Previous chapter: Part the First — Fire & Rain
“Mama ain’t raise no fool,” Kelsey would tell Hannah. Which was true for the most part. Kelsey knew one must always be aware of one’s surroundings. She knew when to ignore people on the street. She knew which kind of people to be polite to, and whom she could flat-out reject. However, living in a town as small as Turtle Creek didn’t provide much need for Kelsey’s street smarts.
Kelsey slogged her way through the puddles in the dented sidewalks. She cursed Mother Nature’s sense of humor. It wasn’t that broad of a leap to see it raining on a cold November day, but it wasn’t every day that Kelsey had to walk home amidst a downpour. Nobody would even punish their dog by leaving it outside in this weather.
The dark streets brought forth an unwelcome companion. From behind Kelsey came a hunched-over hellian on wheels. His knees pumped at the pedals. Droplets of rain spewed from his bicycle’s spokes. A backpack that felt like it was full of bricks hit Kelsey’s lower back with a solid whump! Kelsey yelped in shock and anguish. She scraped her shin against the rough concrete of the sidewalk as she sank to the ground unsteadily.
Kelsey squinted up into the rain as she tried to regain her breath. She couldn’t see who emitted the shrill assault, but she figured it was her assailant. Coward. He was obviously far too scared to show himself. She gritted her teeth and assessed her situation. She hoped her back wasn’t fractured. But it really did feel as though that backpack had been filled solid with bricks. Despite her discomfort, she felt impressed. It mustn’t have been easy to sling something that heavy, and not lose balance in the rain.
This wasn’t the first time Kelsey had to deal with shit like this. In high school, she was far from being popular. Her lunch table was littered with the kids who were fond of black hair dye and Tripp pants. Her mother had insisted Kelsey’s obsession with black was “just a phase”. She would have been disappointed to see that it still remained to be the prominent colour in Kelsey’s closet. Kids weren’t too forgiving of her fashion sense. They contented themselves to make snide remarks behind her back. Rarely, they feigned innocent comments to her face. It wasn’t the best kind of attention. But strangely enough, Kelsey liked being disliked.
The night was quiet. Drops of rain pattered onto the ground, taunting her with their incessant onslaught. Kelsey shivered, wishing the air to be warmer. It was fifty degrees and dropping. Not the best night to be caught outside in the rain. Taking her phone out of her hoodie pocket to check the time, she realized the battery had died. Perfect.
Deciding to take a shortcut home, Kelsey cut over the backyards of some unsuspecting neighbors. At one point in time, her mother had known all of these people. She’d invite them over for pot roast, and discuss all the juicy details of the town’s other inhabitants. Warm glows spilled out from halfway-closed curtains. Muffled voices betrayed arguments, seductions, questions, and listlessness wafted out through the windows. Small town drama never interested Kelsey.
Her stomach roiled, imagining the food awaiting her at home. If Hannah hadn’t eaten it all herself out of spite. Kelsey scowled, and kicked a small rock. It skittered across the patchy yard and ricocheted off a doghouse. A chain nearby jolted forth, betraying the movement of a living thing. A german shepherd bolted forth from the doghouse. His teeth snapped at the foreigner who dared trespass on his territory. Kelsey leapt backward and managed to slip on the soaked grass. This was not her day. The chain followed the dog as both raced towards the fallen girl in the yard. Kelsey squeezed her eyes shut and imagined the chain standing still. The clanging stopped, and she opened her eyes. She couldn’t help but laugh at the sight before her. The german shepherd was furious at the change of events. He was now attached to a chain evidently too heavy for him to move. He laid down on the ground in defeat and proceeded to whine piteously.
Kelsey was picking herself up when a door behind her creaked open. She became aware that her clothes had gained no embellishment.
“Who’s that out there?”
Kelsey scowled at the dog, who just raised his eyebrows back at her.
“Charlie? Who’s that with you?”
Kelsey turned around and sheltered her eyes from the light pouring from the door before her. “Uh, it’s just me,” she offered. Peering up, Kelsey saw it was an elderly lady in a faded blue bathrobe. Just her luck. She was probably going to invite her in and offer her some homemade cookies, the horror. Why couldn’t it have been a grouchy old man? He would’ve just sent her on her soggy way after throwing a newspaper at her.
“Well, look at you,” the lady cooed. “You’re soaked to the bone! Get yourself in here, I’ll put the kettle on.”
What century was she in? Kelsey thought of turning down the offer, but she needed to charge her phone. If she continued home, it would still be a good bit until she saw Hannah. Might as well have some coffee before she headed back.
Gods. Hannah was gonna be so pissed.
Next chapter: Part the Third — Neighbours