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Chapter Two

 

 

 

“Riff.  Riff, get up, sweetie.  We have to pack...  For the vacation, remember?”

“...What...?  Oh...  Yeah.”  It is around six-o’-clock.  The sun is barely over the horizon and I am up from a restless sleep.  Mom strokes my head, smooths down the bed head that has formed.  “Utopian Island, right?”

“Yep,” says Mom.  She sounds perky.  Too perky to be normal.  

“Mom?” I say.  

“Yes, dear?”

“Why are you so...”

“What?”

“...Cheery?”

Mom stares for a long moment before laughing.  She hasn’t truly laughed in a extensive amount of time.  She looks at me, wiping at her eyes.  

“You know...  I’m not so sure myself.  I just feel... young again,” she answers.  She grabs my hand and pulls me up from bed.  She brushes off wrinkles from my navy blue tank top and drags me out of my room.  

“Mom, seriously...,” I drone.  “This isn’t like you at all.”  She halts, her grip on my wrist tightens.  Painfully.  

“Riff,” she says slowly.  “We need to learn to not dwell in the past.  We’ve been depressed for thirteen years and I’m sick of being the let-down mom that other parents look down upon.  And they don’t appreciate you being so sad all the time, either.  You don’t know how many times I’ve heard the people in town talk bad about us.  I’ve wanted to make them learn that we’re not sad just because we choose to be.  We have a reason.  We’ve lost...  Well, that was long ago.  We should move on, forget our troubles.

“I know this is a bit weird, but today is my new beginning.  We’ve really let ourselves go, Riff.  Look at us.  We’re filthy, even after showers.  Inside and out, we are dirty.  Dirty from past sadness that’s painted us a horrible gray.  So now, we’re going to refresh ourselves!  I’ve especially ordered special treatments during our boat ride to the island and my gosh you are going to participate as well!”  

I blink once.  Twice.  I cannot believe this is my mother who, just yesterday, was a mentally weak and depressed single parent who could barely go on throughout the day.  What’s happened?

“Mom...  What do you mean?” I say.  She continues walking into her room where our bags lay gaping at us.  She hands me a pile of clothes and points to my bag.  I place them in my black suitcase.  She grabs the pile of clothing she picked last night and zips her brown suitcase closed.  She zips mine and simply smiles.  

“Well, I think we need to cut your hair,” she frankly says.

“What?!  No!  I like my hair this length!” 

“Oh, Riff, but you haven’t been taking care of it...”

“Mom!!”

“Riff, I’m serious.  Don’t worry, I’ll be getting mine cut, too.”

“That doesn’t matter!  No!  I’m not getting my hair cut!”

Mom frowns and points a finger at me.  “Riff Anne Foster, you are going to get your hair cut and that is final!” yells Mom.  She releases my wrist and storms out of the bedroom with suitcase in hand.  A silver, shiny chain is around her left wrist.  I wonder when she received it, but it leaves my mind at the same second.  

It is the chanting.  The same tune that played last night.  It is faint, but nonetheless, somewhere it is being sung.  Except now, there are a few clear words that I can make out.

 

Watch…

The world...

Lose power…

Watch them fall..

 

Watch them fall?’, I wonder.  Who is ‘them’?  

“Riff!  Hurry up!” Mom’s voice carries from downstairs.  I look outside Mom’s dirty minuscule window, studying a small one story home directly across from her room that belongs to a cat hoarder named Meg Damon who applies makeup onto her face so that she may appear cat-like.  She has dyed her hair calico colors -- orange, black, and white -- and wears yellow contacts.  Meg also wears a custom made headband that has fake black, fuzzy cat ears.  

Outside her home there are at least fifteen cats, all different kinds and colors.  Her front door has obvious evidence of cat scratches.  Her daughter, Heather Damon, no longer visits.  She used to be a good friend of mine, but she moved a few years ago.  Now I have only one friend: Sasha Grace.  

Sasha is an interesting girl.  She has a kind-yet-overly-confident personality, stands at five-foot-eight, sparkling eyes that never die out, and long, thick blonde hair that she straightens everyday for Academic Days at Adolescent Care.  That’s what would be called a school in the past.  But with times like these where cities are struggling to survive, what used to be called school is more of spending a day or two in run-down buildings that constantly crumble at the most unexpected times so that we may possibly get a great education.

“Riff!  If you don’t hurry up, I’m going to leave you here!” shouts Mom.  That wouldn’t be bad, you know..., I think.  “Or...  Perhaps Meg Damon wouldn’t mind keeping you for a while?”  At this statement, I clutch my black suitcase and run out of her room.  I hop down our stairs and plant my feet like a gymnast.  

Mom is standing with arms crossed in front of the open door, tapping her foot slightly from her impatience and anger.  I slip on some worn-out flip flops and tuck my pink boat ticket in the front of my black sweatpants.  

“Riff,” Mom scolds.  “You cannot go onto a boat in your pajamas!”  I stare down at my clothing, my face turns red.  

“Sorry,” I mumble, walking back up the stairs to my room.  I trot into my small room and open the creaky closet door.  I flick through the hangers and grab a yellow tank top and white short-shorts that are considerably longer than normal short-shorts.  I quickly change into them and slip my old flip flops back onto my feet.  I power walk out of my room and pull my dark,dull hair into a high ponytail.  

I momentarily check my appearance in the small hallway mirror and scowl.  I’m not ever the way I imagine I will look like in my mind.  I roll my eyes, my twin in the mirror doing the same, and hurry down the stairs to my bag and impatient mother.

 

 

X  X  X  X

 

 

Mom and I walk down the freshly cleaned streets of town towards the dock.  Many of the people also are walking to the same destination.  We keep our suitcases close at our sides, knowing that there are many desperate people in the undesirable corners of this city.

A man at the end of the dock shouts clearly, “All citizens going to Utopian Island, please come aboard!  The ship leaves in ten minutes!”  I look to Mom, she looks back.  She heard his words, too.  We hurry in a brisk power walk, rapidly closing in on a duo in front of us.  They both turn to us. 

It is Mr. Joel and a short, young boy I do not recognize.  Mr. Joel wears a white button down shirt with a blue tie, khaki slacks, and brown loafers.  Next to him is a kid probably around the age of eight to eleven, maybe twelve.  He has brown hair that is parted at the right with one strip of bangs that covers his left eye.  He wears a white button down shirt with a black tie, a blue and black plaid sweater vest over his shirt, black slacks, and black loafers.  They both carry one suitcase, both bags black.  

“Good morning, Mr. Joel,” I say.  “You’re taking the boat, too?”

“Good morning, Riff,” Mr. Joel replies.  “Why, yes, I’d rather take boat and not plane.  The thought of being so high up in the air terrifies me.”

“I’d say not,” the boy speaks with an oddly deep, mature voice.  The voice of a teenage boy.  

“Whoa!” I exclaim.  “Your voice is really low.  Especially for a little boy your age...”

“Who are you calling little, dweeb?” the boy says.  My eyebrow twitches.

“Hey!  You little--”

“Parker!  Do not speak to Riff that way.  She is my friend, almost family to me!” Mr. Joel interrupts me.  I glare at the small boy who merely smirks up at me.  

“Parker?  That’s your name?” I say.  “What a boring, rich-kid kind of name.”

“Riff, be nice,” says Mom from beside me.  She places her hand, the one with the silver bracelet wrapped around the wrist, upon Parker’s head.  He frowns and glares up at her.

“Hey, lady, I’m no kid,” Parker snarls.  “Don’t pet my head like I’m some six year-old.”  

“Adorable little one,” Mom comments to Mr. Joel, completely ignoring Parker’s words.  She is acting way out of character.  “Mr. Joel, is he another family member?” she asks our neighbor.

“Yes, a distant family member,” responds Mr. Joel.  “He will be staying with me for a few years until his parents can renovate their home.  It was destroyed in a storm, you see.”  

“How horrible!” Mom gasps.  I raise an eyebrow towards her.  What’s up with her?  She’s acting all dramatic...  Too dramatic to be normal.  

The little boy that barely stands at the height of my hips crosses his arms and fixes his hair soon after.  Parker glares at my mom and then glances at me.  

“So, Caroline.  What’s your ticket number?” Mr. Joel asks.  

“Hmm... let’s see...  Number 307.  What about you, Joel?”

“I’ve got 309.  Look’s like I’ll be somewhere close to your room, Caroline.  What about you, Riff?”

I stick my free hand into my shorts pocket and freeze.  My ticket is absent.  

“U-Um...  Mom...?  I sorta--”

“You dropped this, Wiff.”  Parker held up my pink ticket.  

“It’s Riff, but thanks, Parker,” I say, picking the ticket from his small fingers.  “I have Number 319,” I announce.

“Interesting,” Parker speaks, “‘cuz I have 320.  Looks like we’re right next to each other, dweeb.”

“You brat!  You have no right to call me any names!  I’m older than you and taller than you!” I shout.  Parker’s one visible eye glares at me.  I bend down to glare back.  Parker glances down for a half second and sighs.  

“Would you mind standing up straight?  Your chest takes up too much room.”

“THAT’S IT!” I say and lunge for his shirt but he surprisingly avoids my grasp in a swift backwards movement.  He smirks and crosses his little arms again.  Mr. Joel halts my hand and pulls me up.  I brush my shirt down and stare daggers towards the pocket-sized child.  Stupid boy...  

“All citizens traveling to Utopian Island!  The boat leaves in four minutes!” the man at the end of the dock announces.  “Four minutes till we set sail for Utopian Island!”  I pick up my bag and walk ahead.  

“Riff, go turn your ticket in and head for your room.  I’ll be on the boat shortly!” Mom mentions.  I nod but don’t turn back to acknowledge that I fully heard her.  In a quick moment, I hear quick footsteps beside me and look to my left.  

It is Parker, easily keeping up with me and my pace.  His slightly-chubby cheeks pooch out as if he’s still angry and I mentally grin.  Children can be so easily annoyed it’s sometimes adorable.  

“Hey, Busty, quit staring at me,” Parker says evenly.  The corner of my lip twitches downwards.  I spoke too soon.  

“Shut up, little shrimp,” I reply.  If he wants to play the name game, I can play, too.  “I wasn’t staring.” 

We step onto the wooden dock towards the ticket holder.  He turns to Parker and me and smiles. 

“Good morning,” he speaks.  “Are you wanting to head to Utopian Island?”  I read his name tag.  Christopher is his name.

“Yes, sir,” I say.  Parker is silent.

“A quick question for you, ma’am,” Christopher says.  “Does your child need motion sickness medication?”

“M-My child?” I utter.  I glance down and see Parker’s blank face, who’s ignored or not heard the question.  “He is not my child.  I’m not even married yet!” I exclaim.  “And I don’t know, I’m not even related to him.”

“Yes you are,” Parker says.  “Aren’t you, Sissie?” he coos with a high-pitched voice.  He looks up at me with a fake sparkle in his one visible brown eye.  

“U-Uh...”  I look from Parker to the man named Christopher and know I have to agree or this will be an awkward boat trip.  “Y-Yeah, he’s my younger brother.  Do you want some medicine, huh, Parkie-Warkie?”

Parker silently growls, but shakes his head no.  Christopher accepts our tickets and gives us room keys.  “At most, we should arrive in the evening, but if a storm or a current slows us down, we’ll arrive by tomorrow morning or afternoon, miss,” he explains and clicks the restraining line off the hook.  “Enjoy the trip.”

 


Submitted: March 04, 2014

© Copyright 2023 R Anonymous. All rights reserved.

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