Friday, April 3, 2009

Raising Rachel [part 5] (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by none other than the very person who started all this wonderfulness in the first place! Peej Wysong @ her blog : Patterings. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's Ramblings: Well, I'm mostly on time for this week. Added a few really subtle twists, I won't get to the good ones until next week, because I'm still workin' on them. I hope you enjoy this 5th installment, I'm not quite sure how close the end is now, but it'll get there soon, lol. Thank you all so much for the wonderful comments and especially your feedback on the characters. I love hearing what you have to say. Thanks a bunch and have a lovely weekend! ^_^

Rachel thought she saw the funny little green men dancing before her eyes again. She summoned the energy to blink, twice and was relieved to see their faces fade away. A groan bubbled up and out at the sound of the doorbell’s insistent ringing echoing throughout the house.
Her mind ordered her to get to her feet and so she obeyed, even as it seemed her body rebelled. A fierce burning pain ripped from her shoulder to her arm, running down to her fingers. “Owww!” She slapped her hand on the wall, surprised, but then relieved as the wall was pleasantly cool and her hand was still burning.

A quick examination didn’t show much more other than her hand was perfectly fine on the outside and the doorbell didn’t stop ringing to allow her the luxury of examining it further. She hurried to the living room windows first, to try to get a peek at who was standing on the front stoop and when that failed, reluctantly inched to the front door.

A peek through the peephole didn’t help much, because the head belonging to the person ringing the doorbell was several sizes too small to be a sensible person, at least, Rachel reasoned. She winced at the sight of neon pink ribbons streaming from identical blonde pigtails.

I never should have gotten up…I should have stayed asleep. Always stay asleep…if I’m lucky, I’m hallucinating, right?

Her thoughts were no more coherent than her coordination, because she fumbled with the locks, fumbled with the deadbolt and couldn’t make her fingers wrap around the actual doorknob. The metal seemed to burn her fingers and finally, she tugged her shirtsleeve down and wrapped it around the knob to safely turn it.

The moment the door swung open, she saw the annoyance in person. A pre-teen girl, with eerily straight pigtails, a white denim jacket over a sparkly pink butterfly shirt and blue jeans with butterflies stamped along the seams, the sneakers, of course, were white and pink with butterflies as well.

Rachel blinked. All things dealing with pink and fuzzy things were beginning to make her head swim.

“It took you long enough!” The neon pink lips popped open to spurt out the answer. “What took you so long?”

“huh-wha?” Rachel jerked back as the girl pushed past her into the house. “Whoa! Hold up a minute here!” Her feet somehow moved quick enough to block the girl in the hallway. “Look, um, I have no idea who you are and um, there’s a power failure in the house right now, so actually-”

“The power’s on.” The girl snapped a wad of pink bubblegum. “And I like, practically live here!” She pushed past.

“What?” Rachel winced as little miniature stabs of pain dotted up and down her entire body. This was bad. She grimaced, staring at the disappearing pink and yellow polka-dotted backpack as it bounced merrily down the hallway on the shoulders of the little brat. “Um, wait! You can’t-” Her eyes traveled to the open door, and then back to the hallway. Another groan welled up inside. “This is so not happening!”

Rachel hurriedly yanked the doors shut, turning one of the locks and hurrying towards the kitchen, she skidded to a stop in the entry way, nearly tripping over the pink and yellow backpack littering the tiled floor.

The girl in question was standing on a wooden chair and rooting through the top of the cupboards. “Make sure you lock the front door.”

The cranky side of Rachel shoved itself to the front and she stepped over the backpack into the kitchen. “Gladly…as soon as you’re on the other side of it! Down and out! Just walking into random people’s houses is a really bad habit to cultivate.”

“Not any worse than being perpetually rude all the time.”

“I’m not being rude, you are! I don’t know who you are and yet you’re here inside my-”

“I’m not supposed to tell that to strangers.” The pig-tailed hair snapped around to glare at her with light green eyes. “Who are you?”

“I asked first!” Rachel began fumbling in her pocket for the cell phone. “Look, um-”

“I’m supposed to stay here because my mom is off trying not to get killed while she’s makin’ the world a safer place for kids like me.” The head turned back to the cupboard and a moment later, she stepped down from the chair, triumphant, with a box of poptarts in her hand.

“And your mom is…?”

“None of your business.” The girl said cheerfully. “And since I don’t know who you are and I’m not supposed to be talking to strangers, and Mr. Marsten said not to-”

“Mr.Marsten? As in Thom Marsten?” Rachel flipped the cell phone open, her finger hovering on the redial button.

“Yeah.” For the first time, the girl stared up at her and a flicker of something different skimmed across her face. “What’s it to you?”

Rachel tried to keep her voice even. “He’s my uncle.” She smiled as nicely as she could. “And I'm his niece. I'm visiting, which means that currently, I live here. He didn’t tell me anything about you…which would mean that-”

“Yeah, well that’s probably because you were asleep.”

“What?” One hand clenched into a fist.

“Oops.”

“What oops?” Rachel took a step forward. “Look, what’s your name, kid?”

“Um, well…I don’t exactly have a name, my mom calls me berrybunch, Mr. Marsten calls me-”

“What. Is. Your. Name?” Rachel bit the words off one at a time. “And how did you know I was sleeping?”

“Because you’re always sleeping.” The girl flashed a smile, ripping open the box of poptarts and heading for the toaster. “Which is kinda dumb, because-”

“What?” Rachel jammed the redial button and closed her eyes for a moment, as she leaned against the counter. “I wouldn’t exactly call sleeping, dumb, because-”

“I’m sure Mr.Marsten would’ve told you something if you’d just wake up once in awhile. Really, I mean, who sleeps for three days?”

“How did you know I slept for three days?” Rachel was surprised to hear her voice becoming rather calm as she listened to her uncle’s cell phone ring repeatedly.

“Because I’ve been here for the past three days? Duh!” The girl plunked the two sugary specimens into the toaster and jammed the handle down.

“You knew I was sleeping, or I would be sleeping and yet you still came and rang the doorbell?”

“Well, Mr. Marsten is usually here, or at least Jared and Lucy.”

“Jared and Lucy.” Rachel repeated. Her headache began to work its way back into her head. “And anyone can sleep for three days.”

“and stay alive?” The girl rolled her eyes. “Yeah right.” She jammed the toaster handle again. “What’s wrong with this thing?”

“It’s broken.” Rachel scowled. “Which you should know, if you’ve been coming here for the past three days…the crumbs in the bottom are way old.” She scowled and snapped the phone shut. Her uncle wasn’t answering…yet. “That stuff’s way too sweet you know, it’ll give you cavities.”

“Yeah, yeah and drinking club soda will make my eyebrows fall out.” There was another eye roll. “Been there…heard that, nice try, but you’re not my mother.”

“No, but I’m pretty sure that I’m older than you. Much older!” Rachel moved to the other side of the counter to retrieve her ceramic mug. She filled it with the bottled water on the counter next to her uncle’s coffeemaker.

“Are you making coffee? Can I have some?”

“NO!” Rachel glared at her. “I’m just making some….some…” She scanned the kitchen cupboard still open, in front of her. “Some cappuccino and no, you can’t have any.”

“Why?” The girl was now rummaging through the utensil drawer.

Rachel felt the queasy feeling in her stomach return. “Because you’re….too young…shouldn’t get addicted to caffeine this early in life.”

“You’re addicted?” The green eyes grew wide. “Oh my-”

“Don’t finish that!” Rachel snapped, she flipped open the cell phone again and began to dial her uncle’s number manually.

“Isn’t cappuccino, like, really sweet though?”

“No, those are lattes.”

“Lattes are sweet?”

“I guess.”

“How can you guess?”

“Because I don’t like them?”

“Why don’t you like them?”

“Because they taste like coffee!”

“Why don’t you like coffee?”

“Because I drink cappuccino.”

“Why do you drink cappuccino?”

“Because I’d rather drink my sugar than eat it.” Rachel frowned. “and don’t you dare poke that knife in the toaster, you’ll electrocute yourself!”

“Says who?” The girl griped. “I’ve done it a million times and I’m still alive…unlike you.”

Rachel paused in mid-movement towards the microwave. “I’ll pretend,” She began. “That you didn’t say that, because if you really did, I don’t care whether I really do know who you are and whether you’re really telling the truth, but I don’t have to-” Her cell phone beeped and she quickly put the phone to her ear. “Unk? It’s Rach…actually, um, there’s this kid here…”

There was a smug smile on her cherub face when Rachel slowly flipped the phone shut. “Told ya.” She smirked. “But ya didn’t believe me.”

“Because most sensible people, Jeanette, actually properly introduce themselves and don’t go around insulting strangers.” Rachel whirled on her heel, yanking the microwave door open to deposit the cup of water. Her fingers had no sooner graced the keypad for the minute long operation, when the traditional flicker traveled through the lights and everything blacked out. Again.

“Yikes.” Jeanette snickered. “You really know how to make things exciting, dontcha? No wonder you’re so grumpy, I’d hate myself too if I had to live a life like yours.”

“I am not even going to dignify that with an answer.” Rachel forced the words through gritted teeth. “And I like my life, there’s nothing….wrong with it.”

“Sure.” Jeanette drew the word out. “I know. So, can you turn the power back on?”

“No.”

“What?”

“It’s a breaker tripped or something…and it’s in the laundry room, I don’t go down there.”

There was a snort in the now half-shadowed kitchen. “Why not? Scared I’ll lock you downstairs?”

“Locking you downstairs actually sounds like a good idea.” Rachel frowned. “We must be using too many appliances at once.”

“I thought you said the power was out before.”

“It was.”

“But then it came back on.”

“Yeah…?”

“By itself?”

“Well…” Rachel felt her face heat and she was glad for the sudden lack of light.

“So all we have to do is wait for it to come back on by itself?”

“I don’t know!”

“Well you should!”

“Says who!”

“Says me! I’m starving!”

“Eat your poptarts.”

“Want one?”

“No! I hate poptarts.”

“Why?”

“Jeanette, I really don't want to discuss this right now."

"Wow. You're getting all serious on me."

"I am dead serious!"

"I know!" There was a giggle. "You're like this, um-"

"Jeanette…!”

“So this breaker thing is in the laundry...”

“In the electrical box near the washing machine.” Rachel sighed. “Uncle Thom said he’d be over here on his break, so all we have to do is wait for him to come so he can go downstairs and flip the switch back.”

“Why can’t we go and flip the switch back?”

“There is no ‘we’.”

“You said it first.”

“Just eat the poptart!”

“Why do you care? I could starve to death and you wouldn’t care!”

“I care right now, because if your mouth is full, then you can’t keep talking.”

“I can too.”

“No, you can’t. Because it’s rude and bad manners.”

“So?”

“Are you completely clueless about-”

“I’m fourteen years old. Just because I look small doesn’t mean I’m stupid! Good grief! You treat me like a ten-year-old!”

“maybe because you’re acting like one!”

“Am not!”

“I am not going to say, are too!”

“D2.” Jeanette chuckled. “Haha, gotcha!” She chomped down on an untoasted pop tart. “Tell you what, where’s the flashlight?”

“I’m not telling you.”

“Why not? It could be important to-”

“If you come here often enough, you should know and if you don’t know, I’m not going to tell
you, because you’re not going down stairs to flip that breaker and I’m not going to bother to go through the motions of pretending to stop you!”

“Do you always talk this much?”

“Only when provoked.” Rachel couldn’t take the exchange another minute. “I’m going where there’s more light. Don’t stay here by yourself.”

Jeanette snorted. “Well, it’s sure not like I’m coming with you!”

“Acutally.” Rachel whirled around, one hand reaching out to clamp on the skinny jacketed arm. “I think you are. March.” She pulled her forward.

Caught off guard, Jeanette stumbled forward, awkwardly behind her. “Hey!”

“Just shut up, would you!” Rachel pulled her to living room and let go when she flopped onto the sofa, facing the front windows.

“Touchy, much?” Jeanette growled. She pulled her feet up onto the sofa and munched her poptart with a dark glare in Rachel’s direction.

The ringing of her cellphone caught her off guard and Rachel quickly answered it. “Unk?...oh…um, hi. Sure. Actually, now’s not a really good time…no, I mean that now really isn’t a good time for me to-what? That isn’t funny-I…okay, okay, I get the message.”

She flipped the phone shut. There wasn’t too much she could do with that. At least not anything she really wanted to do. Her gaze automatically flickered in Jeanette’s direction and her shoulder’s drooped. The sofa was empty and Rachel didn’t exactly feel like tracking down the smart-mouthed tween.

Her conscience pricked her after a long, quiet moment and with a stifled groan, she rolled to her feet once more. The strange prickling sensation dotted her arms and legs, for a moment, then faded away as she strolled back to the kitchen.

She checked the junk drawer to verify that a flashlight was missing. Jeanette really had been around long enough to know. Rachel shook the thought from her head. Her uncle did favors for people, yes, but he’d never, ever taken in a stray before.

A slight shudder traveled through her.

Surely he couldn’t be…dating someone? Nah…that’s ridiculous.

But the thought refused to leave her and Rachel wearily trooped towards the spare kitchen pantry. The door the basement beside it was wide open. “Oh come on!” Rachel armed herself with one flashlight and inched towards the first step.

“Boo!”

“Ahhh!” Rachel yelped, jerking back as light exploded in front of her face. She found herself sitting on the brightly light tile floor with a laughing Jeanette lounging against the doorjamb. “You little-!” All thoughts and good intentions flew at once from her mind. The annoyance was indeed a brat.

“Hey, no name calling!” Jeanette frowned. “Dudette…can’t you take a joke?”

“That wasn’t a joke.” Rachel painfully eased forward, now the pounding in her head was worse and her tailbone hurt. “Jokes don’t hurt people.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, did I hurt you?” Jeanette asked, sarcastically. “Yeesh, it was just a joke! I was just trying to scare you…besides, we needed the power back on.”

“Correction, you needed the power back on. I was just fine without it!”

Jeanette shrugged. “Okay, so I needed the power back on-”

“That’s not all you’re going to need!” Rachel growled, surging up from the floor. “You might need a whole lot more than you-”

The lights went out.

Rachel blinked. Her eyes had only just begun to readjust to the brightness and now her surroundings had been returned to darkness. Her stomach rumbled. Rachel frowned. “Jeanette?”

“I’m right here in front of you!” Jeanette sighed loudly. “Right here!” She waved both hands in front of her face.

“Hey!” Rachel jerked back. “Don’t do that!”

“I wasn’t going to, but you were the one that couldn’t see me.”

Something clicked, echoing through the house and Rachel heard the front door creaking open. “Yes!” Jeanette pumped a fist in the air. “Mr. Marsten!” She exclaimed, turning and running for the entry way.

The bad, queasy feeling quadrupled and Rachel launched herself after her without a second thought. The reason for the phone call was making sense. She caught the tween before she could round the corner and surprisingly wrestled her back towards the linen closet. “Wait!” She hissed into her ear. “Unk should’ve called me if he arrived…”

Jeanette twisted away from the hand over her mouth. “and why would he call you? Nobody would ever call you! Nobody would ever want to talk to you!”

Rachel replaced her hand over her mouth. “Shhh! I just have a bad feeling about-” She froze and felt Jeanette stiffen beside her. Rachel had pulled them into the little alcove near the linen closet and the crouching shadow approaching them didn’t look very uncle-like.

The breath in her lungs threatened to expire, but Rachel didn’t dare breath. Breathing was too loud…too dangerous.

Jeanette squirmed closer as the owner of the shadow rose to full height and passed right by them, continuing into the house. A soft squeak was muffled in Rachel’s hand as Jeanette grew unnaturally still.

Rachel took a cautious breath and swallowed. Her mind was clicking into gear, in spite of the atrocious headache and it was screaming every possible defense at her that she could take. “Need to get upstairs.” Rachel mouthed, when the shadow detoured towards the kitchen.

“Out!” Jeanette argued, fear showing plainly in her eyes.

“Noisy.” Rachel whispered back, pantomiming the door.

Jeanette inched closer, shaking her head.

Rachel pointed towards the stairs and crept forward, cat-quiet. She motioned for Jeanette to go first and put a finger to her lips. Panic registered on Jeanette’s face, but Rachel pushed her forward anyway, turning to keep watch.

They made it upstairs quickly and Rachel pulled her down the hall to her guest room instead. “Under the bed.” She hissed, softly. “Quick.” She darted to the dresser and retrieved the file folder and duffel bag, shoving it under the bed after Jeanette. “Stay as quiet as you can.” She fumbled with the cellphone, crawling down under the bed with her.

“Isn’t this a bad idea?” Jeanette inched closer to her. “I mean, couldn’t we be cornered?”

“Burglars don’t look under guest beds in strange houses.” Rachel whispered back. “Especially if they’re really just here to steal something.” She dialed the emergency number for her uncle and keyed in the number code he’d given her. It was answered with two short beeps to mean he was on his way.

“What if they do now?”

“Shh!” Rachel tugged the bedskirt down a bit, checking to be sure no feet or hands were visible from where she was.

“What’s in the duffel?”

“Nothing. Hush.”

“There’s something in there.”

The door creaked open and Rachel pinched her arm to focus clearer. Jeanette curled her fingers around her wrist, gripping tighter as the footsteps crossed the room. They listened in silence as the intruder rummaged through the empty closet and opened the dresser drawers.

They almost let out a breath, as the steps went towards the door and then stopped. There was a deliberate pause and then the footsteps came back and stopped right in front of the bed as the intruder knelt down and lifted the bedskirt.

For the second time that day, Rachel lost the ability to think coherently as her breath froze and Jeanette cut off all circulation in her left arm.

Oh sugar snap!

© Sara Harricharan

1 comments:

Catrina Bradley... said...

I can't believe you left me hanging like that! Wait...yes I can.

You know, you could expand this and make it two segments - add a touch of narrative in the long-ish convo. I found myself rushing through that part. I never got lost as to who was who tho - super job letting the characters show through their dialog.

I'm still hoping "Raising Rachel" will morph into a novel. :D