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A Stolen Kiss
I know there is something wrong with my shifty dad’s shady house before I see its grey roof peek over the no-longer-familiar hill. This was not going to be fun, but where else could I go? A runaway has limited options.
When I finally view the beady, gaping windows—they look like holes to darkness and silence, patiently waiting for some young victim to crawl through and be lost forever—a shiver runs down my spine. It is my own little pet, one I have grown callous for; it has been bugging me for the last few days. It forces my fragile insides to dance and my mind to be sharp with alert sensitivity.
This caution leads me slowly across the overgrown, brown lawn. There are hardly any weeds and that much stuns me. It is soft and damp, like a towel that never gets hung up to dry, the perfect place for plant parasites. I also happen to notice how each blade of grass, lying on its side, points to the dented, brass door handle. The growth dares me to enter.
I am neurotic my dad will find me before I find him and kick me out before I have a chance to explain—everything. He is the only refuge I have, no matter how much I hate his eerie house like criminals hate jail. To be a little charier, I sneak around back and open the rusted gate. It creaks immediately and I bite my lip, wincing, distraughtly hoping my dad hasn’t heard the piercing, abrupt noise. Whether he has or hasn’t, I have to go on. I walk through the bare dirt covered with garden gnomes and torn paper windmills. A single wind chime is slumped on the ground. There is enough wind to still make it ring, and that ringing reverberates in my ears even after my hand is on the cold door handle a few paces ahead.
I sigh and go back to the chime, hanging it on the hook called home. I know it will just fall down again—the hook isn’t tightened into the post it occupies. Nonetheless, I feel that the restored wind chime brightens up the place. If only just a little bit.
I go to the door and before I can talk myself out of my plan, I throw the termite-carved wood open and take a step inside. It is too dark for me to see and I trip. I really haven’t been here in more than forever, and I’ve forgotten how the place is arranged. It is only natural that I should trip. I’ve forgotten the door opens up to stairs, not a hallway or a foyer or anything…normal and serene.
I pick the piece of wood out of my lip. Stupid rough, splintery stairs. I am sure I have more in my hands as well, but I ignore the underlying sting. My mind is more focused on the darkness.
I am afraid of the dark. I am old enough to not be afraid, and yet I am afraid. I am afraid of what will pop out, and this is where my pessimism pops in. Darkness is evil. I cannot help but think of all the terrible things that will happen in the dark.
I still sleep with a few nightlights, which once occupied all the plugs in my room. Or, well, what was my room. I can’t risk entering darkness, so I brought all my nightlights along with me in my bindle.
Looking up into the darkness, I nervously tighten my hold on the pack, ready to face my fear to find an even bigger fear to hopefully find refuge. It’s a chore, but no one else can do it.
There is still no sight of my dad. He must be asleep, if he didn’t hear the screeching gate or the wind chime that is still ringing—no, not anymore; it just fell off—or my barging in. Maybe this will be good for me. I carefully take one step up the scary stairs, hoping they will not creak like the gate.
The first one doesn’t. I sigh with relief. The second one does. I bite my lip. I begin skipping steps to avoid as much sound as possible. I also step on the outside instead of the center. This does not help.
Soon I am at the top. Dim light from a small, half-broken lamp shines on a battered, dusty, holey rug. It is filled with a wonder of colors, but a sad story. I do not want to look at it. I turn right, entering more darkness and silence.
I look into the rooms as I pass them. All contain sad stories and cobwebs, nothing more. None clutch my dad. Where is he?
I finally come to a room that looks distantly familiar. One walk has already worn footprints in the decayed wood floors and I only make more shoe prints when I enter the little girl’s room.
She is no longer here. She left many, many years ago. She does not remember much.
I know what room this is, but I cannot see anything in it. It is too dark. I reach for a light switch on the wall, but do not find one. Then I remember.
The only light the little girl had was a candle. She kept matches in the top drawer of her dresser so the candle would always be lit.
I stumble over toys, pillows, books, and other things that are scattered on the floor. My arms reach out as far as they will go, like I am trying to hug the Earth. Really, I am just looking for the dresser.
Then I find it. The wooden dresser is no longer nicely polished. It is rough and I cannot rub it without my hand becoming a splinter forest. I carefully open the drawer. I have to yank it a little—at first it sticks to the side. It has not been used for a long time.
In the darkness, I stick my hand in, searching for the matches. My worn fingers run over dust and cobwebs. Then something scuttles over my fingertips. I jump back, waving my hand frantically. I also let out a scream, and hope no one heard. Especially not my dad.
I have to find light. I remember nightlights won’t work here; there are no outlets in this room. I have to light the candle on top of the dresser.
Daringly, I stick my hand back into the drawer. The matches are in the far left corner. I finally find them. I take one and light it against the rough side. The rough side is not exactly rough anymore, but it still works. The match ignites and I light the half-burned candle on the dresser. I watch one drip of wax fall down the side before I turn to see my old room.
There are no sheets on the bunk bed. Toys and books are more scattered on the floor than how I left it. My little red wagon is peeling, lying on its side morosely. There is a violin case in the corner which I have never seen before. I can smell the old wood of the floor and taste sawdust in my mouth. My window is broken, too. I remember when I kept it shiny. But I do not remember much more.
My room is different. It is forgotten. It is here to banish my memories, not reassemble them, and I do not like it. I drop my bindle of nightlights with disappointment seeping into my heart.
While I try to remember, watching my toys intently so they do not leave too, the candle blows out. I know it is not wind—the wind has died. I spin around, frantic. My hand gropes for the matches I slid into my worn jeans pocket, but when I grab hold of them, I am shaking so much that I drop them on the floor. I quickly bend down to pick them up, using my splintered fingers to find them in the darkness. Light is cut off from me. Sound is absent. I almost feel as if I have been swallowed by my dusky window, though I did not enter that way.
I finally find the matches, but drop them again when I see an outline in the shadows. It is a human silhouette, and I take two steps back. I know it is not my dad—he is taller.
Whoever it is, they take two steps toward me. I take another step back. They take another forward.
My heart is beating frantically in my chest, threatening to stop at any moment. I almost hope it will so I will not have to face this dark monster.
Now I am trapped. I am against the wall paper that has faded to an uncomfortable degree. But I do not think of that—I only think of the person coming closer and closer. And then, they are right in front of me.
I know the person is male now as he quickly pulls me against his chest. I struggle slightly, but his arms are strong and I am too staggered to persist. Before I can scream, his lips find mine in the darkness. He steals a kiss. It is a quick, vigorous kiss as he pushes his lips against mine, which are closed tightly.
And then he lets go, then he is gone. I gasp—who stole my kiss? I hear no footsteps, yet run down the hallway anyway. As I turn into the hallway, the rotten wood comes up to meet me; I quickly push myself back up and continue my pursuit. They had to go this way—the window would not be big enough for them.
I try to see into the rooms in the darkness, but this does not bode well, for I fall down the stairs I climbed so carefully before. I tumble down, down—splinters puncture my skin and I cannot do anything about it.
Suddenly, I fall into the door. It bursts open, and I am lying on my back, looking up into the surprised, semi-wrinkled face of my father. I am gasping. Who stole the kiss?