[This chapter is dedicated to BryanAiello. Thanks for the awesome conversation today! All of my readers need to check out your works! Full of man-against-himself and existential dread! I especially love "Over Done" "Sebastian" and "Space Lettuce".]
After clearing the table, Rachel found a squishy, mildewing sponge, filled with stale water and the remnants of long-since expired food. She soaked it in dish detergent and scrubbed the layer of gray dust from the pine table.
Rachel felt a heaviness in her stomach. She felt a dizzy anxiety rising inside her.
Rachel continued to clean as Helene finished up her shower and then made a phone call from the Coca-Cola phone on the wall behind the kiln. Rachel did the best job she could with the worn-out old broom. It was impossible to sweep up all of the dust. Some of it created thick patches, where one layer of dust had stuck onto another, and when Rachel ran the broom over these clumps only a portion of the gray dust came away.
By eleven o'clock, Rachel had moved into the living room. She was determined now to clean until her mother forgave her. She was going to make this house so clean that her mother would love her the most.
She gathered up Amorey's baby toys and brought them down the hall into Nita and Amorey's room. Then she collected a bunch of flat round weights next to the couch. She wasn't able to move the very largest of these, so she left them where they were. The ones that she was able to carry she brought to a light blue weight bench in the corner of the living room, by the window.
Sticking out from under the couch, she collected several video tapes and a bunch of books with pictures of elves and dragons on the cover. Rachel paused to flip through these and couldn't help but smile softly when she realized what they were. They were Dungeons and Dragons books, just like the ones that Rachel had found in the crawlspace in the guest room when she was five. Papa had yelled at her for snooping, but she had also explained what they were.
"Ahhh, well, those are your mother's D and D books. It's a game that she liked to play when she was a teenager."
"What kind of game is it?" Rachel had asked him.
"One for freaks and weirdos," he'd huffed. "Your mother was always a strange kid. She was only friends with boys and they were all scruffy hippie-looking boys. I know they are smoked marijuana and did drugs. They used to squirrel away up in the guest room and play this idiotic game. They make up a story and play pretend like a bunch of children..."
He had walked away then, irritated and muttering, and Rachel had only been left with ideas. She had formulated an elaborate fantasy of who her mother might be.
Now she knew her mother. That fantasy mother was dead.
Rachel pondered for a moment how strange this was. All of this time that she'd been trying to figure out who her mother might be, and she had been alive and going about her own life this whole time. It wasn't as though Rachel hadn't known that, but now she could picture it. It didn't seem right.
After clearing the floor, Rachel wet a paper towel and began to wipe down the vinyl blinds that covered the small windows. Rachel went slat by slat wiping away dust. The paper towel was now filthy and she thought she'd soon have to wet another. Rachel was still shaken by everything that had happened that morning, but she was beginning to enjoy herself. The monotony of her task and the order she was in the process of creating; these things were soothing to her.
It was as she was wiping the thick film of gray from the slats that a bright green Volkswagon pulled into the dirt driveway. This vehicle produced a short young woman with a sleek bobbed hairstyle and large black sunglasses. Her neon green heels dug into the sand of the driveway as she exited the vehicle and slammed the door shut. She walked directly in front of Rachel as she clip-clopped up the walkway, which passed directly in front of the living room window.
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***Long-listed for the Watty's 2018***Rachel lives in constant fear that she will burst into flames. She can feel the heat building in her gut. She keeps buckets of water under the bed. She keeps them to fend off the flames that her body may create...