The fire-like leaves of an aged oak rustled above Polly’s head as she lay watching clouds carried by the wind. Blue sky and the birds overhead — mockingbirds she thought — the sun dappled prairie that stretched beyond her forever, like a sheet of paper she could write her life on. This was her childhood playground. It had been years since she’d been here, she’d never really intended to come back, and now she was. Now she was laying in the same place she ‘d spent almost every afternoon as a girl. The same place where she’d seen him fall.
The memory crashed to the front of her brain like a truck to a brick wall. Tanner staring at her through the tree’s limbs, backlit by the noonday sun. Smiling. He had the most beautiful smile. White teeth, crooked on the bottom, his lips pink and soft. He always wore chapstick.
She closed her eyes, banishing his image from her mind. This was why she didn’t want to come back here. She stood up, brushing the debris from the ground off her jeans and straightening the hem of her denim button down. Clothes she’d uncovered in the attic of the house. Boxes of her mothers things, from the years before her mother stopped trying, stopped keep up the appearance of a woman who cared.
Polly had spent her entire life trying to get away from the truth, one that ended a life she loved more than her own. She’d wandered around. She’d had meaningless flings with tall, dark, northerners who talked about Faust and Niche. She’d made herself a medallion wearer, two years now, sober and sulking. She’d liked the feeling of a motor buzzing her away from his sandy blonde hair. Or how the boys in New Hampshire had all complimented her accent and the freckles made from too much time in the sun.
The truth was, Polly had enjoyed the distance, but then her trek was halted. Her mother had finally given up completely, the war she’d fought with a man Polly was supposed to call “Daddy” had ended, and it had been accompanied by a loaded shot gun. But what could Polly have done about that? She hugged herself, the smell of her mother’s perfume in her nose somehow, and she felt a tear squeeze into the corner of her eye. She could have done more than she wanted to admit, but she couldn’t with his memory hanging onto her like a barnacle.
She bent her knees, plucking from the ground a lonely, fading bluebonnet. The wind caught her hair, sending it out from her neck like she’d been shocked. No, she hadn’t helped her mother, just like she didn’t warn Tanner he was too high. Just like she didn’t believe him when he said his head hurt from the fall. Polly’s silence had killed them both.
“Remember what your mother told you,” Tanner’s words as he limped up the hill. “Listen to me, Polly Anne. Listen to my heart, and not my words.” Tanner was talking nonsense, but he was right, and she should have listened.
This post was inspired by a brilliant InMon Prompt.