I wasn’t sure I was going to get this done in time. To be honest, I just wrote it yesterday because I had a good portion of the day off work. Anyway, happy short story Tuesday, hope someone enjoys this one. C&C welcome as always, Thanks for reading! Note* There is some slightly graphic animal and child abuse, nothing too bad, but just thought I’d give a warning.
Izzy laid her head down on the desk. A pain had grown in her skull, like large rusted nails trying to force their way through her eye sockets. A nasty image of her eyeballs popping like grapes flashed through her imagination, prompting a wave of nausea. She wasn’t the only one ignoring Mr. Patton, the English teacher. He was on a tangent, one that had started with Macbeth, and somehow ended up at a story about him taking his niece to a Justin Beiber concert. Two girls in the row beside her were snickering. Izzy glanced up through her hair, and the girls looked away from her toward each other before simultaneously bursting into laughter once more.
Mr. Patton paused, whiteboard pen still held up in a gesture of emphasis. “Is there something you’d like to share with the class?” He asked the two giggling girls.
Shara Matton, the prettier of the two with her cascade of artfully curled red hair, raised her hand. Mr. Patton raised his eyebrows at her.
“Izzy was snoring, she distracted us. Sorry Mr. Patton.” Her voice was like a song, and Izzy didn’t need to see her face to know that her wide eyes were the image of innocence.
The raised eyebrows turned to point accusingly at Izzy. “Were you sleeping in my class, Ms. Lewis?”
Izzy shook her head, but the movement made the room spin. She caught it on her hand and stifled a groan.
“Go see the nurse. You can play hookey there, not during my lesson.”
Izzy gathered her things and left, the weighted stare of her peers following her through the door. What was she going to say to the nurse? What if they called her dad? She paused when the hallway intersected. Turning left would take her toward the office. Without really thinking about it, she spun and went in the other direction, past the gym, the cafeteria, and then out the exit. The smell of damp grass assaulted her as she stepped out into the midday sun, and ran down the walkway with her books clutched to her chest.
The clerk in the convenience store had a bored look on his face. Not many people in at this time of day, most of his customers would be teenagers on their lunch break. Izzy slid a travel-size bottle of Tylenol onto the counter beside a pack of cinnamon gum. The clerk looked at the pills, and then up at her, studying her face.
“Five forty-five please.” He said, and waited for her to dig through her wallet. “Skipping school, huh?”
She shook her head, and handed him a five and two quarters. The tips of her fingers brushed his palm as he took the change, and fresh pain stabbed into her temples.
She was behind the counter, looking at a teenage boy with darting, red rimmed eyes and tousled hair. She watched him walk out, her hand on the phone, but then she removed it again. Only it wasn’t her hand. It was large, with thick black hairs near the knuckles. She felt like she should have picked up the phone, because the boy had done something bad after. Something she maybe could have prevented.
“Hey.” The clerk slid a coin across the counter. “You feeling okay, kid?”
Izzy’s throat was dry, and she couldn’t catch her breath. Her head felt like it did after one of her dad’s discipline lessons. She nodded and grabbed the packages, stuffing them into her pockets and half-jogging to the door. She glanced over her shoulder as she pushed it open, and saw the clerk’s hand pick up the phone and put it to his ear. There were tiny forests of black hair on his fingers. Izzy ran down the sidewalk, her steps lined up with the heavy thumping in her head.
She came to a quiet alley away from the main street and leaned against a concrete wall, pressing her palms against her eyes. They felt like they would burn right up and leave two blackened pits behind. She swallowed two pills, hating herself for forgetting a bottle of water. A few pieces of gum later, she risked two more Tylenol. It was the worst headache she could remember having.
Going back to the school wasn’t an option, and she didn’t have any friends to stay with. What could be worse, her dad, or the police? Her dad had beaten her for less. She didn’t know exactly what the police did to kids like her, but she had heard rumors. Locked up, studied, medicated, rehabilitated. The last word reminded her of the way her dad said discipline, it held more weight than it’s definition.
Some kids didn’t ever come back. Rumor was that they committed suicide, that the medication didn’t work for them. Izzy thought maybe that they were executed, piled into dumpsters like the ones outside of the pound her father worked at. She had seen it when she was little, was wandering around waiting for him, and had watched through a fence as he slung the stiff bodies of cats out of a metal box with a shovel.
The image stuck in her mind. Since then, every time she looked at him there it was, like the light burned into your retina after you looked at something bright too long. He had caught her watching, and afterward had wrenched her into their car by her upper arm. The pain in her shoulder never fully healed, and still clicked when she moved it too much.
Her sneakers scraped and slid against the pavement. It was a horrid feeling, having to go home but wanting nothing more than to run in the other direction. There would me a message on their answering machine to inform him of her truancy. Maybe there would even be a black and white squad car parked outside the house, lights flashing in order to signal gawking-time for the neighbors.
Her imagination need not run so far, however, because a few moments later a police car coasted just ahead of her and stopped, the door popping open. Izzy paused, considered darting off down another street. That was silly, though. She had failed gym, there was no way she could outrun a cop. Aware of each slow step she took, she approached the officer who stepped out of the car, and stood with his hands on his waist, watching her.
“Elizabeth Lewis?” He asked when she had come close enough.
“Izzy.” She mumbled, but nodded anyway.
“You’re going to have to come with me, please.” He pulled open the back door of the car. It was so polite, not like the image in her head, of being thrown up against the car and handcuffed, then roughly thrown onto the seat. It was hard to imagine that he had bad intentions. But if he had good intentions, he would have left her alone.
She took a step backward. The officer held up a hand. “Please, Ms. Lewis. We just want to ask you a few questions, then we’ll take you back to your parents.”
“It’s just my dad.” She blurted. For some reason, tears were forming at the sides of her eyes. She took another step backward, almost a stumble.
“Back to your dad, then.” The officer advanced a step, and she matched it with another one away.
“He… he hits me.” She told him.
The officer paused, then relaxed held out his hands. “Come with me. We can help you with that. We can help you with the bad things you’re feeling. Don’t you want to not feel sad anymore, Elizabeth?”
Izzy shook her head in horror. It was just like she thought, they were going to medicate her and lock her up. She turned to run, but only got a few steps before arms wrapped around her midsection and picked her up, carrying her back toward the squad car. She kicked, hit him in the stomach, lost a sneaker that was loose on her foot. It vanished under the vehicle. Then he really was pressing her against the car, slipping a plastic band around her struggling wrists. When his skin touched hers, her head rocked with a tumbling sensation.
“What’s the story for this one?” A fat man with a thick mustache asked.
She glanced toward a computer screen, where there was the boy with the red eyes and tousled hair she had seen when she had touched the store clerk.
“He killed his own sister.” She felt the deep rumble as she spoke, even though it wasn’t her own voice that came out. “We got her too, though. I heard they got some kind of telekinetic thing.”
“No kiddin’? As strong as the Jerome kid?”
“Nah, just minimal. But you know how it is, gotta catch ‘em all.”
The large officer laughed.
Izzy forced the scene away from her, destroyed it. The cop paused, his hands still clutched around her wrists. His warm breath rustled her hair, smelling of stale cigarettes. The memory of him grabbing her flashed through her head, and she erased that as well. The cop straightened, hesitating. Him seeing her, her name and appearance on the laptop mounted in his car, the radio speaking a code. Each one arose and was demolished as easily as the last, like newspaper over a flame. The officer took a step back, looked around, ran a hand over his hair. The other hand limply held the plastic band. He looked down at it with furrowed eyebrows, and up at her.
“What are you doing?” He asked her.
“Nevermind.” She mumbled, and ran down the sidewalk.
That night, her father came home at his usual time. Izzy heard the fridge door open and slam shut, then the tab of a beer can being cracked open. She walked up behind him where he sat at the couch, and rested her hand on his arm. He brought up his other hand and grabbed her wrist, vice-like grip tightening until the pain was unbearable. But Izzy was already going through his head, throwing out things here and there, erasing herself. When it was done, she took the bag she had packed and stepped through the front door.
“Hey!” Her dad called, storming over with clenched fists. “Who are you? What were you doing in my house?”
She grabbed his hand and squeezed. “I’m no one. I wasn’t even here.”
Four years later, a police cruiser turned down a dark alley, the crackle of gravel the only warning. A young boy sprinted, backpack straps clutched between his hands, breath coming in short visible puffs of steam against the cold night. He had panicked when he saw his mother in the hospital bed, hadn’t meant to do anything wrong. Her car had been crushed by a truck, and she was in critical condition. The only reason they had let him in was because she was going to die, and a kind nurse decided to let him say goodbye. But he had laid his hands on her and fixed her somehow, and then everyone was yelling at him, and they should have been happy but they weren’t, they were acting like he had done something bad. He had barely made it away then, and now there was nowhere to go. The police car caught up to him, and he felt hopeless tears stream down his face. The cop stepped out and tried to smile at him, to coax him into calming down, into coming with him.
“You’re safe, Drew. Just come with me.”
“Or don’t.” A woman’s voice startled them both, and they turned to see her leaning against the front of the cruiser. She walked over to them.
“Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to —“ The officer stopped speaking. The woman had reached over the open door and touched his head.
“286 this is 341, copy?” This came from inside the car. The woman circled the door and allowed the officer to get into the front seat, keeping her hand on his skin.
“286. Go ahead.” The officer said into the radio.
The woman leaned down to his ear. “You’re going to keep driving through, and meet up with your buddy on the main street. The kid wasn’t here. Nobody was here.” She whispered.
“We got the alley blocked off on this end, Griff. Anything?”
“Negative. Coming through to check the 300 block.” The officer replied in a distant voice.
The officer got into the car and drove off slowly, as if he was still looking for something. The woman steered the boy off in the other direction.
“Who are you?” He asked.
“A friend.” She smiled and took his hand.