Now on to this week’s story excerpt. We’ve reached Part One. 10. of Soul Cages. Marian, John, and Henry are returning back to the house moving party. (PG-13.)
Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore
Published by Osuna Publishing
This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.
Part One. Dreams in the Desert
The closer I got to the house, the slower my feet moved. Both Henry and John slowed as well. Guest vehicles were parked up and down our street. In the distance two moving vans could be seen in the driveway.
Henry twitched at the distant squalls of a baby. God, no, not crying babies. He hates that noise so much. There were also the excited shouts of kids.
Between the mixed reek of perfume, hairspray, and aftershave, and the children screaming, Henry would be miserable. I was not looking forward to this, not at all.
John slipped forward, so that he led the way as we reached the clusters of people in our front yard.
The moving van engines were off. Some people were standing around eating, others calling at the kids to stop running. The children chased each other over the lawn, kicking up clouds of dust, shrieking as they ducked and weaved in a game of tag amongst the grown-ups.
Men unloaded boxes and furniture, and carried them through the open garage door or propped-open front door.
A guy with the longest sideburns I’d ever seen hailed John.
John waved, but instead of introducing Henry and me, called out, “They need water and rest.” As he maneuvered us quickly through the crowd, he said in an undertone to me, “That was Glenn. Laura’s dad.”
He’s shielding us. I felt uncomfortable from all the curious stares. None of the teenagers I could see carried cell phones or other electronic devices. But they all had a plain silver ring like the ones Matthew and John wore. Oh, no. Everyone’s wearing purity rings. How long before I get hassled to put one on? There was no way I was confessing to Pastor Andervender anything about my messed-up relationship with Trent.
Our house was rather empty of people despite the heat (though crammed with boxes). Henry made gagging noises due to the stink of perfumes mixed with swamp. Echoes of grunts and bangs and thuds could be heard from all over the house. The swamp coolers were on full blast, but the air was warm and sticky.
I peered down the hall to the bedrooms when we reached the kitchen archway. The lack of windows and skylights made all the halls dim even on the brightest day. Likely Sydney had found it even darker in the winter.
The kitchen smelled of boiled corn and fried chicken. We went in to a chorus of greetings from the women gathered there. I noticed Gena stood at the group’s center. Everyone wore dresses styled like Gena’s, except for Mom.
“Hello, kids,” Gena said. “How was the walk?”
“Longer than expected,” John said. Then he tensed as he caught sight of someone.
I followed his gaze to a lone teenage girl. Considering how hostile John looks, it must be Laura. Laura had glossy blond hair and pale skin, and a sweet expression that reminded me of a doll.
Mom said, “Get yourselves some lunch. There’s still lots.”
Henry grabbed a paper plate. The counters and tables were covered with food—macaroni salad, three bean salad, chili, platters of chicken and corn, a quivering green fruit gelatin, five kinds of potato salad, and other good things.
John and I lingered under the kitchen archway. I’d temporarily lost my appetite, all too aware of being sweaty and dusty.
Henry finished filling his plate. John had to pass by Laura to open the back door for Henry, and ignored her.
How did someone so passive manage to get John so pissed?
Laura poked nervously at the salad on her plate. She glanced over at Gena—while a thin woman standing next to Laura (her mother?) gave her a hug of reassurance—then back down.
“John,” Gena said. “Could you please double-check that the movers had a chance to eat. I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out.”
“Sure,” John said. He said to me, “Thanks for explaining Asperger’s to me,” and grabbed a dinner roll before leaving.
Mom fidgeted. Gena gave Mom a pat of encouragement on her arm, which made my stomach sink. Here it comes, whatever it is. Mom said, “The teachers of the church school are here. It’s a very good program, better than the public high schools.”
I thought about Ben’s phone number programmed into my cell phone. With his guidance I’d be able to navigate Juan Tabo. “Sorry, but I’m going to Juan Tabo High School for my senior year.”
The women stirred. They must have expected me to take the bait to argue about the quality of their school.
I watched Mom give Gena a panicked look, and try again. “The First Beginnings school is excellent. You’ll be going there in the fall.”
You shouldn’t have done that, Mom, I’m not going to pretend to agree so you don’t lose face. I said as gently as I could, “I’m going to Juan Tabo.”
Gena stepped in with a smile showing too much teeth. “We’ll talk about your going to the church school later, and—”
“The church school isn’t a good fit for everyone,” John said from the archway. Gena motioned for him to shut up, but he went on. “Sydney was miserable there.”
“John!” Gena said.
He’d given me an opportunity to get things out into the open. I said to Gena, “Who’s Sydney?”
Laura dropped her fork onto her plate and covered her mouth. Everyone else stopped eating as well.
Finally, Gena managed, “She was a girl at our church who is gone.”
John stormed off.
I tried to act clueless. “Henry and I noticed his bedroom closet smells of rose perfume.” This made all but Mom and Gena quietly put their plates in the garbage, and leave the kitchen with excuses about needing to help with the kids.
Once we were alone, just the three of us, I said, “Did Sydney live here? Why does everyone look so upset?”
Mom said, “Sydney did live here, but she had a terrible accident in January and died. Everyone is still very upset about it.”
I bet that’s what they all call it now—”the accident.”
Mom added, “And you must not tell what you know to Henry. I don’t want him asking continual questions of everyone. You know how he gets—he’ll just keep asking and asking.”
I decided I’d push one step further. “What kind of accident? Is the house safe?”
Mom made a face, and I knew she wanted to yell in frustration. But instead Mom got out, “Don’t be morbid, Marian. Believe me, the house is safe.”
The kitchen felt too small. All I could think about was Sydney, so full of despair that she killed herself, and Mom and Gena calling it an “accident.” I said, “I think I’ll go out back to rest. The heat took away my appetite.”
************** End of Part One. 10. *****************
Until next week, L.M.