Friday, November 9, 2012

The Visitor

“Well, he seemed pleasant enough,” Kate’s mom said as she went inside. “How was the party?” she asked.

Kate smiled at her mom as she thought of playing tag at the park with Kevin. “It was fun. I had a really good time.”

“Did you meet anybody new?” her mom asked.

Kate thought of Gregory and Deborah. “Yeah, a couple of people.”

“Anybody interesting?”

“Yeah, you could say that,” Kate said with a smile. She still couldn’t believe that Kevin had been the one to invite her. Okay, so he was religious and maybe a bit crazy, but he was also fun and handsome and sweet.

“So, tell me all about how things went with Kevin,” her mom asked.

Kate spent the next 20 minutes telling her mom about the park, and how they played tag and acted like kids. Her mom just listened. “Sounds like you really did have a good time. Is he what you hoped he’d be?”

“I don’t know, maybe. He’s different in some ways than what I thought, but that’s not always bad, right? Was Dad everything you thought he’d be when you first went out?” Kate asked.

Her mom chuckled. “No. I thought he was going to be boring. I didn’t even want to date him at first, but he kept asking me. I eventually decided I had better at least give him one date so he would just go away.”

It was hard for Kate to imagine a time when her mom wasn’t in love with her dad. She’d seen her mom and dad angry with each other, or unhappy, or even sad together, but it was always clear that they really loved each other. She wanted to find a love just like that for her own marriage. “You thought Dad was boring?”

“Well, yes. The first day I met him was in a geology class. He was going on and on about how rocks were made, and I couldn’t have cared in the least about rocks. I thought for sure that someone who loved rocks that much just had to be the world’s most boring person,” her mother said with a smile.

“He wasn’t boring, though,” Kate said, almost defensively.

Her mother laughed again. “No, he wasn’t boring. He was shy and sweet and loved to joke around. He was nothing like I thought he’d be, but he was everything I needed him to be.”

Kate sighed. She hoped someday she could stand at the kitchen counter and tell her kids that same thing about their father.

“Mom, what was it about Dad that let you know he was the one?” Kate asked.

“Your father respected me, Kate. He encouraged me to be who I was born to be. He never expected me to be anyone else, or thought less of me for expressing my opinion even when he didn’t agree. He challenged me to grow. He made me a better person for being around him,” she finished.

Kate thought about that for a moment. Kevin’s words, “You’re a better person than that, Kate” came back to mind. He was certainly challenging her to grow, maybe even challenging her assumptions. He was challenging her to be a better person. Some part of her wondered if she was doing the same thing for him. Was she making him a better person for being around her, or was she dragging him down?

That thought, the thought that maybe she was dragging Kevin down, made her frown. The last thing she wanted was to be an obstacle to him or to prevent him from being the best person he could be. “Did you ever think you weren’t good enough for Dad?” Kate blurted out suddenly, the worry tumbling out of her before she could stop herself.

Her mom nodded. “All the time, sweetheart, all the time. But, your dad would always tell me that was utter nonsense. He said we were made for each other, and I believed in him. The thing is, your dad always told me that I made him a better person, too. He said that the way he felt about me made him want to be a better person. I didn’t have to do anything except love him to make that happen.”

Kate thought about that. Maybe loving someone was enough by itself to make you a better person. Maybe the other person didn’t have to necessarily do anything except be willing to be loved. That was a comforting thought.

She went upstairs and pulled her journal out of its spot on her bookshelf and began to write an entry. She still wasn’t sure what to make of the meeting in the cemetery, and she hadn’t fully decided whether she would join this group or not. She wasn’t even sure she really believed in God or evil, but she was at least willing to think about it. What if everything she’d heard tonight were true? What if she really were needed to fight? What would happen if she decided not to fight? What would that mean to Kevin? What would it mean to the others? There were just so many questions, and not nearly enough answers.

She heard the clicking of nails on the hardwood floors and looked up to see Bones softly padding into her room. The big German shepherd was a legacy from her dad. They had spent many an hour together consoling one another after her father’s death. Kate looked at his steel grey muzzle. He was getting so old. Her dad had named him Bones because when he was just a puppy, he’d dug up a fossil on the backyard his first day. Kate had been a newborn then.

“What are you doing in here, boy?” Kate asked. The dog’s ears perked in her direction and he whimpered as he crossed the room to lay his head on her lap. She leaned down to kiss the top of his head and he licked her cheek. She wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a hug. His tail wagged happily. “Bones, you know you’re not supposed to be inside. What are you doing in here?”

Kate’s mom poked her head inside the room, “Oh, there you are, Bones. Come on, you know you can’t be upstairs.”

Bones looked over at Kate’s mother and then back up at Kate, as if silently pleading for her not to make him go. “Aww, Mom, can’t you let him stay just this once?”

“No, he can’t stay up here. He sprays, and that smell is impossible to get out. I only let him in because it’s really getting too cold for him to sleep outside. He’s got arthritis in his joints and the doctor says the cold only makes it worse,” her mom said, taking hold of Bones’ collar and leading the reluctant canine to the door.

Bones whined and tucked his tail between his legs, clearly not willing to cooperate. Kate felt so guilty watching the scene play out, but she knew her Mom was right. Bones couldn’t help it, he was all boy and he wanted everyone around him to know it. That was fine outside but inside it just didn’t work. She decided that after she finished her writing she would go downstairs and keep Bones company for a while. She hadn’t spent much time with him lately, and she knew he missed her.

She spent another 15 minutes writing, then tucked her journal neatly back into her bookshelf. She was glad that she didn’t have to worry about her mom reading that journal, or she’d have a lot of explaining to do. She took a bath and put on some warm pajamas. Already the temperatures in the house were dropping alongside the chill of the winds blowing outside.

She crept downstairs, the slippers on her feet silencing her movements. The twins weren’t paying attention anyway, they were too busy playing Halo Reach to notice. She crept past them and into the kitchen, sneaking a snack from the pantry before heading downstairs.

Bones wagged his tail at the sight of her but he couldn’t get very far. Her mom had tied his leash to the work bench so he couldn’t escape again. She went and sat down on the stool beside Bones and petted his soft fur.

He reached over and licked her face again. “Ugh, Bones, your breath stinks! What have you been into?” Kate asked as she ruffled his fur.

A doggie grin stretched over his face as if he knew exactly what she was saying to him and had no intention of giving up his secret. She laughed at the thought of Bones as a spy. “You’d make a great addition to the Warriors of Light, Bones. I don’t think they’d ever be able to get secrets out of you”.

Bones wagged his tail even harder and licked Kate’s face again. She wrinkled her nose at the smell but she wasn’t too mad. Bones was her best friend in the whole world. She thought about the months after her dad had died. Bones had almost died then. He’d stopped eating and wouldn’t play. The vet had said it was a case of depression. Kate had understood perfectly. Every day after school she’d gone outside and just sat with him. He made me feel better just being with him, and after a while he just started following me around anytime I was outside.

Kate hugged Bones even tighter. Something made her suspect that he didn’t have a lot longer to go. Mom had talked to her more than once about maybe putting him down because of his arthritis, but Kate didn’t think that was a good enough reason to kill a dog. Truthfully, she just didn’t know what she would do without him.

“What do you think, Bones?” she asked, relaying her story – the whole story – to him. He cocked his head to the side as she spoke and locked his big brown eyes on her face, as if he were really listening. She talked about Kevin and the park and how much fun that had been, and how confused she was about the meeting. When Kate started talking about Father Christopher Donovan, though, Bones’ demeanor changed completely. He sat up straight and the smile on his face turned into a slight snarl. He let out a low growl and the hair stood up on the back of his spine.

“Bones?” Kate asked, “What is it boy?”

Bones’ eyes were no longer focused on Kate. They were focused on the stairs behind Kate. She whirled around to look and see who might be there. Kate couldn’t see anything, but it was clear to her that Bones was seeing something. He began to bark menacingly in the direction of the stairs, and even tried his best to stand in front of Kate, as if blocking her with his body.

A chill ran through Kate’s body, and for the first time in her life she began to believe that evil might really exist. The hair on the back of her own neck was standing up and she was covered in goosebumps from more than just the cold. The light in the basement went out and suddenly she was plunged into darkness. She kept a hand on Bones.

Her mom appeared moments later with a flashlight. “What is it, boy? What is it, Bones?” she called as she went down the stairs.

“I don’t know, Mom. He just started going crazy,” Kate replied. She was grateful for the weak light of her mother’s flashlight, but Bones’ odd behavior was still creeping her out. She thought about Father Christopher and his talk about a world of unseen things, a battle between the darkness and the light.

“Guess we must have blown a fuse, Katie,” her mother said, walking toward the fusebox. She flipped a switch and the power returned. “There we go, no big deal,” her mom said reassuringly.

Bones stopped barking, but his posture was still aggressive and protective at the same time. It was clear that his eyes were seeing something that she wasn’t. She reached down to pet him and he hardly seemed to notice. Kate gave him one last pet and followed her mother up the stairs before heading to bed. She wasn’t sure what was down there, but whatever it was she was sure Bones wasn’t going to let it get past him.

She dreamed she was in a white dress standing at the edge of a vast crowd. At the front of the crowd was a man with dark hair and a crown on his head. The people hated this man. She could feel their hate for him radiating off of them, but they could not attack him. He held them in thrall. He mocked them for their inability, taunting them by telling them that although they wanted to fight him they would see their mother, their daughter, their sister, or their lover whenever they tried to strike him. They were helpless in the face of his magic, and they knew it. Only Kate could see the truth of who he was. Her eyes alone were undeceived. She alone could save these people, must save these people. To do that, though, she would need to get that crown.

Thank you for reading Chapter 4: The Visitor. If you enjoyed this, you can continue on to read Chapter 5: The Package from my Nanowrimo novella: The Chosen.

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