It has been just about two months since I last posted. I am ashamed to admit that I let life get in the way. The school year got the best of me – a clear indication my priorities were shuffled and rearranged about a thousand times. I thought I fell in love, but thinking about it only makes me feel small, sad, and stupid, so I’ve now come to the realization that it wasn’t love. I have yet to determine what it was, but it’s over now, and I don’t think I’m a better person because of it.
But I have been writing. I am three chapters into the new novel. I have a short story to share with you all as part of my “weekly” writing prompts. My contract with Martin Sisters Publishing will expire next year, so I have begun the search for a literary agent.
I am hoping to close on a home of my own at the end of this month.
There is good, and there has been bad, and in this exact moment, I find it difficult to describe exactly how I feel, but maybe that’s okay. We’re all entitled to feel numb and completely apathetic now and again, aren’t we? I think it’s a coping mechanism or, even worse, a defense mechanism of sorts. I don’t know why I’m feeling so pensive or cynical. Maybe I’m simply hormonal? Maybe it has something to do with the heartache I alluded to? Maybe it’s the dark direction I steered my short story in? Maybe I simply spend too much time alone? Whatever the reason, I apologize. And I also sincerely hope you enjoy this week’s writing prompt.
WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #15: “A mother discovers a feminine collection while cleaning her son’s bedroom.”
“What an idiot! How could that not have sent up a red flag?” Kelly McCarthy asked no one in particular. The question had to be rhetorical since she was sitting alone on the slightly worn – but still perfectly comfortable – couch in the living room of the home she shared with her small, loving family. She was mindlessly eating some low fat, low calorie, low carb potato chips (but all the health benefits meant nothing when she was likely to eat the whole damn bag in one sitting) while watching her favorite true crime documentary channel. Currently, the channel was airing some cleverly named show – with an alliterative title, most likely – about handsome boyfriends and husbands who were not who they said they were. This lady had married this good-looking fella after only a few months and found herself bruised and abandoned and robbed. Sympathy was hard to come by, however, because if this female had thought clearly and not been blinded by a strong jawline, she would have seen through the obvious fabrications and been alarmed by some universally troubling behavior. These women were not like the sudden rash of young girls that were missing – some had been found but all who had been found were already dead – in a city farther north than the one she called home. Those girls were too young to be anything other than naïve and innocent. How could someone who had not even graduated high school know better, let alone really know anything about anything? No, these women, these suckers, had no one but themselves to blame. Kelly was shaking her head, feeling pity but mostly disbelief and borderline disdain, when the dryer’s buzzer sounded loudly throughout the one-story, ranch-style home.
Reluctantly, Kelly peeled herself from the overstuffed cushions and shuffled her slipper-covered feet through the kitchen and into the cramped laundry room. She listened to the textured bottom of the slippers scuff against the vinyl tiles that floored the kitchen, and she listened to the buzzing of the dryer now only a step away, but other than the low and constant humming of the television, there were no other sounds. Kelly found herself home alone, as she usually did in the middle of the day throughout the week. Her husband, Charlie, battled a sizeable commute to the northern part of the state and her son, Joey, was a sophomore at the high school, and though he was scheduled to come home early in the afternoons, around 2:00 PM, Joey never usually showed up until dinner time. He was always busy with some kind of extracurricular activity and Kelly couldn’t be any prouder. He was so popular and studious. Over dinner, Joey always regaled his parents with stories of the humorous antics of juveniles and how Joey was truly an asset to the school community. A smile formed on Kelly’s lips of her own accord as she thought of her son, her only child, her pride and joy.
It was a load of his clothes that had just been dried and were now patiently waiting to be folded and placed back in the drawers, or hung in the closet. Typically, Kelly did not do her son’s laundry – he was nearly sixteen years old – but she had felt particularly generous this idle, random day and for no reason that she would ever be able to articulate. Later on, Kelly would wish she hadn’t felt so – she would even raise red-rimmed eyes to heaven and demand of whatever God resided beyond the clouds why He had blindsided her with such terror and tragedy. But before that moment, everything was normal and just as it should be.
She shoveled the random assortment of shirts and pants and socks and underwear into an empty laundry basket and trudged down the long hallway to her son’s bedroom. It was the last bedroom on the right and its door was marked by a single poster, perfectly centered. The poster advertised a poetry festival in a metropolis near her husband’s work in the northern part of the state. Joey was such an intelligent, well-mannered boy. He wasn’t like all those other boys his age, who were loud and aggressive and obnoxious and obsessed with their penises. He was quiet and patient and obedient and enjoyed females, but not to the point where it consumed him. He was balanced and healthy and beautiful and whole. Again, Kelly caught herself nearly beaming when thinking of her baby boy. She balanced the laundry basket on her particularly bony hip and turned the doorknob.
The door was locked. That was odd. Joey’s door was never locked.
Kelly placed the laundry basket on the floor and ran her hand along the molding that ran along the top of the doorway. She was waiting to feel cool metal beneath her fingertips; the key to her son’s room. She found it and unlocked the door, and pushed it wide open so she could traverse through the doorway with the laundry basket. Her slippers shushed against the plush carpet and she gladly tossed the laundry basket on the bed, careful not to upend it of its contents. It bounced jovially once or twice before rocking itself right. Kelly walked to the dresser directly opposite the meticulously made bed. She had developed the tactical plan of putting away the socks and underwear first because that would be easiest – Joey just tossed them in the top drawer of the dresser. The pants and shirts would be decidedly more difficult as Joey had a system in place that Kelly had yet to decode. A giggle tumbled from her mouth; how funny for Joey to be so organized. She wondered where in his lineage she could attribute the trait, as both her and Charlie were both hopelessly sloppy.
When she pulled open the uppermost drawer, a sound she had not been expecting met her ears. Kelly distinctly heard something substantial sliding forward with the movement of the drawer. It wasn’t the soft whisper of fabric, but something heavier. Kelly pulled the drawer out as far as it could go without making it tumble to floor. She looked within and she found a rather extensive collection of jewelry. There were necklaces and bracelets and long, dangling earrings that younger girls would wear – colorful, gaudy, attention-getting. Icy apprehension flooded Kelly’s stomach like the waters would a sinking ship because Joey did not have a girlfriend – not one that he ever mentioned, anyway. Besides, there were too many pieces for one girl and there was no consistency in taste or style. Kelly was under the impression that the jewelry had belonged to many different girls with unique and wonderful personalities, just as varied as the necklaces and bracelets and earrings. Why would Joey have such things hidden among his undergarments? And why was his door locked? And if he had a girlfriend, why didn’t she know anything about it? Why would Joey be keeping secrets?
Whoa – Kelly stopped herself. She stepped back from the drawer and shook her head, but still, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong, terribly wrong. Maybe it was all the reality crime television she had been ingesting lately. That was all – she had simply seen too many shows about serial killers who were meticulous, guarded, and kept mementos of their poor, tortured victims, such as jewelry. She brought a trembling hand to her mouth and slowly shook her head back and forth again. Joey wouldn’t do anything wrong. Joey wouldn’t harm a fly, not Joey, no, no, no.
Her eyes slipped to the closet. Snooping would only end in heartbreak and pain, as did it for all mothers who found more than they bargained for in the bedrooms of their children (pornography, cigarettes, marijuana, naked selfies, etc.). But Kelly now needed to snoop for exoneration. She needed to clear her son whom she had already condemned. She moved to the closet door and slide the nearest door open. It creaked unsteadily along the track, and Kelly’s eyes fell to the floor. Joey’s shoes – so clean, so clean – were in neat and even rows. Sneakers, boots, shoes for church; there was a place for everything and everything was in its place.
So what was the deal with the duffle bag thrown carelessly into the corner and out of sight? Unless, of course, someone was looking for just such a suspicious detail as Kelly was. Slowly, shaking, she dropped to her knees and reached into the dark recess of the closet. She pulled the bag, scratching the vinyl with her nails and sending chills up and down her spine. Breath moved in and out of its own volition, but it did not seem to be all that willing. The necessary oxygen came in jerky spurts and Kelly feared she would hyperventilate and pass out. What if Joey came home and found her like this? What would he think? What would she say? Kelly inhaled, exhaled, and unzipped the bag.
There were dark colored sweatpants with a dark colored sweatshirt, rope, gloves, and the light reflecting off of something metallic and sharp – a knife. Kelly screamed and threw the bag from her. She scrambled back against the bed and slumped into a seated position. This didn’t make sense, couldn’t add up to what she was assuming. No, those girls were missing from up north, from where Charlie worked. Why would Joey ….
Joey had taken an interest lately, hadn’t he? Joey traveled up to work with his father whenever he could, whenever Charlie offered. That wasn’t often enough, though. Not to commit murder – surely not! Joey would have to go up after school, take public transportation, and he couldn’t. Well, Kelly supposed he could, but he wouldn’t. After all, he had all those obligations which he never gave specific details about and which never culminated into something tangible, even something as simple as a telephone call from a club advisor or certificate of participation with the principal’s rubber stamp.
What the hell was going on here?