They woke together on Saturday as the sun spilt in through the gap in the curtains. “Mmm, she slept all night,” Carys whispered smiling as Jake, her husband planted fairy kisses all over her head and shoulders. Kisses that barely became kisses before floating to another area.
“Will I go check on her?” He asked Carys whilst continuing down her body.
“No, leave her, she will cry when she’s ready. When was the last time we got a Saturday morning love-in? Must’ve been four months at least.”
Carys and Jake made slow, lovers love to each other, they were still young, still in love, still passionate. Jake slipped out of bed, padded across the room and into the bathroom. Carys heard him start the shower, she slipped out of bed, thought about joining him but decided they had already had bonus sex. She went into the nursery.
Wee Charlotte was lying in her cot, waiting for her mammy patiently, too patiently and as Carys got closer she could see there was no breath in the body of her little angel. She knelt down, surprised by how calm she was, cried silent tears and prayed. Jake found her there ten minutes later, kneeling, crying and praying.
Jake immediately thought of their early morning romp and felt guilty, if he had only checked on the baby first, if he had only… He did not go to Carys.
Carys moved through the funeral serenely, Jake was a mess. Their lives became more disparate and in time they separated and divorced. Charlotte was laid to rest after a brief autopsy, sudden infant death, being the cause on the death certificate.
Carys moved on, grieving was seen as textbook for a grieving mother. Jake in comparison, his life fell apart, he lost his job, he began to drink heavily. After many years of dereliction he sought out Carys.
Jake appeared on her doorstep one day in November, it was just beginning to get colder. “I’m sorry,” he said as she warily opened the door.
“Jake, is that you?”
“Um, yeah it’s me, I guess I don’t look how I useta.”
“No, I mean, yes, no. What I mean is I recognised your eyes and the way you said sorry. You had a special way of saying it. What are you sorry for?”
Jake explained briefly and then walked away leaving Carys on her knees praying, but this time her wracking sobs were violent, loud with edges and sharp pointy bits.
Charlotte was exhumed a few months later and the cause of death changed. A warrant for Jake’s arrest was made. He was not found and Carys felt vindicated.
Jake jumped from a bridge into freezing water in December calling Charlotte’s name as he did. He couldn’t live with what he had done. Intentional methadone overdose was the amended cause of death, Jake just wanted one night of peace, one night of sleep, one night without Charlotte. He didn’t bargain for what he got; a lifetime without her.
“You are so stupid!” her mother was screaming at Mary. Mary was picking up pieces of delph. Mary’s brother was stood to the side smirking and her step-father was giving her one of those looks, those ‘I’ll see you later’ looks.
This was Mary’s life; her brother caused trouble for which Mary got the blame, causing her mother to lose her temper meaning she’s need a couple of spliffs and some mellow Southern Comfort to chill her out till she passed out, meanwhile her mother’s husband would use Mary for his own ends.
Mary had an alter-ego, her name was Morrigan, Queen of the Crows, Queen of the Dead, no one messed with Morrigan. It was always later, much, much later that she could invoke Morrigan. She had rituals, she would purge, she would shower in the hottest water possible, scrubbing every centimetre of her body till it tingled (for Mary’s tingle read scrubbed raw till blood appeared). As she dried her body and yanked at her long black hair so tufts of rat-tails would come loose from her scalp, she lit candles and placed her arms from elbow to wrist in the candle flame, backwards and forwards till she could feel it. Finally she banged the back of head against the wall of the bathroom until she became Morrigan.
Morrigan left the house, dressed all in black, with a long black cloak, she paused in alleys, she slithered between shop doorways, watching, waiting for her step-father leaving the bar so she could if she wanted to, kill him.
Watching and waiting, waiting and watching; thinking of her baby sister asleep in the cot. “Touch her Derek, and you will die!” she howled into the night. She swept along the road howling like a banshee, Morrigan Mary, no one dares….
The sun was setting as the plane landed in Los Angeles. The cabin was infused with a golden orange glow. Celebrity hoped was a good omen and squeezed Wayne’s arm to waken him.
Security took forever, Celebrity’s newly coiffured hair was becoming limper than the lettuce left forgotten at the bottom of the crisper. That was the problem, Celebrity thought, I have a name that totally sucks, I am desperately trying to make a good first impression with Wayne’s parents and it really doesn’t matter because my name got there first.
The hair, the new linen suit, strike that, the new crumpled in a heap linen suit, the Jimmy Choo’s that were killing, all of it didn’t matter because her silly, fussy, manic mother once was friends with a woman called Mia with strange named children and she got landed with the stupidest name in the history of stupid names.
And Wayne’s parents had already judged her, and what was the point anyway, I want to go home, she could feel her eyes smart. No way, I am not having mascara run. Where did Wayne go?
Oh I love this man, she smugly smiled as he handed her a bottle of water and a napkin. “Come on Ceely, mom and dad aren’t that bad. They made me. And I love you, honey more than chocolate chilli ice cream, more than anything,” Wayne held Celebrity whilst whispering in her ear.
Talenkynic woke before dawn, full of night terrors, sweats and flushes. Witness to too much destruction, her unconscious mind revisited nightly. As she woke she caught the merest glimpse in the corner of her eye, a shape, a shadow, nothing tangible.
She couldn’t remember, she couldn’t forget.
Shards of her past were clear shining like crystals in the midday sun, huge facets though were left hollow, without form.
Emotions ran riot within her, she possessed them, she contained them, she fought with them whilst maintaining the serenest veneer of calm. Only now, alone, in the twisted sheets and twisted mind of the night were they let loose.
A morass of limbs, thoughts and thread count. She asked herself each time, “How did I get here?” As if the stillness of the night, with the humming of nature could answer.
She began to pack.
She was always on the move, migrating south, along highways and byways, following rivers and streams. At nightfall she pitched her tent, unfolded her sheets and lay down between the cool layers, daring herself not to sleep. A dare she lost each night, the hour unknown, only the brutal awakening was remembered.
Talenkynic walked towards the town she’d seen the day before. Hoping for a day’s work in a diner or hotel kitchen, she began her campaign. A little dust on the face and hands to make her look more impoverished, her shorts were ready to be tugged down for a female boss or tugged up for a male. She marvelled at the simplicity of folk.
“Bing-bong!” the diner door announced her arrival, just as dawn appeared. Silhouetted against the brilliance of the sun,
“Hello, are you open yet?” she called into the darker reaches of the store.
“Goodness, my first customer. You’re an early one, come on in, sit yerself down, coffee?” The owner, a middle aged woman of vast proportions tottered along the inside of the counter.
“May I wash up, first? I have travelled many days,” Talenkynic with her opening gambit.
“Yes, of course, dearie, through the back there. Here, use this towel, you could wash your hair. I often do if I’m running late for Harve,” the diner owner poured coffee for them both and set sugar and creamer on the counter for her customer.
Rose, or Rosie De Bois, according to the diner’s signage had lived and worked in Ellisville all her married life. She was originally from up the county in Laurel, but she liked it here, quieter, more peaceful and easier for her to bury her sadness away from her family.
Talenkynic appeared with the towel binding her hair in a turban, “Is this okay?”
“For sure, Ben will be the next in, but not for an hour. Will I fix you some breakfast?” Rose smiled at the gangly girl before her.
“Oh, well, umm, maybe some toast and more coffee please,” Talenkynic began a wistful smile and let her eyes move up to Rose’s.
“When did you last eat, girl?” Rose countered.
“Yesterday, I found some berries and ate them as I walked, they were so juicy, it popped in my mouth,” her next play out she let her eyes close briefly then looking down and blushing ever so slightly.
“Hey, cheer up, my name is Rose, this is my diner, I will feed you breakfast, lunch and dinner if you work for me and I will give you twenty dollars wages plus any tips you make. Mind they’re a frugal bunch round here, not many tips to be had. Or maybe that’s just me. What do you say? What’s your name, girl?” Rose unknowingly had walked into Talenkynic’s innocent trap.
“Tally, I go by Tally, and yes, oh thank you, thank you so much,” Talenkynic gushed thanks and beamed a smile in appreciation.
Later after her fill of eggs and ham she wiped down tables, set up condiments, filling where necessary, all the time keeping an eye out for customers. She hummed as she worked, a folk tune from home, barely audible and unheard by Rose who was busy baking biscuits and peeling potatoes for her morning men.
People came into the diner at regular intervals, with a snippet of a story, either theirs or Rose’s. Talenkynic was building up quite a picture of Ellisville and Rose, a widow with no children, a heart of gold, always with a smile, never one to hold a grudge. Saint Rose, she thought, as she served the hungry diners with food that even Talenkynic found appealing.
Rose was also talking throughout the day gently probing the young girl rushes back and forth with orders and dirty plates. She was hard worker, Rose thought, but very closed. As she pulled down the blinds at the end of the day she learned nothing except her name and she was moving south.
“Tally, when you’ve eaten, would you like to walk with me some, before the sun sets?” Rose asked as she turned the key in the lock.
“Um, yes, sure. I mean, I have to get going but a small walk would be okay,” Tally spoke brokenly partly due to stuff biscuit, gravy and fried chicken in her mouth and partly due to a sudden yearning to spend time with the widow Rose.
They walked, to Talenkynic it seemed aimless, a little left, a little right. To Rose, there was a purpose, she was bringing Tally home. Turning into the path that led to her house, she turned to Tallenkynic, “Tally, you are welcome to rest for a few days or for a while. You look so tired, exhausted, you need to sleep in a bed. Come?”
“I suppose I could stay for a night and see from there,” was her cagey reply.
Rose made the most of having a guest, plumping pillows, running a bath and making hot chocolate and cookies. She sang spirituals, reminiscing when she first moved into the house as a newly wed, hoping to fill the home with kids and animals. Settling for one mangy cat that would never come in but sat on the porch with disdainful mews.
Talenkynic sank into the deep mattress, surrounded by fluffy pillows and soft toys, trying desperately hard to stay awake but without the usual will and she soon slipped off into a deep sleep.
As Talenkynic slept her mind, warped by memories of a distant time and place, scenes played out, one by one projected above. Rose awakened and watched horrified, silent tears falling, as she watched the annihilation of a species, Tally although younger retained her eyes and Rose saw the girl watching her family, her community, her entire hold killed.
After the first twenty minutes or so, she slipped into bed with Tally and held her, still watching. Babies, old people, children and women all killed, it took some working out but it seemed certain girls were saved, the men were not there. Rose had never spent the shortest night at the movies but she was riveted to the screen all night, until just before dawn as the violence that Talenkynic endured became more horrifying, the experiments, the torture. No wonder she was always moving, she thought.
Talenkynic woke sometime after seven, rested for the first time since arriving on earth, the smell of coffee wafting up the stairs. “Ah, you’re awake, here have some coffee and we’ll get off to work,” Rose breezed in, smiling.
Their life together began, Rose watching and holding, Talenkynic slowly recovering.
“Steph! Get the phone, love, I have my hands full,” George literally had his hand down a chicken’s throat.
“Hi, DeLeon residence, Stephanie speaking,” Steph was putting on her call centre voice. George continued stuffing the chicken.
“Re ally, oh my gosh, re ally, oh my, let me tell George,” she was becoming almost incoherent.
“George, George, wait till I tell you. We won, we won. George we won,” bouncing into the kitchen she grabbed George and swung him round.
Her eyes, beautiful blue jewels, were shining like sapphires, little pink spots on her cheeks and a wide grin all helped give George the jolt to ask what they had won.
“The second honeymoon, they liked our story, we leave tomorrow, yea, yea, yea.”
“What about the chicken?” George asked weakly
“Stuff the chicken! We’re going to Jamaica!” Steph rushed off.
She was probably packing he thought and slowly emptied the chicken and the rest of the stuffing into the bin. The special stuffing would have to wait. Actually, he thought, this might work better, it would be much easier on vacation to add the necessary ingredients to cause an allergic reaction and he might even get compensation to boot. Win, win. A honeymoon to remember.
“Need help packing love? Let’s see how much we can stuff into the suitcase, eh love.”