Thursday, August 1, 2013
[[Turn To You: A Novella]] -- PART TWO
I was awake early the next morning, ready to dodge my mom as I stole a muffin from the stove and a piece of fruit on my way out the door. It turned out I didn't really have to - mom's car was already gone by the time I left the house. I wasn't sure if that was a good sign or not. I hadn't seen her in a few days.
The first stop of the morning was to pick up Mickey, a kid I tutored some days and gave rides to school on others. I'd met his mom when I'd worked as a candy striper at the hospital. She was a nurse and a single mother, trying to raise Mickey alone. It wasn't an easy task. He was a sweet, smart kid but he'd been diagnosed with a learning disability and had a great deal of trouble in his classes. Plus, other kids picked on him because of his problems and because he was a little overweight. I liked his mom and liked Mickey and tried to do whatever I could to help them out.
I got to his house at 8:00am on the dot and he was waiting at the curb with his A-Team lunch box in hand and book bag on his back. I leaned across to unlock the passenger seat for him and he climbed in.
"Hey Betsy, guess what?" Mickey said excitedly as he slid into the passenger seat, tossed his things in the backseat and buckled his seat belt.
"What?" I said, turning down the radio to hear him better and so I didn't break the poor kid's eardrums.
"I got an A on my science project." He was nearly breathless as he said it.
"The magnets? Wow, Mickey, that's so great! We should go to the park this weekend and celebrate - maybe play a little baseball. Would you like that?"
He just grinned and pulled out his library books. Mickey had trouble reading at his level. He was in the fourth grade but he still read a lot of books with more pictures than words. I was working on helping him with that.
I dropped him off at his elementary school and then drove around the corner to the high school. Pulling into the parking lot, I noticed that Glenn was already there. His car was parked at the end of the first row of cars and he was leaning against it. I stepped out and walked over to where he was, placing my sunglasses on my face. He grimaced when he saw me.
"You still mad at me?" I said. He turned his back to me. "Seriously?"
"I'm not totally mad," he said. He turned back to face me and tilted his head. "I should actually be apologizing."
"What? Glenn! No, you didn't do anything," I protested.
"I did, actually. I dragged you out, made you be around people -- and you'd just had your heart broken. You shouldn't even have to think about other people existing. You probably saw all those...couples or whatever."
"Well," I said, "the vodka you brought me sure didn't help."
"Oh no! I'm such a bad friend!" he cried, putting his face in his hands.
"No!" I laughed. "Glenn, I was kidding. And anyway, Erica gave me extra. It wasn't all you. But really - how could you know I was gonna act like a psycho."
"Well," he said, "I've only known you about 16 years!"
I shoved him and he laughed.
"Ok, ok," he said. "Guess we're even."
"Yeah. We're both psycho jerks and bad friends."
"I like to call us kindreds," he said, half-smile twisting his lips. I was shaking my head. "Let's just go to class, dweeb," I said.
When the bell rang at 3pm, Glenn had to head out. I was staying overtime to run around the track a little, blow off some steam. I was still trying to avoid my mother at home, wondering how much she knew about my "episode" in Mrs. Kimball's room. And of course, I was wondering how the kids at school had figured it out. I mean, Callie and I had been to Byron a few times together. But we'd never held hands or anything there and we didn't dance slow songs together. Maybe it was just obvious and the only reason why my mom hadn't figured it out herself was because she was in denial. That sort of thing happened.
I couldn't stay too late at the track. I knew I had this boring Social Studies paper to finish and I wanted to have it done a few days before it was due so that maybe I would have more time for other things over the weekend. I hated staying indoors when it was actually promising to be nice out and this weekend was looking good. After a half hour, I decided to go. I stole into the gym to change into street clothes, but thought I'd wait to take a shower at home. I felt a little weird showering at the school locker room with no one else around. I packed my sweaty clothes into my gym bag, along with my walkman and headphones. I always listened to music when I ran. Slinging my bag over one shoulder, I tucked the books I needed for homework under the other arm. When I walked outside to the parking lot, though, I stopped dead in my tracks. I swear, it was like stepping into some video for ZZ Top or White Snake or something: there, leaning against the trunk of my car, was Callie. In all her glory, too: her auburn hair was teased and she was wearing a low cut shirt and snake-skin mini-skirt. I thought her boots kinda looked like hooker boots, but I'd never told her that before. I snickered bitterly to myself and thought, maybe I'll tell her today. But I couldn't quite dismiss the fact that it was possible she was here to get back together. I felt my heart thump a little as I walked slowly over to her.
"Callie," I said, nodding a little her way.
"Betz," she said. She looked a little sad. I didn't know what else to say to her, so I waited. She brought her book bag in front of her and unzipped it, pulling out a velvet drawstring bag that I recognized. It was mine.
"I have all your stuff here," she said, "and I wanted to go ahead and return it to you. I wasn't sure when I'd get a chance again."
I took it and just stared at it. It took a few minutes to register what was happening. She was really putting an end to us. I let my eyes meet hers, but when they did, she blinked a little and looked away.
"Betsy, I am sorry. I'm sorry if I did hurt you, but -- it just wasn't the same anymore. It wasn't...I mean, I didn't feel the same anymore. I wanted it to work, but I think we just want different things."
"We're in high school Callie - we don't know what we want."
"I'm sorry Betsy," she repeated. "I do know what I want. I want to get out of this stupid suburb."
"Why?" I asked. "What's so wrong with this place? At least we know people."
"I just feel...I want something bigger."
"Okay," I said. "What do you want?"
She looked frustrated. I guessed this wasn't going as planned for her.
"You - you're in a little garage band and you guys break up every week. Glenn is the only one who ever sticks around. I don't want someone who is going to be playing bar mitzvahs five years from now -- if she's even still playing music at all!"
"I'll be playing," I said.
"Yeah? So you say. But Betsy, you give up on everything. And I want someone who inspires me."
"Great," I said bitterly. "Sorry I wasn't enough of a motivational speaker for you."
She shook her head and shrugged a little.
"Maybe I wasn't enough of one for you - maybe that's why this is how you are. Maybe you deserve better, too," she concluded.
I felt my eyes start to tear up and she brushed past me. I stood there with the bag in my hand - mix tapes, a sweater I'd lent her when she was cold. Those were the things I knew were probably inside. I wasn't sure what else.
"Callie," I croaked out softly, not wanting her to go...wanting to somehow be able to fix this.
"It was good to see you Betsy," she said. "Take care of yourself."
Then she was gone.
I stood a moment, watching her go and swallowing hard to stave off the tears. Then I left and headed for Glenn's house. I wasn't up for being alone again - the paper could wait.
I knew I could not take it if I ran into my mom and we had it out after I'd just had a confrontation with my ex-girlfriend. I might really harm myself. Better to stay away until I felt better.
I pulled into Glenn's driveway and shut off the engine. When I did, I realized I could still hear the low bass that I thought was being caused by my car stereo. There was also the faintest sound of guitar music coming from Glenn's dad's tool shed. I got out and walked to the source of the noise. As I came closer, I could hear laughter - girl's laughter. I pushed open the door to find a startled Glenn with the members of The Windows: Heather, Sam and Christina.
"What's going on?" I said. I was completely bewildered. Why would they be practicing without me?
"Betsy..." Glenn said, but didn't continue. He looked at the girls for assistance, but I got it already. They were practicing without me. They didn't expect me to play. They didn't want me to play - and after last night's debacle, who could blame them.
I held up my hand, shaking my head.
"Don't bother," I said. "I understand." I felt like the tears would come any minute, so I had to get going. I turned and ran out before anyone could get their voices back. I heard Glenn call my name, but I was taking lengthy strides and he wasn't about to catch up with me. I was in the car with the ignition on in a matter of minutes and my vision grew bleary as I saw Heather and Glenn having a heated conversation, just before he continued toward me. Before he even got halfway, I skidded backward, threw the car into reverse and stomped on the gas. I wiped violently at my eyes with my shirt sleeve, trying to get my emotions in check and my vision clear so that driving wasn't such a hazard. But I was upset and there didn't seem to be anywhere to go. I wasn't ready to go home, yet - not to have a possible confrontation with my mom. I felt like I'd only dodged it the night before because I got in so late. There had to be somewhere I could go - somewhere I could work on my paper and pass the time. I thought about the library, but knew it would be closing in an hour and a half. Not long enough.
I just kept driving. At this speed, with this much time, I could make it to the next state. Even the next county, city or whatever would be improvement. Here I was a leper...well, pretty much everywhere. School, home. I had no band, no girlfriend and clearly, even my so-called friends were the enemy. I wanted to scream just thinking of the look on Glenn's face and realizing the betrayal.
"Screw them," I said aloud. Just then, I passed a shiny silver and neon-pink lighted sign for a diner called Madeline's Place. It looked mostly deserted, but the sign said "Open until 1am." I exhaled loudly - it was like an oasis. Could it be real?
"Only one way to find out," I said to myself and then took a quick, narrow turn into their lot. I grinned at myself in the rearview. Yeah, I thought, now I am losing my mind, too - talking to myself! Geez!
Inside, it was a little like a time warp. There was an old, softly playing jukebox in the corner and all the waitresses were wearing matching uniforms in powder blue. There were shiny blue-seated stools along the counter and a couple of booths in each corner - only one was occupied, by a group of teenagers I didn't recognize. Probably kids from one of the many Catholic schools in the area.
"Hi, sir - what can I get you?" I heard the waitress say to my turned back. I turned around and saw her face.
"Oh! I'm sorry! I mean, ma'am," she said. "I mean...Betsy. Hi."
It was the girl from Byron Hall - Erica's friend. The one with the drunk boyfriend. Her name, though...what was her name? Alma? Ashley?
"Hi," I said.
"Do you remember me? I mean, I don't know why you would but -"
"Yeah, yeah," I said. "I remember. From Byron Hall last night. Um..."
"Asha," I said. "Asha Campbell."
"Right," I said. "Erica's friend. I, uh, know her cousin."
"Yeah," she said, nodding as if she understood things I didn't say. "So...what can I get for you?"
"To be honest, Asha, I hadn't planned on more than a coffee originally. I'm just trying to get some work done on a paper I'm writing and avoid going home for awhile." I saw a puzzled look cross her face at that admission and, worrying that she might ask me my reasons, I hurried on. "But now that you mention it, I'd love a bit of that cherry cobbler. With a coffee, of course."
She nodded and wrote it down on her order pad. "Do you want whipped cream on that?"
"No thanks. I'm just gonna be in that booth over there," I said, pointing to the one nearest the window, facing the parking lot. I went over and took my place behind the table and set out my notebook and textbook. I leaned back against the booth seat and took a deep breath. I felt a little better, like I'd stepped out of my own chaotic life for awhile. I looked around. There was an old man in a cowboy hat and a corduroy suit sitting at the counter and he was reading the Wall Street Weekly. The one occupied booth was taken by a man and woman who looked to be in their mid-twenties - maybe college students from the university up the road out on a date. From the level of conversation going on at their table, it looked like maybe it wasn't going so well. But who was I to know?
Then my eyes focused in on Asha. She was gracefully wiping down the counter with a sponge and dishcloth, leaning into it so that her brown hair cascaded over her shoulder. Then she was listening as the old man in the hat said something to her, smiling at him with what was probably the kindest, most genuine look I'd ever seen anyone give another human. She laughed and the laughter made its way over to where I sat - it was a nice laugh, musical and contagious. I felt myself smile with her.
Focus, I told myself. If I could just get this paper done, maybe I could try and go somewhere this weekend. Get out of town - maybe take a day trip to the city and see some museums, browse the bookstores. That would be nice. I didn't need this one extra thing to worry about -- this looming F that I was sure to get if I didn't focus. But of course, my mind wandered to where I would even be living this weekend. My mom could throw me out -- that was a possibility. Or she could have me locked up. It's not like the days of seeing people like me as those inflicted with some mental disorder were totally behind us. Who knew what she was thinking?
But that was the point, wasn't it? A reason for hope? A silver lining? Because I didn't know -- I was merely guessing. She could completely surprise me.
I felt myself grimace. Even I wasn't gullible or even desperate enough to believe that hope.
Suddenly, I looked up and Asha had reappeared. In her hand was a ceramic mug and a large blue pitcher labeled "regular." She set the mug down and filled it with the coffee.
"Your cobbler will be coming up," she said. She paused a little, as if hoping I might engage her in conversation again, before turning back to the kitchen. I watched her and smiled to myself. She was really nice, not to mention pretty - actually, no. Beautiful. There was something extremely graceful and unusual about her beauty, though - something that might be lost on others. It couldn't hurt to try and make a friend. It's not like I had any others left.
"Here you go," she said moments later, sliding over the bowl of gooey cherries and pastry. Steam was rising from it, but I stuck the spoon in anyway. I waited to take a bite, though. I didn't need to burn my tongue off while I was trying to talk to this girl.
"So, you been working here long?" I asked. Did I sound like an utter idiot? I wondered.
"Um...since last November. You know - we moved and I got a new job."
"Oh, where did you work before?"
"Shopping mall, at the Piercing Pagoda."
"You pierced people?"
"Oh, no - I just sold earrings. They wouldn't let me pierce people. I was too young."
"Oh," I said. I felt like I'd just killed the conversation but still I pushed on. "Did you work there long?"
"It was only my second job, but I only worked there two weeks. Before that, I was - oh, lordy. That's embarrassing. Nevermind. I did some baby-sitting when I was 13, but I never counted that as a real job."
"Whoa, whoa - what was that? Did you just dodge a question?" I laughed.
"Um, yes. I think I did." She was laughing, too. That was good at least.
"C'mon, you can tell me. I swear on - well, on this here Social Studies textbook that I will never tell a soul."
"Yeah - or else the gods of...er...human society will...rain sulfur down on you!"
"Yes. Exactly." We both laughed again and then she covered her face in embarrassment.
"Okay, I'll tell you." Pause. "I was...a catalog model." She peeked at me from behind her hands.
"Really?" I said. "Wow, how did that happen? I mean, not that I can't see how you could be a model. Of course. But just - I don't know - it's just interesting.
She rolled her eyes.
"My mom," she said. "Part time she's normal and the other half she's completely crazy - like she wants to be a stage mom or something. She always wanted me to be famous and I think part of it is a desire in herself to be in the limelight."
"So why doesn't she pursue the...uh...limelight?"
"Oh," she said. "Believe me - she's definitely one-upped me in that department."
She inhaled deeply and then changed the subject. Maybe she felt she'd said too much.
"So...I have to get back to work, but it's kind of slow. I mean, it's usually slow. If you'd like, once you're done with your work here...maybe you can come up to the counter.I could use some conversation. I'm on until 11 and it can get really dull. I already finished my homework during my second hour so I am somewhat...unoccupied."
"I'll keep that in mind," I said, trying to smile and show that I wasn't blowing her off. It still seemed to make her pause.
"I know you've been having...a rough time. I understand if you'd rather be alone."
"Oh!" I said. "No, no - it's not that. I mean, yes, it's been a bad...a bad month. But no, I just have a lot on my mind and I have to write this paper. I kind of wanted to get out of town this weekend and I can't leave this unfinished when it's due on Tuesday. I mean, I could bullshit a semi-brilliant paper Monday night - but why put myself through that kind of stress."
She laughed. "Alright, then. Maybe when you've finished."
"Definitely," I said.
She walked back to the counter and sat on a stool reading. I tried to focus on my paper. By the time an hour had passed, I was nearly done with a pretty decent draft - probably boring with a side of dull, but what do you expect from a paper on demographics? I looked up and saw that the elderly cowboy and the couple had left. It was just me and my books, snuggled up in the booth with cold coffee and an empty plate. I spotted Asha, still on the metal stool poring over her book. She was hunched over with one elbow on her thigh and her face so close to the book that it was amazing the words were not blurred for her. I checked my watch. It was only 9:30. I had finished the paper but there was so much more time to kill.
I put my books into my bag and lugged it over to the counter, slumping down on the same seat that the old cowboy had taken up. Asha looked up from her book.
"Hi there stranger," she said, smiling.
"Sorry," I said. "I didn't mean to interrupt your reading."
"That's fine," she said. "I've read it two million times anyway. Interrupt away."
"What is it you're reading?"
"Virginia Woolf. A Room of One's Own. Know it?"
"I'm somewhat familiar, but I've never read it."
"You should. I get the feeling you'd enjoy it."
"Maybe I'll look for it."
"Or I'll loan it to you," she said.
There was sort of an awkward pause and I started to think that maybe I should head out, find somewhere else to spend the next few hours. Before I could reconsider it, Asha jumped up and turned on a little black and white television at the end of the counter.
On one channel there was a new episode of Dallas and on the next an episode of a show my mom liked to watch called Mike Hammer. Asha settled on Candid Camera and turned it low so as not to disturb anyone in the back. I could see the two cooks in the back sitting next to a radio to listen to some kind of game. I wasn't sure which sport - I'd never been that interested in competitive sports. I tended to lean more toward sports where it felt like you were only competing against yourself - whether it was a sport I participated in or one I paid attention to.
"Where was it you were thinking of going this weekend?" she said, not looking at me but at the television.
"I don't know. Maybe into the city - maybe do some record shopping. I just need to get out of here for awhile."
She just nodded.
"That sounds like it would be nice," she said. "Sometimes I wish I could just escape for awhile."
It was impulsive but I said, "Would you like to come with me?"
Now she was standing up straight with her eyes wide with surprise. She was looking straight at me this time.
"Really? You wouldn't mind? I wouldn't want to ruin any of your alone time, but I promise you can drag me to record stores. I won't be a party pooper - hey, I like music, too."
Now I was rethinking it, wondering if it would be bad to bring this girl - this stranger, who I knew virtually nothing about except that she had parent issues and probably boyfriend ones, too - along on an all-day trip. But I didn't want to hurt her feelings and plus, we seemed to click. I found myself spilling out things that I often didn't tell people I'd known forever.
"No, I wouldn't mind at all," I said. "I think I'd enjoy it."
"Wow, that's so wonderful. Maybe I can look for a prom dress, too. I had one picked out before, but I am thinking that a boutique in the city might even have something better. I mean, you don't have to look at dresses with me. I won't make you do that part, but wow...I'm just so excited!"
"Oh, is your prom coming up, too?" I said.
"Yeah - not long now. I'm on the committee so I sort of have to make an impression."
"You don't really seem like the prom committee type - I hope that doesn't sound offensive. Probably my image of prom committee is nowhere near accurate."
She just laughed and shrugged.
"Here," she said, "let me give you my address so that you can pick me up." She ripped out a page from her order pad and scribbled something on the back. She started to hand it to me, but then she took it back quickly and wrote something else at the bottom.
"I'm writing my phone number, too. Just so you can call me in case there are any complications."
"I will. Thanks," I said, sliding the folded pale green slip into the pocket of my jacket.
We sat there for a few minutes more and then we started to say something at the same time:
"Do you -" I began.
"Why did-" she was saying. We both laughed and then she said, "No, you first."
"I was just going to say, do you like your new school? I probably asked before. I'm lame."
"I was going to - well, I was probably about to ask something more personal. You don't have to tell me if you don't want to. I was just wondering."
"Which was? Go ahead. What were you wondering?"
"I was just going to ask, why did you get thrown out of Byron the other night? I mean, with the incident on stage. Was it just the alcohol? Like I said, I'm not much of a drinker - I wouldn't know the effect it had on someone."
I sighed. It seemed as good a time as any to fess up.
"It's like this. Things are really chaotic in my life right now. I want to play music, but my band is mediocre and we really don't even get along a lot of the time. My...girlfriend just ditched me, people at school hate me, I can't keep my band together, my best friend decided to steal my band and I can't talk to my mom. At least not about anything real."
"Oh," she said. We sat in silence for about one minute that felt like twenty. I figured I'd just blown my chance at friendship with this person because she'd be freaked out now for sure. But then she just started to nod.
"I get it," she said. "No really, I think if I had all that going on that I might need to...well, breakdown or something, too. I mean, not that it was really a breakdown. It was a...an...um..."
"It's ok," I said. "It was a bit of a breakdown. I looked like I lost my freaking mind I'm sure. It's pretty humiliating, actually, but it's over with."
"Yeah, but it's totally bogus that they kicked you out for the rest of the school semester. It's not really fair. Especially since so many kids go to Byron and do way worse stuff."
"I'm grateful to hear you act as my defender, but I know I'm no innocent. And," I said, "I am grateful that you didn't freak out at the mention of Callie."
"Callie?" she said.
"I mean my girlfriend. Ex-girlfriend, that is. Callie Ackerman - she's Erica's cousin. I thought you might have known, but if you didn't, I wanted to tell you. In the event that we are about to become friends, you should know who I am - in case you want to decide not to be my friend."
The look on her face was genuinely puzzled and she shrugged.
"My cousin Rhonda is gay. She lives in New York City, of course, so I'm sure it's a little more accepted and out in the open there. But I don't think it's a big deal."
"You're about the only person in Winnetka that doesn't."
"You know," she said, "now that I mentioned it I just remembered. Rhonda is coming to visit soon. Like, this weekend in fact."
"Oh no!" I said with mock surprise, "Tell me you're not trying to fix me up."
"No, no - I wouldn't do that to you. Though, she is very nice and very pretty..." she winked. I laughed.
"Yeah, ok," I said.
"Hey," I said, "what kind of music do you like?"
"Nice segueway," she said.
"I'm serious. If you're coming with me on this drive, I thought I'd make a mix tape. In case we're miserable and we run out of things to say to each other."
"That won't happen. I can talk a blue streak about just about anything."
"Humor me," I said.
"Oh okay. Let's see. I like Madonna. Prince is good, a little The Cure. I actually like a lot of punk and new wave and I am kind of into a lot of weird stuff. French music from the 50s, stuff like that. But for less obscure stuff, I'd say The Sex Pistols, The Stranglers, The Runaways, Blondie, The Ramones. I like Squeeze and Gary Numan and oh, I love, love, love Elvis Costello."
"Yeah? Me, too! I saw him live last year."
"Omigod," she said, "I would completely die."
"Do you like Thomas Dolby? My friend Glenn is obsessed with that synthesizer sound." When I said it, I had just about forgotten about Glenn and this afternoon. The memory came back. I shook my head a little to force it away.
"You okay?" she said. I blinked - I'd hoped it would go unnoticed.
"I'm fine. I was just thinking of the slightly more embarrassing songs I like."
"None," she said, "could be more embarrassing than my guilty pleasure."
"Alright, spill it."
"No, I can't! It's too cheesy. All respect you have for me would be gone, trust me."
"C'mon," I said. "You tell me yours, I'll tell you mine."
She puffed her cheeks and exhaled, then shrugged.
"Foreigner. You know that song I've Been Waiting For A Girl Like You? I listen to it all the time, daydreaming that someday someone would sing that to me."
"That's not so bad. I...kind of like Foreigner, too. And," I paused for dramatic effect, "I also admit...I love Hall and Oates."
Her eyes widened and she began to cackle.
"I do, too!" she said.
"Yes!" she said. "I know some people think they're super-cheesy, but I can't help it."
"Well at least we're both guilty," I said. We laughed together.
"What time is it?" she said then and I realized we'd been talking for several hours. I looked at my watch and it was nearly 11:00pm.
"I should get going," I said, though I was thinking that it was still early enough that my mom could be up.
"Oh you don't have to go - we don't close for another two hours."
"It's not that," I said. "I just need to get some sleep. You're still on tonight? I mean, no one is coming in to relieve you? Don't you have to get up tomorrow, too?"
"Yeah, but it's not so bad. It's Friday and I tend to skip homeroom on Fridays so it's not a big deal."
I knew the look I was giving her was curious but I didn't want to pry. There was, however, a part of me that was dying to know her story. After all, her family seemed to be well-off but here she was working in a diner - and overtime.
I got up from the counter.
"I'll call you tomorrow night and we'll figure out the weekend plans. If you still want to go that is."
"Sure I do," she said. "I'm psyched now."
Back at my booth, I crammed what I'd brought in back into the bag and put my coat back on. When I turned around, Asha was standing there with a to-go cup.
"It's on me," she said. "You look a little tired, like you could use an extra cup of coffee for the drive."
I was taken by surprise and for an instant I thought of a wife bringing her husband his lunch, straightening his tie. The way my parents used to be when things were good - before they split. It was such a sincerely unselfish and kind gesture that at first, I wasn't sure if there wasn't something I should do in return. But then I just smiled.
"Thank you so much," I said. "I'll try to remember to pay you back in a cup this weekend."
"I look forward to it," she said.
Out on the road again, I rolled down the windows and turned on the bright headlights. There was a slight fog hovering over the street and the lines weren't always visible. The hairs on my arms rose with the chill in the air and I wished I'd zipped up my jacket before I was on the road. I felt so tired and distant from the rest of the world. I still didn't want to go home but I was out of options.
When I was on that familiar street, the fog began to disperse. I could see the streetlights at the end of our driveway and pulled in, dimming the lights and praying that there would be mercy tonight. All the windows looked dark. I parked and closed the garage. Once inside, I changed the pacing of my breath and tried to step around any creaks in the hall. I heard nothing - no noise to greet me. I could hear my own heart beating, though - the thump seemed so loud against the silence.
Inside my bedroom, I only turned my dim bedside lamp and hurriedly changed into my pajamas. I just wanted to be in bed, sleeping - dodging whatever horror awaited me for just one more day. But when I'd really made it, turning off the lamp and slipping under the covers, I could hardly believe it. I almost couldn't sleep, still listening fiercely to any clue that my mom might be on her way to my room to talk to me. Then, as the time passed in silence, I fell into the dark of my own worried mind - sleeping restlessly with terrible dreams that I only half remembered in the next morning.