Like New Jersey

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
November/December 2006

Whitney Lee

Gloria took another deep breath, no luck. The thick musty air still hung heavy in her room, meek rays of sunlight crept out through the slits in the door and captured millions of dust particles surrounding her. She managed to force open a window that had been painted shut, which only served to create more dust, and to her dismay the air outside was just as smothering. Gloria dug through one of her suitcases and found her copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. Following the words with her finger, she picked up where she had left off.

Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.

Angrily, she shoved the book under her mattress, closed her eyes and tried to sleep. Unfortunately, the last task was just as difficult as the first because as soon she had rested her head, the door flew open, revealing her oddly well-intentioned aunt. Aunt Daisy was a round woman with rosy cheeks and strawberry- blond hair, and she was a woman who would never be seen in public without some form of makeup on.

“Glory, child! Look at how late it is and you’re still in bed! Now why don’tcha go on down to the Dixie Maid and meet yourself some friends.”

Like New Jersey looking out the window

The window at the far end of the room provided the best view in the entire world

“Why don’t you knock first?”

Aunt Daisy looked hurt for a second, and then changed the subject.

“What about some cake? The least you can do is eat something; put some meat on them bones.”

“Whatever.”

Aunt Daisy waddled down the stairs and then back up again, this time with a glass of cold milk and a piece of iced lemon cake arranged on her best china. She set them down and kept talking.

“Listen Glory, now I know thatcha would rather be somewheres else right about now. But there ain’t nothing I can do till you want to talk about it.”

“Later.”

“Oh. Well all right then, y’all just give a shout out if you need anything.”

“Yeah.”

She turned to leave and then stopped as if remembering something.

“Uh, this evening I’m going over to Susanna’s house for our weekly bridge game, it’ll just be us and a couple others. Her number’s on the table if there’s an emergency.”

“OK…”

Oblivious to Gloria’s mood, she continued her conversation.

“You know, you have my permission to go on out tonight. I hear that there’s a new picture out.”

“A picture?”

“What do you children call it… um… a film.”

“I’m not a child, I’m almost sixteen.”

“I know that. One last thing and I’ll leave. I just wanted you to know that your room’s going to be ready soon. So you can leave this dirty little attic.”

Gloria noticed the way she turned up her nose on the word attic, and she stifled a laugh at the thought of the pigsty Aunt Daisy called her bedroom.

“I’m fine with this room.”

In truth, Gloria disliked everything about that place except for one thing. The window at the far end of the room provided the best view in the entire world. Looking through it felt like she had gone back in time, back to when she was in New Jersey with her parents and sister. When she looked through the window she could see the fields of white daisies, red roses and golden marigolds framed by the beautiful birch trees, which her father had planted ten summers ago. With all of the low points about living with her aunt, she wouldn’t even consider leaving her one source of comfort.

“Now are y’all sure?”

“Yes,” she said impatiently.

Finally, Aunt Daisy took the hint. Gathering what was left of her dignity, she swaggered out of the door, which was barely big enough to allow her safe exit. Gloria couldn’t help but laugh as her aunt squeezed through the narrow doorway and continued down the stairs.

Once she was certain that her aunt was gone and not coming back she fell back onto her bed and got lost within her dreams.

Caramel light filled the room and the air no longer seemed so very hot. She rubbed her eyes drowsily and glanced at her watch, which read 5:35. She got dressed slowly and crept downstairs. The first thing she noticed was the Rolodex, which stood in the middle of the table and served no purpose other than to cast shadows beside itself The porch light was on in anticipation of the approaching darkness. It was at this moment she realized that she was alone.

“Aunt Daisy!” she called out. No answer.

She felt a wave of boredom and decided to step outside into the fading Alabama day Once she had done so, she immediately regretted it. Everything seemed to slow down to a molasses-type pace and she could get a view of the entire town with one glance. Then she felt herself being carried away, past the local high school, past the town center and past the weeping willow trees, which marked the entrance to the town without a name.

Sprays of ocean water licked her cheeks and she emerged from her dreamlike state. Questions ran through her mind like wildfire and she searched the beach for signs of civilization. The sun had set completely and the only lights visible came from the lighthouse, which stood amongst the rocks.

At a speed never before reached, she sprinted towards the light, realizing that the person there could be her only hope.

The stairs, which led to the top of the lighthouse, seemed endless and creaked more with each passing second. Now her search for help had become desperate and she reached her destination, rather quickly She threw open the door and fell into the room, knocking over someone who had been standing there.

“Are you all right, Miss?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, just got spooked I guess.”

“I can see that. What I can’t see is what you was running from.”

She blushed and squirmed awkwardly.

“Well… nothing really.”

He looked out the window dreamily and she took that opportunity to get a good look at his face.

He was a handsome young man of no more than sixteen; he had copper hair and gentle eyes the color of blue river stones.

“D-Do you know how to get to the main road from here?” Gloria asked him nervously.

“Yes. Head back past the clearing over there and you’ll find it real easy…”

“Thank you.”

She headed for the door but he stopped her.

“…but I wouldn’t be going there if I was you.”

She placed her hands on her hips defiantly.

“And why not?”

He pointed to some black clouds on the horizon.

“That there’s a thunderstorm coming. You’d be safer if’n you’d stay till it’s passed.”

She let her shoulders fall with disappointment.

“That’s fine.”

Like New Jersey rain

Gloria sat down on a mattress, which lay in a corner of the room.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“The name’s Miller, Jess Miller.”

“Well Jess Miller, I’m Gloria.”

“What’s a pretty girl like you doing out here?”

“In perfect honesty, I haven’t a clue.”

He waved her statement off. “How long have you lived here?”

“Three weeks.”

“Where from?”

“Jersey I moved after the funerals of my parents and sister.”

He attempted to mask his shock.

“Really? I’m sorry How’d it happen?”

“Car accident. I was at school when it happened.”

“It’s horrible when people die so quickly.”

She looked slightly dismayed at his comment. “Um… actually they were alive until the fire hit the gas tank and…” Her voice broke.

“That’s awful.”

She didn’t respond, instead she stared at her hands and tried to ignore him.

“You want to see something cool?”

“Whatever,” she said, not really in the mood.

“Come on.”

He pulled her up from the mattress by the hand and to the window.

“Look.”

She gasped in amazement.

The moonlight shone through the millions of raindrops falling from the night sky, forming dark rainbows in her eyes.

“I’ve never seen something so beautiful.”

“Just think, these are the exact same water droplets that fall when it rains in New Jersey.”

“Not true. There is so much water on the earth that the chances of that are slim to none.”

“But what if they were?”

“Yeah, and what if the world was perfect?” she replied sarcastically.

“If the world was perfect there would be no rain, no beauty. What happens here happens for a reason. Like this night.”

“Yes. It’s perfect, like New Jersey.”

Like New Jersey Whitney Lee

Whitney Lee, 12
South Orange, New Jersey

Like New Jersey Joanna Stanley

Joanna Stanley, 13
Seal Beach, California

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