Thursday, November 18, 2010

Azalea, Part Seven

Sick of Azalea yet? I don't blame you--four posts in a row of my characters is enough to make anyone want to take her head to the nearest brick wall. The good news: I'm finally caught up on posts! Now the rest of you need to post something to dissapate the Azalea monopoly...

A small town equals a small population. A small population equals a small group of possible friends. And a small circle of friends—combined with that small town factor again, simply because of cramped quarters—equals tight friendships. What all of this means, you ask? It means that it’s really easy to find yourself childless one day and the godmother of a baby girl named Ophelia the next.

Eighteen years ago (don’t even think about calling me old or I’ll sic our neighborhood serial killer on you next), I was welcomed into Wildewood’s unofficial society of godparents. Because we have so few people and so much religion to go around, that amounts to just about everyone above the age of twenty…or below, but let’s be nice and say twenty. Poor Ophelia should have known she’d be unlucky in life when she found out who her mom had chosen to pair her up with—me. Not the baker, or the school principal, or nice old Farmer Harris. Heck, even the bartender would have been an improvement. But she didn’t pick them; she picked me.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little extreme in my criticism. After all, I do give her birthday presents…and Christmas presents…and graduation presents, when I remember…

Yeah, yeah, I know: I’m a sucky godmother. I’m not the one who came up with this whole “responsibility” idea in the first place, so don’t blame me; blame her biological mother, the one who up and left her daughter and husband for a life of adventure and mystique, sending only the occasional letter to make up for a lifetime of damage.

One such letter came today.

I haven’t opened it.


Any minute now, my acidic curiosity is going to eat through my ethical resolve. I don’t know why she sends these things to me, but I guess it’s to ensure that Ophelia’s dad doesn’t keep them under lock and key, even if that doesn’t sound like something he’d do. Who knows what goes through the woman’s mind—she’s delusional. It’s a wonder Ophelia turned out as well as she did.

I count the letter’s possible subjects on my fingers to curb my need to steam open the envelope (I wonder if that actually works in real life) and decide that because Ophelia’s birthday has long come and gone, the next holiday is miles away, and a Halloween note has never reached my mailbox in the history of my godparent-ing, it must be Mommy Dearest’s way of showing concern that her daughter is living in what is soon to become nothing more than a giant cemetery.

She can’t possibly know about the pain and suffering Ophelia has endured in the past few days, the loved ones she has lost in a tragic whirlwind of cruel murder, and the cold, clammy fear that must be encasing her veins at this very moment.

Then again, neither can I.

Sighing and muttering to myself, I propel my lazy butt up from the kitchen table, letter in hand, and grab my keys from the wall hook.

“Caleb?” I call, a little quietly so as not to wake Warwick from his nap on the upper floor.

My son swipes the pads of his fingers over the buttons of his PS3 controllers as he answers, “Yeah?”

“I’m going out. I’ll be back in a bit.”

Miraculously, he pauses the game to look me in the eyes. That’s a first. Maybe we should live in life-or-death situations more often.

“You can’t go out,” he tells me, his expression so stern that I’m not sure whether I should laugh or sit back down. “What if you get…”

While he searches for the right word, I hustle over to plant a gentle kiss on his forehead before heading toward the garage.

“I’ll be fine, sweetheart. I’ll be back in an hour. Trust me.”

The fact that I’m able to drag myself out the door is a miracle in itself. One second more of the anomaly of my son actually paying attention to me and Ophelia’s going to be on her own today.

Of course, Caleb’s sudden interest in my wellbeing isn’t the only force working against my will to make it to the jail. There’s also the murderer to worry about. But that’s just a minor detail, right?

At the very least, he—or she, but somehow I’m more inclined to say “he”—gives me an excuse to use my car for transportation rather than a pair of tennis shoes. Not that I’d be taking a daytrip to the jail in the first place if our lovely little maniac had gone to wreak havoc in Miami.

As I drive cautiously through the windswept town, my foot just barely touching the pedal so as to stay below the demanded fifteen miles per hour, I suck in a breath at the emptiness of the wasteland we call home. It’s different from the, dare I say it, charming village of the past, where kind, if sometimes straw-headed southern bumpkins milled around with their rosy-cheeked children skipping on ahead. Now the sidewalks are lonely slabs of concrete, shunned even by the doors of the shops, which are shut tight in fear of the person who may come striding up to knock any minute now. The people have taken Warwick’s warning to heart and locked themselves in the solace of their homes, where no one will know who’s dead and who’s alive, and nobody will be here to see the murderer if he shoots out my tires and shatters my window with a snow shovel…

When I finally pull into the jail—at a speed well over fifteen miles an hour, mind you—I realize that I’ve never been so elated to see a cop car in my life. I wouldn’t even mind if someone rushed out to give me a speeding ticket, just as long as they had a loaded gun on them. It’s dangerous out here.

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