Adventure Drama Mystery

Rosa never forgot looking into her mother’s eyes, the last moments they had ever laid upon her, the bewildered Cathy, drinking in the last sight of her daughter through a thick pool of tears, before Rosa was whisked away into a child services van. Elizabeth, the smartly dressed overweight van driver had a pleasant chubby cheeked smile and curly brown locks and glasses which all combined to give her a damp, subdued appearance, like a soggy wafer, thin as cardboard and tasteless, perfect for her role as mediator for children from broken homes. 

“Granola bar? Juice box?”

Elizabeth said, motioning to a cooler by Rosa’s feet as the stuffy, gasping van backed out from the driveway, and headed down the empty morning roads just as the neon sun began to rise. All Rosa’s belongings had been stored in the trunk, from her collection of celebrity magazines, to her seldom worn church shoes, to her impressive set of pencil crayons and an old fur coat, much too large for her, which her grandmother, Celeste, had set aside for her to claim, once she could fit into it. 

Rosa refused the snacks. Just that morning, her mother had made her a stack of pancakes, and the delicious, sticky pure maple syrup her mother had procured from the local market still lingered upon Rosa’s lips. The aroma remained in her nostrils, and it reminded her of her mother, and the purity and sweetness the golden brown sap had conjured up made Rosa want to cry for a moment. Rosa’s mother had been the tallest tree in her mind until then. Ever wise, beautiful, strong yet not without grace and a touch of delicacy, the refined quality which made her so powerful and enigmatic, the ability to provide warmth and shelter and give her fruit, while simultaneously being so easily up rooted, chopped down, and turned into a stump. 

Rosa didn’t then realize how many moments passing her by which would prove to be the last; the last time seeing her mother, the last time seeing her childhood home, the last time seeing the swampy little pond where she spent some nights with the high school kids, experimenting with their bodies and minds. Rosa felt a rush of excitement as she recalled all the newfound sensual pleasures she had discovered by that grimy pond. She sucked in deep the memory of cigarette smoke and alcohol which burned her throat and her intestines in an exhilarating way, and those two things combined taste with that of the saliva of the mature high school boys who she had became physically acquainted with.

Though she knew she was going away, it didn’t occur to her she was going for good, and she therefore lacked any sense that she was not simply taking leave of her familiar world, Sweet Sal’s— her favourite candy store, Phaedra—her older, more experienced, accomplice, and Yoyo the yellow neighbourhood cat whom she would share ice cream with whenever she was lonely- but she was also relinquishing to her entire childhood as she knew it. And since none of those things were of any real substance to her, bearing no weight upon her heart, she began to feel her excitement brewing, enchanted by the prospect of a new adventure before her, new swampy ponds with new tastes of alcohol and cigarettes and boys, the possibilities all swarming her like an army of butterflies and ribboned gift boxes, so immensely promising upon first glance, so impossibly full of hope. 

Suddenly Rosa felt warmth towards Elizabeth as she steered the chugging van through town, chauffeuring Rosa to her bright new future, and with her newfound feelings of amiability, Rosa reached into the cooler for a juice box, while noticing a smile reach across Elizabeth’s face as she did. The smile grew wider as Rosa dug further into the cooler to also help herself to a granola bar. 

“I hear you like to draw?”

Said Elizabeth, cheeks blushing, trying to avoid glancing over at Rosa 

“Sometimes” said Rosa while chewing the complimentary snack, head turned out the window and staring out at the vibrant fall leaves hanging from the trees. 

“I’ve heard Cooperstown Collegiate has an excellent art program.”

Said Elizabeth. 

Rosa sipped the juice box noisily, ignoring her, and suddenly remembering she had forgotten she was supposed to see Percy that evening. Rosa shrugged at the thought and went on, loudly sipping the last drops of apple juice out from the box's bottom left corner. Since meeting Percy, who was 16, 4 years her senior, he had reliably shown up on an evening to evening basis to stroll through the neighbourhood with Rosa. His appearance was uninteresting and forgettable, and his personality equally as dull, brown hair which clearly his mother had cut for him, and sweaters which his grandmother had probably knit, and raggedy shoes which could well have been his father's from fifty years prior. But still, Rosa idealized him in her mind out of the selfish pride she found in having an older guy, a high-schooler, for an admirer. Rosa found a deep joy looking at her reflection in his gaping, adoring eyes, seeing herself as queen of his entire universe. Rosa knew, his eyes could not be lying to her, and she pushed the thought out of her mind, the cold lurking suspicion that Percy’s affections were born out from a desperation, a severe lack, which caused him to resort to a much younger girl, as hopeless Percy himself couldn’t possibly stand a chance with girls his own age. 

And while the latter may have been true, it didn’t suffice as a justification for Percy’s deep affection and admirion for Rosa as a person, it didn’t explain why Percy seemed interested in Rosa more than as a sexual plaything, a point, which as endearing as it was to her, caused Rosa a mild sense of grief, as deep inside, she revelled in the recently burgeoning price of her sexual market value. Since having met Percy, she had become restless and fidgety, bored with the mundane affairs of school and tired of the childish dream world she was being caged into and all the fantasies which she had been raised to believe and became interested solely in sex and nothing else. Percy, however, despite being older, and more physically mature, was ignorant of all matters sexual, and simply loved Rosa for her mind. This however, was remarkably disappointing to Rosa, bored her to no end, and no matter how much she tried to change matters, using every coquettish look or phrase she’d inherited from television and movies, especially Audrey Hepburn, she simply could not help to alleviate the issue. 

And as the van drove on, Rosa thought more about the new school she was going to, and how she hoped to convince her father to buy her the new pair of sneakers she’d had her eye on. It had been a year since she last saw him, a rare time when both Rosa's father and mother were in the same room when he actually showed up for thanksgiving. Following that night, it was clear, Teddy, Rosa's father and her mother would never be able to be near each other again. Because he didn’t have a phone line, Rosa and her father, Teddy, had only exchanged letters a few times with him since. With that in mind, Rosa felt reassured that her father would feel a sense of guilt for his absence, which, Rosa, being the expert manipulator she knew she was, and knowing how much her father adored her, felt she could use his guilt as leverage towards the coveted sneakers. 

“They’ve got a great outlet mall there, in Cooperstown”

Said Elizabeth, as if on cue, and for a moment, causing Rosa to wonder if she was somehow reading her mind. 

Elizabeth couldn’t resist the urge to grin obnoxiously as she saw Rosa’s eyes perk up at her comment. 

“Do they have a ‘Heart And Sole’? 

Asked Rosa 

“Yes, you were looking to buy new shoes?”

Elizabeth asked, pouncing, as if she were a predator picking up the scent of blood, or in this case, the slightest tone of interest coming from Rosa. 

“Yeah, the new Warhol’s just come out and Ive had my eye on them” 

Said Rosa 

“Oh, those look groovy! I saw the ad in Fur magazine last week!”

Said Elizabeth, doing her best to flaunt her breadth of knowledge of all things adolescent. 

“Oh, I love that magazine!” 

Said Rosa. 

Elizabeth was almost too flushed to continue the conversation, afraid to suddenly expose herself for what she was, in truth, an adult.

“Oh, same, did you see the feature about...”

Eventually they made it to a run down two story building near the end of the town, surrounded by other run down buildings, severely dented cars, each seeming to have at least one smashed headlight or taillight, a railway crossing, a gas station a grey brick fortress of a high school, a seemingly ancient playground and webs of chainlink fences. Eventhoigh the sun was still shining, the entire town looked dismal, and the rosy good cheer radiating from Elizabeth’s face suddenly seemed rather conspicuous to Rosa. 

Rosa immediately picked out her fathers old ‘73 Cadillac convertible, still pristine, parked like a sore thumb amongst the other broken down vehicles. The sight of the car flooded Rosa with long forgotten memories of her father, and with them, sudden surges of feelings, love, grief, security, anger, and jealousy. After having gone as long as she had without seeing him, and becoming so enveloped in her middle school dramatics, Rosa suddenly felt guilt for having not written her father a single letter, and deep inside, she felt guilty with herself for having not paid any thought to him for as long as she had. 

Upon seeing her father inside the building, a rundown, shabbily furnished replica of a cheap hotel, the feelings surging through her body flooded her from top to bottom, and she broke down into tears as she flung herself into his big meaty arms. Teddy was a burly man, with hairy thick wrists wrapped in a heavy gold watch, a gold chain around his neck, and a fierce smile beneath a dark moustache. His severe grey eyes had a way of commanding the attention, and the loyalty of anyone whom they fell upon, with their sharp, daring boldness mixed in with their calm, and almost innocent quality. With his arms wrapped around a Rosa, her head pressed just above his potbelly, the staff at the teenage carehome all stared with utmost endearment.  

It wasn’t long before they were on the road, and along the highway, the sunset in full view along the horizon, gracing its presence over the vibrant maple trees in the surrounding forests. Rosa’s hair blew free in the breeze whipping through the convertible, while Teddy lit himself a cigar and beamed a smile at Rosa which she returned, tickled by the familiar sight of her father’s old moustache.  Rosa stared at him as he drove, one hand on the wheel, the other alongside the window, cigar in mouth, his thinning, ashy hair dancing in the wind, and she felt a desperate urge to kiss his weathered cheeks.

“Missed me kiddo?”

“Yeah... of course”

Said Rosa. 

“Look, about your mother...”

he said loudly, talking over the gusts of wind passing through the car.

“What about her?”

“Well, she couldn’t take care of you. She wasnt fit to, anymore.”

“Why not?”

“She was, uh, an alcoholic, dear”

“Really? Are you sure about that, because I never saw her drink...”

“Don’t question me, Rosa. I had people there looking out for you. You think I’d just let you be there with her and not have my eyes peeled? I’m always watching. Especially her. I’m sorry, but your mother can’t be trusted. “

“She can’t?”

“Don’t question me.”

“I don’t get what’s going on”

Said Rosa, staring out into oblivion, thinking about how the clouds looked like cotton candy and about how long it had been since she had had a pedicure.  

“You’re mother was unfit to be a parent. I had people watching. Her drinking was out of control. She was hiding it from you because that’s what she was good at, manipulating. Trust me, we had to do what was neccesary. My guys called child services and they found it was all true. Your mother had a problem with alcohol, they even found other stuff too. We had to, uh, look out for you. It’s your best interest. Why else would Child Services take you away so suddenly? Its for you, babe. Living with me, it’s for your best interest, and even your uh, mother’s, too. “

“Is it true there is a new outlet mall now?”

“Only a 10 minute drive from home, baby girl” 

The smile creeped beneath the moustache and Rosa was suddenly reminded of their trips to the baseball game, and the Aquarium, and her father's gravelly bedtime story voice.  

“There’s these, uh, shoes that I want...”

When they arrived at Teddy's bungalow, The sun had been just but completely down, leaving a faint blue light over the panoramic view of the lake through the kitchen windows. Rudy and Gussy the two dogs, Rudy a black lab, Gussy, a Standard French Poodle pounced upon Rosa causing her to drop her luggage bag. As she bent down and retrieved it, a note fell out from the pocket of her denim coat, and on the note, Rosa noticed, was her mother’s handwriting. 

She must’ve stuffed it in here before i left. 

Rosa concluded. 

“To Rosa, Love, Mom” read the front of the folded up note. 

Rosa stuffed it back into her pocket, and walked into the kitchen to look out at the lake, as well as to look into her fridge, as her grumbling stomach urged her to do. Rosa walked out onto the balcony of the backyard to see the large manicured field spanning waterfront, including a large peach tree, and the neighbouring houses far off the distance. She sniffed the air, and listened to the calm night time waves rolling in against the small sand beach, spotting the distant moon, shimmering over the lake before she went inside towards the fridge. The first thing she noticed when she opened the fridge was a bottle of Maple syrup, and immediately the rich amber colour brought her back to that morning, her mother's fluffy pancakes, her soft skin and her sweet soft-spoken grace, and immediately, Rosa wanted to cry for how much she suddenly missed her, and for the mournful feelings of betrayal she felt for allowing her mother to be vilified as she had. After all, Rosa thought to herself, since when had my mother ever had a drink in her life? 

But before Rosa could even think another thought in the topic, before even a single tear could form, her father came into the kitchen. 

“Hungry Rosie, baby? I know. Long day. How about pizza, and a movie?”

Rosa suddenly found herself smiling, and Teddy proceeded to make the phone call to Georgio’s to order a half pineapple, ham and onion, half deluxe pizza and Rosa smiled, shaking her head with disbelief. 

“I can’t believe you remembered.” 

She said. 

“How could I forget, Ros?”

Said Teddy as he sat down at the old wooden table, igniting a flame to the cigar stationed in his teeth.”

“How could I forget?”

November 16, 2020 07:40

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