The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 9
by Shane Migliavacca
The Strange Shape Of Anne's Grief chapter 9 Anne (IV)
A young girl flees through a field of tall grass. The wind gently billowing through the grass field. Another girl a slightly older chases after the other.
“Your fault! Your fault! Your fault!” The older girl shouts as she runs.
The younger girl trips, falling to her knees. Her pursuer stands over her. Laughing, pointing at her with a long blade of grass.
“You did it! You did it! You did it!”
The fallen girl covers her ears. Shaking her head. “Stop it! Stop it! Leave me alone!”
The older girl whips her with the blade of grass. Harder and harder. “I hate you!”
Ringing filled Anne’s ears. Her eyes fluttered open. Bright light stinging at them. Making them water a little. The ringing stopped and she could hear her mom’s voice in the distance. Followed by what sounded like her hanging up the phone. Anne propped herself up on her elbows. She was in her bed, sunlight streaming in between her closed curtains. Her throat felt dry, her muscles complained as she moved. The whole of Anne’s body felt stiff. She let out a cry of pain as she tried to sit up, surprising herself.
“Anne honey?” The bedroom door opens halfway, her mom peeks in. “Your awake? You okay?”
With a little difficulty Anne sits up. “Yeah.”
Her mother enters. Walking over to her bed. “How are you feeling?”
“Really stiff… And thirsty.”
“You should be honey,” she opens the curtains. Bright sunlight filling the room. “You’ve been asleep almost a day and a half.”
“What?” A day and a half! How could she have slept so long? That means she missed… “Work! Shit.”
“Anne. Language,” Her mother frowns, looking down at her. “Don’t worry. I called in for you. I talked to that Mr. Hendricks. Seems like a nice sort. Told him you’d come down with a bad cold.”
“Thanks mom.” Anne said. Unsure of why her mom wasn’t bitching at her. Giving her the old “I told you so” routine.
She sits down on the bed next to Anne. “You were really sick Anne. I found you passed out in the bathroom.”
The bathroom. That thing. It started coming out of her mouth and she’d vomited it into the tub. That hideous face. The noise it made. Anne wouldn’t be able to forget that creature till the day she died.
“Did you… Did you find anything in the bathroom? When you found me?”
Her mother looks at her puzzled. “Of course, I did,” she laughs. “You got sick in there. I really had to do some scrubbing to get it all.”
Had it all been part of some fevered hallucination, brought on by whatever sickness had gripped her the other night? Anne hoped that was all it had been. And why not? If there had been something, her mother would have seen it. That weirdo in the hag mask. Had that been real? She’d have to ask Sam about that.
Sam! She’d brought her home. She was a true friend. Somehow Anne would make it up to her. Anne looked at the smiling face of her mother. Something she hadn’t see since when? Before Dad was sick. Maybe even before that, there had been a heavy weight on her mother’s heart. Anne could remember her mother always having a bit of sadness behind her eyes. Bearing it and her husband’s sickness, his death. It must have been too much to deal with. Had Anne being so sick lifted some of that weight from her? Brought her instinct to be a mother?
“I found you there on the floor. I cleaned you up and put you in your bed.”
“Mom. You could have hurt yourself.” Her mom wasn’t sickly by no means. She was thin though, and Anne outweighed her by a bit. She might have hurt her back lifting Anne up. “I’m sorry.”
“For putting you through that.”
She took her daughter’s hand. Stroking it gently. “Honey. A mother would do anything for her child. There’s nothing to be sorry for.”
Anne sat at the kitchen having lunch with her mom. Mother and daughter had made a pretty good-sized lunch together. Sandwiches, salad and hard-boiled eggs. Anne had been starving. Gobbling down her ham sandwich in big bites. Luke sat stretched out by her feet. He’d barked happily when she came out of her room, having been barred from her room for fear he’d wake her.
It was nice spending the afternoon with her mother and Luke. Not having to be at work. She’d have to go back tomorrow. Something Anne wasn’t looking forward too. Hendricks would be giving her dirty looks all day. Not to mention his little brown-noser lackey Carol Machen. Carol had it out for Anne since she’d started there. Why she wasn’t sure. Perhaps because Anne didn’t kiss ass. Or it could be that Anne wasn’t a “company” person. Anne did her job and went home. She’d didn’t go to the employee parties. Nor did she take part in the annual company picnic. Anne got the feeling this somehow offended Carol, who took it upon herself to act like she was in charge of the other employees. Carol saw herself as Hendricks’ second in command. Anne did her best to stay clear of her. Although, that didn’t always help. Carol was the type to come nosing around. To see if you were doing your job right.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Anne looked up from her plate. Her mother tapped an egg with her fork. Rhythmically bringing the side of the fork down along its side. “Samantha called earlier.”
“Yes. In fact, she’s called several times since the other night.” She started peeling the egg’s shell off. Piece by piece. “She wanted to come over. I told her you were sleeping and you’d call her later.”
Anne stands up. “She must be worried. I should call her. Let her know.”
Her mother takes her arm. “Sit honey. It can wait. I don’t think you should rush to talk to her. After all, if it wasn’t for her-”
Anne draws away from her mother. “-Mom. It wasn’t Sam’s fault.”
Her mom’s hand catches her eye. Anne hadn’t noticed the bandage wrapped around her mother’s left hand.
“Your hand? When did that happen?”
The woman holds up the bandaged hand. “Dumb mistake. When I was opening a can of soup yesterday. Caught it on the lid.” She smiles. “The old woman is getting clumsy.”
Anne stood in the bathroom washing her face looking at her refection in the mirror. She touched her cheek. Then traced her finger up to her ear. Was this her? Since waking up she felt different. Odd, outside of herself. How sick had she been?
Behind her, the tub’s reflected image caught her eye. She turns. Walking over to the large tub. From here she couldn’t see if there was anything in it. It seemed so real. Even now, she could picture that thing in her mind. She shivered thinking about the hiss escaping its deformed mouth. Looking over the edge, Anne’s heart thumps rapidly in her chest. Expecting it to leap up at her. To her relief the tub was empty.
Had it been a delusion?
“There’s nothing there. There never was. Right… Right?”
Maybe your insane.
Anne looked at her hand. The one she’d touched that coin with. It looked normal. Nothing that would indicate something had hurt her. The only person who could help her now was Sam. Anne had tried the apartment. There had been no answer. Only the cold response of the answering machine. Sam had probably called from work. Anne didn’t know that number. Even if she did, she wouldn’t call. Not wanting to risk getting her friend in trouble. Any questions she had for her friend would have to wait till tomorrow.
Anne walked into Save-Mart with her head down. A faraway look on her face. She felt like a soldier going out on a suicide mission. Waiting for the bullet with their name on it. She was going to catch hell today. It was just a matter of when and where.
She took her time card. Sliding it into the groove of the time clock. The click was unbearably loud. As ink stamped the surface of the card. Anne swore everyone was looking at her. She needed to get out of here. Slip into the backroom and find work to do there. Anything to keep away from her boss.
As it turned out, she wouldn’t have to wait long for that bullet. Exiting the break room, she heard the bullet sing through the air, calling her name.
“Anne, a word.”
Hendricks stood outside the break room. That stern father look on his face. The fluorescent lights shined off his forehead. His thinning hair combed back straight.
Anne simply nodded and walked over to him. Balling her hands at her sides.
“You’re a good worker.” He looked over her shoulder. His eyes darting around. “Not like a lot of these little shitters we get in here every year. Most of them have been suckling at mommy and daddy’s tit all their life. They don’t know the first thing about work.” His eyes locked on to her. “But you do. You put your time in. Do everything asked of you.” His eyes narrowed, making Anne fidget where she stood. “But I’ve noticed you’ve changed. I heard about your little scene with that crazy old bat. And I’ve seen you talking to your friend when you should be working. Now you’re out two days? Is there something I should know about?”
Anne shook her head. “No.” She mumbled.
“Yes.” She answered. The word nearly getting stuck in her throat.
“Because if there’s something interfering with your job, I want to nip that shit in the bud now, understood?”
“Good. If there’s any problems, you leave that shit at home. I’ll be keeping an eye on you.”
He walks away, leaving her standing there. Her chest felt as if a cinder block had been placed on it. Her breathing became ragged. If she lost this job… No. Don’t think about that.
“If I were him…” another voice. Annoying like the clucking of hens. “I’d fire your butt.”
Carol stood in the break room door. Her hair pulled back in that ever-present ponytail. It gave her face a severe, angular look. Her eyes beady dots.
“Mind your business Carol.”
Carol snorted. “Losers like you are my business. They drag this whole store down.”
“We can’t all be perfect bitches like you.” Anne said. The shocked look on Carol’s face gave her a warm feeling as Anne strode down the hallway.
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