Archive for November, 2012

Excerpt 142


She dragged her suitcase, which inched on explosion from the last pair of shoes she had wedged in, to the car and Danno lifted it into the truck.  She then walked back through the house, making sure windows were shut and that the back door was locked.  She threw away any foods with debatable freshness and made sure there weren’t any dishes in the sink.

This was all she had to do. This was enough. A note left to Emmanuel could incriminate her; at the very least he could bring it to her parents.  And she couldn’t handle any disruption in her plans to leave.  She arranged her hair the best she could, using a bobby pin to smooth away the cowlick that seemed to spring forth with the hacking off of her hair.  Her mind wandered into a trance as she wondered whether or not the man who cut her hair had had a family.

“Are we leaving?” Danno called through the screen door.

“Yes,” she said, doing one last scan to make sure she wasn’t leaving anything behind.

She turned the dial in the car quickly, trying to find jazz music on the radio in order to take her mind off Danno driving to the racetrack, which was the last place she wanted to be.  They hadn’t discussed going, but she recognized the route and knew it was better not to dispute the visit.  He had to go, and that was final.

Her parent’s house looked dark, even with the sun shining across the roof and front lawn.  She didn’t see cars in the driveway, but this didn’t mean they weren’t home. Her stomach constricted as they cruised past and she tried to take deep breaths and not think about how there was a good chance that she would never see them again. And there was a possibility that they wouldn’t care if they were out of her life.

She rubbed the back of Danno’s neck as he turned into the parking lot.  He pulled into a spot and left the engine running as he reached for a file in the backseat. A large woman with greasy long hair rushed two small children into a car across the lane.  One of them, a small boy, was crying and she grabbed his arm while stuffing a French fry into his mouth. The child coughed, gritty white potato pieces flying from his mouth, and the woman slapped his face. Ala’s cheeks grew hot as they did whenever she watched someone innocent endure violence on television. She reached over with a shaky hand and opened the car door. Climbing out, she screamed at the top of her lungs.

“Let him go!” She surprised herself by the volume her voice reached.

The boy looked at her with pink eyes as the woman cocked her head to the side.

“What did you say?”

“Let him go you awful cow.”  Danno was now out the car and rushing around to Ala’s side.

The woman grimaced and twisted the boy’s arm, making him scream in pain.  Ala ran over and grabbed the woman’s damp hair.  She twisted and pulled as hard as she could.  The woman let go of the child and elbowed Ala in the ribs. Immune to the pain, Ala stomped down on the woman’s foot as hard as she could. She had never laid a hand on anyone before being taken away and held against her will. It felt really good and terrified her.  She didn’t want to stop.  She wanted to kill this terrible woman.

Danno was now trying to break the women up as a security car that always circled the lot was now headed toward the scene.  The little boy climbed into the car next to the other child and slammed the door shut.

Ala blocked out the obscenities the stringy woman screamed at her and watched the spit fly from her crusty lips. She smiled.

“You’re an animal,” Ala said.

“It’s none of your damn business,” the woman said, scratching at her scalp.  The patrol guard stepped out of the car calmly and addressed Danno with a head nod.

“Is there a problem?” He said, pushing his sunglasses to the top of his head.

“Well…” Danno started.

“Yes, there is.  That woman was abusing that boy. I saw her nearly rip his arm off.”

“That’s not what I was doing,” the woman said. “She yanked my hair out.  I wanna press charges.”

“I can contact the police if you’d like,” the guard said, “You’ll both have to give statements.”

Ala looked at the small boy, who somehow seemed to be drifting off to sleep amid the chaos.  This was not the first time his mother had touched him, and she knew it wouldn’t be the last if she didn’t do something.

“Call the police,” she said.

“Ala,” Danno whispered, “What for?”

“That boy isn’t safe.”

“We’re supposed to be getting out of here,” he said, with his hand on her chin.  The patrol guard walked back to his car to get his phone.  Ala looked into Danno’s pleading eyes.  He did not want to even be going to Burma, but he was for her.  She could tell her was afraid, even though he wouldn’t admit it.

“Hello Arlene, it’s Cliff. Yeah, I’m going to need to contact the authorities,” he said into his radio. The woman leapt into her car and started the engine.

“She’s leaving! Stop!” Ala yelled as the woman sped away, leaving a cloud of dust. Coughing, Ala ran after the car, but had to stop to avoid oncoming traffic.  Danno had followed her and now took her hands.

“I got her plate number,” he said.  Ala began to cry, knowing that the boy would probably be given a severe punishment because of her.

“We can file a report in the office,” the patrol guard said.

“I’ve got a few things to take care of,” Danno said, relieved the woman was gone.

“I’ll go,” Ala said, climbing into the patrol guard’s car.

 

 

 

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Excerpt 141


She pressed the phone against her temple and went to the window.  Gene was standing on the lawn, shielding his eyes while looking up at the balcony. Danno must have been in the backyard working.

“Yes,” she said and hung up.

She ran to find her comb and forced it through her wet, tangled hair.  There was no time to put on any makeup.  She wanted to get Gene away from the house before Danno saw him.  Gene was most likely still upset with her and she didn’t want his hostility to be taken the wrong way by Danno.  She found flat sandals and put them on while dashing down the hallway and out the front door.

Gene’s mouth hung open as she rushed to him and taking his arm began leading him away from the house.  Grass clippings clung to her moist toes and the itch was unbearable so she stopped and shook each foot.

“What happened to you?” Gene said with a slight quiver of worry in his voice.

“I got a haircut.  I know, it’s extreme, but it’s been so hot and I just needed it chopped off.”

“Not just your hair.” He took a step back to take in her whole frame.  “Have you been starving yourself?”

“Me, starve myself?  Stop it Gene.  I’ve just been running a lot.”

“You look like you haven’t been in the sun in weeks.”

“I went swimming just this morning.  You’re making me self conscious.” She began to speed up, hoping he would catch her hint to come away from the house.  He took her arm and pulled her back. “Ow, what are you doing?”

“I’m supposed to believe nothing’s going on with you, come on!”

“I’m fine, stop it.”

Danno came from around the yard holding a pair of shears.

“Ala?”

Without missing a beat, she grabbed Gene’s hand and tugged him over to meet Danno in he middle.

“This is Gene, one of my best friends.  Gene, this is Danno.”

Danno hesitated, then wiped his hand against his pant leg and stuck it out for Gene to shake.

“Good to meet you,” he said.

“You too,” Gene said.

Ala felt sweat pooling under both of her arms.

“Gene just came by to say hello, I haven’t seen him in weeks.”

“Is that right?” Danno said, squinting at Gene’s face and playing it off to be squinting at the sun in his eyes.

Ala could tell by Gene crossing his arms in front of him that he did not like Danno.  And she really could care less, except that if Danni could tell, she would have a problem.

“Well, actually no.  Ala looks very sick to me and,” he looked Gene straight in the eye, “I’m worried.  I haven’t seen her like this ever.”

“Do you feel sick?” Danno said, petting the side of her face.

“No. Maybe I’ll lie down for awhile. Maybe I’m just tired,” she said, smiling.

“Well, I’m going to get back to work. It was nice to meet you, Gene.”

Gene nodded.  Danno walked to the bushes in front of the house and began trimming them.

“We need to talk,” Gene said, in an irritable tone.  “When we blew up at each other, it was stupid.”

“I think I really should rest.  Do you mind if I give you a call later?” Ala said, for the first time in her life, lying to him.

He wanted to yell at her but refrained.  Instead he took her into his arms and put his mouth against her ear.  She was terrified that Danno would turn around and see and kept her eyes on him methodically snipping at a rose bush.

“I know you aren’t telling the truth.  Are you afraid of him?”

“No,” she whispered.

“Well, I’m gonna keep coming back until you tell me what’s going on.” He kissed her cheek and walked away.

She went back inside of the house, ripped up the note she started to write Emmanuel and threw the pieces in the trash.

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Excerpt 140


He didn’t flinch, but took her hands and nodded.

“I thought I wasn’t going to see you again,” he said.

“How long was I away?” She asked, and then stepped away. “Never mind, I don’t want to know.” Finding out the days she lost would make her angry and she had to focus. “Emmanuel could be coming back today for all I know. Let’s just get out of here.”

“Go get your stuff together.  I’ll take care of everything else.”

Ala went from room to room, folding clothes she forgot she owned and stuffing them into her suitcase.  She was so relieved to be leaving this house. Danno stacked all of the mail and left it on the kitchen counter.  He then put on a shirt and started up the lawnmower, a cigarette dangling from his lips.

She left hot water steam the surfaces of the bathroom before getting in the shower.  Even though someone had bathed her at Bruce’s house, she had not felt clean in what seemed like weeks. She coated herself in soap, scrubbed until her skin was red and lathered up for a second time.  Her wet hair felt foreign in her hands, as it was a third of the length she was used to.

The lawnmower died down as she toweled off and dressed in clothes that hung on her svelte body.  Her stomach gurgled and even though she wanted to go to the airport as soon as possible, she feared fainting in the security line. She also wondered if she should let Gertrude know her plan to leave.

She sat down at the dining room table to begin a note to leave for Emmanuel.  She would have to say that someone in her family died and she was leaving town.  But then he would inquire with her parents and they would all know she had lied.  She needed another excuse.

Her phone rang in the bathroom and she answered without checking who was calling.

“Hello?”

“Ala, it’s Gene,” he said quietly. It sounded like he was holding the phone away from his face.

“Oh,” she sat on the edge of the tub. “What is it?”

“I need to talk to you. Can you come outside?”

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Excerpt 139


After swimming for a half hour, Ala laid on a blanket sprawled on the grass.  The sun seeped into her skin and, smelling the coconut tanning oil baking, she felt reconstruction happening. Danno came outside and set a tray down next to her.  He removed his shoes and sat of the edge of the blanket.  She sandwiched a thick slice of salami in some French bread and, pressing it flat, ate slowly.  She wanted to eat the entire roll in one bite, but feared being sick.  She smoothed her wet hair back from her forehead.

“You look like a movie star like that,” he said.

She did not feel like one and looked like a different woman from the one he met.  And she knew he didn’t care and this made her chest twinge because he really did love her back, and she really could be hurt if something happened to him.

“Want to go back in?” She said, peeling another slice off the pile and shoving it into her mouth.

“No, let’s get some real food at the track.”

She bowed her head and began to cry. His smile dropped.

“Hey what’s wrong?” He said, taking off his sunglasses.  “What is it?”

As she shook her head, she raised her fingers to the corners of her eyes, scooping away tears.

“No, I just—I’m afraid.”

“Of what?  I told you I’d take care of this.”

She became paranoid that there may be a bug or cameras throughout the house. Emmanuel would know that his money and paintings were taken from the house, and she did not want Danno to incriminate himself on top of everything else, by saying he would kill anyone.

“No, no. I don’t want that.  I want to leave here. I want to get out.”

She got to her feet and ran into the house.

“That’s not going to fix anything,” he said. “What are you doing?”

She closed the door behind door and ran her hand along the baseboard.  She pushed herself into the refrigerator, moving it forward and forced her head behind it, searching for a camera.

“But that’s what I want.  And I want you to come with me. You said we could leave.”

He snickered as she pushed the appliance back in place.

“That was before this mess. Come on, let’s have lunch,” he said. She continued on to the office.

“Is the cash back?” She yelled behind her.

“Yes.”

Turning on the light, she saw that the artwork was in place.  She stood on the desk chair and searched along the border for a recording device. “Ala, what are you doing? You’re going to fall.”

“Listen to me,” she said, jumping off.  “I can’t stay here.  The whole reason I took this job was to get out of here. You don’t have to come, but I’m leaving.”

He pressed his face into hers, visibly stricken by her threat.  She could tell that before she had said that she would go without him, he had thought that she was just traumatized and was tiptoeing around her.

He kissed her.

“I meant what I said before about us leaving together.  I just don’t want you to leave because you’re scared.”

“I’ve wanted to for months.  I’m just glad it didn’t happen and I met you instead.”

Where do you want to go?”

“Burma,” she said.

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Excerpt 138


Her knees buckled and he held her around the waist, searching her eyes.

“Come on,” he said, wrapping his arm around her waist and leading her toward the house. “Watch the glass.”

She sidestepped away from a pile of broken shards and, making her way up the porch steps, saw what his nerves must have been in the crystal ashtray packed with butts.

The house smelled of smoke, but some  windows had been opened and a heavy-duty fan was on full blast.  Everything seemed in its place, and she decided to wait on looking at the office.  Danno sat on one of the side benches and pulled her onto his lap.  He ran her hair through his fingers and looked at the faint bruises on her arms.

“I lied to you,” he said.

Frayed emotions kept her from getting up. Instead she rested her head on his shoulder, pushing her nose into his collar.

“How?”

“I said we could go away together. You might not see me for awhile.”

“Stop,” she said.

“I mean it.” He tilted her chin up to meet her eyes.

“I’m okay,” she whispered.

“I’m not. And I don’t even want to hear about it.” He pushed her hair away from her face. “You look like a concentration camp person.”

“I just need to eat,” she said, standing up and going to the kitchen.  She shielded her eyes from the white light pouring in through the windows.  She took a nearly rotten banana and snapped off the top.  The smell made her stomach heave, but she forced some into her mouth.  Danno came in and lighting a cigarette, sat at the counter.

“I’ll be careful. I won’t get caught.”

She turned and faced him, the speed of the movement making her dizzy.

“You just said I wouldn’t see you for awhile.”

“It’s done,” he said, walking out to the pool.

She threw the banana in the sink and turned on the garbage disposal.  The sputtering reminded her of the fire crackling and she slammed it off. He was probably already sending people to kill the men who took her, even though he didn’t know who they were.  She went to the guest bedroom and found her bathing suit. Her skin was clammy and pale and badly in need of sunlight.  She peeled off the nightgown and threw it in the bathtub.  She carefully tied the straps of the bikini top across her back.

She found him with pants rolled up and his feet in the pool.  She lowered herself in and swam over.

“Let’s just start clean, okay?  I don’t think it’s sexy, you know.”

He laughed. She wanted him to make her quiet, but she knew he was too worried about her to be forceful.

“I’m not doing it for that.  Nobody takes from me.”

“Don’t you see how weird and lucky it is that we met?  Use your head. Tell yourself that me being okay is enough.”

“I don’t know if I can,” he said, stubbing the cigarette out. She rolled her eyes.

“Promise me you’ll try.”

“I don’t know if I can.  Look at what they did to you. Your hair…” his voice trailed off. She kissed him.

“It’ll grow back.  You know you belong with me.”  She hugged him around the waist and he let her pull him into the pool with her.

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Excerpt 137


Danno told her that “watermelon” would act as the password between her and the driver and not to get in the car with anyone who came to pick her up who did not know it outright. She nodded and hung up, and then waited under a nearby tree whose shadows swallowed her from street view. 
The car that came was black with tinted windows and gold rims.  The driver wore a gray blazer and stubble sprinkled his jawline and coffee can of a neck. Keeping his eyes straight ahead, he rolled down the window.

Ala approached, suddenly feeling ridiculous about having to ask him for a password, when she would obviously do anything to get out of the area at this point.  Bruce was probably awake and looking for her, calling the police to tell them he knows that Ala was involved in the fire.

“Did Danno give you a password?” She said, not knowing what to do with her hands and holding them behind her back.

“Watermelon,” he said. “Get in.”

She let herself in to the back, pulling the nightgown so it covered her knees.  The driver lit a cigarette and turned the radio on.  Whatever career path he had pursued most likely promoted more excitement than driving a girl with an awful haircut and no shoes around in the middle of the night.

A blues song vibrated in the back speakers, forcing her to bite down on her lip to keep from audibly crying.  She turned her face toward the window and let a few tears leak out before straightening out in the seat.  She had almost died.  And now another chance had come from someone who loved her and didn’t bother asking questions.

They passed the local library after twenty minutes. Bruce did not live that far away from her parents, yet his neighborhood had been unrecognizable.  He probably visited the same library. His mother probably shopped at the market that Ala’s mother shopped at.  They probably had seen each other before. A strong gulp managed to push the bile back down her throat.

She rolled down the window as the car turned onto the street where her parents had lived.  It looked the same as always when she had returned from a trip.  The houses looked smaller, cozier, as if she had conquered somewhere more important, and was coming home to recharge.  Now her heart banged against her chest with the thrill of being safe, of coming back from the dead.

Before the car came to a full stop, she opened the door and spilled out in front of Emmanuel’s house.  The car stopped sharply. Danno came out the front door and nodded, sending the car on its way.  Before Ala could comb through her hair with her fingers, she was in his arms.

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Excerpt 136


Ala left the kitchen. She didn’t want to hear anything else the senile lady said.  She didn’t want her own enervation and passivity to be mistaken for compliance to stay in this house. She didn’t want anyone to think that she was fine with Bruce bringing her here instead of straight home, as he said he would.  She didn’t want to admit to herself how reckless she was for getting into a stranger’s car.  She hadn’t had much of a choice after fleeing the fire, but as soon as she had woken up, would have been the correct time to get out.

Swiftly, she walked down a shadowy hallway, the wood under her feet giving with every step, threatening to split and send her falling to the floor below. She pushed thoughts of what could be under the house, out of her mind. The hall became wider and grand dusty oil paintings hung on either side, all old fashioned portraits. Under ordinary circumstances, she would have stopped to take a look. Whenever observing art, she would try to compare the subjects to people she knew or recognized.  Her parents had taken her to a gallery held in an estate in the outskirts of Memphis a few summers before.  While there was no likelihood of any of the portraits featuring her ancestors or friends, Ala roamed from room to room, squinting at each cracked face, fixed on recognizing one.

She reached a cluttered parlor that acted as a dead end. The windows were very high up and there were no doors to be found.  To avoid wasting energy in this maze of a house, she found her way back to the room she had slept in and closed the door tightly behind her.

Pressing her back into the wall, she let her feet slide out in front of her and the gnarly area rug felt warm against her bottom. She caught her appearance in a mirror hanging across the room and was alarmed that there were no signs that she had been part of a fire.  Crawling closer, she noticed her hair was brushed soft and glossy, her skin was clean and smooth, and her fingernails had been filed.

They had bathed her in her sleep.  How could she have slept through a bath?  Bruce must have drugged her. She thought of the cookie missing from the chicken shack receipt.  She pulled the nightgown away from her chest and looked down.  Her whole body was fresh and gleaming.  They had seen her naked. Those ladies, Bruce and most likely others had seen all of her.

The nightgown was making her skin crawl.  She opened the closet to find that is was empty, besides a folded quilt, and continued to the bureau, which was filled with folded sheets.  She looked under the bed, trying to find something else to wear. She didn’t want to speak to the women again.  She would not eat the blood sausage. She would not interact with them.

There was a bible on a shelf under the nightstand. Ala needed to write to Danno to let him know what happened. The back of her mind warned of no postage or envelopes or pencils in sight, but she tore out a blank page from the back anyway.

She opened to the middle of the book and sped-read the page until finding the letter “H”.  She had not been for years.  Her parents stopped attending church when her grandparents had passed away. The last time Ala had seen a bible was in college, when classmates ripped out clumps from the Old Testament to use as rolling papers. What she was about to do felt indecent, but her temples buzzed and she felt her body trying to brace for her completely losing her mind.

She had to communicate. She had to try to connect.  She folded the page and carefully tore out the letter. She bit her lip as she moved on an “I”, ripping slowly. She licked each dot of paper and stuck them to the blank page.  She continued ripping out letters.  When her hand slipped and a letter was torn, she found a substitute and took it out from another section.

Her eyes began to cross after a few minutes, but she was resolute in putting together enough words to complete a thought.  She needed to leave what had happened to her on paper behind in case she didn’t make it out.

A quarter of the way thorough, she coughed, sending a whole sentence fluttered across the page.  Tears well up in her eyes and she yelped, punching the wall with her fist, drawing a thin dotted line of blood across the knuckles. Taking a deep breath, she continued to work.

The room had blackened without her noticing.  The letter was complete.  The story began with her going for a run and ended with her sitting in this dark room.  She could not fold the page, as the saliva was not enough of a binder to keep the letters in place.  She gingerly lifted the paper flat and laid it on top of the bureau.  Danno would not be able to read it, but she had to hope that someone would tell him what happened.

She picked up the marred bible and closed it placing it back on the nightstand.  She whispered to herself that she would not go to Hell for ripping the it to shreds, because God knew that she needed to arrange her thoughts in order to survive.   It was the only book in the room and she used its words to find her own.

She opened the door and walked into the hallway.  She was going to get out of the house now.  She had already killed a man to save her own life.  Even though it was an accident, he died by her hand. And while she never wanted for a life to be cut short by her doing, she knew she was capable enough to follow through.

She could not leave without her phone.  If she didn’t have a phone, she would have to hitchhike, and refused to be in a position of feebleness again.

She opened each door on both sides of the hallway.  There was a sewing room with a wedding veil draped over an armchair, an office with stacks of atlases on a marble desk, a nursery with a mobile of dainty lambs; each room beckoning exploration, but Ala kept going.

The last room at the end of the hall had the ostentatious door with a shiny gold knob.  She opened it and walked inside.  The bedroom smelled of musk and burning wood. Bruce was on a king sized, gold rimmed bed, lying on his side reading a book. His face looked pink and puffed in the firelight, as if she was recognizing him through drunk eyes during a party. There was a tray of food at the foot of the bed and his shoes were lined up next to the mantle.

“You’re awake,” he said, smiling.

She wanted to straddle him and strangle him and poke out his eyeballs with her thumbs.  She smiled and nodded as he closed the book and sat up. He was still dressed in the clothes he had picked her up in.

“My mother said you weren’t hungry.  And my sister thinks you’re pretty,” he said.

“I wasn’t hungry,” she said.

“Maybe you’d like to eat now.  I have some cream of mushroom soup that Hannah brought up,” he said, gesturing to the tray.

“No.  I don’t think so,” she said, gaining bravado from the deflated look on his face.  Who gave me a bath?”

He stood up slowly and walked past her, closing the door.

“My mother did.  Look, I’m sorry, but you were shivering.  You needed some cuts cleaned up and something warm to wear.  We couldn’t put you to bed in the condition you were in.  I promise, I didn’t see anything.” She spotted her phone on top of the mantle.  The screen was dark, but she was certain of the shape and size that it was hers. “All I want to do is save you,” he said.

“Save me?”

“I know you’re a sinner.  That fire, I heard about it on the radio.  You running in the night, practically naked. I don’t need to know about the girl you were before I found you, I just want to help you.”

“Why didn’t you bring me home?” She said, hearing her voice escalate.

“We need to get you back on the right path,” he said softly, removing a thin gold pocketknife from his pants pocket.  He flipped the small, but sharp, blade out. “One girl we saved turned out to be my wife.”

Ala was not frightened of the knife. All she wanted was her phone. She knew he would not stab her, because he could have done so in the car, or anything else he wanted.

“What do you want me to do?” She said.

“Lay with me,” he said, climbing back on the bed.  She followed and lay down next to him on her back.  He turned on his side and pushed her hip up so that they were spooning.  He traced a circle around her belly button with the blade. “Start by telling me what you’ve done to soil your reputation.  All the nasty things.”

“Where is your wife?” Ala said, trying to keep him in a humane state of mind.

“She died a few weeks ago,” he said, caressing her stomach with his fingers.

“How?”

“Drowned.  When we were baptizing her, she forgot to hold her breath.”

“That’s terrible,” she said, wincing.

“I know,” he said.  “All we wanted to do was save her, and her child. His voice trailed off. Ala could smell liquor on his breath.  He would be asleep soon.

“What were you doing driving around that night?” She said.

“Looking for girls to help.  There are a lot of junkies around there.  A lot of loose ones. So many to save before it’s too late.”

After another minute, his hand stopped and she looked back to see his eyes closed.  She wanted him to be in a deeper sleep, but didn’t have time to waste.  She lifted his arm from her torso and got up.

The wood creaked under her as she went to the dresser to retrieve phone.  He turned over and muttered in his sleep.  She could not risk walking across the room to open the heavy door.  And even once back in the hallway, the house was winding, leaving no point of reference as to where the front door could be.

She pushed some gingham curtains out of the way from the window, and discovered that it was unlocked. She pushed the window open slowly and stuck her leg out into the chilly night air.  She noticed that the gutter pipe ran the height of the house, but looked flimsy and If she used it to support her weight, it would collapse and wake everyone.  Relief came in not knowing how many stories up she was, because the only option was to jump.  The nightgown did not have pockets and while her instinct was to hold the phone in her mouth, she knew that her teeth would break upon hitting the ground.

Holding on to the sill, she brought her other leg out and let go.  She tried bending her knees before hitting the ground and while it was not a perfect landing, she was able to get to her feet and walk.  She paused, anticipating barking from a hefty beast, foaming from the mouth.  There was only quiet though.

She picked up her phone, which now had a shattered screen, and turned it on.  The reassuring blue beamed like lightning through the cracked glass and she jumped up and down with gratitude. Only a sliver of battery remained, and she could not risk going to Bruce’s car to get the charger.  Not to mention there would not be an outlet to plug the charger into, so she had to choose her phone call wisely.

She crept around the house to the front lawn, which looked normal enough, strewn dandelions and rosebushes.  The front gate was open and out she went into the street, trying to contain the brimming adrenaline from escaping and jumping out of a window.

She could not call the police and risk linking herself to the fire and the manslaughter.  Bruce now knew she was connected, but that wasn’t something she could concern herself with now.  She could not go into any diner or even gas station wearing the nightgown and no shoes.

She walked to the corner of the residential block. She would not call her parents, paralyzed with fear that they would not answer the phone. There were no people or cars in sight.  The clock on her phone read that it was around four in the morning.

She tapped Danno’s number and waited.  He answered on the first ring.

“Is this really you?” His voice was all of the single earrings, the doll clothes, the lipgloss, the socks; the treasure trove of everything she had ever lost in her life, coming back to her.

“Yes,” she cried in between gasps.

“Tell me where you are and then hang up. I’m sending a car.”

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