|Photo Credit: Foggy Sunlight by Wallyir|
Sneaking in past Auntie El was no small task. The woman could detect a field mouse stealing from the barn stores from the kitchen.
Laura giggled, vomit crusted into the cracks at the side of her prefect lips.
“Shhh. Do you want her to hear us?” I said.
Her eyes went wide as she heaved and bent over, spilling another round of hot sick into El’s roses. I pulled her tangle of blond curls, holding them until she’d expelled what had to be the last of an entire fifth of vodka.
“Shit, Laura. Why do you have to do this every damn weekend?” I asked, but mostly to myself.
She let out a low groan.
“Real ladylike.” I shook my head and half carried her to the back door of the old farmhouse.
“Lizzie,” she said, her voice like crackling paper. “Lizzie, I think I gave Marcus a handy behind—”
The kitchen light flicked on above us.
“Uh oh,” said Laura.
Auntie El stood in the doorway, flannel nightgown dusting the floor and arms crossed. Her long gray hair set in two pig-tail like braids down either shoulder, making her, at least from far away, look a lot nicer than she really was in this state.
“It’s not what it looks like,” I said. Who was I kidding? It was exactly what it looked like.
***Jeanie stumbled on a clump of turned up grass. Her thoughts grew thick and lazy as she tried to focus on the hem of her dark jeans, now caked in red mud. She’d spent every weekend partying in the field near Thomson’s Creek, but this was the drunkest she’d been yet.
The beat of her heart quickened as she remembered the party, somehow different from the others. No Rick Jones, jock of the year, posturing near the usual keg standing at an angle on the old oak stump. No perfect Laura Winterborne drunk and stoned out of her cheerleader brain making an ass out of herself. No emo boys nestled together with their cigs. No Lizzie, wonderful best friend, always on the look out for her, Lizzie. No loud music.
She lingered on this last thought. Music. But, there was music.
Strange otherworldly music, like fiddles and squawks and chirps. Music that reminded her of a long lost children’s story.
Her legs had grown numb and despite the short distance to home, she couldn’t go on. A frigid morning breeze swept her hair into her face, the ends matted and stained violet. She ran her fingers through the sticky mess, then, not understanding why, pulled the strand into her mouth.
As her tongue connected with the sweet, wild juices, she remembered. Little men, they sang to her. With heads of birds and toads and fish, they sang. They danced too, and then they… they fed her fruit?
With her mind lost to the memories of the night, Jeanine fell, her pale cheek pressed against the wet grass of a cow field, and a strand of purple hair between her lips.
***A distant buzzing woke me, and I reached for my cell. Through the haze of sleep I recognized the number as Jeanie’s home. She never called from there.
“Hey, where were you last night?” I asked.
“Lizzie? This is Annette.”
“Oh. Hi, Mrs. Darling. What, um, what’s up?”
“I thought Jeanie might be with you, but I guess not. You don’t know where she is?”
Crap. She was probably over at Marcus’ but I couldn’t tell her mom that. Jeanie’s parents were super strict religious types. “I, um, I bet she’s at Sarah’s.”
“No. I’ve already tried there.” Annette began to cry. “She’s never not-come home.”
“I’m sorry. I—”
The line went dead.
“Laura, wake up. We need to go and find Jeanie,” I said to my snoring sister, still all vomty from the night before.
She rolled onto her side, opening her eyes with clearly a lot of effort. “Want to sleep. Go away.” Here lids slipped closed again.
“It’s your fault she ran off. Get your sorry hungover-ass up and come help me look for her.”
“Girls? What’s going on,” Auntie El called from the other side of our door.
“Nothing, Laura is just getting up to come and help me look for a friend.” I rummaged around the room, finding a pair of jeans and a sweater, realizing too late the sweater was Laura’s and a bit on the small side. “Get up.” I pulled her stupid pink comforter off. God I wished we had our own rooms. I hated frills.
The door creaked open and Aunt El threw me my coat. “Let her sleep, Liz. She’s going to need her rest for the punishment she’s got coming this afternoon. I’ll help you.”
I left the comforter on the ground out of spite.
The two of us slogged through the damp grass, occasionally coming across a stranded beer bottle or can, in the direction of last night’s party.
“Oh dear God, is that her?” Aunt El asked as we quickened our pace toward a lump in the field between Jeanie’s house and ours.
“Jeannie!” She didn’t move. It wasn’t like her to drink so much. But Laura had been beyond cruel to her.
When we reached her, she smelled of rotten fruit. Jungle Juice, maybe? But where did she get it? There wasn’t any at the Thompson’s Creek party.
“Lizzie, stop!” El said in a strangled voice, her hand a vice around my wrist.
I tried to pull away, but she was stronger than any eighty-plus woman had the right to be.
“Auntie, she’s drunk. We need to get her home.”
“No, child. Get your phone out and call the police. She’s dead.” Tears welled and she released me.
Her hand moved to cover her lips and though her next words were barely a whisper, they shook inside my head as if she’d shouted them.
“They’re back. The Goblin Men are back.”
(c) 2010, MB
** This YAFF Muse has been based on a re-telling of the ever eloquent Christina Rossetti's poem The Goblin Market.
Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:
Rachel Marie Pratt