Monday, October 10, 2016

She tosses and turns restlessly. Squeezing Danny tightly she murmurs, "Maura, come back.... Maura." And suddenly as the morning light seeps in she stops. Her alarm rings softly, like a sweet lullaby. She wakes slowly, wiping the shed tears from her eyes. Another nightmare, another day. She stands up from her frilly daybed and dresses just like Maura taught her. "Now your turn Danny," she shrieks excitedly. She dresses Danny and sits him up on his favorite chair. It's blue.

The mail flap slams shut, and a sheet of paper lands harshly on the floor. "Ellen," Laurel grumbles "...again?" She looks at the notice.

NOTICE: Laura Ilsteson has been reported absent for the last twenty school days. A mandatory 180 days are required to be promoted to the next grade. Laura will be disqualified for school activities, programs, and awards if she is not present TOMORROW, October 11, 2016. This notice MUST be signed and returned the of her re-entry. 

Laurel angrily crumples the sheet of paper and throws it in the waste bin. "Stupid school, stupid Ellen." She plops down next to Danny and sighs. "Danny, Maura wouldn't make her take me. Would she?" Danny doesn't say anything. Laurel looks at the corner. Birthday cards are stacked in a pile. Some are from family members, some friends. Laurel sighs again. "Time to get to work."

There's a loud knock at the door.

She slowly shuffles to the door, pulls up her stool, and looks in the peephole. 
"Who is it..?" A tall man is standing there. "News reporter, ma'am! I'd like to speak with ya." Laurel hops down and slowly opens the door. The man stands baffled. "Uh little lady, is your mother home?" 

She tears up and answers, "No."

The tall man frowns, "Aww it's okay sweetheart. Are you here all alone?" "No," she answers softly sniffling. "Danny's here with me." She opens the door a little more, revealing a fluffy blue rabbit in patched up khakis. He smiles softly, then sighs. "Does an adult live here?" Hesitantly, she answers " M-my step-aunt."

There's a gunshot.

Laurel screams and covers her ears. She falls off her stool and onto her hardwood floor. The man drops his briefcase and all of his papers fly out onto the floor.

“If you are a resident. Don’t move.  If you are a reporter, come out into the hall. Don’t,” another belch echoed in the hallway, “make me cock this trigger another time! 

The man scrambles to pick up his supplies and runs out into the hallway. Laurel sits there hands clamped hard over her ears. Through her tears, she screams, "Auntie Ellen!"