Sunday, March 27, 2016

Avarice: Chapter Nine

Abby’s first memory of her brother Emery was unremarkable. She remembered being three or four years old and walking hand in hand with him up a huge hill of dirt. At least, in the memory it seemed huge, as all things do when you’re just beginning to approach three feet tall.

She didn’t recall any words, nor did she remember why they were climbing the hill. She remembered the weight of the thick mud gathering thick on her feet. She remembered looking up to Emery as he pulled her upwards.

The day passed with the agonizing trepidation of a rainless summer.

The four of them spent the day in the kitchen and dining room, never straying far from the windows, always hoping that someone would see the smoke billowing into the sky and come help them. The hours went by and the fire slowly dwindled to ashes. They watched the tree line like hawks, but never saw any activity.

“Can you think of anything that might have made them think you had some gold?” Osman asked for what must have been the 10th time, stressing the word ‘anything’ like it might force a memory out of Vera like a nail pulled from a plank. “Did you begin to dress flashy? Were you suddenly eating well?”

Marietta glared daggers at him. “You know as well as I do that nobody is eating well these days. We’ve had armies from both sides marching through here for years, taking anything worth eating.“ She turned to Vera “Don’t listen to him, you’re family. I just wish you would have accepted our offer to come live here when Phillip joined up.”

“You’ve got a family to look after” Vera shrugged. “I didn’t want to get in the way.”

Something about this didn’t ring true to Abby. This house was huge. You’d have to try pretty hard to get in anyone’s way.

“That’s nonsense and you know it” Marietta responded icily. “We’ve got an entire half of the house waiting to be used.”

Vera’s voice rose. “If it’s just waiting to be used, why don’t you use it? I know what happened there. I know why you won’t step through that door.”

What happened there? What does she mean? Abby’s mind raced. Her first memory of Vera was many years ago. Abby was about 5 years old. She’d been running around the house with Emery, and nearly crashed into her mother and Vera as they embraced at the foot of the stairs. Abby remembered this scene vividly; it was the first time she’d see her mother cry. She remembered standing by the stairs, watching her mother and Vera walk up the stairs weeping.

Up the stairs and through the door to the West. Toward the bedroom.

Gears turned in Abby’s mind. She stretched inwardly, searching for the thread that tied everything together, and it clicked: Abby remembered her sister.

Glimpses came back, not in a flood, but like tears falling on paper. She remembered climbing the hill, holding onto Emery with one hand, and holding on to someone else’s with the other. She remembered the laughter of a two year old girl.

She remembered tickle fights. She remembered doing her best to help her mother care for a toddler, despite still being one herself. She remembered why that bedroom was untouched after all these years. She remembered the pain that her mother held deep inside, hiding it from Abby but unable to face it herself.

Abby began to cry.

“Go.” Marietta ordered Vera. “I don’t care where, just go”. Vera shrugged and walked out of the room.  

Darkness fell, and Osman insisted that they all sleep together on the floor of the kitchen. “I’ll take the first watch” he said.

Abby laid down and drifted into a fitful sleep. She awoke sometime later, and overheard Vera speaking to her father. “It’s been a few hours, and I can’t sleep anyway. I’ll watch for a while.” Osman nodded and laid down on the floor.

When Abby awoke next, the house was dead silent. She looked around, but could see no sign of her aunt in the moonlight streaming in through the windows. If not for the overwhelming silence, she never would have heard the slight creak of a footfall somewhere to the west.

Moving as quietly as she could, Abby arose and tiptoed through the kitchen into the main entrance hall. One of the double doors was cracked open. The next creak came from upstairs. “Vera?” Abby said softly. There was no answer. She tiptoed up the stairs, and began to walk down the hallway leading back toward the bedrooms where she’d scavenged for wood.

Suddenly a pair of hands reached out and pulled her into a bedroom. She tried scream, but the hand over her mouth muffled the sound so it was no louder than a cough. She heard the sound of someone striking a match, and watched as the match was brought to light the wick of a lantern. Light filled the room, and she found herself face to face with her brother Emery.

Chapter 10 -->
Copyright 2016 Tyler Smith

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