Monday, September 22, 2014
DUSK FLOWERS: Chapter Two - a novel by GEORGIA RIVERA, 9th grade
Her heart in her throat, Eliza peered over the edge of the bed. The woman was slumped face-down on the carpet, surrounded by a field of chipped glass. Eliza could very well scream again, but rationality finally conquered hysteria. She was going to call the police right now and they would come and then everything would be fine.
She reached for her cell phone, only to grasp at empty space. Oh, right, she'd thrown it.
Gingerly, Eliza stepped out of bed and into a pair of well-worn slippers. She didn't particularly feel like cutting her feet open. Nudging shards aside with her toes, she made her way across the small room towards the shattered window. The cool night air poured inside, sending a chill up Eliza's spine. She bent over in the semi-darkness, hunting with her hands for anything resembling a phone, but to no avail. She turned the light on, but still she couldn't find it. Maybe she'd thrown it out the window by mistake.
A strangled groan came from the prone figure on the carpet. Eliza jumped, the sound almost shocking. What on earth would she do?
Suddenly, she felt a strange compulsion to help the injured stranger, the woman who had just smashed her window and bled all over her brand-new blanket. She could still run and get the neighbors, but something told her that wouldn't be right. This woman was clearly a criminal, but she needed Eliza's help.
But how do I do this? Eliza thought. She paced around the body, careful to avoid the glass. Bending down, she took the nameless woman under the arms and pulled hard. Surprisingly, she was able to lift the woman without much resistance. Moving carefully, like a tight-rope walker, she backed out of her room and down the short hallway to the bathroom. She could hear ragged breathing issuing from the body. Whoever this woman was, she was still alive.
The only place Eliza could think to deposit the body was the bathtub. Struggling to lower the woman without injuring her further, Eliza managed to lay her in the basin. She looked like a corpse at an open-casket funeral, her high-boned cheeks deathly pale, a serene expression on her face. Her hair was very long, and for the most part loose, excepting the bottom, where it was twisted into a braid. Strangely, it was silver, like a freshly minted dime and it shone under the light of the bathroom's florescent bulbs. What kind of hair dye could do that?
She wore shredded black rags. Was she a ninja? Eliza wondered, grabbing her meager first-aid kit from under the sink. While her own mother had enough creams, pills and bandages to run a pharmacy out of the bathroom, Eliza herself only owned a small amount of supplies. She found herself wondering if it would be enough.
Bending low over the tub, Eliza clicked open the plastic latch of the kit. Suddenly, the woman stirred, her eyes flickering open. They were sky-blue and endless, seeming to fill the room. "No police," she begged, "No roommates, no neighbors, no nothing. Just you." Her eyes slid shut again, like Venetian blinds blocking out the sky.
"And who says I'll listen to you?" Eliza muttered weakly. But something about the way the woman spoke held her fast. She probably didn't have a choice now; She'd have to do this on her own.
She didn't have any roommates anyway, which was a good thing. Most other people were so messy. Eliza herself would be the first person to admit she was a neat freak.
The wound in the woman's ribs was deep, but not as bad as Eliza had been expecting. Even cleaned of the black, tar-like substance by a fistful of cotton-balls it was still gruesome to look at. Armed with a gauze pad, she swabbed the wound with whatever weak store-brand antibiotics she possessed and set about bandaging the laceration.
The woman's nails were long and pointed, vaguely resembling claws. Eliza's mind began to truly wander. When, or if, the woman woke up, Eliza wanted answers. She also wanted a fixed window, clean sheets and an empty bathtub, but that clearly wasn't happening.
Once she had finished wrapping the wound, strips of white gauze clumsily pasted underneath the woman's tatters, Eliza decided was was really nothing else she could do. The time on the stove read "6:24". She really couldn't go back to sleep now, even if she was, by some miracle, tired. It was Saturday. She wouldn't have to attend any classes or lectures, and nothing was due until Monday.
Finding herself back in the bathroom, Eliza glanced down at the comatose figure in the tub. She thought hard. What would her mother do?
May Panik had been a single mother. After her boyfriend, a "Wham-Bam Thank You Ma'am" kind of guy had had his fun, he left May to fend for herself with a baby, Eliza, on the way.
Eliza truly thought her mother was the strongest woman in the world. Not only had she raised Eliza by herself, and done a fantastic job, but she'd more than filled the space a second parent should have taken up. When Eliza was young, May seemed like a superhero to the little girl. What would she do in a situation like this?
But the truth was, Eliza was lost. For a start, she thought, this woman certainly can't recover in the bathtub. Pulling herself away from the enigmatic woman, Eliza went back to her bedroom. The moon had set, the first rays of sun beginning to creep over the horizon. Finding her thick, black glasses, Eliza slid them onto her face. Now she could get started properly.
Once she had recovered a spare set of blankets from the depths of her closet, Eliza began to re-make the bed. Folding the cast off sheets, she placed them neatly in a hamper. Even if they're dirty, she thought, it doesn't hurt to be extra tidy.
As soon as her bed was ready, Eliza moved the intruder into it. The woman's clothes were clearly ill-fitting and dirty, but Eliza doubted she had anything in the woman's size. She was at least a few inches taller than Eliza, her bones rising up at odd angles. She had a peaceful look about her as she slept. She has no right to that, Eliza thought grimly, heading for her postage-stamp kitchen.
She was hungry, but surprise, surprise, there was absolutely nothing to eat. Eliza began to feel the panic rising up on her again. I am a college student, she thought, trying to calm herself down. I am 19 and I live in my own home and I should be able to deal with anything life throws at me.
Except when that thing is a person through my window and no eggs or milk or bread or even a cookie for God's sake.
Eliza dressed for the day in leggings and a t-shirt, running a brush through her blonde hair. Presentable, she decided. Taking some money from a jar in her room, Eliza threw a glance at the sleeping figure in her bed. She would be back from the store soon enough, with food and medical products. She checked the time again. Any decent convenience store would be open at 6:37 in the morning.
The elevator ride was long and slow, but soon Eliza was out on the street. For March, it was surprisingly warm. The breeze from the bay filled Eliza's lungs. The city was starting to wake up around her, the air laced with the sounds of urban life; cars, street vendors, people everywhere waking up to meet the world.
Screw New York and Paris and London; Boston was Eliza's favorite city and she wouldn't live anywhere else if you paid her to.
A nearby Handy Pantry had what she was looking for and soon she was headed back to her apartment, the morning sun glimmering on the horizon.