03-28-2012 02:54 PM
Finally! I finished it. Sorry it took so long, I had to get some inspiration first. But still, I liked the way Grace turned out. Anyway, let me know what you think. I will try to get chapter three done within a couple weeks. I'll post it soon as I can. Thanks.
I lay there in the still silence, waiting, counting the number of times my heart beat per minute. It was just a distraction, an odd, bitter diversion that helped me to ignore the world outside, with all of its shambling people, looking for a place to rest their heads when life became unbearable. It was like that with me, inside this house. My house. It had once been a warm, inviting one, with parents that loved me and cared about me, and set aside some of their day to spend with me. Just me. It didn’t make any difference what we were doing, so long as it was together. A family.
This was the house I’d grown up in, said my first few words, filled with sweet memories and sorrowful ones. Busy with the lively energy of a mom, dad, and their one and only child, their baby girl. When I came home from school to smell dinner on the table, and I heard my dad upstairs changing out of his work clothes, I knew that. I knew I was home. Somewhere safe, sound, without the worries and stress of school and papers and homework and everyday things. I would leave those things at the door, deal with them tomorrow. But right now, right here, this was my moment. To bask in and enjoy, and cling to and hope for more like them. I used to take those things for granted. But now, this second, I wish I could change that. To give thanks for everything I had, even the hardships and pain. Because I knew that I had parents to come to for advice and comfort, shoulders to cry on.
I remember when I was a kid, and I used to pretend that our house was a mansion; a deep, unexplored behemoth of a house that had hundreds of rooms and thousands of little alcoves and corners that were just waiting to be discovered. My dad had a fake, imitation detective hat, like the one Sherlock Holmes wore, probably purchased for an old Halloween party. I used to wear that around the house, peering under tables and into closets as if I would expose dark secrets and hidden mysteries that had long ago been missed or simply forgotten. That seemed like a million years ago.
Now, none of those rooms looked the same. Some of them were coated with dust and cobwebs and hadn’t seen any daylight for years. Since the “accident”, half of our house was closed off and boarded up, and if you looked at it from the outside it almost appeared to be condemned. But that was just me and dad’s way of trying to cover up the truth, to hide the stink of misery and decay and forget about the past. Which, try as we might, proved to be impossible. How can you forget something that was so scarring, so raw, that even after examining it from every angle and perspective it still loomed as hideous and gloomy as ever? How can you forget the truth?
The only remaining sections left in our house were the kitchen, my room, the living room, and dad’s office. We never even kept the bathroom. We used the outhouse in the backyard. The bathroom still smelled like her and her putrid perfume. Any number of air fresheners would never remove the stench. When I crept downstairs at night for a glass of water, the lingering odor followed me as far as my door, where I slammed it shut behind me. I’ve grown used to it by now. I think the whole awful mess is beginning to fade into the background, to finally start to disappear. She was becoming a memory, nothing more…nothing less.
I had the same long, straight, blond hair, slim waist, and flawless features that she had passed down to me. I was a mirror image of her younger self. It disgusted me. In a last act of defiance I had dyed it pitch black and added a streak of scarlet, two inches wide, that ran the full length of my hair. I styled it so that it the left side of my face was covered, so that I was hidden behind a curtain. Nobody could take a peek without my approval. No one has. I still felt vulnerable, terrified of what they would see. A girl who was hiding, hiding from everything and everyone, because maybe, just maybe, if she did decide to let someone in, they would leave too. And she’d be heartbroken, devastated, left picking up the pieces of her broken heart…again. You can only glue something back together so many times before it doesn’t work anymore.
I would say my dad started drinking when mom left, but I guess that wouldn’t be accurate. When he lost his job at the slaughterhouse he was never the same. It drove him into a state of denial, a pit of despair he’d fallen into, and I was afraid he’d never recover. His father had worked their himself for over thirty years. He was the one who had got dad the job, having put in a good referral to his boss. He thought it would be nice to be able to work with his son. Dad was all for it. Ten years passed at the slaughterhouse before my grandfather had a heart attack. He was in the hospital for two weeks before he’d had a stroke and died. Dad never got over that.
They’d both been very close, very attached, especially during the end. Daddy hadn’t left his side at any point, not until he’d breathed his last few breaths, and his chest stopped moving. When the nurse came in, she saw dad, his face pressed against the sheets, still holding his father’s hand, sobbing. When she tried to get him to leave, he’d attacked her. He claimed it was temporary insanity, that the grief had driven him mad. The judge dismissed the case, more out of pity than anything else.
He sat on the porch the rest of that week, just staring out at the lawn. He didn’t eat much, and he only drank water when mom brought it to him. I don’t think he even left the chair that whole week. He just sat there, sometimes with tears running down his face, or with a smile pasted on, thinking about the old days, when his father had still been alive. Mom tried to get him to come to bed a couple times, but he shook her off. He said he needed time to grieve. Mom said she’d never seen anyone seem so depressed…so unwilling to let go. I believed her.
There was one summer where we traveled up to Cape Cod, it took days, but dad wanted to see his relatives. They all lived north, towards New York. We only lived in Kentucky because mom loved the country, and she refused to live anywhere near a city. Dad didn’t mind really, my grandparents lived down there, so he agreed to her request. I’d never been to a city, but from one I’d heard, with all the crime and robberies, I don’t think I’d want to. Didn’t sound like a nice place to be.
I saw a lot of relatives that weekend. We made it a celebration, a big party where we could hang and talk about old times. I didn’t participate in most of the conversations, most of them were between adults. I was one of the only kids there, other than my cousin Sally, who was…well, weird. My dad and grandfather went down to fish by the sea. They didn’t catch anything that whole weekend, but they did have a good time, laughing and bickering with one another. I’d never seen dad happier. Except for maybe when he married mom, but I don’t like to think about that.
After a month, dad still wasn’t the same. He only took a month of leave from work, and they fired him during the third. Mom kept yelling at him to find another job, that he needed to support us, and I knew she was right. If he didn’t get one soon, we would have to take money from our savings and eventually lose our house. Either he didn’t hear her or he chose not. What he did do was begin going to bars at night and getting drunk. I guess it was his way of releasing himself from everything, a means of escape or something. This went on for months until mom had finally had enough. I heard them talking one night, from upstairs in my room.
“Jack, you have to get a job. Don’t you care about me? And what about Grace? She idolizes you, and at the moment you’re not proving to be much of a role model for her.”
He didn’t respond.
“Jack, please, you have to get a job. We’re going to lose the house if you don’t.”
There was the squeak of a chair being pushed across the floor, and then a crash and the shattering of something fragile. The crunch of glass breaking underfoot echoed through the walls. Oh no, dad’s drunk. When dad goes on one of his drinking binges, he is always in a bad mood. It was dangerous to try and argue with him. Mom didn’t care.
“Enough Lauren! That’s enough! I know what will happen if I don’t! But I can’t, I just can’t.”
Dad cried, and mom let him, for a few minutes. I imagined her putting her hand on his shoulder, trying to comfort him. It wouldn’t work, it never did. When he got like this, nothing but a bottle could calm him down. It was worse when he’d already tried that remedy. Then he had to wait for the alcohol to wear of so he could try again.
Another crash. Something big hitting the wall.
“No! You don’t understand! You can’t! My father worked there for years. I watched him die on that bed Lauren, me! Not you! Do you know what that’s like, seeing someone you love die right there, right in front of you. It’s…it’s indescribable. If I left...if I tried to find another job, it would be like leaving a part of me behind. Sacrificing the last of my father. I can’t do that, I can’t! I’m sorry…but….I can’t.”
Silence. For fifteen minutes. No words, only the quiet whistle of breathing, and every so often, dad sniffling. I knew something was coming. Something bad. I just had no idea what I was. The next thing I heard was mom sucking in a breath, preparing herself for the last few words I would ever hear her say.
“I…I have to leave. I have to go. I can’t stay here anymore. You’re killing yourself Jack, and I won’t be a part of this.
“No, what about Grace?”
Hearing my name was like a punch to my stomach. It hurt. I’d read books where somebody’s parent had left. It was sad, but it was gone as soon as I closed the book. But this….this was real. I couldn’t stop this from happening. Mom was leaving, leaving me, leaving us. I felt a tear trickle down my cheek, and I saw it dangle on my nose before it fell. It hit the floor with a soft plop.
“I…know. But I can’t stay, I have to leave. Grace will forget about me. You will too eventually. It’s for the best. Trust me, it’s for the best. For all of us. I’ll….I’ll be back tomorrow to get my stuff.”
The screen door rattled shut, still loose from when I had accidently run into it, all those years ago. I watched my mom get in her car and drive away from the upstairs window, I watched her leave us behind. That was when I snapped.
I screamed until I couldn’t scream anymore. Until my voice was hoarse from yelling. Dad came running up the stairs and flew the door open wide. I was on my bed, hammering the bed frame hard, hammering all of my anger and tears into it, until my energy left me. Dad pulled me into a hug, and he held me tight. I wept into his shoulder, staining his shirt, but I couldn’t stop, I couldn’t stop.
It was only after I looked down at my hands that I noticed they were bloody. Part of the frame had splintered under the force of my blows. Wooden shards were sticking out of the skin of my palm, but it didn’t hurt really. The pain was on the inside, and that was a pain that so deeply rooted within me now, that no amount of bandages would or ointment would heal the wound. Not now. Not for a very long time. Not until I was ready, and I wasn’t ready.
03-30-2012 01:44 PM
I really like the beginning. It really drew me in and kind of showed how she thinks and feels about things. While reading, I couldn't help but feel that there was something slightly off with the mother leaving storyline. It just felt kind of hollow to me. I mean, had her dad done other things that made this inevitable? Had her mom made indications in the past that she was leaving if things didn't get better?
And then with part two, it just felt like she didn't care about keeping in touch with her daughter and was kind of vague on her leaving. I just didn't feel that here mom cared about her at all, but I didn't really get a big sense of that carelessness while reading it in the beginning. The only reason I'm going on about this is because I'm not sure how you want the reader to view her mother and am telling you how I saw her.
Really curious about where the story goes next!