The bedroom door is ajar allowing the glow of the morning sun to spill out into our darkened room. Weary but serene, I blink at the amber rays. We are not alone in bed.
At some point in the night, the tuxedo cat with a cacophonous cry and a tiny purr cuddles in between our pillows. His tail tickles my husband’s nose as his whiskers tickle mine. He remains there in various positions through the night and into the morning. While an early visit to the bathroom sees the calico join the three of us. Her loud purrs make my chest and hand vibrate with a tempo of their making. It grows in volume, until I’m sound asleep.
An hour before the aforementioned dawn, two giant dogs inch their way into the bed. Avoiding the cats, they slot themselves into the middle. Their paws and heads touching us both. One curls up into our legs, the other threatens to push us out of the bed completely as he sprawls out. Somehow, we sleep in this controlled chaos.
As I contemplate rising, I can’t help but smile. My little family shares this moment of serenity more frequently than not. It’s crowded in the queen-sized bed, with twenty feet, four tails, and six heads, but it’s ours. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We shared a room, my brother and me,
For but two of our adult years.
At first, we saw no shame, you see?
Fights were few – a truly strong bond nears!
As time drew on, none could foresee
A closed door & Mother’s absurd fears.
We shared a room, my brother and me,
For but two of our adult years.
Mom cries about how it looks, a plea –
An accusation of incest – oh, the tears!
With slapped skin, slammed doors, and sneers,
There can be no forgiveness – oh, tragedy.
For but two of our adult years,
We shared a room, my brother and me.
(Not even sure why, but I felt inclined to write a poem this week – a nonfiction one at that. I hope the hints aren’t too subtle. I was trying a Rondel. Also, full disclaimer: I realize I kinda suck at poetry, hence the concrit badge. 😉 )
Rachael stood behind the small sales cabinet; sweat beads trickled down from her brow. No customers again!
Her hands were hooked in her belt, as though she could prevent them wanting to roam.
Do something, silly!
Rachael grabbed a pair of pruning sheers. Rows of flowers needed daily care in the shop. For a week, though, business had been slow, and as Friday crept closer, she had neglected her little beauties more with each passing day.
The mundane task did little to settle her growing anxiety. Vic had insisted, “Friday, or else.”
* * * * *
Rachael turned the car down her street and saw a Buick parked in front of her house. A tightness covered her throat. Lilli should be home by now!
The lawn chair beside her screen door was occupied. Rachael let out a strangled yelp. Lilli was sitting on Vic’s leg. His smile was warm, but his eyes were focused. He didn’t need to say a thing; she knew the question, “Where’s my money?”
“Mommy!” Lilli said as Rachael stepped out of the car. “Lookie! Uncle Vic’s here! I told him all about my birthday last week.”
“Sounded expensive,” he said with a whistle.
Rachael gave a forced smile. “Hi, Vic.”
He put two hands on Lilli’s shoulders. “I saw Lilli here when she was gettin’ out of school and thought I’d give ‘er ride home instead of ‘er catchin’ tha smelly bus.”
He pinched his nose and made a duck face.
“Eww!” Lilli said. She gave an innocent giggle. “Mommy, can I watch a movie?”
“Yes, dear. I’ll get it for ya.”
Lilli jumped off his lap. Rachael passed Vic. His hand reached out and grabbed her arm. “I’ll join ya.”
His grip tightened; Rachael flinched and opened the front door.
“Here you go, baby,” Rachael said in a shrill voice once she had turned on the TV.
“Why do you sound so funny?”
“No reason, baby. Sit close to the TV, m’kay? Uncle Vic and Mommy hafta talk.”
* * * * *
Rachael walked back to the bench and unlocked the sales cabinet. Without looking, she reached into the top shelf, hand grazing filled plastic bags, and clutched an envelope labelled “TIPS.” Rachael counted, 100, 120…280. I just need $20.
Rachael placed it back inside just in time to hear the entrance bell ding.
A man in his twenties stood there, eyes wide with terror. With a sigh, Rachael dusted her apron. She knew that look. It was the same when a man walked into a lingerie store. Too many options, too many chances to mess up, it was all a little overwhelming for some. Rachael prepared herself. “Good afterno-on,” she said, voice cracking. Ugh. Great start, Rach.
“Hi,” he said, with a smile. “I hadda fight with my lady. What flower says I’m sorry but also says I want sex and cake.”
A pinkness rose in his cheeks, and Rachael smiled with triumph. Cake. Oh, thank goodness!
After some discussion, she put six long-stem roses into a box.
Rachael opened her cabinet and pulled out a bag filled with a green herb and placed it into the box under the wrapping. She smiled at the young man, and he winked back at her.
“That’s $150,” she announced.
He hesitated. “More than I expected.”
“I gave you the extra nice roses,” she admitted.
With a raised brow, the young man thought for a moment. “Better be good.”
“Guaranteed to knock her socks off,” she said.
He paid and left. With a wide smile, Rachael placed a fifty in the envelope and put the lot in her purse with a chuckle. Charged extra all week for the same product, and they all fell for it!
She grabbed one of the lilies off the shelf to take home and decided to close up shop for the day. Vic would receive this week’s and last weeks’ earnings within the hour.
We square? Good. I’m ready to stop dealing, Vic. How do I get out? Her internal monologue continued. She wouldn’t see the shadow outside at the edge of the storefront.
“Lying cunt!” she heard as a flowerpot collided with her temple.
Rachael crashed onto the pavement. Blood trickled into her eyes. Delirious, she stared at the lilies. Tiny bubbles of crimson freckled the pristine white flower until they were soaked up, turning into misshapen circles. She wanted to apologize but had no idea why, so instead, she closed her eyes and let the darkness take her.
Obsidian goblins – faces tortured and motionless – watched our trek. As a young one, I swore I heard their chatter in the catacombs. Their ghosts would give me night terrors until my father took me to the Ritual of Spirits.
The sound of water trickled from the stalactites above us. The sulfuric scent in the cavern was masked only by the amber crystal I carried in my hand.
I stopped at a fork in the cave and turned to the young ones behind me. For our yearly pilgrimage, we all would take the path to the right, warning: “never take the left.” Every few years, one would dare it and not return. It was a lesson that none forget.
I smiled and turned toward the left corridor. Their faces bespoke no fear, but their posture became rigid. My mate nodded to me at the end of the group and ushered the young ones towards me.
“Trista ugar nabulosum. Trista ugar nabulosum,” my mate and I chanted.
Our crystals lit up showering light upon the spirits surrounding our party. We had entered their land. Without the chant, without the amber, we would be lost here.
A shriek echoed through the cave, and the spirits shrank away. The eyes of the young ones widened.
“Tavykha,” I heard my name called. I looked back upon Tav’i, but she shook her head.
I followed the path as I always had until we reached the throne room. Here the spirits did not enter. With the young ones inside, Tav’i closed the door and we circled the perimeter – our chants lighting the chamber. The group gasped at the remnants of the Troll Dynasty before them. Beast-skulls lined the walls; our sigil hung over the throne. In the centre of the circular room was a raised platform bearing a large fountain.
The door to the chamber rattled. I heard my name, but it was best I ignored it. Spirits were not allowed to speak with the living.
I ushered the young to sit down in front of the fountain and placed my hand inside it. I drank from my cupped hand.
“Long ago our troll ancestors lived in this cave,” I began.
“One Winter, the Obsidian Basilisk could see our people dying and invited us into the cave to live until summer returned,” Tav’i said.
“The basilisk protected us from our enemies, the goblins, and turned any that entered into obsidian. The troll dynasty built this throne room for our Troll-king. But after a whole winter in here, the Troll-king started to show signs of madness. The basilisk realized that we could not see what she could see and fed one of us her milk.”
“That’s when the first Spirit Warrior was born. He saw what the basilisk saw.”
“The cave was touching the underworld,” I said. “And the spirits were maddening the king. The basilisk and the first spirit warrior made a pact. The Spirit Warrior would protect all peoples from the spirits, and the basilisk would stop any spirits from speaking to the living. If ever they did, she would turn their spirit to obsidian.”
“And thus we have remained protected since. The amber and the chant stop us from losing our way during the ritual.”
The door rattled once more. Voices echoed within.
“Tavykha!” I heard.
“The basilisk is dead!” another cried.
Suddenly the door swung open.
Jumping over the fountain and the young ones, I swung my weapon at the spirits pouring in with Tav’i at my side. We swung at foe after foe, but spirits kept coming in. Unable to stop the onslaught, I watched in horror as our group met the spirits’ touches. Defenceless, their souls were snatched from their bodies.
“Run!” I cried as I pushed through the door, grabbing Tav’i’s hand. We had to warn the others. Tav’i and I hacked our way through the mob, but still they pulled on our souls.
Tav’i shrieked, her hand going limp. I dared not look back, but I knew the truth. My mate was gone.
I kept running towards the obsidian goblin entrance. If I could reach it, I could protect my clan.
The amber crystal glowed bright as I reached the goblins. The spirits grabbed hold of me.
I slammed the amber crystal into a stalagmite. The igneous stone exploded. Stalagtites crashed down, trapping us inside. As my soul was pulled from my body, I smiled. The crystal’s magic had worked. The spirits could not escape here today.