Okay, so I’m going to post MORE WRITING YAY. For the last part of the Cradle to the Grave assignment, we had to combine the two parts (I also had to edit the first part because it was supposed to be one sentence = one year). Please let me know what you think because I am in love with this and love getting feedback.
Abilene Hayes is difficult from the moment she is born; the doctor had to fight to make her breathe and she never stopped crying once she started. Within the year, she is nicknamed Abby even though her mother insists she shouldn’t have a nickname – Agnes had named her Abilene, after all, not Abby and if she wanted an Abby she would have called her Abby – but even when she is just starting to walk and still has light, airy curls with cheeks as red as her hair, no one calls her Abilene. Her father plays with her, running and laughing and shouting in equal turns, hardly ever pausing to catch a breath.
She’s four years old when she meets Zachary in preschool and steals back the toy soldier Tracy Blake had ripped out of his hands; he tells her that her hair looks like it’s on fire and she says his skin looks like hot chocolate and from that moment on they are partners in crime. A year later they are holding hands and ready to make an escape if kindergarten is as bad as they think it will be, swearing they won’t leave the other behind.
Aunt Martha comes and makes her put on an ugly black dress, pulling at her hair until she cries and when she’s done it looks like rope is falling out of her head – her nails poke Abby’s shoulder when they stand behind her daddy at the cemetery and all Abby wants is for Aunt Martha to leave her alone so she can hold her daddy’s hand while they talk about her mom, but the nails keep poking her and won’t let her move – not even when her daddy starts to cry.
All the pictures of her mom are taken down and Abby knows that Aunt Martha hid them away. Aunt Martha is always yelling at her daddy, saying things that Abby tries not to listen to because she knows they’re mean. Her mom’s been dead for three years and Abby just wants the pictures back, the ones Martha took down and hid away, so when Zachary comes over while Martha is at the grocery store they try to find them; when Martha comes home early she says that Zachary isn’t allowed to come over and play anymore.
Abby stays at Zachary’s house a lot, even when he isn’t there; Abby likes his house and likes to play with his little sister and on Zachary’s birthday, they find an abandoned apartment building and spend the whole night on the roof celebrating the fact that they’re both ten. Whenever Abby stays at home, Martha always says that she is eleven now and has to be responsible – Abby spends more time at Zachary’s house with his mom and sister.
She is twelve when Martha finally leaves. She can’t hear what Martha says. It just sounds like a string of emotions, sounds like anger and frustration and disgust all bottled up together and flung at the shambles of Abby’s family and Abby doesn’t understand why Martha hates them so much or why she is still there. But she doesn’t want to know, doesn’t want to care why Martha thinks a promise to her dead sister is so important because it won’t help or make Martha stop – so she focuses on Martha’s immaculate braid, dark and stained with streaks of snow and ice; and Martha’s nails, long and almost like the branches of a thorn bush and painted the colour of a rotten apple.
Her dad is sitting at the kitchen table – the vinyl one that’s an ugly shade of yellow that Martha bought and used to replace the wooden one that still had Abeline Hayes carved into the bottom in blocky letters – and Abby can see how his hands shake against the wood and how he bites down on his lip, teeth pulling and pulling until blood is pulsing up and staining his mouth. He’s always doing that now – biting his lips until his teeth are red or peeling back his nails without blinking, like they’re nothing but an orange and it drives Abby crazy and makes her want to grab his hands and tell him to just stop – stop hurting himself, stop remembering, stop mourning because it doesn’t help and her mom doesn’t need him anymore, but Abby does – Abby needs him and he’s not there.
Everything is too clean and Abby hates it, hates how everything is locked up until they are needed and hates how there is no clutter anywhere– there aren’t any crumpled balls of paper for Abby to kick across the floor and no books piled beside tables and chairs. All the papers were ordered and locked away in desk drawers and all the books were forced onto the shelves where only dust ever touched the pages and Abby just wants to be able to know what it feels like to knock over one of the stacks because she isn’t paying attention and what the paper feels like under her toes because she can’t remember anymore.
The window is closed just like all the others, curtains pulled over the glass and it hides them from everyone and it’s wrong because Martha is nothing like Abby’s mom; she always wants the windows locked up and the curtains chained over them so no one can see. Abby wants to open them, tear the curtains away and break the glass until the floor is a mirror so Martha can’t make them hide.
She was supposed to see Zachary tonight. After Martha went to bed, Abby was supposed to sneak out so they could go to the old apartment building; they were going three days before his birthday because it was so hard to get away from Martha and because his birthday was on a school night this year. It wasn’t fair – Zachary was the only person she wanted to spend time with, the only person who she could just be Abby with and Martha kept trying to ruin it just like she ruined her family.
Martha is still screaming and Abby still isn’t listening because the words aren’t important because they all mean the same thing – Martha hates them both, hates that her sister made her promise to look after them and Abby can’t stand it anymore. Martha has to leave them alone, go away, has to get out so Abby can have a family again.
Abby stands up, the chair screeching against the tiled floor as it tries to keep its balance. Martha looks at her and Abby realises for the first time that Martha isn’t taller than her anymore; she looks angry, but her eyes are weak and watery and Abby isn’t afraid of Martha because Martha doesn’t belong there and she’s never been anything but wrong.
She doesn’t know what she says to Martha – it’s a blur of muted noise and emotion, but the door slams and Abby is alone with her father. He looks up at her, blood still on his lips and she steps towards him, but he looks away and leaves Abby in the kitchen so she’s alone with the ugly, yellow vinyl.
Her dad still sits at the kitchen table, but now he stares at the liquor cabinet and Abby has the pictures of her mom in her desk drawer.
Abby finally makes it to high school and she and Zachary meet Nora and Michael and Lynn; they stay up late every weekend laughing at whatever bad movie is on and throw popcorn at whoever falls asleep first. Lynn and Nora always try to talk to Abby about boys and try to tease her about Zachary – they don’t believe her when she says that he’s like a brother to her. It only gets worse when everyone else starts dating: Lynn is always dating someone, Zachary has a new girl to take on a date every time they go somewhere, and Michael finally asks Nora out and stops torturing them all with his longing looks.
Zachary is the only one who ever understands that Abby doesn’t want to date; Nora and Lynn still tease her about Zachary, but now they wonder why she doesn’t want to date and Abby knows they think it’s weird – Zachary understands that she doesn’t care about any of that and that she’s happy with her friends and that’s enough.
It’s the night of Zachary’s eighteenth birthday and Abby teases him about finally catching up with her as they drive out to the apartment building; they’re laughing and singing along to silly Disney songs when Zachary turns to smile at her and screams her name instead, face almost pale in the glow of headlights.