Several days passed and everything was beginning to look grimmer than before. With dirt on my hands, I feel the need to wash them. I found Alice in one of the upstairs bathrooms. By found I mean I didn’t know she was in the shower until the sound of her trying to stifle her tears scared me. The shower door makes a wobbling sound as the magnets lose their grip on the metal frame. I was sort of expecting to find a ghoul. Instead, a crude red line traces its way from the drain to her inner thigh. Or the reversal of that. The piece of glass still in her hand as she looks up at me. Her hair covered one eye, but the other was bloodshot and desperate for relief. The aluminum of the door chills my still wet hand as I stand staring. I swallow then ask “Why are you, are you pregnant, Alice?” I didn’t completely understand how any of it really worked. “Call me Elisha.” She says as the glass and her hand falls out of sight. She winces more, and another tear comes from her. I stand to watch the line of blood widen as it flows its way to the drain. “In some cultures, they do this to let out the evil spirit that’s inside, but I don’t have any evil in me, though, or not anymore. Are you scared of pain, do you like it when something hurts?” She asks as I still struggle with my reasons for standing there. “I don’t know, I like the way the tree hurts my hands.” She smiles, she has a pretty smile. I still wonder if she was pregnant, though. “Hand me the toilet paper.” I do what she asks, I generally did what I was asked. She dabs at her thighs. The papers enter white and leave red. Slowly they come back the way they came and she lifts up her pants. She walks up to me, she was a few inches taller and a few years older. She licks her lips, I stare at them as they’re right at eye level. She unbuttons the top three buttons of my awkward fitting shirt. “It’s pain, it’s real, it’s living.” I wonder what her lips would feel like as my heart races. She presses the shard against my collar bone. It hurts, I want to yell, but I thought I was in love so I just stand there. I feel the trickle down my feeble chest. I just stood there as she turned the shower on and flushed away the red papers. I wanted to kiss her but she was gone before I could decide on the action.
The night wasn’t what I expected it to be. The moon shed its light right into the windows, giving the illusion that the beds were floating. We all lied still in our beds, there were so many interviews, so many lines. A busy to get the house in order but no one knew why. I press my fingertips against the scab on my collarbone. It hurt, as much as I wanted to like it, I couldn’t. I pressed harder and harder until my fingers felt wet. I release, it feels like ants dance around my collar. I wipe the blood away on the underside the bed and roll over. I fall asleep, I’m pretty sure I had dreams of Elisha. For some reason, it’s only the nightmares that are easy to remember.
The call in the morning was strange. They got us together, all the faces were grim. It seemed as if someone had died. It wasn’t someone, however, but something. They said something about being sorry, about how we’ll have to go into fostering programs, how they all tried until the last minute, but you can’t undo a sinking ship. The helpings for breakfast were the largest we’ve ever seen, but no one really had the appetite to eat. Even the man in the coveralls didn’t care how much you had left on your tray, the caring part was gone now. We were just a hopeless house filled with hopeless kids.
They didn’t care as we shuffled our way into the woods. Every spirit was broken. Well nearly everyone. Elisha leaned on a tree as I walked up. “Hey!” she called out. I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me so I continued walking. The worn hardback slaps me on the shoulder. “I said hey.” I turn around to be greeted with a smile. “Hi…” I couldn’t make up an excuse. “Whatcha doing?” she asked as if she already forgot the terrible news. “I, I was, I don’t know…” I sort of mumble as the hair falls in front of one her eyes. “Well if you don’t know you should come walk with me.” she already was moving in one direction as she finished, I followed.
The sky was and wasn’t something awful. The corduroy on my pants makes a swiping sound as I walk. I try to space my steps but the sound continues. We’re some ways off when she begins speaking. “Have you ever been on a boat before?” She doesn’t wait for my answer as she probably already knew what it was. “I bet it’s so magnificent to be on one, the way the ocean rocks you to sleep, the way she holds you. You know some say the ocean is really our true mother.” I try to widen my steps more as she continues. “So I guess that makes you my brother. We should go, my uncle has a boat we can live on, brother and sister in our mom’s arms.” I forget about my pants and reply. “I think I’ll like being on a boat.” I said. “Fantastic! It kind of makes sense you would. Oh, we’ll spear fish and make music, it will be so great.” The sky thunders as we turn to walk back. The boat was going to wait.
They served lunch. It was different, they gave us instructions on packing our duffle bags as we ate, like a stewardess giving instructions on where the exits were. I’ve never been on a plane, but movies made up for it. Each one of us shuffled up the stairs as we finished eating. They gave us painters tape to stick on our bags so we could write our names. Some had trouble in that department so others helped. It started to rain as we stacked the bags outside. This was happening way too quickly for anyone’s liking, but it kept happening regardless. I just stood watching the drops bounce on the tops of the buses that were supposed to take us to separate places. I grip the tiny paper in my hand as Elisha takes my arm. “What number are you?” Her body was soaked, but everything was soaked. “83.” I say reading the numbers on the paper out loud. She fakes a pout for a second then whispers “Doesn’t matter.” She hands me the worn copy of Moby Dick. “My Uncle’s address is in there when you get a chance meet me.” She lets go of my arm and walks into bus 17. I fall to my knees, scared of not fully knowing what’s to come, the gravel hurts. I like the pain.
The years passed, as years do. I went from one home to the next, until it became far easier to disappear then to appear at all. I miss one bus, then I was gone. I told myself I would find her, I was 14 and knew everything. So I knew I would find her. I guess the thing I wasn’t prepared for was being right. Spare change can buy as many miles for as many as you beg for. The dock wasn’t like I pictured. I hop the gate and try to read the worn numbers and letters. I pause at the sound of her laugh, even time couldn’t change that. She sits in a lawn chair bouncing a toddler on her knee. I slowly approach her. I try to go over and over in my head what I was going to say. Even though “I love you.” sounded like a great introduction I really couldn’t see myself pulling that off. She continues to bounce the little kid as her eyes watch me approach. I stop at the stern of the boat. “Hey, Lindsey come take Eli back.” She yells to someone inside the cabin. A woman maybe in her 30’s comes out and takes the child away. “So you’ve made it.” she was even prettier than I thought. “I did. Sorry, it took me so long.” She steps off the boat onto the deck. “Not such a thing.” We stand there as a gentle breeze carries the scent of her to my nostrils. I shake whatever it was off and hand her the book back. “I wanted to return this.” she smiles taking it from me. “Thanks, that was sweet of you. Come inside we’ll make you something to eat.” My voice breaks a little as I reply “You lo’ook well.” I was taller than her now. “You too, you look nice with short hair.” she says taking my hand and pulling me aboard the houseboat. “So are you going to tell me what you’ve been up to?” She asks as she opens a beer and hands it to me then, opens one for herself. “Just trying to find things.” I say in a meek tone. She drinks and I mimic her. It tasted like piss, but I hide my disgust, I thought beer was supposed to taste better. “Do’ya think you’ve found what you’re looking for?” she asks. I take another drink, it seemed like what I should do. “Kind of.” I say, trying to hide my face I take another and another drink. “Well, go out there and find it.” She said placing her hand on my knee. The beer must have already gotten to me because what I said next was dumb, but love makes you dumb. “I love you.” She giggles then responds, “That’s sweet Noah, it really is, but I don’t think you know what that is yet.” I set the beer on the deck and try to stand. My face was red, not only because she was wrong, but she didn’t believe me. Stepping back onto the docks as if reborn. She looks at me with a tilted head. “Call me Karl.” I start to walk away, slightly off balance. I smile as I increased the distance between us. “Bye Karl!” She yells. The waves whisper soft words of assurance that walking away was the right thing to do.