Sunday, July 28, 2013

3. "A Walk in the Park" (P3)

Late in the afternoon, an overcast day broke into a light shower. As the rain began to saturate the concrete ground with puddles, Novella drowsily spied out her second story window at the pedestrians running for cover, trying to avoid getting wet. Others, more prepared, could be seen calmly extracting their umbrellas. The pitter-patter of rain and the occasional whooshing and splashing of a car speeding by pushed Novella into a fitful state of thought. Nearly a week had passed since her meeting with Tim, the thief. Indeed, hardly a second would pass without that day on her mind.

Her desire to leave would ebb and flow with the time. Sometimes she would be so sure of going out and trying to find him, others she was just filled with the feeling of absurdity at holding such a notion. Then, her thoughts were interrupted by what she thought was the sound of someone yelling in another room, barely audible over the rain. After sitting up and straining her ears for a moment, she became satisfied that it was nothing.

Her imagination immediately flared up again. Grand images of the duo running through the streets, picking peoples pockets. Avoiding the police, just narrowly avoiding capture. He would teach her all his tricks while they lived in a hideout that no one could ever find. Then the excitement died down.

Such a place would almost certainly be dirty. Also she couldn’t forget the coming winter. She was comfortable in the home, why leave? Despite her negative feelings with her current state she had everything she needed and forsaking all of that for the risks of living off of the street would be very imprudent. Especially for a twelve year old girl. Well, approximately twelve, she didn’t know her actual date of birth as they usually celebrated it on the day that Ms. Parker said she found Novella as an infant.

“Ugh, that Ms. Parker!” she exclaimed out loud.

Novella was slightly surprised to hear another voice, “Well, I don’t think she’s all that bad.” said Rachel, another much younger girl living at the orphanage. Novella had forgotten that the other girl was there.

“Of course, not for you” she began exasperated, “but for me. Try looking at it from my position.”

The little girl walked over and sat next to Novella. After thinking for a moment she said, “No, she doesn’t seem any different from over here.”

Novella let out a soft giggle and tapped Rachel on the shoulder, “Oh, so simple, you really are young.”

“No, no, no, I follow.” she said, trying to put a serious look on her face. “She always pays attention to you. You’re her favorite. She wants to know about your day and always compliments you. That sounds ... wonderful.” She ended with a sigh.

“Exactly, shes always pestering me.” she said with her forehead wrinkled in annoyance, “When I’m in a bad mood and want to be left alone, she’s there asking me questions, making me talk. If I do something mediocre, she thinks its nice and has to tell everyone she meets. It’s … it’s terrible.”

As Novella was finishing, Rachel jumped off the bed and started to laugh. As she went to leave the room she said playfully, “Novella, you’re so weird. Maybe I am too young, but I think you should try to look at it from her perspective.”

“Yes, what a silly little girl,” Novella said under her breath while laying back down to yet again become lost in her daydreams.


Novella was suddenly awoken by a flash of light. “Uhg, is it already morning?” She said groggily. Her answer came in the deep rolling of thunder. The storm had intensified and surprisingly the two other girls in her room had not been awakened by this. After seeing that it was a few minutes past midnight, she realized that she needed to go to the bathroom.

On her way back to her dormitory she heard some sniffling through an ajar door, barely audible over the rain. Recognized it as Stephanie's room and began to walk closer. It was quite a pity that the room was too small for more than one bed. Stephanie had to sleep alone. Maybe I can give her a hug and make her feel better, thought Novella still only half awake. She walked in.

The older girl was sitting on the windowsill leaning up against the glass watching the downfall. Startled by the creaking door, she looked around wide eyed at Novella entering. It was only at that moment that Novela realized how awkward it would be to walk into someone elses bedroom in the middle of the night.

“What are you doing?” Stephanie said shakily with a slight nasal tone.

“Um,” She had to think quickly, “I saw the door open and just wanted to see if you were okay. I guess, I should just go then.”

After sighing, she simply responded, “Whatever.”

After hesitating for a moment, Novella just couldn’t leave it at that and walked closer to sit on a desk that was a few feet from the window. “So, what’s wrong?”

“Really, I thought you were leaving,” she mumbled.

I can’t believe I’m doing this, “Well, I was, but I’ve noticed that you haven't been in a good mood lately.”

“And... you actually care?” she said with doubt written on her face.

“Of course, I can’t stand to see anyone else in a lesser mood than myself.”

Slumping back up against the window becoming visibly annoyed, “Yeah right, nobody actually cares, not even that stupid doctor. It’s just a job to him. And you … you don’t even like me.”

“I suppose,” she giggled, “but just because I don’t like you doesn’t mean that I don’t care about you.”

“Fine, the problem’s that I have to be in this stupid place.”

Still smirking she added, “so do I, but that doesn’t put me in a bad mood all the time.”

“No, that’s not what I meant.” she fumbled for words, “it’s just that they’re… no. How can something so good turn so bad?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t follow.”

“I don’t know, I feel so bad all the time, but...” Reaching a breaking point she moved off the sill and angrily threw herself into bed. Muffled by the pillow she continued to speak, “Something happened and I can’t quite remember what.That doctor asks me these strange questions that don’t make any sense.”

After waiting several minutes listening to the rain get even heavier, Novella walked over the bed to sit on it, the other girl simply turned over to look at her, “what?”

Novella cleared her throat, “so you don’t know how you got here?”

“I guess so.”

“Then tell me about the last day you do remember from before, um, you came here.”

Stephanie look a little confused squinting her eyes, “why?”

“Well, sometimes when I’m confused and angry, Ms. Parker,” she thought for a moment, it had been quite awhile, “she asks me to relate what happened before and that always seems to straighten things out.”


“Yeah,” She noted again to herself that was when she was much younger, meh, the principle couldn’t have changed.

“I do remember my last birthday, it was only a month or so ago,” she smiled for the first time that day, “I was happy then.”

“That sounds fun, tell me about it.”


Stephanie could see it like a warm summer day, well it was actually a warm summer day. So, she began to relate the experience, but as she started to speak she could help but to feel a shadow over the memory, what was it?

“Well lets see, I remember it clearly.” She sat up and savored the thoughts for a moment. “Where should I start?”

“The beginning, that’s usually the best.”

“Oh, obviously, that makes sense. So, my father was preparing breakfast and my brother was being a prick as usual, so...”

“Wait, you have a brother?”

“Of course, don’t interrupt.”

As Stephanie began to describe the scene, Novella could almost see it playing out.


“uhg, fourteen, you're so old.” a little boy said with a sneer.

“Ivan, stop teasing your sister,” dad said over his shoulder. He was cooking on his fancy gas stove. Being a gourmet chef, he said often that nothing else compared to the control gas gave for cooking. Of course, for today, he was cooking up some simple eggs and bacon.

The snotty kid jumped from his chair, ran over and started to pull on the man’s pants. “Dad, dad, dad...”

“Please son, back away,” he pushed Ivan away, “you don’t want me to drop anything hot on you.”

“I need to tell you something,” he exclaimed.

“What is it Ivan.” His father said exasperated.

“Steph stuck her tongue out at me!”

He merely gave a soft chuckle in response. Immediately afterward mom walked into the room, she was smiling. “I can see that you decided to stay home today.”

After she kissed him on the cheek from behind he responded, “I thought I mentioned last night after,” he paused, “ahem, that I was going to be taking Friday off. I wouldn’t miss Steph’s birthday present for the world.”

Stephanie finally spoke up, “so, is Alice going to be able to make it?”

“Of course dear,” her mother replied, “we’ll be meeting on the fields.”

“Mommy! Are my friends coming?” piped in the little boy.

“We already discussed this, Ivan” mom said patiently, “you already had your birthday party with friends over, now its Steph’s turn.”

“But I want my friends to ride the balloons!” he started to pout.

“Okay! The foods done,” dad turned around, saving the scene from getting worse, he set the breakfast on the table, “eat up, we’re going to be having a late lunch.”

After a short drive out of the city they made it to the Feldor Fields, there is usually nothing special about the several hundred acre grass lands, but today it was full of one of the most beautiful scenes that Stephanie had seen in her life. From her view on a slight hill she could see hundreds of hot air balloons all different colors and patterns being inflated, lit up by the rising sun set perfectly in a cloudless sky. Best of all was the feeling she got from knowing that she was going to be riding one of them.

As the family began to walk down the hill Stephanie was grabbed from behind forcefully, “Stephanie! You’re here!”

“Heh, nice to meet you too, Alice,” she replied in a grumpy voice, but was clearly smiling.

“Sounds like someone got up on the wrong side of the bed.” Alice walked to side as they continued down the hill towards a bright yellow balloon. Alice was truly a bottle of excitement, from her bushy brunette hair to her bright red shoes, this girl embodied exuberance. “I can’t wait to get in one of those things. I’ve heard it can be so peaceful.”

“Unless you're riding with Alice.” Stephanie winked at her friend.

Winking back she giggled, “haha! I’ll try to calm down.”

Stephanie’s father had well known friend who was a regular balloon flier and had been able to procure two balloons for his family and Stephanie’s friend. He struck up a conversation with his friend the man who would be piloting the yellow balloon carrying his daughter.

“So, you're sure the two girls will be safe with you.” He said with some anxiety.

“Oh, my good man, you’re such a concerned father. I’ve piloted this old balloon hundreds of times and nearly half the time with passengers, never had a problem.” he continued with a grin, “You should be worried about old Jim there. He’s the one who dropped a sandbag on someone's windshield last time. Almost caused an accident.”

“I did no such thing,” Jim said indignantly.

“Haha, indeed, indeed. Looky there, some of the balloons are already taking off. Here girls, jump on in the basket. And you should get to Jims, my good friend.”

“Thanks for the reassurance and the rides, of course,” her father said as he began to walk away to Jim’s blue craft.

“It was nothing.” then looking down at the girls, ”hey curly head, could you pull that clamp to let us go.”

“Sure thing, old man!” Alice replied.

With the sound of the torch blaring and Alice screaming, they flew into the sky. It was the most exhilaration Stephanie could ever remember feeling. “Wow ... this is amazing. Its so smooth, almost like falling, except up!”

“Yeah, you're not the only one to describe it like that. My cousin said exactly the same thing … right before he fell off.” His smile vanished and he put on a somber face.

“What!?” Both girls cried.

After pausing for effect, he laughed, “You're too easy, really.” He looked over at a gauge, “hmm fifteen hundred feet, that's probably good enough.” And with that, he let off the torch.

They were at the top of the pack, looking down at the other balloons, “why are we so high?” Stephanie asked.

“Oh, I like to get a good view before settling with the others. Like to see where I’m going. Thats all.” He gave a contented sigh looking over the side, “this is going to be a long one, hope you gals can get comfortable. And no whining.”

As they lazily drifted in the wind, Stephanie watched as the various balloons floated up and down. The sporadic blowing of the torch and occasional breeze lulled her into a state of relaxation she wished she could have later. After the sun had come overhead several hours later, the girls realized sadly that the time was over.

“I do spy the landing site,” explained their pilot, “seems this trip is almost over. It’s been nice flying with you. You’re definitely among some of my better passengers.”

They slowly drifted along with the others down to the ground. A giant multi-colored cloud came to rest on an unexpecting park.

“Well again, its been a pleasure, girls,” he said after securing the balloon to the ground. “I can take care of this, better run along and find your family.”

After a few minutes wandering around they came upon the blue balloon that Stephanie’s parents had been riding. “Hey look, it’s Steph and that bouncy girl,” little Ivan called out.

And she did bounce, then giggle “Oh, he’s so cute.”

“Yeah, whatever.” Stephanie responded sheepishly.

“Did the birthday girl enjoy herself?” Mom asked.

“Yes, it was wonderful and so peaceful!”

“It was boring,” Ivan interjected.

“Aww, look at the little spoilsport”, Alice then scooped him up, “you’re so huggable.”

“Put me down!” the boy whined and so she was forced to oblige.

Stephanie’s father began, “That was definitely a pleasant two hours, but I sure am hungry. From what I heard there should be bus taking the early ones back to the launch site. Not to rush, but then we can get back to our car and eat lunch.” He winked.


“So, we got on the bus, Alice and I sat at the back and the rest of my family sat in the” she paused for an annoying amount of time, “middle. And then we ate wait, I missed something.”

Though the distant flashes of lighting Novella could see that her face held a gaunt look. She suddenly did not want to hear the rest, and instead had a strong urge to run away, but curiosity was still stronger.

“Oh, that's right.” She began in an unexpectedly cheery way, "I was looking out the window watching cars go by, and decided to start counting the blue ones.”


“What'ya doing Steph?" Alice said.

“Just counting blue cars." She responded with a sigh, “you know, to pass the time."

A big smile filed Alice's face. “I do know, lets play a game, whomever has the highest count by the time we get back wins! I'll count red ones … One!"

As Stephanie continued the story, her voice started to loose its emotions, becoming icy as she continued. “Alice, what type of food would you like today? Nine.”

“Oh, anything would be fine." She glanced to the right, “Three. I’ll just take what ever your parents are planning on.”

“Heh, you don’t know my parents. My father’s a chef and unless he’s cooking, he can’t make a decision to save his life. He’d bicker with my mom forever.”

“Oh, I see.”

The conversation paused for a few minutes while Alice started to think.



“Thirteen! There's no way you're going to win, you know that, right?”

“You never know, we might pass a parking lot full of red cars.”

“Or we might pass one full of blue ones.” She winked. “Anyway, have you come up with something yet? You see, if you make a suggestion, being the guest, then he will have to do that out of courtesy. Hah,” She pointed at the cross street at the next light. “Fourteen.”

“Okay, then I guess I choose…” And with that she stopped, from Novella's point of view, her eerie conversation with herself. Before starting again several faint flashes of lightning lit up the room, the storm was very distant now.

“I … remember now, fourteen didn't stop.” A look of horror flashed over her face, “Alice flew into me and pinned me up against the side of the bus. Such a strange feeling, to be rolling but unable to see anything, hearing the sounds of tearing metal. When everything stopped moving the bus was laying on its side. Alice got up and brushed the fragments of glass off herself. She asked me if I was fine. I was just a little dizzy.”

No, no, no. I don’t want to hear anymore, please stop, thought the helpless Novella.

“Looking at some of the others nearby, they all seemed fine. I was relieved. I looked at the front of the bus, ... but it wasn’t there. I ran along the wall of the bus to avoid the others who were just getting up. Alice called out to me to stop. Out in plain daylight, there were bodies just laying around, not moving. Why didn’t any of these move? Then I saw them, the three and they didn’t move. I ran over, and they didn’t move. I grabbed the man and yelled at him, and they didn’t move.” Tears started to run from her eyes. “Someone, no … Alice, grabbed me and pulled me away, and they still … didn’t … move.”

Stephanie slumped over and started to cry into her pillow like she had never cried before. All of the grief she had been holding inside of her came pouring out like the rain in that receding storm. Novella for her part, stood up and bolted out of the room.


After running into her room, she grabbed the biggest backpack she owned and started to throw everything she could into it. All the little half truth and stupid stories that the other girls had ever told her were laid bare. She, having lived here the longest, could see it all; the horrors stored in this haunted building. She needed to get away and she knew where she could go. Away from the sadness and away from the grief. As she began running to the door, putting her rain jacket on, she bumped Rachel’s bed.

“Where are you going?” Came a groggy voice from in between the covers.

Novella paused for just a second, “nothing, I … just need to go to the bathroom.” And with that she left the room.

She was running through the street stepping in the puddles that remained after the storm. Running from a nightmare that seemed to always be at her heels. Then she tripped. After skidding across the pavement she came to a stop in a puddle. Cursing, she looked up and saw a small ring sitting in front of her face. It was set with a strange orange gemstone. She slipped it on, suprised that fit and began to blackout. Just as the world turned to nothingness, several large men came up around her.


The next morning, everything seemed a fog to Stephanie. She was eating breakfast and then she was walking with Ms. Parker along the street. Suddenly, they were in the office of that strange doctor she had been visiting for the last three weeks. He was supposed to make her happy, but she hadn’t noticed any changes after their previous meetings. She had wanted to see Novella, to tell her … something, but the girl could not be found. She had asked Ms. Parker, but the woman merely responded that Novella would sometimes wake up early and walk around the block on Saturday mornings, they had the appointment to worry about.

The receptionist called out, “Ms. Parker, Dr. Matheson is ready.”

Ms. Parker looked down on Stephanie, “Now be a good girl and cooperate with the doctor, he’ll make you feel better.”

“But I don’t feel …”

“Go on, don’t keep him waiting,” said Ms. Parker as she ushered the girl to the door.

After walking along a short hallway she came up to the door with his name plate and walked in. Looking up he said in a soft deep voice, “Ah, Miss Plachett, it is nice to see you again. Please sit down.”

As Stephanie sat down, she surveyed the room again. It had not changed, the walls had many plaques and the loaded bookshelves still contained volumes with their indecipherable titles. In the center of the room was a large expensive wooden desk with several ornaments. Previously she had wondered at the purpose of all this stuff, but at the moment her mind was empty.

The Doctor began as usual, “So, Miss how do you seem to be feeling at the moment?”

“I …” She paused, “I don’t feel anything.”

This surprised Matheson, normally the troubled girl would complain about her current living arrangements or how the other girls were causing her problems. Maybe progress had been made. “Hmm, I see. would you consider this better or worse than before?”

“I don’t know.” She couldn’t remember ever having felt so empty before.

He hesitated, she was quite different, but still very fragile. “If you don’t mind, could you please count to twenty for me.”

Normally she would try to change the subject, but this time she merely started to count. After finishing without problem, the doctor was truly amazed. Post Traumatic Stress was something that did not just disappear overnight, “So complete a transformation in less than a week, what do you think caused this.”

It slowly began to dawn on Stephanie that she was indeed feeling something. It wasn’t emptiness, it was as if a great weight had been lifted off her shoulders, “I … Novella...” She drifted off, a tear rolled down her face.

“You read a book?”

“No, Novella, she’s a … friend. She made me talk and, just listened. Now there’s someone else who understands.” A smile crept over her face. “I really need to thank her.”

[to be continued...]

Two weeks late … Well, at least with 3700 words, it more than satisfies the debt that I’ve accumulated. So, how was that train wreck of a chapter? Don’t worry I won't be pulling on any heart strings again for quite some time, if ever.

EDIT: fixed a consistency issue with earlier in the story.

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