I know she is going to yell at Aunt Margaret. It is going to be my fault. It is going to completely be my fault. I have to stop it, stop it right now. Why did I mention Aunt Margaret had sat at grandma’s desk when mom mentioned the cheek book? Now she will be yelled at and it will be my fault.
My heart hammers against my chest, mouth is thick with saliva, and I cannot stop pacing around the house. I will ask Aunt Margaret about the cheeks. This way I can stop it before she gets yelled at. I will stop it.
As I push open the screen door, the cold fall air hits me. She is raking the leaves. She kicked herself outside like grandma kicks her outside like mom would kick me outside. When they don’t want to put up with us they kick us outside.
“Margaret.” She keeps raking the yard. I gently touch Margaret’s shoulder to get her to make eye contact. The damp dead smell of fall tickles my nose.
As I point to my ears I say, “Margaret listen.” She pauses and looks at me.
“Mom is looking for the extra cheeks. Have you seen them?” She starts to look frantic. Oh fuck, I think, she is getting upset.
“BDL, I didn’t take those.” Her eyes plead with me and I believe her. I didn’t think she did it to begin with. Margaret’s speech picks up speed.
“If I took things I wouldn’t have a job. I didn’t do it.” I swallow and try to breathe.
“Margaret, I know you didn’t.” I say shifting my weight back and forth from foot to foot. I feel like I could cry. Here comes mom. Fuck!
“Margaret, get in here!” She bellows, standing in the doorway, hands on hip. I have to stop this, but I am frozen, stuck in quicksand, unable to move. I have to move though! I take a breath and walk through the door behind them letting it slam behind me. Let the dam door fall off, I think. I can hear her screaming.
“Now Margaret, you listen to me!” I pause inside the door willing myself to stop it. I can’t do it. I walk out the door, let the motherfucker slam again. Quickly, I take off through the yard and down the gravel drive.
As I begin down the lane my mind is stuck and frantic. My heart hammers harder against my chest, each beat tearing me apart making me feel unreal to myself. I see grandpa. I feel grandpa. “What the fuck do I do now, gramps?” I mumble into the sweet corn filled air. The lane is worn down, old, yet I can see pieces of my past. The old well still sits in the middle of the lane, now covered with grass as tall as I am. My tiny dogs hop in and out of the grass, as if they are playing hide and seek. I see grandpa and me sitting under the big walnut tree, roasting hot dogs over the small wood stack, with our feet dangling off the bed of his little S-10 truck. The once small brush stack now stands ten feet tall. Pieces of rusted farm equipment lay scattered beside the stack. Grass grows wild all around it. I feel the past slowly sadly fading away. I never was allowed to grieve grandpa’s death. I feel so much grief. I have to get back to the house, I suddenly think, quickly walking back down the lane. Wind smacks my face. The bleak autumn sky stares at me. It looks like death. The fields suddenly look dreary and gray. The trees look black and lifeless. The cows even seem ugly. There is no color. I practice yoga breathing, try to slow my breath with each step. Scared but determined, I climb the old red steps. Closing my eyes for a brief moment, I push open the screen door. I let it slam again. Fuck her.
As I walk toward the dining room, I hear mom’s whiny, angry child’s voice.
“Margaret! You come here!” She bellows.
“I…I didn’t take em Janet. I didn’t” Margaret whines, trying to walk away from my mother. She corners Margaret.
“You listen to me now.” Her hand is on Margaret’s arm. Her hand is on my arm. She is yelling at Margaret. I am a teenager. She is yelling at me. Grandpa isn’t there to stop it. I don’t know what to do.
“Mom, stop.” I meekly mutter. Mom barely glances over her shoulder. Margaret looks at me. “BDL I didn’t do it.” I have to stop this.
“Stop this shit now!” I raise my voice.
“Just wait,” Mom says continuing to corner Margaret behind the long dining room table. I am cowering in my room. She is going to hit me. She will not stop screaming. My heart is practically pounding through my chest. My hands are sweaty. My whole body is sweating.
I retreat to the kitchen and pace some more. Please stop, please stop, please stop, I think. I freeze. I can’t stop it. Finally it stops. Margaret retreats back outside. I gingerly walk around my mother and climb the steps.
I noticed photo albums in one of the spare rooms earlier. One by one, I take out the albums and begin digging through them, each one filled with old Christmas cards, bible scriptures, pictures from the convent, etc. Margaret has written little poems. The word love is on each page in some form. There is a silly picture of great Aunt Emily, one of the nuns. Underneath Margaret has written Emily is like a big pillow.
More and more I see the autism, the sad woman, and a sweet child-like soul. I notice an old story I wrote about a witch with a picture on one side and the story on the other. It is written on big lines, like second and third grade composition paper. As I flip through the albums my heart continues to beat against my chest. If mom comes up here, I think, she will find these albums and destroy them. She will say they are junk. They are not junk. They mean something to Margaret.
I hear the steps crick. Dammit! She slides open the door, and walks in asking me what I am doing in a casual tone as if nothing just happened. I ignore her and continue flipping, careful to make sure she doesn’t see much of the album.
“I’m just looking at old albums,” I finally tell her matter-of-factly. She starts to sit on the bed, a few feet away from me. I silently groan and want to yell at her to get out, leave me alone, DON’T sit on the bed.
“I will have to look at those some time,” She says as she settles on the bed.
“Mom, please leave these alone. They are Margaret’s. PLEASE do not be mean and do something to them.” I plead.
She smiles, looks at me and says, “Oh, I won’t.” Don’t believe her my inner child yells. Remember all of your papers, things she didn’t like that she threw away? She announces that everyone is ready to go to dinner.
“Okay. I will be down in a minute.” I tell her, continuing to flip through the albums, avoiding eye-contact. After she leaves I quickly flip through the remaining albums, sigh, and push myself up from the floor. I am going to feel like it is all my fault if she destroys those albums, I think.