Saturday, 3 October 2009
03:31:18 PM (GMT)
The day I first met him began almost ordinarily. As ordinary as the Taleau
family ever was, anyway. That was not saying so much. Mother was sitting in her bed,
legs to chest, arms around them, chin on knees, and beady eyes staring straight ahead
sightlessly. Janice was bouncing around me in her usual butterfly-bumble bee
attitude. She was asking me to look at this, look at that, wasn’t this so pretty,
so cute, so adorable?
I set the table for two people and brought Mom’s plate to her, where in her
room she sat with an almost catatonic absorption in her own self of mind. I barely
ate though, before I rushed off to the bank, the post office, anywhere and everywhere
to check if my father--traveling who knows where in the world--had sent more money. I
ran to the supermarket where I grudgingly spent the money and place the rest in the
savings. Janice knew where I kept the money, but she would need Mom’s help in
reaching it. Mom could be prevailed upon doing small chores here and there, but I
never asked her for anything important. I did not trust her to that degree.
After my father had left to do whatever business pulled him away, I had took
over taking care of the family. Mom, in her childish self, could not be responsible
for us, and Janice was greatly my junior--she was born after he departed, beside the
fact. I was eleven at the time, but with Dad’s money, food could be purchased, I
could cook to some degree, and it was not that hard to pick out clothes for a baby.
That period of Janice’s life was the only time Mom had ever taken care of her to
any amount. Mom had fed my sister, changed her, sang to her--all I had to do was
dress her. After Janice was, let’s say, three, she went back to her distance.
I was seventeen, in a few months time I would be eighteen. Janice was six. To do
him justice, when my Dad left, he had no idea my Mother was pregnant. We had never
been able to contact him and alert him to little Janice.
I walked down the street after lunch that day, observing the usual chaos of a
Saturday evening. No one paid me much attention, and I returned the favor. Here, in
the town of Barley, nothing much was interesting.
I was heading to the old park--if it can be called a park--on the other end of
town. As I said, it was not much of a park--it had an old dusty gate, lined otherwise
by thick woods, and was nothing more than a clearing, a plain, a meadow perhaps, that
reached a thick rectangle out into the woods that bordered Barley on ever side.
Everyone else went to the new, more playground-ish park. This afforded me silence and
There was one tiny swing set, pushed off to the side where I always enjoyed
I took my seat and began to swing idly. My mind wandered from subject to subject
in such a way as I will not try to explain to you. Maybe you would not understand. My
mother, in the rare instances when she talked at all, told me I was not a normal
teenage girl. I was too calm, and idle, and musing. Not excited, not energetic, or
frivolous, or obsessive, or petty, or overly sensitive, or judgmental. I just
didn’t fit the mold, she would tell me, I was just too calm.
I heard very particularly when the swing beside me squeaked, but I gave it no
notice. I did not even turn to look at my companion. For in that instance, that was
what we were. Without looking, talking, or interacting in whatever way, I had an
easy, gentle, enjoyment in this company. The silence that stretched was
companionable, and so we were companions.
After a length of time, I allowed myself to glance at the person next to me.
It was a boy, very close my age, I would bet on it, and he watching me as we
swung side by side--barely moving at all, actually, so I’m not sure if you would
call what we were doing sitting or swinging.
He had intense, particular brown eyes. They were particular, because of the
lightness in their color. Not the dark brown eyes most people have, but light, light
brown which was above tan, but below the norm. His short, sandy brown hair was the
same. It was wild, and too dark to be blonde or yellowy, but at the same time too
light to be a full brown, with a reddish addition to the blonde undertone to keep it
perfectly balanced just a shade darker than his eyes. His skin had a hint of tan
about it, and showed no muscles I could see. He was thin, but not to an unpleasant
degree. His features were sharp and precise, and I could see that he was beautiful in
an untamed sort of way. He looked as if he belonged to the woods. Dirty blue jeans
and black t-shirt allowing.
He held my gaze for a while, as we both slowly came to a motionless pause. His
intense, light eyes held mine for what seemed like forever. And then he stood up.
I tried to sort my scrambled thoughts into coherency as he walked away to the
woods opposite the entrance. I finally managed and called out to him.
“Hey! Wait! You didn’t tell me your name.” My voice was surprisingly
neutral and calm as I said it. I startled myself with the indifferent way my voice
treated him to its usual sounds.
He paused and turned his head half way towards me. “Riley,” he said in a
subdued manner and walked off.
I sat staring after him much until my thoughts started to work again.
Well, that was odd! Sit for roughly two hours not saying a word, then when I
finally look at him, we just sit there for about half an hour more, not moving, then
he just gets up and walks away! Into the woods. Strange.
I shook my head and stood up, stretching. The memories of those intense eyes
haunted me and left me with a particular feeling of uneasiness. Wary, I hurried on
home to cook for Mom and Janice.
Well, today is an unordinary day, I thought to myself as I came home to
find Mom at the stove. She told me she had realized I might be having one of my
lengthy contemplations, and Janice was hungry. Not to mention herself.
Anne Marie Taleau seemed like any other mother today, as she smiled and scooped
up our food. She laughed at Janice’s playfulness and observed my distant manner.
“Karli,” she began, eyeing me. “What a musing little thing you can be!
What are you thinking about now?”
My mother so rarely even paid attention to me that I had no consideration of
lying or avoiding the question.
“This guy I met at the old park,” I told her. “He acted really weird.”
“Ooooh!” Janice giggled, twirling about by the table.
“What was his name?” Anne Marie asked with a secretive smile.
Here, Janice stopped twirling and stared at me with six-year-old simplicity.
“What?” I asked her, conscious of her somber expression.
“I know Riley.” Janice looked atypically serious. “He plays with me in the
backyard sometimes, when you are walking and Mommy’s thinking.” Thinking
was the substitution for catatonic that I told my sister about our parent’s
“Really, sweetie?” Mom asked, with the uneasiness I felt.
Janice nodded. “He always asks me about Karli, but I think he’s too shy to
talk to her. I don’t want him to talk to her. He does weird things. I told him to
stay away from you, Karli, but he said he couldn’t. What does that mean, Mommy? Is
he following Karli?”
“I don’t know,” Anne Marie said to one daughter, while watching the
But I was beyond noticing. My thoughts were consumed with the fact that guy had
been around my little sister for who knows how long and I never knew. Anything
could have happened to her! And he had been asking about me? I had never met him!
“Karli?” my mother asked, startled as I slammed up from the table and went
into my personal bathroom--with three bathrooms and three people, each had their own.
As I struggled against my not-so-calm panic, I examined my reflection.
My brown hair was neither truly wavy or straight. It had a bit of a gentle wave,
to be sure, but was not frizzy or hugely goofy. It was bordering on straight,
to tell the truth; it parted elegantly over my neck and reached just past my shoulder
blades. My skin was golden, but with a pearly undertone. A hint of the fact that I
would be as ivory toned as my mother if I did not spend so much time in the sun. My
thick, black, long eyelashes framed deep, forest green eyes. I could see the skinny
build of my body--thin arms, long torso, narrow shoulders, and I could even see my
tiny waist in my denim skirt. My dark purple tank top accented my naturally tiny
I guess that person in the mirror might be pretty. What I really saw was the
thoughtful look on her brow, the musing look captured in her calm eyes. The wholly
untroubled form of her features. Yes, I could see in my expression my accused
idleness of emotion. My always-contemplative air. My mother’s observations were not
In this way, I drove the thought of Riley successfully from my mind. After my
calm disposition was assured to me returned, I reentered the dining room. Mom was
picking up the dishes, preparing to wash them.
“Oh, no,” I objected, “Let me get that. You go else where.”
Mom smiled at me. “Oh, but I want to. Sweet, Karli, I feel horrible that you
always get left with all these chores. You’re seventeen--you are seventeen,
right?--and it won’t be long until no matter the circumstances no one will be there
to take the work off your hands.”
I bit back an acidic reply and instead informed her, “I’m well
acquainted,” and went to take the plate from her hand.
“Karli Renee Taleau, leave this to me, and you heard me. I want
to. So help me, if you try one more time--”
I hastily released the plate and held up my hands. “Okay, okay. See? I let go.
No need to get upset.”
Anne Marie’s angry countenance softened almost instantly. “Oh Karli, I’m
so sorry. I did not mean--”
“No,” I cut her off. “It’s okay, see? I’m going. Later.” I walked
off and could feel her eyes on my back.
Did she repent not having a better relationship with me, her eldest daughter?
Did she realize that as soon as I turned eighteen I was taking those years of
far-from-pitiful savings, buying a house, and filing for custody of my little sister?
And having the court send over someone to help her though this idiotic tendency to
slip inside her own head? I knew that despite her apology just now, she would still
slip into that horrible trance in the morning. And I hated her for it.
I went upstairs and sat at my desk, doodling idly across a paper as I lost
myself in thoughts about my family. My catatonic mother, my absent father, and my
playful little sister. The latter was the most enjoyable; my father was the most
speculative; and my mother the least pleasurable. Janice’s blithe disposition was
cheery to muse, but not really entertaining. My father, Alaric John Taleau, was then
foremost in my thoughts to cogitate.
Unlike Janice, I did know my dad. He was nothing too objectionable. Far from it.
He had been just as cheery, blithe, and entertaining to be around. He spread
brightness like the sun, and I had loved him dearly. Everyone did, but especially my
mother. When we had been in the hole, very far from secure in our finical standing,
his boss took pity on him and gave him a promotion to a sister company position which
afforded more money than his prior company could even dream of giving him. However,
it required him to travel far from home with no intermission.
My mother had figuratively and literally died at being separated from him. This
led to her current state of being. I wondered at that. What would it be like, to love
someone so much? So much that if they left you, even for your well being and
happiness, you just… died?
This much I could give my mother--she loved my dad. Alaric and Anne Marie were
the most devoted couple I had ever seen. This I could respect them for.
I jumped at the tolling of the clock. Ten o’clock--time for Janice to go to
sleep. I went down stairs to tuck in my sister with an almost maternal attitude about
it. She told me not to worry about Riley--he was just playing with me, because he
thought I was pretty. I laughed at her and turned out the light before heading
upstairs and changing into my night clothes.
Before I went to sleep, I remembered the extra money in my skirt’s pocket. I
climbed out of bed, put up the money, and then enjoyed musing myself to peaceful