This is half of chapter one. I am breaking it up so there isn't so much to read.
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The prologue to this story has been posted already, you can find it on my profile page. This chapter is rated PG for mild language.
I hope this is formatted properly, I am still having problems getting it formatted right from my word processor to this web form.
PART ONE: THE FIRE INSIDE
The stuff was falling everywhere outside. The mountain roads were well kept, but somehow she didn’t find comfort knowing that she had left the rain swept coast behind her. Ahead lay more snow and mountain roads that were often treacherous at this time of year.
They had only been driving for five hours. The distance to her destination was still at least six more hours. That time would translate into more snow and time would also bring with it darkness. They had left Vancouver late and that meant travelling in the dark for the last leg of their one way trip.
As she sat in the back of the Lincoln Continental, Cathy watched the snow drifts get deeper and the trees become more burdened with the weight put upon them. The smaller trees along the highway during the day drooped like candy canes, bowing in the direction of the highway. By late afternoon, darkness quickly set in and she watched the trees turn to shadows, lit up only the headlights of the car. The lights cast long shadows from the trees, making them appear as if they were people bowing in the direction of the road. She watched as they would group together, as if trying to keep warm. She imagined them to be choirs singing Christmas carols for her.
Every now and then she would turn away from the hypnotic stare of the choir as she remembered taking this trip often when she was younger. She didn’t want to remember those days, but the memories twitched in her mind. The snow choirs brought back memories from when she was eight years old, taking this trip to her grandparent’s house as her mother travelled from acting job to acting job, trying to make a living for them. She wasn’t sure who ‘they’ were, even though her mother would often tell her these things a few times a year. At the time, she believed that ‘they’ meant only her mother and did not include Cathy and her father. Only after her mother’s death last spring, she came to understand that she was trying to make a life for Cathy, and strangely that precluded her father.
The attempt to make that life happen failed more often than not until Cathy became a teenager. Then her mother started to get better jobs and get noticed. The life that her mother wanted for Cathy never really came true, as Cathy’s life ended up following her mother around as they travelled from one coast of Canada to the other. Her father would end up wherever he had work, often in Montreal where she had been born, but never really lived.
Her father was out there somewhere, in Montreal doing his ‘thing’. Last she heard it was paperwork in some level of government. He had come to see Cathy after her mother’s death and stayed with her through her physiotherapy and her counselling sessions. He paid for her prostheses, even though the insurance would have covered it anyway.
She blamed him after that when her first prosthesis didn’t fit properly and caused her pain in her knee and what was left of her leg. She would often over exert her muscles on her right leg at the beginning and often refused to follow her therapist’s exercises. Even now, she would rather try to pretend nothing had ever happened and even now, she would find herself every month laying on the floor in pain because she had fallen and twisted something else.
When she shook herself from the dragging claws of past events, she found that they were coming down the hill of the last mountain pass. The driver was taking it slowly. She knew he was taking it too slow, because they had been on the road for ten hours now and her watch had the time drooping past midnight.
“Carl?” she whispered softly, which surprised her. She wanted to sound angry but she realized she was also very tired.
“Yes, Ms. Maedel?” He replied, briefly turning to make eye contact with her, but then quickly turning his attention back to the road.
“We need to go a bit faster Carl. I don’t want my grandparents waiting up this late for me,” she said, keeping her eyes fixed on the trees that were still on the side of the road, singing softly to her.
“It’s okay Ms. Maedel. I phoned them when we went through Rock Creek that we were running late and that we would be arriving around 1:30 in the morning.”
She thanked him for his consideration, although she again tried to sound a bit angry, but it didn’t come out right.
As the car came down through the mountain pass, the landmarks became more and more recognizable. The lights in the distance became brighter and began to take shape in the night. As they cleared the last corner, she could see the town spread out in the valley like a long strip mall. The large shape of it rapidly dissipated as they became level with the town.
“Four thousand inhabitants, all freezing in the fucking cold”, she thought to herself as they passed by some familiar landmarks.
The town had changed since she had last come to visit five years earlier. A large new hotel greeted them as they drove down the town’s main road. Some stores were replaced by chain stores that she recognized from the city. The town was still a small town and they quickly left the downtown area as quickly as they had arrived.
Her grandparent’s house was outside the edge of town, on a barren stretch of road that would be farmland in the summer. Now, the land was dark with only occasional houses to light the way. She remembered walking down that road many a summer at night, afraid of the dark. Often she would find herself continuing on past her grandmother’s house to see if ....
The house came into view. The image, even at night, was immediately recognizable. The two story white painted house sat only twenty feet back from the road. The side of the house faced the road, but a one floor addition had been built on he left side of the house, giving it the appearance of facing the right direction, but she knew the original entrance had been on the right side of the house. That entrance now led to a side porch where her grandparents would sit in the summer, watching her run around the yard.... when she was younger.
She didn’t see herself running around in the yard this trip.
The light was on in the kitchen, but the rest of the house was dark. She imagined her grandparents were still asleep. She was angry at the driver that it had taken so long to get here, even though she was the one who took four hours in the morning to decide that she indeed had packed everything she would need.
Carl parked the car along the side of the road. The house never did have a proper driveway and her grandfather hated when people would pull up on the lawn to park.
A light on the front porch came on and the door opened.
As Cathy got out of the car, she found that she was more tired than she realized and stumbled as she misplaced her weight on her left foot and fell face first into the snow.
“Cathy!” her grandmother shouted from the porch, taking a step forward, but stopping short of venturing into the snow.
“It’s okay, I have her,” Carl said, running around to her side and helping her up. She shook off the snow and waved a hand at him to move away. Reaching back into the car, she pulled out the one suitcase she ended up bringing and closed the door.
She handed Carl her suitcase and let him follow her as she walked up to the front porch to greet her grandmother.
“Hi grandma,” she said as she reached the porch and gave her grandmother a light hug.
“Cathy, how are you? How was the trip? Are you okay? I did not think you would be so anxious to dive into the snow so quickly.”
She knew that after so many years spending time here that her grandmother was being serious and not joking. She wondered if maybe her father had the right idea by going away.
“Carl, I have the guest room set up for you,” she said to the driver as he approached. “You can put Cathy’s suitcase in her room. Cathy, come in, it’s late.”
She entered the house. The door closed behind her. Carl went away and without another word, her grandmother shut off the porch light, kissed Cathy on the cheek, then went off to bed, leaving her alone in the hallway.
Nothing had changed that much. This was her grandmother’s house as always. Her grandfather at least knew enough to sleep through the fake sincerity hallmark greeting and goodnight. She went into the main part of the house and went up the stairs to the second floor where her room was waiting for her.
Cathy undressed, tossed her prosthesis into the corner, and fell asleep before she had time to realize that unlike all the other trips, she had nowhere to go after this.
She dreamed horrible things that night and, even though she screamed in her sleep, nobody came to check on her.
I'll say it loud here by your grave / those angels can't
ever take my place
somewhere where the the orchids grow / I can't find those church bells
that played when you died - 'Playboy Mommy', Tori Amos