Good Monday morning!
Well, it’s been an incredible summer for me. A busy one, and at times, a lazy one. Perfect, right?
Except, of course, that I’ve fallen off my regular blogging habits. Now that I’ve returned to work and settled into a routine, I thought I’d better get back on the horse.
First off, I’d like to say happy 15th anniversary to my hubs, and here’s to another healthy and happy 15 and more ahead of us. Love ya!
For something different, I thought I’d share one of my short stories with you, Under the Flowerpot. This originally appeared in the Explorers: Beyond the Horizon anthology published by the Dead Robots Society. Because of its length, I’m going to break it into smaller chunks over the next few posts.
Under the Flowerpot
Home. What a crock.
Her dad’s house had never been a home, only a breeding place for bad memories and loneliness deep enough to drown in. When she left for college, she swore she’d never return. A lawyer made that resolution impossible when he delivered the deed and keys, along with her dad’s death certificate, to her apartment in the city.
“A brain tumor”, the spindly man had said. “You should take comfort in his quick passing.”
She didn’t take comfort in anything. A few months into her first accounting job, she didn’t have the time or emotional room deal with any of it.
Unable to make herself open the door, McKenna plodded down the porch steps and took the stone pathway into the overgrown backyard. Dominating the center of the spruce-lined space sat the source of her family’s torment, the greenhouse where Dad’s obsession had taken root and stolen him away from her when she was only eight.
A Plexiglas door secured with a lock stood between McKenna and a building she’d wondered about for years. Dad had forbidden her to go inside and refused to say what he did in there. What could he have loved more than his own daughter?
Please let there be something here.
Her shaking hand dug into the pocket of her denim capris and withdrew the key ring. After flipping through the clinking mass of metal, she found a small key that slid into the lock. It clicked open with a turn, causing panic to rise like a black tide. What if she found nothing more than a bunch of weeds? She shook off the thoughts. It didn’t matter. McKenna had to see what he’d destroyed his family for.
Swallowing the bile rising in her throat, McKenna grasped the handle. She took in a gulp of air, yanked open the door and struggled to pass through a tangle of flowering vines that acted like a sixties-style beaded curtain. A sweet, floral scent assaulted her nose.
Once inside the humid jungle, she stopped dead. Her heart faltered, stumbling a few beats before it recovered to thump it’s frustration against her ribs. Three levels of shelves stood on either side of the center aisle, all packed full of every color and size of flowerpots overflowing with life. Some had broad, deep green leaves with red spine-like flowers protruding from their centers. Others had lime-toned foliage with no flowers at all, but instead had wavy vines snaking out of one pot and into the next. One sported a fuchsia bloom bigger than McKenna’s head that resembled a cross between a tulip and a rose. At the far end, cactus-like plants rose above Asian-style shallow bowls with deadly-looking spines sprouting from their bulbous surfaces.
“This can’t be it.” McKenna’s voice came out half strangled. “There has to be something else.” The room turned to a blur through the waterfall of grief washing down her cheeks as she ran to a wooden work bench at the far end and swept her arms across the pile of junk on it. Clay pots smashed to the floor, spilling black earth and packets of seeds around her sandaled feet. A roar rushed up her throat as she pulled the garden tools from a silver rack on the wall and tossed them everywhere.
“Why?” Her voice rose into a screech. She collapsed onto the ground, her body shaking with sobs that had been building inside her for years. Before her eighth birthday, Dad had inexplicably moved them out to the country to that God-forsaken place.
In the beginning, he’d only spent time in the greenhouse after McKenna went to bed, but it quickly turned into days, and finally weeks. He’d lost his job as fire chief and Mom left, certain he’d been having an affair. Either that, or he’d gone insane. How he continued to pay the bills, McKenna would never know.
As she gazed around the room, she thought maybe Mom had been right, but instead of a woman, it appeared Dad had been having a fling with a bunch of snap dragons and peonies.
A bitter laugh cut through McKenna’s tears, and the sobs gave way to sporadic hiccups. She sat there for what could have been minutes or hours, she couldn’t tell, but her body hadn’t the will to move just yet.
Whispers drifted to McKenna’s ears, so soft she wondered if she’d really heard them. She held her breath and listened.
“Is someone here?” She pushed up to her feet, brushed the dirt from her pants and peered down the empty corridor. Unease wandered along her spine, leaving prickles in its wake. Maybe it was a bird?
Something tumbled from the highest rack on the right, plunked in the middle of the dirt floor. Her heart tried to escape her throat. “Who’s there?” The waver in her voice ruined the command she’d meant to give. McKenna peered over her shoulder to make sure nobody had crept up behind her, wiped her sweaty palms against her thighs, and took tentative steps toward the item that had fallen—a small black box with a golden lid. Worn edges suggested age much greater than McKenna’s twenty-one years.
Her gaze darted around the space, lingering on the nearest shelves as if a wild dog would materialize from behind a petunia and tear her to pieces. Finding nothing out of the ordinary, she knelt beside the item and traced a finger around its lid.
TO BE CONTINUED…