Out In The Wind

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I sighed as I turned up the garden path to Aunt Barbara’s house. I hated her. I hated her husband, and beyond all I hated her house and her rules. I could see she wasn’t a nice person. I had no idea how my mom could have been related to someone like her, but obviously you couldn’t choose your own siblings. Maybe I just felt this way because I was homesick, but I just could not stand where we were living. I would have chosen to be anywhere else in the world if I had the choice. But I had no choices left…

As I walked up to the door I could hear the raised voices behind it. For a moment I thought about standing still and listening in, but before I could decide what to do next the door swung open on its hinges and out came Aunt Barbara. Her hair bellowed behind her as she rushed out the door.

“Oh, you’re home,” she snarled at me on the way to her car, not really stopping for me to reply. All I could do was look on as she climbed into her car, slammed the door so hard that it sounded like it would crash right through to the other side of the car, rev and drive away at a much higher speed than what I would have suggested. Someone must have pissed her off pretty good.

It was only when my mother appeared in the front door that I actually realized that Aunt Barbara hadn’t even bothered to close the front door of the house. That however wasn’t my main concern at all. My mom’s face was all puffy. Like she had been crying. Actually the tears still streaked off her beautiful face, and when she saw me she quickly tried to hide it as best she could.

“Come in Cory,” she said as she turned around and walked into the house. I could hear that it took all her strength to keep her voice from breaking into sobs.

I knew my mother well enough to know when she was really upset. At the start she would put up a fight. Maybe even scream. But she never threw doors shut. She never broke anything out of anger or sadness. She just cried. And then she would try and hide it, even though we could all see that there is something bothering her. When it was really very bad however she had a complete different approach. I had only seen her like this once before in my life. The night that dad died, and the day or two afterward. Even though her eyes were puffy from all the crying she had a weird smile on her face. Almost like she was telling you to just accept the mask and get it over with. Do not ask. Do not tell. Just live with it. What is happening will be the worst thing that has ever happened to you.

She had that smile on her face the moment she saw me. I knew better than to ask questions. I knew if it was really bad I would find out soon enough.

Without thinking I touched the silver sea shell that was hanging around my neck. Mandy meant well. She was still there for me. I had my mom, my sister and Mandy. That was enough. Maybe I even had Mister Graham? He was terribly kind giving me his signed book.

“What do you have there?” my mom asked as we entered the kitchen where she immediately gave me a glass of ice cold milk.

“Oh, Mandy gave it to me. She’s back from her holiday and everything. It has an engraving on as well,” I said as I showed off the little necklace dangling from my neck.

“Well isn’t that pretty,” she said as she lifted the shell from my breast, looking at it closely. “Mandy really is a nice person. But that wasn’t what I was talking about,” she continued, looking down at the book that I had just placed on the kitchen table.

“Oh… Yeah… That’s kinda weird. Mister Graham gave it to me. He said it was the first book dad ever bought from him. Well… Not the very same book, but a copy of the same one I guess. This one is signed. By the author…” I muttered out very fast. I didn’t want my mom to think what I was thinking about Mister Graham; that he was the weirdest person ever. And from what I have seen on television, weird old men never prove to be all that good.

Still… Mister Graham and his bookstore made me feel welcome. Like I still belonged to normal society. Like I wasn’t poor and homeless just yet. Somehow there was still hope between the pages of the books that Mister Graham kept neatly aligned on the shelves of his little shop. I did not want my mom to tell me later on that I may not go there anymore just because he is weird.

“Mister Graham has always been a very nice person. Your dad knew him almost his whole life,” she said, the weird smile fading from her face, being replaced by her bottom lip pulling down, almost the kind of face she made when she bit into a lemon.

“Yeah,” I answered, and not knowing what else to say I took a sip of the milk. It tasted bitter. Not right.

“You shouldn’t get to comfortable here,” my mom said as she sat down across from me.

“What do you mean?” I asked. I was sure confusion was written right across my face. It wasn’t like we had anywhere else to go, unless mom had nicer family somewhere else she never told me about.

“Just saying that we won’t be here that long. We will be back on our feet before you know it baby.”

And there it was. That weird mask-smile she had was back on her face. There was something she wasn’t telling me. I knew it.

“Why did Aunt Barbara storm out the door earlier?” I asked.

“Oh, you know your aunt. Always mad at somebody in life,” she answered, avoiding my eyes, looking over my head at who knows what.

“Did you find a job?” I asked. “You know I could go and work after school every afternoon so that we can be back on our feet sooner.”

This time her smile was gone again. Her face showed tears as she looked me in the eyes. Slowly she lowered her body over the kitchen table and took my face in both her hands.

“The only thing you need to worry about is getting good grades. And maybe getting a boyfriend. You leave the rest up to me,” she whispered two inches away from me. I could hear the buildup of tears, and truly I wanted to cry as well. She was trying her best to stay strong, although I knew she must have been hurting inside just as much as me.

I had already curled up on the mattress on the living room floor beside Chloe when Aunt Barbara finally stepped in the front door. The dimmed light in the front hall made her brown hair look black. I could imagine her being some evil witch from a Disney movie. Or worse… The infamous Bellatrix Lestrange. She had the same haunted look. Like someone forced half her intestines from her body, including her heart, leaving her a shell that was slowly shrinking into itself. Eventually she would be nothing, but for the moment a woman without a heart was the most dangerous individual on the planet.

“Margaret!” I heard my mom’s name echo through the house. “Margaret! I need to speak with you!”

“I’m coming!” My mom’s voice came from upstairs. I guess she was probably in the bathroom. The only bath and shower was upstairs. The little bathroom downstairs had nothing more than a toilet in it.

I could hear Aunt Barbara’s foot tapping on the hard tile. It was an irritating noise. When she turned to look into the living room I closed my eyes quickly, acting as if I was sleeping. It wasn’t until I heard Aunt Barbara’s clacking shoes walk away that I opened them again. I could judge by the distance she was only in the kitchen.

It felt like forever until I heard my mom’s footsteps finally follow into the kitchen as well.

Aunt Barbara was pissed. I could see it. There was something about her that just seemed completely off tonight… And even though I did not plan it, and even though I knew I shouldn’t, I quietly got out of bed and tip-toed towards the kitchen door.

“…just can’t afford it Margaret. In this economy, who can?” Aunt Barbara’s voice rang in the kitchen.

“I’m not asking for food. I will pay that. I promise. I will find a job soon. It’s just… I really can’t afford a place right now. If you could just help with another two or three months…”

It sounded like my mom was pleading. It was the most terrible sound I had ever heard. If there was something I could do to keep the begging out of her voice I would have done anything.

“I’ve already spoken to John. We just can’t… Financially it’s impossible. We love you Margaret, but all of this is because of you and Matthew. The two of you made terrible life choices. You should have made provision for if something were to happen to one of the two of you… like it unfortunately did… Daddy always said that you thought you were a Goddess. Some immortal being. Well Margaret, I hate to be mean, but this just comes to show you, we are not children anymore. This is the real world.”

I could feel the iciness of Aunt Barbara’s voice running through my spine, worse than the cold tiles were underneath my feet. She sounded cruel. Evil almost.

“Just another month or two Barbara… I promise… We can go and sell my wedding ring. It should be worth a bit. If it can help you financially… One hand washes the other…”

I wish that I could see my mom’s face, and at the same time I was glad that I could not. I wasn’t stupid. I knew exactly what was happening. Aunt Barbara was putting us out on the street. We would have nowhere to go. We would truly be homeless. We would be some of those people that you pass on the streets and try to avoid eye contact.

“I don’t need financial aid Margaret. John and I were doing just fine. It’s just that we can’t afford to feed three other mouths as well. It’s just the economy. Electricity and gas prices are climbing through the roof. Everything is getting more expensive as we speak. We would love to help you, but we just can’t. We have already done everything that we could.”

“And I am grateful! So grateful! I just need a little more time. Just a little bit. Please talk to John. Reconsider. We promised Mom and Dad that we would look after one another. We promised…”

“Mom and Dad are dead. It’s time that you accept that,” Aunt Barbara said.

I could not listen any longer. The knot in my stomach was getting tighter and tighter and if I had to listen to Aunt Barbara’s voice for another second I was bound to be sick right here on the floor.

I could not sleep. Not even after my mom had made her bed on the couch and cried herself to sleep. Not even then could I let go of the feeling that made my insides crawl and the burning sensation that kept my eyes open. When the sun finally came up I was glad. The bad part of fairy tales only came at night. When the sun shone again the real fairy tale could continue.

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