Blinding light flashes against her review mirror as the setting sun behind her gets to just the exact level to assault her eyes. Sighing, she reaches up to flip the angle and she notices the age of her hands. What it had been like to be young, the arrogance of youth; she never noticed her hands at twenty but at fifty eight she sees them all the time. Exhausted she places her hand back on the wheel and watches the road, slowing down as she hits the edges of the derelict town.
Forty one years ago she had left this place. Forty one years ago she had piled into her clunker of her car, the one only she could get running, with one bag and stone cold fear only outweighed by her need to flee. It had been a broken town then. Every ten years or so people would move in and try to revive it but nothing ever thrived. Factories shut down, earth couldn’t grow crops, businesses went unnoticed and families left the way they came.
Her car was no longer a clunker, but a reliable Volvo; she had a kind husband, one daughter was a veterinarian, her other two children were in college, life had been beautiful. Why had she chosen now to come back here? She had to clean up. Slowing down she pulls to the side of the road parking under power lines that no longer buzzed with electricity.
Flashes, not light this time, in her head of that summer. It was hot, oppressively so and the judge’s son was the only beautiful thing in that forsaken place. She loved him, loved him with the intensity only a seventeen year old girl could have.
She shakes her head and steps from her car the door shutting behind her with an echo. It was time to find it, to lay it all to rest. Mandy’s house still stood on the corner, though that seemed to be all it still did. She moves across the road and steps around the rusted fence. Inside the paint was in strips at best, the olive green barely showing. Her boots crunched against the torn and rotting floor. Someone had dragged a mattress into the back of this house and she ignores the implications.
Flashes, not clouds over sun but that summer again. Mandy calling her name through the house, begging her to come back, not to be stupid. The heat of her anger boiled into something alive within her body; something so fierce it rivaled the sticky season. She had left that night.
She takes a slow breath and steps free of her childhood friend’s home and it was only a rock’s throw to the judge’s old house right across from the silo now covered in graffiti. From here she could see the old school, its broken windows, the haunted remains.
Flashes, not strobe lights but the memories flooding. She had gone blind with rage and she knew the judge and his wife were gone for the weekend. That was the problem in the first place, that and Nina Mae with her blond curls and open legs.
Stumbling over the broken step she makes it onto the sagging porch and presses her hand to the door. Groaning loud enough to make her wince the door gives way and allows her to enter the house. It smelled musty, old, no one had lived anywhere near here in ages. The wall paper was filthy and faded, the floor covered in dust and dirt. Her heart froze.
Up the stairs, was she floating? First door on the left, that had been his room. Entering she was prepared to search the old far wall for the hatch but it had been busted long ago. Age, time, years had taken none of the memories away.
Flashes, not from drugs but from her whirring brain. He had blue eyes the same color as the sky at high noon and a laugh that made your insides take flight. She had given him everything but he had been ungrateful.
Bending she crawls into the passageway, fingers searching, was she shaking? No. She had complete control. Her hands, hands that had lived, pry up the board in the back corner. Belly down, dust filling her nose she reaches in, stretches. Contact. She feels the cold steel of the tire iron. No one ever found it.
Pulling it out she lets her eyes scan it slowly and then, there, on her knees in the rotted wood, she pushes the boards back into place. Hefting the weight of the tool in her hand a world of weariness falls upon her for a brief moment and then, just as quickly, it is gone.
Like a ghost she moves through the house, out the front door and back to her car. She did not go to the school or walk the haunted football field that she knew still stood in pieces. No, she had a little trip to make out to the ocean. Now she would have closure.
For the first time all day, she smiles, and starts her engine leaving the tainted town for the second time, this time never to return.