Well, back to the story. Here’s Part One. 16 and 17. of Soul Cages (PG-13). Marian has returned from the church service to search for more clues about Sydney, and to meet with Ben.
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
After changing out of the loathed dress back home, I reluctantly approached Henry’s bedroom. I’d avoided entering his room since finding out about Sydney on Friday, but I couldn’t postpone going in any longer. I needed to find the box with Henry’s therapy stuff so I could start doing exercises with him at the park; the sooner we got him back into his regular routine the better.
I tapped on his open bedroom door, but there was no answer. Inside, Henry lay curled up on his bed with his DVD player on, earplugs in, pillows piled on his body.
Henry had left the closet door open a crack so it wouldn’t get stuck again.
Maneuvering between the stacked moving boxes, I read the labels, but couldn’t find the therapy box. I’m going to have to look through the boxes put in the closet. Crap.
I pulled open the closet door, stirring up the scent of roses, to find no boxes inside. When I flicked on the closet light, I saw dead flies and moths trapped in the frosted glass covering the bulb.
Someone—Sydney?—had put down rose-decorated contact paper on the shelves, but the pink roses looked washed out under the dim light.
God, how depressing.
John’s grief-stricken words came back to me: I wish I’d been here … our church, and Sydney’s dad, didn’t approve … she said I was someone she could talk to.
She killed herself in here. Sympathy and anger stirred in me.
Impulsively I grabbed a box and shoved it into the closet. I stood on it to study the farthest recesses of the shelves. But there were no hidden notes or conveniently missed diary, and no carvings.
Then I pushed the moving box back out and inspected the lower shelves, running my hands along their rough sides. Nothing. Neither was there anything around the clothing rod that ran along the other side of the closet.
The empty silence of the closet got to me. I backed out, wiping my hands against my jeans to get rid of the dust on them.
Once Sydney had existed, and now she was gone, leaving behind only a few traces of her life. I wasn’t sure what upset me more—Sydney’s suicide, or First Beginning’s fervid attempts to pretend it hadn’t happened.
Piñon Park was too hot for Henry and Sarah to swing for long. We ended up sitting together under the trees while Fermat ran back and forth. Ben and I talked about Juan Tabo teachers and classes until Henry interrupted to say how boring our discussion was.
Ben gave Henry and Sarah each a handful of dog biscuits to give to Fermat. My brother joyfully tossed one biscuit after another for the dog to catch. Then Henry proceeded to study Fermat from nose to tail, which the dog endured with lots of tail wagging.
While Henry and Sarah were preoccupied with Fermat, Ben said, “Jin was wondering if you and Henry have been up to Sandia Crest yet.”
“Nope,” I said. Sounds like Jin is Ben’s girlfriend.
“We were thinking next Saturday you and Henry could visit the crest with us. Sarah would come, as well as Miguel and Angela.”
“I’ll talk to my parents, but I’m not sure how willing they’ll be to have us going off so soon after moving.” Today Ben wore a T-shirt with Einstein sticking out his tongue. I added, “What’s the name of the head covering you were wearing yesterday?”
“Oh that. It’s a yarmulke.”
I made my voice stay even. “What is the large flat cracker called?”
“Oh, matzo?” He laughed. “I get so tired of eating that at Passover.”
So the man in my dream had given me a broken piece of matzo. Strange how vivid it still seemed; I could easily recall the worry wrinkle lines that had been around the man’s eyes.
With his sneaker, Ben nudged a chunk of grass that Fermat had kicked up. “So, what does your family think about First Beginnings?”
“Henry hates it. Mom and Dad are the ones that want to go.” It was on the tip of my tongue to mention the miracle healing hopes of my parents. “My grandparents are all dead. Mom was raised by her Uncle William—Henry almost got named after him—in Texas after her parents died. He passed away when I was twelve. Then Grannie died last year. There’s only Dad’s sister, Aunt Letty, left.”
Henry ran for the swings, Sarah following.
“Dad and Aunt Letty don’t get along.” I jerked my chin toward Henry. “They argue a lot about how to deal with Henry’s Asperger’s.”
“Your brother would make a great animal behaviorist.”
All the things Henry needed to learn to survive in the world made me feel overwhelmed. I had to convince Mom and Dad to find a speech therapist and occupational therapist for Henry.
“You okay?” Ben said.
“Sorry, just thinking about how busy this summer is going to be.”
Henry came running back, hot and sweaty. I squirted him down with one of the water bottles—Sarah ran over, expecting to be squirted too. Then Henry lay on his stomach in the shade to search for ants while Sarah played with Fermat.
Ben said, “Dad is afraid I won’t be able to get a job if I major in mathematics—he wants me to be a doctor like Mom. She’s a part-time pediatrician. He prints out pre-med requirements and leaves them lying around the house.” Ben flicked at a blade of grass. “My girlfriend Jin wants to be an electrical engineer.”
“Oh, that’s great.” Ah, I was right about Jin.
“Jinkies, that ant is red,” Henry said.
Ben did a slight double take.
“Henry has seen every Scooby-Doo movie and show he can get his hands on,” I said. “I’m afraid I can recite several Scooby-Doo movies by heart.”
We chatted about Asperger’s versus Down’s Syndrome, and then my cell phone went off. I became aware of how much the sun had angled downward.
Mom said, “You’re going to be late for Youth Group.”
“All right. We’ll head back now.” I flipped the cell phone shut. “Time for us to go.”
“No,” Henry said.
I kept my voice calm. “Mom says we have to go, Henry. She needs us back.”
“No!” Henry tore at the grass. “It smells!”
I racked my brains for a way to motivate Henry to go home. Ordering him to leave would only trigger a stress meltdown. Aha! I know what’ll get him moving. “If we get grounded, we won’t be able to hunt for sewer roaches tonight.”
Ben looked at me like I was out of my mind, but Henry scrambled up.
“Roaches?” Ben asked.
“Yup,” I said, slinging my backpack onto my shoulder.
“Dad wouldn’t let me put the dead sewer roach in my bug box,” Henry said. He said to me, “Let’s bring a jar tonight to catch some.” Henry began humming.
Ben grinned. “Do you need a ride back to your house?”
“No thanks. Not until my parents meet you.” My parents would freak if Henry and I pulled up in Ben’s car. I’d have to introduce Ben to them slowly, and hope they left First Beginnings before they found out Ben was Jewish.
I said goodbye, and prodded Henry to do the same. About two-thirds of the way back, we encountered Dad coming up the trail.
Dad was out of breath and scowling when he reached us. He said, “You’re running late. Mom is worried.”
I said, “I’d rather skip Youth Group.”
“You’re going,” Dad said.
It was worth a try. I kicked a stone off the trail. “We met a student from Juan Tabo who just graduated. His name is Ben. He told me all about the high school.”
“What!” Dad said, stopping. “You talked to a stranger?”
“Give me a break, Dad. He’s going to major in mathematics at Stanford. I got to meet his sister, who has Down’s Syndrome and was willing to play with Henry. I’d say she was about nine.” I knew the mention of a prestigious university and a play buddy for Henry would mollify Dad.
Dad said to Henry, “Who did you meet at the park today?”
Henry was searching the Chamisa bushes near the trail for lizards. “Sarah. Can swing higher than her. Ben has a dog named Fermat. Fermat is a Beabull.”
Dad grunted. He said to me, “I want to meet this guy before you see him any more.”
“Dad, he’s okay,” I said.
“I’ll be the judge of that.”
I rolled my eyes. “Fine. I’ll ask if he can stop by this week.”
“I start work tomorrow. It’ll have to be next weekend … might have to work on Saturday. Make it Sunday afternoon.”
Dad’s mention of working on Saturday made me uneasy. Mom’s going to get upset when she finds out.
************** End of Part One. 16 and 17. *****************
Have a good week! L.M.