Smoke

Her world was falling to pieces, so she did the only thing there was to do. She let go of control. But, sooner or later, someone would have to end the spiraling. If only she'd let him...

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2. Chapter two

        I walk home in a daze. When I get there, I see no cars in the driveway. "Sasha?" I call out, bending down and untying my shoes in front of the screen door. Slipping out of them, I place them on the rack beside the door. We keep our shoes out on the porch, because our housekeeper insists. Growing up, she was constantly complaining about literally cleaning dirt up, out from under our feet.

        "Dannyella?"

        Speak of the devil, there's Marcy now.

       With hair half hiding my face, I give her a fake smile. "Afternoon," I chirp, "where's Sasha?" I point behind me. "Her car wasn't in the driveway-I wasn't aware of any appointments in today's schedule..."

       "Yes...," she muttered in her Spanish-American accent, "well..."

       "Is everything alright?"

       Her eyes flicked from the ground, to mine, a wide-eyed, horrified look, much like how I would guess a 'deer in headlights' look would be expressed. "Yes! Everything's fine! She just didn't want me to tell you, is all, didn't want to worry you. She's with your father."

       What?!

       I fake a smile, "no worries, Marc'. Back to work, now."

       "Ah," she smiles, "homework dog get loose?"

       That was her way of saying 'a lot of homework.'

       "Yes," I lied, adding in a fake, nervous laugh. "Boy, do I wish they'd cage that thing. And keep it that way. But, what are we gonna' do?"

       "That's right, and no worries, dear. It'll be off to states with you soon enough."

       "States'" was "college" for her. I suppress a frown, choking back tears. "I have homework to do," I mumble, quickly excusing myself. I walk around her and walk as gracefully as I can pretend, going up the two flights of twirling stairs, and out of sight. Then I rush to my bedroom at the very end of the long hallway, shoving the door open, then flinging it shut again, behind me. I click the lock into place and slide my back down the wood of the door, sliding to the ground and hugging my knees to my chest, head pressed against them. It should have been uncomfortable, and would have been, if I had been in my right mind.

       "College," my mind spits. "Such a wasted dream. A play for young people to grow up hopeful, just so their dreams can be smashed, wonderfully beyond repair.

       Like marriage.

       Or, parents.

       I scoff.

       Two situations, in which someone makes a commitment that they can't keep, or maybe never intend to. Two situations, in which, someone makes a mistake, and drags an innocent down. Making mistakes, and dragging a child down with you, ruining the life of an innocent, someone who is defenseless in protecting themselves. Something once so beautiful, something worth cherishing, someone oblivious and filled with the sense of false security, a child's blanket or teddy bear, something turned worthless; things break and get discarded, and the innocents fall victim to blame.

       The only thing left, after that, are us- I mean, the children..."

       A car door slams outside, breaking the silence. The screen door creaks open. I hear hushed sounds, like an argument began. Rushed footsteps on the stairs, failing to be silent. Sniffles determined to be both hidden, and heard. A pause outside my door, followed by a retreating shadow. I tiptoe to the door, sliding the lock silently, and open the door a crack, just enough to peer through. 

        It was Sasha, my step-mother, which I say loosely. Sure, it's a legal marriage- but she's only six years older than me. Seeing her now, she looks so small. So fragile. So young. She's leaning against the wall with her eyes closed and back to me.  "Sasha," I ask cautiously, approaching her slowly and carefully. Fragile people tend to be unpredictable. I would know...

       I catch her wipe at her face in a desperate attempt to hide her puffy face and tear tracks. "Hey, bunny," she smiles weakly, her voice obviously hoarse. She winces, trying so hard to hide from me. "You're home, early?"

        Now I get it. She was hoping to get back before me.

        "Same as everyday," I shrug. "You- whe- where've you been?"

        "Just shopping." Her smile falters more and more with each fake one that she plasters on. Her nose suddenly scrunches up and she looks around at the ceiling. "Do you... ... smell smoke?"

        shit!

        I pretend to sniff. "Um... no?"

        "Huh... well, I'm probably just tired... I'm going to go... lay down, for a bit, okay, dear?"

        "How's Dad," I call to her before she can fully retreat down the rest of the hall. She pauses at the question, then bolts down the stairs.

        She's hiding something.

        No, she's just upset.

        But, why wouldn't she talk to me about it?

        She's just upset...

       I rush back to my room, grabbing my purse and phone. I'm still in my school uniform- which does smell like smoke- but, I don't care. I rush down the stairs and to the door, only pausing to call out, "I'm going for a walk." I don't wait for a reply.

 

        I go to the park, walking aimlessly, trying to avoid what;s on my mind. But, as I catch sight of the scene that holds so many  childhood memories, I completely break down. I walk over, slow and hesitant, and lower myself down to the bench carefully, like either it or I would snap at the tough. I sit for awhile, before finally slipping my phone from my bag. My hands shake as I punch the screen over the name.

        "Oceanside Hospital, Secretary speaking. Hoe may I help you today?"

        "Hi," I try to say, but can only manage a whisper. Clearing my throat, I try again. "Hi, I wanted a call directed to my father? He's a patient there."

        "I'll see what I can do. What's his name?"

        "Agent. Gary Daemon."

        Only silences answers on the other end of the line.

        "Hello? Are you-"

        "I'm sorry, but we can't direct calls to that patient at this time."

        As if she had just broke a damn, my emotions burst. "I just... Is- is he okay?" My voice isn't even my own, at this point.

        "Alive; he's a fighter." It sounds like she's struggling to come up with more to say, but I've stopped listening. She isn't permitted to give me information, of any kind. And I'm not interested in false hope. "Have a good day."  The line goes dead. Just like the way I feel inside.

       "Well, look-ey here."

        As the voice floats to my ears, It doesn't even register. I'm feeling way too many things, all at once, to react to Nick right now. He doesn't say anything more, but sits next to me and wraps his arms around me, pulling me to him. I don't argue, don't protest, don't react. Acting on its own, my head decides to rest upon his shoulder. I stay like that, until I realize that I'm crying, and I'm in his arms, and he's drawing calming circles on mine.

        Sniffling, I sit up, trying to find the bearings I've lost. A finger traces the tear lines on my face. I look up and meet his eyes- his face has a torn expression. I grab his wrist, awakening from whatever spell I've fallen under. "What do you think or doing?"

        He appears taken aback at this. He shifts his body for a second, then returns to a normal sitting position, revealing the cigarette box he keeps in the back of his jeans.However, it's a different box than the one he had earlier. This one is brand new. He shakes out two sticks and hands one out to me. Thinking about it, I end up denying it with an erratic shake of my head. 

       He shrugs, "suit yourself. But, it does help with stress."

       I am so depleted of energy, that I shake my head once more, exhaustively, then slump against the back of the bench. We aren't as close to one another as we were before, however, we are still touching. Our shoulders. Our thighs. Our feet. 

        Is, he playing footsie with me?

       I watch him suspiciously from the corner of my eyes.

       "I asked you a question. What are you doing here?"

       He looks at me full on, and smirks. "This is a free park, isn't it?"

       "It is," I agree awkwardly.

       "What are you doing here?"

       "Same as you, I guess; free park."

       "No," he disagrees, shaking his head. "people don't come to public places to cry. What's wrong, kitten?"

       "Nothing," I say, stubbornly. I start to feel aggravated. "Why do you even care?"

       He moves his entire body, so it's facing me. He reached for my hands, and moves me to face him, as well. "Why did you come to me today?"

       I shrug, looking down at the pebbled ground. I'm embarrassed, and disappointing. In myself. In what I tried to do. That I didn't even succeed. In everything. 

       A blush flames up my face as his hand raises to gently cup my cheek, forcing me to look at him."Danny," he breathes. 

        "Fine! I- well, I told you. I, wanted to buy. "

        Just then, his whole body shakes with overwhelming laughter. I don't think he finds it funny, but incredulous. "I feel bad," he says. "For not believing you. But, just, wow, you know?"

       "Ha Ha," I mock, shoving to my feet. "Asshole," I mutter.knew he wouldn't take me seriously.

       "Wait," he calls after me. "I'm sorry!" He grabs my arm to keep me from walking away. I only stop, because of his words. I bet I'm the only person he's ever apologized to. "Look, I didn't mean to laugh. I'm not making fun of you." He looks down at me, and cups my cheek- again. "You're so smart, and beautiful, and so... so good. It was hard for me to believe; but, I'm seeing it now. Even the strong, break."

        I could almost laugh right now. "I am not strong." I am the weakest person that I know.

       "You don't have to be."

        For some reason, hearing him say that, set something off inside of me. I feel the sudden need to explain myself. But, I can't; I wouldn't even know where to begin. Things went downhill so quickly, I don't even understand. 

       I suddenly become aware of how close we are, and the gentle way he cups my face, and looks at me in such a tender way. A way I've never been looked at, before. I feel myself shoving onto my tiptoes, as high as I can get. It must have caused him to snap out of it, as well, because his hand shoots like a rocket away from my face. He stumbles backwards. His feet cling to the concrete like he'd be blown away if he didn't do something, and his hands and jaw are clenched so tightly, they're turning white.

       I move my gaze to the ground. I don't know why, but his actions have me feeling hurt. I take a small step backwards, practically stumbling over myself. "I- I should, um. I should probably get, get going."

       He nods, not looking away from the horizon. He crosses one arm over his chest, the other placing a cigarette between his dark pink lips. For a moment, my own lips tingle with a ghostly memory of how he'd kissed me, only hours ago. 

       I nod back- not really expecting a reaction- and turn around quickly, a sudden, strong need to get away from this haunting place of many emotions. 

       "Wait," I hear him call, his voice followed by the rushing sounds of footsteps trying to catch up to me. "why don't I walk you home?"

       I want that, yet I find myself shaking my head in denial. It wouldn't be right.

       I make a swift exit.

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