Stefonie laid on the couch, yanking the diminutive blanket, supposing to cover her, upwards. The TV was turned off, and darkness had descended. Outside, the only source of light was a tiny sliver of silver moon, patterned against the blackness. The silence was blissful, practically un-heard of in the Vierel household. But, to Stefonie, the silence wasn't that blissful. To Stefonie the silence was too loud.
Even with her eyes open, the memories came flooding back. The distinct sounds of the river crept into her ears, slow yet striking rushes that whistled down the echoing, empty water. Then came the sound of the busy city, distant horns and clattering feet, hidden only by the forgotten houses lined in broken rows. Every single sound was exaggerated and splitting. Birds wings, flapping against the dark sky, fish slowly darting between litter beneath the water. Sounds of bells for charity and market callers, selling strawberries for two pounds a tub. According to them, it was the best price on the market. Instead it was just another wave of noise adding to the jumbling mass.
Calmly, the sounds twisted into sights. She could see the river, dark and mysterious, with white glints hitting the rushing surface. The sky, a poisonous black, but light enough to make out shadows like the birds that flew with closed beaks and bent trees aching in the wind. Houses, abandoned and lost, in one un-even row that stretched along the split pavement. Like deserted people with invisible souls, no furniture inside, no decoration on the out. Just the same wobbly bricks, dusty browns that seemed burnt with the brush of the wind's silver fingertips, and muddy red doors with no numbers. No recognition. Empty and broken, dying and alone. Flickers from broken lamp posts behind roofs and flashes of headlights that lit busy roads filled with crawling traffic. Golden shapes that spilled onto the bumps of concrete and filled holes with an ominous glow. Crooked grass blades, snapped by stray feet and beaten by careless shoes.
Then came the woman, fast-paced, face contorted with anxiety and fear. Her hand grasped the handle to a basket, wicker and old, fingers digging into the grooves of the wood. She seemed so young, with her long black coat that was supposed to look smart, and stained red lipstick that smudged a little over her lips. The wobbly flicks of eyeliner put on with shaking hands, and startling red cheeks with too much blush. Her figure was petite, thin arms, small legs, tiny feet. She wore black heels, seemingly sensible yet she wobbled in them like she couldn't quite walk. Red nail polish splashed her fingers, tiny specks that flew from her nails, chipped and bumpy.
Good evening said a voice. Stefonie's voice, loud and clear, emotionless.
Don't small-talk me snapped the woman, apprehension dancing in her eyes. Her grasp on the basket tightened, and she flinched as the material cut into her skin.
I was just being polite drawled Stefonie. The woman rolled her eyes, fierce emeralds, blazed with alert.
Maybe we shouldn't be doing this the woman suggested, tilting the basket away from Stefonie and shadowing some behind her back.
Nonsense. You really think that you could handle this by yourself? The woman shrugged, but she knew that Stefonie was right. It tore her heart to do this, but what else could she do?
Such a young girl. Only eighteen, looking smart, attempting to present herself in such an alluring way. Holding her supposed prize possession, but it's just a mistake. A smashed trophy of mistake and guilt, of bad decisions and desperate lies. It's everything you don't need.
I know whispered the woman, words playing on her soft red lips, sticking to the smudged lipstick. Lingering in the air between the two, the words of defeat and regret.
I can help you, and all you need to do is give me the basket. Nothing more, nothing less. We can keep the deal and everything will be fine. The woman's eyes were sharp and wild at the sentences, but the ever-denying thought of reality shook any thoughts of backing out from her head. This was right. It would be fine.
Just give me it. Get your degree, get your job, then when you want it back, it'll be easy. Call me, and it's all yours again. That is, if you want it. A sigh rose up the woman's throat but she forced it back down. Her arm eased away from behind her, pulling the basket out a little in front, but not loosening her grip.
Just give me it instructed Stefonie again. Her voice was filled with this un-found strength and persuasion that wrapped around the woman's hand and released the basket. It fell with a gentle thud onto the pavement.
There! she cried in a horse whisper, tears shaking in her eyes and slowly dripping down her cheeks. Drip. Drip. Drip.
One of Stefonie's hands grabbed the basket and the other slid into her pocket. She felt the object, sleek and smooth against the fabric of her worn-out coat.
Just call she said, seeming so calm and sweet. The woman nodded and began to back away, heels wobbling, heart tearing. With a swift motion, she turned and began to run. Her shoes tapped against the ground, hands shoved into her pockets, honey-brown hair flying in the wind. A perfect movie movement, yet this wasn't a film.
Oh and Marissa called Stefonie. The woman turned around. Even though she was a way down the pavement, Stefonie could still hear the gentle thudding of Marissa's heart.
Her fingers curled around the object in her pocket. With a laugh, she whipped it out and-
MAMA! screamed the little girl upstairs. Stefonie jolted her eyes and noticed she was holding her breath. Like she was waiting for suspense, for what came next, even though she knew. She knew all too well.