Cool Hand

[First Draft]

With one hand on the reins, I swing up into the saddle and ride Shadow home. My imagination begins to conjure the worst. I suspect my mother will be distressed to the point of a “debilitating” migraine, a state that makes her particularly volatile. I hope a late and quiet arrival will cool her off and allow me to slip in unnoticed.

When I arrive at the farm, I brush Shadow down and settle him into his stall before heading inside. I even stop to give Achilles a few friendly rubs–anything to avoid a confrontation.

As I enter through the back door, the house is quiet. Mom is obviously up in her room, lying down with the lights off, a cool face cloth over her eyes.

I silently move through the house, but as I reach the banister at the foot of the stairs, I hear my father’s lowered voice greet me from the living room, “Welcome home, Amber.” The sarcasm sends a shudder up my spine. I’m sure he received the brunt of mom’s rage, but just once I’d like him to stick up for me. I open my mouth, but before I can apologize, my father raises his hand and speaks again, “Go to your room and stay there until tomorrow.” I shut my jaw and head upstairs.

I know I deserve his cool rebuke. I’m not the type to blatantly disregard the rules. I had been out of line this afternoon. I was emotional and irrational, further evidence that my diagnosis is correct. I’ll never be more than damaged goods.

When I reach my room, I collapse on my bed. I reach for the bottle of medication sitting on the night stand, and with a swig from my water bottle, I swallow one of the little elliptical tablets.

Feeling less than motivated, I get back up and change into a pair of shorts and a tank top. Then I crawl under the covers without dinner. I’m not really hungry anyway.

I’m almost asleep when I feel a cool hand touch my face. I know it’s my grandmother. She’s been living with us since grandpa died, and if anyone was going to comfort me, it would be her.

I’m surprised when I open my eyes and no one is there. My hand automatically flies to my cheek, but there’s nothing there either. Even the cool sensation is gone. My imagination has taken a leap off the sanity tracks. I try to shake the odd sensation with a couple deep breaths.

As I close my eyes, I hear a muffled whispering sound. My heart leaps as my eyelids fly open. There’s nothing but darkness. I feel myself instinctively curling up into the fetal position, pulling the blankets tighter. I shut my eyes with no intention of opening them until morning. The idea of speaking never crosses my mind. It’s not real. It’s not real. It’s not real.

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