By Maxine Pollock, TIWP Student
The skies opened up as I pulled my jacket tighter around my body. The dim street lights did very little to illuminate my puddle-infested walk home. My straight brown hair was plastered to my face but the downpour persisted. Despite my fifteen years of existence in rainy Vancouver, I had never gotten used to the constant storms. I picked up my pace as the water began to seep through my sneakers, soaking my bare feet within. Most kids at nearly 8 o’clock at night would run for the warm comforts of their home. But not me. Despite the wet and frigid air, I was tempted to turn around and head right back to the public library from where I came. But the fact that I still had a paper to write and had already used up my library internet access for the month, forced me to trudge toward my house. With a knot twisting itself in my stomach, I unlocked the door and stepped inside.
A few lights were on, casting an eerie glow across the small room. The table was a mess of the remains of fast food meals and empty beer bottles. The couch was ratty and fading and in front of it was a TV that I think was new in the 90’s. If that wasn’t enough, the kitchen was filthy, piles and piles of dishes stretched across the countertops. I sighed. My life wasn’t always like this. I used to be a normal toddler and do normal kid things. I had friends, went to birthday parties, and played in the street with the neighbor’s kids. My family was normal, too. We went out for dinner, had game nights, and were always laughing and smiling in each other’s presence. Everything changed when on my fourth birthday, my mom left. She hugged me with tears in her eyes and said she had to go somewhere for something important but that I shouldn’t worry because she would be back soon. I never saw or heard from her again. My life began to slowly fall apart afterwards. She was the glue that nobody realized held our family together. My dad started leaving for nights at first, but then nights turned into days which turned into weeks. One time, I stopped hearing from him for a month. My friends started trickling away, too. Everything that was ordinary, everything I took for granted, like coming home to a sweet smelling house with smiling people, all started to slowly drip out of my life and then slowly drip out of me, until I was a riverbed in a drought, waiting for a rainstorm.
Shedding my raincoat and peeling off my soaked sneakers, I gathered my books and crept up the stairs as quietly as possible, careful not to wake my dad in the next room over. Even through my shoes had been discarded at the door, my socks were still very wet and slippery and I was too tired to really think or care. I was almost at the top when my damp socks gave way and the floor came up to meet my head. My library books went flying out of my hands and hit the stairs with a loud thud.
“Damn it,” I thought. “Dad’s definitely up now.”
Sure enough, I heard him stomping down the hallway. My blood froze as the sound grew louder but the persistent pain in my head kept me from moving much. There he was. Standing at the top of the stairs in a white tank top and baggy jeans, holding a beer bottle in one hand.
Ever since mom left, dad has never let go of a bottle. He lost his job due to his addiction and we are living on the little money not being spent on alcohol. I’m too afraid to tell anyone. Besides, I don’t even know who I would tell or if they would even care that the weird quiet girl without a mom has a bad home life. If I told someone, I would probably be placed in a county home or with a distant relative which would suck, but with me out of the picture, dad could get the treatment he needs.
A guttural grunt pulled me out of my thoughts. He was still there and I held my breath preparing for an additional bruise. Dad looked into my eyes and even from my twisted placement on the stairs, I could smell his potent breath. Seconds blurred into minutes as he stared at me and I remained there, shaking too much to move. Suddenly, dad clomped down the stairs, scattering my books in the process. When he was out of sight, I hurriedly grabbed my books and traveled as fast as my head would allow me to my room. Gently closing the door behind me, I released a breath I didn’t even know I had been holding. Books on the dresser, I collapsed onto my bed.
The next thing I knew, I was outside my house in the rain. I reached to pull my hood over my head but then realized I wasn’t cold or wet. Weird. The sloshing sound puddles grabbed my attention. I glanced up and heading toward me was a dark figure resembling a man. A distance of about two blocks lay between us but I still grew nervous seeing him head my way. My attempt to turn around and go back home was intercepted. He was there. That man. I stifled a scream thinking that it was simply my concussed head messing with me. He stepped under the street light unveiling his hood. The man was much taller than me but even from where I was, I could see that he possessed a rare type of otherworldly beauty. I couldn’t stop staring and then immediately felt embarrassed for doing so. Who was this stranger anyway?
He broke the silence. Reaching out for my hand he said in a thick, unplaceable accent, “Come with me.”
I yanked my arm back, out of his grasp. “What? No way!”
He sighed dramatically and ran a hand through his perfect hair. “Your mother said this would be difficult.”
My heart was pounding and thoughts swirled through my head. What did this man know about my mom? I stayed silent, not wanting to give too much away.
He sighed again and reached into the pocket of his dark coat. The man pulled out a silver pendant and handed it to me, closing my hand around it.
“I can’t say much,” he began, looking around nervously, “but protect it. Keep it close. You will know to use it when the time comes.” With that, he took a couple steps back and disappeared into the rain, right before my eyes.
Yep, definitely the concussion.
I glanced down at the pendant, a rectangular entity that was light despite its size. There was a gem in the middle that was a dark but vibrant blue with flecks of gold. Surrounding the gem was a silver frame with ornate designs. I was about to go search for the stranger and demand answers when the sky started to brighten. Harsh light flooded my vision. I woke up, the feeling of my blanket assuring myself that I was indeed in my bed. I was about to rise out of bed, grateful that last night was only a dream, when a familiar weight in my hand stopped me. I didn’t want to open my eyes and look in my palm, afraid of the truth. But resting in my hand was the same silver pendant and the chain attached to it. The gold in the gem sparkled in the morning light.