick
neck, and strategically hung the ends over them.
What are you doing? Beth exclaimed, pushed back by me. I motioned
toward my mother with my head.
She can't see that. I hissed.
Why? Your mom has seen boobs before, you know. She grinned.
This looks great, girls. My mother laughed as she looked over our
creation. I glanced down to make absolute sure the mounds could not be seen. Good
to go. Okay. Emmy, Beth, both of you get on either side. I have got to take
a picture of this! I plastered a smile on my face, my blood still boiling
as my mother took her picture. She smiled at us one more time and shook her head
as she headed back into the house. As soon as the front door closed, I turned
on Beth, my fury burning in my cheeks.
How dare you! I growled. She smiled down at me, pissing me off that
What? Come on, Em. Have a sense of humor.
I have a sense of humor, Beth, but not when you have some Mae West made
of snow on my front lawn! my voice echoed throughout the neighborhood. I
looked around to make sure no one had heard me.
Hey, if God can put balls on man, I sure as hell can put tits on a snowwoman.
I just glared up at her.
That's not funny, Beth. I turned to the creation, and threw the scarf
off, to the ground, trying to pat down the icy mounds.
My, Em! Beth said. I could hear the anger in her voice. You
are so fucking worried what other people might think. Try and just be you for
once! she turned and walked away, toward her house. I stared after her,
my fury rushing through my veins with every beat of my heart. Was she right? I
turned back to the snowwoman. No. I was. This was all in fun, sure, but what if
someone walked by, and saw this thing? They would think that I had done this!
Why the hell couldn't she do this kind of crap in her own yard?
I turned around in a slow circle as I took in my room, smiling slightly at all
the old posters that still hung on the walls. How outdated the stars were. I walked
over to my dresser, and ran my fingers over its smooth surface, ending at my unicorn
collection. I picked one of the porcelain figures up, and turned it over in my
hands, running my fingers over its mane, forever blowing in an unseen wind. With
a deep sigh, I turned to the window, small unicorn still in my hands. I looked
out at the street, a red Mazda passing as I watched. Everything looked so much
the same, yet so very different. I tried to see the street through young eyes,
and bring back another time when I was another person. It was not so hard to imagine.
I laid back against my pillows, my legs crossed at the ankles, arms folded over
my trusty teddy Ruffles, who lay on my chest. I stared out through the curtains
as night began to fall, the sky slightly orange tinted from the light reflection
off the snow. I was still angry, and hurt at Beth. The more I thought about it,
the angrier I got. True, she had just been having fun with the snowman, but all
the same, she knew how I would feel about that; how uncomfortable it made me.
It was total lack of consideration for me. She had been doing that a lot lately.
I sighed as I thought of how worried I had been about her.
After the incident in the Looms, I had seen her coming home drunk so many times.
She was rarely going to school, unless it was for Drama practice. I was surprised
that Ms. White was allowing her to do Drama at all considering her grades. It
wasn't my place to say anything, so I didn't.
I glanced over into the corner of the room, seeing our bags laying on the floor.
This was where Rebecca and I were to stay while we were here. I sat down at the
end of the bed, ran one of my hands over the blue and white bedspread. The only
other person who had slept in that bed with me had been Beth.
I flopped back onto the soft mattress, stared up at the ceiling. How was I going
to get through this? I could feel a lump beginning to form in my throat, and the
familiar stinging behind my eyes. I squeezed them shut as I felt a tear slid out
from under my lids. I held my breath as I tried to get them to stop as another
followed the path of the first.
Aunt Kitty had fallen asleep finally after hours of my mother trying to soothe
her raging headache. They had gotten worse. The doctor had said they would. I
glanced across the dinner table at my mother. She looked so haggard and tired.
She had been taking care of her baby sister for two weeks, and it was beginning
to weigh on her. I knew she did not mind helping out my aunt, but the emotional
toll on her was awful.
My father glanced up at her from under heavy brows, and shook his head. He had
never been good at saying how and what he really felt. He was worried about both
his wife and his sister-in-law, but just didn't have the vocabulary. I felt so
sad. I was tired of feeling sad.
Can I be excused? I asked quietly. The house had been so hushed in
those days. My mother had said that Aunt Kitty was staying with us while Ron was
away, and until she got better. But we were all privately coming to terms with
the fact that we were taking care of Aunt Kitty while Ron was away until she died.
Go ahead, sweetie. My mother said absently, picking at her chicken.
I stood, and headed outside to sit on the front porch, stared out into the star-filled
sky. Aunt Kitty's dementia was getting worse. She sometimes had no idea where
she was, or who she was with. The voices she heard were getting worse, too. I
loved my aunt so much, and it was so hard for me to see her that way. I sighed
and looked down at my tennis shoes when I heard some yelling. My head snapped
to the right to Beth's house. Something crashed, followed by more yelling.
You fuckin' stupid woman! Beth bellowed followed by another crash.
Where is it? You took it from me, didn't you? Didn't you?
Get off me you goddamn kid! I don't know where the fuck your pot is! Let
go, let go! the front door slammed open, and Nora Sayers stumbled down the
driveway to her car. She slammed the door shut, and a moment later the old Pinto
sputtered to life, and she was gone. I watched on, my eyes bulging in shock. Finally
snapping out of it, I stood and ran over to the well-lit house. The door was open,
leaving me to stare at a house in shambles through the screen door. I could hear
more crashing further into the house. Slowly I opened the door, and stepped into
the hot, muggy place.
The place looked like it had been ransacked. Lamps were on the floor, cushions
from the couch and chairs were laying on the floor with books and bits of paper.
Beth? I asked, carefully making my way through the house, not wanting
to step on anything. Beth? I called again.
Get the fuck out! she yelled from deeper in. I headed toward the voice
in Beth's room. I stood in the doorway, my mouth hanging open. Beth was in a rage,
tearing posters off the walls, punching at the space behind them, her fist going
through the drywall. Fucking bitch! she yelled as she tripped her
way over to the dresser, grabbing an eight by ten framed picture of her father,
and throwing it to the other side of the small room where it crashed into a hundred
pieces. I looked at the ruined picture to see that it was of her father and her
the summer she had gone to the summer camp. I swallowed, frightened by her temper.
Beth? I said quietly, taking a step inside the room.
I said get the fuck out! she screamed at me. My heart stopped. Beth's
face was beat red from crying and being so upset, her eyes even more bright and
vibrant than usual from all the tears, and one was quickly darkening into a deep
shiner. Blood was smeared on her face, coming from her nose. Her hair was wild.
She looked like some crazy Amazon of a woman, and her fury was quickly being directed
toward me. Get out! she walked over to me, and pushed me. I lost my
breath as I nearly lost my footing, holding onto the doorframe to keep my balance.
No. I said defiantly. What's going on, Beth? I asked,
stepping back into the room. She stared at me for a moment, then rushed back into
the mess that was her room, throwing things, and tearing other things. I had never
seen her like this. My god. Then my heart stopped all together as she went back
to her dresser, and grabbed one of her acting trophies that she had gotten at
camp. Without a word, she chucked it at the far wall, the silver cup bouncing,
knocked off the base. She grabbed another, and did the same. Beth!
I cried. Those trophies meant everything to her. Please don't. my
voice was thick, my vision blurry as I began to cry.
What the fuck does it matter? she roared, then she swept her hands
across the dresser surface, sending all her prized awards, trophies and ribbons
clattering to the floor as I sobbed.
Oh, Beth. I whispered, my tears not allowing me to speak. Beth seemed
to sober for just a moment, realizing what she had done, and her legs sagged out
from underneath her. She leaned back against the wall, her head back, eyes shut
tight as she cried. Not sure what to do, but knowing that I needed to get to her,
I swiped a hand at my eyes, and hurried over to her, sinking down next to her.
She kept crying as if I were not even there. Beth? I asked quietly.
No answer. Beth? Talk to me. What happened?
What do you care? she asked bitterly, her eyes still closed. I reached
for her arm, but she pulled it away. Don't touch me. She breathed.
I was stunned.
I do care, Beth. Please talk to me. Finally she opened her eyes, and
looked over at me. What I saw there scared me. There was no there there. Only
Careful, Em. People might think you have a weird friend or something. Can't
have that. I jumped back, feeling like I'd been slapped. All I could do
was stare. She smirked. Wow. Emily Thomas speechless. Should write this
Why are you saying these things? I asked, my throat tight.
It doesn't matter anymore, Em. It just doesn't. she was quiet for
a moment, the anger seeming to drain from her like water out of a hose. She took
a deep breath, and leaned her head back against the wall again, staring up at
the ceiling. They're dropping the Drama department. She said, her
voice dull and lifeless. I glanced over at her, shocked.
You heard me. She looked over at me. That's it. Andy was fired
Why? I was stunned. Drama was everything to Beth. It was her life.
Don't need it. Football is so important, you know. Gotta have that football.
She chuckled ruefully. Bastards.
Are you okay, Beth? I asked, reaching a tentative hand out to touch
her arm. She did not move it away.
Do I look okay, Em? she met my gaze, and my heart broke all over again.
She was struggling. I could see it in her eyes. She was dying inside. That's
all I ever wanted to do. The only thing that kept me in that fucking place.
Her eyes began to well up. I wanted so badly to pull her to me, but didn't dare.
There was still that dangerous look that lurked just beneath the surface. A look
that I had never seen before, and definitely had never seen aimed at me. She spoke
again, pulling me from my reverie. What am I going to do now? I give a shit
about school, and homework, and all that. She looked at me again. I'm
not smart like you, Em. Brains are your thing. This is mine. This is my craft,
the one thing that I have that only I can touch. Only I can feel. Her eyes
began to fill in earnest then. The only time people look at me as if I am
something. Some body. Her face crumbled before my eyes, and she was in my
arms in a heartbeat. I held her as she clung to me, her sobs wracking her body.
Her heart was broken. That's all I have, Em. How can they take it away from
I don't know, honey. I just don't know. I whispered into her hair
as I rocked her gently back and forth. I knew that Beth needed the theater like
most people needed food. She would be lost without it. I closed my eyes as I listened
to the labored sounds of her breathing against the backdrop of her tears. I remained
quiet, knowing there was not one thing I could say that would ease her pain. Finally
I felt her pulling away from me. I let go, and looked over at her. She ran her
fingers over her eyes and then wiped her nose.
Please go, Em. She whispered, turning away from me.
:Please? she turned pleading eyes on me, and I stared long and deep
into those two pools of ocean. Finally I nodded. I stood, and headed to the door,
but turned back to her, my hand on the frame. She had not moved from the floor.
Beth? I said quietly. She did not answer, but I knew she was listening.
And you're wrong. You don't need that stage to be somebody. You're always
a somebody to me.
I walked through the living room, staring at the mess. With a sigh I began to
pick up the downed chair, and put its cushions back in place. As I stood, and
noticed something slip out from underneath. A clear plastic bag. The kind used
for sandwiches. I picked it up, my brows drawn. I glanced back over my shoulder
to see Beth's door still firmly closed. Turning back to the bag, I saw the brown
flakes all mixed together, along with two tightly rolled, small cigarettes. Instinctively
I knew that this is what Beth had been looking for when she started fighting with
Nora. I was torn. Not sure what to do. I held the bag to me for a moment, then
began to put it in my Jean's pocket, determined to get rid of it. I hated the
idea that Beth was doing it.
I headed toward the front door, but then stopped, taking the bag out of my pocket
again. I turned back toward Beth's door, stopping in the dark hall just outside
her room. I raised my fist, ready to knock on the door when I heard the melancholy
sounds of La Triviata easing out from under it. I stared at the closed door for
a moment, trying to decide what to do. With a small sigh, I lowered my hand, and
turned to see a hamper next to the wall by her door. I laid the plastic bag down
on its top, and headed out of the Sayers' house.
I stared up at the dark ceiling, my hands behind my head, Rebecca breathing softly
beside me. It had been a long day, filled with rediscovery, but all the same I
could not sleep. I glanced across the room to the dresser to see that it was almost
midnight. My head snapped to the bedroom door as a quiet knock sounded on it.
Emmy? I heard whispered on the other side. My mother.
Yeah? I whispered back. The door slowly opened, the hall light spilling
into the room a bit. She peeked her head in.
Midnight tea? she asked, a slight grin on her face. I grinned back,
and quietly climbed out of bed, careful not to wake up my lover. We made our way
downstairs to the kitchen, and I grabbed the tea bags as my mother filled the
kettle, and put it on the stove.
I'd forgotten about this. I smiled over my shoulder at her. She nodded,
her back to me as she turned on the stove.
It's been awhile. She turned to me, a package in each hand. Oreo's
or chocolate chunk? I pointed to the blue package of Oreo's, and met her
at the table with two paper towels. We sat across from each other, and began to
dig in. I closed my eyes as my tongue swept up the creamy filling. It had been
Mmmm. I moaned as I bit into the dark cookie. She smiled as she bit
into her own cookie.
I told you when you were a kid not to grow up too fast, Emmy. This is what
happens. You forget about Oreo's.
Yeah. I said quietly, twisting the top off another cookie. Seems
I've forgotten all kinds of things.
The tea pot began to whistle, and I grabbed us a couple of mugs as my mom took
the kettle off the burner, pouring hot water into each cup.
Do you know what today is? she asked as she put the kettle back on
Saturday? I asked, dipping the mint tea bag into the cup, the water
slowly turning a light, honey brown, getting darker by the dip. She raised a brow
at me, and I grinned sheepishly.
Very good, honey. I knew I had a smart daughter. Besides, smart ass, technically
it's Sunday. She poured some sugar into her cup, then the tea bag. I had
always wondered why she did it that way. She said the sugar got mixed in better.
I say it made the sugar sink to the bottom faster. No, today is the anniversary
of Aunt Kitty's death. I glanced up at her, my eyes wide. Wow. How long
had it been? I mentally did a tally in my head, and came up with eighteen years.
My god. Almost twenty years ago. Where does the time go?
You keep track? I asked, sipping to make sure it was strong enough,
the minty steam wafting up to tickle my nose, and cause instant perspiration on
my forehead. My mother nodded.
I put flowers on her grave every year. I went this afternoon. I sat there
for awhile, telling her all about Beth. She always really liked her. She
sipped at her tea, scrunching her features as the hot liquid burned her tongue.
I looked at my mother. She was still a very pretty lady, her blonde hair shorter
than when we were kids, but very cute, and looked easy to care for. Just the slightest
bit of gray showing through. Her green eyes were still bright, but the lines around
them were more defined, the smile lines not completely disappearing when she stopped
smiling. If I didn't know better, I would never had believed she was in her late
I've been thinking a lot lately. I said, turning my eyes back to the
cookie I was about to eat. Have you seen Ron lately?
Oh, I see him and is wife around town now and then. Once he retired from
the Air Force, he settled down back here in town. He's always very nice. Once
in a while when I go to put flowers on Kitty's grave, I see some there that are
relatively new. I always wonder if they're his.
Could be. I said, draining my cup, and standing to get more hot water.
I offered the kettle to my mother, but she declined. He always really loved
her. I sat back down and prepared my second cup. You know, I have
not had tea in quite some time. I smiled. My mother stared at me, her expression
Say it isn't so? You, my little girl, have switched to coffee? I nodded,
and she placed her hand on her chest. No. I never thought you would become
a traitor. Didn't I teach you better than that? I chuckled.
Yes, but I'm afraid coffee keeps me more awake than tea does. We were
both quiet as we got lost in our own thoughts. Then my mother broke the silence.
It's been wonderful. I've been baby-sitting for your brother and Nina now
that she's gone back to work. I smiled up at her, then realized that she
had no idea about Rebecca and I. Time like this I realized just how absorbed I
had become in my own life; forgetting that perhaps my family may want to know
what we were up to.
Rebecca and I are trying. I said quietly, not sure what her reaction
would be. I knew that over time my mother had grown to love and see Rebecca as
her own, but this was an entirely different matter. Not everyone thought gays
and lesbians should have children. Once again I had underestimated my mother.
What? Children? she asked, her face lighting up like a Christmas tree.
I nodded, still trying not to get my hopes up just yet. Her eyes immediately filled,
and the warmest smile spread across her face. Oh, honey. She whispered,
standing, pulling me to my feet. I found myself engulfed in a massive hug. Oh,
baby, why didn't you tell me? she gently pushed me away to look into my
face. I smiled and wiped a tear away with my thumb.
Well, for one I didn't know how you would react to it. What you would think,
oomph! I laughed as I was squeezed again. Okay, so I take it you're
Excited? Honey, I wan as many grandchildren as I can possibly get!' she
pulled away from me again, finally letting me go. We both sat back down, but she
grabbed my hand, holding it within her own. She leaned over the table to give
me her full attention. How long have you been trying?
Just under a year. It's been slow going. She let out a long sigh.
How wonderful to try for new life on top of all this death. She gave
me a smile that melted my heart, and dashed any remaining doubts or fears. You
two will make such wonderful mothers.
I hope so. I muttered. I had wanted children since I had been a little
girl, but with the hours I worked, and the life I had created for myself, I often
worried if I had become too selfish for a child I had never shared those deepest
thoughts even with Rebecca, but they were very valid, and very nagging.
Oh! My eyes snapped up to look at my mother who had hopped up from
her seat. I came across the most beautiful picture of you while cleaning
the other day. She disappeared into the living room only to return a moment
later. She placed the shot on the table next to my mug. I grabbed it, holding
it up to my eyes. The caption read: Emmy in deep thought- 1984. I was bundled
up in my dark green winter jacket, standing outside during a cold day. I was standing
on a mountain top, the Rockies covered with snow behind me. My hair was blowing
back from my face, my eyes squinted ever so slightly against the cold breeze.
The expression that I held had my eyes dark green, my brows drawn, posture pensive.
Come on, Emmy. Just smile once for me. Please? I gotta leave soon.
I had turned quickly to my brother, flashed a wide, fake smile, then turned back
to look at the mountains. I had nothing to smile about that day. He snapped the
camera as I turned away.
I turned away, not wanting to see Mr. Buckley's sympathetic smile as I shoved
my notebook into my backpack. I thought if I looked at the young teacher, I would
burst out into tears. I didn't want to do that in the middle of AP English. I
made my way through the maze of desks, and out into the hall. Mom had given me
the choice of going home, or staying in school. Whatever would make it easier
for me, she had said.
The halls were empty as it was in the middle of fourth period. I walked down the
long corridor, my backpack slung over one shoulder. I stared down at the highly
polished tile floor, the reflection of the door at the end of the hall making
parts of the floor blindingly bright. It was a surprisingly nice, clear day considering
we were in October.
As I passed the office, headed to senior hall, I glanced inside to see the secretary's
typing away on computer keyboards, or talking on the phone. Two students sat in
the waiting area, waiting to see Mr. Edwards about Saturday school I figured.
One of them stared at me as I passed, his look of curiosity quickly turning to
boredom as he glanced back at the Math book that sat in his lap.
I felt surreal as I walked, the office note still bundled up in my hand. As soon
as the office aid had walked into our classroom, my stomach had lurched. I had
had a bad feeling. The girl had walked over to Mr. Buckley, handed him the message,
then walked out. My eyes did not leave our teacher as I watched him read the message,
and his features fell. He looked up, glancing around the room until his eyes landed
on me. When he saw he had my attention, he beckoned me to his desk. With shaky
legs, I had stood and somehow managed to walk over to him. He handed me the note
with a gentle pat to the arm.
I saw my locker just up ahead, and reached out for the lock. I felt like I was
moving in slow motion as I put in my combination, and pulled the lock down with
a metallic clang, and grabbed the books I'd need for the homework Mr. Buckley
had given me, and closed it back up. I still did not feel anything. I just felt
numb inside, like someone had reached in and taken out all the important parts
in me. I knew it was just a matter of time before it hit me, but for now I had
something to do; get home in one piece.
I re-zipped my backpack with the added books, and to my surprise, the whole bag
fell to that highly polished floor. I stared dumbly down at it, not sure how it
had gotten there, then before I could stop myself, I leaned back against the cold,
metal lockers, and slid down until I landed on my butt with a quiet oomph. I sat
there, my legs bent at the knee, hands at my sides on the cool floor, and stared
down at my shoes. I didn't know what else to do. Was it real? Had she finally
gone? Nothing the doctor's could do? Donor didn't arrive in time? My chin fell
to rest against my chest. My thoughts receded into the darkest part of my mind.
I didn't want to think about it, but I couldn't stop thinking. I didn't know how
long I sat there when somewhere in the real world I heard the sound of soft-soled
shoes approaching, stopping just in front of me.
Gee. Looks serious. I imagined the now ever-present smirk on her face,
so didn't even bother to look up. What, did the captain of the football
team dump you, or something?
Go away. Leave me alone. I muttered. I did not need this.
No. Guess not. Maybe the captain of the chess club.
I said leave me the fuck alone. I heard the slight pop of bad knee
joints as she kneeled down to her haunches. I glanced up to see surprised blue
eyes looking at me.
Whoa. What's up? Beth asked, her voice softening. I did not want to
talk to her. Ever since the incident at her house, she had been a walking zombie,
just a shell of who she had been. There was no life behind those eyes then; only
a bitter attitude that she doled out to anyone unlucky enough to evoke it. I felt
like she was lost to me.
Please just leave me alone. I said, my voice losing it's commanding
force. Though I was angry and hurt with Beth, she still represented a source of
strength to me. I did not want to fall into that. To my dismay she moved over,
and settled back against the lockers next to me. I could feel her intense gaze
on me. I looked over at her, and met her eyes for a moment. She stared deeply
into what felt like my soul. She must have seen something there as understanding
washed over her features, and she opened her arms to me. Reluctantly I fell against
her, my fingers burying themselves into the front of her flannel. Her arms around
me were strong and capable.
Ah, Em. I'm so sorry, honey. So sorry. She murmured into my hair.
My resolve crumbled as my soul shattered into a million pieces. She held me, letting
me cry. We had all known it was coming, but you can never be prepared for it,
for someone you love to die and leave you all alone on earth without their special
brand of importance to you. Faintly I heard more footsteps, and then voices that
were like distant echoes down a long tunnel.
What's wrong with her? someone asked.
Go away. Beth growled low in her throat.
You deaf? the footsteps moved quickly away, and I didn't care. Beth
held on tighter, her hand in my hair, the other holding the back of my neck. My
chest ached as the emotion poured out of me, leaving a wet trail on Beth's shirt.
My throat felt raw, my face tight with burning eyes. Finally I was able to get
myself under some modicum of control, and pulled away from her. Beth ran cool
fingers over heated cheeks, brushing hair back away from my face that was stuck
to the tear trails. She looked down at me with such tenderness.
You okay? she whispered. My throat hurt too much to talk, so I nodded.
She smiled. Give me your keys. Let's get out of here.
What about your class? I managed to croak out. She chuckled lightly.
You think I'm out in these halls for my health? Let's blow this joint.
Beth helped me to stand on wobbly legs, and grabbed my backpack, slinging it over
her shoulder. After signing out in the office, I walked out of the building, numbly
handing her the keys to my Jeep. I wondered how my mother was doing.
My mother had gone up to bed about an hour ago, but I sat there in the kitchen,
the light above the sink my only light as I stared out the dark window into the
backyard. The trampoline that Billy and I had had growing up had long since been
sold. The big yard looked so empty without it. I sipped from my mug of coffee.
Thank god dad drank the stuff, or I would have been out of luck. The strong, dark
taste pushed all need of sleep to the back of my mind. I felt alert, and needed
I bundled up to keep the cold, October night air away, and slipped quietly out
of the house. The street was so quiet, only a far away dog barking now and then.
I stuffed my gloved hands into the deep pocket of my London Fog, and stared up
into the sky. It had a pinkish hue to it, and I could smell snow in the air. I
loved that smell. I loved the snow. And I had missed the smell of fresh air that
New York doesn't often offer. Crisp, clean, clear out the lungs. I breathed in
deep through my nose, letting out the breath through my mouth, watching as the
crystallized air disappeared into the night.
I glanced over at the Sayers' house as I passed it, taking in it's chipped paint,
overgrown grass and bushes along the front of the house. A truck was in the driveway.
I wondered if it belonged to Nora. Or did she still even live there? Then almost
in answer, I saw a large puff of smoke rising into the air near the front door
that could not be seen from the massive bush that grew in front of it. I stopped,
unsure of what to do. Then, I retraced my steps, and walked toward the driveway,
just enough so I could see who sat smoking. To my surprise, it was Nora Sayers.
She followed my progress with her eyes, never losing a beat as smoke poured out
of her nose and mouth.
Mrs. Sayers. I said quietly, standing just at the start of the path
that would lead to the front stoop.
How ya doing, Emily? she asked, her voice deep and rough from too
many years of hard drinking and smoking.
Quite well, thank you. I said, taking a small step forward. She smiled,
the deep lines around her mouth deepening more.
I ain't going to bite, you know. I smiled, and walked up to the porch.
Nora Sayers had always made me incredibly nervous. Even now as a woman in her
mid-thirties, I did not feel comfortable with her. So I hear you're some
kind of lawyer? she said, snuffing the half-smoked butt into an ashtray
next to her. I nodded.
Yes. I live in New York, now.
Good for you, hon. I always knew you'd be something special. Even when you
was a kid. The compliment meant nothing to me coming from her. Why couldn't
she have had as much confidence in her own daughter? I thanked her anyway. So,
what you doing up so late? I dug my hands deeper into my pockets, and glanced
up at the sky.
Couldn't sleep. She nodded, and stood.
I hear you. Haven't been able to sleep a wink in about a week. She
put a hand on my shoulder, and I got a good look at her. Nora was younger than
my mother, but looked at least ten years older. Gone was the beautiful woman of
my youth. Freezing my ass off. Gonna go try and get some sleep. Good to
see you again, Emily. With that, she headed back into the house. I watched
her, and then headed back toward the sidewalk. She had not mentioned Beth once.
Did she even give a damn?
I turned right at the end of the Sayers' drive, not even thinking of a destination,
just that I needed to walk. I gazed at the quiet houses around me, wondering who
lived in them, and what they did. My mother had told me that much of the old neighborhood
was gone. New families moving in every year. My feet stopped suddenly, and I was
not surprised to find myself at the start of the trail to the Bowl. With a small
smile, I headed down the semi-dark trail. I could have walked back in time, for
all I knew. It looked exactly the same; all the trees on either side of the path,
slightly overhanging it, blocking out the moonlight. As I got closer, I could
see the scarce light reflecting off the rippling water of the small pond. I chuckled
to myself when I glanced down at the small body of water. It had seemed so much
bigger to me as a kid. I walked in a circle, taking in everything around me, my
eyes stopping when I saw a small tent in the trees, pictures of Mighty Morphin
Power Rangers on the sides. The circular light from a flashlight lens could be
seen through the thin walls. I grinned, and decided to leave before I scared the
occupants to death.
What was that, Beth? I had asked, my green eyes the size of saucers.
My best friend looked around, her eyes just as big. We could see nothing through
the blue walls of our tent, but imagined we could. She slowly shook her head.
Don't know. She whispered. Being the brave soul she was, she grabbed
up our flashlight, and unzipped the tent flap, crawling out of the small opening.
I sat, holding my breath as I waited for her to come back. Our first night camping
at the Bowl, and I had been scared to death. I had been so glad that Beth had
been there. I knew she could protect me. I jumped when someone tapped the tent,
my breath held in my throat.
Beth? I whispered. She didn't answer. Beth? I asked again,
my voice becoming desperate. Another thump, and another gasp from me. Oh no. Beth
was captured, I just knew it. They were coming for me. I scrambled onto all fours,
and searched for another flashlight when the flap suddenly opened, and Beth's
smiling face looked in at me. I glared, rolling my eyes at her mischievous look.
I turned around, heading for the path again when my long coat brushed some bushes.
I grinned as I heard a whispered,
What was that?
Our time at the Bowl was over. It belonged to the new generation. Now all I felt
was like an intruder. A giant who had no place among the little people. It was
a daunting feeling.
I headed back toward my parent's house, looking into the street. That had been
where I had learned to ride a bike for the first time, where an endless number
of adventures and games of football had been played out. Where I ran over the
mailbox twice. It all felt so strange, and unknown to me as an adult. Did everyone
feel that way after going home?
I stood in the darkness of my old room, removing my clothes.
Babe? was quietly whispered. I turned to the bed. Rebecca's head was
raised, but I could not see her face.
Yeah? I said, tossing my shirt into the pile on the floor.
Fine. I walked over to the bed, and crawled under the blankets, feeling
her grab me, and pull me to her. She was warm from being under the blankets, and
I snuggled up to her, the chill night air finally getting to me. With a soft sigh,
I closed my eyes.
The ride over to the church seemed to take forever. I sat in the backseat of my
parent's car, my hands beginning to sweat in my lap. I felt a soft touch on my
knee, and turned to meet soft, blue eyes. I tried to return the smile, but if
faltered somewhere. I got an understanding nod instead. I turned my attention
back to the street, and passing cars around us, wishing that I were in any of
them, going anywhere but where I was going.
I ran my hands down my legs to smooth the skirt of my black dress. The church
was cold, I noticed. I wondered why. I watched as my parents walked out from the
side room, my mother wiping at her eyes with a Kleenex, my father leading her
by the elbow toward the sanctuary. I glanced back to that small room, unsure if
I would be able to go in or not. I felt warmth along my right side, and turned
to see Beth, never more than a few inches away from me. I could see just the barest
bit of the shiny, brown casket from the doorway. I took a deep breath, and took
a step forward, then stopped. My heart was in my mouth, and I couldn't breath.
It's okay, Em. Beth whispered in my ear. I leaned back into her a
bit, then turned away from the door.
I can't. I murmured
It's okay. You don't have to. She said, rubbing my back with her hand.
Kitty won't know the difference, anyway. I turned to look into Beth's
eyes. She looked so beautiful in her black pant suit. It was well-fitted, and
looked gorgeous on her. She wore her long hair down, the colors coming in from
the stained glass window turning its darkness into brilliant red and blue. Let's
just go sit down, okay? I nodded, and let her lead me to the sanctuary by
I glanced around as I sat in the wingback next to the fireplace. Beth sat on the
hearth, her hand on my knee in support. People talked in that hushed tone that
always seemed to befit a funeral. They balanced plates of food as they looked
for a place to sit. I glanced down at the nearly full cup of bunch that sat my
feet. Beth had been trying all afternoon to get me to eat something, but I couldn't
do it. She had never left my side. I wondered if she would ever know just what
her presence had meant to me.
There's a lot of people here. Beth said quietly. I nodded, but said
nothing. It had been a huge funeral. Usually when one so young dies, it is. It
made me proud to know that my aunt had touched so many people in her short life.
Ron walked out of the kitchen, his black tie loosened a bit, the top button of
his shirt open. He had held it together in the church admirably. But once we got
to the cemetery, he had lost it. I had watched him, holding on to his brother,
Steve as if his life had depended on it. I don't think there had been a dry eye
as we all watched his anguish, sitting in the front row near her grave. My father,
who had been sitting behind him, had kept one hand on my mother's shoulder, and
the other on Ron's through the whole ceremony. Ron glanced over at us, and smiled
weakly. I did the same, but we could both see it in the other's eyes.
I looked around our living room, and the last place Aunt Kitty had ever seen.
She had lived with us for just under six months. I thought back to a week ago,
just two days before she had died.
Honey, your aunt wants some water. Will you take this down to her?
my mother had asked as I walked into the kitchen, a long day at school behind
Sure. I took the small pitcher and glass, and headed downstairs. I
tried to go see my aunt at least once a day, but with the hectic schedule I had,
she was usually already asleep. I walked toward the closed door of my brother's
old room, and quietly pushed it open with my shoulder, both hands full. My aunt's
head turned slowly, and she smiled when she saw me. I smiled back. Hey,
you. I said.
Hi. She whispered. It had been rare to hear her talk above a whisper
for a month or so. I set the glass on the side table, and poured water into it,
then helped her to drink. She closed her eyes as the water slid down a parched
throat, and smiled a thanks. It was truly heartbreaking to see her. She was almost
skeletal, her cheeks shrunken in, making already big eyes bulge. Her hair, which
used to be so rich and thick, was dull, looking more like straw. Have a
good day? she asked, her eyes full of interest. I nodded.
Wasn't bad. I had to fill out some more forms today for my scholarship.
That's such a pain. I sat on the side of her bed, careful not to jostle
her too much.
I'm so proud of you, Emmy. She breathed, reaching her hand out. I
grabbed it, and held it in my lap, gently caressing the frail skin. You
make me happy seeing you so involved with your life. I smiled, but said
nothing. How's Beth? she asked after a moment.
I don't know. She won't talk to me. I said, staring off out the window.
So much pain was attached to that name.
Don't let her go, honey. She said, her eyes pleading.
I don't have a choice, Aunt Kitty.
Sure you do.
How are you doing? I was snapped out of my reverie by my brother.
I looked up at him with wide eyes. He grinned.
Fine. I said with a nervous smile. He patted my shoulder, and bent
down so he was mere inches away.
Listen, Emmy, you need anything, you tell me, okay? I smiled up at
my big brother, and nodded. He gave me a light peck on the cheek, and walked away.
I looked on as the crowd seemed to be thinning a bit. Then I looked to the wall
above the couch, and saw the family portrait we had taken the fall before. My
gaze met that of my aunt, and I felt my throat clench shut, and the tears just
below the surface.
Are you okay, Em? Beth whispered, squeezing my knee. I bowed my head,
taking deep breaths so I wouldn't lose it again. I was so tired of crying. Em?
I couldn't answer. Come on. I felt myself being pulled to my feet,
and blindly I followed as Beth pulled me by my hand. We walked through the crowd
of people, headed toward the stairs. My father was coming down as we started to
go up. He stopped, as did we. I nearly ran into Beth's back. My father recovered
his surprise, and glanced down at our joined hands, then his eyes traveled up
to meet my eyes. I couldn't read his expression.
Is everything okay? he asked.
Em's getting upset again. I'm taking her upstairs so she can calm down.
Beth answered, her head raised defiantly, her protective mode kicking in to my
father's speculative gaze. He nodded, and walked on. I next found myself in my
room. Beth let go of my hand, and went to the bathroom to return a moment later
with a warm washcloth. I stood in the middle of my room, my shoulders slumped,
my eyes feeling so heavy. I just wanted to lay down and sleep. Forever.
Here. I looked up to find Beth standing in front of me, the washcloth
in her hand. I ignored the cloth, and collapsed into her. Whoa. She
breathed, nearly toppling over backward. She wrapped her arms around me, holding
me tight as I felt my emotions rise, and spill over my reserve. I cried like I
had never cried before. I was crying for my aunt. I was crying for Beth. I was
crying for me. I was crying for all that could be, but never would. Soon, to my
surprise I felt Beth's body shaking against mine as she cried her own tears, for
her own reasons. My tears almost immediately dried up in my concern for her. I
rested my face against the warm skin of her neck as she did mine, and rubbed my
hands up and down her back, raising to play in her hair, then back down to soothe
across the wide expanse of her shoulders. The sensations under my fingertips were
amazing. I felt her pull even closer as her tears slowed, finally dying altogether.
We stood where we were, just holding each other, our bodies swaying slightly.
I closed my eyes as I felt utterly content. Being in Beth's arms like that was
like coming home. I needed to feel her, to know she was still with me. I opened
my eyes only to close them again as I felt warm lips against my neck. I buried
my face deeper into her, intoxicated by her smell. The lips moved up to my ear,
warm breath tickling the flesh there. I heard my name barely whispered. I raised
my head ever so slightly, why, I did not know. It was almost on instinct, or as
if my body had gained a mind all it's own. My fingers found their way into thick,
dark hair, leading somehow. I felt hands on my back, running down lower with every
caress, my lower body on fire, begging to be next. The lips moved from my ear
to my throat, my head arching back even more. Those roaming hands found their
way to my side, moving up my ribs up to the sides of my breasts, gentle thumbs
exploring over increasingly sensitive areas. Another hand found its way down some
more, cupping one side of my butt, pulling me ever closer to the warmth. Eyes
still closed, my lips opened for what I sensed was coming. I felt those warm lips
move up my throat, over my chin, and finally finding mine. I leaned into her as
a sigh escaped me, and I gave in to the pressure against my mouth, willing it
to crush me, eat me alive. The softest touch of a tongue ran over my lip, and
my own tongue reached out, desperate to touch, and invite. Beth groaned deep in
her throat as she filled me, her hand on the back of my head to bring me in as
much as possible. I was being barraged by sensation when I was pulled from my
world with the soft knocking on my bedroom door.
Emmy? I pulled away from Beth, my chest heaving. Her cheeks were stained
red, as I had no doubt mine were. I stared at her, backing up a step to put some
distance between us.
Yes? I managed to call out.
You okay? Billy asked. Sorry to bother you, but dad asked me
to come up and check on you. I closed my eyes and swallowed hard.
I'm fine. I blurted out. I could hear my brother's steps as he walked
away. I could not look away from Beth as I stood there, realization of what had
just happened, and what could have happened set in. Her eyes began to wonder,
looking at anything but me. She reached into her jacket pocket, bringing out a
hairband. With shaking hands, she began to pull her long hair back away from her
Why did you do that? I finally breathed. Blue eyes darted to meet
mine. She stared at me for a moment.
Why did you let me? she asked, her voice quiet, calm. Deadly calm.
I didn't. I ran my hands through my hair, my heart still pounding.
Well, I sure as hell didn't force you. Her voice dropped yet another
Damnit, Beth! I'm not into that! I yelled. My panic was quickly turning
to guilt, which was quickly turning to anger. At who?
Then maybe you shouldn't have started something you didn't want. She
growled, her eyes on fire. I met her gaze dagger for dagger.
I was vulnerable. You, you took advantage of that. I-
I don't have to hear this shit. She took a step toward the door, then
turned to look over her shoulder. Especially not from you.
Get out, Beth. Get out and don't come back. My voice was shaking.
I couldn't believe I had just said that. I couldn't breath. She turned slowly
to fully face me, searching my face to see my sincerity. She must have seen something
that she didn't like. She took a deep breath, adjusting her shoulders as if she
had just been slapped.
Later. She said, her voice barely audible, and she turned to open
the door, closing it with a soft click behind her.
I stood where I was, staring at the door in shock. What had just happened? A wave
of nausea raced through me, and I hurried over to the bed, plopping down face
first as the tears came yet again that day.
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