Sunday, April 30, 2017

#8- Out of the Box

It was a nice, spring day outside. A nice day to be one of the few people in town not trapped in IKEA. Ridley stood in the massive parking lot holding her ferret, Carol, who was on a leash. Her black hair was finally of the length where she could tie it back into a pretty substantial ponytail. She stood there, hair tied back, ferret in her arms, and with red, heart shaped sunglasses covering her eyes. She was trying not to smile.
Her father was locked inside IKEA. But her amusement was slightly dampered when more police cars pulled in, sirens blaring. They were now saying that this was a hostage situation. A quiet, but friendly young police officer with a crew cut started walking up to Ridley. This particular officer was familiar with her home situation, so she knew he wasn’t coming to ask her why she was by herself.

“What brings you here, young lady?”
“My dad’s inside.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. He’ll be okay, don’t worry.”
“I’m not.”
“Oh.. well, uh…” he didn’t quite know how to respond to that “...we were thinking it may be best for you to clear out. Things might get a little hairy over here and you’re well, a little young and all..”
“Yeah. Okay.”

Ridley set her ferret down and started walking home, as if she were walking a dog. The crowd of police officers watched after the peculiar sight as Ridley walked off into the distance.

Several hours later, back at the apartment, the house phone started ringing. It was the police officer from earlier. He told her she could expect her dad home tonight, he’d made it out of the store safely.  But Ridley’s father didn’t stumble in the door until much later that night. His loud, drunken stomps woke her from her sleep. And for the first time maybe ever, he walked into Ridley’s room. He stopped for a moment, taken aback by the colored-pencil mural that stretched a colorful forest scene across the far wall behind her “bed”. He finally spoke:

“You wanna know something about your mom, Rid?”

#7- One Year Later

It was Spring a year later and they had found the missing body from the Gazebo Murder. Ridley’s old yellow raincoat was a little too tight now. She sat under a tree near the water tower, attempting to draw the crowd of people at the farmer’s market in a little red sketchbook. The bins of apples were what she wanted to draw next, but her set of colored pencils had been missing a red for a while now. The murder she lost her red colored pencil to was still a mystery. Orange would have to do.
No. Orange was wrong. They looked like pumpkins. Ridley snapped her book shut and hopped to her feet. It was time to go home. At the library Ridley had learned from a poetry book what a haiku was, and lately she’d been constantly making them in her head, and jotting them down in notebooks.

Can’t replace a red
Apples turn into pumpkins
Orange just won’t do

Her father was still rarely home, and when he was he was barely conscious and he smelled bad. Ridley was 10, and now knew that this was called “drunk”. He wasn’t home when she arrived back at the apartment, and Carol the ferret, still clad in his red ribbon, greeted her at the door. He trailed at her heels as Ridley went to shut her father’s bedroom door- she didn’t want to see the squalor he lived in. In the past year she’d gotten into the habit of keeping the rest of the apartment pretty neat on her own.
She collapsed onto her mattress in her own room, and Carol curled up in the crook between her neck and shoulder. Ridley zoned out staring at the ceiling for a while. The bangs she still sported stuck to her forehead with sweat as she daydreamed. Growing up taking care of yourself is a lot to manage; sometimes you forget to just be a kid. In the years to come Ridley would come to feel like she missed out on a lot of the whimsy that came with simply letting yourself be a child. In the years following that, she’d realize that some people just can’t afford whimsy. She pulled a notebook out of one of the stacks of books on her floor and jotted down another haiku:

Ferret in my hair
Fourth grade going on forty
I lay on the floor

#6- Crying in the Fairy City

Today was an anniversary. And even though it was a Saturday, Ridley found herself at school. Or rather, in the alley behind the elementary school. Some days you just have to get away from your dingy apartment. Especially days like today.
Ridley had given up on wearing the locket most of the time, but today wasn’t a day for giving up on things. Mother taught her better than that. It was a cliche gold, heart shaped locket, and she couldn’t keep her fingers from constantly fidgeting with it today.
She sat there on the sidewalk, when suddenly there was a click, and she was surrounded by fairy lights. She took it all in, the twinkling string lights illuminating tiny twig houses, the most beautifully ornate structures, with delicate leaf roofs and round doors. An entire city hidden in this little alley, an edifice to all that is microscopically magical. It was breathtaking.
That’s when Ridley lost her composure. Tears thundered out of her and her tiny frame shook with sobs. Four years ago today, Ariel Lee Aberdeen died. And Ridley’s dad still wouldn’t tell her what took her mother. Four years later and Ridley still didn’t know how or why. And so here she was, crying in the fairy city.

#5- A Christmas Present

The water tower was on a hill, so Ridley could still make out the tree on top of her apartment building, Winthrop Place. The tree had been lit just a few minutes earlier in a big ceremony that was very pretty. It was a good night.
Ridley laid in the grass underneath the water tower. The ferret sat sniffing around next to her. She was still deciding on a name, but in lieu of a collar she had tied a red ribbon in a neat bow around the little rodent’s neck (so she’d be able to recognize him if he ran off)
Earlier that evening, Ridley was shuffling home in her yellow rain boots and a big white parka, and just starting to get her annual sadness around the holiday season. It goes like this just about every year: Ridley loves the holidays; She gets swept up in the twinkling Christmas lights around town and the snowmen and the sleigh bells, and then she gets home on Christmas Eve. It’s been 4 years since Ridley’s father has gotten her a Christmas present. Her mother used to be the festive one.
But this year, just as Ridley was starting to get bummed out, she found a red box on the floor in front of her apartment door. The girl’s mood skyrocketed back up to the levels of, well, a child around Christmas time. The box had no tag on it, and as she carried it inside, she heard a wild scratching sound coming from within the box and almost dropped it in her shock. She ran inside and tore open the box, and out sprung a wiry brown and white ferret. This was turning out to be the best Christmas Ridley could have ever asked for.

Carol. That’s what Ridley would name him. Carol.