Dispatch 039

Free write for book idea

I was four. My neighbor Stella was taking care of me. She was my mother's age, but looked older. She had either scars or deep wrinkles in her forehead and her eyes were slight, like they were never really open. Her long black hair seemed to swallow the light around it. Stella's house was too big and strangely empty. There were two bedrooms in the upstairs with absolutely no furniture in them. It seemed like she was haunting her house rather than living in it. She had a 5-year-old son, Jasper, who was the closest thing I had to a best friend. He was not like his mom at all. I theorized when I was 8 that she had stolen him from a nice suburban couple. He had blonde hair that caught the sun on clear days, and became brilliantly golden. His grey-blue eyes were kind and wide set. 

Jasper and I played together a lot because our backyards shared a fence and and my mom had cut a door in it so we could go back and forth. We mostly played pretend pirates, because my mom had also built a play ship in the corner of the backyard under the ancient oak tree. It was painted red and had a tattered cross and bones flag that was discolored from the year of being outside. The ship filled with oak leaves in the fall, which was an added bonus for our make believe. 

Sometimes my mom had important things to do at the University, and if my father had to go with her, I would stay at Stella's, even sleeping over until the next morning. I was used to playing in the big, empty, echoing rooms.

Jasper and I spent hours that afternoon sliding around the dark wooden floors of their house. When we wore socks, the wood became slick like glass, seemingly frictionless. We could forget the usual pull gravity had as the earth spun around its axes and instead pretend we were weightless bodies dancing over the hard surface of the floor. Sliding through the main room, I leaned back as I careened into a wall. Jasper slide down the hallway and ended in a somersault, his young bones bending and giving way as he slammed to a stop. We lay on the floor laughing until we couldn't breath, bursts of air uncontrollably releasing with barely audible giggles. Joy was the only familiar emotion to me as a 4-year-old. There was either the presence of joy or the absence of joy. I remember extended family members asking my parents why I never cried or got angry.

We were too exhausted to continue - plus we'd already made 10 laps around the house and the novelty had worn thin. We decided to color instead. I stood up and walked over to Jasper to help him up. I put out my stubby hand and Jasper grabbed on to pull himself up.

"Awwhhhh!" I screamed. I fell backwards, landing on my butt.

A sharp sting had come from his hand, like an electronic shock, shooting through my fingers, up my arm, and into the back of my neck. For the first time I can remember, I felt fear. Not because of the pain I had felt, but because of something I saw when Jasper touched me. I pushed myself back into the wall so I could sit against it. I took big labored breaths until my chest started to move a little slower. Looking down at my hand, a dark purple line followed the veins into my arm. My mouth was dry and I couldn't say anything.

"Are you okay?"

I felt the cool sensation of something dripping down onto my lip and put my hand up to my nose. When I looked down at my hand, I saw deep red blood staining my fingertips.

"Anam, are you okay? You're bleeding." Jasper got close so he could look at my nose. I scooted myself farther away from him. "Mom! Come here!" he yelled.

Stella came rushing through the hallway, her long black hair catching the wind of her steps. She saw me immediately and crouched down next to me.

"Anam, what happened? Are you okay?" She got really close to my face, looking at the blood dripping down my nose. I dropped my head between my legs so she couldn't see me and grabbed my knees tight. "Jasper, what happened? Did she run into the wall?"

"I... I don't know what happened. She was just helping me up - and..." Jasper trailed off, mumbling something inaudible. Stella turned back to me.

"Let me take a look at your face, honey." She tried pulling my hands back from my knees.

"Don't touch me!" I pushed her hands away. "I want my dad." I could not move from the spot on the wood floor against the wall. There was blood all over my hands now - bright and fresh - but I think my nose had stopped producing more. I felt achy. I felt achy and scared and also courageous because I had to make it through the next 45 minutes until my parents arrived.

Stella gave up and called my dad, who didn't answer, but called her back a few minutes later.

"Your parents are on their way, Anam. Will you let me clean this blood from your face and hands?" I was sitting in a wooden chair near the front door, waiting, with my feet up on the chair and my knees held close. I didn't say anything. I rested my chin on my knees. She got down to eye-level and asked me again, but I just averted my eyes down to the floor. She walked back into the kitchen. I could hear her asking Jasper questions, but he just blubbered about me trying to pick