Friday, April 7, 2017

The Alchemist's Widow: A Winding Road & For the Love of Family

<<Part Four
Parts Five & Six

A Winding Road
The ground outside the Locksmith’s crooked house squished under my feet. The road was waiting for me. If David was running from someone at home, I’d need access to both it and the Nowhere. If there was anyone who had a vendetta against him, there was one person who’d know.
I stepped onto the road and pulled the chalk from my pocket.
“You have it in your mind’s eye?”
“Yes, Variel.”
I closed my eyes for a moment, imagining the door I’d need. The chalk felt warm in my hand, whispering softly. I nodded, and opened my eyes. “Okay.” I kneeled and drew the first line across the road. The second line dug into the air and held tight, the third and then the fourth. A rectangle hanging in the air. There was a subtle shimmer in the air inside the rectangle and after a moment, a door asserted its presence.
“Well done.”
“Thanks.” I took the key from my neck and unlocked the door. “How long have I been gone do you think?”
“With luck, an hour or so. Or a week. Usually time runs the same. Sometimes…time doesn’t. Nowhere isn’t very picky.”
“Lovely.” I pulled open the door; the lights in the lab were still on. “Can you come with me?” I looked down at her.
She shook her head. “I’ll wait for you here. Just…be careful. David’s family isn’t everything it seems.”
I bent down to rub her ears, and before I could get depressed about not having her this way in the real world, I left through the door. It closed behind me. I couldn’t tell how long I’d been down here.
I was hoping it had only been a few hours. Otherwise, my family had probably started the search for my corpse. Or something.
I did a quick look over myself to ensure I was back to myself and tied the key back around my neck. The room didn’t want me to leave, but I had to. I had to go through the door and back up the stairs. Had to go out the door at the stop of the stairs and hear it lock shut behind me.
The street lamps were on and proclaiming their importance loudly. I rolled my eyes and inquired the time, which they did not know. They knew it was no longer light and that they were no longer dark. The nearest clock loudly advised me that the time was past seven. As to the date, it had no notion.
I needed a cab. And the cab was easy enough to call via the payphone on the corner. I couldn’t go home. There was the chance my family could still be there. There was a chance I was on a milk carton. So I asked the cabbie to take me to an address I’d half-sworn I’d never again go.
And when he pulled up to that house, and I paid him with the last cash I had on me, I had to stand in front of those smug wrought-iron gates and let the cab drive away. There was a light on in the window of the parlor in the lower floor. The parlor David had announced our engagement in. The parlor he and his father had fought about our engagement in.
The parlor David punched his father in the nose in. For insulting me.
I’d last seen his family at his funeral. The funeral that buried a body that wasn’t my husband’s. They hadn’t cried. And it made me wonder if they knew. Made me think they probably did. Made me want to cry and scream. Made me want to punch David’s dad in the nose.
I buzzed the gate. There was a buzz and then an irritated voice emerged with a crackle, “Who is it?”
I pressed the button. “It’s Catherine, I need to talk to Mr. Crowley.”
“Mr. Crowley is busy right—”
“I don’t give a damn what Mr. Crowley is doing right now. Let me in, or I’ll let myself in.”
The gate creaked nervously and for the first time in my life, I felt the taste of the danger of my power.
The gate buzzed more loudly and swung open. I walked down the drive alone for the first time in my life. I met the doorman alone. I walked into that parlor alone. And I faced Mr. Francis Crowley, alone. The furniture was no help at all.
“This is an unseemly hour for visits, Catherine,” he snapped. He looked like David would if he was physically twenty years older, but his face was lined with an edge of cruelty David’s face never had.
“Where is my husband?” I stared him in the eye, full aware that he did not like it when I did so.
“In the ground, in a very expensive coffin.”
“If I wanted someone to lie to me, I would talk to my mirror. I’ll ask you again, where is my husband? Was he running from you when he left me?”
Mr. Crowley took a menacing step towards me, but I would not back down.
“Catherine, it’s obvious that you are unstable. You know David is dead. Do I need to call the police?”
“I was in a place today that doesn’t exist. I got there, with a key, wrapped in box, from a man I thought was dead.” I shook my head. “My husband is not dead. He’s just gone. I want him back.”
His eyes had widened slightly, perhaps noting the key hanging around my neck. “You’re confused.”
“I’ve never been less.” I straightened my shoulders. “You will tell me where David is, or you will never know peace from me. I know what it is that I am capable of, and I believe you know what I mean. So do not assume that I am unbalanced. Do not assume you can convince me that you are not a liar. Tell me where David is, now.”
There was a touch of fear in his eyes. The books were snickering. “The Locksmith told you, did he?”
“I spoke to quite a few sources actually. But it was the lab that told me, not the Locksmith.”
“You will never find him.” His voice dripped malice. “Never. You don’t deserve him. You are nothing. A waste of talent. You were weighing him down, and now he is free of you, leave it at that.”
The sconces whispered soothing words to me. The chairs whispered, lies, lies.
“Your lies are chains. They will bear you down. I will find David, because he wants me to find him. Because he loves me. And he never would have left without a good reason. Now tell me where my husband is.” The tears I was trying to hold at bay cracked in my voice and heated my cheeks.
Mr. Crowley crossed the room, anger whipping off of him. The room shouted a warning, but I wasn’t fast enough to avoid the hand he threw. I’d never been hit before, so when I smashed into the floor, it was shock and not pain that surged through my system. I could taste blood on my lips.
“I’m calling the police, Catherine.” He knelt down next to me. “Believe me, you will never see David again. Never.”
I wanted to hit him. The objects agreed. The little girl cringing inside was afraid he would hurt us again. I balled up a fist and punched him in the nose.  

Trigger Warning: Mention of miscarriage. 

For the Love of Family

“Miss? Miss?”
“My name is not Miss.” I shoved away the hand shaking me. “I’m a married woman you know.” All right, technically, in the eyes of the law, I was a widow. At the moment, I didn’t really care. At the moment, I wasn’t really sure where I was. “Where am I?”
I blinked open my eyes. The walls were beige. The walls were beige and they spoke of important things and important people. Of weighty topics. Life and death.
“You’re in a hospital, Miss.”
The person that called me Miss was a young man. Younger than myself I thought and more awkward than I’d ever been. He wore a uniform. I believe I’d once been informed they were called scrubs. His were green and at his pocket a nametag bit down with tiny metal teeth. The tag liked the pocket very much.
“Why am I in a hospital?”
“Mr. Crowley brought you here Miss. He said you weren’t feeling well.” There was an undertone to his words.
They think you’re crazy. The bed whispered to me.
Fantastic. Fantastic with sugar and marshmallows on top. I refrained from rolling my eyes. “If you wouldn’t mind terribly, I’m leaving now.”
I sat up; pushing way the white sheets and thin blanket I’d been covered with. And realized my clothes had been replaced by an embarrassingly thin hospital gown. There were ducks printed on it. “Where are my clothes?” This was only of secondary importance, because the key was gone. “Where are the things I came in with?”
“Miss, the doctor hasn’t finished examining you, you can’t leave just yet.”
“Give me my things, right now.” I stood up, fully aware that I was in no shape to take the man down. For one thing, I was wearing a duck gown.
“Catherine.” The voice came from behind me. Clutching the back of the gown tighter, I turned round. My mother. “Dear, get back in bed.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me.”
“I didn’t say there was.”
“I don’t need to be here.”
“David’s father called us, Catherine.” Us being the rest of the family I was sure was waiting outside the room. “We were so worried; you’d been gone for three days. Then you show up at the manor ranting about David still being alive…it doesn’t look good.”
Three days? Great.
“I’m not crazy, Mother. David is alive.” I swallowed my fear. It tasted foul, bitter. “He sent me the key! Hanover Street, remember? It was his lab. I found…he’s not dead.” I could hardly tell her I’d stepped through a door that went to a place that didn’t really exist and then left through a door I made appear with a stick of chalk.
“Catherine…” My mother shook her head. “You need help.”
“I am not, crazy.”
“Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”
“Harder? Harder? I lost my husband, I lost him and then I find out he’s not dead. He’s gone. He’s running away from something and I can’t help him if I’m in here! Why does everyone want me to move on? Why should I? He is my match.”
“No.” I shook my head. “You…you never asked after he died.”
“Asked what?”
“You never asked what our news was. Remember? Our big Christmas surprise? You never asked. Not once.”
“I lost more than my husband that day.”
“You never asked because you hoped it wasn’t true. You were praying that I would lose myself in grief over David, praying I wouldn’t remember.” Every object in the room winced at the waves of pain I couldn’t stop. Murmured words of comfort. “But I did. I do. I couldn’t forget. And all the while I mourned my husband, I mourned our child too.”
“I didn’t know, Catherine, I didn’t know.” She shook her head. But the room here had seen its fair share of lies, and outed her. 
“You’re a terrible liar.” I closed my eyes. “I lost my baby the day after I lost my husband and you said nothing. Said nothing when they rushed me to the hospital with blood pouring out of me. With my baby pouring out of me.” I could feel the man’s discomfort at the topic. “You knew what it meant. How could you not? My baby is dead, but my husband…I can get him back and I will not let you stop me.”
She shook her head. “I can’t let you keep hurting yourself.”
There was a pinprick of hurt in my arm. I glanced back to see the man that called me Miss pull the needle from the arm. “Bas—”
  Parts Seven&Eight>>

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