Chapter 2

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1981 - August

My mother's eyes looked into me. They were a steely gray. It was a time warp. The clock said 2:10. The last time I had looked at it, it was 11:00 in the morning. I didn't remember any of the time in between. Her eyes were locked on mine. She was reading me. I inhaled deeply and she raised her eyebrow. In all of this time in between, I could feel the walls melting around me. I could see the orange and brown kitchen wall paper, the images: an old fashion tea kettle, a gold frying pan, rust and gold flowers, all in a 1970s pattern repeated on a white background across two thirds of the kitchen wall, above the wainscoting. The wallpaper images wiggled in my periphery. They were alive. The little pictures were animated creatures that moved close to me. I could feel the hair on my skin rising. The images drew closer, hovered close enough to count my breaths.

"Who are these kids?" I finally asked her. My mother sauntered over to the counter. She acted like a James Bond model. Her dark brown hair was dried straight and she wore a headband. Her skin was tanned and her face looked young and pretty. She had on her glasses and she lifted them up to rest on the top of her head. She shook a Winston out of her leather cigarette case. She held the cigarette between two fingers for a while and stared just past me, out the kitchen window, which overlooked the back yard. Everything was summer lush. The tall oak tree in back was casting dappled light on the grass and shrubs. A big round circle of dirt sat in the middle of the back yard where we once had an aboveground pool.

She lit her cigarette, shook her match out, took a long drag and turned to me.

"This information isn't to be shared." She eyed me up and down. Her mouth was turned up a little in a disapproving grimace. Was I skinny, flat chested and putrid? Was I as weak and disgusting as her eyes revealed? My shoulders slumped further and I sunk deeper into the chair. I felt uncomfortable and I wanted to tear my own skin off. Instead, I sat still and lit a cigarette. She was looking right at me again. "If you tell anyone about this, they'll come find you and kill you." It was matter of fact, the way she said it.

"Who?" I asked. "Who is going to do it?" I took a drag and it was a deep desperate inhale, pulling the smoke quickly filling all of my lungs. When I exhaled it was slow and long. I was holding on to the smoke. I could feel the lump in my throat softening. I was going to cry.

She leaned back on the counter. She crossed one leg over the other. Then she told me casually, "Cliff knows someone in the mafia. I don't know who exactly is going to do it, but this man that Cliff knows..."

Her voice trailed off as I thought about my mother's boyfriend Cliff. Whenever he saw me he said "Heeey, pretty girl." I had gone to Cliff's house once in Rochester, which seemed rural and backwards to me. They had a big two-story house with unpainted shingles. While mom talked with Cliff and his preppy wife Cindy, I went upstairs with Margaret and Cliff's kids. They had a big messy upstairs attic room and the two boys were drinking Budweisers. It seemed as if they would pull out a syringe at any moment and shoot some heroin.

My mother scratched her leg, slipped her foot out of her dirty, matted slipper and put it back in. "I wasn't supposed to tell anyone." She said and turned to me again. She bit on a fingernail and kind of grimaced. She looked down at her nail while she talked to me.

"If this gets out, Cliff said they'll come to the house and kill us both. They already know all about us. They knew that before the plot to kill the two kids." She filled the teakettle with water from the kitchen sink and placed it on the stove. She turned the gas on and absentmindedly said to herself "I don't know why in the hell Cliff would be involved in their plots." She took out another cigarette, leaned down and lights it on the burner. I could see an image. It just appeared. It was her hair catching on fire, then her clothes. I could see her burning in front of me. Then it would all be over. Maybe the plots would continue, but I would never hear about them again. I might read about a murder in the paper, but I wouldn't be intimately involved.

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