Elise loved the universe—and Beyond. It was mutual.
But the facts remained. Her friends and relations contradicted nearly everything she said, and her husband grinned wickedly whenever she used the words, “I’ve been thinking…”
Yet the oaks and maples swayed in exuberant joy whenever she strolled near the tree line bordering their property. Almost as if they spoke through motion, “Welcome, friend. Lay down your burdens. Rest awhile.”
A small body barreled into her. Jody, her youngest, was master of the yard and could roam from the front lawn to the back barbecue with complete freedom. Still, once she stepped off the porch, he inevitably pelted her direction and threw his arms around her legs as if he had not seen her for—what? How do six-year-olds measure time? Hours? Days? Clearly not years since he believed that she was older than the moon.
“Can you play with me?”
Her shoulders sagged. His plea weighed on her shoulders like a boulder carried over a turbulent stream. The clicking-clacking sound of the drier rolled in the background. Must’ve left Clifton’s belt on his pants… She winced at the image of metal scraping metal.
Her husband stood on the porch.
Deb shaded her eyes from the bright May sun. “Yes, honey?”
“You seen my belt?”
A number of lies jumped to the tip of her tongue. Would evasive half-truths work? “Uh…”
“It’s in the drier!” Jody beamed, proud of the “eagle eye” Daddy assured him he was born with. “Mom threw it in there.”
Caught like a rat in a trap.
“Hon-eeey!” That last drawn-out syllable said it all.
In desperation, Deb glanced at the trees. The maple branches swayed wildly though the wind wasn’t strong. Their offer of friendship stretched across the yard in a valiant attempt to calm her turbulent stomach.
She patted her son’s head. “I can’t play now; we’ve got company coming for dinner. But Uncle Ben is always up for a game of catch.”
Jody’s eyes widened. Uncle Ben—like superman—flew in, amazed anyone under the age of seven, and then flew away like a superhero ready to accomplish his next mission.
The gleeful little boy shouted and frightened a robin from her nest. She fluttered to a higher branch while the boy dodged around his dad intent on serious matters. Perhaps he’d clean his room? Fling his books and toys on the floor looking for a treasure to show his uncle more like.
Clifton plunked down the steps. His irritation over the belt forgotten in light of this newest doom. “Ben? Tonight?”
The branches slowed, subdued by the grim news. Another robin fluttered near and chirped a brave song of defiance.
There was never a good night for Ben, according to Clifton. Opposites on politics, religion, and how to properly open a can of beer, they saw eye-to-eye on absolutely nothing. Except mutual distrust bordering on hate. On that, they might actually agree.
“He asked if he could come by… What could I say? He wants to see Jody.”
Clifton gave her THE LOOK—head down, eyebrows up, eyes searing her brain like laser beams. “It took the man three years to realize that his nephew’s name isn’t Joel.”
The maple limbs drooped. A few baby leaves quivered. The joy of living barely vibrated in the still air.
“He wants to care.” Weariness enveloped Deb. The drier stopped with a long screech like a train arriving at the station. She could retrieve the clothes, return the missing belt, and lift one guilty burden off her shoulders. Jody would play with Ben and—whoosh—another guilt-rock would roll away. For a few minutes.
Her husband snorted.
Her spirits smashed to earth. She stared at the ground. Or was it quicksand?
“Well, if he’s coming, I’m going. I’ve got some work I can do at dad’s.”
Deb nodded. It was the most reasonable solution. “You want me to send some of the fried chicken over? You two could make a—”
“Naw. I’ll get pizza. We’ll be fine. He’ll scream at the politicians on TV and then fall asleep after a couple of bites.” He shrugged. “You know how he is. Never happy. But at least I can fix the bathroom sink in peace and quiet.”
Torn, Deb knew that Clifton would mutter under his breath when he couldn’t find some tool or another, but he’d get the job done. He always did.
The phone buzzed in her pocket. She grabbed it. Lia? Deb tensed, ready for anything between a molehill and an atomic explosion.
She showed him the name and then plastered the phone to her ear. “Hey, Lia!” Her tone sounded much too cheerful.
Three states away, Lia could still moan like a cow mooing directly in your ear. “I’m soooo siiiick! Mom’s taking me to the doctor.” Sniff. Cough-cough. “I just want you to know that if she crashes us or something, it isn’t my fault.”
After living a thirty-year soap opera, Deb knew her lines perfectly. She used the right pitch, oohhed and awed appropriately, and hit the end button as soon as decently possible.
She looked up. The real world still existed. Except, now her husband was stomping away from the fence bordering the Chelsea Estate. Or such was the name etched into an enormous boulder at the base of their neighbor’s fifteen-foot driveway.
“That witch says Jody plays too loud in the morning and wants us to keep him inside till ten so she can get her beauty sleep.”
Deb winced. “Well, he does get rather loud—inside or out. I’ll have a talk with him and find something quiet he can do till mid-morning.”
“No wonder she’s always running to a therapist after every breakup. No sane human would put up her with.”
“She’s had a hard life.”
Clifton slapped his hand against his cheek, his eyes alarmingly wide. “Of her own making.”
There was no point in denying the obvious. “I’ll get your belt.” Deb sighed and clasped the porch railing.
Rolling his shoulders, Clifton clearly wanted to start the day over. He stepped in front of her. “It’s okay. I’ll get it.” His face flushed pink. “I spilled some taco sauce on it the other day—it needed a wash.” He patted her arm, a quick massage with his thumb. A smile twitched, his eyes laughing. “I don’t know how you do it.”
A gust of wind sent delicious shivers over her skin, and the rustle of leaves tickled her ears. “What?”
“Put up with us.” Her husband chuckled. “Your brother’s an idiot, and my dad’s a tyrant.” He climbed the porch steps. “Your sister’s crazy, the neighbor has a screw loose, and the world is going to hell.” He stopped in the doorway and grinned back at her. “Yet, you never seem to care.”
Deb watched her husband saunter into the house. He whistled a happy tune. All his irritations blown away like dust on the wind.
The tree limbs begged with frantic waves for her to come and visit.
She strolled over. Reaching up, she stroked the smooth bark and soft leaves. The rustling leaves danced in frantic joy.
Her spirit responded in kind.
Lifting her face to the sun, she closed her eyes and abandoned herself. Every sense in her body—and Beyond—filled with peace. “I do care.”
Books by A. K. Frailey
Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend Novels
OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN
OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF
OldEarth Neb Encounter https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ
OldEarth Georgios Encounter https://amzn.to/3v7w8oI
OldEarth Melchior Encounter (In Production)
Science Fiction Novels
Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg
Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN
It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz
Encounter Science Fiction Short Stories & Novella https://amzn.to/3dq6q5l
My Road Goes Ever On—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll
The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings https://amzn.to/3rtAy6S
The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5