Choose Your Own Adventure: ZOO-F.O. Part 2

I start piling a metal chunks into the compost pail. Woven into the grass, dozens of pieces remain. A large oak tree stands out behind our many rows of apple trees. I drag the segments across the grass, digging up dirt in its path. I walk back to the door, trying to find some sort of an explanation for the contents dangling in my right hand. I picture mom’s face, drained,and delicate. It’s just another thing for her to worry about, I tell myself. It wouldn’t be smart to tell her, at least for now.

The back door screeches open, just a crack. I peer in and spot light creeping out from behind the bathroom door.

My feet pad up the stairs, I drop the heavy segments onto to my bed, the largest piece in my lap. My palm rubs against the bumpy surface. Small symbols, I don’t recognize, line the edge of the fragment. I turn it over, purple lines mark the black surface. I wonder how they got there.

“Olivia?” Mom’s voice calls. I jolt up, awoken from my daze. I shove the pail under my bed, and scamper downstairs.

Mom sets two plates down on the coffee table next to the couch. I flop down next to her. My stomach does somersaults, and I feel my head pounding.

“So, Olivia, how is school going?” Mom asks, scrolling through TV channels.

“Oh, um, it’s fine,” I stutter. I poke at the pasta and chicken on my plate.

“Yeah. Have you made any friends, Honey?”

“Uh, well, Maggie. I’m still friends with her.” Mom frowns softly.

“Olivia Hon, just be careful okay. I don’t want her to hurt you again. Do you understand what I..”

“Mom, it’s fine. Seriously, don’t…”

A low pitched noise moans from somewhere outside. I sit up straight. “What was that?”

Mom shrugs, but I see her glance back at the window. “Oh I’m sure it’s nothing.”

“Anyway, is there anyone else? How about that Stacy kid? She seems sweet.”

I fake a smile, and force a piece of pasta down my dry throat. “Yeah,” I murmur.

Ding-Dong… The sound rings through the house. “Got it,” I say, happy for an excuse to leave the conversation.

I reach out to open the door, but my mom’s hand grabs my shoulder.

“Wait,” she says urgently. I turn. “Sweetheart, why don’t you go finish dinner.” She smiles weakly and gestures toward the TV. There’s a sense of desperation in her voice.

I give her a look, and hurry off toward my bedroom, after she’s slipped outside.  My ears strain to hear the words, but all the words jumble together into meaningless mumbles.

I shut the door quietly behind me.  My foot slides the compost pail from under the bed. My heart skips a beat. I feel around under my bed. Nothing. I check the closet, my desk, my back pack. Nothing. They’re all gone.

I feel my heartbeat speed up. I suddenly feel light headed. My hands ball up into my sweater. “I can’t do this anymore,” I whisper to myself. I have to tell somebody.

I look around the room, feeling as though something is watching me. I peer out into the black night. The only light comes from Mr. Hanks house next door. I picture him sitting under the light of his bedroom lamp alone, grading his students papers and listening to the sound of the silent night. I picture mom at the door, her face masked trying to hide her drained expression. I pick up my phone. Its coldness seeps into my hand and up my arm. I click on Maggie’s number. It’s only ringing for the second time, and I hang up.

Original Artwork by Conor Cooley

 

 

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