~~excerpt #1 from Watcher
I watch my daughter, the sunlight dancing across her long dark hair, cradle her swollen belly and kneel to place the flowers on my empty grave. Pink carnations this time…last year was red roses, the year before, golden mums.
Her shoulders quake with her sobs and, swallowing, I fight to stifle my own. Her lips move as she whispers to the flower-strewn ground, but I’m too far away to hear her precious words. Throat tight, I struggle to remain still, hidden by the large eucalyptus at the other end of the cemetery.
She caresses my name etched into the grey granite, tracing the letters one by one before wiping the tears from her cheeks. Her fingers touch her lips, then the top of the cold hard stone.
My own fingers clamp against my mouth and smother the impulse to cry out to her.
She looks so much like me–the me I used to be. Tall, willowy, she’s become a woman since I disappeared five years ago and soon, to my surprise, will become a mother. The inferno of emotions ignited by her pregnancy threatens to devour me and I do not think I can remain quiet much longer. For once, I hope she will end her visit soon and leave.
She stands and turns toward her car. A breath of summer wind lifts a few dark strands of her hair and they float for a moment, waving goodbye.
Her scent reaches out to me and triggers memories of our brief life together. Seventeen years was not enough—not enough time to share with her, to hold her and teach her and tell her how much I love her. In a flash of anger I curse the evil creature that stole me away, leaving my daughter to finish growing up alone, and leaving me…leaving me no longer human.
My chest heaving, I watch her drive away, then step between the markers and cross the lawn to my grave. Once again, I read the inscription on my headstone:
Beloved Mother and Best Friend
October 10, 1969 –
Trembling, I rest my fingers where hers last touched, press them softly against my lips, and whisper, “I love you, Andrea.”
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you …”
Wincing, I try to block out the song from the party in the back room of the bar and reach down into the cooler for three bottles of Bud. I twist them open and set the beer on Sally’s tray.
“Thanks, Sunny!” Sally grins, her blond curls bouncing as she turns and walks away.
I … hate them. My daughter’s twenty-second was yesterday, and I couldn’t be there to share it with her, anymore than she can share mine with me.
It’s pretty hard to celebrate birthdays with a dead person.
A filthy comment and raucous laughter rise above the club din and my pity party evaporates. I look up in time to see which foul mouth spews the next obscenity—and realize its target is Sally.
Oh, hell no. Apparently their earlier warning wasn’t strong enough.
The buzz of voices and clink of ice in glasses fades as I move out from behind the bar and step to the table where Sally is standing, her mouth and eyes wide.
I glare down at the jerks sitting at the table.
“You need to leave.” I wait, but they make no movement. “Now.”
The spike-haired punk, pale eyes shining with an unnatural glint, tips his chair back and makes a show of drinking his beer. His two buddies glance at him and guzzle the last of theirs.
An empty bottle slams down on the table.
Everyone in the bar jumps, turns to look, and a shroud of silence descends over the room. The chair legs thud against the wooden floor as he rocks forward. He wipes his mouth with a tattooed hand, then springs to his feet, knocking the chair over. Pierced lip curled into a sneer, he steps toward me and tenses as though he’s going to swing.
I lean forward, nails ready and low at my side, and stare him directly in the eye. As the pink haze drops over my vision, a growl slips out, just loud enough that only he can hear.
His blue eyes widen as he looks into the faint red of mine and, blanching, he freezes. Fear dances across his face and he slowly lowers his fists. He drops his gaze, shifts back, and lets out his breath. As he glances around at the watching crowd, he scowls and curses, then shoots me an ugly look. But he avoids meeting my eyes. One look at the beast peering out of them must have been enough.
Lenny trips and swears as he comes out from behind his end of the counter. The punk straightens his jacket as he stares past me toward the approaching bartender.
“Let’s bounce. This dump is killin’ my buzz.” He leans sideways and spits on the floor.
Chairs scraping, his buddies stand, then follow him as he turns and saunters out the door.
A collective sigh weaves through the room once the doors swing shut. I close my eyes and try to breathe calmness back into my body as the crazed beast within rages in frustration.
“Oh, Sunny. Girl, I thought he was gonna hit ya,” says Lenny, a few feet behind me.
“It’s a good thing he didn’t.” Relief crawls in as I raise my eyes to cleared vision.
Because if he had tried, it would have been all over. Everything I’ve built here. The stable life, the friendships—all gone in an explosion of red violence.
Shaken, I turn and head back to the bar. Sally stops me as I step behind the counter.
“Thanks, Sunny. I’d had enough of those creeps.” The perky little waitress smiles up at me, her soft brown eyes bright with unshed tears. Her first week here hasn’t been easy.
“You’re welcome. You don’t need to put up with that crap.” I glance at her, flash a quick smile, and force the beast to quiet down and myself to relax. Apparently Sally, who was closest to the table, hadn’t noticed the scarlet that briefly flamed in my eyes, so hopefully neither did anyone else.
Except, of course, the spike-haired punk. A chuckle escapes my lips.
“All right folks, show’s over,” Lenny announces from his end of the bar.
The nightclub resumes its normal clamor as people talk and laugh about the little standoff. Someone feeds the jukebox and Queen’s ‘Champions’ floats through the air.
“Good job there, Sunny.” Walking past me, Lenny grabs a bottle from the back shelf.
“No problem.” It could’ve been, though. A big one.
“But I shoulda handled it. You might’ve been hurt.” He stops. I can feel his eyes on me.
“I can take care of myself. You don’t need to worry about me.” Emptying the red slush of a strawberry daiquiri into a wide-mouthed glass, I grit my teeth and shake my head.
The only thing he should worry about is me losing it and tearing up his bar.
© 2011 Roh Morgon. All rights reserved.