littlealbatross: (Laine- Nature)
[personal profile] littlealbatross
I actually wrote again. I was getting really discouraged so I just figured I'd do what I can and forget about those last... uh... 5 days? My handy NaNoWriMo spreadsheet says I need to write about 2100 words a day now to make 50k by the end of the month. Guess we'll see. I'll just be happy with myself if I make a significant effort.



7175 / 50000 words. 14% done!

OMG DOUBLE DIGITS.

Below the cut is the continuation of where I had to stop writing because I got distracted by a fork or something.



“He did mention something like that to me. It’s a beautiful art form. You should keep practicing. It might come in handy someday.”

“I know, that’s what I told Dad!” she said excitedly. “I told him that I could get a scholarship or something, but he just focuses on the school thing. It’s always about school. I’m doing fine but he always yells at me to come in too early and do my homework.”

They approached the front door of the Ainsworth house, an old Victorian on more than an acre. Nearly a mile off of the base proper, it was there long before the military installment was, and Adrian's hard work had made it one of the nicest homes in the area. He had kept all of the traditional elements of the house but fixed each of them up until they shone. The molding beneath the rain gutters was updated but retained the same feel as the original owners must have had, and he extended the wraparound porch so it went all the way around the house. Despite Layne begging him to paint it a light sky blue, it was a soft golden yellow that made the entire street feel airy and full of cheer. A bench, hung with brass chain near the front door, swayed slightly in the same breeze that caused the American flag next to the mailbox to dance.

Laine ran the last few yards to the mailbox, which proudly signaled new mail with its own flag. She half-heartedly wanted to believe that Duncan had sent something, but she knew in her heart before she wrenched the tiny, grated door open that nothing would be there from her brother. She was right. It was stuffed with fliers for “resident” and a weathered envelope for her father. Slamming the door shut and the flag down, she gathered it beneath her arm and ran toward the door.

“Let me take some of that before you drop it, kiddo.” Walker made a quick grab toward the advertisements and other assorted junk mailers and his eyes flickered at letter. He stopped, foot resting on the bottom stair, while Laine wrestled with the door while simultaneously trying to keep her flag and backpack from falling on the floor. The bag had been Duncans, and was decorated with his writing and buttons from various concerts he had gone to. It was already beaten up enough that she didn’t want to run the risk of sending anything flying or creating an even bigger hole in the fabric.
She glanced backward when she realized her uncle wasn’t following closely behind her anymore.

“Uncle Walker? Are you coming? You know, you can read that in the house. We have light inside here too!” She noticed that he seemed to be frozen in place and she became nervous. “Uncle Walker? Are you okay?”

The man shook his head, as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He gently ran his hand across the front of the letter, then tucked it into the inside pocket of the light linen jacket he was wearing. “It’s nothing”, he said, not quite meeting her eyes. “Just a letter for your father. It reminded me of something from a long time ago.” He rubbed his face with his hand and suddenly appeared very stressed.

Laine sensed that he wasn’t being totally honest with her and it annoyed her. So much for not feeling like a little kid anymore. She walked into the house and let the door close behind her, not caring very much whether her Uncle followed her or not. She was promised pizza for dinner, and she had a whole book of menus her family had collected to choose from.

The rest of the night was spent stuffing her face with Luigi’s word-famous deep dish combination pizza with extra cheese and drinking so much soda she thought her stomach was going to explode. Somewhat unpleasantly full and sedate, she settled in to watch a movie. A “chick flick” as her Uncle liked to call them with a sour look on his face.

“Real vampires wouldn’t hang around with young women,” he said, slouching further into the deep leather recliner her father was usually found in. He reached for the smooth wooden handle that would create a footrest and snapped it forward violently. “Unless it was for a snack.” He eyed the screen again. “More like an appetizer with that one…” he muttered, folding his arms over his chest.

“What do you mean, ‘real vampires’?”, Laine asked, pausing the dvd. “Like Dracula? Or Angel? Angel hung out with a young woman. She was a Slayer. You know, one girl in all of the universe whose job it was to kill vampires. But Angel was different! Angel had a soul! He only tried to eat Buffy- that’s the slayers’ name- once, but that was only because he was about to die. Buffy volunteered for it.” She glanced at him and realized he was rubbing his temples again in that way that made her think he wished he could be anywhere but here. In her carbohydrate bliss, she couldn’t find the energy to care whether or not he liked the topic of conversation, so she continued.

“But then, there was Spike. He did try to eat girls that he hung out with, so maybe you mean he is more like a real vampire. But he got a soul later too. I don’t know much about Dracula, except he was on Buffy that one time. He seemed like a really silly vampire though. But he could turn into a bat! That’s pretty scary. Imagine just laying in bed one day and a bat got into your house, then drank your blood! But I guess a bat in your house would be less scary than a person in your house… except, Angel couldn’t come in unless he was invited, so I guess that would keep him from coming in, right?”

“There are lots of scary people in the world, Laine.” Her uncle said, barely audible compared to the jabbering of a 13 year old girl. “Some of them might be described as vampires, but not in the way that tv and books describe them today. And there are people who can’t be categorized as anything supernatural, but will torture you and use you as they need to without any regard to your age or your family. You have to know how to protect yourself, Laine. Do you understand?”

She sat, frozen, listening to him. She didn’t understand when this had changed from a fun night of watching television with one of her favorite people in the world to a flashback to the auditorium last year, where the military police explained what to do if someone tried to get you to come in their car or left a suspicious looking package anywhere in the vicinity. She was scared all of a sudden, and she didn’t think a night of Edward Cullen was going to wipe the quiet seriousness of her Uncle’s voice from her mind.

“Oh… okay. I understand, Uncle Walker. I’ll watch out for myself.” She felt herself sliding, ever so slightly, to the other side of the couch, away from where her Uncle sat. Laine knew her Uncle wasn’t trying to scare her on purpose, but after the last few days she was getting anxious in her own home.

He looked up and noticed her stark, white face. “Oh, honey. I didn’t mean to scare you.” He moved to the couch and put an arm around her and pulled her in to him a bit. “I’ve just got a lot on my mind recently. I read a story in the newspaper the other day about a girl, not much older than you, that had been kidnapped and hasn’t been seen since. Stuff like that happens all the time, you know, and you’re the closest thing to a daughter I’ve got. I’d hate to lose you.” His voice threatened to crack as he leaned in and kissed her head. Her face pulled down into a frown and she tried to keep herself from crying as the fear melted away into sadness for him. She had never felt anything but safe, living and going to school so close to a bunch of people with guns, but she could see why he would be afraid.

She hugged him back and he gave her another kiss, then leaned back and cleared his throat. “What do you say I make some popcorn, and we finish this ridiculous movie?”

Laine nodded vigorously. She figured she wouldn’t tell him that, in this “chick flick” the vampires actually sparkled in the sun. She couldn’t wait to see how far back in his head his eyes would roll at that scene.

***

She crawled into bed way later than would have ever been allowed with her father there and was nearly comfortable when she realized there was a sheet of paper under her pillow. Curious, she tossed the lace-covered thing aside and found an envelope with her name written on it in her fathers’ handwriting. She tore it open quickly and started to read.

To my dearest daughter, Laine.

I hate it when I have to go away like this, and I hate it even more when I can’t give you enough time to prepare. I know my apology never feels like enough, but I’ll offer it to you again. I’m sorry my job takes me away the way that it does.

You will never know just how proud of you I am. You have been very brave these last few years. You constantly shock and impress me with how strong you are. You are truly growing up to be a woman your mother would be proud of as well. When you come home from volunteering with Sgt. Brown and his dogs, I just imagine how thrilled your mother would be to hear your tales. As you know, your grandmother and grandfather raised show dogs when your mother was a child. She helped them, just as you are helping Sgt. Brown. She started out with the “yucky” work (as you would say) but then moved on to obedience training, and finally, she learned how to show the dogs in the ring at prestigious shows. Some of the dogs from their family went on to win Best in Show! Later in her life, your mom helped train dogs for the blind, or for other charitable organizations. I truly believe that part of your mother lives on in you, and that part soars when you work with animals. I’m sure she will guide you in anything you do, but she would be especially pleased to see you continue work with the dogs here on base.

Please be good for your Uncle, and for yourself. I’m sure you’ve already eaten enough pizza and ice cream for a whole football team! I will be home as soon as I can, and every moment I’m not with you I’ll be thinking of you.

All my love,
Dad.


Laine felt tears come on for the second time that night. She flipped over to her back and bit her lip before reading the section about her mother again. They rarely talked about her mother since she had passed, so she was pleasantly surprised to read more about her. She was only 8 when her mom died, so Abigail hadn’t been able to tell her daughter these stories herself. Laine had seen pictures of her mother with dogs, but she never realized how involved she had been. Knowing this gave Laine newfound resolve to continue working with Sgt. Brown.

She held the letter tightly to her chest for a moment, then got up and rummaged in her desk for a small mahogany box in the bottom drawer. It was buried beneath papers and notebooks and wasn’t immediately visible to anyone who peeked inside, but her hand deftly maneuvered straight to its’ location. She opened it and moved to place the letter inside, but the corner of a picture caught her eye. Gently moving ticket stubs and dried flowers aside, she pulled it out between two fingers and inspected it.

It must have been at least 20 years old, because her mom had a beautiful round middle and her dad was protectively covering it with both hands. They stood in front of their house, which looked worn both due to the picture and the age of it. Her parents both looked so proud to be there; so hopeful. As she studied the picture and tried to imagine what their life was like back then, she remembered the day she found it. She had gone into her dads’ study for help with homework and it was empty. Papers were strewn everywhere and when she glanced at them, she didn’t recognize the words and symbols he’d scribbled on them. Boring quickly, her attention moved to the garbage can beneath the desk, where the picture sat on top of shredded papers and pencil shavings. She shoved it in her pocket just as she heard his footsteps coming, and never knew if he realized that she had found it. She suspected he might have been very angry. Her father was fiercely protective of his privacy, and Laine was sure that if he threw it away, that he felt like he had a good reason to do so.

She smiled at the picture once more, then placed it back in its’ protective box with the letter on top. She closed the box and hid it, thinking again about her father and his want for privacy. Knowing she had secrets of her own made her more accepting of his.

The laptop, still giving off the tiniest bit of light, attracted her attention as she moved for the bed. Duncan had never replied in a day, but it was already late enough that she figured another quick check wouldn’t hurt. Laine quickly booted it up, keeping a close eye on the door as she did. She didn’t think she would get immediately yelled at if Uncle Walker saw what she was doing, but they had been having such a nice night that she didn’t want to risk it. She moved her mouse pointer to the small envelope on her desktop and waited for it to load without getting too hopeful.

Three messages in her inbox promised her bigger body parts she didn’t have, so she immediately trashed those. Next up was a message with no return sender listed, and titled CONFIDENTIAL. She chewed on her fingernail. Her dad had warned her about opening up weird emails and how, at best, she would see gross pictures she didn’t want to. At worst, her computer would never work again. But what if it was Duncan? She couldn’t risk throwing away communication that might not come again for months. Besides, she reasoned with herself, she might be able to take the computer to the teacher at her school for help. Without her dad here, he wouldn’t immediately figure out that something was wrong, right?

She took a deep breath and double clicked, then held it as the message loaded.

Strange symbols rolled down the screen, filling it. She gasped loudly and started smacking the keyboard. “I am so dead. So very, very dead”, she said under her breath as she clicked her pointer around the screen and tapped every grouping of keystrokes she could think of to get the thing to stop. Then, suddenly, the pictures disappeared and the screen looked normal again, except words that appeared one by one, as if someone was writing them as she read.

Sis,

I can’t say much. I got your email. I appreciate that you send them but I can’t always answer right away. Someday, I’ll explain all of this to you, but it can’t be now and it can’t be like this. I’m sorry.

Love from your favorite brother,
Duncan


Just as quickly as the words appeared, the screen was empty and the email titled “confidential” flickered as if it was being deleted. Then, “Trash” flickered. The email was gone. Puzzled, she clicked the “Trash” folder and found nothing.
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Amanda

May 2009

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