Friday, March 18, 2011

Eleven Paper Girls (A story to go with Rosie Hardy's photograph)

Eleven Paper Girls
To Rosie:  Your images are beautiful (and sometimes macabre) inspiration. 
Rosie's original photograph can be found @
When Terri first walked into the attic, the first sensation she felt was cold.  It was kind of creepy – being that it was in the height of summer – but the sensation was there all the same.  Outside she could hear the buzz of traffic speeding along the San Pedro freeway.  But in the attic, the sounds were muted, the sensation of cold almost all consuming.  Her breath seemed to frost the air. 
This house was the last in the cul-de-sac, a restoration house, her mother called it.  But to her, restoration really meant old.  Not that an old house seemed to bother anybody.  For several days now, her mother had been busy booking reservations for “a charming Bed and Breakfast overlooking the cliffs of Palos Verdes.”  Hmph.  She’d been busy all right.  Too busy for Terri. 
Her dad too was too busy.  He was finally writing that great American novel he’d been meaning to. 
She remembered the day they’d decided that dad was going to be a writer and mom would run her bed and breakfast.  It was right after Gram’s funeral.  Her parents had shed tears, but they hadn’t really been too sad.  Gram and her dad were “estranged” and when they had come into some money when Gram had died, her parents decided to take a few years off and work on “their dreams.” 
Terri kicked at an unpacked box in the corner of the attic angrily.  Yeah, their dreams.  But what about hers?  Moving in the middle of the school year, especially senior year, had been devastating.  She had already made plans.  Her picture was already in the yearbook!  And now, now no one would remember her by the time Spring Break came. 
Outside the late California sun shone onto the blue ocean and suddenly she missed cold, rainy Seattle.  It was damp, but it was home. 
Sighing, she sat down on one of the moving boxes.  There were still a bunch of them unpacked in the attic, mostly raingear and boots.  Her mother had decided that those boxes would be the last to be unpacked.  She had smiled brightly at the moving men and laughed when she asked them to take the boxes up to the attic.  “Rain?  Here?  I doubt we’ll even see the rain in Southern California.” 
She tore off a strip of tape holding the box flaps together.  Inside, her bright red rain slicker bloomed.  She almost cried with the pain of missing home.  The slicker was new.  She had bought it over the Christmas break intending to wear it when she came back for Spring semester.  She had just gotten to know Josh over Thanksgiving.  He was one of the most athletic boys at Washington High.  He was also painfully gorgeous.  He had been her lab partner in biology, his worst subject and he had asked for help in the new semester.  Red was his favorite color.  Again, the heat of righteous anger hit her.  How dare they?  Her parents hadn’t even asked if she wanted to move.   
Outside, the whirr of a lawnmower cut through the sounds of muted traffic.  Uninterested, she leaned over the side of the box to peek out the only window that let in light.  The window was pretty high and she could barely see out.  In the afternoon light, a boy about her age was mowing the lawn.  His dark hair was slicked back with sweat and he wore a shirt with the arms cut out.  He was whistling.  She couldn’t hear him, but she could see his cheeks puffing out.  Curious, she stood stepped on the box.  It rocked unsteadily under her, the rain slickers and boots shifting underfoot.  The boy was carefully guiding the lawnmower from one side of the large expansive lawn to the other.  He called out something to someone unseen and then he laughed.  She leaned closer, trying to see who was just around the corner.  As he turned his face up to the sun, she caught his eye and he smiled unreservedly at her.  Shocked, she slipped off the box and landed in a thud on the dusty ground. 
When she finally scrambled up and got over her embarrassment, the sound of the lawnmower had moved away and outside, the boy was gone, only the clean shaven path of grass left in its wake. 

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