She wraps her arms around his waist, captivated by the brightness of his eyes. His signature scent of nutmeg, baby powder, and fresh linen invades her nostrils, providing an anesthetic to her tense mood. She closes her eyes and waits for his kiss when…he disappears. Plants, flowers and trees slowly die in front of her.
She runs through slime and foul smells so suffocating she can barely draw air into her lungs. Blinding debris and decaying earth is just another roadblock for Amelia as she races to find him. When a slow, body-rattling growl stops her from moving any further, she holds her breath and remains very still, knowing that whatever’s there—is close. A cold fog begins to surround her, blocking anything in her path. She rubs the goosebumps on her arms as the chill descends deep into her bones. Cah! A murder of crows shoots out of the darkness and knocks her down. She jumps up, heart pounding, body trembling. Taking a few steps forward, she stretches out her shaking hand, inhaling one last deep breath before coming face to face—with death.
Amelia walks in from school—famished. She opens the refrigerator and sighs. Her basketball coach has admonished her about eating too much junk food, but the half-eaten candy bar on the shelf is just too tempting. “It’s only half,” she reasons as she devours the sweet/salty goodness.
“Hey baby, did you just get home?” Alexandria asks as she walks inside the house and hangs up her jacket. Amelia gulps down the last bit of candy and opens a bottle of water.
“Um, yes, how was your day mom? You seem cheery.”
“That’s because I am. Guess who won two tickets to Hawaii?!”
“No way! How?”
“Yes way. You know every year they do that big raffle at the school. Well, they pulled out my name. Also, guess who’s teacher of the year? I got a plaque from my students, I swear today was a good day.”
Amelia walks over to her mother and wraps her arms around her waist. “Congrats mom, I’m proud of you.”
“Thanks baby, hey do I smell peanuts?” Alexandria asks.
Crap! “Maybe I ate that candy bar in the fridge.” Amelia shrugs her shoulders apologetically. “It was calling me. It was like, ‘Amelia, if you don’t eat me I’ll haunt your dreams.’”
“Okay if a candy bar is talking to you then we have bigger problems to worry about than you eating it. Besides, I’m too excited to be mad. Just be careful about what you eat. Hey what time is your game on Saturday?”
“It’s at three o’clock. Do you think dad will make this one? I know he’s been depressed lately but he missed my last three games.”
“I know. He’s having nightmares again and not getting much sleep. I’ll talk to him and see if he’ll be up to it,” Alexandria sighs. They head towards the stairs. “Why don’t you go up and change for dinner.”
Wham! The front door flies open. Amelia and Alexandria spin around in shock.
“Alexandria!” Cash screams as he staggers into the house. He grits his teeth and slams the door shut.
“Yes?” Alexandria answers. “Is everything okay?” She tilts her head and stares at him inquisitively.
“Dad what’s wrong?” Amelia asks. She hadn’t noticed her legs were trembling from the way he busted into the house and startled her. She can’t comprehend what’s got him so upset.
He steps closer to Amelia and puts his hand on her arms. “Baby, I need you to go upstairs.”
The pungent smell of the alcohol on his breath makes her eyes water. Since when does he drink? “O—okay dad,” she replies. She takes one slow step at a time until she reaches the top of the stairs and hides behind the wall, listening in.
He scowls at Alexandria and says, “Do you think I’m stupid? I know what you’ve been doing with that Jason.”
“What are you talking about? I haven’t done anything with anyone. Who told you that?” Alexandria replies, crossing her arms.
Cash looks down and walks away from her, facing the door.
“It doesn’t matter. I will not be the talk of Stillwater because my wife’s being a whore!”
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