Hey, guys! Chapters Six and Seven are below. (Things are really starting to get to Alma, huh?) Well, these chapters are nice and short, but the Chapter Eight will be a long and intense one so enjoy the calm before the storm of revelation. As always, comments are welcome. Give the story a like, as well, if you feel up to it. Neophyte Punk, over and out!
Alma ran outside and took refuge in the heat. She went to the hose and rinsed off her hands and feet then spread out on the hot glass, eyes closed, letting the sun burn and prickle her skin. Sweat quickly formed on her forehead and at the top of her lip. She dug her heels into the cool dirt and wanted to dig in deeper, wondering what it would feel like to have six feet of dirt above her. Cool? Empty?
“Scary,” answered Manny, sitting beside her. “And dark.”
“Now you’re invading my mind?”
“I’m invading your heart.” He wanted to push her, get her to start moving, but he knew he would only go through her. “You can’t stop feeling, Alma. That’s not gonna save you.”
“Why?” She opened her eyes and squinted at Manny. “Why do I have to feel everything and you don’t get to? Why do you get to take the easy way out? Por que al minuto que yo no quiero sentir todo el mundo hace una drama?”
“Because you’re the strong one.”
“Oh, fuck you! Enough with this strong one, quiet one, twin bullshit, Manny. Why? That’s all I want to know. Why?”
“Talk to him and you’ll get your answer.”
She sat up, crossed-legged, and pulled handfuls of grass out of the ground. “I really fucked up. I yelled at Momma. She doesn’t deserve that. It’s not her fault, it’s yours.”
“I don’t know what I’m doing, Manny.” She tossed grass his way and watched it go through him.
“Yeah, you kinda do. You’re running. As soon as you stop, you’ll know what you really have to do. For you and me both.”
“Yeah, I do. Just as Kansy.”
She didn’t want to, but she laughed out loud. “Shit, I haven’t thought about that night in about a year. You should have seen Kansy’s face when I caught you guys! I’ve never seen a face go from pure pleasure to pure horror in seconds flat. Poor thing, tripping and falling over himself to hide in your closet.”
“You were laughing your ass off! How could he not be embarrassed. He was blushing crimson, pobrecito. He wanted to run out of there, but he didn’t want you to see him.”
“Oh, that’s right! He wanted me to close my eyes before he even stepped out of the closet.”
“Which lead up to you infamously saying…”
“I thought you were already out of the closet!” They finished together, laughing like those faded nights out on the porch.
They fell back and gasped for air. It almost felt like he was really there. It almost felt better.
“Kansy was so cute,” chuckled Alma. “That was the most awkward moment of my life, I think.”
“It was the scariest of mine. I nearly shit myself, I thought you were Momma.”
On the cusp of feeling, she turned somber. “Hmm, you want to know the scariest moment of my life?”
Manny rubbed his hands over his face, exasperated. He stood up and walked toward the house. “Alma, please, stop trying to ruin everything.”
“I didn’t ruin a damn thing.” She followed him up the porch steps and stopped in front of him. “You did. Do you want to know the scariest moment of my life?”
“I’m in your soul, Alma. I know what it is.”
“Then say it.”
“Say it! What’s the scariest moment of my life? Say it!”
“Finding me,” he uttered quietly.
She slammed the screen door shut behind her and left him out there with his sad eyes.
Momma told Kansy that Alma had been talking to herself for the past week, but he didn’t believe it until he saw it. Crouching by Momma’s open window, he saw everything. Alma was outside, sitting on the grass, talking to herself. She even laughed like she used to. Then she chased something up the stairs, arguing along the way, before running inside.
“She’s talking to Manny. I think she sees him,” said Momma from the bed. She was under the covers, surrounded by photos. In her hand were two small pills. They were Manny’s pills, the ones that doctor had given him for his anxiety. “Hand me that glass of orange juice.”
“Are you sure you should be taking so many of those, ma’am?” Kansy stood up and grabbed the glass from on top of the dresser, sniffing it. “Is there vodka in this?”
“Yes,” she reached her hand out and Kansy gave it to her. “No te preocupes. I’m not gonna die. Hell, I buried my only son next to my husband and I survived. A couple pills and some diluted vodka are a walk in the park.”
They heard noise from the hallway bathroom. The pipes creaked and groaned and then the sound of running water vibrated in the walls.
“Finally, progress. She hasn’t taken a shower all week.”
“Do you really think she sees him?” Kansy sat at the end of the bed, looking out the window.
“I do. I think he’s still here. At first, I thought she was going crazy, but no. Elle lo ve.”
“Well, what the hell? If she can see him, why can’t we?”
Momma downed the pills with one huge gulp of spiked juice. “I don’t think that we’re meant to.”
“Don’t you want to see him again?” Kansy voice cracked.
“Con toda mi alma, but I…I have to let him go. I will never be whole again. Not a day will go by that I won’t think of my son. That I won’t die to hold him again, but I have to let him go.” Momma didn’t bother wiping away her tears anymore. Only more would fall. She just let them stream down her face, hang off her chin, and fall to the bed sheets. “A part of me went with him. I will always be broken. But I would rather be broken than damn him to stay here around us because I couldn’t let him go.”
“What, you think he could stay stuck here with us?” Kansy tried wrapping his head around what he was hearing. Manny had said their mother was very Mexican–religious and superstitious, all in one. She believed in a place after death and she believed the soul never died but simply moved onto a different place and a new journey. She also believed the soul could stay stuck in place and suffer more in death than it ever could in life. Kansy believed in what he could see and all he saw was Alma having a mental breakdown and her mother was too drugged up or too broken to notice.
“Yes. He doesn’t belong here anymore. He belongs to a different world now. If we don’t let him go, he will stay here and become a haunted memory. El no se merece eso. He deserves to find peace. She has to let him go to find peace on the other side.”
“Go on to where? Heaven? Hell?” Kansy felt like throwing something again, but Momma’s room was already in enough of a mess. He didn’t need to add to it.
“To a city by the sea.”
Momma sank into her pillows and closed her puffy eyes. “I was the only one in the room when my abuela died. She kept…mumbling about una ciudad a orillas del mar. She said it was beautiful. I think…I think he wants to go there. To the city by the sea.”
“But what is that? Where is that? And why the hell couldn’t he just have stayed here?”
Momma replied with a snore. She was deep in a self-medicated induced sleep. He took the glass from her hand and put it back on the dresser. He went downstairs to the kitchen (through the outside, of course) for the broom and dustpan. He thought about it and decided he may as well take the mop and try to clean up Momma’s room as best he could. He was careful not to step on any of the food spread out on the kitchen floor.
The quiet lurked in every corner and crevice of their world.
He did the best he could. He didn’t mop up very well but there were no more pieces of glass. Momma could walk barefoot and not worry about cutting her feet anymore. The room still carried a mixture of smells that would take days to waft out, though.
He lifted the end of the bed cover and checked Momma’s feet for any cuts or scraps. There were a few. Nothing big or dramatic. A few cuts had dried blood on them that he cleaned with some hydrogen peroxide he found in her bathroom. He tucked her feet back in and walked around the room, unsure of what to do next. He didn’t want to be alone in a house so still. Instead, he sat back down on the bed and drifted away in thought. He thought about that night with the baseball team, the night that changed all their lives.