The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 13
The Strange Shape Of Anne's Grief chapter 13 Anne and Cheryl
“Hope everyone is having a turkey-ific Thanksgiving out there! Looks like we’re getting a side order of snow with our holiday feast!” The DJ’s lame jokes were lost on Anne who was concentrating on the snow-covered road ahead of her. The consent whine of the windshield whippers clashing with the glib rambling of the DJ. Anne had worked a half shift at Save-Mart. She would have preferred to have the day off, but she needed the money. Heating that old house in the winter was a nightmare. Not to mention she still needed to get the cracked windshield fixed. The spiderweb crack seemed to be ever so slowly spreading. All this plus they needed money for food. Today was a day to be thankful they said. Frankly, Anne wasn’t feeling very thankful for anything.
She turned down the driveway towards home. Imagining the old days. Thanksgivings past, her father loved turkey and stuffing. It was the only time of the year they ever had it. He’d be excited all week. Pacing impatiently when it took longer to cook than expected. If it wasn’t for Hendricks giving everyone a turkey for a bonus last week, Anne and her mother wouldn’t be having much in the way of anything tonight. They were broke until Anne got paid tomorrow. She’d been able to scrimp enough together to get some stuff to have with the turkey. Still they were better off than those starving kids in Africa the TV commercials went on about.
There, there was something to be thankful for. She thought. They still had food and a home. For how long though, Anne wasn’t sure.
Luke was playfully rolling in the snow as Anne walked towards the house. Seeing her, he sprang to his feet. Barking happily. His tail eagerly whipping back and forth.
She knelt down and rubbed his head. “You like the snow huh? Good for you boy. How long you been out here?”
Looking up at the house, movement in an upstairs window caught her eye. Must have been mom. Probably heard her pull in. Luke stared growling. His eyes locked on the house, letting out a sharp, angry bark.
Anne pet him on his broad back, breaking whatever spell had gripped the canine. The dog turned away from the house. Looking up at his master with sad eyes.
“Hungry? Want to go in?”
Inside there was a comforting blast of heat as Anne entered. The smell of cooking turkey wafting through the air. Mixed with cinnamon. Mom had the Thanksgiving candles lit. Anne felt the tension of the day drift away, smell of turkey and cinnamon relaxing her. Luke trotted past her, headed toward the kitchen no doubt.
Upstairs the floor creaked as her mother moved hurriedly about. There was the faintest sound of a voice. Maybe a couple of them. Anne listened for a minute. Was it the radio maybe? Or the television in her mom’s room? Sometimes she watched TV up there. Straining her ears, Anne couldn’t tell.
Anne moved towards the stairs. “Mom?” She waited for answer. Nothing. Starting up the stairs, Anne stopped about halfway up. “I’m home! Never thought I’d get out of there.”
This time she was answered with the sound of a door shutting. Looking a little harried, her mother appeared at the top of the stairs. Stepping around the corner, holding a gauze covered hand.
“Mom!” Anne nearly toppled down the stairs, startled by the woman’s sudden appearance. Regaining her balance, Anne noticed her mom’s injured hand. “Oh shit. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” She held up the bandaged hand. “Got clumsy again in the kitchen.”
“You need to go to the hospital?”
“It’s nothing. Just absent minded. Nicked it on a can of olives.” She walked past her daughter. “I’ve got to check the turkey.”
Anne followed after. “You sure you’re okay? You looked a bit stressed.”
“I was a bit tired. You surprised me. I dozed off on the bed, listening to the radio.”
The closer to the kitchen they got, the hungrier the smell of turkey made Anne. Her stomach rumbled. Breakfast seemed so distant now. Seven hours felt like seven days ago.
Anne took a deep breath. Taking in the wonderful aroma. “Smells great.”
“Should be near about done.”
“I’ll take care of the rest okay? Sit mom.”
“If that’s what makes you happy.”
After dinner they sat at the table talking. Mostly about the past. About her father. Tears welling up in her eyes a few times. Every bright memory was tethered to a touch of melancholy. It didn’t help her to remember, only seemed to make it worse.
Anne slipped some leftover scraps from her plate to Luke, who was patiently waiting under the table despite her mom’s protests that she spoiled the dog. And why not? Anne thought. She’d never have kids. Had no real interest in being some one’s wife. Being a mother. That wasn’t something she saw in her future. So why not baby the dog.
Outside the snow kept falling. Tomorrow was Black Friday. Work would be a real bitch. One very long day with a store full of crazed lunatics looking for bargains. Screaming kids running up and down aisles. Babies crying. Anne was dreading it. First, she’d have to drive through whatever this snowstorm left behind. Which meant she’d have to leave earlier than usual.
“Ready for dessert?” Her mom asked.
Anne shook her head. “No. Still full.” She glanced up at the clock on the wall. A wood owl with a clock set in its chest. “How about in an hour or so?”
“That’s fine. Give me time to clean up this mess.”
Anne stood. “I’ll help.”
Rest honey. You worked all morning.”
“You did too mom. You made this awesome dinner.”
Her mother smiled. “Thank you. I don’t know what I’d do if you weren’t here.”
Anne’s favorite part of Thanksgiving was her mother’s homemade cheesecake. Feeling like a stuffed turkey herself after a couple slices, she sat on the living room couch. Slim Whitman played on the record player. Her dad had collected a ton of records over the years. Most of them country singers. She’d loved sitting in here working on schoolwork as her dad read or worked on bills.
Luke was curled up on his blanket a few feet from the couch. Softly snoring. Her mom had already headed up to bed. Anne figured she should head up soon too, the couch was just too comfortable to pull away from though. Fatigue tempted her to curl up there and drift off. Her eyes felt heavy. Closing them Anne fell asleep.
The little girl knelt holding her ears. The older girl still whipping her with a long blade of grass. Loud snaps split the air as the grass hit the girl’s back.
“I hate you! I hate you!”
“Stop it! Stop it!” The little girl screamed.
The girl stops whipping her. “Stop? Never. I hate you!”
She picks up a small rock and throws it at the little girl. The projectile hitting her in the shoulder.
“Stop it!” The little girl screamed. Charging at her attacker.
Anne woke in a cold sweat. Sprawled on the couch. The pillows on the floor. The record stopped. The speakers emitting a monotone crackle. Groggy. Anne wiped drool from her mouth. Her eyes bloodshot. She looked up at the clock. 2:30 in the morning.
Luke was still sound asleep. Outside the snow still coming down. A white blanket covering everything. Good and bad in equal measure. A wind had come up since Anne had dozed off. Howling like a great wounded beast. It Blew the snow around in swirling clouds of white. The flakes tapping on the windows. Over the refrain of wind and snow there was another sound.
Wumpth! Wumpth! Wumpth!
The sound was coming from somewhere inside the house. Anne got up. Luke’s head rose. The dog looked at its mistress with dull eyes.
“Hear that?” She whispered.
She turned the record player off. Listening as her heart thumped away.
Wumpth! Wumpth! Wumpth!
It was coming from further back in the house. Perhaps the kitchen. Was there somebody in the house? A burglar? Damn. It’s too bad they’d sold off her father’s guns. A pistol in her hand would make her feel a whole lot better right now. Instead she settled for a broom from the hall closet. Maybe she could sweep them to death. Stepping into the dining room, the bare wood floor creaking under her stocking feet. Feeling her way past the table in the dark. She made her way to the other side of the room.
Wumpth! Wumpth! Wumpth!
The sound grew louder. To Anne’s fear gripped mind it was near deafening. She looked behind her. Luke stood in the dining room door. Lit by the light from the living room. Watching her.
“You got my back?” She whispered.
As if answering her, the dog sat down.
“Guess I’m going solo.”
A cold breeze greeted Anne as she entered the kitchen. The back door blowing back and forth. Banging against the counter. Snow had built up on the tile floor. Anne switched on the light. Scanned the room for an intruder. There was nobody. Setting the broom down, she traded it for a large kitchen knife. Despite the cold air, sweat dripped down her wrist. Her palms were moist, making the knife handle slippery.
Anne grabbed the door handle before it could hit the counter another time. There in the snow outside, her worst fear was confirmed. Footprints. Run. Run and hide she thought. Despite her fear, Anne pushed herself to look out into the dark stormy night. Knowing full well that somebody might meet her gaze out there in the blackness. There wasn’t anyone. At least as far as she could tell. Anne turned on the outside light, hoping that if somebody was hiding out there, it would scare them off.
She bent down, studying the tracks on the ground. There was something weird about them. Her eyes following them out onto the snow. Anne’s fear turned to horror.
Anne closed the door. Locking it. Backing away, she rushed upstairs. Nearly tripping on the stairs. As she reached her mother’s bedroom, Anne was nearly out of breath. Pushing open the bedroom door open, Anne half expected to find an empty bed. Instead she found the woman asleep. This scared her all the more.
“Mom.” Anne whispered.
If it wasn’t her then…
“Mom.” She said. Her voice growing louder.
Cheryl Marsten had always been a sound sleeper. Anne’s dad had joked his wife could sleep through an artillery barrage without ever being woke up.
Anne tugged her at her mother’s arm gently. “Mom! Mom! Wake up!”
Her mother sighed. Her eyes opening partway. “Wha? Honey, what time is it?”
“Someone was in the house.”
Cheryl rolled over, onto her back. Yawning. “You have a bad dream?”
“No.” Frustration replacing the fear in her voice. “Someone was in the house. The kitchen door was open.”
Her mother sat up. “I must have forgot to lock it. That’s all. The wind blew it open.”
Anne resisted the urge to pull her mother out of bed and all the way downstairs. “No. It wasn’t that. There were footprints in the snow! Somebody was here!” She stammered. “The tracks, they only led away from the house. Whoever was here, they’d been here for a while before they left.”
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