My mind drifted on how screwed up my life had gotten years ago. Something about Grant knowing my past made me think about it. I drove on autopilot and kept remembering.
The next morning, Grandma had made me promise to stay at her place for at least another night while she went to talk to my mom. I hadn't wanted to impose, but she'd insisted and also gave me a few dollars. I had to promise to lock up when I biked home because she told me she was heading south after talking to mom. I didn't have much hope for that conversation, but hey, it was her daughter, so maybe she could help. I was happy to stay in her home and kick back. I'd pay for it later, but it was nice to feel safe for a night.
Once I figured I should take advantage of grandma's cable, I began surfing channels trying to see if she ponied up for premium channels. She hadn't, but I still saw some fun shows and ate more of her cookies and milk. She wasn't coming home for a while; I didn't want the stuff to go bad. She'd left a note on the chicken for me to eat it or toss in the outside garbage. Grandma was cool. I was chewing off the drumstick flipping through the stations when I saw more about missing people and towns with power outages. That wasn't unheard of, so I didn't much care, but kept watching the comedy station and other channels I didn't get at mom's house.
It was a bit after six and totally dark outside when there was a knock at the front door. I knew it was unlocked, so I called out, "I'm in here."
A soft, "Who are you? Where's Grammy?"
I turned around to find a small girl standing in the doorway to the living room. Her eyes were huge and she was shaking.
"My grandma went out of town. I don't know you." She was pretty, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. I don't have any cousins, so I don't know where she got off calling my grandma 'Grammy' like she owned her.
The dark haired girl said, "You must be Sammy. Right?" She came into the room and jumped up onto the couch next to me without asking.
"Who are you?" I said while flipping back to a news story. More missing people around the area and worrying about the state of seasons. Something about how everything was all mixed up. I found that news people were always making shit up to have you dial in their shows for a bullshit story that sort of was like their teasers.
"Ginny. Grammy told me to call her Grammy and told me you were her real grandson and you wouldn't care if you shared on account of you are a good boy." Her voice was pretty and it sounded sort of like she was making fun of me, but it wasn't like I could tell by her words.
I shrugged and said, "Okay. I guess." I didn't see what else I could say 'cause grandma wasn't here to say she was lying and she wasn't very big. The girl was tiny but I was pretty sure she was about my age.
"You go to school here?" She reached over and grabbed one of the cookies off the table where I'd left them.
"Nah, other side of town, mostly." I couldn't say that I'd ever seen her in school. But then I wasn't actually going much.
She giggled, "Mostly? What you ditch?" She sounded sort of shocked but not too much.
"Yeah, I hate school. Kids here are pretty mean." I tried to sound older but my voice took that moment to crack.
She ducked her head and said, "Yeah, my school too. My dad pulled me out and my cousin's trying to home school me. She's pretty, but stupid. Dad doesn't know how stupid either. I think I've taught her more than she has me. Don't tell Grammy 'cause she thinks its good."
I understood that. "Okay."
I wondered why her mom wasn't teaching her, then she must have guessed 'cause she said, "My mom's dead. And my cousin was my mom's niece. I think she is trying to have sex with my dad so she can marry him."
It was my turn to be shocked. My mom was crap-all in the parenting department, but at least she kept her men away from me. The only time one came home was because he and mom were too drunk to go any where without crashing or something. I left on my bike and came over to my grandma's without explaining. She figured it out when she dropped me and my bike off early the next morning and we watched my mom kissing the guy on the doorstep, wearing the clothes from night before, messy make up and hangover. Her friend stumbled past the porch and proceeded to yack up whatever she'd fed him for breakfast and a few vats of used alcohol. Special memory.
More than anything I was kinda freaked out that a kid a few years older than us was trying to screw her uncle. Okay, uncle by marriage, but still an ick factor. Ginny looked fine, but I knew better. You got good at faking fine at an early age when your house was pretty fucked up. Ginny got off the sofa and wandered into the kitchen.
"Can I have a piece of the chicken?" I felt good that she'd asked my permission, but a bit sulky that she knew her way around grandma's home.
"Sure, there are some more cookies and a container of milk in there too." I offered generously since I was pretty much stuffed.
"Thanks!" Ginny started rattling around and I figured that she knew the kitchen top to bottom. I wondered why I'd never seen her here before, but just then another breaking story interrupted the game show that had been running.
Ginny walked in and sat down saying, "That is weird. There are like tons of people missing around this area and other towns nearby. Nobody seems to know why or where anyone has gone."
The guy looking in the camera didn't have any worry lines or even smile lines -- it was like his face was made of smooth plastic. The words were all doom and gloom but I couldn't tell by his face. It took me a minute to hear what he was saying, "It is advised that you leave these counties," a map rolled up behind him with huge red, orange and yellow blocks of West Virginia. I noticed that we were in yellow edging into orange.
"Do not pack, simply exit, as there are reports of rioting, looting and town folks being terrorized by the unnamed people. There are unsubstantiated reports of gas leaks throughout the region that are causing madness, which is causing the bizarre behavior, and reports just coming in that the local police have called for reinforcements by the National Guard."
Behind the guy were pictures of college kids in sharp uniforms, carrying rifles with yellow ribbons or something over their shoulders. They didn't look very tough, and I wasn't sure that any of them knew how to even shoot a rifle and hit their targets. They sure as shit weren't local kin and crazies that grew up shooting before they even could drive. I learned to shoot over at Damon's house with his older brothers and an uncle or two.
Eyes hug,e Ginny turned to me and said, "What are we supposed to do?"
"I dunno, not like I can drive legally and my bike isn't going to get us far. Winter's starting in and we are just kids." Technically teenagers, since we were over twelve, but neither of us rated more than glares from the sixteen- and seventeen-year-old kids that ruled the towns. And the teenagers around weren't happy to be living in the small towns, with mining one of the only legal careers for them, or the supporting jobs that the miners shopped at, ate at and fucked at. We had quite a few neighborhood whore houses that weren't discussed in church folks' company, but even us kids knew about them. So the kids got pretty pissed off at their folks' choice to raise them in middle of West Virginia away from the real city, no cell connections, and the Internet was pretty much reserved for rich folks or the library. Librarians weren't good at letting kids park their asses down in front of a monitor and either game or surf for free porn. Go figure, huh? I think us younger kids suffered more, because whatever was happening around here eighteen or nineteen years ago seemed to keep the 'results' angry and landlocked.
"Should we go home?" Ginny sounded fretful.
"No way! I was told I could stay here tonight, and there's nothing good that will happen at my mom's." I looked around and felt guilty as I confessed, "My mom's pretty crazy."
A weird look passed her face, then I slapped my hand to my forehead, "Sorry, Ginny, about your mom. She probably was super cool." I felt my face flush as I remembered her saying her mom was dead.
With a small voice, "That's okay. Grammy told me that she's not nice." Quite the understatement. But I stopped talking about it because she was unhappy.
"So can I stay here with you? My dad is at home with the babysitter -- I mean my teacher." She started giggling and sobbing at the same time.
I had no idea what the hell to do. So I did what I'd seen every grown up do, "Okay." Yeah, I knew when to cave.
We watched cable channels that didn't have any news interruptions until we both fell asleep on the sofa. In the morning, the TV was showing stupid long commercials trying to sell stuff I'd never heard of before, like choppers that cost twenty bucks when knives were like ten bucks and not made of plastic. There was this weird shake container that made the dude using it look like he was practicing how to polish the bishop, you know, wrestle the snake. Yeah, develop your arm to beat off better -- how does a dad explain that to his kid when it arrives in the mail? We aren't stupid.
I flipped to a news station by accident and saw that the blocks of West Virginia in the red had increased and the guy in front of the camera actually had lines on his face and a really worried expression. He wasn't looking at the screen, but reading from the paper in front of him -- names of missing people and towns no longer answering calls. There was a band of information on the bottom of the screen like a snow day -- but instead of closed schools it was towns not responding to calls and towns presumed deserted. There were a few cross overs. I saw a town down the road show up, but not ours. I ran to the phone grandma had in the kitchen and picked up the receiver.
Stretching Ginny watched me and asked, "Is it working?"
Taking a breath I said, "Yeah. Do you wanna call your dad?"
She ducked her head and said, "No."
I looked at her with my face flat and finally she confessed, "I saw him and my cousin kissing yesterday and his hands were all over her and she was moaning as was he. I know that sound. He used to make it with my mom. I don't want to know anything else. That's why I came here, Grammy always said I could come over if I needed to, no questions asked."
Tears rolled down her face as she flung away from me and buried her face in the throw pillow furthest from me.
"Okay, I am going to make breakfast. You rest some more." I gave her privacy, shutting the door between us without looking back. My grandma never closed the door, but I knew Ginny wanted to be alone for a bit to cry. I didn't blame her. I cried, but not very often. I didn't find it helped. Punching, breaking and causing chaos that fed my fears, and even though I knew it was bad, it was all that helped some days and nights.
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