A game of the light (weekend freewrite)
Aimee was fascinated with her own shadow. She kept looking at it, scratching at it until she felt it. What it was that she felt, the girl did not know or at least, could not tell. She dug her fingers in deep and yet deeper, gritting her teeth as she went, not quite enjoying it, not quite feeling anything at all. In the game of light, it was not her own shadow, but that of her parents, her mother especially, with all her bottled up hate, seething with resentment at Aimee for having short hair, for having been born at all. They did not want you, the shadow seemed to laugh at her and Aimee would scratch and claw and then, just like that, she would stop, as if nothing had happened at all.
Much later, she would see the markings on her skin, the long, blood-red trails that coated her arms and her belly and realize that it hadn’t been her shadow after all. It came as no surprise and the girl always forgot before the next time, for Aimee’s shadow was clever like that, knew how to keep itself from getting hurt. And each time she saw the red marks on her long, thin arms, she would swear that this had been the very last time. That next time the shadow reared its’ ugly head, she would ignore it, pass by the shard-angle slither of unbroken light and head back into the cozy darkness, where she felt nothing, but where nothing could hurt her.
It never worked. She would forget her promises, each time the light found her, she would stand, transfixed, staring at the slight frame, the thin waistline, a girlish waistline, one that would look good in one of those… gowns. Except Aimee had none. Her mother had never encouraged such frivolity in her offspring, of which Aimee was but the last in a long line of disappointments. The others had all found a way to leave, some with their college diplomas and some with their feet first, but one by one, they’d all escaped their mother’s icy grasp. All but her, and so each time, she would look at herself, admire the long halo of hair that hung around her shadow’s shoulders. The lips, plump but cracked, the eyes pretty, and yet not enough. She would’ve liked to have the eyes of the women in the magazines, the fashion magazines her mother kept under her bed, except she didn’t and Aimee did not know how to make it so.
Staring into her own shadow, Aimee saw, like her mother, nothing but disappointment, and so, she dug ans she scratched, bruising and bleeding the darkened silhouette.
"When a sorcerer moves to attack, you can defeat him easily with his own power."
She found herself smiling, even before she’d located the voice. She turned on her heels to find herself standing face to face with a tall, gaunt man, older than her, though not by much, with a thin, pencil moustache and handsome, almost kindly eyes.
Aimee studied him in the silence of a heartbeat, trying to work out if he was being serious. In the end, not reaching a conclusion, she only shook her head and the stranger laughed.
"You were moving strangely, like a sorcerer, or perhaps, sorceress."
"Don’t they call it a witch?" Aimee frowned.
"Do they? I don’t know."
It was a joke, it was meant to be taken as one, and yet, Aimee found her cheeks growing red, becoming flustered and short of breath. The stranger was by no means handsome, definitely not like the men in the fashion magazines, but then, he didn’t purport to be. Here was a man, Aimee thought, entirely unaffected by his posture, unaware of his shadow or the fact that he didn’t resemble the magazines. An individual who walked the earth as solely his own being and suddenly, she found she was desperate to impress him. Would have liked him to walk away thinking what a striking young girl, or better yet, not walk away at all.
She didn’t tell him she was playing with her shadow, that she sometimes talked to it, scratched it, screamed at it, for who knew what this stranger would think of it all. Instead, she gave him a reserved, but tempting smile, like the women in the magazines might.
"Are you a sorcerer, then?"
The stranger considered this, hesitated, then shrugged. "I think I’m just an ordinary man."
In her own mind, Aimee was pleased with how she was handling this. Cool, just like a cat, she danced the dance, entertaining the moustache man, so that he would think about her for days on end, enticing him, until one day, perhaps a week from now, he would come back to their house, with some made-up excuse, but they’d both know the reason was to see her. Just her. Her and him. It would be their secret and her mother wouldn’t ever have to know. And one day, her mother would wake and Aimee would be gone, with her suitcase in the back of his car and the pale scars on the insides of her arms all covered her up in her best white shirt.
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
She saw his eyes dart across the red marks, but only for a second. He was looking somewhere else before she’d even had time to move her hands. Looking at him, looking at her, knowing he’d seen and that she knew he had, the man gave another shrug. Simple and lack interest.
Don’t matter to me, his shrug seemed to say and Aimee was grateful for it.
"Do you live alone here?"
Good, she thought, that meant he hadn’t yet seen Mother, in her decrepit state and her need, with the repeating, almost obsessive conversation and her clinginess to all things living. It meant that this man with his silly moustache could, although briefly, be hers. Just hers. He wasn’t some plumber, some man in her mother’s employ, but a stranger, perhaps a man who’d entered the garden for the sole purpose of talking to her. I just had to know who you were, she imagined him saying, perhaps later, perhaps in moonlight.
"More or less," she said, in her most independent, most self-assured voice. "With my elderly mother," she conceded, with a soft, genuine smile. Sincere, but cold, she couldn’t go rushing into things. Her mother had always warned her against rushing – men were brutes, she would tell Aimee, in the dark of night, savages, and if you’re not careful, they’ll carry you off to their cave. No, she wouldn’t allow that to happen, even though there was an unmistakable connection between her and this stranger. Aloof, cold, distant, she would make him want her and then, she would run. Finally.
Perhaps from a gas station a few towns away or perhaps from his home, she would call her sister, Maria, the only one who bothered to still visit now and again, and tell her she was finally free. And Maria would laugh and congratulate her and tell them to come round for supper, to tell her all about it. Maria’s family lived several cities away, Aimee wasn’t clear on the details. Mother knew where exactly, Aimee felt fairly certain there was an address written down somewhere, but that wouldn’t matter. Once they were away from Mother, of course Maria would tell her the address and she would write it down and they – this stranger and she – would ride down together in his convertible, to finally meet Maria’s brood. For all her visits – which had grown fewer and further in between, come to think of it – she never brought her children, or her husband, Paul. Aimee had heard her once talking to their mother, saying that her family were “off-limits”. But they wouldn’t be off-limits to Aimee, not once she broke away, not once there was no more Mother in the picture, surely.
"Yes, I think she’s the one who called me," he said, breaking her out of her reverie, so that Aimee had no choice but to stare at him for a second, confused. "Your mother."
"What about?" she asked, understanding quickly, her words harsher than she’d intended. She felt a sudden betrayal on the man’s part. What business had he to go talking with her mother? No, she would scare him away and then, he would never come back again, not even for her. There’s no need, Aimee said, not waiting for an answer. I can lead you to whatever’s broken.
Although she had no recollection of anything being out of place. On occasion, her mother had telephoned repairmen, to fix a broken pipe or an over-flowing toilet. Her mother kept all the telephone numbers in her little book, where she probably kept the addresses of all her children, those who’d bothered giving them to her, anyway.
But these past few weeks, nothing had gotten bad, or at least worse, except perhaps for Mother. A morbid, upsetting suspicion sneaked into Aimee’s mind and she regarded the man with new-found suspicion.
"Are you a doctor?" she asked, studying his long coat and the bags under his eyes, with a raised eyebrow,as if that might be an honest indicator.
With a smile, the stranger shook his head and, overwhelmed with relief, Aimee felt she could have kissed him then and there. But no, not now, cool and distant, she had to remember. Before he could answer, though, she heard that dreaded sound – her mother’s shrill voice echoing down across the lawn, waving to them both. Aimee glanced in the direction of the house, digging her nails into the soft skin of her forearm. For his part, the man watched her, with what could only be described as a painfully sad gaze.
"It was very nice meeting you, Aimee," he said, deliberately putting out his right hand, forcing her to stop pinching and shake his hand. Deep down, Aimee loved her for it and she could tell her shadow loved him, too. She watched him cover the distance between himself and that horrid old woman in a few, large steps and nod. He would fix whatever it was he’d come to fix and then, perhaps on the way out, he would glance in her direction, smile, perhaps even blow her a kiss.
Perhaps he was a lawyer, she thought, perhaps Mother had drawn up a will, finally making her mind up to die.
"I’m afraid there are no openings at the clinic just now, Mrs. Heresby," the man with the pencil moustache was saying. "But I would like to come see your daughter again, as soon as my schedule will allow me."
"She’s not well," the old woman said, her eyes dry, her chest heaving with the weight of too many bad years.
"No," the man, who generally liked to keep a positive outlook about his patients, agreed. "She is not."
**Thanks to @mariannewest for the 3 weekend freewrite prompts (in bold). And thank you for reading.