The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 2
by Shane Migliavacca
The Strange Shape Of Anne's Grief Chapter Two Mom, Luke and The House
Anne’s headache grew as she drove down Old State road, past Zwilling Lake. Named by the German founders of the town back in Colonial Times. Out here, away from town it could very well be the same as back then. Except for the telephone poles lining the roadside, the land look untouched by people for long stretches. Some would call it lonely out here. To Anne it was peaceful. There were no neighbors to speak of. Nobody throwing noisy parties in the summer. No loud music. Nobody to snoop into your bossiness. Not a soul around.
Anne could see the farmhouse looming on the horizon. Standing alone like the last warrior on a battlefield. Looking battered and worn. The paint was slowly chipping away. Reveling the wood underneath in spots. Some of the shingles were missing from the roof. So much work that needed to be done. Work that required money. Money Anne didn't have. If she had her way, she’d sell the damn thing. But mom wanted to stay. Anytime Anne tried to convince her otherwise it just ended in an argument.
At her most frustrated, at her most desperate, Anne fantasized burning the place down with them in it. That was a dumb fantasy though. She’d never do it. Drawing closer, the house took on an almost sinister appearance. The darkness casting long shadows over portions of it. The house was eternal. Timeless. Like a family curse. Built by her grandparents. Handed down to her father. It was her’s now.
Anne turned into the driveway. Stopping at the mailbox. Today’s mail would still be in there. Mom didn’t even do that anymore. She didn’t mind have to stop and get it, it was just, Anne wished her mom wouldn’t hide in the house all the time. Cutting herself off from the outside. God knows Anne wanted to do that herself. But somebody had to work, had to take care of things.
Rolling down her window, Anne reached out and took the envelopes crammed in mailbox. All bills no doubt about that. She chucked them on the seat next to her.
Driving towards the house, she wondered what version of her mother she’d get tonight. She was in a good mood when Anne left for work. That easy could have changed by now. And being this late getting home from work, chances are she’s be in a miserable mood. Which meant she’d take it out on Anne.
All of which made her headache throb even more. Anne got out of the truck. Grabbing the mail. Casting her gaze on the cracked windshield. No need to tell her about that. Not yet.
Anne walked towards the house. Nearly every light was on. She did that all the time. What was mom so scared off? Anne slide the key into the lock. There was no need to check. Mom always locked the door. She had this place more secure then Fort Knox. As Anne slowly turned the doorknob, she heard a loud, welcoming bark.
He stood there. A large dopey grin on his face. Her only close friend besides Sam. Luke. The large Scottish Deerhound wagged his tail expectantly.
“Well boy, didn’t bring you anything good.” She looks at the mail in her hand. “Unless you want some bills.”
Luke yawned his disapproval and trotted away. Head hung low.
Upstairs a door closed. Anne look up the long, creaky staircase leading to the second floor. A woman in her mid forties stands at the top of the stairs, her arms crossed over her chest. Her long graying hair pulled back into a tight knot. She was still dressed in a robe and pajamas.
“Your almost two hours late!”
Anne drops the mail on the stand near the front door. “You know what today is.” She slides off her flannel jacket. Hanging it on a coat-rack. “I had to stop and get some flowers.”
Her mother starts down the stairs. Her robe flowing behind her like a cape. Like a small town Red Queen. “I don’t know why you bother. Your father is dead. I’m not.”
Anne could feel her headache pounding harder. It felt like her temples were about to burst. “Please mom, not today.” She rubbed her forehead as the pain grew.
Her mother strode past her, towards the dining room entrance. “You leave me here all day. Alone. Who knows what could happen.” She stops in the archway of the dining room.
“Your not alone. There’s Luke.”
At the mention of his name. Luke walks back in. Anne kneels down and pets his head.
Her mother scoffed. “That mutt? He’s good for nothing. Just sleeps all day.”
Anne hugs Luke. “No your not boy. Don’t listen to her.”
The woman turns, entering the dining room. “Why should he? Nobody else does.”
Anne stays there, hugging Luke, until the dog squirms free. She could hear her mom out in the kitchen. Taking something from the stove.
Her mother called out from the kitchen. “I wouldn’t have to be here alone, if it wasn’t for you.”
“Thanks mom.” Anne said under her breath. “Thanks a lot.”
“Dinner is almost ready honey.”
Anne stood. Feeling defeated, she headed up the stairs.
Anne climbed the narrow steps up into the attic. Clicking on the bare bulb that hung from the ceiling. The attic was beyond cluttered. Boxes, old furniture, old clothes. It all need to be sorted out. Neither Anne or her mother had yet to attempt it. A thin layer of dust covered everything. The air felt thick, hot, stagnant.
Anne wasn’t here to clean though. She was looking for something. She hadn’t been up here since last year. All of dad’s stuff was up here. Anne’s mother had made them drag it all up here a few weeks after he’d died. She was here for her dad’s army foot locker.
Anne glanced at the far end of the attic. Under a low arch in the ceiling, it was bathed in shadows. Only the ends of a couple of boxes were visible. She felt a chill creep down her spine. What was over there? She couldn’t remember what they’d put there.
Anne turned away. No matter. She knew the foot locker wasn’t over there. She walked over to an old desk. Dad had kept it in the living room. He always sat behind it, working on stuff as they watched TV. Sometimes he’d be paying bills, but most of the time he’d build models. There had been a few battleships, some planes, but mostly he’d built cars. They were all gone now. Mom had thrown them out. All that work he’d put into them and mom junked them.
Pushed under the desk was the foot locker. Anne had to fight mom to keep this much of his stuff. She slide the locker out. Flipping the large metal latches up. The lid of the locker groaned as she pushed it up. On top of a large pile of clothes, books and photos was a sheathed hatchet. It was dad’s from the army. The sheath still had a leathery smell after all these years. A little sharping stone sat in an attached pocket. Anne lifted the hatchet and set it aside. Underneath was a haphazard stack of old photos. More then a few of them were yellowed with age. She carefully picked them up. Some sliding out of her hands, falling back into the locker. There on top was a photo of her father, standing proudly in his army uniform. A broad smile on his face. In another, he’s working on the pickup. The hood up, a Coke bottle in one of his hands. In the other hand a wrench. He’s looking over his shoulder at whoever is taking the photo. Looking a little annoyed. The next picture is of him and mom holding a baby. Anne. Two days after she was born. Another one is off Anne’s eighth birthday party. Anne is posing with the large doll she’d gotten. All the other kids are smiling, except for one girl in a white dress. The girl is frowning. Her eyes seem to be staring through the camera. Who was that girl? She didn’t look like any of the girl’s in Anne’s class at the time. The girl’s eyes unnerved Anne. So much so, she dropped the photo back in the locker. Under that one is a picture of her and Sam. They looked to be about ten or eleven in the picture. Both of them were grinning, standing together on the beach. They’d spent the day at the lake. It was the Fourth of July then. That night there had been a cool fireworks display. Things had been better then.
“Anne! Anne!” Her mother called from downstairs. “Where are you?”
Anne takes the picture of her dad in his uniform. Putting it in her pocket, placing the rest back in the locker. Setting the hatchet atop them once more.
Anne shuts the locker. Sliding it back under the desk. “I’m up here mom!” She stands, dusting of her knees.
The floorboards on the second floor creak as her mother approached. “What are you doing up there?” Her mother was at the base of the attic stairs. “Suppers ready honey.”
“Just looking at some old photos.” Her voice took a defensive tone. “Pictures of dad.”
Anne clicked off the light, before starting down the stairs. Her mother stood there, staring up at her, like she’d never seen her own daughter before.
“Well make sure you wash your hands. All that dust up there. God knows what’s in it. You know, you should really clean that attic out sometime. Get rid of all that junk.”
In the upstairs bathroom. Steam rose from the hot water in the clawfoot tub. Anne, runs her hand through the soapy water as she sat naked in the tub, staring blankly at the wall. Tears rolled down her cheeks, falling into the bathwater making little plops. The water rippled as Anne’s body convulsed slightly as she silently sobbed.
After dinner she’d opened the mail. To her non-surprise it was mostly bills. Every month it felt like the money going out increased. They barely could stay afloat between what Anne made and the money they got from dad’s pension. The weight of it. And her mother’s growing craziness was crushing Anne. Not to mention the ever present grief that still gripped her. Anne hadn’t been able to find a way to move on. She felt like she was living in limbo.
Looking at the water gave her an idea. She could do it. Just slide down, under the water. Open her mouth and fill her lungs.
It would be so easy.
Yes. It would be. No more worries. It would be like sleeping.
Something bangs on the bathroom door, startling Anne out of her stupor. The doorknob turns as someone tries to open the locked door.
“Anne? Anne are you awake?” Her mom asked from the other side.
“I’m awake.” Anne voice crackled. She brushed the tears from her eyes.
“Why is the door locked?”
“What’s wrong mom?”
“Nothing honey. I’m making hot chocolate with whipped cream on top. You want some?”
Mom had made that for her as long as she could remember. Anne looked forward to it every fall. “Sure. I’ll be down in a couple minutes.”
“Don’t take too long honey, okay?”
“Tha-Thanks mom.” Anne’s voice wavered a little. As some tears welled up in her eyes.
“Everything okay in there?”
“Yeah. Fine.” Anne lied. “Just got a bad headache today.”
“I’ll get you some aspirin to take with the hot chocolate.” She heard her mom leave.
Anne shuddered as a she sobbed anew. Balling her fists tight, digging her nails into her palms. Piercing the skin. Anne watched as blood dripped into the bathwater, making bloody clouds.
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