Excerpt for The Space in Between by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



THE SPACE in BETWEEN

a novel


Linda M. James


THE SPACE IN BETWEEN

A Novel


Copyright Linda M. James, 2017


All rights reserved. Except for brief passages quoted in newspaper, magazine, radio, television or online reviews, no portion of this book may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or information storage or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


Smashwords Edition, License Notes

Thank you for downloading this free ebook. Although this is a free book, it remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be reproduced, copied and distributed for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy at Smashwords.com, where they can also discover other works by this author. Thank you for your support.


ISBN 978-0-692-95325-9


Cover design by Rob Bignell,

Inventing Reality Editing Service


Manufactured in the United States of America

First printing October 2017


~ Table of Contents ~


Acknowledgements

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Epilogue

About the Author


~ Acknowledgements ~


First and foremost is glory to God who planted a seed in me, and then used me as a tool to grow a story that could only come from Him!


To my mother, Ruth Polz, for instilling in me a creative vision that allows me to look at the world in multiple layers of dimension. And, for encouraging me.


To my writing group who were fiercely supportive and encour-aging: Aethan Hart, Bonnie Federation, Jane Nicol, Jean Krauss. My gratitude to all of you is beyond expressed words.


To Jody Eisch who nudged me by telling me that I needed to write a book. Also for being willing to read and critique the manuscript in stages as it was being written, as well as doing a final read-through. In addition, for assisting with multiple details — as my “business manager.” As Henry David Thoreau said, “Friends… they cherish one another's hopes. They are kind to one another's dreams.” Thank you, dear friend!


To my early readers who willingly read and made edits to my manuscript for flow, style, and grammar. Thank you Jody Eisch, Skip James, Joan Sorenson, and Molly Powers.


To my children, Ashley, Emily, and Jordan, who have always known the dream in my heart. Thank you for your encouraging words of telling me my greatest calling was to write and that I’m a dreamer. I love you.


To my extended family for believing in me.


To my sweet, funny pups, Darby Sue and Della Rose, who knew when I was working too hard and nudged my hand to stop and take time to play.


To my childhood school librarian, Mrs. Heaverlo, now deceased, who unknowingly showed me how to love words and books at a young age, even though I struggled with reading.


And to Layton “Skip” James for constant love and support. For challenging me to raise the bar and push myself. But also for believing in me no matter what! You are greatly loved.


“There is a space in between

that takes away what was

and replaces it with what is.”

~ Linda M. James ~


~ Prologue ~


I always knew the difference between right and wrong, and good and bad. What I didn’t fully understand was the unsettling feeling I had about certain things or people. It was a feeling that caused my heart to race or an uneasy pressure in my chest. I would later learn that that feeling was a warning sign.


I was a quiet and intent person, most often observing those around me. It was both a curse and a blessing. Perhaps it was a powerful sense of perception. One person who shaped my thoughts and feelings was Sally. She was bold and courageous. She was smart, but mischievous. All traits that made me uncomfortable and unable to live up to certain expectations.


That summer, 1968, was filled with both good and bad, and right and wrong. None of which I had any control, but a lot for which I felt I was to blame.


It is guilt that extinguishes all the light and breath of what has life, and it is guilt that steals the heart and soul.


~ Chapter 1 ~


The sun was filling the room at the same time my father’s booming voice was filling the stairway. “Rise and shine,” he called to us every morning at the exact same time. It was the end of May, and the end of the school year.


I shared a bedroom with my sister, Sally. Her single bed was against the wall and mine was near the only window, from where I loved to look at the moon.


“Can you believe only four more days and we will be on summer vacation?” Sally asked, her voice radiant while she threw her pajamas under her pillow. She was always bright in the mornings. Within a few days time, I’d finish fourth grade and Sally would be done with sixth grade.


I didn’t answer immediately as I thought about long summer days and no school schedule to keep. It was my favorite time of the year. I was always so happy when the bell rang on the very last day of school, and I was free for three months.


“Anna!” Sally yelled at me and broke my trance-like thoughts about summer. “I asked you a question!” Her voice now less cheerful.


“I know, I’m excited about summer, too,” I responded.


We got dressed and made our beds before our older sister, Ellen, reminded us to get a move on if we wanted a ride from her. She warned us everyday that she would leave us behind if we weren’t ready to go on time. We knew she didn’t mean it. Ellen had gotten her driver’s license at the beginning of the school year, and right after Christmas our father had brought home a used 1961 Ford Falcon.


“Nothing but a Ford in our driveway,” my father said. He was the assistant sales manager at Springville Ford, and having a third driver in the family meant a second vehicle was needed.


Before he had handed over the keys to Ellen, my parents had sat down with her and laid out the rules. Part of the deal was to drive Sally and me to and from school every day. The only other occasion to drive the Falcon was to her job at the drugstore, where she worked as a cashier. My father made it clear that my mother also needed the car from time to time.


The Falcon was perfect for Ellen. It had four doors and was as blue as a robin’s egg. The only flaws were a small tear in the backseat, and a spot of rust on the bottom of the driver’s door, which looked like a ugly scab.


“Girls, hurry up, I’m leaving,” Ellen threatened. As we ran out the door behind her I noticed how she was dressed. Today she was wearing a light blue sleeveless dress with a white cardigan draped over her shoulders. She smelled like a flower. And her blond, shoulder-length hair was flipped on the ends with bangs swept over to the side, complete with a white ribbon tied on top. Ellen took great care with her appearance. I figured she spent a lot of time getting ready for school so her boyfriend, Greg, would tell her how pretty she looked.


Sally and I loved to go into Ellen’s room when she was gone. We’d play with her makeup and look through her clothes. Just like our bedroom, hers had a walk-in closet, which she filled with clothes she loved. When we did play in Ellen’s room, Sally insisted we needed to put everything back in place so that Ellen didn’t know we had been there. On more than one occasion, Ellen would grumble at us that we were not allowed in her room or in her stuff. “Leave my things alone and stay out,” she warned us several times.


I wanted Ellen to understand that I simply loved looking at her grown up things, pretty clothes and her organized room, and, I just loved looking at her.


“I get the front seat!” Sally was quick to shout out every morning as we trailed Ellen to the car. “When do I get a chance in the front seat?,” I asked. Of course, Sally always said the same thing, “Never, you are too little, so stop asking.” Though, whenever just Ellen and I went on an errand, I was allowed to sit in the front.


I barely had climbed into the backseat when Ellen backed the car out of the driveway, and we were on our way to school. She was not one to waste a minute. The sooner she got to school the more time she had with Greg before classes.


Every school day had a similar routine, except today. After school, when Ellen picked us up, she announced that we needed to stop at the drugstore.


“You know Mom and Dad expect you to bring us right home after school,” Sally said, raising her voice in annoyance. We knew our parents were strict about the rules with the car, and where we went, but today Ellen was willing to break the rules.


“It’s not your concern!” Ellen was quick to counter. The two of them were never inclined to friendly conversation. They simply tolerated each other. I sat in the backseat and said nothing, just anticipating a trip to Herman’s Drugstore. Ellen parked the car at an angle on Main and ordered us to stay put.


“What do you suppose she needs to buy?” Sally was curious about everything. I didn’t respond to her question as I really didn’t care. “Fine, don’t bother to answer me,” she continued in frustration.


Five minutes later Ellen came out carrying a bag, got into the Falcon, and we were on our way home. Sally immediately opened the bag to discover what the stop was all about.


“You bought a Continental Hair curling iron?” Sally seemed outraged. “That is expensive,” she contested.


“What do you care? You are exactly twelve years old and you have natural curls.” Ellen was irritated. “Besides I have a job and I get paid money. So there!”


Once we got home, I was quick to get out of the Falcon and up to our room where I changed clothes before heading outside. It was a beautiful day in May and I wasn’t about to sit in the house.


I could hear Sally explaining to my mother that we were late because of Ellen. “I warned her that she would be in trouble if we didn’t come straight home, but she wouldn’t listen to me.” Sally insisted that my mother impose some kind of punishment. “Plus she spent money on a curling iron. A Continental Hair curling iron. It’s not cheap!” I had to admit, Sally’s complaining tired me out.


“Well, you aren’t terribly late and I don’t need the car for any errands today so it’s fine, Sally.” My mother was calm. “However, Ellen, dear, remember the rules. . . don’t bend them.” Ellen walked right on past and up to her room, where she closed the door behind her.


As simple as that, my mother went back to watching The Edge of Night, which was always on when we arrived home from school. Ellen was not in trouble for failure to drive us straight home from school, or spending money on a curling iron. After all, Ellen was almost grown up. She was nearly done with her junior year and would turn seventeen in August.


~ Chapter 2 ~


The next morning Ellen showed up to breakfast with her hair in curls and sat down next to me. “Your hair looks nice,” my father said, briefly looking up from the newspaper.


“It should look nice!” Sally exclaimed. “She spent a lot of money on a new curling iron and didn’t bring us straight home after school. I think she needs to be grounded or have the car keys taken away!”


“Shut up, Sally!” Ellen shot her a hard look.


“Enough girls,” my mother said, putting a stop to any further disagreement. My father seemed unaffected by any of it, but said, “And then, Sally, how would you get to school? Would you be up for walking?”


That question didn’t sit well with Sally because she didn’t say another word.


As we ate our pancakes, my father took a drink of his coffee and announced we would be planting our garden this morning, and that all of us would need to do our share. The dreaded garden, I thought.


At the sound of my father’s words we knew that the rest of our summer would be spent tending the garden before any recreation was enjoyed.


But after breakfast, as routinely as my father expected, we began the annual chore we all hated.


By noon we had completed planting the expansive ground with a large variety of vegetables. My father’s hobby produced an overabundance, more than we could ever eat. We never could understand why we had such a big plot for vegetables. To us it was a huge chore. But as soon as we finished, we were free to play.


Our grey, two story house was situated on the outer edge of Springville, Minnesota. We had a lot land to roam. There were just a few other houses on the block. At the back of our property were brush and old oaks, and to the south were open fields of alfalfa. Sally and I often went on adventures around our two acres of land. We had a single wooden swing hanging from a huge cottonwood, where the ground took a dip underneath, showing years of wear.


I was eating a Popsicle while slowly swinging back and forth, my feet dragging across the worn-out dip. “Want me to push you?” Sally’s voice rang out as she jumped off the concrete step with her own Popsicle. A reward for all of our hard work.


“No, I just want to sit here,” I said. I wanted to be alone as I often did.


“That’s no fun, Anna. We should ride our bikes to the park.”


I decided to agree, like usual, and off we went on our bikes. The only rule was to be home in time for dinner at five o’clock. We raced each other to Sunrise Park, just down the street from our house. On this quiet Saturday afternoon there was not another kid in sight. We played on the equipment for a short time before losing interest. With little to do, Sally said, “Let’s go home, this is boring.”


As we cruised into the driveway, I noticed a familiar truck. My father was working in the garage as he often did when he was home. In the short time we had been at the park, Leroy Miller had come to see my father. He was a thin and worn-out man with a tired face, filled with lines. I felt both interested and afraid of him.


I knew he wasn’t my father’s friend, but it wasn’t unusual for all kinds of folks to stop by our house. I was used to it. The variety taught me that some folks were nicer than others.


Mr. Leroy had been to our house before. He looked less fortunate than most. He drove an old, rusted out truck that was pale from the sun. I figured he didn’t have a garage to cover it. By contrast, we had a garage that could hold two cars.


Mr. Leroy looked dirty. He was wearing ragged clothing and his face was dark from the sun, unlike the truck he drove. I had no idea who he really was, just that he’d come to our house before and that my father didn’t really like him.


“I was wondering if I could ask a favor,” Mr. Leroy said.


“What’s that, Miller?” My father asked.


I didn’t know why my father called him by his last name, but sometimes the boys at school did that, too. I pushed down my dismay at his tone, and reminded myself that I would need to call him Mr. Miller if I ever spoke to him, which I hoped I would never have to do.


“I was over at the Schubert farm and I’m looking to buy a tractor.” Mr. Leroy Miller’s voice was slow and careful. He continued, “August has gone and bought himself a new one, and I’m considering his old one. I’m a hundred short, is all.”


I stood there next to Sally, who looked at him with bright eyes. It was hard to know what she found so fascinating about people. I mostly wanted to run away but I, too, was curious about the conversation between my father and Mr. Leroy.


“And I’m supposed to help how?” My father asked with a sting in his voice. I was hopeful we wouldn’t see the ‘wrath of daddy’ that sometimes would rise up from a hidden or unknown place. I was only ten years old, but I was good at seeing things that weren’t there.


“Well, Ivan, I felt I could ask you for a loan, seeing how you have all this.” Mr. Leroy waved his arm out wide while his voice grew large. That’s when I noticed his bloody hand come down on Sally’s blond curls.


Intense fear grabbed hold of me and I ran into the house, past my mother, up the stairs and into my room, slamming the door. I felt a catch in my breath as I went into my special place, the closet. One side of the walk-in had a slope over the stairs.


I pushed the clothes to the side and sat on the slant. In the center of the ceiling was a single light bulb with a pull chain. A chain that my father had long ago extended for us so we could reach it. But now I chose the darkness and brushed by the chain. My closet was the one place that was quiet and seem to protect me from the outside world. It wasn’t likely that anyone would look for me there and so I kept my most special and favorite things hidden in the closet.


As I sat there catching my breath and trying to shut out the thought of Mr. Leroy’s bloody hand, I pushed my eyes tight together.


As I felt my heart slowing down, I remembered Sally. I crawled out past the hanging clothes, opened the closet door where I was immediately warmed with sunlight. I crept to the window that overlooked the driveway. Mr. Leroy still stood there with his mouth moving and shaping words, and my father was doing the same. But Sally was no longer there.


The man in our driveway was unsightly and scary, with a bloody hand that he had put on my sister’s head. I had to find out what happened to her. I quietly slipped down the stairs, avoiding the step that moaned under weight. I placed my ear to the wall to listen for voices. I heard Sally moaning and my mother’s soothing voice.


“There, now,” my mother said. “Mr. Miller just tousled your hair and probably didn’t realize he had cut himself. We’ll wash your hair and everything will be fine.”


I carefully opened the door and came out from the stairway, looked out of the window directly to my right, but saw nothing. Mr. Leroy’s washed-out truck was gone. I sat down on the bottom step and I felt some air leave my mouth. Now I understood what my mother meant when she said something was a “sigh of relief”.


With Mr. Leroy off our property, I slowly walked into the kitchen where Sally sat with a wet head. Her tears were gone but her face was red and her eyes were puffy. I don’t know what caused me to do what I did next, but in my relief, I ran over to Sally and threw my arms around her middle and squeezed her hard.


The edges of my mother’s mouth turned up, and I couldn’t help but wonder how she could be so calm when Sally had been so upset.


~ Chapter 3 ~


Every Saturday evening, we needed to take a bath and wash our hair. Since Sally already had her hair washed, she only needed a bath. I had to do both, which I found a bother. I’d rather spend my time outside getting dirty than inside getting clean.


“I hate having my hair washed, and water gets in my ears,” I protested. “And it tickles.”


This never changed my mother’s mind about polishing up our appearance. Unlike Ellen or Sally, my hair was light brown and very straight. I had my father’s looks for the most part. He was tall, lean and muscular. His skin was very brown in the summer months, and we shared the same hair color. I wasn’t so much tall but I was lean. My older sisters had my mother’s beautiful hair and skin. I always felt a bit different.


“Anna, why do you always complain about baths?” Sally needed to know. “It’s not that bad and you really do need to wash that stringy hair once in a while. Besides, I will use the curling iron to make it really beautiful.”


Tonight, Ellen was going on a date with Greg. He was tall with dark hair and dimples. I thought he was dreamy in a movie star sort of way. I knew Sally thought so too. Every time Greg came to our house to pick up Ellen, Sally and I would giggle as they walked to the car where he’d open the door for her. Ellen would gracefully and slowly slip into the front seat, then smooth down her dress. We’d watch them drive away and then go up to her bedroom.


Earlier, in the late afternoon, Ellen had been in her room with the door open a crack when I peeked in and noticed her getting ready for her date. Her pretty blond hair was pulled into a high ponytail, tied with a black ribbon. She had put on a yellow, sleeveless A-line dress with black rick-rack running down the front and along the bottom.


My mother had sewn it for her and now, as I watched her every move, Ellen seemed quite pleased with the way she looked. She twirled in front of the mirror, and then twirled back the other way, looking over her shoulder. Impressed with her looks, she picked up a tube of lipstick and gently rubbed it back and forth, followed by a big smack of her lips. Then she smiled brightly. I knew she was happy with the results.


As Ellen came into the living room, where we were watching The Lawrence Welk Show, Sally started giggling and teasing her, “You look very mod for your date.” Then, with a sing-song voice and batting her eyelashes, Sally continued to tease, “Ellen is in love.” Ellen usually ignored her, but with one swift motion, she smacked Sally on the back of her head.


As soon as they backed out of the driveway, Sally and I raced up the stairs to Ellen’s bedroom, quickly shutting the door behind us.


“Ok, Anna, sit down,” Sally said while she plugged in Ellen’s curling iron. “We have to be careful that we put everything back where we found it,” Sally stated in a serious tone.


“I don’t know if we should do this, Sally,” I pleaded, feeling nervous about using Ellen’s brand new curling iron. “She would be very mad at us if she saw us right now.”


“Anna, you really have got to stop worrying about everything.” We won’t ruin anything and besides, your hair could use a style.”


While the curling iron was heating up, we carefully pulled out Ellen’s makeup. “Ok, do you want me to put blush on you, or just eye shadow?” Sally was rummaging through Ellen’s assortment of makeup to see if any new items had been added.


“I would have to wash my face again and I just had a bath,” I reminded her. “How about I put blush and eye shadow on you, and you do my hair?”


So I set about picking up the blush and brushing it onto Sally’s cheeks in a grand sweeping motion as I had watched Ellen do. It didn’t look right. I could tell Sally thought so, too.


“Anna! I look like a clown,” Sally responded in disappointment. “You don’t need to use that much!”


She stood up with a huff and went into the small bathroom that separated our bedrooms, to wash her face. She came back into Ellen’s room rubbing her face with a washcloth motioning me to sit in front of the mirror, and said, “Ok, let’s do something with that godawful hair of yours.”


As Sally picked up the curling iron, we noticed that there was a small burn mark on the vanity. Sally quickly unplugged it and gasped, “Oh no, I accidentally laid it on its side.” She sighed, assessing the damage. “I didn’t know it would burn the wood!”


“Look what you did, Ellen is going to kill us!” I frantically screamed at Sally. “What do we do now? She is going to know we did this.”


“Dammit Anna, stop it. I need to think!” Sally was now examining the burn mark. “Look, it isn’t really that big.” I could tell she was thinking deeply about a remedy, when all of sudden she sounded cheerful, “We could try shoe polish!” This idea immediately smoothed over my worry. “That works for covering up scuffs, why can’t it work on this?” As I looked at the vanity, it seemed to be very similar in color to my father’s dark brown shoes.


“Ok, but the shoe polish is in Mom and Dad’s closet,” I pointed out. “And, you swore at me.”


“No, it isn’t,” Sally corrected me. “And you made me swear!” She was quick to blame it on me. Swearing was something we both did sometimes; Ellen, too, for that matter, and we knew we’d be in big trouble if my parents ever heard it.


“I saw Dad put it in the linen closet in the downstairs bathroom.” Sally said, scrunching up her face as if this was a difficult recollection. We smiled at each other, feeling as though we had really hatched some grand plan. It was as though we read each other’s thoughts because only one of us would go and retrieve the shoe polish as not to cause suspicion for our parents.


I had to hand it to Sally, she really did have some of the best ideas, along with some of the worst.


It turned out that I was the one who had to find the shoe polish and not look like I was up to something. Sally always felt my parents thought of me as a perfect angel, though she loved to point out I was far from it.




Coming back into Ellen’s room, I had the brown shoe polish in the pocket of my bathrobe. I pulled it out, handed it to her and asked, “Do you know what to do with this? There is a special way Dad puts it on his shoes. I watched him one time.”


“How dumb do you think I am?” Sally questioned me and turned the top of the container. “You just smear it on until it covers up the damage.”


“But you better read the instructions,” I warned. “I think you need a cloth.” And, at the same time, we both looked at the washcloth that Sally had just used on her face.


The two of us read over the instructions and applied the brown shoe polish, let it sit, and then shined it with the washcloth. Being proud of the way it looked, we threw the washcloth in the garbage so my mother wouldn’t see the stains.


~ Chapter 4 ~


Each week, the Sunday morning routine was nearly identical. We needed to be dressed, in nice shoes and our hair brushed so we could be on our way to church for the nine o’clock service. Now that it was almost summer, we were done with Sunday School.


Today I had quickly put on a dress without a lot of thought, only to be reminded by Sally that I couldn’t go to church the way I was dressed.


“Anna, you wore that dress last week,” she grumbled at me, and I rolled my eyes. “I’ve told you before that you cannot wear the same dress two weeks in a row. What’s the matter with you?”


She pulled out the same gingham plaid dress that she was wearing, but in my size. My mother had sewn them for us and it wasn’t unusual for her to make two of a kind. One to fit me and one to fit Sally. I loved my mother’s handiwork, but I hated matching outfits and found it embarrassing. Sally, however, seemed to like it.


“Here, wear this one,” she insisted, pushing it at me.


I didn’t oppose her as it wasn’t worth the effort. I took off the flowered dress and put on the gingham one as I was expected to do, and we were ready for church.


We piled into the family car, the Ford Galaxie. My parents had purchased it in 1966 and it was kept in pristine condition. Every week, my father would take the greatest care in washing and polishing it. He wasn’t satisfied until that green car shined like an emerald.


There were many Sundays that my father would not go to church with us. Today was one of those. It was anybody’s guess what determined when or why he would attend with us. My mother would make the familiar drive to church, and park in the same exact spot; right in front of the second house from the corner of Oak and Fourth Streets, which was kitty-corner from Salvation Lutheran Church.


From our car, we would jay-walk to the entrance and once inside our voices needed to be off.


“Girls,” my mother would say sweetly, “you are to be quiet for the entire time we are in church.”


My mother would say hello to the ushers, take the bulletin and we’d make our way halfway up the center where we would sit on the right-hand side. This routine never changed. We’d file into the pew with Ellen leading the way, Sally and me sandwiched in the middle, with my mother on the end. On the occasion my father was along, he would sit on the end.


Our minister, Pastor Prewitt, was one to go on and on, and I didn’t always understand what he was getting at, but nothing was required of me except to sit quietly and behave nicely.


Sally would sometimes have difficulty sitting quietly, or she’d grow restless. Because of that, every once in a while my mother or Ellen would pinch her leg to remind her of the rules. It struck me as odd, but I actually thought she liked getting her leg pinched.


Today I was listening because Pastor Prewitt said he had a special announcement, that Vacation Bible School would be starting the middle of June.


“Parents and kids,” he went on in his deep voice, “it is important to get signed up sooner rather than later.” I looked up at my mother who smiled with assurance that said not to worry, we’d sign up right after church was over.


I loved VBS. For one week we would do art projects, have recess and be excused from the garden chores.


I knew that Sally was probably going to protest, saying that she is getting too old, but I also knew that my mother would want her with me for the week. There seemed to be some expectation that my older sisters were supposed to look out for me.


After the announcement about VBS, I happened to look over at the pew across from us, where Danny Parker sat with his family. He must not have liked it because he stuck his tongue out at me. I instantly sat back against the hard pew so he couldn’t see me.


Danny was a chubby kid with a round face that always seemed flushed, like he had just been running in the summer heat. And sprinkled across his nose were freckles.


He was in my fourth grade class at Oakwood Elementary. I usually avoided him, but I also found him interesting to watch.


At school, I’d watch him out of the corner of my eye. He had strange habits like gripping his pencil so hard that the lead would snap off. And, at the same time he did that, his tongue would rotate around and around his mouth, like the hands on a clock. Because of this, he had red, chapped skin all around his lips. I didn’t understand why he had such an odd affliction. But it was a good reminder to keep my tongue in my mouth.


~ Chapter 5 ~


Because Monday had been Memorial day, we didn’t have school, but now it was Tuesday morning and we were about to head there for our final few days. We were all in fairly good spirits as we’d be on summer vacation by the end of the week. Because of that, I didn’t even object when Sally announced that she had dibs on front seat. She said it every day so I was used to it.


She was in an extra bubbly mood. I figured she was happy about ending her last week, and years, at Oakwood Elementary. By the end of summer, she would go on to seventh grade.


Springville High School was a large three-story, brick building that was connected to a newer two-story building where the junior high kids had classes. Things were going to be different as Ellen and Sally would go on to the same location for school, while I remained in elementary school by myself.


“Anna, how do you feel about being alone next year?” Sally looked back over the front seat at me.


“I don’t really care,” I responded while I continued to look out the window, already feeling a little left behind. But I didn’t want to admit it to Sally


“Yes you do! You now have two grown up, big sisters. It can’t be any fun being the youngest.”


“Sally, leave her alone!” Ellen’s voice interrupted her. “You just look for confrontation.”


“Ellen, don’t be rude, I wasn’t even talking to you.” Sally turned back around to face the front.


“Yep, see what I mean?” Ellen said, shaking her head. “I should just make you walk and let Anna sit up front. At least she doesn’t give me any grief.”


I quietly sat in the back, realizing I was picking at the small rip in the seat. It was something I did to calm my nerves. I often didn’t know I was doing it. The conversations, and arguments, between my sisters frequently caused me to dig my finger into the hole, now getting a little bigger.


For whatever reason, Sally didn’t say anything more. We were two blocks from being dropped off when Ellen slowed down the Falcon.


“Well, you want to get out and walk?” Ellen stared at Sally. Before Sally had a chance to answer, Ellen grinned and stepped on the gas. I knew this was going to be the first thing Sally would be eager to share with my mother when we got home.


After our long day at school, Sally and I met each other in the parking lot to wait for Ellen, who usually was right there waiting for us. But today, she wasn’t. Sally and I stood there waiting about ten minutes past the bell when I was starting to feel worried, as well as forgotten. Sally was downright mad. Most of the other students were long gone.


“I’m going to walk home. Come on, Anna.” Sally insisted we get home. I knew she intended to tattle on Ellen.


“I think we should wait, I’m sure she is coming.” I tried to sound reassuring.


“We have been waiting here too long. She isn’t coming for us. You saw how she was going to make me walk this morning.” Sally kicked some rocks, her voice sounding aggravated. “She’s up to something, thinking she is so grown up, and in charge.” Sally threw her arms out in frustration, and then let them fall to her sides.


I was getting anxious listening to her rant, and watching her exaggerated body movements. “I don’t know, we should wait,” I repeated again, to no avail, as Sally started walking very fast, leaving me standing.


“Wait up,” I cried, running after Sally. “I want to wait for Ellen. I know she didn’t forget us.”


“Anna, you wear me out,” she abruptly stopped, taking a deep breath and faced me. “Just stay here, then. I don’t care.” She spun around and continued walking.


I was torn as what to do. I knew Ellen had some reason for being late, yet I knew I should follow Sally, or be left to walk home all alone. The walk was a mile and a half. We had done it before, but we had to go around the edge of town, per my mother’s instructions. It made for a longer walk, plus we had to climb a steep hill before we would reach our house. I didn’t really want to do it.


Springville, Minnesota was situated in the southern and western part of the state. It was mostly a rural and farming community. The downtown area was small, yet bustling. Through town was a busy highway running north and south.


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