Authors: Angie Myers Lewtschuk
Tags: #Fiction, #Literary, #Retail, #Suspense, #Thriller
WILL HAVE ITS WAY
Angie Myers Lewtschuk
© 2013 Angie Myers Lewtschuk
November 1, 2013
Cover Photo © 2013 Nathan Lewtschuk
© 2013 Markus Lewtschuk
All rights reserved. This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or unauthorized use of the material or artwork associated with this work is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of the author.
All characters and events are entirely fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons living or dead is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Light from the late afternoon sun reflected off the fountain and danced about the garden. The girl in the little blue coat didn’t look real behind the glassy, golden rays that glimmered over her and for a second I thought perhaps she was unreal. I blinked hard then opened my eyes. She was still there. Tiny with delicate features, she couldn’t have been more than three feet tall. Sitting on the edge of the bench, her feet angled together swinging carelessly through the dirt beneath them. She watched me move toward her through soft, squinting eyes and the corners of her mouth lifted into a sweet, impish smile.
“Where is your mother?” I asked.
Still smiling, she raised her shoulders into a shrug and tilted her head sheepishly.
“Are you here all by yourself?”
I looked around the garden. There was no one else there. I doubted anyone would have intentionally left her and figured she’d probably just gotten separated from her mother who would be along soon enough to collect her. She scooted to one side making room for me on the bench. We watched in silence as people passed by on the street, I was eagerly hoping that one of them would turn our way, recognize the girl and race across the garden to retrieve her. But no one did. The minutes turned into an hour, then almost two, the sun had slipped behind the building and the temperature was quickly dropping. We watched our breath float away in small, fluffy tufts while the street traffic slowed to a trickle. Still no one came.
The garden sat between a pair of three story apartment buildings. A small stone path cut through the middle connecting the main sidewalk to the arbor, well-cultivated bushes circled the grass and the planters that had been cutaway along the edges were thick with flowers. It was unusual to see such loving care afforded an outdoor space that wasn’t attached to a government building but my neighbor took it upon herself to become the unofficial gardener. She said it was her obligation to make sure the space looked as beautiful as it possibly could.
And in that she had succeeded, the garden stood out, awash with color and serenity, completely unaware of the dreary, grey world that surrounded it.
“Do you think your mother will be back anytime soon?” I finally asked.
She shook her head.
A gust of chilled air worked its way under my jacket, I shuddered and wrapped my arms over themselves. “Then we must go inside, I’m afraid we’ll freeze out here.” I pointed in the direction of the building, “I just live right there. If you like, we can watch for your mother through that window.”
I didn’t know why I kept referencing her mother when even she didn’t seem to be expecting her mother to return. She followed me across the garden to the front entrance and we started down the hall. I kept hearing something behind me that sounded like the heavy click of the main door. I clenched my jaw and readied myself for a hysterical woman, rushing in, scooping up her daughter, undecided about whether or not she should be ecstatic or angry, should thank me or report me. On the next click, it was the father, only he had no trouble deciding whether or not to be angry. He would snatch her up roughly, grabbing me with his free hand, pulling my face to his so I could feel the warmth of his breath as he raged, “What do you think you’re doing with my baby?”
My ice-cold fingers fumbled with the keys and I searched nervously behind me hoping the surrounding doors would remain closed. The girl fixed her gaze straight ahead, staring hard at the door while she waited for it to open. Once inside, I watched her eyes as they scanned the room, they moved quickly as she tried to take in everything at once.
“Is this your house?” she asked. Her voice was small and airy, but exactly as I had imagined it would be.
She seemed confused. “This is a house?”
“Well I guess it’s not really a house,” I answered, “it’s an apartment.”
“A…part…ment?” she repeated, squinching up her eyes.
“Yeah, an apartment.”
“Oh,” she said quietly. “Do you live here with your mommy and daddy?”
“Nope, just me.”
“It’s pretty,” she added with a smile.
I glanced around the room, pretty was quite possibly the last word I might have used to describe it. My furnishings were old and shabby, the walls hid behind heavily grained sheets of paneling and the floors were covered with faded linoleum in an abstract floral pattern that looked oddly similar to longhorn skulls. Once I’d made the connection, I could no longer not see it and from that day forward my floors were effectively covered in tiny, orange Texas longhorns.
She stayed close to the door and directed her attention to the ceiling, noticeably impressed with what she saw, she leaned her head back as far as it would go so she could see directly above her. I looked up to see if I could tell what she was looking at. The ceilings were unremarkable except for a somewhat gaudy crown molding. I wouldn’t have expected this to be her first look at an ornate ceiling but my building was old and one of a very few that hadn’t been entirely destroyed during the war. When the city was reconstructed it was done in a rush, people needed places to live, they didn’t care anymore about crown molding.
I reached out to reassure her, “It’s okay if you want to go inside.” My fingertips grazed the soft blue of her coat, which fit around her rather tightly creating sort of a stiff, bundled look when she moved. She passed into the room, keeping close to the edges, her fingers trailed over everything she passed. She ran them along the side of the table, the back of the chair, then worked her way to the window where she paused and looked out into the garden. She placed her hands gently on the glass then pulled them away. She ran them along the sill and through the space between, then repeated the process at the next window. The tips of her fingers continued to drag themselves across the wall and past the doorjamb into the hall. Keeping my distance, I followed behind her. She stopped short in the bathroom doorway.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She held her tiny finger out toward the toilet while her expression became serious.
“Oh, this?” I reached for the fluffy pink seat cover, “You’ve never seen one of these before?”
She shook her head and continued to point firmly toward the toilet.
“Are you talking about the… toilet?”
“What is it?” she whispered.
“What is what?” I asked as I pushed the lever to flush it. “Are you really asking me what a toilet is… or are you just trying to be silly?”
Her eyes expanded as she watched the water suck down into the bowl. When the water stopped and everything settled, she smiled and pushed herself out of the doorway and back into the hall, then disappeared into my room.
The contents there were as unimpressive as those in the rest of the apartment. A full sized bed ran along the outer wall flanked by a large wooden dresser that had looked wonderfully expensive before an unexpected heat wave caused the laminate to bubble and peel. She put the tips of her fingers through the holes of an afghan at the foot of the bed then ran them over the quilt, a purple floral patchwork with small tufts dotting the connection points. I could tell she liked the way the collapsing yarn felt under her fingers as she ran her hand over and over the bed.
She moved to the dresser and pointed straight away to the tray of perfume that sat on its top.
“Did you want to try one of these?” I asked.
She nodded and I reached for a bottle, the frilly pink one, the one I was sure she would choose. Before I could pick it up she took hold of my hand and pushed it toward a different bottle. She lifted her head and held out her wrists, inhaling deeply as I sprayed. When I sat it back her face puckered with embarrassment and a quick hand burst in the direction of the bottles, this time pointing to the one I had initially chosen. She pulled her hand back to her mouth covering it as she giggled.
“Oh, so you
want to try this one?”
She nodded shyly and we continued playing with perfume until the air was full with rose water and balmy, sweet floral.
Her attention eventually landed on a small jewelry box on the dressing table, a present for my 10th birthday, it was a simple, rectangular shape, covered in decorative white vinyl. She opened it slowly, a small ballerina on a tiny spring popped up in the back, she squealed with delight clasping her hands together in front of her. I turned the winder on the bottom of the box and a slow, tinny version of Chim Chim Cheree began to play. Her eyes filled with joy as the ballerina began to turn. When the music stopped she asked to touch what was inside and pulled out a pair of earrings. Small gold balls dangled at the end of long, thin rods, she held them to her ears, swinging side to side, admiring her reflection in the mirror as she did so. Once she had finally picked up or tried on everything inside the box, she lowered the lid. I caught the tiny fingers of her hand waving, waving goodbye to the ballerina.
When we returned to the living room, she went immediately to the couch where she sat clumsily undoing the double buttons that ran down the front of her coat. She peeled it away from her shoulders to reveal a pale yellow dress. The style was cute enough but the intricate flowers that covered the stiff linen fabric made it seem more suitable for a woman’s dress than for the dress of a child. I couldn’t escape the fact that her look and manner were unlike that of any of the girls her age I’d seen around town. She actually quite reminded me of an old porcelain doll my grandmother had always displayed amongst her vast collection of antique salt and pepper shakers. The six inch figure was cast in the shape of a small girl caught in the wind, a scarf wrapped tightly over her head and a look of curious wonder painted on her face. Her tiny porcelain hands clasped the front of her jacket while a basket filled with apples teetered on her arm.
The girl struggled to remove her boots and I lowered myself to help her. They were quite unusual, made of thick, dark leather and lined with an incredibly silky fur that had soft white roots and rigid grey ends. I’d never seen anything like them in any of the stores in town, not even the ones I wasn’t allowed to shop in.
Before I’d gotten to the laces of the second boot, she hastily reached into her shoulder bag and pulled out an empty cloth napkin, she looked it over, half
surprised that it was empty, forgetting that she’d already eaten whatever had been there.
“Are you hungry?” I asked.
She nodded slowly, almost apologetically and I directed her to the kitchen. A narrow counter with cupboards below and shelves above ran across the outer wall, a small window above the sink looked out to the garden. If the pleasant view was the best part of the kitchen, the appliances, old, rusted and menacingly oversized, were the worst. We went to the cupboards, I didn’t usually keep much food around, but it seemed at that moment that there was even less than normal. Things you live with everyday look entirely different when someone else is there to see it with you, much in the same way that a clean house can suddenly feel dirty when an unexpected knock comes at your door. I pulled a box of cereal from the cupboard, “How about this, do you like cereal?”
A pained look covered her face, I couldn’t decide if she was having trouble deciphering the label or if that was just her way of saying she wasn’t interested in cereal. I moved on to a box of crackers. “Would you like to try a few of these?”
She tilted her head to the side, and raised her shoulders. I went back for something else. “Soup, do you like soup?” I held up the can. “I can heat this up for you.”
“It’s soup, chicken noodle soup, do you like soup? Do you like chicken?”
Do you like anything?
Still nothing. I turned back to the cupboard, fearful that I’d exhausted all of my options. The little bird voice chirped softly behind me, “Do you have milk?”
I did! I actually did have milk! I checked the expiration, it was a few days past its date but didn’t smell like it had turned, although, to be honest, it was seriously thinking about it. She leaned toward the glass then immediately recoiled. She scrunched up her nose and shook her head.
“Well, that’s all we have,” I said trying to hide my frustration. I wondered where a child might acquire such a discriminating taste for fresh milk, certainly no one I knew would be so picky.
“I’m not sure if I have anything else you would like, but you’re welcome to see for yourself,” I said, directing her farther into the kitchen.
She got up from the table and walked toward the refrigerator, she grasped the handle and tugged hard on the door using her full weight for leverage, the closure held tight then let loose unexpectedly sending her into a backwards tumble. I reached out to catch her, alarmed by how incredibly light she felt. She laughed to herself, adjusted her dress then pushed herself right up into the open fridge. Her eyes moved through the empty shelves and she pointed to one of the few jars that remained.
“Can I just have some of that?” she squeaked.
She nodded enthusiastically.
I had so far never heard of anyone willing to eat jam all by itself. I pulled the jar from the fridge and held it up for her approval. A big smile crossed her face. I was relieved.
She took hold of the dish and started into the preserved fruit like a ravenous puppy. Once she finished she rushed from the kitchen and flopped herself onto the couch. She reached into her bag again, this time pulling out a ratty stuffed toy that had certainly seen more than its fair share of love. It was a bunny, a small, brown velvet bunny. She held it in front of her the way a first time mother holds a newborn then drug her tiny finger across the row of mismatched buttons that ran down its chest and straightened its bow before bringing it close for a long, tight squeeze. Her eyelids dropped and the corners of her lips lifted into a peaceful smile. When she was done with her ritual, the bunny was carefully lowered back into her bag.