Friday, March 27, 2009

Raising Rachel [part 4] (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Josh over @ his blog, Just Joshing. Click here to read and share more great fiction.

Author's Ramblings: Well, I'm a little earlier this week than all the rest before, and I think this story is morphing faster than I can keep up with it. I'm aiming for that conclusion soon, I promise...just hang in there. ^_^ Thanks for all the wonderful comments last week, it made my day, I'm glad to know you enjoy Rachel as as a character. She's getting the other half of her surprise this week and next week, well, her life will twist even further upside down than it has already. Oops...is that too much of a spoiler? Thanks for stopping by Fiction Fusion, have a great and blessed weekend.

Rachel awoke to that annoying, pounding thing in her head again. She tried not to blink, as even the slightest thought seemed to bring pain. The grimace that spread across her face did bring more than a slight twinge of pain and she didn’t care to process that.

When she finally moved past the annoying set of morning thoughts, the rest of the gaps in her mind were slowly filled in. The annoying pounding thing was the nonexistent cellphone beneath her pillow.

Non-existent.

The thought registered with a frightening reality. Rachel jerked upright, one hand darting under her pillow to retrieve the annoying object. It was, in fact, a cell phone and one she’d never seen before. It buzzed again, then beeped and she flipped it open.

A text message was clearly displayed on the screen.

She grimaced, and flipped it shut.

The phone beeped persistently a moment later. She glanced at the screen, then pressed the button to ignore it. Almost at once the phone began to ring.

The sound echoed loudly in the nearly empty guest bedroom and Rachel hurriedly flipped it open. “quit bothering me!”

Her expression changed from annoyance to fear and then finally, she closed the phone. Her morning routine was quickly changing into something she didn’t want to deal with. A quick shower, and changing back into her old outfit, didn’t help much. Her mind had blurred again and all traces of the day before left her feeling ugly and horrible at the same time.

She yanked open the bedroom door and jerked back at the sight of several pink post-it notes pasted on the door. She pulled them off one at a time, squinting to read her uncle’s horrible handwriting.

“…don’t want to bother you…are you okay…haven’t eaten anything…” She stopped to look down at her stomach, the growl was almost a whine. “I’m hungry.” She told the door, tugging off the remaining post-it’s and reading them as she went down the hallway.

As far as she could gather, he’d checked in on her several times and she’d been asleep for nearly three days. “Asleep?” her stomach rumbled again and she angled towards the refrigerator. The last note, dated that very morning had said he was out to work. She frowned. The note didn’t mention when he’d be back.

She continued her morning breakfast hunt, finding toast, butter and cappuccino mix. She nibbled on the toast as the milk heated on the stove and her thoughts returned to the phone call. Mark was calling to check up on her. He’d also reminded her that she’d almost died and if it hadn’t been for his interference, she would be dead.

She’s told him to take a hike. His answer had been that next time he wouldn’t bother. A shudder trickled down her and she shrank back against the kitchen counter. Three days without food and water was bad…but surviving it as if it hadn’t happened…that was worse. She stared at her hands for a moment, wondering what was coursing in her bloodstream, beneath the surface of the skin.

Mark was known for his experiments, at least that’s what Ben had told her. And he was very, very good at what he did. If he’d been trying to warn her, it had gone a little overboard. Her thoughts blanked and reloaded as the oven timer buzzed. She opened it to check the toast. They were browning quite nicely.

She closed the door, hunting for oven mitts. The toaster was broken, and she made a mental note to bug her uncle about it. He probably hadn’t even noticed, since most of his meals were rarely ever eaten within the home. Anything he had around, was probably microwaveable, she guessed, settling for a thick kitchen towel to retrieve the pan.

It wasn’t as thick as she thought and she hurriedly dropped the pan on the counter, waving her fingers in the air. “Owww!” That hurt. She dashed for the pipe, turning the taps on cold before her brain decided that wasn’t exactly what she ought to be doing to a burned hand. In that same instant, something sparked and the entire house went silent.

The water stopped running at once and Rachel stood, shocked, in front of the sink. “Okay.” She said slowly, feeling the goosebumps coming on. In spite of the midday sun, the house was suddenly feeling rather dark and creepy.

“Power’s out.” She finally announced, moving out from the kitchen and towards the living room with the large front windows. A quick glance didn’t show much apart from the fact that it appeared the house across the road had a working TV. “Just me.” She muttered. “In a whole block of houses, only where I am, the power would go out.” She trooped back to the kitchen to check the refrigerator for her uncle’s emergency phone numbers. Her thought wandered back to his eerie laundry room. “Not going down there.” She hesitated, cell phone in hand, then tried the house phone.

Another uneasy jolt shocked through her as there was absolutely no sound on the line. Her fingers trembled as she hurriedly punched buttons and waited anxiously for his answer. “Hello? Unk…it’s Rachel.”

“Rachel?”

“Yeah…um, there’s a power failure and-”

“You’re awake?”

“Yeah, I’m awake, um, Unk-”

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m feeling fine, actually, Unk, I need to ask-”

“When did you get up?”

“Just a moment ago, actually-”

“And you’re feeling fine?”

“Yeah…um…are you okay?”

“Considering that I’m the guy with the niece who literally dropped off into some weird state of sleep for the past three days, who has been a puzzle to the two-”

“Um, Uncle Thom? Can we discuss this at another-”

“Shhh. Hold on…”

“O-kay….”

A few minutes of muffled mumbling passed and then her uncle returned to the phone. “Rachel? You still there?”

“Where else would I be?”

“You’re sure you’re feeling fine?”

“I’m terrified actually.” Rachel closed her eyes. “There’s a power failure and I am so not going into your creepy basement or laundry room!”

“There’s a power failure?” Puzzlement came clearly through his voice. “Rachel, are you okay?”

“I really wish you’d quit asking me that.”

“If you’d generally answer honestly the first time, I wouldn’t repeat myself.”

“Is this the part where I’m supposed to ask if you’re calling me a liar?”

“Rachel.”

“You started it! I’m standing your kitchen, I’m starving-

“Order take out.”

“I can’t, there’s no dial-tone on the phone and-”

“there’s no dial-tone?” His tone changed at once.

“Uh, no…”

“Then where are you?”

“I’m in the kitchen.”

“Whose kitchen?”

“ours.”

“Rachel, you just said the phones are out and-”

“I have a cell phone.”

“Since when do you have a cell phone?”

“Since this morning?”

“Rachel?”

“Yeah?”

“Never mind…how’s the house?”

“Um, it’s fine, I guess.”

“Fine, how?”

“Uh, I looked through the front window…” Rachel began to move towards the backdoor. She was beginning to remember why she didn’t like two-story houses. She checked the backdoor lock. “and we seem to the be the only house without power.”

“Are you sure?”

“Everything’s out, Unk. And the guy across the street is still watching football.”

There was a frustrated sound on the other end.

“Unk?”

“Are the doors and windows locked?”

“Yeah…I mean, like, I didn’t touch anything. I just showered and came down stairs to get something to eat and when I took the toast-”

“The toaster’s broken.”

“Yeah…I know.”

“Rachel!”

“I was toasting it in the oven. In a pan. Like people used to do before they came up with toasters.”

“Rachel…” There was a sigh on the other end.

Rachel could picture him burying his head in his hands. “What did I do, blow a fuse?”

“You don’t blow fuses in a house, Rach.” His voice was quite mild. “In fact, you only trip a breaker, which means that if you go downstairs and flip it back, everything will work fine again. You probably just overloaded a circuit.”

“That’s it?”

“I’m sure that’s all it is, now look, I’ve got to-”

“If that’s all it is, then how come you had me checking door locks and windows a half-second ago?”

“Rachel.”

“I’m serious here, is there something I should be worried about? Besides, there is no way I’m going downstairs into your creepy laundry room.”

“It’s not creepy, it’s just a little dark and if you want to-”

“NO way! Look, I’ll just uh, check out and stick with a couple of friends for a bit.”

“Rachel, you don’t have friends over here.”

“Says who?”

“Okay, let me rephrase that, I’d rather you didn’t hang out with those friends if they’re the kind of friends I think they are.”

“You sound like mom. Assuming that I can’t do anything right and that no matter what I do I have lousy taste in people in general and-”

“And I get off for lunch in an hour. If you can hang on until then, I’ll swing by and check the breakers for you.” There was a matter-of-fact tone to his voice. “Until then, hang tight, there’s some snacks in the pantry under the stairway and you know where I keep the flashlights if it gets that bad.”

“I don’t believe this.”

“I don’t either, Rach, but I’m not going to argue on that point, okay?”

“But-!”

“If the house feels bad, get out and go to Mrs. Clover across the street, tell her I sent you and be nice.”

“Uncle Thom!”

“Bye kiddo.”

The phone clicked off and Rachel stared at the screen with the sunflower background. This was a very bad, horrible, terrible sort of day.

She rooted through the pantry for a few more snacks and then headed back up to her bedroom, thanks to the daylight, it wasn’t that bad on the upper floor and few other interesting things came to her as she passed the original guestroom.

“Strange.” She muttered, pausing in front of the door. That was always the room he let her stay in when she came to visit. She tried the knob. It turned easily and she stepped into the room and quickly backed out

The walls were neon pink, with shaggy neon green carpet and plenty of other too-bright colors spilling out from everywhere as if someone had exploded a giant paintball inside the room and decided they didn’t feel like cleaning up after it.

Another queasy jolt struck her stomach. She gingerly pulled the door shut. The room looked as if it had been made just perfectly for a ten year-old girl…and not a ten year-old that Rachel could put her finger on, as she ran through the list of cousins in her head.

A shudder passed over her and she took the extra few steps down the hall to the second guest room. It was just the way she’d left it and she rooted around for a few minutes, until she opened the dresser and found what she was looking for.

The file folder and a set of clean clothes. She took the moment to change into the new outfit, glad to shed her dirty ensemble for something of an apparently cleaner nature. She found a drawstring bag a few drawers down and stuffed the dirty clothes into the sack.

Her fingers worked quickly, combing through her hair and pulling it into a half-twist as she opened the file folder on the bed and quickly spread the sheets out across the bed. She frowned.

There were pictures this time. She eased onto the bed and began to sift through them. Mark had sent someone to drop the folder for her, because she’d been in too much of a hurry to even pack something to bring with her for the trip.

Her mind settled at once into what she enjoyed. Putting the puzzle together. She scanned police reports, street acquired information sheets and dozens of pictures she hadn’t had before. Her mind went into overdrive as she began to connect a few pieces, finding a rather disturbing link.

A loud, eerie chime echoed through the house and she jumped, the goosebumps running rampant over her arms as she hurriedly shoved the papers back into a stack and jiggled the folder for them to fit inside, before hurrying to stash it back inside the dresser drawer.

The chime echoed again and she recognized it as the doorbell. Cautiously inching to the window, Rachel tried to squint down to see who had arrived, the uneasy feeling continued itself as she scanned the street and realized her uncle’s SUV was nowhere in sight.

“Please don’t be anyone I know.” She headed for the stairs and then paused on the last one. “On second thought…if you’re someone I know-” A sharp pain shot through her head and she moaned, leaning against the wall to catch her balance. “Oh make it stop…” Her hands went upward and she crumpled to the floor as the insistent chiming began to make her head feel as if it would split in two.

© Sara Harricharan

Friday, March 20, 2009

Raising Rachel (Friday Fiction) [part 3]


This article has been revised and posted at the Cypress Times and the post displayed here is a rough draft, unedited and preserved for the sole purpose of surviving on this blog. Enjoy the read and check out the edited version--which will appear sometime this week. 

There was something nice and soft under her head. The thought was somewhat welcome, but rather disconcerting, as Rachel stretched luxuriously on the mound of softness. It offered momentary comfort, wrapped with tentative strings of confusion. Her last memories didn’t fit the warm fuzzy feelings settled in her stomach. With a groan, her eyes flickered open and she stared upwards at a dull gray ceiling. Her dream-filled mind tried desperately to process her unfamiliar surroundings until she finally pulled herself together. 

It took a moment longer than she wanted to give it, before her body managed to summon enough energy to heave her body upwards. She twitched, wanting to sit up, but unable to do so-yet. Staring sleepily at the patterned wallpaper, her blurry gaze fudged the colorful squares and the fuzzy figure standing in the middle of it. The harder she tried to focus, the more the pictures blurred. Another groan bubbled up inside when her hands tangled in the softness wrapped around her. Her mind shifted gears, as she realized the soft something was a very fuzzy blanket.

This particular blanket was filled with an all-too-familiar scent, which, logically, shouldn’t have been anywhere within miles of her if she was actually where she wasn’t supposed to be. Such a convoluted thought did wonders for confusing her already befuddled brain, but it was enough to fully jolt her wide awake. Rachel sat bolt upright with a gasp, followed immediately by a grimace.

“Rachel?” Uncle Thom’s worried voice came into view. “Rachel! Please tell me you’re okay.” His voice was calm, but his expression carefully controlled. There was more to this question than he was going to say outright.

She stared at him for a long moment, while her brain continued clicking puzzle pieces together. She licked her lips, searching for an answer when she realized there was something pricking her arm and another thing horribly out of place. “Where am I?”

“Easy now,” He soothed. “Don’t worry…you’re here at home with me, in Waynesville. Rachel, honey?”

She took a cautious, shuddering breath. It burned through her lungs, producing a cough. “Ugh.” The groan escaped.

“Rachel!”

“Uncle Thom?” She croaked.

“Thank goodness.” Relief showed plainly on his face as he finally eased back from hovering directly over her and absently sat on the edge of the coffee table. “Jared! Lucy, she’s up!”

Two unfamiliar heads appeared around the corner, attached to suspiciously familiar uniforms.
Rachel swallowed, deciphering the paramedic tag as her mind reluctantly connected the dots. She hiked the blanket up around her shoulders. “um, hi…”

“What happened?” Uncle Thom took the cup of coffee from Lucy. “Who hit you?”

“Hit me?” Rachel stared at him, uncomprehendingly. “Um…why don’t I ask how I got here in the first place?”

“Actually sweetie.” Lucy drawled. “We were hoping you could answer that.”

“What do you mean?” Rachel rubbed her eyes, trying to focus on the woman. It was hard to do, when her mouth was saying one thing and her mind was saying another.

Her mind.

Rachel nearly choked.

“Sweetie, are you all right?” Lucy leaned closer. You’d better be all right, your uncle will kill me if there’s something wrong with you? What kind of an idiot girl turns up on a doorstep in the middle of the night with a bump on her head?

“I have a bump on my head?” The words spurted from her lips before she could stop them.

Three pairs of eyes stared back at her. “Yes.” Uncle Thom said slowly. “Don’t you feel anything?”

“No…should I?” Rachel automatically reached one hand back to her head and feathered it through the tangled mane. She grimaced.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, Unk…just too many knots.”

“Knots?” Jared repeated, incredulously. She’s been hit over the head, could’ve been drugged, though not by anything we’d know of down here in the sticks and she’s worrying about-

“How did you say I got here?” Rachel tried to shake the words streaming into her head, but it was as if she couldn’t shut them out and the more she tried not to think about why, the more the actual truth began to plague her.

“You just showed up on the doorstep night before last.” Uncle Thom said quietly.

“You didn’t take me to the hospital?” Rachel felt a stray of hope. If he hadn’t taken her to a medical facility, then perhaps…

“No, he didn’t.” Lucy frowned. And that was the most downright stupid thing I’ve ever seen him do in the all the thirty years I’ve known him!

Rachel made herself smile. “Thanks.”

“Thanks?” Jared closed his eyes. “We don’t know what happened to you. We almost lost you for a moment there, and you’re telling your Uncle thank you for not taking you to the hospital?” She’s as crazy as he is!

“He’s not crazy!” Rachel snapped. “And yes, I am telling him thank you…” She turned directly to him. “Thank you…I…I don’t exactly remember a whole lot, but I’m sure glad I turned up on your doorstep and not someone else's.”

“I didn’t say he was crazy.” Jared said quietly, the dulled blue eyes suddenly sparked to life.

“Rachel?” Uncle Thom was starting his worrying routine again. Where on earth did she get that one from? Jared’s been like a…please tell me she’s not going to take this the wrong way, I don’t think I could handle one of her explosions!


Rachel felt her face flush at once and this time she knew she was fine. “the…uh…expression on your face, was…different.”

“I see.” Jared took a breath. “Well, then, seeing as you’re fine-” And apparently well enough to be-

“Oh bother him!” Rachel screeched, she leapt to her feet and stumbled clear of the blankets, heading for the bathroom.

“Rachel?”

The bathroom door slammed.

Rachel sank to the floor, burying her head in her knees. Breathing was becoming rather difficult, but for a moment, she felt as if her heart had stilled entirely and if it had, then breathing wasn’t exactly much of a problem. The tattoo was burning again, so strongly that the only answer was the one she didn't want.

Mark…I’m going to kill you!

            *                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *

Mark rapidly scrawled his signature across the permission slips for the operation to get underway. At one point, Cherry had the nerve to turn up at his side, timid as a child.

“Yes?” He said, brusquely.

“Rachel Banner has been returned to Earth.” She fumbled with her armful of notes. “W-was there anything else you r-required of me?”

“Apart from your competence, no.”

“S-sir?”

“Your stammer. Get rid of it.”

Her whitened face paled to the ghostly complexion her kind was known for. “Yes sir.” Her voice wobbled a tiny bit. “Anything else, sir?”

“How did she arrive?”

“She was particle warped down to the surface.” She swallowed. “Sir.”

“Safely?”

There was no answer.

“Safely?” Mark repeated, stacking the next folder on top of the briefcase.

“Well…”

“Spit it out!” Mark muttered.

“Y-yes sir.”

“The stammer, Cherry.” Mark turned deliberately to face her. “I asked a simple question and I expected a simple answer, what is so hard about that?”

“Nothing, sir.”

“Good. So when I am asking you what happened to Rachel Banner on her transportation back to Earth….”

“She sustained a possible…injury.”

“Injury? Where?”

“Head…nothing serious though.”

“How serious?”

“Earth doctors are competent enough to treat it.”

“Were her powers upgraded as instructed?”

“Yes sir.”

“Does she know it yet?”

“I would not know, sir.”

“Naturally. Thank you, Cherry. That will be all.”

“Yes sir.” She gave a half-bow, backing out of the room.

Mark waited until he heard the door click shut and the outside sensors filtering her retreating footsteps. He reached under the desk and tapped a few keys.

The screen on his desk changed at once to a password window and he keyed in the corresponding numbers. The image fuzzed then cleared and a fuzzy image came into view. He smiled at reading scrolling across the screen. “Do enjoy your upgrade, Rachel. You’re going to need it.”

Copyright, All rights reserved accordingly.  Sara Harricharan

Friday, March 13, 2009

Raising Rachel [part 2] (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Rhonda Clark @ her blog, Beach Reads. Click here to read and share more great fiction!

Author's Ramblings: Hi everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the first mysterious installment of Rachel Banner's increasingly insane life. lol. This week brings part 2, along with several good twists to light. I've been working since last week to keep this story in logical order, so please remember the scene changes marked by *'s. There's a bunch of backstory inside the first few halves of this and possibly some more to come next week, based on the feedback. If you've got any questions at all, please feel free to ask. Rachel's story is coming along quite nicely, but I'd hate to have covered something in my head-and completely forgotten to type it out. Do enjoy! (and let me know what you think about Mark...I was aiming for the kind of character you would love to hate) Have a great weekend!





“It’s a designer drug all right.” Pete slapped the folder down on Thom’s desk. “Kids on the street are calling it ‘Pysch’.”

“Pysch?” Thom repeated. “As in physcing themselves out, or…”

“I didn’t ask, it was a miracle to get that much outta them. How’d you do?”

Thom shrugged. “About the same, more or less. I’ve got contacts, Pete, they’re just not talking. They’re more afraid of whoever’s putting this out then they are of the law.”

Pete frowned. “That worries me.”

“I know.” Thom picked up the folder and methodically scanned the contents. “Any druglord or underground dirtbag wielding that kind of influence on our streets is a day when I remember why I’m wearin’ this badge.”

Pete bowed his head. “You and me both.” He muttered. “I sent Jason down to the lab with the bits of glass they found at that apartment fire. The results should be done by tomorrow.”

“Good.” Thom squinted at a photo in the file. “Who’s this?” He held up the photo.

Pete glanced up. “New deputy Chris with my old town talker, Victor. I think he’s hiding something, but I doubt there’s anything under the sun that’ll get it out of him.”

Thom grimaced. “True. Too bad though, all we need is enough evidence to point in the right direction and this case can wrap itself up, I’d think.”

“Those were the good days.” Pete chuckled. “When working the streets was easier, ‘cause folk believed in the law.”

Thom half-smiled. “Right now, they all think the only thing we’re good for is the crosswalk patrols.” His cellphone vibrated, jiggling a stack of papers and sending various desk items rolling. He picked it up, glanced at the name and closed his eyes as he answered. “Mona? Hello, everything all right….?” He held the phone away from his ear and his eyes opened. It took a few more minutes and then finally he snapped it shut with a pained expression.

“Something the matter?” Pete deposited a handful of paperclips and post-it notes back to the teetering paper pile.

Thom shrugged, reaching for his coat. “I can’t rightly say. It’s Mona.”

“Ah. Family.” Pete shifted to his feet. “Everything okay with her?”

“She’s fine, I’m sure.” Thom grunted, wrestling one arm through the jacket sleeve. “Sending me company for a bit.”

“Company?” Pete frowned. “Which one?”

“Niece.” Thom replied. “The brunette. You remember her, Rachel?”

“Rachel, Rachel…oh yeah, the small one? She must be pretty big by now, had quite a head for things, what’s she up to these days?”

“That, Pete, would be my only real problem.” Thom grabbed his keys and tucked the folder into his briefcase. “Mona’s worried she’s getting into trouble again, so she’s shipped her off in my direction.” He shook his head. “It’s gonna be some weekend.”

Pete shrugged. “She’s a smart kid.”

“Was.” Thom turned off the computer monitor. “Well, sort of, still.” He amended.

“She’s the one with the trouble?” Pete guessed. “That was Rachel? That little pixie?”

Thom smiled, fondly. “Yeah. That was her. I don’t know what got in her head, but something straightened her out and she’s been pretty good the past few years, but Mona can’t let that go yet. She said Rachel skipped a bunch of classes, enough that one of her college professors called, because she was part of some class project and hadn’t shown up for quite some time.”

“Ouch.” Pete held the office door open, waiting.

“Yeah. Mona was pretty worked up, said something about how she wouldn’t take the airplane ticket and it’s nonrefundable and she’s sure that something’s going to happen and-” Thom shook his head.

“Take it easy, Thom. You needed this weekend more than I did.”

“I know, Pete, I know. I’ll try to get some sleep.”

“Don’t try, Thom. Actually get some sleep and if you can’t sleep, then get some work done.” He tilted his head towards the overflowing desk. “With all those papers in there, I’m surprised you can still find the keyboard for that dinosaur on your desk.”

Thom rolled his eyes. “It’s not that old, Pete. I just don’t see the need to switch up to Vista…the thing’s a pain in the-” The cellphone burst into a cheerful tune, drawing the attention of a few nearby deputies.

Thom fished it out of his coat pocket and answered it. His expression brightened at once and he beckoned to Pete to follow him. “The results are back already.” He explained, shoving the cellphone back in one pocket. “I’ll swing by and pick them up now, you coming?”

“Right behind you.” Pete pulled the office door shut. “If that report reads positive, Freddy Durgot is going down.”

* * * * * *

Rachel felt the world around her slowing to a stop. Her neck ached and her arms were stiff and tired. The body she clung to, twisted, then gently pulled away. “Rachel? Rock…come on, girl, wake up.” Gloved hands shook her awake.

“Oww.” The whine was muffled within the helmet. Her left arm was burning, itching, hurting all at the same time. It was the perfect ingredient to add to her grumpy temper. Being shaken awake did not help much either.

“Helmet.” Robbie warned, before his gloves slid around her neck and pulled upwards.

Cold night air was a harsh, but effective wake-up call and she shivered, giving herself a shake all over. “ugh. Where are we?”

“A couple hours shy of where we need to be.” Robbie tucked the helmet carefully on the handlebar. “I thought you could use a break, you’ve been pretty quiet and I figured you fell asleep.” His frown was visible in the moonlight, accented by the amber glow of the rest area lights. “If you need to sleep, tell me and I’ll stop and get us a place to crash ‘til morning, it’s dangerous to cop out like that.”

A blush teased her cheeks and Rachel looked away. “Yeah, I know. Sorry. Won’t happen again.” She traced an ‘x’ on the itching arm.

“Bet my bike on it.” He muttered. “Go walk around a bit. Five minutes. Meet me back here when you’re through. Be careful.”

“And don’t to talk to strangers too, I know.” Rachel resisted the urge to roll her eyes at his retreating figure. A bed did sound very nice and a walk was the last thing she wanted to convince her tired body to do.

Robbie paused halfway to the rest area entrance, looking over his shoulder. “Rachel.”

She groaned inwardly, sliding off the bike to gingerly stand on her own two feet. The world spun briefly and then righted itself as she inched to the sidewalk and then towards the entrance as well.

Robbie waited a half-second longer, then disappeared in his original direction. Rachel made her way to the restroom, taking her time and then wandering around in the lobby several minutes later.

The vending machines were gaily lit and she fished in her pockets for the usual stash of quarters. Something with caffeine. She squinted at the soda selections. Dr. Pepper. She grimaced, punching the button. Not her favorite soda, but the combination of sweet and caffeine would help to keep her awake. The itching had faded some, but the burning was now beginning. She wrinkled her nose, trying to ignore it.

“Rachel?” Robbie magically appeared to her left. “You ready?” He made a face at the soda in her hand. “Yuck.”

“Thanks a lot.” She shot back, gingerly suspending the drink between two fingers. “I need the sugar. How much longer we got?”

“Not as bad as you need the caffeine.” He countered. “It’ll be at least another two hours, at most, I think.”

“Why can’t you turbo or something?” She wiped the bottle on the front of her sweatshirt, then zippered the leather jacket back up.

“That’s not an option.” He frowned.

“Yeah it is. You’re like the best rider, ever. You couldn’t hit something if you tried…besides, with all that navi stuff and everything, what’s the point of having it, if you’re never going to use it?”
He gave her a look and she sighed. “All right already, sorry!”

Something beeped inside his jacket and he tugged a cellphone out partway to see the screen. His expression darkened at once. “Let’s get moving…now.”

The tiny part of her wanting to ask questions was drowned with the first few gulps of Dr. Pepper as Rachel broke into a trot to keep up with his long strides. He’d answer her questions later, she hoped. Whenever he added ‘now’ to the end of a sentence requiring her to move quickly, it was a veiled warning to move faster than just quickly.

Things blurred by in the next few minutes and Rachel was vaguely aware several miles down the road that she couldn’t remember what she’d done with her soda. She frowned inside the helmet but waited until Robbie pulled off at the next exit.

As they waited for the stoplight, she flipped the visor up. “Robbie?”

“Keep your helmet on.” He snapped.

“It is!” She flexed her fingers, wincing at the ache. “What’s going on?”

“We changed neighborhoods, remember?” The light turned green. “Put the visor back down and hold on tight.”

“Why?” The word was wrenched from her lips as one hand tried to close the visor and Robbie pulled off with a speed she barely remembered. It took every ounce of strength she could muster to hold on tight as the back roads blurred around her.

It finally clicked in her mind what was going on. He was going to use the turbo after all. The short burst of speed might even cut the travel time in half. Her head grew heavy. The burning was faded and now her arm just plain hurt. A whimper escaped.

She felt the bike slowing to a stop and she yanked off the helmet the first chance she had.

“Rachel!” Robbie had pulled into a corner was getting off the bike, he took the helmet from her.

“What’s the matter?” She rubbed the left arm, willing her expression to remain as neutral as she could.

“I would ask, if it wasn’t for the little voice in my head.” He leaned forward, listening and for a moment, it seemed as if he clutched his arm. “We’re here. Your uncle is expecting you right?”

“Yeah…I think.” Rachel gingerly eased off the bike. “At least, I’m sure Mom would’ve called him.”

Robbie winced. “Good. Because if I followed you directions right, that should be his place across the street somewhere over there.”

Rachel gaped. “I thought you said a few hours shy of…”

“A blind estimate.” He said bluntly. “That and I had a few strings to pull.” The wince was repeated.

“Robbie, are you okay?”

He jerked away from her reaching hands. “Yeah. Fine. Go now, kid! Now!”

Rachel hesitated, then dashed across the street and towards the shadowy two-story house with the mermaid birdbath out front. She stopped a fraction of an inch away from the black, iron gate. “Rats.” She’d forgotten her uncle had dogs. Four of them, to be exact. Her arm began to itch again and she knew she couldn’t fight it. It wasn’t much use to resist any longer.

The moment the thought registered, she was blissfully suspended in nothing and then there was too much light everywhere. She closed her eyes, but it didn’t stop the headache from coming and she realized, belatedly, what exactly had just happened as the transportation portal completed itself.

The scowl that crept onto her face remained the same even as she stared up into the cheerful expression of Cherry Anderton. Her flashy red hair was pulled into the smoothest, high ponytail, Rachel had ever seen. Her eyebrows were neatly painted on and the white jumpsuit was a delicate compliment to her pale features.

“Hello!” Cherry offered a hand. “Hope the ride wasn’t too bad.”

Rachel glared at her. “What am I doing here?”

Cherry’s smile dazzled several megawatts brighter. “I really shouldn’t say…and you shouldn’t ask.” She looped one arm through Rachel’s elbow. “Really, darling, you shouldn’t have kept running.”

“I wasn’t running.”

“So you say, but that’s not what the data reads.” Cherry tugged her along. “You’ve really done it now, you know.”

“Right. Thanks.” Rachel tried to pull her arm away, but stopped when the effort hurt as much as the thought.

The silvery walls gleamed as they strolled past and she tried not to think of where she could actually be. “And here we go.” Cherry swiped a security card and a door in the circular end of the hall slid open. “In you go.”

“Wait!” Rachel stumbled forward, only to turn and see the door slid shut in her face with accompanied by a smirk from Cherry’s perfect features. “Wait.” She repeated, feeling the first inkling of helplessness trickling in. “I just wanted to ask a question.”

The room turned out to be as circular as the door had hinted. The walls were white and there was a white round table, with round white chairs. Rachel closed her eyes. All the white was making her headache worse.

She licked her lips, thinking of her missing bottle of Dr. Pepper. Sweet or no sweet, it sure sounded good right about now. She shuffled forward, wearily dropping into one of the chairs and burying her head on her arms, resting on the table. Maybe sleep would come quickly.

Her consciousness had only just begun to drift when she heard the door slid open. Her head popped up at once and she shook it to clear the fuzz from in front of her eyes. She squinted at the brightness, somewhat relieved when the lights dimmed considerably.

Something was tossed onto the left of the table beside her. She stiffened at once, the last slice of the puzzle clicking into place. “Mark.” She forced the name through her teeth. Her arm flared red-hot.

“Rachel.” He answered, politely. The folder was pushed forward until it touched her arm.

More fire exploded, racing up and down her arm and through her should. She jerked away from it, turning to scowl at him.

“This isn’t the best way to start out.” His expression was neutral, his outfit entirely black. The sky blue eyes trained on her were vaguely distant, the first hint that he wasn’t even looking at her. “and you really shouldn’t have kept running.”

“I wasn’t running!” The words came out as a near shout. Rachel winced inwardly. “I wasn’t running.” She repeated, quieter. “My mom sent me to my Uncle in Waynesburg. I wasn’t running…and get out of my mind.”

“So you keep saying.” Mark sighed. “and I’m not inside your mind. I don’t read your thoughts without your permission.”

“As if I’d be foolish enough to believe-”

“Your mind is a complete mess…but changing the subject is something you are not capable of, when the matter we are discussing is of utmost importance. Speaking of importance, tell me, when you felt the mark calling to you, why did you resist?”

The earlier blush resurfaced again, in full force. “I-I didn’t resist…it didn’t even really…register!” A sudden thought struck her. “Robbie!” She launched herself forward, fists flying. “You were calling Robbie! Don’t you dare hurt him! He was only trying to help me and I was only trying to-”

He leaned back, capturing her wrists easily with his hands, managing to stay just out of reach of her fury. “When you are finished, do let me know.” He said, pleasantly.

Rachel gave one last, hopeless twist, then her shoulders slumped in defeat.

“Well?” He asked, a hint of humor in his voice.

“I’m finished.” Rachel said dully.

He let go.

She stumbled forward, only to be caught and eased into a chair.

“The next time I summon you, I expect an immediate response, it would save a lot of trouble on both ends! And as you now know, running only makes it hurt worse. Now, where does it hurt?” He asked, but was already ripping off the sleeve on her left arm. “How bad?” Cool fingers feathered over her prized tattoo, now glowing a bright, painful blue.

“Take a guess.” She grimaced.

“This will hurt worse.” He muttered. “Bite something.”

“Wha-?” An unearthly shriek left her lips as the fire multiplied itself in a way she hadn’t thought possible and rapidly spread from her left side to envelope her entire body. The blackness couldn’t come quick enough and Rachel gladly succumbed to it.

There was a knock at the door and Mark turned. “Yes, Cherry?” He seemed bored.
“Another informant…sir.” She gave a quick bow. “They have some information on…psych.”

An immediate fire blazed through his eyes. “Did they now?” He rose to his feet from where he’d knelt on the floor. “How long ago?”

“No more than two minutes, sir.” She held the door open. “The interrogation is proceeding even as we speak.”

“In where?” Mark crossed the room to view the holopad cradled in the crook of her arm. “Chamber 1537.” He frowned for a moment, then brightened. “Ah, of course.” He paused in the doorway. “Please see that a healer’s brew is given to Miss Banner. I’m afraid the aggression healing knocked her out. She’s going to have a horrible hangover.”

Cherry scowled. “A healer’s brew?”

“Yes. Something mild though, she doesn’t drink.” His lips twisted into a smile. “Make sure it tastes terrible, or she won’t drink it.”

“You used your healing powers on her?” The outrage was plain on her ghost-white face. “Why that brat cannot even-”

“Are you questioning my authority, Miss Anderton?” The icy words seemed to freeze the atmosphere around them.

“Uh, no sir…no, not at all!” She hurriedly backtracked. “I only meant-”

“You only mean to speak your mind, because you cannot do otherwise when in my presence.” His voice was quiet in her ear. “I will excuse this personal prejudice against this once, need I remind you of the consequences otherwise?”

One hand clenched to a fist and her eyes strayed to the triangle shaped scar just below her thumb. She took a breath and slowly let it out, the inner struggle slowly squished. “No, sir.”

“No, sir?” He mocked.

“No…sire…” A painful expression overtook her face. “I am sorry!”

“Good.” He brushed past, standing in the hall. “You should be.”

* * * * * *

The interrogation was bathed in the familiar shades of grey that Mark so adored. He eased into the viewing room. A hallway all the way around the interrogation cell, with a stationary platform overhead to house the monitoring devices, Mark took the steps to the upper platform to watch the proceedings from the top rather than the side. The conversation was contained within through the two-way panels of blue krystal, but the monitor to his left, was accurately transmitting the verbal exchange.

Cowering on the stone table in the center of the room was the informant Cherry had mentioned. Mark bent to touch the blue krystal floor, the green fire leapt from his fingertips and spread over the designated area, magnifying the occupants within and providing a brief readout of their vital life signatures.

He frowned, then squinted at the mobile computer station to his right. It groaned for a moment, then noiselessly slid forward and smacked straight into his open palm. The green energy multiplied itself, and the computer began to process the enhanced information.

Mark frowned when the exchange was through. He pulled away from the computer and stretched, rolling his neck. So the informant was from the planet Gatos after all, but for them to have want of a designer drug from earth. A shiver overtook him and he winced, coughing before the physical reaction was under control.

“If there are Gatorians on earth,” He stared down at the pink-skinned specimen below. “Then this is going to be more of a headache than I thought!” He slammed a fist on the wall support next to him.

A door to his left slid open at once. “Yes, Mark?”

“Ben…” He turned. “Took you long enough, tell me you have good news.”

“Or else what?” Ben chuckled. “I’ve got a lead all right, and you won’t believe where it’s coming from.”

“Where?” The fire returned to his eyes.

“Check it.” Ben flipped a holo-clip into the air.

The green images sprang to life and Mark felt the last fizzle of energy explode inside of him. The earlier grimace morphed into a sickeningly sweet smile. "Perfect." He crushed the holo in his hand. "Just pefect."

© Sara Harricharan

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Running

I love to run, most of the time. When my feet don't hurt, where my head can't hurt and where my heart doesn't even enter the equation. It's a blissful feeling where helplessness doesn't quite register and there is nothing closing in or on over you.

It's a feeling I can never quite get enough of.

It's also the easy option when bowling-ball types of things come hurtling down my section of life. I don't have the energy to jump over them, I don't have the will to avoid them, I just want to run so far away, that they will never, ever find me. And if they just crash on through the lane, knocking down all the pins, that seems to be fine with me, because I know I just have to stop and pick them up again, whenever I stop running.

Lately, the only thing inside my head has been the need to run somewhere. To get away from everything (even technology! With this spring break, I made a specific attempt to cut down on internet use and try to sort through the little memory fragments I so dearly love to hoarde) and sometimes, everyone.

Memory fragments are kind of twisted together with the impossible bits and pieces of our impossible dreams. They kind of pounce on each other and then stick so tightly together, that you know there is no hope of ever separating them, because doing so, will take a whole lot more than you've got to give at that point. I have a bunch of those fragments floating about in my head and in general, giving me a headache. Things I don't want to think about, things I don't want to do, things I know I will have to do...someday.

Personally, I'd rather run. Run as far and fast as I can, to get away from it all. To run to the hill in my mind, where the earth meets the sky and there is nothing there. Just a peaceful emptiness, warmth and love of a heavenly kind. It's a place where there's no distractions and no prying eyes or oversized ears, somewhere where I don't have to speak, because a story is being told with every beat of my heart. Where every tear I cry carries meaning. A hill where this is all so special, because it's just me and my heavenly Daddy. No one else. Nothing else. Just somewhere where I can feel Him, without a doubt.

It's a lovely day outside...I guess I'm running...


Friday, March 6, 2009

Raising Rachel [part 1] (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Shirley McClay @ her blog, SunnyGlade. Click here to stop by to read and share more great fiction!

Author's note: This is a story that has been in my head for sometime. There's far too much to cram into one mega-post, so I'm going to break it up into two parts, possibly three. Enjoy. Rachel is a very mysterious, but loveable character, who has made it her life goal to stand apart from her mistakes and do something with her life. Have a great weekend and thanks a bunch for stopping by!


Rachel took the crumbling stone steps, two at a time. Her heavy backpack thudded rhythmically with each bouncing leap and she wondered when the maintenance crew would deem the steps worthy of repair.

The college parking lots were packed as usual and expressionless faces straggled by as she hoisted the straps of the backpack and doggedly continued towards the beat-up, sky-blue Jeep at the end of parking lot L.

It had been a long and difficult day and her feet were hurting as she shuffled forward, absently rubbing one tattooed arm. A faint smile surfaced as she admired the overlapping designs of dark blue and light gray. The black was the most visible, but to her, she hardly saw it. The swirling floral mass on her bicep was her pride and joy. The smile tugged itself out a few degrees more.

“Yo, Rock, you comin’ clubbing tonight?”

The sound of the former nickname made her cringe, but Rachel stiffened outwardly, keeping her head high. “The name’s Rachel Banner, not Rock.” Rachel turned, already retrieving her artificial smile for the anticipated argument to come.

“That’s funny, ‘cause you look an awful lot like her.” The stranger drawled. "and she's a great dancer."

Rachel turned to take in the black leather and gray-and-white feather tucked in the band of the black cowboy hat. “Ben?!” Her jaw dropped and she gaped at him while her mind clicked together the necessary puzzle pieces for her to recognize her old friend. “You’re alive!” Time froze for a mere fraction of a second, before her heart sputtered a few beats. "I knew you weren't dead!" Tears welled up within her, but the revelation wasn't as shocking as she'd expected. A little half of her had always known he couldn't die.

His arms opened and she readily launched herself forward, hugging his neck. “Yup.” He hugged her tight. “Missed ya.”

She pulled away. “I thought you were dead.” Her expression darkened and she punched his shoulder, half-heartedly. “I really thought you were dead.”

He shrugged. “Guess I don’t die that easily then.”

“Liar.” She whispered, grabbing him back in a hug, this was the man that had literally pulled her up and out from the bowels of the streets, brushing off the gutter muck to set her back on the track of a decent life. “Mark put a bullet in your head.” She tried to keep her voice even.

“Skull’s too thick for bullets.”

“I saw him shoot you.”

He patted her back. “And I’m sorry you did, baby girl.”

She sniffled. “That’s all you have to say? An apology? I thought you were dead, Ben. Dead! As in gone, never coming back and here you are and I’m all, just…”

“Normal with it.” He filled in. “I know.” He sighed. “Mark was in on it, but I couldn’t say a word.”

One hand clenched into a fist. “He was in on it?”

“Now, Rock…Rachel.” He quickly corrected. “Sometimes the decisions made up there are a little different from the realities down here. If I didn’t have his help, I would be dead.”

“So you say.” She gently disengaged from him and stood at arm’s length, swabbing at the gigantic tears streaking down her face. “So you all say. When will you finally treat me like a grown-up, someone who deserves to know what’s really going on around her, rather than having people she hardly knows make decisions for her, based on their interpretation of her well-being?”

His mouth twitched, fighting a smile. “Probably when you’re finally twenty-one, kid.” He slung an arm around her shoulder and continued out to the college parking lot with her. “Seriously, there’s a party at Zaft’s tonight, you coming?”

“I can’t. Homework.” She readjusted the backpack once more. “you know, you could offer to carry it.”

“And ruin your exercise?” He retorted, but he took it from her anyway, slinging it over one shoulder. “What’d you drive here with?”

She shrugged. “My Jeep. Same as always.”

He snorted. “That pile of junk? What’s wrong with your bike?”

She glared at him.

“Oh right. Mama still squawking at you?”

“She doesn’t squawk….she just sort of…squeaks.” Rachel jammed her hands in her jeans pockets, searching for her keys. "And she hates my bike."

"Someone hating something of yours never stopped you before."

Rachel was quiet for a moment. "She sold it." She said simply.

"What?" A flash of emotion showed plainly on his face. "She sold it? When? To who?"

"I don't know who and she did it on a day I actually came to school." She sighed. "Thanks to Mark, I've been skipping one class too many these days. I'm swamped with homework and I think I'm going to flunk this entire semester."

"Pay Justin to do it for you." He suggested, matter-of-factly. "Quit stressing on it."

She gave him a look.

“Okay, okay. I get it. You don't cheat." He rolled his eyes. "Really, what are you trying to be a martyr? Why don't your just do your homework tomorrow?” He suggested. “We’ve missed you. I've missed you!”

“I can’t. Mom’s gonna pitch a fit and I really can’t…don’t…I don’t need that right now. I’m serious, Ben.”

He sighed in mock sadness. “You’re the first gang chick I know of, who puts her skeptical, suspicious mother first…along with her homework.”

“Give it back.” Rachel snapped, reaching for her backpack and sorting through her keys with the other hand. “Unlike you, some of the rest of us actually want to go through school and learn something.”

“Now Rock, that’s an insult to my intelligence.” The drawl had returned. “I went through school just fine, I just didn’t see the point in graduating.”

“Which has left a blemish on what I’m sure was a positively sparkling record before, am I correct?” She asked, sarcastically. “And gimme my backpack.”

“It’s a couple ounces shy of sixty pounds.” He shot back. “As if. You’re just as skinny as the last time I saw you. What are you trying to do? Snap your spine in half? It’s working…you know if you snap your spinal cord you’re going to be-”

“Stop changing the subject, Ben.” Her hand dropped as she stopped, deliberately to look at him. “Why are you here?”

“What?” He stopped as well, his expression innocent.

“Why are you here?” She repeated each word, slowly. “I sort of guessed that maybe you were still alive, so you obviously haven’t come here to shock the daylights out of me and the only time you’re this helpful, is when you want something. What do you want?”

“I don’t want anything from you.” He held up his hands, seemingly horrified. “Really, Rock.”

“Rachel.” She growled. “I’m not a gang chick anymore. I’m not a gang anything.”

An eyebrow perked upwards. “Really? So all the black leather and wearing those skinny shirts that show off of your Mark of Denson is just all for show?”

She looked away for a moment, contemplating. “Okay then.” She lifted her chin. “What did Mark send you for?”

His answer was to dump her backpack on the ground. “Mark didn’t send me, but if that’s the way you’re going to take this, then-”

“Then quit the playacting!” She forced the words through her teeth, then bent and grabbed the backpack, stalking towards her Jeep. “This is a horrible way to start the weekend.”

“Look, Rachel.” He hurried after her, grabbing the driver’s door before she could slam it in his face. “I’m sorry, okay? I know this is a bad time and I know there is a lot that you really ought to know about what goes on, but…”His voice trailed off. “Look, can I get a ride? I walked all the way here, bike's in the shop.”

She closed her eyes for a minute, then tugged on the door handle. He let go. “Sure. Where to?” She opened her eyes, flicking the door locks open.

He eased himself into the passenger seat and then wearily cast a look behind and around them. “I’ll tell you on the way.”

“Okay, suit yourself.”

“You wanted to know what was going on…right?” His question was veiled and guarded at the real reason beneath them.

Rachel felt her breath stop as her body went through the motions of shock and then sudden revival. “Mark sent you to brief me.”

“No.” Ben’s voice was gentle. “I volunteered. He said it was time to cash in…you owe a lot, Rachel.”

It was about an hour later when Rachel was standing on the front porch of her house that she began to wish she’d never said yes. When Ben had first volunteered to finally let her in on what had been going on with him, she wished he hadn’t.

“I didn’t want to know.” She muttered, fumbling with the house key, her backpack precariously balanced on her left shoulder. “Why’d he have to tell me?”

The door opened for her, and Rachel automatically skipped a step backwards. “Mom!” She blinked, then cautiously stepped into the house, setting her backpack on the wooden bench in the entryway. “Something the matter?”

“You’re late.” Dark eyes skittered over her face quickly and then to the tattoo on her left bicep. “Been busy?”

“Yeah.” Rachel rolled her neck to the side. “I have a lot of stuff to do these days. Lots of work.”

“Work that includes your skipping school? Exactly what kind of work do you think I wouldn’t-”

Rachel felt her face heat. “Mom…oh mom, no! I’m not…you…I’m not…” She sputtered for a moment, then an awkward silence hung in the air. “I was just…late today, that’s all. And I’ve missed school because…” The sentence trailed off as her mind blanked.

“Because?” Her mother repeated, voice becoming shrill. “I’ve put up with enough things from you to last a lifetime, this was your last chance!”

“Was?” Rachel cocked her head to the side. “Mom, I thought it still is.”

“Not anymore it isn’t.” The front door was roughly yanked shut and the chain locked into place. “Well, at least more in a sense, not here.” She amended. “But if missing school doesn’t seem to be a problem for you, then I suppose a temporary change of address shouldn’t be that difficult either.”

“Temporary change of address?” Rachel hurried after her. “Mom, what are you talking about? Are you kicking me out?”

The accusing dark eyes leveled straight at her. “Kicking you out would entail changing on the locks on the doors and the windows and installing a security system. I am not, kicking you out, Rachel, but you need a change and I’ve already arranged for it.”

“Which is…?”

“You’re going to stay with your Uncle Thom in Waynesburg.”

“U-uncle Thom?” Rachel felt the tension drain from her. “That’s fine…actually, when?” Her cop-slash-detective Uncle was one of her favorite relatives and gave new meaning to the words "tough love". He was also the person who cared a little more beyond her outer appearance to the tangled mess inside. The actual news was welcome, but Rachel felt a tiny nagging in the back of her head. Mark wanted her here, working on..."stuff". There was no way he'd let her skip town like that and there was no way she could explain that to anyone else. At least not to anyone who wanted to live for the next couple of years.

“Today.” Her upper half disappeared into the kitchen cupboard. “I’ve already packed your things.”

“Today?” The panic began to return. “As in now?”

“Yes…is there something wrong with that?”

“Actually, yes, I have a few things I need to take care of and-”

“Good. I knew it wouldn’t be a problem. Your flight leaves at four, so eat your lunch and there should be enough time to take a shower too, if you’d like.”

“I can’t leave now, Mom. I have stuff to do.”

“The ticket is on the table, near your plate.”

“I…okay, fine!” Rachel threw up her hands. “Fine. I’ll go, but guess what? I’m not flying!” She threw the words over her shoulder as she stalked to the dining room, pausing to grab the plate of mac and cheese.

Her comfort food yes. But also a bribe. The plane ticket taunted her from the neat position beside the fork. She hesitated for a moment, then set the plate down, turning to go.

“Where are you going?”

“To Unk’s.” Rachel headed for the coat closet and fished out her thick, heavy leather coat. “I hope the ticket’s refundable, because I’m not flying. No way am I going to go up in the air where there could be crazy people trying to kill me.”

“People wouldn’t be trying to kill you if you hadn’t gotten mixed up with them in the first place! How are you going to get to Thom’s? Your Jeep can barely make it to school and back.”

“How observant of you to notice, Mother.” Rachel struggled into the coat. “I’m hitchhiking. Don’t go all panicky and everything, either. I’ll call you when I get there.”

“You can’t do that.”

“Unless you arrest me and literally strap me down in the back of something to drive all the way from West Virginia to Tennessee, then yeah, I can do that.” She turned on her heel, pausing in the entry way to grab her cellphone and wallet from the small pocket of her backpack. “I’ll be fine.”

“You’re not what I’m worried about.” The dark eyes flashed angrily, in tandem with the scowl.

Rachel rolled her eyes. “Of course, I’m sorry. I meant to say, I’ll be sure to stay out of trouble and if I’m arrested I won’t give my legal name, so the family name will stay all nice and smooth and shiny!” With those last words, Rachel grabbed at the chain on the door and then exited the house, taking the steps two at a time.

“If you think you’re you going to-”

“Save it for when I get back mom.” Rachel snapped. If I come back. Every time I try to protect you, you make me feel like dirt. “Because if you really did care at all for me, you’d have a decent way of showing it! Not trying to scrub me out like I’m some black spot on the perfect white linens of your life!”

The afternoon sun offered a breath of warmth and Rachel shoved her hands deep into the coat pockets. Whatever was being said in her wake, she could no longer hear as she turned the corner, blocking out the angry shouting.

“When crazy people go insane.” She murmured. “Does it mean they’re entirely mad?” She walked slowly at first, picking up the pace as the night began to form in the darkening sky. She found the garage she was looking for, a spiffy little two-fer home, with pink petunias neatly lining the driveway.

Swallowing hard, she walked up to the door and knocked. The hulking fellow that opened it visibly started. “Rock?” He exclaimed, in a stage-whisper. “What the-what are you doing here?” He hurriedly stepped out on the porch, yanking the door shut behind him. “You really shouldn’t be here.”

“I have as much right as any one of us. Hi Justin.” She said wearily. “And all I’m wanting is a ride.”

“A ride?” He scoffed. “We’re not a taxi service.”

“I’ll pay all the speeding tickets.” She gauged his reaction. “Promise.”

“Where are you headed?”

She shrugged. “My uncle. Waynesburg. Not that far, I don’t think.”

“You’ve never even driven there have you?” He countered. “It ain’t safe.”

“Isn’t safe.” She corrected, automatically. “Listen, that’s my problem, okay? I just need to be mobile and I need to get there fast.”

There was a moment of silence and then he stepped off the porch and headed for the garage. “You can take Robbie’s bike.”

“Really?” A small bubble of hope welled up within her chest. “Wait a minute…is this so I don’t put any speeding tickets on your perfect record?”

He cringed. “Robbie doesn’t care if he gets another one.”

She choked out a laugh. “Right. I thought it was the driver that got the ticket and the bike just got a citation.”

He half-shrugged. “You running again, kid?”

Rachel took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “I don’t know yet.” She looked away. “But I’ll make sure the bike’s fine.”

“I’m not worried about the bike.” Robbie’s voice cut in as he edged out from the shadows, his slender frame swathed in black and dark brown, barely visible in the solar lights glowing along the garage pathway. “You okay, kid?”

“Getting smothered by that question, maybe.” She countered. “Look, can I borrow the bike, or what?”

“I’ll give you a ride.” Robbie brushed past, heading for the bike and grabbing the helmet from the workbench. “Get back in there before they miss you, Justin. Just tell ‘em I left.”

Justin barely nodded, turning quickly to head back to the house. “Lock the door behind you, ya hear?”

Robbie grunted. Rachel hurried forward, taking the proffered helmet. “Robbie, you don’t have to do this.”

“Sure I do. Ben will have my hide if I don’t. Besides, kid, you shouldn’t be out here alone.”

Rachel rolled her eyes. “Why does everyone assume I just can’t look out for myself?”

“Maybe because you make it so believable.” Robbie countered. “Helmet on?”

“Duh.” Her voice was muffled.

“Good girl. Hold on tight.”

© 2009 Sara Harricharan

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Turning Pages

Wow. I can't believe February is over. Not because it seems like I still have a bajillion things to do, but because it marks the second month over in 2009. Wow. It seems as if time has been flying, in spite of the few excruiating days that linger just long enough to register.

February was a little hectic in terms of school and my stubborness is wanting to take on the month-long challenges I did last year. February was FAWM (as mentioned in an earlier post) and I was determined to start and finish it, with at least the very same amount of "zongs" as I had last year.

This came out in the form of an almost finished composition notebook with rather illegible scribblings all over the pages (and even on top of each other-yikes!) and my trying to decipher it out at thirty minutes to midnight last night. If that doesn't qualify as possibly insane, I'm not sure what does, considering I was about eight songs short...and wrote them right then and there.

While the lyrics are not as deeply-soul-searching as last years, I found that I could lighten up my writing, and it was okay to make a few silly ryhmes. Because I was pushing for an end goal, I was able to loosen up a little bit and have some fun. There was an entire song on Goldfish-with just nonsensical ryhmes and a silly tune inside my head, talking about what a nice snack they were. That is definitely me being 'random' at who knows what time of the night.

I made the deadline. (obviously, lol) and I learned a small something. Last year, I did FAWM as a project completely between me and my heavenly Father. This year, I was all set, gung-ho if you will, on doing the same thing and having another 'awesome experience'. I suppose I ought to mention right now, that He had other plans for me and this particular challenge. Last year, I struggled quite a bit with writing anything vaguelyl 'songworthy'. And everytime I hit a block, I was praying so hard to get through it, that I felt each time He literally halted my life, pausing to write lyrics on my heart. It was awesome.

But this year, between a hectic class schedule and other elements of life, I spent more time fretting over what I wasn't getting done and reserved my FAWM enthusiasm for the weekend, during the morning hours when I was fast asleep. I pretended I was listening, I waited, exasperated for the 'brilliance' of last year, but the lesson He meant to teach me came in the back of a car riding home in the rain last night. I did specifically ask him, to "Pull me through this month, regardless". I should know by now, when I ask something like that, His sense of humor shines through and He does exactly that-in His own way.

I was pulled through this month, maybe that's why it seems like such a blur, but when it's half an hour to midnight, you start thinking a lot deeper into a lot of things. He wrote those eight songs I couldn't cram last night, He helped me write in the back of a car where I couldn't see the pages, but I could feel Him right next to me. The words streamed into my head and the moment was, well, beyond amazing. When I reached about eight, I had to stop, because I wasn't sure how much more I could take.

The moment I was home, I typed like crazy to have the songs posted before the deadline. This morning I woke up and the full impact of it, hit me right in the head. Wow. That's pretty much all I can say.

And of course, I'm turning pages again this month. Guess what? It's NaNoEdMo time...National Novel Editing Month. 50 hours of editing in the month of March. Last year was crazy, but I'm not even going to think in that direction. I'd like to think I learned something from this FAWM experience, so we'll see. In the meantime, I'm going to get something to eat. Strawberries, I think...and Kiwi, with whipped topping. (after all, why on earth would I be grocery shopping at midnight, if it wasn't for something as scrumptious as this to eat today?)

Have a great day and enjoy the rest of your weekend!