RUN AWAY AND OTHER STORIES
Copyright 2017 Elizabeth Simmonds
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The patio that they sat in was confining and hot. Dark wood fencing panels creaked in the light California winds. Shade from the small trees in the corner could not reach the table on the other side, and the back door remained opened, encouraging air to flow into the bedroom. The enclosure offered no comfort from the news Doctor Jackson gave her.
“We’ve done everything,” he said, “he’s an old boy.”
It was unlike veterinarians to make house calls though, when you live in the best retirement home in California, anything can be arranged.
“It may be time to consider alternatives.”
“Alternatives,” Carol said, “what a fancy word for death.”
Doctor Jackson pinched the bridge of his nose. “Ms. Langton, what’s happening here isn’t a bad thing. Henry has been around for a long time, and he’s been through a lot.”
Henry laid on the far corner of the closest bed, his tail laying off the side as his onyx fur soaked in the sun peeking through the window. His breathing was loud and raspy but his heart still beat like a drum.
“Yes, like this. He beat it once before and he can do it again,” Carol said.
“Feline Pneumonia is harder on older cats. His immune system isn’t strong enough to fight it anymore,” He reached over and put his hand on her sholder.
“You can’t give up on him.”
“That’s not what we’re doing. Henry is in pain.”
Carol reached into her pocket and pulled out a small orange bottle of pills. “Then what are these for? Isn’t this pain medication?” She asked.
“Yes,” Doctor Jackson said, “but that’s only a temporary solution. Those won’t save him.”
“No, that’s your job.”
Doctor Jackson removed his hand. It wasn’t like he hadn’t dealt with people like this before, but Ms. Langton seemed to have a stronger bond with her pet than other geriatric clients he had.
“Ms. Langton, it’s your choice…”
“You’re damn right it is.” She said, cutting him off mid-sentence. Her words cut sharply into the air, as if they were swords and she was fighting like a samurai.
“I understand this may be hard, but it was inevitable. He’s already fourteen, that almost eighty in human years.”
“And I’m 82, your point?”
Words were becoming a struggle for Doctor Jackson. The woman that sat before him was dead-set in her ways.
“I won’t tell you it’s the right thing to do,” he said, standing from his seat. “but it’s all we can do to help him feel better at this point. We can do it all in-house, it would be very peaceful.”
“Thank you doctor, that will be all.” Carol said, not bothering to look up at him.
Doctor Jackson sighed as he showed himself out, giving Henry a pat on the head as he left. No one seemed to understand Carol’s attachment to him, her need to keep him alive. People didn’t know that they took their medicine at the same time every morning and evening, or that they comforted each other when nights were hard on their lungs. They didn’t understand how Henry sat on her lap as she received her breathing treatments, or how she held him while he did his. Henry was her partner in all of her plights, they did everything together. This was something she never wanted to do alone.
The moon was in its “New Moon” phase of the cycle, so the only light that illuminated Amelia’s Cadillac was a streetlight that hung just above it. Her hands barely reached the top of her trunk as she slammed it down. The sound reverberated down the barren street, as did Amelia’s heels on the pavement. She reached for her keys before pushing them into the lock on her driver’s door. A map took up most of the passenger seat, its only mark was a circle around the city of Redmond. Amelia closed the door behind her as she put the key in the ignition.
The engine turning over was almost enough to drown out the sound of Laura’s approach.
“Amelia,” she said, loud enough to be heard through the window “Where you going?”
Amelia hand hovered over the gear shift as her foot applied heavy pressure to the brake. One simple move, that’s all it would take to be gone.
“You need to go.” Amelia said, moving the car into drive but her foot remained still.
“What’s going on? I saw you loading suitcases, is everything ok?”
Amelia cranked the handle on the door to roll the window down. “Are you watching me?”
“No, just now.” Laura said, quickly realizing that the statement was taken the wrong way as Amelia raised an eyebrow at her.
“I mean I heard something over by your car so I looked out my window to make sure everything was ok. When I first saw the suitcases I assumed they were for the honeymoon but then you got in the car and I…”
Amelia raised her hand as to silence her talkative neighbor. Laura trailed off the end of her sentence as Amelia shifted the car back into park.
“I’m leaving George.”
Laura stayed silent for longer than normal processing the information.
“Can you…come out here so we can talk about this?”
“No, Laura, I think it would be best if I left.”
“Well, I don’t. You’re my friend, Amelia. I won’t let you go through this alone.” Laura said, “And if you won’t come out…”
She stepped away from the window and started walking around the front of the car.
“Laura, wait,” Amelia said, sticking her head out the window.
Her words fell on deaf ears as Laura made her way to the passenger door. She tapped on the doors window until Amelia reached over and unlocked it.
“Thank you,” She said, smiling at Amelia as she grabbed the map and threw it in the backseat.
“Be careful, I need that,” Amelia said as Laura closed the door.
“So what happened? Why are you running away? Does George know?”
Questions, Laura always had questions.
“No, of course he doesn’t know.” Amelia said.
“That only answers one of my questions.”
Amelia gulped as she avoided Laura’s gaze.
“I thought about it over and over again, and I don’t want to be with him forever.”
“That’s it, you just don’t love him?”
“That’s part of it, yes.”
“Well what’s the other part?” Laura asked. Her question was met with silence as she grabbed Amelia’s hand on the steering wheel.
“You know you don’t need to run away from home over this, I’m sure he’ll understand.”
“I can’t stay here, it’s too painful. I need a fresh start.”
“But without telling anyone?”
“It’s better this way, that way no one will know why.”
Amelia pulled her hand away from Laura’s. She brought it up to her face as her breathing became heavier.
“What’s the real reason, Amelia?” Laura asked. Amelia’s face was struggling to maintain composure. “I want to help, but I need to understand what’s going on.”
Amelia took a deep breath and spoke quietly. “Do you remember what you told me after Michel left you? After I brought you wine and cake?”
Laura smiled when she remembered. “I said that you’d make a much better partner than he ever was. What about it?”
Amelia wiped a tear away with the back of her hand. “Maybe I feel the same way.”
Laura paused to weigh what she had just heard. “Amelia, I didn’t realize…”
“Neither did I. I just know I have feelings for you that I can’t make myself have for George.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Laura said, her next sentence coming out slowly “Why were you going to run away without telling me?”
“It seemed like the right thing to do. That way no one got hurt.”
“Except you,” Laura said, taking Amelia’s hand once again, “and me.”
Amelia gripped onto Laura’s hand tighter as she smiled through her tears. Laura reached into the backseat to grab the map she had thrown back earlier.
“So,” Laura said, “Where are we going?”
You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how I wound up here, standing in the hallway of a downtown apartment building. The walls looked as awful as ever, like the local Home Depot was having a “Going Out of Business” sale and the only thing left was faded blue paint.
I took one last huff of my cigarette before chunking out the broken jagged window. How long had that thing been busted? 5, 8 years? It’s not like it mattered, no one gave a shit around here anymore. I sighed as I looked back at the door. My brother and I hadn’t spoken in years; and for good reason. I walked back to the door and slowly raised my fist. I knocked 3 times.
Can’t knock too hard, I thought, the whole wall might come down.
I heard footsteps coming to the door followed by 3 deadbolts unlock. A small, meek looking guy I call my brother cracked the door, the chain lock still in place. I shifted my stance so he could clearly see it was me. When we made eye contact, you would have thought he had just come face-to-face with the devil himself. Hell, maybe he did.
“The fuck you want?” he asked through his teeth.
I looked down the hallway and then back to him, “ I need my brother.”
“Well that’s a shame, cuz’ aint’ no one here got one. Mine left 15 somethin’ years ago, and that man aint’ ever come back. ”
“Cory, who you yellin’ at?” A voice yelled from behind him.
He sighed and yelled back, “No one Ma, don’t you worry.”
I stepped back, “Mom’s here…”
Cory looked back at me and whispered harshly, “She don’t want to see you.” We maintained eye contact for a short while longer until Cory figured out I wasn’t about to leave. He slammed the door and I heard the chain unlock. He stepped out into the narrow hallway, his ball cap touching the ceiling.
“Why is she here?”
“Well man where the hell did you think she was gon’ go? After you undercut them drug dealin’ guys they came after the farm. After they left, all that was left was some fuckin’ ash and dead crops. We had to go somewhere and decided to stick together.”
I walked back over to the window and stared down at the crowded streets below. “I need a favor.”
“Oh really, can’t lie your way out of somethin’?”
I turned my focus back to him, the dim yellow lights almost made him look pale. Maybe he was nowadays, he wouldn’t get much sun in the city.
“I need a place to stay,” I told him. I knew his initial reaction would be negative, but I was holding out hope all of dad’s old “family first” lessons still applied.
Cory just stared at me in what I believed was disbelief. “Look,” I continued, “Those same guys who took down the farm raided my place. I need to lay low, go somewhere they wouldn’t think to look.”
I took a good, long look at my brother. The look I first assumed was disbelief was now anger. Cory stomped towards me and stopped just a few inches from my face. I could feel the rim of his cap hitting my forehead and his shoes touching mine. As I opened my mouth to utter more of an argument, he slammed his fist into my gut and I hit the floor. Out of all the reactions I expected, that was not one of them.
I coughed to regain my breath, a punch from someone that used to plow fields was not a weak one.
“Cory,” I heaved, “the hells wrong with you?”
“Don’t you ever come round here again,” He said, walking to his door, “you done enough.”
Cory slammed the door behind him as I staggered to my feet.
“Cory!” I screamed as I pounded on the door again “We’re family!” My cries were met with silence. “They’re going to kill me! You can’t let me die!”
I kicked the door in a fury, I think I wanted to break it. Maybe mom would take pity on me. No matter what I did, it was no use. He wasn’t coming back, and the door was stuck in place. I looked over at the broken window again and the glass on the ground beneath it.
“Fix your damn window!” I yelled before walking away. At least someone might fix something.
Elizabeth Simmonds is a short story author and is currently earning her BFA in Creative Writing. She has works published online at short-story.net, including two short stories in the comedy and drama genre. Though her primary writing genre is Sci-fi and LGBT, she has also written several works in drama, comedy and fantasy. In her spare time, she can be found drawing inspiration from her cats Zinyak & Chell.
She can be reached at .
"Support" For Carol Langton, the time has come to make a difficult choice for a loved one. Though Doctor Jackson sees the choice as obvious, Carol has her reasons for being hesitant. "Run Away" On the eve of the most important day of her life, Amelia makes a drastic desition to leave it all behind. But cold feet isn't the only factor at play here; a detail her neighbor Laura soon finds out. "Family" I don't understand why this is the first place I go for help, I already know the answer. I'm the last person they want to see, but damn if I'm not completely desperate.