Sorry this week is late. I’ve been down with the plague. But finally got it done.
This scene is connected to my serial, Your Lies.
Some other flash fiction pieces that center around Delia:
This would fall between Lying in Wait and Lying to Myself.
THE CHOICE LIES BEFORE YOU
“It’s just for the weekend.”
I didn’t even look over at my mom, just continued to watch the trees fly by as we drove along the narrow dirt road. She didn’t get it, anyway. She thought I was upset about our little impromptu vacation and had spent the last three hours trying to fill all the awkward silences with chatter. I didn’t feel the need to do the same. Or to listen to it because she wasn’t saying anything I needed to hear. That, she flatly refused to do.
“It’ll be good to get away,” she continued, her voice breaking slightly. “Just what we need after…after everything.”
I closed my eyes against the sudden sting. I wasn’t going to cry anymore. I was so tired of tears and pain.
“I know it’s been hard, but it will get easier.”
“Will it?” I snapped, turning toward her, grasping at the anger that swelled up inside me. Anger—now, that I could deal with. “How is it going to get easier? How is that even possible when we don’t even know what happened? We don’t even know if Dad is alive or—”
“Delia!” Her hands flexed on the steering wheel, knuckles whitening. “Dwelling on that isn’t going to help anything. We need to move on.”
I shook my head. The disgust I felt for her choked me. My father, her husband, was missing, maybe dead, and she wanted us to just pretend it didn’t happen. Pretend there wasn’t a gaping hole in in our family in our lives, in everything.
I didn’t say anything else—couldn’t without saying something I wouldn’t be able to take back—twisting around to stare out the window, again. Thankfully, she didn’t try to fill this silence, leaving me along with my thoughts, my anger and contempt.
When the car stopped in front of the small cabin, Mom shut off the engine and sighed.
“Delia,” she said softly. “This is what he wanted. He always said if anything ever happened to him, we weren’t supposed to dig into it. He didn’t want us risking ourselves. If he’s…if he’s alive, he’d come here first, and only contact us once it’s safe.”
“That’s why you brought all his stuff,” I murmured, thinking of the boxes in the back of the car.
“Yes.” She reached over, settled a hand on my knee. “I hate this, too, but I have to focus on keeping you safe. If the people that took him found out about you—”
“How could they? Dad would never tell them.”
Her skin whitened as she pressed her lips together. After a moment, she gave a jerky nod. “You’re absolutely right.”
I frowned, feeling like I was missing something. Something important. Something horrible.
“So,” she continued, that false brightness back in her voice, “let’s just enjoy the weekend away. You always loved it out here.”
I shrugged then, grabbing my backpack from by my feet, pushed the car door open. I got out and inhaled deeply. I did love it out here. Here, I didn’t have to hide everything. I didn’t have to be so careful. But I couldn’t tell Mom that. She didn’t understand. Dad did, though. He just got it—how hard to keep magic inside. How maddening it was to have such power thrumming through you, pulsing under your skin, but being unable to do anything about it, because it was too dangerous. Because if anyone knew, if anyone even suspected, your name would end up on a watch list, at the very least. The other possible outcomes—I swallowed down the surge of bile in my throat—were things I fought hard not to think about. Too often failing, especially since my dad had been taken.
“Help me carry this stuff in?” Mom said, already walking up the path, box in her arms. She looked over her shoulder with a knowing smile—even if it was more strained than it usually was. “Before you go off hiking?”
I nodded and returned the smile, feeling more than a little guilty when her face lit up in response. She balanced the box on one arm shakily as she unlocked the door and went inside. I followed her, figuring I’d drop my bag in my room then help unload. As I approached, I saw a piece of paper in the threshold. Must have fallen out of the box Mom held. Stooping, I picked it up—not just a piece of paper. It was an envelope. I glanced around the main room of the cabin and didn’t see Mom. She must have brought the stuff into her bedroom. I looked down and frowned at the writing. Delia—scrawled in my dad’s handwriting.
I heard my mom shuffling around and quickly shoved the envelope in the back pocket of my jeans.
“It’s just a couple boxes,” she said, walking out of the back room. “Only take a minute or two.”
“Just gonna drop this in my room. I’ll get the rest, Mom,” I said quickly.
Once I had the door shut behind me, I dropped the bag next to the bed and pulled out the envelope. I tore it open and withdrew the folded paper. I bit my lip against the cry that wanted to escape when I saw my dad’s words. I traced my finger over the ink, vision blurring slightly. I blinked rapidly and drew in a deep breath, and began to read.
If you’re reading this, I’m not there. I don’t know why, and I’m so sorry, but it’s going to be all right. The most important thing, now, is that you and your mom are safe. Listen to her. I know you’re not going to want to do that, but I’m telling you you need to listen to her. Do this for me.
These books are important, too. I know they don’t look like much, but they were given to me by my mother. They’ve been in our family a very long time, and they’re filled with all the things I haven’t had a chance to teach you, yet. How to use your magic, use it for good and brilliant things. Remember what I told you—your magic is a gift. It is as beautiful as you are, my sweet girl. The things you are capable of, that you will do… I’m so proud of you, and that isn’t going to change.
Keep the books hidden, study them carefully, and be safe.
I’m always with you, even when you don’t see.
I love you, Dee.
Several tears fell, soaking into the paper, smearing the ink. My heart pounded, filling my ears with its thumping. I drew in ragged breaths, one after another. I stood and rushed across the room to yank the door open.
“Took you long enough,” Mom said, as she emptied a bag, setting food on the counter in front of her. “There’s only one box left; if you could get that—”
“Where are they?” I shouted, shaking and feeling hot…so fucking hot I couldn’t stand it.
She turned, eyes wide. “What?”
“The books. Dad’s books…my books,” I ground out, shaking the letter in front of me. “The ones you were supposed to give me. In the car you talked about what Dad wanted, but you don’t really care about that, do you? You don’t want me to have them, because you hate that I have magic, that I got that from him.”
“Delia,” she said quietly, firmly.
I stumbled back as she reached for my hand…or the letter.
“It’s not going away,” I whispered harshly. “It’s a part of me, and Dad…Dad thought it was beautiful.”
I let the paper fall to the ground and sprinted out of the cabin, slamming the door behind me. Ignoring her calls, I darted between the surrounding trees. When I finally stopped, I bent at the waist, hands braced on my knees, struggling to catch my breath. Slowly, I brought it under control again—it was the only thing I had control of. Everything else—my thoughts, my emotions, my magic—was a jumbled mess. I moved toward a nearby tree and sat on the ground, my back to the trunk. Leaning my head back, I closed my eyes and tried to clear my mind. Because it just hurt too much. Hiding who I was, losing my dad, knowing my mom hated— I wrapped my arms around my middle. She didn’t hate me. I believed that, most of the time. But sometimes… God, sometimes, the doubt found its way in. Wiggled through all the good memories and the feelings of love and belonging.
I pushed it all away, ignored the magic skittered along my veins, and just focused on breathing. In, out. In, out. In, out.
Nothing but that until my heartbeat slowed, and the sweat that clung to me dried in the breeze. I thought of the letter, and cringed as the words Listen to her flashed behind my closed lids. Oh, he’d be unhappy with me, right now. He’d frown at me, brow all furrowed, and insist I apologize. Not for being mad, but for yelling and running off.
I sighed and scrubbed both hands over my face. The shadows around me grew long as the sun sank low in the sky. I’d been out here longer than I’d thought. She’d be worrying about me. Shit.
I made my way back through the woods and nearly threw up when the cabin came into view. But I kept going, determined to face whatever was waiting for me, even though my mom pissed off was a force to be reckoned with. So my dad always said.
When I opened the door and stepped inside, my mom was at the stove. Other than the stiffening of her back, she didn’t react to my presence.
“Mom,” I croaked. “I’m sorry I yelled. I shouldn’t have…”
My gaze fell on the stack of three books on the table. Old books. I crossed the room and laid my hand on the wrinkled letter that sat on top of them.
“I wasn’t going to keep them from you,” she said as I sat heavily in one of the chairs. “I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t think about it. Thought that maybe keeping you away from anything to do with magic would keep you safe.”
She turned and came to my side. I tilted my head to look at her, and wanted to cry at the fear I could see so clearly in her eyes. She tucked my hair behind my ear the cupped my cheek.
“I don’t hate anything about you,” she whispered. “And I know your magic isn’t going anywhere. You need these books, what’s inside them.”
“I’m sorry,” I said again.
“I know. So am I. I know you want to talk about him, and what happened.” Her eyes filled, and tears clung to her lashes. “And we will, I promise, but not now. Not yet. It’s too…”
Her pain tore through me. Why didn’t I see it? Why didn’t I realize that she was hurting just as badly as I was? I’d been so wrapped up in my own feelings and questions and everything, I’d missed what was so obvious, right in front of me.
I nodded, swallowing past the lump in my throat, and lifted my hand to cover hers, holding her palm tightly against my cheek.
“I love you,” she murmured, leaning down and kissed the top of my head.
“Love you, too.”
“You have a little time before dinner’s done.” She stepped back, letting her hand fall to her side. “The one on top is the one he said you should start with.”
With trembling fingers, I tucked my dad’s letter between the pages at the end of the book then opened to the first page, and read the first faded line.
Magic is a gift, and the choice of how you use such a gift lies before you now.