The Attic Pt.2 (short story)

Photo by: Myriams-Fotos

Last time (Nov.30th) I posted The Attic Pt.1.

If you missed it, read it here.

HAVE YOU SEEN MY RISA?

Ten years have passed since Risa disappeared from our lives.

The way those pillows were placed just so, made the policemen write it off as just another runaway case. For us, the mystery continues.

I have seen my parents sway in their resolve to find her and despair as they slowly lose hope. They haven’t forgotten, but they talk less and less about her. Something like that can break down a family; I’m glad that hasn’t happened to us.

Out in town, I catch my mother taking a long, unabashed look at the faces of strangers who come to visit our town. She is looking for her. She is looking for her in those strangers. Have you seen my Risa, my mother’s eyes inquire from them, do you have a message from her? Sometimes I have even seen her caress girls who smile back at her.

Risa, we are waiting for your return. We will not ask questions, we just want you to come back home.

I am older now than Risa was then. I miss her still. Only now I feel like the big sister.

Never a day goes by without me thinking of Risa. What is my sister doing today? I feel her near mostly when I hear thunder and lightning. Where before I would run to my mother or hide under my covers when I heard thunder, now I run to a window in my room expecting to see her. In my mind’s eye I see her wet, shoeless and exhausted from walking, waving at me and coaxing me to let her in. I will not need coaxing if I see her; I will let her in when she comes to me. I will let her in and I will let her sleep in my bed, and I will sing her the lullaby I hear in my head.

Sleep little Risa,

sleep my little one.

The horse is in the stable,

the cat and dog are entwined.

Sleep my little Risa,

Everything’s gonna be alright.

Sleep my precious Risa,

No more wandering —

Home is where you belong.

The morning when we found Risa was missing, the police came in to question me.

…when was the last time you saw her …what did you guys talk about …did she give you any hints that she was unhappy here …did she keep a journal …did she have a boyfriend …who was her best friend …did she have a hobby …did you guys have a fight…

To the eight year old that I was then nothing made sense. All the questions the policemen asked, were answered with a continuous shake of my head as my lips repeated silent I don’t knows. I didn’t know the answers.

For me, my sister was the taller of the two girls who lived in my house.

She was the one who learned her school lessons well; the one who worked odd jobs and bought me colorful writing paper to send to my pen pal in America. She never told me that she was unhappy or that she was planning to leave. We never fought or argued; though I wish we had.

Risa never talked much, but neither did she ever ask me to leave her alone. She hardly ever turned up her lips in a smile when we got our pictures taken but when we were together she would always look me in the eye when I spoke to her. She would nod and open her eyes wide when something pleased her and with dancing eyes that smiled she would clap her hands instead of a lips-upturned smile.

Did it hurt her to smile? Did it hurt her to talk? What made her so?

She went to school and had many friends but she seldom ever hung out with anyone. She made the students’ list often though she never seemed to care. And at the restaurant where she worked, she washed the dishes, emptied the trash and mopped the floor without complaining. The restaurant manager said so.

Did she have a boyfriend? Did she have a best friend? Did she keep a journal? What thoughts crossed her head?

After that frightful night, I came to sleep in my own bedroom next to my parents’. As I got older I came to like the quiet in the attic. I kept it ventilated and lived-in and I made some adjustments. I had dad install a brighter light and added a sensor light in the enclosed staircase. The window blinds still rattle but the ribbons are gone. I have renamed it my hobbit hole and I burrow in there sometimes when I feel my creative juices flowing. I have desks where beds used to be and big posters decorate the walls. I got a timer and I have the lights turn on every evening in hopes that if Risa were to return she would know that the attic was waiting for her. It was her attic.

I look around the attic and say my silent goodbyes to the windows, the walls, the low ceiling and to the silence. When tomorrow comes I will be moving out of town to go to college. The spiders will come and take residence in the attic. The mice will come in to gnaw on my posters and stalks of paper. But in the summer when I return I will open up the windows to let the sun walk in and allow the wind to blow fresh air into the room once again. And if Risa returns while the lights are turned on she will know that I have readied the attic for her. It is her attic.

***

This is the second part of ‘The Attic’ published November 30th. It ended with the words: But there was no Risa…

THANK YOU FOR READING MY SHORT STORY. IF YOU ENJOYED IT PLEASE HONOR ME WITH A COMMENT. OR BETTER YET, BY SHARING IT. THANKS.

THE ATTIC (short story)

photo: Abi Lewis, Upsplash

Aww what a mesmerizing sight, I heard myself saying in a voice that wasn’t my own. All the hues of red and brown and Crimson right before my eyes; again that was not my voice.
And this feeling, how can we be flying like this and not feel the autumn chill? I remember thinking that.

We were gliding over a red barn surrounded by trees.

I was not alone. I could feel my companion’s presence though I couldn’t see her face. In a weird way, I knew I didn’t need to look; I already knew it was Valerie Moore.

I heard footsteps and felt the floor move. They were not a part of my dream.

I opened my eyes slightly and saw the silhouette figure of my mother moving in the dark.

“Risa, I told you that rain was predicted for tonight and asked you to lock the windows. For once I’d like to get a good night’s sleep without having to be bothered by things that I specifically ask you girls to do. One of these nights someone is going to come through that window and take you away quietly.”

Humph, as if, I thought to myself still half asleep.

My mother continued: “Spare yourselves and me the worry of such an awful ordeal or I’ll buy a lock and those windows will stay closed forever.”
Mom said all that in one go. That was just like her. Always saying things the grownup way. Only she would have the stamina for such a discourse in the middle of the night. Mom was talking to Risa but Risa didn’t budge.

Feeling exhilarated from the dream I was just dreaming I tried not to listen to her words for fear of losing the feeling I was trying to hold on to in my autumn dream.
Valerie Moore was my childhood penpal. We started corresponding before the end of the school year in Third Grade. This particular evening I had received a letter from her.

Valerie lived in Wisconsin. Her family owned a cherry orchard and she had a pony she called Cubby. She and I were 8 years old and both of us had birthdays in September.

Every letter she wrote to me was riddled with eraser holes and consisted of ugly pages carelessly torn out from big writing pads. But that didn’t matter to me. She told me about learning to milk their cows, about driving a tractor and about picking cherries.

I have never been cherry-picking and much less never milked a cow in my life.
This time she told me about fall coming and described a foliage scene behind her farm. The image stayed in my mind all evening only to resurface in my dream that damp rainy night. In fact, the words I had uttered in my dream had come directly from Valerie’s letter.

The stairs leading up to the attic were dark, narrow and cold. They were enclosed in a small upward-going tunnel and they swerved round so that you couldn’t see if someone was coming down or going up until you were right smack in front of them. It was void of day light, lacked a light switch and a light bulb.

Risa and I shared a room up there but I had had no say in the matter. My mother, suspecting my teenage sister to be up to something, used me as a bargaining condition.

“…only if you agree to share the space with your sister,” mother bargained assured that Risa would soon give up the idea. When Risa said ok without a moment’s hesitation, mother couldn’t go back on her word. And so it was that I ended sleeping in the attic.

Risa chose the attic because of the way it felt so disconnected from the rest of the house. Perhaps it was because the stairs were completely encapsulated, but once upstairs one could not hear anything going on downstairs. And vice versa. I didn’t like being upstairs but once upstairs I dreaded going down those stairs. I always got the distinct feeling that I was about to bump into a ghost.

We had two beds. Mine was closest to the stairs and Risa’s was next to the windows. Mom let me have a small table next to my bed and on it I kept a small glow-in-the-dark lamp. But the lamp hardly got any real light from outside or from the one dim light bulb that illuminated the room. In order to get any use of the glow, I had to wait for Risa to be in the room for a few minutes before going upstairs. Once under my covers, Risa would turn off the light and then I would get my glow. Good thing was that I fell asleep right away even before the lamp lost its glow.

There were no partitions between our beds so Risa spent her allowance on thick silk ribbons. I mean lots and lots of ribbons. She thumbtacked the ribbons to the ceiling boards. She made it so that from the top of the stairs, one couldn’t see her bed and also from my bed I couldn’t see hers.

The ribbons were of all different colors and they cascaded from the low ceiling all the way to the floor. During the day I loved looking at the ribbons swaying with the wind, but at night the ribbons grazing against my face or any part of my body, sent shivers down my spine. They scared me.

That night, the rains came strong. There was thunder and there was lightening.
The old house moaned and groaned. Shrrrrrrooweeee shrrrrrooweeeee rushed in the wind through small openings on the window frame. The blinds rattled uncontrollably. Oh that howling; how angry that wind sounded.

Realizing that I had lost my dream, I thought of following after Mother but I was afraid to descend the stairs. I called out to Risa but she paid me no mind. Closer and closer to her bed I went until I was right above her.

She laid on her side — still as a corpse. I could see the shape of her body and even her hair but her face lay hidden under the blanket.

“Can I sleep with you,” I whispered in a groggy voice, “I’m sssc– scared,” I moaned. I touched her shoulder to shake her but there was no shoulder where a shoulder was supposed to have been. I ran my hand over her body. There was no body there either.

Scary as that was, I snatched off the light blanket only to find that two cushions lay where Risa was supposed to have laid.

At that revelation, my eyes got forced open. These didn’t feel like my eyes. The area around them felt tight. They were being held wide open by cold fingers. My eyeballs felt cold. I couldn’t manage a blink. My mouth flew open as if the ligaments in my neck had been wound too tightly. I screamed but the scream was only coming from inside my head. My voice had deserted me.

Without thinking I scurried over to the stairs and stomped down the dark stairs as if the ON button had just been turned-on inside me.

No time for knocking. I flung the door open. I got to mother’s side of the bed and yanked the covers off of her. I still couldn’t get my eyes to blink or my neck to release the pull it had on my open mouth. I started slapping mother. This woke my father too. He jumped out of bed and turned on the big light in the room.

As if this was the cue that I had been waiting for, a loud insistent wailing bubbled from within me. I started to shake uncontrollably and burning tears splattered from my eyes all at once. My voice was incoherent and husky so with exaggerated hand gestures I tried telling them about Risa. But my parents couldn’t understand.

I dragged them to the stairs and pushed them toward the attic. Mom got to the top first.

“Risa,” called my mother in that voice she used to let us know that we were in trouble. “Risa get out here this minute. Risaaaaa!

But there was no Risa…

Recently published on Medium

Hooray for the fun! Is the pudding done?

by Selma

“The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day.”

BY LYDIA MARIA CHILD (1844 poem)

Fondly known as “Over the River and Through the Wood.”

Are you familiar with the song? If so, I invite you to sing along with me. I’ve attached some amazing pictures I found at Pixabay to help you remember. I hope they help. The hint is in the fond title… and it ends with the pumpkin pie. Enjoy.

Hooray for the pumpkin pie!

Pause! Enjoy the simple joys in life. Happy Thanks and Giving Day; Happy Thanksgiving!

There is no Love in Violence

“Domestic violence rarely affects only those directly involved in the abusive relationship.” ― Asa Don Brown
Short of stepping on Curly’s tail, Becky stormed into the living room, slammed the screen-door shut and hurried to her room.
“What?” her mother asked from the kitchen, “back already? Did you forget to take something?” her mother continued.

Becky didn’t answer. Her footsteps were heavy as she went up the stairs. She closed the door to her room, pressed the play button of her CD player and turned the volume on high. She got inside her closet and sat on the floor on the corner closest to the window. The evening was pleasant and the sound of the birds on the tree outside the window was silenced by the sound coming from inside her room.

Her mother finished rinsing off the dinner dishes and wiping her wet hands on her apron, rushed upstairs to see what the matter was with her daughter. She knocked on the door with the secret code they had settled on for the month, but no tap-tap, the code of acknowledgement, came from inside the room. Mother knocked the same way again and again, but again Becky didn’t reciprocate. Mom turned the door knob and realized that the door was locked from the inside.

“Becky, open the door. Let me in. Becky, what happened? Did something happen with you and Margo?” Mom was getting worried. This was so out of character for her daughter.

She waited a few more minutes and knocked again. “Becky,” she said, a little more impatient this time, “talk to me. Open the door.” Becky got out of the closet, lowered the volume on her CD player and unlocked the door. Then she sat on the floor next to her bed. Mother knocked again and this time Becky reciprocated by tapping on the side of her bedroom table with their coded tap-tap. Mother turned the door knob and entered the room.

“Honey, did something happen to you over at Margo’s house?”
Becky hugged her knees and looked away from her mother. Mother followed Becky’s lead and sat on the floor next to her daughter.

In the short year that they have been neighbors, Becky and Margo have become best friends. They walk to and from school together, they spend endless hours playing outdoors and talking on the porch-swing, they walk up to receive holy communion together at Sunday Mass and apart from the fact that each girl has their own house chores to do, they are inseparable. Once or twice a month Margo’s mother has invited Becky to come along as Margo’s guest for a family dinner at a sort-of-nice restaurant in town. The dinners always left Becky a little perplexed but she dismissed the feelings Because she could not find the appropriate words to form the thoughts about the feelings, even in her own head. This being the case she never got around to saying anything about this to her mother. When mother would ask, Becky would talk about the food instead of the feelings she would bring back from the dinner experience with the Romanos.

“Yes, I decided to sneak in on Margo instead of calling out to her. When I looked in through the screen door I saw Margo kneeling on the floor. She had her hands stretched out infront of her and I saw her daddy loading her arms with heavy books.”

“You mean that it was like some kind of punishment?” her mother asked.

“Yes, exactly. It had to be. Margo looked sad and scared but she had her arms stretched out and her daddy kept putting book after book for her to hold in her outstretched arms. At one point, Margo got tired so she relaxed her buttom on the back of her legs and her daddy hit her on her back with a book,” replied Becky suppressing fresh tears that burned to come out.

“And you saw all that? ” her mother asked holding her daughter’s hand with one hand and wiping a tear off her own face with the other.

“Yes. But the worst part is that Margo saw me looking. I think that I will never be able to face her again. I am embarrassed to have seen what I saw. And I am sure that Margo is embarrassed for it as well.” Becky’s words punctuated the conversation and a long silence, thick as a morning mist, permeated the room. Her mother didn’t know what to make of the situation. And she didn’t want to say something out of place without thinking things over first, so mother and daughter just sat there on the floor.

In the year since they have been neighbors the mothers have not become close. They have exchanged pleasantries but unlike the girls, their relationship hasn’t advanced beyond that. For starters, Mrs. Romano, Margo’s mother is a career woman. She works from 9:00 – 5:00, sometimes later and like the rest of the neighborhood, Becky’s mother refrains from approaching Mrs. Romano to allow her the space she and the neighbors think she needs. Come to think of it, besides attending Mass with her family on Sundays and the occasional dinners out in town, Mrs. Romano seldom participates in anything in the community. Mr. Romano, on the other hand, works from home. According to Margo he is a translator of German Novels. He is at home all the time and it is he who attends to Margo and her younger sister when they return home from school. He is very polite yet reserved with the neighbors. He attends school meetings but doesn’t socialize with anyone at school. According to Becky, the Romanos move to a new town every two years or so and before coming to Macondo, they lived in Los Alamos. Apart from that, no one knows anything else about the family.

*****

“The abuser does not believe, however, that his level of authority over the children should be in any way connected to his actual level of effort or sacrifice on their behalf, or to how much knowledge he actually has about who they are or what is going on in their lives. He considers it his right to make the ultimate determination of what is good for them even if he doesn’t attend to their needs or even if he only contributes to those aspects of child care that he enjoys or that make him look like a great dad in public.” ― Lundy Bancroft Bancroft

Hearts

in English and in Japanese. A poem that awakens the child within.

 

HEARTS
Even though my mother
is big and grownup,
My mother’s heart
must be small.
‘Cause, my mother said,
It’s been all filled up with little me.
But, even though I am little
and just a child,
My heart must be big.
‘Cause my heart
can hold my big mother
And still have room for lots more.
                Misuzu Kaneko (real name Teru Kaneko)
こころ
お母さま は
大人で大きいけれど。
お母さまの
おこころはちいさい。
だって、お母さまはいいました、
ちいさい私でいっぱいだって。
私は子供で
ちいさいけれど、
ちいさい私の
こころは大きい。
だって、大きいお母さまで、
まだいっぱいにならないで、
いろんな事をおもうから。

This Old House

Aww what a mesmerizing sight, I heard myself saying in a voice that wasn’t my own. All the hues of red and brown and Crimson right before my eyes, again that was not my voice.
And this feeling, how can we be flying like this and not feel the autumn chill.  I remember thinking that.
We were gliding over a red barn surrounded by trees. I was not alone. I could feel my companion’s presence but couldn’t see her face. In a weird way, I knew I didn’t need to look. I already knew it was Valerie Moore.

I opened my eyes slightly and saw the silhouette figure of my mother in the dark.
“Risa, I told you that rain was predicted for tonight and asked you to lock the windows. For once I’d like to get a good night’s sleep without having to be bothered by things that I specifically ask you girls to do. One of these nights someone is going to come through that window and take you away quietly. Spare yourselves and me of such an awful ordeal or I’ll buy a lock and those windows will stay closed forever”.
Mom said all that in one go. That was just like her. Always saying things the grownup way. Only she would have the stamina for such a discourse in the middle of the night. Mom was talking to Risa but Risa didn’t budge.

Feeling exhilarated from the dream I was just dreaming I tried not to listen to her words for fear of losing the feeling I was trying to hold on to in my autumn dream.
Valerie Moore was my childhood penpal. We started corresponding before the end of the school year in Third Grade. This particular evening I had just received a letter from her. Valerie lived in Wisconsin. She had a cherry orchard and she had a pony she called Cubby. She and I were 8 years old and both of us had birthdays in September.
Every letter she wrote to me was riddled with eraser holes and consisted of ugly pages carelessly torn out from big writing pads. She told me about learning to milk their cows, and about driving a tractor and about picking cherries.
I have never been cherry-picking and much less never milked a cow in my life.
This time she told me about fall coming and described a foliage scene behind her farm that it stayed in my mind all evening only to resurface in my dream that damp rainy night. In fact, the words I had uttered in my dream had come directly from Valerie’s letter.

The stairs leading up to the attic were dark and narrow and cold. They were enclosed in a small upward-going tunnel and they swerved round so that you couldn’t see if someone was coming down or going up until you were right smack in front of them. It was void of day light and lacked a light switch and even a light bulb for that matter.
Risa and I shared a room up there but I had had no say in the matter. My mother, suspecting my sister to be up to something, used me as a bargaining condition.

“…only if you agree to share the space with your sister,” mother bargained assured that Risa would soon give up the idea. And when Risa said ok without a moment’s hesitation, mother couldn’t go back on her word. And so it was that I ended up sleeping in the attic.

Risa chose the attic because of the way it felt so disconnected from the rest of the house. Perhaps it was because the stairs were completely encapsulated, but once upstairs one could not hear anything going on downstairs. And vice versa. I didn’t like being upstairs but once upstairs I dreaded going down those stairs. I always got the distinct feeling that I was about to bump into a ghost.

We had two beds. Mine was closest to the stairs and Risa’s was next to the windows. Mom let me have a small table next to my bed and on it I kept a small glow-in-the-dark lamp. But the lamp hardly got any real light from outside or from the one dim light bulb that illuminated the room. In order to get any use of the glow, I had to wait for Risa to be in the room for a few minutes before going upstairs. Once under my covers, Risa would turn off the light and then I would get my glow. Good thing was that I fell asleep right away even before the lamp lost its glow.

There were no partitions between our beds so Risa spent her allowance on thick silk ribbons that she thumbtacked to the ceiling boards; I mean lots and lots of ribbons. She made it so that from the top of the stairs, one couldn’t see her bed and also from my bed I couldn’t see her bed. The ribbons were of all different colors and they cascaded from the low ceiling all the way to the floor. During the day I loved looking at the ribbons swaying with the wind, but at night the ribbons grazing against my face or any part of my body, sent shivers down my spine. They scared me.

That night, the rains came strong. There was thunder and there was lightening.
The old house moaned, the old house groaned; the old window blinds rattled uncontrollably. Shrrrrrrooweeee shrrrrrooweeeee rushed in the wind through small openings on the window frame. Oh that howling; how angry that wind sounded. I needed my mother but I was afraid to descend the stairs.
I called out to Risa but she paid me no mind. Closer and closer to her bed I went until I was right above her. She laid on her side, still as a corpse. I could see the shape of her body and even her hair but her face lay hidden under the blanket.
“Can I sleep with you,” I whispered in a groggy voice.
“I’m sssc– scared, ” I moaned still trying to sound strong. I touched her shoulder to shake her but there was no shoulder where a shoulder was supposed to have been. I ran my hand over her body but there was no body there either. And scary as that was, I snatched off the light blanket only to find that two cushions laid where Risa was supposed to have laid.

At that revelation, my eyes got forced open. These didn’t feel like my eyes. The area around my eyes was being held wide open by cold fingers that even my eyeballs felt cold. I couldn’t manage a blink. My mouth flew open as if the ligaments in my neck had been wound too tightly. I screamed but the scream was only coming from inside my head. My voice had deserted me. Almost without thinking I scurried over to the stairs and stomped down the dark stairs as if the ON button had just been turned-on inside me. No time for knocking. I flung the door open. I got to mother’s side of the bed and yanked the covers off of her. I still couldn’t get my eyes to blink or my neck to release the pull it had on my open mouth. I started slapping mother. This woke my father too. He jumped out of bed and turned on the big light in the room. As if this was the cue that I had been waiting for, a loud insistent wailing bubbled from within me. I started to shake uncontrollably and burning tears splattered from my eyes all at once. My voice was incoherent and husky so with exaggerated hand gestures I tried telling them about Risa. But my parents couldn’t understand. I dragged them to the stairs and pushed them towards the attic. Mom got to the top first.
“Risa,” called my mother in that voice she used to let us know that we were in trouble.
“Risa get out here this minute. Risaaaaa! 

But there was no Risa…