Light and colors bent around the magnification of Isabel’s palm print.
“What do you have there?” her mother asked, setting down her trowel and lifting up the brim of her sun hat.
“A marble, I think,” Isabel said.
“Biggest marble I’ve ever seen,” her mother said, squinting at it.
“I wonder how long it’s been lying here,” Isabel said, gazing at the ditch she and her mother had been excavating into the yard to create a series of stepped flower beds down the slope in their yard.
They’d already found a handful of forgotten treasures. A skeleton key, the husk of a metal rocking horse figurine, even a wedding band made for fingers more slender than Isabel’s or her mother’s. This marble filled Isabel’s palm and had some weight to it. The marvel to her, after all of the dirt was wiped away, was how pristine it was. Perfectly clear and round. Not pocked from untold years in the soil like the other treasures had been. For all the wear it showed it could have been tossed into that patch of dirt this morning.
“I think I’ll go clean it up,” she said.
“You’re just looking for an excuse to steal another cookie,” her mother teased with a wink.
That hadn’t been in Isabel’s mind, but now that mother had mentioned it, a cookie didn’t sound like a bad idea. She washed the marble in the kitchen sink and placed it on the sill, admiring how it caught the light while she munched on a still cooling and gooey chocolate chip slice of heaven. Her mother made the best cookies in the world, she decided, and she turned to grab another before heading back out to help with the shoveling.
Colors and movement across the opposite wall caught her attention and it took a minute before she realized she was watching her mother’s image reflected. No, that wasn’t right. The reflection was upside-down and the figure wore her mother’s familiar denim shirt as they dug into the garden, but it wasn’t her mother. She stepped closer and frowned, her cookie forgotten and tumbling to the linoleum. The figure was… her. She had a determined look on her face and shoveled like she meant business. Finally she knelt and picked something up from the grass, tossing it into the hole without so much as glancing at it. Immediately, she began filling in the hole. Finally, she turned and grabbed a small bush resting at her ankles and pulled the plastic container away from it. She settled it over the hole, pushing dirt around with her hands until it matched the nearby landscaping.
“I was wondering what happened to you,” her mother said, stamping her shoes at the door. “Are there any cookies left?”
Isabel glanced back at the wall but only saw dancing colors as light shifted through the marble in the window. She’d only seen the object for a flash of a second as it caught the light in its fall. It had been that marble.
“Isabel, is something wrong?” her mother asked, her brow creasing with concern as she noticed the cookie crumbles around Isabel’s feet.
“I um,” Isabel said, blinking her way out of whatever had just come over her. “No,” she said. “My uh hands were tired from all of the shoveling and I dropped my cookie. It was delicious, by the way,” she added with a grin.
That evening after supper, Isabel brought the marble up to her room and put it on her desk. She lit a candle and placed it beside the marble. She watched the wall that angled over her bed as lights danced and sparked around her room. Before long what she’d been watching for began to take shape. Colors at first, then shapes and movement, until a scene played out upside-down. She dropped onto her bed and watched. The colors were bright, as if daylight infused everything. A girl from Isabel’s school sat alone, crying. She was in a courtyard that Isabel recognized. It wasn’t far from the cafeteria.
The next day, the moment Isabel stepped into the cafeteria the vision from the night before came back to her. She’d seen the girl earlier in the day and had smiled at her. The girl had seemed surprised and the boyfriend whose arm was wrapped around her protectively watched Isabel with suspicion. She’d kept walking and felt ashamed now that thoughts of the girl had slipped from her mind.
She made her way to that courtyard but nobody was there. A thin line of decorative trees separated the courtyard from a lawn, and on the other side of those trees Isabel could hear voices speaking harshly. She couldn’t make out words, but the anger was plain enough. Then she heard a slap followed by silence. After a minute she heard a sniff. She moved to the far side of the courtyard and slid behind an opposite row of trees just as the girl rounded into the courtyard holding her reddened cheek. Tears caught the bright sunlight through her fingers.
Isabel wasn’t sure what to do. She felt like she’d been shown this scene for a reason and should do something about it. She entered the courtyard and approached the girl, trying to remember her name.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
The girl glared at her and she felt her footsteps falter in uncertainty.
“Listen,” the girl spat, surprising Isabel with the venom in her tone, “I don’t know what you think you have to do with me but whatever it is let it go. I have you to thank for this,” she added, pointing to her still red cheek. With that she rose and stalked away, pulling her hair down from its pony tail to cover her face.
Isabel was stunned. She’d thought she’d been shown that scene in order to do something about it or make it better. How she’d been the cause of it she couldn’t guess, but clearly the girl thought as much. She returned to the cafeteria, fighting to keep her trembling hands out of sight.
“I don’t know why I’m even doing this,” Isabel muttered that night when she lit the candle and took up her position on her bed.
Thoughts of doubt withered though when a scene took shape above her head. This time it was a blue car, it’s back wheels still spinning though the front of the car bent around a tree trunk. With a gasp, Isabel realized that she was looking at her friend Micksie’s car. In two steps she was at her desk blowing out the candle.
The next morning she found Micksie and in a torrent of nearly incoherent words, begged Micksie not to drive anywhere.
“What’s your deal?” Micksie laughed, pulling away from Isabel’s desperate grasp.
“I had a… nightmare,” Isabel said, realizing how she sounded and trying to pull herself together. “Please just get a ride home with someone after school,” she begged.
Micksie rolled her eyes. “Yeah sure,” she said.
Isabel could tell that Micksie had no intention of listening but what more could she do? She went to class and tried to concentrate.
After school when Isabel saw Micksie pull away in her blue car her stomach dropped. Micksie turned the corner too fast. She had passengers and her music throbbed over Isabel even from nearly a block away. Quickly, Isabel ran to the road Micksie had just turned onto. She reached the sidewalk just in time to make eye contact with her friend and see Micksie’s face grow serious for an instant before the sound of squealing tires filled the air followed by a crunching thud.
“I’m glad you’re not driving yet,” her mother said as they drove home from the hospital.
“They’re all going to be okay,” Isabel said, “eventually,” she added. Guilt pulsed through her veins. She wanted to confess to her mother that the accident was her fault, but how could she explain?
“It could have been a lot worse,” her mother agreed, “but every one of those families just went through the worst day of their lives waiting for that news. And all of those girls are going to have a long recovery. It scares me to death.”
“Yeah,” Isabel agreed distantly.
That night she sat staring at the marble for a long time before she lit the candle and settled onto her bed. The scene that played out was of her mother, walking out of her office. Isabel didn’t watch the rest. She jumped up and blew out the candle, then ran to her mother’s room.
“Micksie’s accident hit us all pretty hard,” her mother said into her hair as she soothed Isabel’s sobs.
“If I asked you to take the day off tomorrow, and spend it with me, would you do it?” Isabel sniffed.
“Help you skip school?” her mother scoffed. “I don’t think so young lady.” Her gaze softened. “Honey, Micksie is going to be okay, eventually. I know you’re upset but it’s going to get better.”
“I don’t want anything to happen to you,” Isabel said, her last words coming out in a choked sob.
“Oh honey,” her mother said, pulling her in for another hug. “Life is scary and unpredictable sometimes, but that’s life. We have to love what we’ve got when it’s right here in our arms.” She gave Isabel a squeeze. “And when the rest happens, the surprises, the heartaches, then we get to know that we loved when we could and laughed when our hearts were light. What more can you do?”
“What if it isn’t unpredictable?” Isabel asked from her mother’s embrace.
“Sure, sometimes you can see it coming. The way Micksie drove, for example…”
“No, I mean what if I know what’s going to happen, and then it does?” Isabel asked. “Like something is going to happen to you tomorrow at work. Or, when you leave work. Please stay home tomorrow.”
Her mother gave her a searching look.
The next morning the aroma of fresh baked cookies wafted up the stairs and Isabel moved around her bed, fighting the pull of sleep and confusion. She’d thought it was a school day. Shuffling down the steps a few minutes later, she found her mother humming as she pulled a sheet of steaming cookies from the oven.
“Good morning,” her mother greeted. “This seemed important to you, so I called your school. We’re baking today.”
Isabel laughed and threw her arms around her mother’s neck.
“You’re the very best mom ever,” she said.
“Yes well, first don’t you ever forget that, and second, don’t expect this to happen again. School is important.”
Isabel nodded and swiped a hot cookie from the cooling rack, juggling it between her hands until it was cool enough to venture a taste.
“I mean it young lady,” her mother laughed.
After baking, they worked on lining a lamp shade with fabric from her mother’s never used stock of interesting fabrics and then moved on to a board game. In the early afternoon her mother got a call that she took into the next room. Returning with a sigh, she grabbed her purse.
“I have to run in to the office for about half an hour,” she said. “Don’t worry,” she laughed when Isabel’s face fell. “It’s just a quick thing. I’ll be back in a little bit. Oh, I forgot,” she said, smiling back at Isabel from the doorway. “I picked up that mock orange tree. It’s small yet, but it’ll grow so nicely at the corner of the top tier. We can plant it together when I get back.”
Isabel found herself pacing after twenty minutes. After forty minutes she called the office and was even more worried when the receptionist, Linda, failed to answer. She turned on the television and scrolled through the channels until she found the news.
“A hostage situation,” the anchor was saying, but Isabel didn’t hear the rest. She recognized her mother’s work building.
The television buzzed through the afternoon without giving much information. Isabel wandered into her mother’s room and saw the denim shirt strewn on her mother’s bed. She put it on, breathing in the honeydew scent of her mother’s perfume. Suddenly, she knew what she had to do.
Written by W. C. McClure. This is a work of fiction. None of the characters or events depicted are meant to represent anyone or anything this side of dreams. Comments are welcome! Please help support this indie author by telling your friends about this short story blog at http://www.farsideofdreams.com and buying W. C. McClure’s books at http://www.wcmcclure.com. Thanks for reading!