Zoe had another shot of vodka before Taran left. He seemed overly grateful that she was going to contact her friend Donna about talking to her sister, and that Charlene would then try and talk Kay into coming back to Corbin Meadow. At some point he’d walked over and closed the sliding glass door which made Zoe feel like a caged animal, though the air conditioner was no longer working so hard.
She didn’t feel any more tickles on the back of her hand or her neck, and when she thought she felt something, it was normally just her imagination picturing a bug of some sort moving around tickling her skin. She never ended up killing anything when she swatted her body.
The vodka made things a bit fuzzy, like her head was wrapped in feathers, dampening her senses because she was protected from the real world. Except, Zoe reflected, it wasn’t the real world that she needed to worry about, not really, unless you called weird ass gnome-like things “real” which she most certainly did not.
She was glad when Taran finally left her to her own devices, secure in the knowledge that she would start the process that he was supposed to take care of. Weren’t men always like that? Not her father, though. At least not that she knew.
Zoe sat back on the sofa, trying to figure out what to say to her friend Donna, when she dozed off. Drinking on an empty stomach, no matter the adrenaline rush, could do that. Before she passed out, Zoe thought she smelled roses. Her momma had loved roses and took every opportunity to purchase them from the store. No rosebush existed in the garden because she didn’t have the interest in gardening and those bushes that had been planted had withered and died during the winter months, refusing to be resurrected in the spring, though other rose bushes in other yards did just fine. But still, the flowers were purchased and brought to the house. The smell always reminded Zoe of her momma.
There had been plenty of roses in a variety of colors at her momma’s funeral. Her father had a large arrangement with a spray of red roses. Zoe’s arrangement had been smaller but with a spray of pink flowers. Friends had all had arrangements made up of white carnations and yellow or sometimes white roses. The church had been beautiful.
In her dream, Zoe was back there, walking up the side aisle to the front where her momma lay in her casket, the lid open. She’d looked like she was sleeping, except her make-up was a little wrong, the color a bit too pale. Still, any minute she could get up and say hello, even though a part of Zoe knew she wouldn’t ever do that again.
Even in her dream state the grief rushed up at her, knocking her down like she was a tree in the forest that had been felled by a chainsaw. The cutting of her ties to her momma’s roots had been just as quick and as heartless. There was the most physical ache in her chest, the center of it radiating outwards to her entire body. Her arms and hands tingled with that ache. Heartache, she thought, thinking how appropriate, but who knew her heart took up her entire body?
“Hush, child,” her momma said. They were sitting in the pews of the church like they had every Sunday for as long as Zoe could remember. They were in the sixth pew back, not too close but not too far back, her momma closest to the aisle. It was the pew they always chose whenever they could. The wood beneath her was dark and the floor was carpeted in what Zoe liked to think of as church red, particularly since the church she sometimes attended in Portland was carpeted in the exact same color.
Long, narrow windows of stained glass lined the sides of the building which was raised high over their heads in a nod to Gothic architecture. The church organ was huge and had been purchased with a special collection from the people of the congregation back in her grandfather’s day. It wasn’t a large church, certainly not the largest in Corbin Meadow, as it was Lutheran, which was not the religion of choice for the overwhelming majority of folks. The Bible Church and the Baptist Church were both three times the size of this one.
“Momma?” Zoe whispered, her voice drawing out the vowels of the word as they had when she was a child.
“That’s my girl.” Her momma put her arm around her, easing her closer. Her hair was the pale brown and gray it had been before she died, and her face looked exactly the way Zoe remembered it, if a bit more lined.
“I’m scared,” Zoe whispered, realizing it only then that she was terrified.
“Stay inside. Don’t go into the backyard for anything.” Her momma took Zoe’s face and framed it with her hands, staring into her eyes. “Promise me, my rascally girl.”
Though Zoe had rarely seen her momma look as serious as she did in the dream, the voice was there, the smile around the words “rascally girl” filled with warmth.
“I promise,” Zoe said.
“You will call Donna and you will find a way to bring Kay home,” her momma added.
“Why? Why is Kay so important?” Zoe asked. She didn’t really want Kay there. What if Taran decided he wanted to get back together with his ex-wife? And why, Zoe wondered, did she care? Just because she liked that he admired how she looked, because she got a tingle through her body every time he stood a little too close didn’t mean she cared or that she wanted a relationship. Maybe she should go back to Portland.
“You could go back now,” her momma said. “It would keep you safe. But would you really be happy there? The Blood calls, Zoe. It didn’t need me because it had Dixie, and it thought she was all it needed, but Dixie hoarded that power to herself. Now that she’s gone, there is no one.”
“Why doesn’t it call to Kay?” Zoe asked.
“I think it does,” Jodie said finally, after a silence long enough to make Zoe worry her momma wouldn’t answer. “I think it does but she’s filled with so many regrets and so many other desires that she doesn’t even know it’s calling. Make her see that.”
“I’ll try,” Zoe said quietly.
“You need to do it,” her momma said. “You’ve been noticed and not in a good way. I and the others had more leeway thanks to Dixie and thanks to the fact that they didn’t know what we were doing, what it all meant. Even Elaine got ideas through, and it was only after months of her planning that she was noticed. But you…they were listening already and they understood what your plans were. Take care. Remember what I said. Don’t go out in the garden in the back.”
A bell sounded, loud and urgent. Her momma looked towards the front where a casket lay, the cover open. Zoe followed her momma’s gaze, not certain who was in there, not wanting to know. Her momma stood, gave her a quick kiss.
The church faded and Zoe was in the backyard. A mist was coming up. Something was there. She needed to remain still.
The bell called her again, louder now, closer.
Zoe turned to look, knowing as she moved that whatever was out noticed. She had no time to run. She felt the weight on her back and she sat up, not quite awake, her eyes wide and unseeing.
The phone trilled a third time and Zoe gasped, looking at it. Donna was calling her. She paused a little longer, trying to catch a hold of the good part of the dream while shaking off the ending. Had she called her friend before going to sleep? She couldn’t remember.
Chapter 20 will be coming next Friday. Don’t want to wait? Find the book here.