Eastfield: Episode Nine: October Is the Cruelest Month (pt. 1)
Posted September 19th, 2019 by Gracithe1andonly
in wardly searching
Amelia Eager rather disliked the feeling that she was missing something, or worse, was willfully ignoring something that was right before her eyes. Unfortunately, ever since what happened two years ago, she had rarely been able to escape that feeling, and as she parked her car and walked into what was supposed to be the Willis home, she was again plunged into it headfirst.
The dwelling before her was a cabin, small and weathered enough to be older than she was. She frowned and did a quick sweep around the exterior. All seemed well, except it was obvious that no one had lived in the cabin for a long while. When she broke the lock and swung open the door, her nostrils were immediately assailed with the smell of must, but nothing worse. Yet, as she looked more carefully around the house, she saw indications that things were not right.
Many households, this one included, kept a private safe. This one had been broken and was empty. Amelia conceded the possibility that the safe had been broken by the legitimate owners of the cabin on accident and that their sensitive documents had been tucked elsewhere, yet that more benign series of events was proved highly improbable when Amelia noticed the absence of anything in this house indicative of anyone’s identity. Photo frames were empty, books with dedications in the front were blotted out, and any article that might have named the cabin-dwellers was conspicuously absent. Amelia was brought to the question of who would be so careful to ensure that their victims permanently vanished, and against her will was thrown into memories of a fierce redheaded child and events she regretted regretting.
She threw down the book she was holding and began striding back towards the door, but conscience froze her in her tracks. She remembered the reason she was here, and her mind painted a picture of the Pederson family and the little one who, by all rights, should be one of them.
She pivoted on her heel and tore into the rooms she had not entered before. Underneath a dust-covered pillow was a speckled composition notebook, just like the ones Amelia had used in school years and years ago. She opened it, and her primary question was immediately answered. This book belongs to María De La Fuente Willis, read the diary. Amelia almost laughed, but constrained herself to a grim grin of triumph. She scanned the pages looking for clues as to Mrs. Willis’s whereabouts and found mentions of theoretical mathematics and philosophies that were far enough above her head to make her uncomfortable. The last few entries, however, were conclusive.
As Amelia read, her eyes narrowed, and her mouth thinned into a hard line. She tore one page out of the book, shut it, and pointedly put it back where she had found it. Despite the fact that she knew precisely who had killed these people, she would hold her peace. She could provide that notebook of evidence for an organization that had become a joke, or she could leave it where it was, and avoid changing the situation. She decided that she only had to prove the Willises were dead, and that would be enough, but the young voice of Russell Durantel reproached her again.
“You’re betraying your duty!” he had said earnestly outside the courthouse long ago, tears building in his eyes. She had coldly asked him to elaborate and he had recounted, “First, you fight threats to the nation, don’t you? That’s what this is. Second, your whole job is supposed to do good, right? That why you have to fight. And third, you have a duty to me, don’t you? You told me you’d do everything you could to help me. You’re the only one who could get them to believe me now. And if they don’t believe me-”
Amelia shut the eyes and ears of her memory on the young man whose life she had saved. She didn’t believe in prophecies, only in coincidence. And it was pure coincidence that the young man she had ignored had had trouble with the law ever since.
Thus she left the Willis cabin-annoyed, perturbed, and determined not to rock the boat.
It was a bright and cool autumn afternoon. The leaves on the trees were rustling, and white clouds blew by slowly, like great lumbering elephants in the sky. Luanne held Meg’s script for the Academy’s Christmas Play in her left hand and Bernie’s hand in her right, and thought idly about the sky even while carrying on a conversation.
“Please?” Meg begged.
“No,” Luanne reiterated.
“But it’ll be fun.”
“But I have homework.”
“But you’re smart! You’ll have time.”
“Look, Meg, life’s already hectic,” Luanne protested, but Meg did not wilt.
“What are you even fighting about?” Bernie wondered aloud.
Meg grinned, having found the ultimate bargaining piece. “Bernie, tell Luanne that you want her to be in the play.”
“Play? What do you mean? To play like jugar?”
“No, Bernie,” Luanne sighed, “A play in the theater.”
Bernie remained confused, so she explained, “It’s when you act out a story.”
“Oh! That sounds fun!” said Bernie, “can we do it?”
Meg was triumphant, and Bernie was eager, so Luanne sighed and promised to speak to her parents about it.
They were even more supportive than Luanne expected. Her father noted how convenient it was for play practice to end when it did-it made it possible for him to pick her up on his way home from work. Melanie promised to take her to the theater after school. Bernie asked if he could join, too, and it was revealed soon enough that he could.
So it was that every afternoon after school, they headed to the campus of the Houston Baptist University and practiced. Luanne, as a merry lady asking Ebenezer Scrooge for donations, found a voice she didn’t know she had coming from deep within herself, a voice strong, beautiful, and very, very loud. Bernie, despite all his skill in skulking, was not subtle in his words. He could never have played a role foreign to himself or said things he didn’t mean. Thankfully, Tiny Tim was so akin to him that when he declared “God bless us, every one!” he was audible and clear, and more importantly, sincere.
The group at Houston Baptist University was, oddly enough, composed mostly of homeschoolers, though the leaders of the group did work there. Even they, however, were operating an educational program on the university campus, but almost entirely separate. It was the first time Luanne recognized the concept of society-within-society in the world around her, and from that moment on she couldn’t stop seeing it in families, in churches, in schools.
School, for its part, was not devolving into what it had been before. Nothing that happened was as insane as Bernie’s appearance or Cory Durantel’s attempt at kidnapping, but Marcus Durantel seemed resolute on being her friend, and rebuffing his overtures didn’t seem very smart to Luanne. He was, after all, so reasonable and polite. What bothered her was the redheaded firebrand who would, by necessity, come into her life with him.
But Russell didn’t seem to be butting in as much anymore. That, or he was playing hooky so much he didn’t have the chance. So day after day, Luanne found herself in the music room after school, watching Marcus work his magic on the piano. He occasionally ate lunch with her, and Meg enjoyed him-his polite but confident manner, his sharp and enjoyable sense of humor. Luanne refused, though, to give him the date of the play. She saw in her mind’s eye Russell tagging along with him, and something about that image set off alarms in her head. She swore Meg to silence as well, and she obeyed.
Just when Luanne dared to hope she wouldn’t see Russell anymore, though, she nearly ran over him, then failed to apologize. It was the kind of moment common amongst sleep-deprived teenagers, and she would have forgotten that it happened at all if it hadn’t been him. She was trying so hard to forget him and everything he symbolized that when her phone buzzed in her purse during class, she checked it, despite the rules against phones.
“Hey Luanne sorry for almost stepping on you in the hall just now” was the message, sent from the incorrigible Russell Durantel. Mr. Drew noticed her looking at her phone, and since she was generally good about following the rules, gave her merely a warning in a characteristically dreamy voice. Half out of spite towards Russell and half out of obedience, she turned off her phone and put it away. Nonetheless, after returning home to her parents and Bernie, she felt obligated to turn her phone back on, only to find that Russell had not taken her silence as a hint.
“LUANNNE,” he had chosen to use only capital letters to invoke her name, and more than once. “LUAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNE.”
Hardly knowing why she was responding to the troll, she typed, “I did not give you my number so you could scream my name. What do you want.”
Inexplicably, the only response she got was a question mark, to which she responded, “What did that mean?”
“Oh well you shiuldve been asking a question so I just added the question mark for ya” was his slightly grammatically incoherent answer. Rolling her eyes, she wished she could make her annoyance clearer than simply asking, “Why are you texting me? This better be good.”
Only increasing her irritation, his response was “I’m voted Lu”, which made no sense.
“What?” she asked, and he responded with more buoyant capital letters. “IM BORED LUANNE”
“That is not a good reason to text me,” she wrote, and then infringed upon the code of universal respect towards other humans by adding, “Shut up.”
After a brief pause, “Yes ma’am” was his equally brief response, and no more spam texts followed. Luanne was left painfully conscious of how Russell the great annoyance, just when he was getting to be too much, willingly left.
See more stories by Tía Snow