Although the novel I’m writing is primarily a romance, it’s composed of the heroine’s three story lines — private, public, and artistic. Here’s a scene from her early home life. It’s short and should be safe for all my regular viewers. It is not particularly edited, and not formatted for WordPress.
Rainy days at the lake were some of the prettiest days. A multitude of windows shimmered with beads, fashioning thousands of prisms for what light did come through. The front of the basement had a row of sliding glass doors, which Esther liked to open while she was down there. She liked to read to the sounds of the outdoors, especially to the sound of rain. Many times she’d been scolded for walking away and leaving the doors open. Her father shouted down the stairs at her, “We’re not heating the outside!” or “We’re not paying to air-condition the entire cove!” Her mother snapped at her, “Esther, if one more mosquito bites me, I swear I will board up those doors and you’ll never be able to open them again!” She grew ever more prudent about making sure she closed the doors before she went upstairs. Much to their dismay, by the age of twelve, she still hadn’t perfected the closing of doors and the shutting off of lights.
The worst times were when she left the doors open and her Labrador, Duff, would get hold of a raccoon or a squirrel. He’d capture them at the neck, shaking them to death and then taking them to Lilach in the kitchen, dropping his kill at her feet, wagging his tail, giving a short, happy bark.
Lilach always rewarded Duff with a biscuit when he brought his kills. Esther could tell she was completely repulsed by Duff’s natural instinct to kill the local critters, but she said you had to reward any animal who brought his kill to your feet. She said it was a display of loyalty, and loyalty was a rare commodity. After fake smiling at Duff, petting his head, and thanking him for the honor of his loyalty in a sing-song voice, she would shoot a glare at Esther, and tell her sternly, “Take this to the ditch and bury it, and close those goddamn doors on your way out!”
This all went awry when Esther’s mother was babysitting a little girl whose mother was having another baby. When Duff wandered into the kitchen with a squirrel in his mouth, the little girl screamed and climbed from her chair to stand atop the table, her shrieks piercing Esther’s ears. Esther stood with her hands over her ears and her eyes squinted shut, until her mother suddenly smacked her bottom. Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Esther registered what was happening as being spanked. It was something she couldn’t remember having ever happened to her before. She opened her eyes to see Lilach scooping the little girl from the table and carrying her away from the kitchen. She turned to Esther and waved her spare arm furiously up and down. Esther knew her mother meant to indicate that she was to give Duff his biscuit, take the squirrel to the ditch, and close all the goddamn doors. She swallowed the lump of disappointment in her throat and swiped her runny nose against the shoulder of her shirt. Through her tears, she made a sing-song voice to thank Duff for his loyalty. From the kitchen, she could see her mother had sat down in her rocker with the little girl on her knee, rocking and shushing her, kissing her tiny red forehead. She saw Lilach held the skirt of her apron, blotting away another child’s tears, and in that moment, Esther had to agree, loyalty was a rare commodity. She gave Duff one of the large orange peanut butter biscuits that her mother reserved for trips to the vet or the groomer. Then she picked up the limp squirrel, its body still warm, and took it outside to bury it in the ditch.
As it often did in summer, the sky had turned sunny before the rain completely abated. The trees made it difficult to ascertain when exactly the rain stopped. Long after the rain, it still trickled down, limb to limb, recycling drops to an already humid sky. She made her hand into a visor and aimed to find the side opposite the sun. Sunshine had its perks, flitting through the trees, reflecting off the water, creating rainbows. There seemed to be more rainbows at the lake. One could argue that childhood seemed abundant in rainbows, or that children merely had more time to admire them, but Esther truly believed there’d always been more rainbows at the lake.
Esther never forgot to shut the sliding doors after that day. Forever when she saw a rainbow, she remembered the way her boots sunk into the mud as she knelt over the ditch. She remembered the way she knew her eyes clouded with blistering tears. Rainbows made her brood over the moment she knew her mother, at least temporarily, hadn’t thought Esther was the most important thing in the world.
The end of childhood echoes here, doesn’t it? Do you have a story about markers that now note the end of your childhood?