It was early evening. The sun was beginning to dip below the tranquil horizon and the incessant chirp of crickets of the season only ceased for approaching footsteps, as they did when Mick crossed the yard. If you were sitting on the weathered bench close nearby, you could only see his silhouette and the dying sun he passed. The forlorn swing hanging from the only tree in the yard swung softly to and fro every so often a breeze would stir.
As he walked up the back porch, he glanced around gingerly before breaking the lock on the back door with a screwdriver he concealed, afterwards, in his back pocket, and then entered the house, leaving the comforting country yard behind him.
He walked into the kitchen, the silence could be heard as the last light of sun shone through the windows and filtered through the dust that lingered in the undisturbed air. He could still hear crickets. He rummaged through the refrigerator and afterwards closed it, unsatisfied with its contents. He circled the kitchen island about four times before climbing up the stairs, almost leaping up the steps in mirthful haste.
He entered the first room, which was dark and smelled of dead flowers. He stumbled for a lamp, but could not find one. He ran his fingers like a deaf man, trying to find what it was that he was aiming for, and as all thieves have their days, he found it. He could still hear the crickets. He scoured the small jewelry box, putting the items he felt were most valuable into a gunny sack he had stuffed in his front right pocket, and then left the room.
In haste, he was, but it was more of eagerness that compelled him to be less thorough than he usually would have been; the imperative mission lay before him, within reach and capable of satisfying his insatiable and despicable appetite, knowing the trivial details of his hobby came first and the fun part following.
He approached the second room, which was closed, and stood there a moment, listening, breathing ceased, and then smiled maniacally, giddy with excitement.
He entered the third room and found the lamp by the entrance. He sauntered to the nightstand, and then the dresser, and then over to the desk, pilfering valuable objects and items of interest.
He turned the lamp off and left the room, approaching the second room again, this time putting his ear to the door, listening again and still smiling crazily. He could still hear the crickets. He opened the door carefully, cringing as the hinges squealed momentarily, and then closed the door gently behind him.
Sitting back on the bench in the backyard, the same country backdrop remained, only it was darker then when we had left it earlier. The swing died along with the wind, but the crickets still chirped their tiresome and lulling song. It was quieter than earlier, the atmosphere still, a dog in the far distance could be heard barking at something most likely innocuous. A scream was quickly muffled, but it did not disturb the silence even the slightest. Nothing changed.
The night continued its soothing, breaking for nothing.
Six Years Later
It was June. The flavorful aroma of lavender and jasmine wafted through the air, fields of dandelions and sour grass embellished the country and road sides, welcoming you as you entered the county. Spring breezes sometimes acted like winter gusts, throwing dust and dirt into the air, and once, every so often, forming a devil to chase you down the road.
As she sat on the fence, she watched as two robins built their nest in a rain gutter on the corner of the house, the birds aware of her presence, but not bothered.
She saw Denny cross the yard in the distance, entering the white, paint-chipped shed and closing the door behind him. She knew what he was doing in there. She knew better to know just as she knew better than to intrude on other people's business, but she couldn't help it.
She turned her attention back to the robins, who were still meticulously picking and fixing their nest.
Her name was Bonny and she was seventeen, the youngest of her two elder siblings Rosemary and Dennis. For those who knew her called her a quiet girl, for those who didn't called her peculiar. The only person she was ever sociable with was her mother, but at a certain age she became everything unlike herself. She grew distant and irritable towards frivolous occurrences, but after a while she eased into being mute; her mother assumed she was going through a phase due to her age. She's becoming woman.
Denny left the shed and crossed the yard back to the side of the house, glaring at her with a flushed face. She smiled softly as soon as he was out of sight and then continued to inspect the robins.
She remembered when she was thirteen and her father bought her mother two canaries, one yellow and the other red, when he took a short visit to the city one year. Her mother implored him to bring all of them along, but he said he could not afford it. Fine her mother said displeased. But you better bring me something back, something special"please. Bonny watched those birds for hours. She became used to the constant screeching as they fluttered around their wire cage, hopping back and forth among their dull instruments they were expected to play with, staring at her with their small, still, button eyes, begging for freedom. After a few weeks, her mother grew bored of them and gave Bonny the job of feeding them and cleaning their cage. But Bonny, instead, one night set them free, smiling as they flew into the night and out of her life.
She saw Denny again, but this time he stood against the house, staring at her every so often, puffing a cigarette and hocking phlegm onto the dirt yard. She don't know nothin' he thought she don't even know one thing that can get me canned.
He walked over to her, offering her the cigarette.
"You know I don't want that," she said.
"What?" she mocked. "You want me to smell just as much as you do?"
"Lil' miss snippy, that's what your name ought to be," he retorted. "No one done anything to you to make you act so tight. I'm beginning to think your quietness is your thirst for attention."
She didn't respond, she watched the birds as if he weren't there. He spat again, this time aiming it perfectly onto her shoe. She rubbed it off with her other shoe, then afterwards on the fence post to get rid of the excess spittle, the birds never leaving her sight as she did so.
"You act like you don't care, but you're telling mother all the things I do and done when you do just as bad as I do. I know what you are and what you ain't never gonna be."
He knew he was lying. He knew what he wanted. He wanted her to break: a victory for him and the first loss for her.
"I think I hear the phone ringin'," she said indifferently. "It might be Myra."
He grimaced, spitting once again at her foot, but missing to hit, instead, the fence post. Dissatisfied with his indirect aim, he chucked his cigarette into the dry grass field that lay beyond the fence. They both watched as the dry brush began to smoke and eventually they saw a small flame begin to grow, the smoke becoming thicker and thicker with every heartbeat.
He nodded to it and said, "put it out," and he snickered as he walked back to the side of the house.
As swiftly as she could, she ran to the back of house and filled a bucket of water from the hose, and then ran back, being careful not to spill, and then doused the small fire, her heart thudding quickly in her chest.
She hung the bucket from the fence post and looked back at the robins, but they had disappeared. The smoke must've scared them, either that or they're lookin' for more nest materials.
She turned and saw her mother, a middle-aged woman whose years of strife and heartbreak shone in her eyes and her rough, work-beaten hands. She was drying her hands in her apron, her austere sun dress fluttering in the breeze. She smelled the air and surveyed the yard for the source.
Bonny shrugged her shoulders and passed her by, staring down at the dirt yard. Her mother frowned as she passed, and heard the screen door slam shut as she entered the house behind her.
One moment she's happy, the next she can't even give me at least a smile.
She stood in the yard, the ghost of her six-year old Bonny standing before, staring at the dirt yard as if she never passed by.
"Bonny?" she said softly in that calming voice that all mothers are endowed with. "Can you please tell me what was burning?"
"I can't say."
Silence. The distant barking of the dog. The sense of tension.
"Why can't you, honey?"
"I'm no tattle, mommy-"
"I know, I know," she replied, smiling slightly. "You never will be. Just tell me what it was that was burning. I just want to know, that's all."
The apparition faded and she was alone again.
She's becoming woman, oh dear, oh god, she is a woman.
"So were planning on having it around July or August. Adam wants to wait "til October, but he said that I could plan it out, so I want it to be in July or August."
Rosemary and her father sat at the dinner table; she was flipping through a catalog of bridal gowns while he sipped a cup of lukewarm coffee that he had let sit out too long.
"Well, I hope you are planning to have it indoors," he said. "Because I ain't gonna give you away sweating like a pudgy boy in a hot spring, I tell you now."
"No, no, no, I have to have it outdoors," she complained. "You need to, please"
"Fine, I would do it during a hailstorm, sweetie," he reassured. "You just make sure you know what you want and that you are sure of what you are doing, because once you've gone through it, the way to turn back won't be as easy to approach as you think."
"Please, I've already heard it from mother," she replied. "I hear it everyday."
"Well," he started. "If you're so sure, then I say go ahead and do it. You seem to be fixin' quite well with him, anyways."
"Thank you," she said in relief.
Denny entered the doorway and stood there flushed face. He first looked at Rosemary, then the catalog she flipped through, and then their father.
"Hello Rose," he said teasingly.
"Denny can't go to my wedding daddy," Rosemary snapped.
"What?" their father exclaimed. "And just why not?"
"It's Denny," she answered. "He purposely ruins everything for everyone!"
Denny cracked up laughing, still standing in the doorway.
"Shut up you ass."
"Hey now," their father snapped. "You watch it Rosemary. Dennis is going to your wedding. If not, I am going to tell everyone you said he couldn't join."
"Go ahead! I don't care! I hate him! You remember my sixteenth birthday party? Yeah, you remember. Of course you remember."
Denny kept laughing.
"How could the tablecloth get accidentally wrapped around his leg? We all know he did it on purpose to ruin it"
Their father sighed.
"I really don't want him to go."
He turned to Denny.
"Dennis, do you want to go or not? I will give him the choice."
"Why in the world would you give him the choice? Just say "you can't go'."
"Nah sis," Denny replied. "I don't want to go. You're right, I prob'ly will ruin it. I might ruin it by laughing hysterically while you walk down the aisle. White sis? Really? You're getting a white dress? Who you foolin'?"
"Tell him to shut up daddy," Rosemary said softly, quickly looking away from him.
"Dennis, go back to the shed," he said.
This time Rosemary busted out laughing. Denny left furiously, slamming the back door as he entered the yard.
Bonny wasn't around so he did go to the shed, but not to do what he usually did.
He opened the shed door and started waving out all the smoke from it, and then closed it quickly behind him. He lit a candle and fumbled through a crate, pulling out what looked like a small ball of duct tape with a fuse sticking out of one end of it. He held it in his hands with ease, fumbling it every so often in his fingers, smiling as he did so.
She knows me too well.
Bonny lay in a hammock on the front porch, watching the swing as it stood still beneath the cool shade of the tree it hung from.
That was the one place she enjoyed going to because Denny never hung around there in fear that his girlfriend Myra would pass by like she usually did three or four times a day to make sure he was there and not someplace she wouldn't want him to be. A year earlier he left her a note saying he was going to New Orleans for a week with his drinking buddies. She wouldn't have it. She drove all the way to New Orleans to bring him back where she wanted him. Denny doesn't hang around with his drinking buddies anymore on account of that experience. So he then started staying home and usually walked aimlessly around the property.
She fell asleep and awoke four hours later in darkness. She could see the dismal outlines of the fence around the yard and the trees. Far in the distance she saw two square lights of her neighbor's house that stood passed the small creek. A long groaning rumbled through the valley.
More thunderstorms. she thought.
She felt like falling back asleep but she didn't like being outside at night. She always felt there was some sort of presence around her. Almost as if there was someone near her. But she felt herself start to doze off. She was in that state of being half-asleep.
Just get inside and go to bed. Just a little longer. Go to bed. Go to bed. Just go to bed. What do we have here? Wake up. If you scream. Just go to bed. You can't sleep here. I will kill you. Just go to bed. I can't move. I can't move. Why can't I move? Your sister. Your ma and pa. What's happening? Your brother. Don't even breathe, you hear me? Don't even-
She screamed as a match was lit from across the porch. Behind the light she could see Adam's face as he lit a cigarette, and then the light died.
Their was silence between them for a while. She watched the light at the end of his cigarette as he smoked it, orange crater looking and then becoming smooth orange, and then die down to a cratered orange, and then back to the smooth, then cratered, then smooth as he smoked it leisurely.
"What are you doing out here?"
His voice made her jump a little. She didn't say anything. He didn't say anything either.
He finished his cigarette and left. After a while, she also left the porch. She went upstairs to her room and fell face first into bed and fell asleep.
Two Months Later
It was too hot to have a wedding, outside or inside. But the wedding of Rosemary Hawse and Adam Billings was to take place in a week. Adam, Rosemary and her father weren't around much. They were out in the towns purchasing the arrangements for the wedding.
Denny kept on visiting the shed. He kept rebuilding his duct taped device, but after many hours of vain determination, it came out looking the same. Ah, good enough.
Bonny usually stayed on the porch and read for most of the day, and then she would eat dinner and go to bed.
Their mother did the everyday chores of her housewife status: making breakfast, cleaning the dishes, doing whatever needs to be done around the house, making lunch, cleaning the dishes, again doing whatever needs to be done around the house, relax for a break while reading, making dinner, cleaning the dishes, and finally collapsing to sleep on her bed.
This was the usual routine for about a month. The summer, starting its long and dreary stretch, was a hot one. You would go to sleep at night drenched in sweat, and wake up in the morning soaked. Relief is an uncommon word to summer.
It was mid-morning when Bonny found the stack of newspapers on her reading chair. She fumbled through them to find anything interesting, but after a moment of bustling and a grunt of disappointment, she threw the stack on the wooden table. She noticed that one leaf of newspaper had gotten stuck under the chair's cushion. She pulled it out and smoothed it out on her leg to see what it said. In big, bold letters it read: Four Girls Raped Outside of Quincy. Ages 11-13
She crumpled the paper with indifference and threw it also on the wooden table.
I don't feel so much like reading today.
She walked to the edge of the porch and looked out at the field in front of her. Miles and miles of farmland beyond the field scattered all the way to a lonesome mountain range in the distance, fogged with the summer heat. A tractor chugged along a dirt road passing through towering fields of corn, dust flying from behind it and clouding into the air.
She had lived here all her life. She could remember when she was happy, before all the worst things in her life occurred. She would pretend like those despicable days never existed, but there was always something to remind her that pretending was for small children, and that she wasn't a child anymore. Those awkward mornings of standing in front of the mirror, where she spent her time examining all the terrifying effects of becoming what she used to dream of being: a woman. And her biggest fear was that this reluctant metamorphosis would bring back what tickled her arms with fright when the lights went out at night. But it never came. All the moments when she was for certain it was going to return, it didn't. How many sighs of relief she made she cannot count on her fingers or toes. But it's not like anything can prevent nightmares.
Her biggest fear was what controlled her. Had it not occurred before, the only thing she could be liable for was her disarrayed adolescence. It's not fair she thought. It's not fair this happened to me. It's not fair it can happen to anybody.
She walked back to the wooden table and opened the wadded newspaper, smoothing it out once more, but this time on the table itself. She carefully read the article, taking note of keywords that triggered her memory and emotions. After reading it a couple of times she began to cry, sinking into her reading chair and crumbling the article once again in her hand.
Ellen? What happened? Tell us what happened. Oh god, Allen! She's bleeding! Call for a doctor, quick!
What in the hell-
There's no time for that! Call for a doctor, now! Ellen, are you alright? What happened?
Where did you go?
Allen and I went to a show. We came back around seven and we found her in her room, on the side of her bed crying. What is wrong with her?
I'll tell you once my questions are answered.
There's no need to get angry, I just want to know what happened. I'll answer your questions once you tell me what is wrong with my daughter.
Did you leave her here alone?
God no. We have a housekeeper, Georgia. She told us that she would be leaving around six because she had to pick her daughter up from her ex-husband's house. So we told her as long as Ellen was in bed by the time she wanted to leave, she could leave. But if not, then she had to stay for the extra hour.
So you did leave her alone. Well, I am pretty sure she left around six. I don't think Georgia is capable of what happened to Ellen.
What happened to her? Doctor? What are you telling me?
Keep a better eye on your child.
Just tell me what happened!
You had better call the sheriff.
"It's too hot for me to go down there, you know that," Denny whispered into the phone.
He sat in his father's office chair in the den, he spoke lowly as to avoid attention from eavesdropping ears.
"I will when it gets cooler"no"no"I don't know, maybe"why don't you come down here? Because I'm the boy-you"no"forget you then."
He hung up the phone and leaned back in the chair.
"Rosemary! You, Rosemary!" he yelled. "Tell Adam I will go with him tonight! You hear? Tell him for me!"
Adam drove up just as the night settled in and Denny swiftly entered the truck.
"What you got?" Adam asked.
"What do you mean "what do I got"?"
"You liquor yourself up this time, I'm tired of giving you swigs you free-loader."
"Well you can shove it, cuz I got my own."
"Well, alright then. That's settled. Where to?"
"I need to see Myra," Denny said.
"Her parents home?"
"No, but I think I just want to pick her up and take her someplace else," Denny said defensively. "Her parents are coming back tomorrow, but they could be back tonight so I wouldn't want to risk it."
"Alright, alright," Adam said disappointed. "We can take her out to the abandoned barn, there wasn't no one there when I passed earlier."
"That should be fine," Denny agreed. "You bringing a girl also, right?"
"I asked around, but couldn't find no one for tonight," Adam replied casually. "But don't worry, if you and Myra want some alone time, that's fine by me I mean."
"Well, I wouldn't do that to you, don't worry."
The rest of that night, to Denny, was unclear. All he could remember when he woke up the next afternoon on his house porch was that Adam drove him to a little cove before they picked up Myra and drank. But something soon felt terribly wrong for Denny. He started to fade out and fade back into consciousness. Everything was blurry and cloudy from then on.
Lets go pick up Myra, ole' Denny boy.
You drink like a fish you son of a gun, you!
Where is Myra?
Why she is right there, you don't see her? She's coming from her doorstep.
Myra don't come with us, I don't feel-
Nonsense, he's just tired. Denny drank a little too much.
No, about four swigs.
Four swigs, ha! He finished his and drank half my flask, the damn boy.
So your parents aren't home, huh? You mind if I use your bathroom, Myra? Denny, we'll be right back. She is showing me the bathroom.
No"come back my-my-my-my-Myra.
He woke up to Adam carrying him onto the porch. Adam laid him down and started to descend the steps towards the yard.
"Adam?" Denny said feebly.
He was a blur to him. He felt at any moment he could fall back asleep, but there was something deep inside of him that gave him the will: his concern for Myra.
"Is Myra alright?"
"Yes, she is Denny," Adam said softly. "She is quite alright if you ask me. Quite alright indeed."
Adam walked away and Denny faded back into sleep.
He woke up with a hangover, his mother sitting on the opposite side of the porch watching him. He managed to stand himself up and stood with his back against her. He didn't know whether the burning sensation on the back of his head was from the episode the previous night, or if it was the reproachful glare of his mother.
"Well," she said, almost making him jump. "How was your night?"
He turned to her, but not looking at her.
"Fine, I guess," he said, staring down at the porch. "A little hung over."
"Was it worth it?" she asked.
He didn't say anything. He could only think about the previous night. What had happened to Myra? What did Adam do. It was obtrusive that something or someone was not alright. The frustration and anxiety overwhelmed him to an extent of pure desperation. He chose the choice that seemed the most logical to him at that point.
"Mother," he began.
Her eyes widened with surprise, she hadn't heard that word spoken from his mouth in six years. But, with a mother's instinct, she knew at the tone of his voice that something was wrong.
"Something bad happened last night," he said. "But I don't know what it is."
And with that she knew there would be a big change occurring, that there would be a long, enduring struggle, that there would be a time some years later where she would stop herself and say everything's great. Knowing that there lies a life-altering obstacle before the calm that only readies one for darker days.
Myra was nowhere to be found. Denny and his mother contacted the sheriff and said Adam knew where she was and was perhaps the last person to see her. Rosemary, as predicted, stood by Adam side though.
"This is ridiculous!" she screamed. "Why? Why, why, why must this happen at a time like this?"
"Rosemary," Denny said. "I think it is best you call the wedding off, because I swear to you that you are not safe with that man."
"Shut up! Shut the hell up!" she screamed into face. "He didn't do nothing!"
Their father entered the room.
"What do you think father?" Denny said. "Should Rosemary cut off the wedding?"
Rosemary looked at her father miserably, her make-up running down her face like watery tattoos.
"No," he said. "If Rosemary doesn't want to then it is still being held."
"Oh, father!" she cried happily and started to run to him.
"But!" he snapped. "That does not mean that I believe Adam is innocent of the accusation. So far, or so what I have heard from the sheriff, Adam doesn't have a plausible alibi. So I am not convinced."
He left the room quietly.
Rosemary, Denny, and their mother stood there. Denny looked at their mother, fumbling change in his pockets.
"What do you think mother?" he said softly.
She didn't look at him. Her gaunt face shadowed by age and the toils of life seemed to grow thinner with the slow, dreary days passing by. She rubbed her callused hands, smoothing the protruding purple veins with her thumbs.
"Don't let love fool you Rosemary," she said finally. "Love is a feeling you feel for someone else, but it isn't capable of being felt by another. You just know if someone loves you because they tell you they love you. You never find out if they truly love you or not. So what do you think Rose? Do you think Adam loves you, or do you think he might possibly being trying to set up an alternate life along side his criminal life?"
Rosemary didn't ponder a second, her answer was instant.
"Yes!" she said. "I know he loves me. Did you ever think that he might love me but also be a criminal at the-"
She stopped abruptly.
"No," she said. "That couldn't happen. There is no way in hell that could happen. He is not a criminal!"
She shook her head violently and left the room for a brief while, returning more calm and collected.
"I will talk with him tonight," she said. "If I can't break him, then I am marrying him."
Nothing else was said.
Later that night the whole family listened to Rosemary and Adam's murmurings on the porch. Bonny sat next to her father on the sofa, while Denny and their mother stood near the door trying to hear the conversation better.
She finally entered the house smiling excitedly.
"Were still getting married," she said.
"What?" Denny said. "Are you serious?"
"Yes!" she snapped. "And listen here you bastard, Adam told me his alibi. He was with you the entire night like he said he was going to be. So that means that either you or him could of done something with Myra. You were too drunk to understand that night, so how the hell could you just accuse Adam and not yourself?"
He began to speak but stopped himself. He couldn't understand how the whole blame had turned on him so quickly. He looked at everyone else in the room, his face glowing red with humiliation.
"It wasn't me," he said. "I know Adam did something with Myra. He got me-"
"I don't care, Denny," she said. "I am still getting married."
"Well you are making a big mistake, I tell you that," he retorted. "You just wait. You'll see."
Rosemary went back out onto the porch, and soon after they heard Adam's car door slam and heard them pull out onto the road.
Why the hell do you want to tell her something like that? Just keep it to yourself.
I want to tell her so she understands that it is not alright.
She's ten for god's sake!
I know the age of my own daughter. I want to tell her, please.
Tell her when she's older. I promise you, it will be the right thing to do. Wait until she is more understanding.
But what if we forget?
I am sure she will understand what it is in due time. Just let her find out herself.
But what if it happens to her? It happened to me, it could easily happen to her.
It won't, I promise you.
Bonny never forgot that brief conversation between her mother and father she overheard. She never learned the reason for it, but seven years later she felt a deep connection to it, a connection not only to an unknown reason she did not yet know, but also to her mother.
But she had to tell somebody. And that somebody had to be her mother. But at a time where her sister's wedding might be tainted with the rumors of the groom being a murderer, rapist, kidnapper, or what ever other names a rumor might create, bringing her situation into her mother's hands might be a little too much for her mother to handle.
If she were to tell her mother, she would have to find out what her mother wanted her to know seven years ago. She needed motivation.
Don't worry, my father won't bother you much. My mother won't either. She is kind of worn out if you know what I mean.
I guess. So, where do you live again?
Just up Burns Creek, we have a patch of land about two miles up it.
"do you guys have a big tree in the yard with a swing attached to it?
Yeah! So you know where I live?
Yeah, now I know. (oh, shit. It can't be.)
Great, now I don't have to help you, because I give terrible directions if you want to know the truth.
(If this is where she says it is, I better high-tail out of here"hell, it's been four years. Would she still remember?)
So you nervous?
(About getting busted or about meeting your folks?) Nope, not at all.
Good, because you shan't be you know? They are nice people.
Don't worry, honey. I am fine. Your fine. Were both fine. Let's just enjoy the afternoon.
Alright. Ooh, were almost there! You'll probably meet my younger sister, Bonny, first. She is usually always on the porch reading or something.
Bonny, meet Adam. Adam, this is Bonny. He's my boyfriend I have been talking about.
(Oh, god"she remembers. She remembers, and I am done shit on now.)
Pleased to meet you Bonny, I hope we get to know each other well real soon.
It was late afternoon when Bonny and her mother sat down on the porch and drank warm lemonade. It was awkwardly quiet as always, but Bonny broke the silence.
Her heart beat in her chest like a thousand native American drums, intense and frightening all at once, she fought to keep her breath steady.
"Mother," she said finally. "Can I talk to you about something?"
Her mother, rocking slowly in her rocking chair, never broke her gaze as Bonny spoke. She sat there calm and relaxed, a slight smile could be seen at the curve of her mouth.
"Of course, honey. What about?"
"Well," she began. "I remember about seven years ago, when I was ten, I overheard you and father talking about something that seemed really important."
Her mother moved uneasily in her chair, taking another sip of her lemonade.
"I was just wondering what it had to do with. Father kept telling you to tell me when I was older. And"well"I am older now. And I would like to know what it was you wanted to tell me."
"It is best you don't," her mother said abruptly, her demeanor obviously disrupted.
"What do you mean?" she asked. "Just tell me so I know and I don't have to wonder anymore."
It was a cold answer. Bonny became furious at her mother's stubbornness, but she would not fail. She needed to know just as much as she wanted to tell her mother what she had been wanting to tell her for the past six years.
Please, just let it go Bonny. Please.
"Mother," she said sharply. "I want to know. I am not going to stop asking you until you tell me. I want to-"
"Quiet!" her mother snapped. "Quiet, and I will tell you!"
Her mother shot her head towards, staring into her daughter's eyes with a mixture of fear and anticipation.
How would she understand? She is going to be upset with me, I know it.
"When I was ten," she began. "Something really terrible happened to me. Something that I wish would never have happened. For if it didn't, maybe you and I wouldn't be strangers to one another. Things would have been different, I would have been different. It is something that haunts me to no end, and I am relieved that I am finally going to tell you. Hopefully it will help us. Hopefully."
And with that, she began her story"
She knew the door was open because she could feel the cold draft as it entered the room, prickling her skin with goose bumps.
Mother? Father? Anyone? Is that you?
She held her breath while she waited for a reply, but none came.
The room was dark, the curtains drawn over the windows excluded any amount of light from entering the room. The thick, muggy, summer heat still suffocated the night with its never ending misery. Silence heightened the mugginess, making everything seem stiller than a sleepy fog blanketing a freezing pond on an autumn morning.
She had the feeling of someone watching her, or someone else being in the room with her, but she kept telling herself it wasn't true.
(Father said nothing can hurt me in my bed.)
As she thought this, a dirty, rough hand covered her mouth and she started to scream but was then struck in the face sharply. She was dazed for a brief moment, but then started to cry. She could taste the salty dirt that covered his hand, the smell of soil and urine entering her nostrils.
Yeah, you keep crying. If you scream I will give you another if you want it. I can never run out.
And he didn't run out. Every time she would bite, cry too loud, or didn't do what he said, he smacked her again. It got to the point where all she could feel was her face swelling like she had gotten stung by a wasp. She finally gave up fighting and lay there, warm tears rolling down her cheeks, combining with the thick, slimy layer of sweat that covered her whole body.
When he was done, he got off the bed and she could hear him getting dressed. She didn't say anything, didn't make a noise, or even open her eyes. She just laid there, feeling it inside of her, from a stranger who now stood before her bed getting dressed and obnoxiously zipping up his fly. It slowly trickled from inside her and down her leg, a mixture of warm blood and lukewarm what ever it was that concluded the sick nightmare.
She whimpered as he put his mouth to her ear. She could smell his cologne and felt his warm, liquored breath as he whispered in her ear.
Don't you dare tell anyone you little bitch. You ain't even know who I am, so you might as well as forget this happened. Forget about it. It never happened. I know who you are, what you look like, who your family are. If you say even a word"I'll kill ya'.
She heard him leave the room. She laid there, wanting to sob but without energy to do it. Confused, traumatized, terrified, and in excruciating pain, she didn't feel it. All she could feel was the warm heat of the night as it tried to strangle her.
By the end, Bonny was sobbing. Her mother was calm as she was when she begun the story.
"And that's what happened to me when I was ten," she said softly.
The door that Bonny longed to walk through finally opened: the connection between her and mother. For most of her life, her mother was an indifferent slave of the house, that dreary ghost that lingered around even after all the beds have been filled but her own. To her, her mother became alive as her story ceased.
"Oh, mother," she cried. "I am so sorry!"
She ran across the porch, her mother swiftly standing up with her arms open, and threw her arms around her. It was the first hug they had given each other since they could remember. They embraced for a couple of minutes until they were able to speak again without breaking up.
"Mother," Bonny began. "I need to tell you something that will shock you, and which will also cause a lot of controversy within this house."
"Tell me, please," her mother pleaded. "I am tired of waiting to understand why we have both been so neglectful towards one another. Tell me."
Please, don't let it be what I think it is. God, please don't let it be. I would do anything"please"
"What do you mean you need to leave?" Rosemary cried. "No, were supposed to get married."
Adam hid his face in his hands.
"It's complicated," he said. "Please, I just need to leave."
"Is it about Myra?" she asked. "Look, I don't care. What ever happened, I don't care! You were both drunk out of your minds, you could have both done it. I don't care though, because I love you."
"Ah, shut the hell up!" he roared. "I am so sick of this! Why can't you let me breathe for once? Shit!"
"What are you talking about?"
"All you ever do is whine and bitch, whine and bitch," he yelled. "For once, shut the hell up! Let me talk to you to get it through your head. I want to end this. It was a big mistake. It is not you. It is not this stupid bullshit situation with Denny's squeeze. It is not anything. I just want to leave Blue Crow County. I want to go up north and work with my uncle, you know"start over."
"But why, though?" she cried, wiping her running make-up with her forearm. "Everything was fine until Myra went missing. And now all of a sudden you want to leave? I don't know, Adam. It seems kind of suspicious. You're still a suspect, if you leave they will go looking for you. I don't want you to-"
She didn't have the time to finish her sentence and dodge the palmed hand that swung for her at the same time. She looked at him and started to bawl harder.
"Did you just try to hit me?" she screamed. "Why the hell would you do that you little bastard?"
"Now, look it Rose," he said. "There are a lot of things you do not know about me. Some things, if I told you, would make you see me in a whole different way. I just have fear you will find out about those things and want to break our marriage off. I am doing you a favor and saving you from destroying the rest of your life."
"What things?" she said, now getting pumped with anger. "If you're leaving, you might as well tell me, you little bastard. Tell me, what have you done?"
"I ain't telling you shit," he said.
"You tell me or-"
"Or what? What the hell you gonna do to me Rosemary?"
"It is not what she will do, but what I will do."
Adam swung around to see who had spoken from behind him, but instead was struck in the head. Denny stood there and watched as Adam hit the floor unconscious, a tire iron firmly grasped in his right hand.
Rosemary kept looking from Adam to Denny, back and forth with her eyes wide with surprise.
"There is something Bonny needs to tell you."
_ _ _
Rosemary sat in her father's chair, staring dead into the floor, her expression still.
"They even did a background check on him," Denny said. "They said that Adam Billings doesn't even exist. Most people in Old Glen could only identify him as Mick Ericson."
"Where is he now?" his father asked him.
"I knocked him out with a tire iron," he said. "He's on the side of the house."
Their father left the room.
Bonny sat opposite of Rosemary. She stared at her, the feeling of remorse settling within her like a nasty, cold that won't get better.
"He did that to you?" Rosemary finally spoke. "Before we even met"did you know it was him?"
"I couldn't remember," Bonny replied. "It was too long ago and I didn't want to falsely accuse him. So I waited until I had a reason."
"How could this have happened?"
"It's not your fault, Rose," Denny said. "He's a chameleon, fitting in with whatever lifestyle he could while leading his sadistic life on the side. I can believe I was friends with that son of a bitch. Be relieved that you didn't marry that scum-"
"He's not here anymore!" their father yelled from outside.
Denny dashed outside and everyone else followed. Adam was no longer where they had left him. Their father ran off to another side of the house, while Rosemary went to call for the sheriff.
"Bonny, it's alright," the mother assured. "They'll get him, I promise."
Bonny didn't make a sound. She was staring back down at the wooden planks of the old porch, her arms folded in discontentment. She stared at the darkness that lay far, far away into nothing, waiting to consume everything else that isn't ours.
We live volatile lives, like active volcanoes: they erupt, they rest, they erupt, they rest, they erupt, they rest. And these volcanoes don't receive any alleviation. Continuous. Off and on. Imagine the horrors that everyone lives in their lives. If we were able to document our lives and put them on movie screens, the theatres wouldn't allow it because they would be too graphic. But if one could see the better side of another one's life. The cherished times. The most memorable moments. Then times, maybe, would get better for us. But so far, a better night's sleep seems anywhere but imminent.
Later that night, Mick was picked up by a man driving a big, red ford truck. The man, a trucker from Alabama named George, heard the description of Mick on the radio as wanted prior to picking him up. George had no clue what to do. The only logical option was to kill Mick in his truck and turn him in. But George was reluctant. He had never killed anyone before. So he stopped a truck stop and called the nearest police station. Within minutes, police swarmed the truck stop and Mick was arrested. Myra's body was never found.
Rosemary, broken hearted and broken spirited, never married. She moved away a year afterwards to Montana to stay with cousins. Out there she became even more distraught. Her constant refusals to leave the house played the vital role of exacerbating her loneliness. But while being shut up in a house her whole life, she managed to adopt a hobby at which she became most adept at: writing. One day her cousin Rachel bought her writing supplies and said "now you can write back home to your folks." But Rosemary decided to write stories instead. While laying to go to sleep, she longed to write about a fictional place, a place which could never exist, but which she escaped to in order to leave her lonely life behind her. But when the story drew to an end, she sunk back into the dismal grey of her reality. But before long, she would be on another adventure. Cousin Rachel begged her to publish them. So after a month and half's thought, she did. Her stories were being sold out all over the county, and then the state, and then the country. Her biggest fan was her sister Bonny.
Bonny went to college, graduated, and while enrolled, married a young man by the name of Will Graham. After college they moved to upstate New York, where Will was born and raised. There she acquired a surprisingly profitable job at an art museum. Will was an architect, a highly professional one. Due to his expertise, he soon was summoned to other countries like Japan, Italy, and Russia. And with him he took Bonny. When Bonny was twenty-eight, she became pregnant. She gave birth to a son who she named Dennis. Throughout her life she had three more children. Her and Will retired back to her homestead where they lived the rest of their lives in peace.
Denny never used his device. Instead he chucked it in a creek while drunk one evening. In the morning he couldn't remember what he had done with it and never made the time to make a new one. He never did do anything much after everyone left. He just stayed behind and did what he could for himself. He started brewing and selling whisky by the jar, but his one man business didn't do so well on account of his whisky not really being whisky. Instead it was made out of apple juice, tea, cream soda, and some other ingredients. The buyers were either too trustworthy to not smell the product before purchasing, or Denny just wouldn't let them as he liked to sell in a hurry. After two weeks of the scam, Denny was found by a group of the buyers, and they either wanted their money back or all of Denny's teeth in refunds. Denny returned their money, but kept the rest of the funds and fled out of the county. Nothing was heard of him since.
Ellen and John moved up north to Wisconsin to live with John's siblings. They lived happily there, and never felt sorrow again.