Monday, January 13, 2014

Fiction: A Story Across Years [chapter eight]

This story at Fictionpress.

A Story Across Years

Chapter eight: Second Time Around the Track

Allison knows that something's wrong as soon as she sees the cigarette burning in the ashtray. Her mother hasn't had a cigarette since when Dad died.

She picked it up when her own father died. Bookends to her smoking habit, Allison had thought. But then what inspired it again?

She takes a seat at the table beside her mother. Waits. Lets her mother take whatever time that she needs.

Despite the cigarette she appears to be in an uplifted mood. Some curious combination of worry and... optimism, maybe. That's a reasonable combination, Allison thinks.

"And they lived as happily as they could live, under the circumstances," her mother says. "Do you remember?"

"Of course." Allison had recognized the reference as soon as words spill out of her mother's mouth. "Pretty much the only story you ever told me that had a happy ending. Skeleton Scott and the Girl."

Her mother smiles. She stamps the cigarette on its end to put it out and drops it in the ashtray. The smell of tobacco lingers in the air.

She finally turns her eyes to meet Allison's. "It's... pretty difficult to talk right now. I hope..." She sighs. "To Hell with it. I never told you a story that wasn't history."

The seconds hang in the air before Allison responds. All five of them. "It's real." Her mother opens her mouth to say something (how must she look to her mother right now? what is the emotion that her mother sees?) but Allison barrels forward. "The story happened. Skeleton Scott took that girl. Took you." Allison practically launches herself out of the chair. She can't get away fast enough. "Grandpa was Skeleton Scott."

Allison shivers. Everything feels so wrong. This isn't her home. This isn't her mother. This isn't her skin that she's wearing. It's someone else's, somebody who belongs in this world that she's been dragged into.

"Allison," her mother begins. But she won't give it to her.

"I didn't ask for this!" she shouts. "You had no right!"

To put her in this situation? To have her be raised how she was? To leave her alone in the room with a mass murderer?

Any of it. All of it. She doesn't know.

But this isn't the worst of it. She knows that. She's nobody's fool. She's... She's Skeleton Scott's granddaughter.

Skeleton Scott, who died.

Skeleton Scott, who is still alive.

Skeleton Scott, who disappeared for the better part of two years. Who disappeared around the time when Grandpa got sick. Who came back a month after Grandpa died.

"You're Skeleton Scott."

"Twelve seconds from revelation to ramifications," her mother says. "I'm impressed." She smiles. "But then, I shouldn't be."

It takes all of the strength of will in the world for Allison to keep her legs from giving way beneath her. She controls it. Slowly, slowly she slides down, leaning against the wall for support. "Then you're a murderer. A criminal."

"Yes and yes, the latter on a technical basis."

"Why?"

"To keep this city safe. The crime rate will always be there, but there are so many things that aren't anymore. Was a time when half of this city wasn't safe after dark."

"He killed your father. He killed-"

"Skeleton Scott was my father longer than Alejandro ever was!" her mother roars. "I can love them both. I don't have to pick a side." Her face softens. "And neither do you. I know what you're thinking."

Allison remembers her mother coming home late. Hurt, sometimes. She remembers Dad waiting up late at night even though her mother wouldn't come home till early in the morning most times.

She remembers the arguments that her parents had had. Late night yelling matches and the two of them getting into the car to drive away where they could... Where they could yell about this, away from little ears.

"I thought that you were cheating on him."

Her mother stops. "No." She pauses. "No. Of course. Of course." She gets out of her chair to kneel beside Allison and extends a hand. "I'm sorry. That wasn't our intention."

"He didn't like it."

"No."

"He wanted you to stop."

"Desperately," her mother admits.

"Did you kill him?"

"This is a day for shocking questions that I never expected," her mother finally says. She sweeps her legs beneath her and sits cross-legged. "Allison," she says, "whether or not my finger pulled the trigger... I am still responsible for his death."

Allison remembers the funeral. She remembers the closed casket. She remembers being left in the care of her other grandparents and her mother disappearing for two days.

The pain on her mother's face is real. But she chose it. Allison had this world forced upon her. A world without her father.

A world without her mother, she realizes. Because this isn't where the conversation is going to end tonight.

She struggles to her feet, ignoring her mother's outstretched hand.

"I can't do this."

"Allison."

"You used me! Are using me!"

"Allison-"

"You want me to learn what I need to know to take over after you're too old to continue!"

The silence confirms it.

"I can't do this," she says as she tries to walk toward the door. "I can't do this. I can't be your murder hobo, Marilyn." Her mother's name rolls off her tongue without her even realizing it, but the sting that she sees on her mother's face tells her what she's done. "I can't do this."

Allison opens the door. Looks behind her one last time. "Don't tell Sarah and Jack. If you try to destroy their lives like you've done to me right now then I swear, I swear, Marilyn, I will make you regret it. You had no right."

She leaves.


And never, ever comes back.

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