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Rabbits in the garden, p.4

Rabbits in the Garden, page 4

 

Rabbits in the Garden
 


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  “I can’t go any farther. I’m so tired,” Avery said and sat down on the side of the road.

  “I’m really sorry I got you into this, Avery.”

  He sat down beside her, being careful not to get too close, but she ended up scooting closer to him and leaning her head against his shoulder as the tears started to fall.

  “I just need a nap. Then, we can keep going,” she said.

  He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and kissed the top of her head as she nestled into the crook of his arm.

  “I’ll stay awake. I’ll protect you,” he whispered, and within seconds, Avery fell fast asleep.

  She woke up to Paul nudging her side, and before she could even open her eyes, she saw a blue light shining through her eyelids. When the police officer was getting out of his cruiser, Avery and Paul promptly got to their feet.

  “Are you kids alright?” he asked as shone his flashlight across their faces.

  “Yes, sir, we’re fine. We were just resting,” Paul answered.

  “This isn’t really the best place to rest. What are you two doing out here by yourselves?”

  “Trying to get home. Our ride sort of left us here.”

  “Sort of left you, huh?”

  “Yes, sir,” he replied. “We were trying to walk back to Oak Bluffs, but we had to take a break.”

  “Well, you’re still about a two hour walk away from Oak Bluffs,” the officer said and Avery could feel her eyes start to well again. “You’d better let me give you a lift home.”

  Thinking of how her mother would react to Avery being brought home in a police car, she felt panic twist her stomach into a knot and spur her heart into a frenzy.

  “That’s okay. We can make it back,’ Avery chimed with a smile, but the officer looked back at her sternly.

  “No, it’s not okay, young lady,” he said as he opened the rear door of his cruiser and gestured for Avery and Paul to get inside. “So, are you kids going to tell me why you were so far away from home?”

  A hundred responses ran through both of their minds, but neither ended up giving him an answer. When the officer pulled onto Huntington Avenue and the car came to a stop, Avery's dread reached its peak.

  “You two were running away weren’t you?” he asked as he opened their doors, and when Avery saw Paul nodding his head, she followed his lead. “I won’t tell your parents. I’m sure they’re worried enough. But I don’t ever want to see either of you pulling a stunt like this again.”

  There was a glimmer of hope in the officer’s leniency. If Avery’s mother had gone to bed immediately after getting home, there was still a chance that she could sneak back into her room without her mom ever knowing she’d left. They walked slowly to their respective houses until the police car disappeared around the bend and then ran back to each other.

  “You’re in the clear, Avery,” he said as he hugged her.

  “I hope so. But what about you?”

  “I’ll come up with something. I’m just glad you’re going to be okay.”

  “We’ll see. I should go while I still have the chance,” she replied and started back towards her house, but before she got too far, she turned and called to him.

  “So, am I really your girlfriend?” she asked.

  “Avery, you’re my everything,” he said as if she should have known it all along, and when she ran back to him, they held onto one another in affection, fear, and all of the emotions they still couldn’t quite understand.

  For reasons neither of them could decipher, there was an urgency in their embrace. They needed to hold on. They just didn’t know why yet. Once they broke apart, Avery scrambled up the tree as soundlessly as possible and crawled onto the roof. She pried open her window and blindly tumbled into the dark room. As soon as she was lying on her bed, safe and sound, she heaved a well-deserved sigh.

  That’s when the lights turned on.

  She saw her illuminated ceiling first, the hand that flipped the switch second, and her mother’s face third.

  “I’ve been waiting,” she said in an eerily calm tone. “Where have you been?”

  Avery immediately broke down into tears and sniffled loudly as she tried to squeak out an explanation, but all she could manage was,

  “I’m sorry.”

  “I’m not sure you are. But you will be,” Faye replied. “We’ll talk about it in the morning.”

  She switched off the light, opened the bedroom door and closed it with a bang that sent shivers up and down Avery’s spine. She lay back down and curled herself into a ball, but no matter how tightly she hugged her knees, she couldn’t stop her body from shaking. Despite her exhaustion, she couldn’t imagine sleeping, and although she did eventually drift off, she had no recollection of sleep between that time and her execution.

  The sun was long risen and burned through the window with rays that changed the color of her room. As hot as the room was, however, the floor seemed cold when her toes touched it. She didn’t bother changing her clothes or fixing her hair; she didn’t see the point. After speaking with her mom, she probably wouldn’t be leaving her room for the rest of her life. As she proceeded down the stairs, each one creaked louder than usual. The house seemed deathly empty, but as soon as she passed the living room, she knew it wasn’t.

  “Sleep well?” Faye asked with her head cocked dramatically.

  “No,” Avery replied. “I’m really sorry, Mom. I didn’t want to disobey you - ”

  “So why did you?”

  “I was worried about you.”

  “You were worried about me? Why on earth?”

  “Because you keep going out at night. I wanted to know where you were going.”

  “You know where I go. I play Bingo. Sometimes Bridge. Sometimes I go to my quilting circle,” she replied. “I don’t think this is about me at all. I think it’s about that boy of yours: Paul, is it?”

  “It doesn’t have anything to do with him.”

  “No? So it wasn’t his idea for you to sneak out?”

  “What? How do you know that?”

  “Because I know you would never defy me unless someone forced you.”

  “He didn’t force me,” Avery insisted.

  “No, I’m sure he got you thinking it was your idea. They’re all like that,” she replied.

  “It wasn’t like that at all.”

  “And I’m sure he got a little more than just your adherence.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “Did you let him kiss you?”

  “Well, yeah,” she whispered, and Faye slapped her across the face.

  “Have I taught you nothing? Don’t you have any self control? Any self respect?” Faye screamed. “You’re just like your sister. You’re a little tramp.”

  “Mom, we only kissed,” Avery moaned.

  “Well, I hope you enjoyed it because you’re never going to see Paul Dillon ever again.”

  “What? You can’t do that!”

  “The heck I can’t. I’m your mother.”

  “You’re a murderer!” Avery screamed, and her mother blinked in utter shock.

  “What did you call me?”

  “I saw you,” Avery growled. “That’s where I was last night. I followed you to that house. I saw what you put in your trunk.”

  “Avery, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but you’ve obviously imagined something that never happened and it’s something you really shouldn’t be repeating.”

  “Only because you don’t want to get caught.”

  “Caught? Avery, I haven’t done anything wrong. It’s you I’m worried about.”

  “Well, don’t be. I’m fine. As fine as I can be with a murderer for a mother!” she replied, and when Faye swung at her again, Avery swung back and smacked her mother across the cheek.

  Faye clutched her face in shock, but the horrified look quickly melted into anger and with her teeth clenched, she grabbed Avery’s wrist and started towing her toward the door.

  “Let
me go! Where are you taking me?” she shrieked.

  “To the garden. Obviously, you’ve been contaminated by bad water, and I want to make sure your filthiness hasn’t leaked out into the garden.”

  “Mom, I haven’t been contaminated by anything!”

  “No? Why else would you deliberately try to hurt me like this? God, what have I done to deserve such wicked girls? Why must I be forced to endure all of this filth? Your father with his patients, your sister with her unnatural kissing, and now you with your boys, lies, and accusations! What more can I do to keep you clean?” she exclaimed and threw Avery down into the dirt. “Tend to the garden. If you can’t be pure, you will make sure that every plant, flower, and rabbit is. Do we understand each other?”

  “Yes,” Avery grumbled, but before she went back inside, Faye whispered,

  “I’m very disappointed in you, Avery.”

  “Not as much as I am in you, Mom,” she replied, and Faye shook her head sadly before shutting and locking the door behind her.

  The idea to run over to Paul’s house crossed her mind, but her mother was positioned at the window, staring at Avery forlornly as if her daughter were some performing bear that had lost its zeal. Avery couldn’t abide looking up at her. As angry as she was and as much as she was convinced of what she’d seen the previous evening, there was doubt in her conviction. She really couldn’t imagine her mother doing anything even close to what she'd accused her of, and honestly, she could see herself having the same reaction as her mom if she’d been wrongly accused of something like that. Actually, she might react even worse. Maybe her mom was right. Maybe she hadn’t actually seen what she’d thought. Maybe she was too young for boys and kissing too. Maybe the bad water had gotten into her somehow. Maybe it had done something to her mind.

  As she filled up the watering can, her eyes rolled over the garden. It was noticeably thirsty from her neglect, but as she was crossing over the cabbage patch, she saw the leaves shaking wildly. Two rabbits burst out from the plants, batting at each other, rolling and tumbling across the garden, but their play quickly turned into much more. She gasped at the rabbits’ behavior and tried to pry the orange rabbit off of the blue with her foot, but before she could, Avery noticed two more rabbits rubbing against each other brazenly. She spied a third couple behind them, then a fourth and fifth. Before long, the garden was bustling with bad rabbits: red with yellow, pink with blue. A great rage built inside Avery that felt like a twisting ball of nausea and grief, and it spread throughout her body until she began to shake uncontrollably. She thought her clenched teeth might grind into jagged shards that would spear her gums. She exploded with an animalistic cry that broke the quiet of the garden and when she threw the watering can to the ground, burgundy liquid poured out and seeped into the soil.

  She screamed as she fell to her knees and tried to dig the water out of the ground, and all the while, the rabbits kept doing their filthy deeds, coupling and switching and poisoning the garden with their lust.

  She swatted at them with her hands open at first, but they quickly clenched. Like balls of iron, her fists mercilessly pummeled the bad rabbits, wriggling and shrieking under her knuckles until they were no more than furry bags of mashed flesh and shattered bone. She sat panting in shock as she stared at the carnage around her, and when she lifted her hands, rivers of blood dripped down her arms and into the sleeves of her dress. The smell of death forced its way into her brain, and her head began to spin until she couldn’t hold on any longer. She surrendered to hot, choking heaves of sickness that splashed across the blood soaked patches of raspberries. As she wiped off her mouth, her eyes fearfully turned to the window, expecting to see her mother’s horrified expression, but she wasn’t there: a small mercy.

  She had to hide what she’d done. As she gathered the corpses into a pile, her mind began rattling off justifications that her heart combated. The rabbits were poisoned, after all, so they were doomed whether she’d killed them or not. On the other hand, it was her fault that they’d been poisoned. She’d brought in the bad water. She’d doomed them to death long before her fists ever touched them. She gathered up the rabbits into her arms, but the matted fur tickled her nose, and when she sneezed, one of the rabbits fell with a smack onto the stone walkway. She bent down to pick it up, but she could only get hold of its ear between two fingers. She hurried around to the cellar door before any more dropped, hooked her foot under one of the door handles, and lifted it open. When the door fell, it bounced heavily with a loud clang that caused Avery to flinch and drop the rabbit hanging between her fingers. Her eyes shot to the window again, but thankfully, it still remained empty. She kicked the limp bunny down the stairs, and it rolled with soft thumps and clicks of bone against the steps. She hurried downstairs to where the rabbit lay twisted, staring up at her with its bulging eyes speckled by broken blood vessels. It looked like it was smiling, but when she picked it up again, the top of its head flipped back and the rabbit lost all expression. The bloody fur had twisted into hard, red knots that poked her arms more than they tickled, and as she darted around the cellar, looking for a place to hide them, her tears rewetted the dried blood.

  The storage closet hadn’t been opened in years, mostly because it held all of the things her father had left behind. Neither Faye nor her daughters were too eager to delve back into the sad memories of his abandonment. Avery turned the lock with her pinkie finger and pulled the door open, and after yanking on the pull string and illuminating the closet, she was confronted by pillars of boxes with her father's name written all over them. The closet had a definite smell: musty but slightly sour. As she wove between the pillars, the sour smell grew stronger, and she also realized how big the storage closet actually was; it was more like a storage room. She was aching from the dead weight in her arms and the dust was irritating her eyes, but worst of all was the pain that shot through her foot when she tripped over a bump in the floor. Several of the corpses went flying as Avery fell forward and skidded across the concrete floor. She dusted herself off and started to collect the rabbits. It was then that she realized the bump she'd tripped over was actually some sort of latch. She crouched down and saw the outline of a small door in the floor. She dug her fingernail underneath the latch and it creaked as she flipped it open. She pulled up the door and the sour smell intensified so dramatically that her body spasmed with revulsion, causing her to drop several of the rabbits down into the darkness.

  Avery's mind was so frenzied that she couldn't discern the most logical course of action, and it didn't help that she was under a time constraint. It wouldn't be long before her mother would return to the window, see that Avery was gone, and start searching the house for her. A sudden clanging sound from the dark room below seized her with panic, and when she dipped her hand into her pocket, she found it regrettably empty.

  “The brass ring,” she gasped in horror as she peered down into the darkness.

  She couldn't bear the thought of going down to retrieve it, but even more she couldn't bear the thought of losing the ring Paul had given her. She sat on the edge of the abyss with the sour stench and fear bringing tears to her eyes, but she forced herself to reach down and find the cold iron ladder that would lead her into the staggering darkness. Rung by rung, she descended with her body quaking, forcefully breathing in and out of her mouth to avoid smelling the increasingly putrid odor. When she finally hit the floor, she felt a twang of satisfaction, but the urgency of finding the brass ring overcame it, and she got down on all fours to start the blind search. She felt the squishy, matted bodies of the rabbits she'd dropped, but after several minutes of digging around her, she had no success in finding the ring. In frustration, she stood up and began searching for a light switch, a pull string, anything that would bring more light to her search. When she swung her arms around, she hit several large objects that seemed to be hanging around her. Some were wet, some were rough, and some were very soft, but she paid them no mind. When her hand knocked against something
small and metallic attached to a string, she shrieked in joy, grabbed on, and pulled it with a triumphant grin.

  When the light blasted forth, Avery shrank to the floor with a choking scream. They were spinning in the light and casting ghastly shadows across Avery and her rabbits were dozens of people skewered through their midsections by large black hooks. They were swaying back and forth, smacking against each other, but when she pushed the bare bodies away, they only swung at her with more force. She closed her eyes, but she could still see the horrors in her mind: sheared bone between soggy chunks of flesh, tufts of thin hair scattered across dry scalps, and gaping mouths stretched in fright. Avery's senses waged war on her mind. Every disgusting perception bombarded her brain and she couldn't handle it. Her legs buckled and she collapsed, and although her cheek was planted firmly against the blood stained floor, the room continued to spin with gruesome imagery. In the last moments before her vision cut out, Avery saw a glint of comfort lying on the floor next to her. She reached out for the brass ring, but before her fingers could find it, her mind shut down and the world cut to black.

  Avery's head jerked up with a gasp and she clutched it as the pain swelled and pounded against the back of her eyes. When she blinked them open, the light stung them and she struggled to focus as her mind replayed what had led to her blackout.

  “Avery?”

  She lifted her head to see a policeman crouched beside her. When she sat up, she realized that she was surrounded by police officers, but she was not surrounded by the ghastly things that had led to her unconsciousness. There were no naked people hanging on hooks. There weren't even any hooks. Flashes of light drew her attention, and when she turned, she saw that the bodies weren’t gone after all; they were piled sloppily in the corner, and several officers were snapping photographs of them.

  “Avery, do you know where you are?” the crouched officer asked.

 
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