Here we are at another week gone by. Hope it’s been a good one for you all. I’m rather excited that Soul Cages and Cubicles, Blood, and Magic will have print editions out before the winter holidays.
But on to Marian and her difficulties after the move to Albuquerque in Soul Cages. It’s a hard road ahead for her, but it’s worth it to take the journey with her. (The rating is around PG-13 .)
Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore
Published by Osuna Publishing
This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Part One. Dreams in the Desert
Don’t worry if you look grungy and smell like a motel room, I told myself. That way you’ll be unappealing to the oh-so-great Matthew.
I saw Dad rub at his bald spot as he approached the front door—Dad was nervous.
Mom whispered to me and Henry, “I can’t wait for you all to meet Gena’s husband. Pastor Andervender’s such a spiritual man … he’ll help us make a new beginning out here.” She smoothed Henry’s hair with her fingers, and he flapped his hands at her to make her stop. She winked at me. “Gena says he has the gift of healing.”
I tensed at those last words. Please God, no, not another cure attempt. Don’t tell me we moved all this way for that.
Mom watched me closely.
It was no coincidence Mom had chosen this moment to tell me. She knew I wouldn’t cause a scene in front of strangers.
And Dad had gone along with this surprise.
“Just give me a second,” Dad called out to whoever was waiting. His key kept jamming in the double-cylinder deadbolt. Mom walked down the hall to hover next to the door.
I breathed deep to keep from hyperventilating.
If I’d known … if I’d just known, I could have—
What? Stopped them from selling a house you didn’t own? Stopped them from hauling Henry anywhere they wanted to? Riiiight.
Henry’s fingers flicked at his legs. Stress sign. It would have been better to have him only deal with a new house today.
How I wished Grannie were alive—Grannie’d known how to talk sense into Dad, and could coax Mom around despite her complaints about Grannie being a nosy mother-in-law. Tears formed in my eyes. I was scared. The last cure attempt had been so horrible. I tried to ignore the joyful cries outside of Gena! Kelly!
“So glad you all made it here safe and sound by God’s will,” said a deep male voice that raised my hackles. Pastor Andervender stepped through the doorway, blocking the light, as Dad held the door open. I couldn’t make out the pastor’s features. He shook Dad’s hand and said, “So glad to finally meet you, Mr. Hawthorn.”
“Call me Victor,” Dad said.
Andervender’s laugh boomed down the hall. “Call me Pastor Andervender.”
Dad called out, “Marian, Henry, come and meet the pastor of our church.”
I pasted on a smile and came forward, Henry behind me. The hall breeze carried a scent of aftershave and lilac perfume—Henry covered his mouth to keep from blurting that out. He’d finally learned not to comment on people’s scents.
Andervender took another step in, and my skin prickled. The man was a bulky blend of fat and muscle in a suit.
“So,” Andervender said, “this is Marian and Henry.” I didn’t like how he looked around the place, as if he were the one who had built this house and then given it to us.
I held out my left hand, so he had to switch his hands. His palm was dry and gripped too tightly. He said, “I look forward to seeing you at the Youth Group meetings. Your parents have told me all about you—how you have been such a great help with Henry’s affliction.”
Youth group? Henry’s “affliction?” I raised my eyebrows at Dad to try to get him to correct Andervender, but Dad ignored me.
Andervender held out his hand to Henry, but Henry just stared at it.
Andervender lowered his hand. “It’s a pity when spirits damage a child.”
Dad squirmed slightly, but said nothing about these weird words by Andervender. Before I could think of a polite way to correct the pastor, Mom and Gena came in.
“So, you must be Marian,” Gena said, and kissed me on the cheek. Her lips left a sticky spot. Gena not only smelled of lilacs, but was decked out in a lilac-patterned dress.
Watching Gena try to kiss Henry on the cheek was like watching a robin pecking at a worm. Every time Gena got close, Henry leaned away before her lips could touch him. Finally she gave up.
I hated the looks passing between the four adults over Henry’s avoidance of being touched.
Mom gave a nervous laugh. “I’d invite you to sit down,” she said as she gestured at the living room, “but as you can see, we don’t have any furniture.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Andervender said. “And I can guarantee there’ll be a large turnout of men tomorrow to get the moving vans unloaded since it’ll be Saturday. I told them to start arriving at nine, and we’ll come with the boys around eight.”
“Oh,” Gena said, “so silly of me, I forgot. I’ve brought a few frozen meals for your freezer, Kelly. The last thing you need to be worrying about right now is cooking.”
Andervender said, “I’ll get them, dear.”
As Andervender went outside, my parents and Gena talked about the drive cross-country. I watched Henry sneak over to the living room window and shove back the curtains—a trio of doves were on the dead lawn, scratching at the dirt.
Andervender huffed back inside with a large cooler.
“Oh, no, really,” Mom said, “you didn’t have to—”
“But I wanted to,” Gena said. “I love to cook.”
“Gena’s roast beef is excellent,” Andervender said.
We followed Andervender into the kitchen—he knew exactly where to go, and insisted on lugging the cooler without help. After he lowered it next to the refrigerator, he stepped back.
Mom lifted the lid, and gaped down at the frozen packages. “This is, is, wonderful,” she said. Mom sounded to me like she was going to cry. I felt like saying, Well, he wants you in this church of his, so they’re going to talk us up sweet.
Dad also looked blown away by the thought of someone cooking up food for us.
Andervender said, “I believe in taking care of my flock.”
When Grannie had found out Henry and I were unchurched (though baptized as babies), she’d hauled us off to Patience United Methodist Church whenever we stayed with her in Raleigh. I had helped Grannie cook meals and take them to sick parishioners. I did not like the way Gena and her husband were watching Mom and Dad.
Mom said, “We’re so grateful for the help in finding this place. It’s going to be just right.”
The Andervenders set us up with this house. I had the sinking sensation that the Andervenders would be meddling in our lives a lot.
I helped Mom load up the freezer, and wondered when the other shoe would drop. “Nothin’ is free,” as Grannie would have said. Grannie and Mom had not gotten along at all. Grannie liked to smoke, and would do so, no matter how many pamphlets Mom left behind at the nursing home about the hazards of smoking.
The aluminum foil of a package stuck to my skin, tugging at my fingers as I put it into the freezer.
“Clouds,” Henry said. He poked at the wisps of cold moisture the freezer spilled out.
The doorbell rang. I noticed that neither Gena nor Andervender looked around for a phone.
Andervender said, “That must be Matthew and John.”
Mom and I finished up with the freezer as Dad went to answer the door.
Andervender wandered over to the double sink and fiddled with the faucets, turning them on and off.
Dad came back in, followed by a hulking teen in khakis and a shirt and tie, who froze in the archway and nervously licked his lips. Then he began to back out.
“Come in, Matthew,” Andervender said, “and meet the Hawthorns.” He moved away from the sink. “This is Mrs. Hawthorn.”
Matthew came forward to shake Mom’s hand, and that allowed in another teen, this one wearing gold-rimmed glasses. Must be John.
John stared at his sneakers. He had his dad’s blond hair, but he wore a T-shirt and jeans smeared with pine sap. Henry will be thrilled. His baseball cap was in danger of falling out of his jeans pocket.
He looks like “geek meets gardener.” Nicole will think that’s funny. But something is putting him in a funk.
Andervender was saying, hand on Matthew’s shoulder, “—then Matthew’ll be going to Ft. Worth Bible College in August to major in business. Gena’s brother Fritz has offered to house him his freshman year s—”
“Hey!” Henry pointed at John and ignored the frantic gestures of Mom to shut up. “You’ve got pine sap on you. Get that when I climb trees to observe.”
“John! Just look at you,” Gena said.
I watched John shift uncomfortably when he realized everyone was staring at him. He said, “Dad said there’s swamp coolers that need fixing.”
Now it was Gena’s turn to look confused. “Oh, I didn’t know that. So that’s why…” Gena brightened up, and said to Mom, “John’ll be able to take care of your swamp cooler troubles.”
Andervender beamed as he looked at each of his sons, and reached out his free hand to John.
John hesitated for an instant, then went over. Andervender placed his hand on John’s shoulder. “Here is our second-oldest son, John. He’ll be going to Ft. Worth Bible College next year to study theology, just like I did at his age.”
Then Gena and Andervender proceeded to take turns boasting about John’s future plans to be an assistant pastor at First Beginnings, his good works amongst the congregation, his extensive knowledge of Scripture—while John winced at the recitation. I felt a twinge of sympathy.
Then the introductions resumed. All too soon I had to shake Matthew’s hand while the grown-ups watched expectantly. Matthew shook my hand too fast.
Ugh, Gena’s been talking about me to Matthew. Well, they’d all have to get used to disappointment, because every time I looked at Matthew, all I could think was, No way.
I shook John’s hand next; to no surprise, his was sticky with pine sap. I noticed both Matthew and John wore a plain silver ring.
Then I wandered away to pretend to look out the kitchen window.
Henry took advantage of the silence to run up to John. “My sister says I have a super nose.” Henry tapped his nose.
Dad softly cleared his throat. A hint to Henry to desist.
John said, “Really?”
“Yup,” Henry said. “Can smell things that other people can’t.” Mom moved up behind Henry, and placed a warning hand on his shoulder, but he continued. “Like once I helped the school janitor figure out where the d—”
Mom covered his mouth with her palm, and gave an embarrassed laugh. “That’s enough. They don’t want to hear that disgusting story.” She uncovered his mouth.
Henry said to John, “Can you fix the swamp stink? My nose—”
“Go explore the cabinets,” Mom told Henry. She shooed him off.
Henry began to open and close each cabinet in the kitchen.
Mom said to Gena, “Henry is going to be a handful in your class, but I think Marian can help us keep him focused.”
What! “I’m confused,” I said. “What class are you talking about?”
Gena blinked at me as if she were surprised I didn’t know. “I teach the middle school students at First Beginnings. Your mother has volunteered to be an aide in the preschool, and since you’ll be in the high school group, between the three of us I think we can help Henry over the rough spots.”
My brother stuck in a classroom with her? And what’s this about me being in their high school group?
“I’m going to the public high school for my senior year, right?” I asked. I tried to ignore the sweat gathering on my palms as I watched Mom and Dad exchange guilty looks. “There’s track, and I need to take physics and trig to get into a good OT program.”
“OT?” Gena said.
“Occupational therapy,” Mom said. “Marian wants to be an occupational therapist.”
I’d wanted to be an OT ever since I’d met Mrs. Brent, who had helped Henry after his Asperger’s diagnosis two years ago. How could they do this to me?
“Interesting.” Gena gave me an encouraging smile. “But you’ll be able to apply to college from our school.”
I gritted my teeth. If I started arguing with Gena, I’d never hear the end of it from Mom and Dad. But questions needed to be asked to find out if First Beginnings could handle Henry’s needs. I said, “What about Henry’s therapies and social skills class? Does First Beginnings do that kind of stuff?”
Clearly Gena and Andervender had no clue what I was getting at, for they didn’t say anything, instead looking to my parents for guidance.
Dad fiddled with his cell phone clip, and Mom gnawed at her lip. Henry continued opening and slamming cabinets in the kitchen; totally oblivious to the conversation going on—I almost envied him that.
Then Dad said, “The public schools out here aren’t safe.”
Mom nodded, as if he’d said something brilliant. “Yes, you’ll both be so much safer with me and the other mothers. They’ve got a whole curriculum—”
“If it’s not safe, why did we move here?” My voice rose. “I saw all the barred windows in this neighborhood.”
“Oh that.” Gena began to titter. “That’s just a cultural thing out here. Decorative iron has a long tradition.”
“No, no, no, it’s not like that at all,” Mom said.
Dad put a hand on my shoulder and gave it a tiny shake. “This neighborhood is safe. People just like to use bars and security doors a lot.”
“Then the high school should be okay,” I said. I refuse to be shut up in a tiny school run by some parents. And I want to run track this year, I know I can make the team.
Dad’s fingers tightened on my shoulder, then let go.
Andervender said, “That’s different. There are gangs, and the schools are so large and impersonal, completely Godless, the teachers are only there to make a buck.” He nodded at Matthew.
Matthew said, “You wouldn’t believe how nasty they are at the public schools.”
Andervender gave John a tiny nod.
John shrugged, not even bothering to take his hands out of his pockets.
Andervender’s eyes narrowed at John. His mouth opened—
“Giant dead cockroach!” Henry said as he pulled at my sleeve.
Mom shuddered. “Ick. Henry, they don’t need to know about this.”
John said to Henry, “You’ll see lots of giant cockroaches in Albuquerque. They live in the sewers that connect the city together, and crawl out during the summer nights.” John made his fingers act like a roach scurrying around.
I watched Henry’s eyes widen in excitement.
“John, please,” Gena said.
Oh, yuck, Henry will be searching for these roaches.
Henry tugged at me to come and look. He said, “I’m going to add it to my collection.” Henry had a shoebox in which he kept dead insects and spiders.
“No,” Dad said. “Roaches have too many germs.”
“Okay, show me this roach,” I said.
The four grown-ups and Matthew began to retreat from the kitchen as Henry led me to the opened bottom cabinet near the stove.
Henry said to John, “Come see it.”
But Dad leaned over from the dining room—the kitchen had a large serving window that linked it with the dining area—and said to John, “If you’ll get your toolbox, I’ll show you the two swamp coolers.”
So John left, and Henry and I had the kitchen to ourselves.
************** End of Part One. 2. *****************
See you in August!