Callow

Ink smudges twisted across her hands like faded battle scars.

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I like the way callow sounds. It forces an exhale. It reminds me of words like careless, or hollow. Both of which I think relates to this week’s post.

This might make a little more sense if you read Icarian.

Anyway, thank you for reading!

___________________________________________

The Sound of Silence

Callow (adj): immature

May hated the sound of silence.

The house she grew up in was as silent as death. Her parents detested anything “uncultured.”

That basically meant classical music was okay, but anything beyond the 1970s was “youth trash.”

That’s partially why May liked rock music.

Her parents would never trust her the way they trusted Emilia or Nathan. Em and Nate were the “easy kids.” They were born knowing the right thing to do.

She was the youngest. The screw up.

She might as well own it.

May leaned back, nearly knocking over the carton of noodles she had brought up with her.

Ink smudges twisted across her hands like faded battle scars.

How late was it? Was the kid still awake?

Standing and stretching, she left her studio moments later, stumbling down the stairs.

She checked the bedroom. The blanket lay smooth, pristine. Untouched.

“Hey, kid! You still up?” she called with a yawn.

Oddly enough, the kitchenette and dining room was empty.

Racing outside, May noticed that the kid’s bike was gone.

It was getting dark. Rivers of madder red hemorrhaged across the sky.

May cursed.

There were bike tracks on the ground. Maybe…

Her cell phone buzzed against her leg. She whipped it out, tracing the bike tracks as she spoke.

“Hello?”

[May, it’s Emilia.]

Her sister had a penchant for knowing the precisely wrong time to call.

“Oh-h-h, Em. What’s up?” That sounded normal. Right?

[What’s going on? Is everything okay?]

“Hahaha. Yes.”

[You’re acting weird. Why are you acting weird?]

The bike tracks stopped here. It seemed as though the kid had gone off the road.

May felt her heart shudder in place.

[Anyway, I was hoping I’d be able to speak to Zoey. I want to know how she’s adjusting to everything.]

“That’s… no. Ummm… I need to call you back later…”

[What? May, What’s going on? Where’s Zoey?]

“I…” May could scarcely breathe. What had happened to the kid? Where should she look next? Why had she gone off road at Bryer’s Hill of all places? When had she even left the house?

What if she had gotten

   lost

        hurt

kidnapped

    killed

?

[May?]

Emilia’s voice sounded distant.

“I… I think I lost her… I— her bike… I can’t…”

[I’m coming right away.]

The endroll of the call thudded across May’s ear, out of synch with her rapid heartbeat.

“ZOEY!!!” she yelled.

Her voice echoed across the forest, scattering murders of ravens across the congested, bleeding sky.

Silence.

It looked like the bike had rolled off here.

May treaded down the side of the hill in the general direction, calling out her niece’s name periodically.

She was a failure of an aunt.

If her brother was watching her right now…

She knew she wasn’t ready to take care of anyone else. She struggled enough taking care of herself.

Her family was under some deluded idea that if she became responsible for the kid, she’d somehow become more responsible for herself.

They were practically asking for

“ZOEY!!!”

Oh, how she hated silence.

May stumbled over a tiny ledge on the descent. A few feet left was a rusty scrap of metal.

The bike!

Her niece.

May gasped as she approached.

A biking accident. She needed to call an ambulance now.

Oh, god.

“I’ve got you now, kiddo. I’ve got you. I’m so sorry.”

____________

Emilia had arrived shortly at the hospital.

The kid had a few broken bones, as well as bruises and lacerations across most of her body.

May knew the words on her sister’s mind without her saying them.

(How irresponsible.)

May loved her niece. But just because she loved her didn’t mean she was capable of taking care of her.

It was better in the end for Zoey to stay with Em…

“I really thought you could do it, May… I thought you were ready for the responsibility…”

The words felt like a slap across the cheek even though May knew from the beginning she wouldn’t be able to do this.

“I still want to believe in you. But for now, I think it’s better for—”

“Just take her,” May interrupted. “I already know anything and everything you’re going to say to me.”

Emilia nodded wordlessly.

__________

The house was silent.

The kind no music could fill.

May was like a bad luck charm.

Several years ago, she had accidentally broken her sister’s fingers before an important audition. The resulting events…

She was the one who had convinced her brother and sister-in-law to go out for dinner the night of the car accident.

And now, Zoey…

May swallowed down her tears. She didn’t deserve to cry…

Reaching for the stereo, she flipped the switch. Immediately the heavy strains of Rachmaninov flooded the air. She left it on.

Life had no do-overs.

She wanted to try again.

It was just one mistake after the other in her case. She would never be ready to take care of the kid no matter how much she wanted to be.

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