Chapter: 23 of 43
Other Info: Sequel to Walls
Warnings: Drug-usage, cursing, violence etc
Excerpt: An observer would have perhaps been frightened at the intensity the girl, cross legged on the floor, was displaying. Eyes boring into her work, now flashing humor, now filling with tears, as memory and emotion flowed from her soul onto the canvas, face reflecting a million conflictions. Blond whisps escaped the headband, intended to keep them out of her eyes, going unnoticed in her concentration. She’d long since thrown down her brushes, working this one with her hands, and her cheeks, nose and forehead were smeared with paint.
Amanda stared at the canvas in front of her.
The idea had come to her this morning, in the kitchen, at the coffeepot, no less. Pouring water into the back of the machine, she’d flashed back to filling a basin with warm water, to repair a broken boy on her couch. Smiling, pausing in her task, she reflected on how very much on her mind he’d been, since his departure. This boy had touched her in ways she hadn’t thought possible.
She’d finished making her coffee, and sat down at her table, mug in hand, thoughts drifting with the steam. So many ghosts he’d stirred up, so many demons she’d thought exorcised. It had been years since she’d thought about it all, and she hadn’t let her mind anywhere near Michael since his death. It wasn’t a bad thing, she now thought, to be made to look at those things.
The nightmare, and her attack on poor Taylor, had shown her that there were still battles being fought, issues she needed to deal with. Pushing them down, obviously, given the evidence of a boy’s fright, and a stitched up hand, hadn’t worked at all. She’d called CC to talk to Taylor, maybe she should get together with him for herself. God knew it had been ages since they’d really spent any time together. CC was good for her, he always had been, even if being around him was like being hit by a freight train. Maybe, she’d thought with a laugh, he could even tell her how to get Taylor the hell off her mind. He’d been in there so much, her mind flashing on everything that had happened, from the time he’d careened onto her front lawn, to the time he’d walked, subdued yet somehow almost serene, out her front door.
Sighing, and getting up to refill her mug, she’d reflected on what appeared to be a growing obsession. She just couldn’t get the child out of her head. She’d laughed at her next thought, that if she didn’t find some way to express all of the emotions he’d generated, she was likely to become a ravening Hanson fan.
Heading back to her chair, feeling a bit guilty that she was doing nothing but woolgather, her eyes lit on her paintbox. Brows knit, an idea forming in the back of her mind, she stared at it.
“Uh oh” she thought. “Inspiration is about to hit.” She knew the feeling. Her stubborn muse would never let her see an idea all at once, it would come to her as she painted. The urge to paint now replacing everything else, she plunked the mug ungraciously down on the table, and headed down the hall. God forbid she should have to go buy a canvas, she was sure she had one left, and by God, she’d better.
Laughing at herself, the mental comment “You’re so obsessive” flashing through her mind, she triumphantly hauled out a last blank screen. Now, as she sat staring at it, the seed of idea that had taken root began to grow.
“Okay.” This time she spoke out loud. Talking to herself was a habit she had no intention of breaking. “Here we go.”
An observer would have perhaps been frightened at the intensity the girl, cross legged on the floor, was displaying. Eyes boring into her work, now flashing humor, now filling with tears, as memory and emotion flowed from her soul onto the canvas, face reflecting a million conflictions. Blond whisps escaped the headband, intended to keep them out of her eyes, going unnoticed in her concentration. She’d long since thrown down her brushes, working this one with her hands, and her cheeks, nose and forehead were smeared with paint. Music pulsed around her, its energy somehow her own, her thoughts flying onto the canvas with the flow of the music. Her hands took on a life of their own, as her heart directed.
A million thoughts, all fighting for expression, she saw them in front of her. A car, careening wildly down the road, and a frightened, violent child struggling for escape. A burden, best left to someone else, a problem, a source of anger, her fist connecting with a face already bruised from a mother’s hands. A dark room, moonlight the only illumination, and a boy’s face as he listened to another’s story… Flashes of blond hair in headlights, catlike eyes filled with grief and anger. Winces of pain, and memories of suppleness, a boy climbing over the back of the couch, grinning. A glimpse of the boy who cared enough to take a chance on a girl with a knife, rather than run out the door. The boy who pushed his brother out so a stranger wouldn’t be frightened. She saw him broken and bleeding and crying, tearing at the windows trying to get out. Then laughing, holding his hand out, threatening to sit on her if she moved.
All these moments she saw and brought them out on the canvas. Time ceased to exist, and the girl let her soul speak.
Hours later, Amanda sat back, leaning on her palms, eyeing her work. The incredible rush of emotion had faded, everything transferred onto the canvas in front of her. Her eyes roaved the unfinished painting.
She could slow down now, she could make it into what she wanted. No rushing, now. She leaned back into her work, eyes calm now, quiet.
She smiled as her finger shaded his cheek bone. It was as if she were not touching the canvas but comforting him again. There were no bruises on this face. Her apology for having hit him. His face, without bruise or mark. Her eyes roamed the canvas again. She could see him in there, everything he’d shown her, from the first time she saw him on the lawn, to the last images of him with Isaac in the car. He looked so sad, yet at peace somehow. Had that haunted serenity been imagined? She didn’t think so. She’d shown him as much as he’d shown her. Her fingers worked slowly, effortlessly, shading, defining, and she saw the look she was trying to capture. Had it really been there? The look of someone who’s suddenly stepped away from the brink, who’s seen the drop in front of them just in time.
She thought it had. She loved the look, she’d never seen it in Michael, but she’d seen it in Taylor. The look of calm in eyes that had been filled with desperation. No longer scared or broken, a world that had been crashing down, suddenly diverted. She’d seen it only briefly, but she loved it.
She paused at his hand and gave it a slight scrape of her thumb to lighten it. She wondered how his hand was, if it still hurt. She wondered if she’d ever see him again, this boy who’d somehow fastened himself to her heart. Would he make it? Sitting back, gazing at the painting, close to complete, in front of her, her spirit suddenly felt light. Her voice, now the only sound in the room, rang with faith. “He’ll make it.”
Well. He was gone, and Diana felt guilty pleasure. God knew, she loved him, and while he’d been missing, the grief in her had been overwhelming. But now, knowing he was safe, the respite was welcome. He brought a tension into the house. Sighing, sipping her coffee, she listened to the silence. The kids, for once, seemed to know to leave her to her reflections.
CC’d had so much to say to them, so many suggestions… He’d been heaven sent, he had to have been. Just his ability to get Taylor to respond was amazing. If she’d been the only one, this morning, telling the boy to get up and go, she’d have argued herself blue, and chances are he’d still be lying on the floor in three day old clothes. For whatever reason, he responded to CC.
“Maybe,” she thought smiling, “it’s self defense. CC certainly is overpowering. He probably feels he has to do what he says, or just be mowed over.” Thinking back to the night CC had spent with them, her brow furrowed. There was still something bothering her. Her mind drifted back.
CC and Taylor, alone finally, in the kitchen, their voices filtering, muffled and faint, into the living room. Hearing Taylor’s tone pick up in intensity, and feeling not the least bit guilty, Diana had quietly moved to the doorway, listening. What had followed was an exercise if frustration.
“Yeah, but CC, she’s not okay! That’s not okay, that stuff happening.”
“Taylor, she is. It’s not something new for her. She’s fine. She still feels bad about it though, she wants to talk to your mom.”
“I know, but she doesn’t have to.”
“Right. She had no idea she was doing it. No harms done. There’s no reason…”
Just as she felt on the verge of understanding what they were talking about, Isaac spoke from behind her. “What are you doing?”
Diana had jumped, yelped, then frantically listened to make sure she hadn’t been heard. She smiled as she remembered scrambling to come up with an excuse as to why she was standing in the hallway outside of the kitchen, ear pressed to the door. Isaac didn’t even wait for an excuse, he knew he caught her and that was it. Waving away her excuses with a grin, he’d shoved her back into the living room.
“Damn him, when did he get so smart?” she thought. It had amused him terribly, and she’d gone back to sit on the couch, feeling more than a little sheepish, and extremely frustrated.
Now, that frustration returned. Something had happened between her son, and that girl. She didn’t know what, but something, and it bothered her. She’d seen that the girl had been crying, that day in the house. CC had refused to let her into he kitchen, where Taylor, the girl, Amanda, and another boy had been, and Taylor had bodily thrown Isaac from the room, but she’d caught a glimpse of blond hair, and tears. Something had been going on. She’d seen blood on the floor, and on the kitchen doorjamb, and Taylor’s voice had had a hysterical note she hadn’t much cared for. Still, just hearing his voice had been the biggest relief of her life. Yes, he’d been yelling, but he was alive. A very short time later he’d been in the van with her, on his way home, and she’d been given several suggestions and promises. Things were okay, or as okay as could be expected, but still, that nagging suspicion that something important had happened, something that was being hidden from her, still lingered.
Sighing, feeling a bit disgruntled, and thinking it was much too quiet, suddenly, she got up to check on her brood. This much silence was never to be trusted.
She knew Isaac was napping, he’d complained of a headache earlier, and was sleeping off the painkiller he’d taken. The rest, though, could only be up to no good.
As she started up the stairs, she was rewarded with a loud crash…
Nodding, “I knew it was too good to last.” she headed for the source…
Isaac too had heard the crash… In fact, he was the crash… He had tried getting out of bed while still a little groggy, not noticing his foot, tangled in the bed-sheet… The tumble from his bunk, to the floor, had been a long one, and for a second he thought he’d gone right through the floor.
He was laughing hysterically, hopping on one foot trying to disentangle himself, when Diana finally made it up the stairs. She was about to turn the corner into the boys’ room when Mackenzie popped his head out of his room.
“It wasn’t me. I didn’t do it.”
Nodding, seeing her eldest son in the predicament he was in, she laughed. “I see that, Mackie.” She turned into Isaac’s room, making a fortuitous grab, just as he finally lost his battle with the sheet, saving him from a nasty collision with the bottom of the top bunk. “Isaac, for heaven sake.” She was smiling. “How do you manage these things? You didn’t hurt yourself did you?” He was nearly laughing too hard to answer her. Holding her shoulder while he untied his feet, he managed to gasp out, “No, no, I’m fine. Humiliated, but fine.”
He grinned at her now, finally managing to stand upright. “I think the bed won, though.”
Diana was happy to hear him laughing. A few days ago, he would have been cursing and yelling about this.
Mackenzie’s voice suddenly piped up from the doorway. “Told you it wasn’t me.”
She turned to speak to him, and found herself face to face with Isaac’s shoulder.
“You know,” she remarked, standing on tiptoe in a futile attempt to see past him. “It would be easier to yell at him if you weren’t so damn tall.”
Snickering, he stepped aside, just in time to see Mackie run, giggling, back down the hall. “Ah, well, sorry mom, he got away.”
He headed past her, down the stairs, and she trailed him, feeling good. There was hope in her today, that things would finally work out.
There was laughter in the house again, and it was good.