Here is the first installment of Beautiful Cracks!
I am super excited, not only because writing a serial story is a new experience for me, but also because I am finally being to understand how to work the back end of this site. Which, hopefully, means that my posts should end up on the proper pages at the time that I intend them to.
There are a few more causes for my excitement as well, which I will mention in my weekly post.
But my chapter is sitting behind me and wondering why it is not on stage yet, and so I will kindly be quiet and step out of the way.
Without farther ado… Here is the first chapter of Beautiful Cracks!
Dust rises up from in between the floorboards with each rocking step of the man’s boots. She crouches with her nose pressed against her shoulder to prevent herself from making too much noise. Her legs became stiff hours ago, and the rest of her body is not much better. She wishes that she had thought of counting the number of times that her father’s friend and his group of followers have walked back and forth along the house. Perhaps it would be able to keep her from thinking about how they are looking for her.
But thoughts would not be able to make her feel safe. She has not felt safe since yesterday morning: when their maid and her best friend directed her to the narrow box type crawl space underneath the floor boards of the closet in her parents bedroom. She is sure that it was yesterday morning, but she does not know what day it is anymore. She had been expecting Marie to come to her hours ago with the news that the men in their house had given up. But she has not even heard Marie’s voice since last night, and she has not dared to move more than an inch or two.
She is not sure why these people are looking for her, but she is sure that it has something to do with the piano recital that she was part of last year. Although, she is sure that there would have to be another reason as well. Normally, the children are left alone no matter what their age is. But than, she supposes that most children of her age are not hidden by the time that men such as these arrive.
She wishes that she knew where her parents were. The fact that she does not makes her feel even more unsettled than before. She knows that Marie is going to help them as much as she can, but everyone knows that there is not much that can be done. No matter who they are. The downward spiral of her family, and the entire town, has been an interesting one to say the least.
In fact, it has been more of a square than a spiral. Everyone saw it coming, but no one could do anything about it because the edges were too sharp. If she is to consider everything from the other side of the world, she would say that they have been relatively lucky. And if she is going to say such a thing, then she will have to be thankful that she is hiding underneath the floor boards of a closet and ignore the dust.
Marie shoved her into her hiding place with the warning that she must not speak a word or make a single sound, no matter how long she must stay crumpled up. She had given Marie a look to tell her that such a thing is obvious. But she has found it much harder to stay silent than she thought. She wishes that she could at least hum to break the boredom. But she used to be able to hear a mouse in the kitchen when she was sleeping in her bedroom upstairs at night, and so she is sure that anyone would be able to hear her voice in the house. They would find her as quickly as bees find their own honey.
And she would become dinner to them just as easily as honey does for bears. She stifles a cough as a someone yanks open the closet door again; and a pie of dirt and dust falls onto her lap. The door is roughly shut again with a grunt of disapproval. She wishes that whoever built her family’s house had thought of putting an escape passage all of the way underneath the floorboards. She could be outside right now instead of locked up in what feels like a chest.
She knows that hoping and wishing for things that are not will not do anything for her. But they are two of the only things that she can do at the moment. She has never wished that she could walk around more than she does right now. But everything that she wants, preciously few things that are permitted to everyone who stays alive, are things that she cannot get.
The first thing on the list would be water, and then food, and then a larger space. But she is still stuck in exactly the same position. Her predicament is a strange one, and she might laugh about it on a normal day. But this is not a normal day. And yet, there is always news of another family who have fallen to their debts. She has never truly paid attention to the stories, and now it seems strange that she has not. No one has ever said that their town is a nice one, or that her family is exempted from the tragedies that plague every single house.
But she has always thought that her family was outside of those tragedies. That, somehow, they could live without becoming involved. But it seems that everyone is involved at one point or another. She would not be hiding beneath the floor of a closet if that was not the case.
She has always considered herself to be lucky. Her father is a businessman, and her mother can run almost anything. Out of everyone, she has always been the misfit. She is thankful that her parents do not mind, nor do they seem to think that she is strange, but she seems to see things differently than most of the girls her age. It is not that everyone else is old fashioned, or that she is; it is simply that her future has never seemed to be very important to her. Of course, she has dreamed about where she would like to go and what she would like to do. But she always sees someone else when she looks at her future. It is as if she is looking at a life that is not hers. Her future seems to be a blank space that is lost in a library.
She squeezes her nose to hold back a sneeze. One of the men walking around the house yanks open the closet door again as though it will have changed in the past minute or two. There is a call from the kitchen that makes the man’s boots turn on the floor and send dust falling through the cracks to settle on top of her head. She frowns, she does not know if she will ever be able to walk into a closet again without feeling as though she should take a bath. She would walk around the entire town until her legs start to shake for the possibility of a bath.
The closet door creaks as the man partially closes it to shout back to the muted voice in the kitchen, “I don’t see it, it ain’t here unless the old man hid it underneath the very walls of this house or somethin’.” She shivers as whoever was in the kitchen stomps into the room hard enough the make the floorboards shake above her head, “It’s gotta be here somewhere. What d ya’ think you’re doin’ with that closet door wide open? Either check inside or shut it. You know how the missies don’t want anyone t’ know that we were here. There’s enough trouble with ya’ stomping about like this is a basketball court. Grow ya’ own brain, I’m tried of you havin’ t’ use mine.”
The first man slams the closet door and she lets out a relived sigh. Their stomping footsteps retreat back in the direction of the kitchen, and she finds herself wishing that she knew what they are looking for. She thought that they were simply looking for her, but now it seems as though they are looking for an actual thing, and yet, she cannot guess what it might possibly be. She knows everything that her family owns and is in the house, and she can most certainly say that is nothing remarkable about any of their items. The best things that they have are some imported chinese dishes with blue leaves on them.
She tries not to cough as dust finds its way into her nose and she wonders how long it will be before Marie comes back for her. There is a thump and a shout that makes her skin go cold, and she stares into the bedroom through a narrow crack in the floor that lines up with the space underneath the door. There is a sound that makes her think of a slap; and then her mother is roughly shoved into the room. The first man accosts her with insults that blend from one to the next so quickly that she cannot understand a single word.
Her mother gets up from where she has been shoved to the floor. The second man tries to knock her back down, but she kicks at his legs with her own insults and tries to claw away from his grip. Her breath seems to be locked in place in her chest on she stares through the narrow crack. The first thing that she can think is that her mother never swears or curses or insults anyone. It seems to be a strange first thought at the moment, but it is the only thing that seems clear. And yet, she cannot understand why such an inane observation would possibly be important.
The first man shoves her mother as he yells with his mouth inches away from her face, “Where is it? Ya’ tell me and I’ll call the dogs off of your husband an’ that daughter of yours. Are ya’ goin’ t’ tell me, or am I goin’ t’ have t’ ask ya’ again?” Her mother shakes her head, and then tries to head butt the second man who is holding her in place with his arms around her waist. Her interrogator frowns, and then a pleased look comes onto his face that makes her feel sick. She does not need to hear his threatening words, or the ripping of fabric to know what he is going to do. She squeezes her eyes closed and tries to ignore the protests and deflated threats as she makes herself smaller in her box.
Suddenly this place that she hates seems to be the safest place that she could possibly be. The sound from the bedroom fades away as she makes her thoughts as loud as possible. She finally opens her eyes again as her ears are met with a sudden silence. The bedroom is empty, and the entire house is completely silent.
She cannot think of a time when their house was ever as silent as it is now. She finds herself holding her breath as she waits for someone to knock something down from a shelf, or curse at their ill success. But the house stays silent.
The box type space seems to close around her, and she is suddenly sure that she will not be able to breathe if she stays inside for a moment longer. She hits the floorboards above her head with her fists until they give way and she can scramble out of the space. She crouches on the floor of the closet and gasps for breath will the dull feeling that it will hardly matter if someone finds her.
She manages to pull herself to her feet without fainting as the nerves in her joints seem to pinch with each move that she makes. The house continues to stay silent as she looks around the bedroom. Her parents’ bed has been slashed into strips with the feathers and cotton stuffing spilling across the floor, the drawers of their armoire have ben pulled out and overturned, and the bottles of her mother’s makeup have been tossed across the room to smash and leave puddles of synthetic liquid.
She walks toward the ruined bed. Her heart beats faster in her chest as she sees the small flat round of her mother’s favorite blush cracked open and staining the mattress stuffing underneath it. The rosy color that always makes her think of parties with hooped skirts and handkerchiefs. Her bare foot knocks into something small that rolls across the floor. She bends down to pick it up with her back protesting with a twinge at each movement. She blinks back tears as she fingers the ring that lays in her palm. Her mother’s name is written on the inside of the golden band in a curling script that she has always described as love. Her tears overflow, and she sinks down to the floor to sob and rock herself back and forth. She knew that this was coming, she saw it in the dew that gathered on their laundry only two nights ago.
And she suddenly knows what everyone is looking for.
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