Monday, March 14, 2016

Holding On


 
“..If there is anyone in attendance who has cause to believe that this couple should not be joined in marriage, you may speak now or forever hold your peace.”

I held my breath as I looked at Newton, remembering how sure I was someone, namely his freak of an ex-wife, would show up and start causing a scene. I offered him a smile and faltered as a commotion in the back reached my ears. I turned, heart thundering in my chest, certain I would see Charity there, tears streaming down her plump cheeks, her short hair bobbing up and down as she sobbed and declared her undying love for Newton in a voice that was like a fork being dragged across a porcelain plate.
 I gasped in disbelief as a familiar figure stood, his arms crossed over his chest in that annoying way that used to just piss me off. Eyes of muddy brown met mine, and he smirked. “Yep, I have a problem with it.”

“You’re supposed to be dead.” I heard myself say the words and realized how stupid they sounded.

“Melissa, honey, you ought to know by now you can’t get rid of me that easily.”

“Who is that?” Newton asked, his faced scowled in annoyance.

“Its Royce.” I muttered, “its Fucking Royce…”

“I thought he was dead.”

“Me too.” I wanted to hug Royce and punch him at the same time. I felt the tears stinging my eyes and I felt the anger bubbling up, “How dare you come here now? How dare you?”
 I lifted my dress and stomped down the aisle towards my dead husband, rage driving away the knowledge that everyone was staring at me. “Six years you’ve been gone, I waited for you, Royce, and I mourned for you! You have no right to come back now and shout out ‘surprise!’ like it was all some big joke!”

Royce met me at the aisle, his voice low and surprisingly gentle, “I know, baby, its okay. I just wanted to let you know I kept my promise.”

“What promise?!” I was choking on my own tears now. I had imagined Royce coming back all these years and I knew it was illogical because people didn’t just survive airplanes blowing up in the sky.

“I told you I would come back, Melissa.” He said softly, “Don’t you remember?”

I did remember. His promise was sometimes the only thing that had kept me going while I mourned his death and tried to find a reason to keep going. Hearing the words broke something in me. I collapsed in his arms, the fight draining from me as I held tight, breathing in his familiar scent. The ache that I had been carrying around with me for six years was more painful than ever and I just knew that at any moment I would waken and see that it was just another frightfully realistic dream.

“Melissa…” I jerked my attention back to Newton’s concerned face. He was watching me with confusion in his eyes of gray.

I realized I was still standing at the altar, our wedding guests all in the pews. Royce wasn’t there though. The minister was staring at me intently, “Madam?”

“I have cause to believe… this isn’t going to work.” I felt tears spill from my eyes as I looked upon Newton’s shocked expression, “I’m not ready, Newton, I’m so sorry…”



Never Stop



Entering me in the contest was a practical joke my best friend Robyn was playing on me. The odds of an ex-smoker, former obese, middle-aged woman winning a spot on the Olympic Torch carrying team were pretty far-fetched. We laughed about it when the letter came in announcing I was a finalist. She knew I was not a runner, God had gotten generous with me up top and unless I used duct tape to strap the girls down, running was not something I did voluntarily.
So how did I end up here in South America, standing on a dirt road with a camera crew on hand and spectators sipping on water bottles and shouting in a multitude of languages, with me only understanding English and a smattering of Spanish words? It all comes down to pride. Somebody told me that I would fail. Do you  want to know how to motivate me? Tell me I can’t do it, tell me I’m going to fall and people will laugh, challenge me that way and you can bet that I’m going to try all that much harder to prove you wrong.
However, my pride was not enough to keep the reservations away. Despite losing over a hundred pounds and beating a smoking addiction, I still looked in the mirror and saw the woman I used to be. I could feel the eyes of the crowd judging me, criticizing my ample chest, my thick thighs and the telltale rasp of the beginnings of emphysema. What was I doing here? I know they were asking the questions because I was asking the same thing. It wasn’t too late though, I could step away, feign a stomach bug or just admit that I shouldn’t be there.
I was nearly to that point when I heard the cry of the crowd as the other runner came in site, torch flickering in the late afternoon sun. My heart started racing as I took my position and waited, my hand outstretched waiting for the smooth metal of the torch I would carry into the night. Pounding footsteps came up behind me, the sound of heavy breathing and the slap of metal hitting my hand. My fingers curled around it and I started to run, and caught my toe on the hard dirt surface of the road. I did a whole lunging forward kind of motion, with the crushing knowledge that I wasn’t going to catch myself before slamming into the ground in front of hundreds of strangers. The stones that dug into my knees and elbows were sharp, my face burned in humiliation and I looked up to see I had somehow managed to keep the torch upright. A gasp had rippled through the crowd and all I could think was that I needed to disappear fast!
I jumped up and gave my cuts a cursory glance, the gasp turned to a cheer and I put one foot out and then another, determined to do this. As I faded into the darkness, running my shame into the ground as I allowed myself to laugh and a new sense of determination filled me


 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Door


When I fell back against the wall in my rental house, after gracefully tripping over my own shoe lace, I thought it seemed a bit hard. Expensive wallpaper with an intricate floral design gave no hint that anything was being disguised and I laughed to myself as I ran my hands over it looking for a hidden seam that would open up a secret door.  For good measure, I rapped my knuckles against it.

The wall felt solid, a bit too substantial for drywall and studs.  I have to admit, my curiosity was piqued.  My left foot banged up against the base board and the board popped out sending out a puff of black sand across the carpeting.  I’ve never been one to just walk away from an intriguing mystery, I did what only seemed logical.  I reached down and pulled on the baseboard.  It had been secured with heavy 16d sinker nails and the odds of one coming loose were not very good.   I managed to slip a couple fingers around the loosened board and tugged.  It moved only a fraction and I pulled harder. The sound of cracking and splintering filled the room and I suddenly found myself falling hard on my butt with a broken piece of baseboard in my hand, a single sinker nail still dangling out the backside.   Laughing at myself and how ridiculous I must appear, I looked back to the wall and saw the wallpaper had torn and there was something behind it.  

You would think the first thought in my head would be that of how to hide the damage so my new landlord would not freak out.  At one time, I might have had that as a first thought, but the desire to know the mystery pushed that thought away and I crawled back over to the wall and carefully lifted the torn paper.  Whatever was there, it was metal and old.  It looked like wrought iron but not the fancy detailed stuff with whirls and loops.  It appeared to be, rusty and impenetrable and ancient in appearance. 

It was an odd thing to find in a townhouse that couldn’t be more than twenty years old.  Logic at this point was still hanging in the balance and so I started pulling away more wallpaper, enjoying the sound of the tearing and marveling at how much it was hiding.   Eventually I had to stand and kick away the piles of shredded flowery paper, my fingers stretched full trying to reach the last bits up near the ceiling.   I stepped back and surveyed my handiwork.  It was a door.   A solid wrought iron door with a single looped handle on the right side. It was flush with the rest of the wall which meant it could only open by pushing in. I pushed.  It was like pushing on the side of a freight-liner, not that I had ever done that, but it was what I imagined it would feel like. Hard, cold and unyielding.  I lunged at it, hoping my excess 280 lbs would budge it.  A dull pain exploded in my shoulder the moment I made contact and a slid to the floor clutching my arm and whimpering like a scolded puppy. 

I leaned my back up against it and tilted my head so I could peer up at the smoothed rounded loop that served as a handle.  I looked away and down at the nest of torn wallpaper I was sitting in and silently resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to explain myself and somehow come up with the money to fix the damages I had just caused.   With a grunt, I reached up for the handle with the mindset of pulling myself to my feet.  Instead of the desired effect, the handle pulled down and the door gave a screeching sound of metal upon metal as it opened up and a gust of stale dusty air whooshed past me.  I scrambled to my feet, and poked my head inside, not really sure what to expect but my heart was thundering in my chest and tingles were running down my spine. 

I did a quick spider scan around the door to ensure no sudden drop downs that would cause me to go into one of my infamous spider dances that were reminiscent of a spastic windmill, and I took my first step inside.    Sunlight from my front windows splashed through the door and covered a table laden with thick dust and an empty flower vase in the center.   I ventured further in, pulling out my smartphone and clicking on the flashlight application so that bright artificial light blanketed the room.  It was disappointingly empty.   I let out a pent up breath and turned back to the living room.  The debris from the wallpaper was gone and sitting at the kitchen table was a small man dressed like a garden gnome, impatiently drumming his fingers, and glaring at me.   “Why have you opened the Forbidden Passage?!”

I did the only thing I could think of.  I laughed.


 He did not. 





Thursday, May 28, 2015

Broken

It was an ache like she had never felt before, a tightening in her stomach and a heaviness in her chest.
 She stumbled as she stepped up on the raised sidewalk and she reached out for the door handle, determined not to let him see her fall.   Keeping her back to him, she tried to stop the hot tears falling from her eyes, but more flowed as her throat constricted.  She leaned against the door, afraid that if she didn’t she would surely fall and everyone would know that she wasn’t strong enough.  Kellie who had been a single mom for years without the aid of a husband or boyfriend, Kellie who had always managed to find a way to keep a roof over the heads of herself and her son, kept the insurance up, put food on the table and worked until she nearly dropped from exhaustion;  she wasn’t  strong enough to handle a broken heart.

 A sob escaped her and she fumbled in her pocket for her keys, desperate to get inside the building and go back to work, to grab a hold of something familiar and bury herself in the mundane tasks of her job.  She glanced behind her and the parking lot was empty.  He was gone.  He had come long enough to tell her they would never be together, that she had to move on and not allow his walking away to stop her from finding happiness.  Kellie felt a new rush of tears fall down her cheeks.  He didn’t understand at all.  It took twelve years for her to dare to try again.  She had avoided all relationships and thrown herself into raising her son and jumping back into the world of dating again had been a test of her trust and her willingness to allow herself to love again.  He had simply just stopped wanting to be with her and she knew deep down that she just wasn’t good enough, too much time had gone by and she was never going to find someone who could truly love her.  She had her chance with her marriage and it had blown up in her face.  It was foolish for her to believe that anyone would want her now.  Twenty pounds heavier, set in her independent ways and hesitant to trust again.  She was ruined for relationships and this one was wise enough to sense it.

  Kellie forced the door open and staggered into the bathroom, locking the door behind her and wrenching the cold water on full blast. She braced her arms on either side of the sink and stared at her reflection.  She looked horrible with red eyes, swollen and still shiny with tears, makeup long gone.  She took several deep breaths and leaned down to splash cold water on her face, but it wasn’t enough. Kellie sobbed, pressing her wet hands against her hot cheeks and wanting nothing more than to curl up in a corner and weep until there was nothing left inside.   

She grabbed some paper towels and wiped furiously at her face, willing herself to stop crying and bury the pain deep.  She knew her co-workers would take one look and know, despite her efforts to hide it.     She wasn’t loveable, she couldn’t hold on to a man… and they would all know it.  Her heart lurched again and she shut off the water, blinking several times. She went back out to her desk, avoiding the quick glances of her two co-workers, and plopped down in her chair.  She stared unseeing at her computer screen, the Outlook layout blurring and unreadable.  She blinked again and grabbed the mouse, began clicking on the emails and trying to remember what it was she was working on before her world fell apart.  She heard his voice in her head again, the scene playing over and over again.  The way she wanted to just pull him to her and kiss him and make him stop and see what he was walking away from.  The desire to make him choose her.   She felt stupid and betrayed.

 A strangled sob escaped her and she dropped her head down on her arms and keyboard and cried quietly, her heart painfully trying to burst in her chest. She felt a warm hand on her shoulder but she didn’t look up, afraid that whoever it was, they would look at her with sympathy and worry and she didn’t want that, she just wanted to be somewhere else… anywhere but here where her world had just crashed down around her.  All around her it had become silent, the clicking of keys on the keyboards had ceased and Kellie knew everyone was staring.  They knew.  They all knew she was weak and stupid for falling for someone who was never going to love her.  She had been used and thrown away with a standard,  “Its not you, its me” kind of excuse.  She was no better than she was when her marriage fell apart. She was still making stupid decisions and it was obvious to everyone that she was foolish to even try again.    She was collateral damage in a war she hadn’t chosen to fight, an insignificant loss in the grand scheme of things.   Not important enough to fight for.

 Mustering up a strength she didn’t feel, Kellie, straightened up and wiped at her eyes, sniffling and reaching for an offered tissue, “I’m fine, guys, really… I’m fine.”  But she wasn’t fine.   .  He didn’t want her.  She wasn’t good enough. She was just a fling, he was done with it and she was left alone…. Again….  Poor little Kellie, all alone and unable to hold on to anyone because she was just stupid when it came to love and trust.  Although this pain was quick and precise, it hurt worse than that of her failed marriage.   This time she could feel her heart breaking.

Somehow, she got through the rest of the morning.  Quietly answering her emails and trying to work on projects that were pending.  At lunch she went out to her car and just sat there in the parking lot, staring out the windshield and smoking cigarettes, her appetite gone.  The afternoon dragged by, her tears less frequent now as the reality began to sink in.  She had no idea what she said to her friends that had emailed, but she knew it wasn’t the truth. Probably something about being too busy to answer, swamped with projects.  She didn’t want to admit to them that she had made another mistake, that she had not learned her lesson when it came to men.
 Finally five o’clock came around and she drove home, no radio on, just the hum of the tires and the sound of the wind rushing around the car.  At home she went through the motions of feeding the dog and the cats, then she made herself some hot tea and sat down in front of her computer, feeling the silence of the house press down all around her.   His things were still in a pile in her living room, which meant he would have to come get it.
 She wanted to throw it out on the lawn and scream in anguish and heart break.  Instead she put the computer away and turned on the tv but didn’t really watch it.  She allowed the tears to flow unchecked and she stared unseeing at the television screen, replaying the last three months in her head, wondering where exactly she had gone wrong.  She clung to her cell phone, watching it, willing it to ring and display the name “My guy”, anticipating his voice telling her he was wrong, that she was too important for him to just walk away from.   But the phone remained stubbornly silent and the hour grew late.

Kellie unwrapped herself from the couch and stumbled into the bathroom for her shower.  She let the hot water pour over her and a weakness came over her as fresh sobs racked her body. She stayed like that until the water cooled and then she got out, wrapping herself in a towel.  She looked at herself in the mirror and a barrage of negative, self-depreciating thoughts screamed in her head.  “You’re fat! You’re too loud, too demanding! Its no wonder he wanted out!”   Closing her eyes, Kellie dried herself off, hating the body she rubbed the towel over and quickly throwing an over sized t-shirt on to hide the flaws.  

 She laid down on the bed and stared at the ceiling willing herself to think of something else.  The image of her ex-husband came to mind and her thoughts went over every detail of their relationship.

  Over the years she had thought less and less of it, distancing herself from her failure, but tonight she was giving herself a pass and allowing herself to remember.  
She never fought back.  That was the worst part.  The destruction of her marriage and her trust.  She feared that if she confronted him it would confirm her deepest fears, not that she would end up alone, but that she wasn’t worthy enough to deserve his love and loyalty.   She accepted the single red rose he brought each time, pretending that it was a symbol of his love for her rather than a sign of his infidelity.  She cared for their child, cleaned the house and did the shopping.  She accepted his excuses of working late, tolerated the marathon video gaming and football watching that took precedence over family outings and looked the other way as he ingested the whiskey like it was water.  She quietly listened to his ravings about people doing him wrong and stood by helpless and embarrassed when he picked fights with unsuspecting strangers who had done nothing more than glance at him as he walked by.  It was better that way, easier to live if she just took it all and absorbed it with no argument. She realized he would never be the person she had hoped him to be.  When he talked of a future together, she felt dread.  When he was excited about a new idea to move ahead, she would cringe inwardly and calculate how much she would have to take on in order for him to chase that hopeless venture. His touch brought revulsion and she avoided contact as much as possible, as much that wouldn’t make him suspicious.  She found herself relishing the times when he wasn’t around and feeling resentful when he was there.  She kept it all inside, harboring it like a dirty secret.

 She buried her pain so deep that that it began to fester and grow like an invasive weed, curling around her heart and choking every last piece of compassion and love out of it.  She cried alone where no one could see her and she silently mourned the death of the love she once had for him.  Then she put away her dreams of a good life in a successful marriage, and created a new one.  The dream of being free.

 All she wanted was to be free of the pain, free from the ache that consumed her and hold her hostage like bars in a prison.  That pain had been dull and easier to absorb.   The pain of “My Guy” was excruciating.  It wrapped around her scarred heart and squeezed forcefully, it lashed open wounds she thought long healed and no amount of crying or wishing or anything else was going to erase that hurt.    
Kellie finally fell asleep, exhausted from the day, praying that when she woke it would have all been just a bad dream.  She woke with a migraine.  Wincing against the pain, she stumbled to the kitchen and found the ibuprofen.  She heated a cup of day old coffee in the microwave and swallowed four pills down.  Closing her eyes, she dropped into the only chair in the living room and closed her eyes against the throbbing pain.  The previous day’s events began running through her mind and a lump formed in her throat.  She swallowed quickly but it was not use, fresh tears pricked her eyes and the ache in her heart called out.
With an effort, she forced herself up and dressed for work.  She ran a brush through her tangled hair, glancing in the mirror long enough to silently remind herself that she was worthless.  She stared at her phone for a moment, hoping against hope that he had texted or called.  He had not.

She shoved the phone in her pocket and grabbed her keys, taking deep breaths as she stepped out and saw that it was a pretty October morning.  The sun showed bright in the eastern sky, orange leaves rustled in the near naked tree tops and birds called out their morning song.  It was a contradiction to the darkness inside her and Kellie climbed in her car, feeling like the world too had turned a blind eye to her pain.

It wasn’t fair.

 None of it was fair and she was going to have to suck it up and pretend that she had not been laid out flat by one man’s rejection.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Center of Things

The Prompt:  
Ah the freedom of flight, the weightlessness of free-fall. Doesn’t it feel wonderful? Well it would if you weren’t launching at maximum velocity towards a gaping hole that leads to the center of the earth. Why are you going there? What’s going on?


Revenge. That’s what is on my mind as I sit in a shuttle moving at a rapid speed along the tracks that would lead me to Final Stop, a facility designed to take place of death row. Instead of taking a dirt nap, prisoners were taken deep into the center of the earth. Gone were the days of appeals and second chances, once a jury declared a guilty verdict, it was all over. I don’t even get the luxury of looking out the window. The shuttles are encased in some kind of super-metal, stronger than titanium and forty-eight inches thick. Not that it would matter, all I would be able to see is the cold steel structure of the tunnel I’m traveling through. Instead, I stare at the back of the girl in front of me, Prisoner 98745622, the black numbers emphasized against the bright yellow jumpsuit. She’s crying loudly and keeps tugging at her tangled blonde hair, mumbling something about injustice. I feel the same way, but I don’t let the others see me cry and I don’t voice my own opinions about our system of justice. I suspect the weeping sops are the first to go down at Final Stop, I need to prove myself right away if I hope to survive. No one has ever come back. I will be the first. I have to find the doppelganger who took my life from me. I flex my fingers, thinking about that day that changed my life. I was there when the bank was attacked, standing in line to make a credit withdrawal. I was lying on the floor with the rest of the customers when my twin walked in and shot the President in the head. They caught it all on film and when they were interviewing all of us, they assumed I was playing a trick on all of them. The trial was over in under an hour. In a matter of three months, I went from living the dreams of a hopeful college student to wearing a jumpsuit as bright as a lemon and hurtling towards a condemned life working in the diamond mines. I won’t waste time thinking about the unfairness of it all, I have to find a way to escape this alternative to a death sentence. The man next to me grunts and kicks the back of the chair making Prisoner 98745622 jump and hiccup and start sobbing louder. I look over at him, meeting his hard stare with one of my own, daring him to say something. He nods and breaks eye contact. Message received. The wheels of the shuttle start screeching as the brakes are applied and we all lurch forward. A guard at the front stands up and waves his rifle as he turns to face us with a sneer. “Welcome to Final Stop, I will be your tour guide”, he is laughing now at his own pathetic joke. I meet his gaze and a smile tugs at the corner of my mouth. I will make a special effort to find him and make him stop laughing.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Old School House

The Prompt :  The tires on her SUV crunched over the gravel as she pulled into the curved driveway.  She hopped out of the driver seat quickly and the closing of the car door echoed in the eerie stillness.  “Finally,” she thought to herself, “Finally you are right in front of me.”  A small smile crossed her face as she gazed upon the old schoolhouse on the hill.  She couldn’t wait to get inside.



The tires of the SUV crunched over the gravel as pulled into the curved driveway.  Callie put it into park and shut the engine off, her eyes of walnut brown peering out the windshield in wonder.  She hopped out of the driver’s seat, the closing of the door echoing in the eerie stillness of the afternoon. 
“Finally.” Callie thought to herself. “Here you are, right in front of me.”  A small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she gazed up at the old brick schoolhouse on the hill.  It was everything she imagined it to be with an arched entrance, multi-paned windows trimmed in white and a little bell tower complete with a bronze bell.  The steps leading up to the door were made of granite, solid and sure under her feet.  She took a deep breath, and reached for the door.  She couldn’t wait to get inside! 
“You made it!” A man’s voice exclaimed as Callie stepped into the front hall, her feet soundless on the dark hardwood floor.  She bit her lip anxiously as an older gentleman tottered towards her, his cane making a thumping sound with each movement forward.
                “Mr. Devins?” 
                “Call me Alan.” He said in his shaky voice, “We’re related after all.”  
Callie’s nervousness began to fade.  She wasn’t sure what to expect from her mother’s estranged brother.  She had not known of his existence until just a few short months ago. “That’s what I’m told.”
                Alan nodded, “You look like Mae-Belle.” He waved his arm around the wide foyer, “She ever tell you much about Hilltop?”
                “A little.” Callie was loathe to share with her Uncle that she virtually nothing about this property or the family that had established it.
                “She hated it.” Alan stated. “Couldn’t wait to get out of here and out there in the real world, as she called it.”  He shook his head, “Doesn’t matter now, she’s gone so Hilltop belongs to you.”
                Callie followed him from the all into a larger room that had been renovated into a spacious living area.  A dark suede couch and chair were set up facing a large brick fireplace.  Various scenery photos had been framed and hung up tastefully around the room, and heavy drapes had been pulled back to allow sunlight to flood in through three tall windows.   “It’s beautiful”
                “This was the commons room when it was an operating school.” Alan gestured to the fireplace, “It was a private school, of course, quite fancy in its day.”
                “And your family… I mean ‘our’ family ran it?”  Callie still had trouble remembering that this was part of her heritage.  Her mother had never spoken of Hilltop or her brother in all the years of Callie’s upbringing in the mountains of Colorado.  When Mae-Belle had the skiing accident, it caused brain damage and Mae-Belle had reverted to her sixteen year old self.  She thought Callie was her best friend, Sue Randolph and she talked in length of Hilltop and her adventures with her family in mid-Missouri.  Until that time, Callie had thought her mother was her only family.
                “Your Great Grandfather Malcom established it.” Alan said with a sniff, “He made his fortune in the shipping industry along the Missouri river and retired here.  He opened the school as a good will gesture to the community and it flourished.”
                “Why did it close?”  Callie asked curiously as she started down another hall to see where the bedrooms might be.
                “Your mother left.” Alan’s words caused Callie to stop and turn in surprise.
                “The school closed because Mama left here?” She shook her head, “That doesn’t make much sense.”
                Alan looked at her for a long moment, “What exactly did she tell you about the family, Callie?”
                Callie flushed and glanced down at her hands, “Honestly, she never told me… not really.  All I know is the ramblings of a sick woman.”
                “There was a scandal.” Alan said abruptly, no pity showing in his face for the pain that Callie had surely suffered.  “Your mother got mixed up with one of the professors.  There was a big investigation, the professor was fired, your mother ran away and the school’s reputation never recovered.”  He said like he was reading it off of a cue card, no feeling, just a simple recitation. He lifted his cane towards the hall, “Down that way is a music room, and a library.  Up on the second floor are the bedrooms, just three of them but they all have their own bathroom.”   The subject change was abrupt and obvious. He appeared to lose all of his energy and he turned and moved slowly towards the front door.
                Callie recovered from her stunned stance and made a move towards him,  “Wait… “  she reached him and offered a supportive arm for him to lean on.  “What am I supposed to do?”

                Alan looked at her with a soft sad smile, “I think it’s time for you to start your new life, Callie.” 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

BE CAREFUL OUT THERE




The Prompt:

 "Be careful out there," your mom said as you grabbed your duffel bag and headed on a camping trip with friends. "You know that tonight is the anniversary, don't you?" You nodded, then shut the door behind you before getting in the car and taking off.



            Nora wrestled her way into a blue pullover hooded sweatshirt, as her mother stood at the counter stirring a bowl of cookie dough with a wooden spoon.   Pop music played from the boombox radio on the counter and cool evening breeze trickled its way into the room through the open kitchen window.
            “It seems silly going camping this time of year.” 
            Nora rolled her eyes and zipped up her ragged duffel bag, “Its not that cold out.”
            “it is with the rain.”  Nora’s mother quipped and stopped stirring.  She pulled a cookie sheet from the cabinet and set it on the counter.  “Did you pack extra socks?”
            “Yes.” Nora hefted the duffel up on her shoulder, “I’ll be home tomorrow afternoon. I promise.”
            Her mother pulled a spoon from the drawer and scooped up some cookie dough.  She plopped it on the cookie tray, “I just worry.”  She got another spoonful of the dough, “I want you to be careful, tonight is the anniversary of…” she dropped the dough on the cookie sheet next to the other dough and shrugged, “well, you know.”
            Nora pushed back the stray curls of brown hair that fell across her forehead and let out an exasperated sigh, “Seriously?  You’re going to keep bringing that up like I don’t know?  Like it isn’t common knowledge in this entire town?”  She opened the back door, “I’ll be fine, mom, you worry way too much.”  She shut the door and trounced down to her truck, tossing the duffel bag unceremoniously in the back.   With her hand on the door handle, she paused, her green eyes flicking to the bushes on the side of the cement porch.  That was where she had hidden, her shoulder screaming in pain, her clothes soaked crimson from the blood.  Inside she had heard more shot gun blasts and she had curled into a fetal position, making herself as small as possible. She had no memory of the events that led up to her bleeding and cowering in the bushes. 
            A wave of guilt washed over her.  She may not remember that fateful night, but her mother did.  She let go of the handle and walked back to the house.  Her gaze fell on the empty sleeve of her mother’s shirt and moved to the ugly scars that trailed from her mother’s forehead, over her now misshapen skull. 

            “Did you want help with the cookies, mom?”