Happy Saturday! We hope you’re enjoying some nice summer weather, wherever you’re reading this. We have one story for you this week, which we hope you’ll enjoy!
This week’s prompt was:
A story using the words “thunderous,” “solemn” and “strings” (Prompt courtesy of @writingprompts)
Karen Blakely has a follow-up piece to her story of last week, again featuring the heroine of her upcoming novella, Red.
I’d been working on Grandmother’s cottage in the woods for months now, ever since I’d stumbled on it. That’s where I spent most of my days off.
I hadn’t planned to come today, not with the storm coming in. I remembered all too well the first time I’d been here – how the rain came into the bedroom, feeding the moss, further decaying all the organic materials in the room.
I’d planned to stay home where it was warm and dry, but I’d been restless and edgy. I’d finally tired of looking around my living room. It was boring. Sterile. It looked more like a hotel room than the home of a grown woman who’d lived there for nearly five years. Seeing how little I’d done in that space to make it homey like Mom or Grandmother would have made my skin feel too tight.
How could I not have noticed it before? Mom had always accused me of willful blindness. I hadn’t understood what she’d meant by that before, but now, looking around my apartment, I finally got it. I hadn’t wanted to make this look like a home. I was still too resentful of losing Mom, and having to sell our house and most of our possessions to pay her medical bills.
And recognizing that made me feel worse.
That’s what drove me out into the thunderstorm, driving my four-wheel drive SUV deep into the woods, sometimes not sure if I would get stuck in the muddy ruts of the forest service road. But I made it within a couple miles of Grandmother’s house, and hiked the rest of the way.
The storm practically blew me into the house, and I slammed the door behind me, shaking off water on the finally clean floor. The front room and kitchen had been swept free of dust and spiders and mice. In fact, these rooms were completely habitable.
It was Grandmother’s bedroom that still needed work.
I dug gloves and a N95 dust mask out of my pack, and started dragging out moldy, decayed, moss-covered debris, throwing it into a pile in the yard. I was sweating, muscles complaining with effort, as I tugged the mattress and soggy chairs outside.
The storm was gathering intensity, spitting out rain, and in the distance I heard the first drumming roll of thunder.
I hurried back inside, determined to finish clearing the room before I headed home. I’d started up Grandmother’s generator when I first got there, and was pleased that the lights, refrigerator and the TV all still worked. It had felt like someone, somewhere was taking pity on me.
I’d finally managed to pull everything out except the large dresser in the corner. I decided to take out each drawer separately and carry them out one at a time; I was starting to get miserably sore. The first three drawers came out easily enough, but when I got to the last drawer, it stuck. If I wasn’t so tired, I’d probably have just pulled the whole thing out, drawer and all. But I was tired, and frustrated, and didn’t stop to think. I tugged on the drawer firmly, then harder, until I was yanking at it with all my strength. Then I kicked it in frustration, and yanked on it one more time. And as if that kick had loosened it, it flew out with so much force that it knocked me over on my ass.
As I sprawled on the floor, there was a thunderous roar overhead that shook the house even as lightning hit somewhere just outside. I could smell ozone on the air and felt heat blast through the room while light exploded through the window, temporarily blinding me. As it faded away, I had to blink several times to be able to focus. And the first thing I saw was a small journal tucked into a hidden space under the drawer.
I pulled it out – the pages were discolored and water stained. As I leafed through it, I was disappointed to see that some pages were so stained and faded that they were completely illegible.
Another flash of lightning followed by an immediate clap of thunder shook the house.
I turned another page, touching my Grandmother’s writing with a shaking finger. I hadn’t held anything of hers since she died, ten years ago. Father had refused to have anything from “her” in the house. He’d glanced at me right before he said “her”, voice bitter and filled with disgust.
How had I forgotten that?
It made me feel closer to her, being in her house, reading her book, touching her writing. I felt solemn and regretful and nostalgic for those earlier years. I flipped through a few more pages, then stopped when I noticed my Grandmother’s name. As I struggled to read the faded writing, I realized the entire page was filed with a family tree; with names I’d never heard of above Grandmother, and below her name, Mom, followed by me – Rachel Devon.
And lines, like strings tying each of the generations to the other, ran down through all the names.
I was eager to learn more. I’d never heard of these people; members of my own family. Going back for five, no, six generations. I was suddenly desperate to find out more. Maybe because I’d been an orphan for five years. Maybe because Father refused to let Mom talk about her family. The reason really didn’t matter; I just wanted to know the truth!
I turned the page.
Thunder boomed and lightning flashed again, casting a bright and unbearable light on that page, leaving me with no place to hide, no shadows that I could cower in and stay willfully blind.
The words on that page shattered my past. My beliefs.
Everything I’d held dear.