"I don't want to go to school," Abigale Daniels relays to her mother with a whine.
Abby and her mother, Rachel Jones, are standing in the kitchen. Abby has just finished her jam and toast and now she watches her mother put her plate and her empty glass of orange juice into the full sink of dirty dishes to soak.
"You have to," is her mother's reply. She is right, Abby has to set course for school today. For the last 10 years Abby has lived her life worry-free, never fearing or even fully comprehending the end of her life, because little girls like Abigale live forever, right? There's no doubt that Abby's life is less than wonderful, her dedicated mother has managed to shield her from many horrific realities that very well may have broken poor Abigale's mind had she known.
"I need more time to finish my costume!" Abby argues. It's October 29th, and Abby is worried her ninja costume won't be ready for her popular classmate Lilly Darcy's Halloween party. Her mind is working a mile a minute and keeping her oblivious to what lies ahead.
"You can finish your costume after school." That's the end of the argument, for Abby's mother grabs her blue coat and heads for the door. Rachel has never told Abby precisely where she goes all day, but sometimes she returns looking badly beaten. Abby asked only once, the first time she came home with bruises and a black eye. Rachel scolded her something fierce, and Abby was smart to never ask again.
One year prior.
Oct. 27th, 2005
Fall is here, and as always I'm so excited I think I could burst! This year my mom had enough money to buy me a costume! I almost can't believe it, but then I tried on the costume, and it was real!
I'm going as a witch, and my costume is very spooky. It's a little sparkly at the same time, but I don't mind. Sparkles are good.
Mom was really happy when she showed me the costume, but I don't know how truthful she was being. She seemed to be hiding things. She has bruises on her arms and around her eye. I asked her if she had fallen, or if a mugger troubled her on the street, but she scolded me. It was bad, she said some awful things.
I'll never tell anyone this, but she smacked me. Hard. She told me she'll never have to again as long as I've learnt not to speak out of turn. I just hope she's okay.
My wishes for Halloween this year are that mom let's me go to trick or treating with Lilly after the party so I can get full sized chocolate bars in the rich neighborhoods, and that mom stops looking and feeling so sad.
Abby waits for her mother to be completely out of sight before retreating to her room to get dressed. Abby thinks about her school clothes this year and jitters with excitement. Rachel seemed to have come into more money than usual, and took Abby to the mall for her autumn attire. It was something that happened occasionally. Sometimes Rachel would hire a babysitter or call her second cousin, Tailor, to watch Abby while she went and "worked" for a weekend. Little to Rachel's knowledge - Abby hopes - Abby has gone through the receipts and bank statements Rachel buries in the bottom of her purse after these ventures, and has found ample evidence that these "work" weekends are play dates at fancy, expensive hotels with trashy men.
Regardless, from that particular shopping adventure, Abby slips on her favourite outfit: a black skirt with sparkly bats and an orange shirt to match her orange socks. She slips a dark cardigan over top, and she feels instantly better in all things. Autumn is Abby's absolute favourite time of year. She loves everything about it, and she's been name-called once or twice for it. Abby enjoys candy corn, scary movies, pumpkin guts and ghosts just as much as she enjoys sparkles and chocolate. Despsite her consistent delightful presentation, she's been accused of being a "freak" or "emo". She doesn't know what "emo" is, but in the same conversation she was accused of cutting herself. Abby recalls being taken aback by the accusation, she had never considered a person displaying such disturbing behaviors, and certainly not herself in particular.
She still has time before she needs to leave. There is no way of knowing if it's enough time to prepare her. Through her stockings her feet are still cold on the hard floor. A shiver run up her spine.
Mom must've forgotten to pay for the heat again, she concludes. She remembers the last Christmas that her father spent with her, three years ago, merely because if how awful it was. For almost the entire month of December Rachel disappeared without notice or any sign at all that she would ever return.
Abby sits in the living room in front of the T.V. She means to watch cartoons, but she just sits and stares blankly at the black screen.
Within seconds she's completely gone.
This tends to happen to Abby from time to time. Where does she go when her mind zones out of this reality? What is she thinking of? Abby thinks her mother notices these strange behaviors of hers. Sometimes she catches her muttering about her "strange little girl." Abby wonders if her mother is alarmed, or if there's cause for alarm.
Oh, Abigale. Naive little girl.
When Abby comes to, she's two minutes behind schedule. It's alright, though. It's alright.
Nonetheless, Abby is in a rush. She grabs her bag, puts her shoes on and ties a silk ribbon into her dark hair. She stops in front of the hallway mirror to tie her laces. She's crouched on one knee, but as she's down there she thinks she sees a tall figure shift in the mirror in her peripheral. Her heart skips several beats before firing into her chest two beats too fast. The sensation makes her lightheaded, and she almost falls over.
She rushes out the back door, her shoes squelch against the chipped, black and white tiles. All she can think about as she throws the back door open is how sore her mother will be if Abby comes home with a late slip. Wouldn't it be such a sad society if it was one that would turn a blind eye at a household where there were two women hiding their bruises and scars everyday?
Ah, but it is, and with each beating Rachel takes, the more likely it is that Abby will pay for a trauma she was not even a part of, and just like beached whales, like broken shells... It happens all the time.
As she steps outside she's struck with a chill. The breeze picks up as she descends the back steps and blows leaves all around the yard. There's a quiet that unsettles her, and though the sun is peaking through patches of grey, it feels like all warmth has been taken out of the light.
"What... What is this feeling?" Abby's pulse starts to race with panic. There's an unbearable ache in her chest that almost brings her to her knees as she's overwhelmed with a great sense of agony and despair. She is abruptly and forcefully being made aware of how happy she has been the last two years, that the last time she felt this dark, alone and lost was at her father's funeral. She was only seven, and should she grow old, she wouldn't remember it forever.
So, perhaps it is a good thing that Abigale never will grow old.
Very abruptly, the episode passes. Abby stands up straight and gasps for air. The sun breaks through the clouds completely and Abby feels it kiss her cheeks.
She giggles a little to herself in relief.
Abby regains her resolve and resumes her speed from before. She's known to be a stubborn little girl, and today she's determined to get to school fast, and get home faster.
Abigale is about to find there's a very long day ahead. The bright side of things is, she's certainly also determined to enjoy it.
However, despite Abby's determination, she finds herself stopped in her tracks once more at the back gate. The leaves that are fluttering past her face stop mid-flight and drop to the dirt.
The breeze halts. Abby inhales sharply.
Just past the yard, before the path into the woods is consumed by trees, sits a large toad. The largest Abby has ever seen, she's sure. Her guess is about the size of an average house cat, but if that cat were really fat and slimy.
Still, that's not the most bizarre thing about this toad. Squinting harder, Abby can see that this toad has a staff in it's hand to scale with its size, like a walking stick.
Abby feels the icy chill of despair trickling back into her bloodstream.
Follow me. Abby doesn't see the toad's mouth move at all, but she's certain that the sound in her head is the toad's voice.
Were you taught not that it is rude to stare? Quickly now, the toad scolds in a feminine voice. It turns away and relies mostly on the little staff to crutch her wobbly movement into the trees.
Abby is feeling the emotions surrounding surrealism, and is struggling to comprehend, though she knows there's no denying the sensations she's been getting under her skin. Sensations of fear, and of wonder.
She looks up at the sky for answers, but none come. There are no birds singing, the leaves don't dance, the trees are silent.
The wind stands still.