Monday, January 28, 2013

Fire Lily, Issue Two - Chapter Seven

“No more staying at Grandma's.” Lily's mom was stern, her jaw hard. Her eyes didn't leave the road while she spoke, glaring out from behind thin glasses. The driving glasses always made Lily think her mom was some kind of angry librarian, even when she was supposedly happy. Will I look like that? She wondered.Maybe I already do. Maybe I'm an angry librarian.

Her mom tensed on the wheel as the car behind them revved around to the front. A sound like popcorn clicked from her knuckles. The bite on her lip squeezed out a quiet “ffff” before dying into silence.

“I'm sup-p-posed to help Grandma,” Lily objected after a minute of sulking with her forehead against the window. Fog climbed off her breath, perspiring on the glass.

“Yeah, well, you can help on the weekends. And during the day. I don't need you skipping school to stay with that old bat. Besides, she hardly needs help at all. She's not that old, not yet. Perfectly capable of getting by on her own. If she's not we'll just have to pay for someone to take care of her.”

“Send her to a h-home?”

“Yes. There's a nice one down the street. Pleasant Valley or something.” A snort shot off her mom's nose as they pulled around a corner into a line of traffic halted by a commanding red light.

“Grandma doesn't w-w-want to go there, thou-ogh. She thinks it's bad. Evil. She says they'll ensl-slave her. That's what Mr. Malcolm told-old her.”

Her mom's green eyes flicked like a snake. They poured intensely into hers own. “Mr. Malcolm?”

All at once Lily wanted to disappear. Her mother's eyes seemed to drip venom into her. “Y-yeah,” she stuttered, this time not from the cold. “He was over Grandma's h-house last month. They had t-tea.”

“Tea,” her mother huffed, falling back against her seat as the light flashed green. “Right. Mr. Malcolm came over for tea.”

Silence fell over them as they cruised up the street. They were nearing the suburbs. Redbrick stores and restaraunts clustered shoulder-to-shoulder on slabs of concrete gave way to neatly cut grass and houses set at least twenty feet apart, though often more. Bushes cropped up beside the sidewalk, and fire hydrants stood shaded by trees. This greenery, so eloquent and fine, was the last remnants of the town's namesake flower fields. Even now most of the flowers were gone, replaced by blades of impossibly green grass. Probably fake.

Even pretend grass is better than concrete... Lily thought. Her stomach agreed with a pang.

“Did he touch you?” Her mother asked suddenly, ripping Lily away from herself.

“Wh-what?” She was taken aback. Touch me?

“Did Mr. Malcolm touch you?” Her mom spoke slowly, her voice trembling slightly.

“N-not in any bad w-ways.”

Her mom's lips pressed hard together and her eyes narrowed forward. She seemed to be thinking. After a moment she said: “That's not what I meant.”

“I-it's not?”

“Did he touch you?” Her eyes flicked again, snake-like. The car bounced over something in the road, driving her eyes back to the front.

“We shoo-we shook hands,” Lily answered quietly, looking down. She didn't know why she seemed disappointed about it. Just a handshake, after all. But her mom seemed so intense, so angry.

“I see.”

There were no more words as they cruised by hedges and ranch houses. No words as the suburbs turned into city again. Silence when the car snoozed off before the shut garage. Then just five words: “You're grounded. Up to bed.”

The moonlight filtered through the window, casting a pale but pretty beam across the floor. Dust particles danced through the air over to Lily's nose, where they settled on the blanket pulled up past her chin or stuck, drowning, to the tears on her cheeks and nose. Sobbing quietly, clutching her twisted stomach, sleep drifted away from her.

Through the night and the tears she repeated the same phrase again and again, choking each time.
“I don't want to be a superhero anymore.”