This story is by Gloria Wright and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The scream brought Lucy out of a deep sleep. She jumped out of bed and ran to the kitchen. Her mother was standing with her hands on her head, screaming, “Where is it? What happened to my money?” She turned and faced Lucy, “Where’s the emergency money that was in the jar? Did you spend it, Lucy?”
“What?” Lucy shook her head and blinked her eyes trying to wake up after the jolt. “Mom, I told you last night, I bought a few groceries on Monday, and I needed bus money. We had nothing to eat. Mom, don’t you remember, you said I could!”
“I did no such thing, you little bitch! I can’t trust you. I need that money, today!”
“What? What do you mean? Did you spend all the money, already? You didn’t drink it away again, did you?”
“Don’t you talk to me like that you little bitch! I got that settlement, not you, and I will spend it however I wish!” Her mother sat at the table and cried.
Lucy glanced at the clock, “Are you going to be okay, I have to get ready for school, or I’ll miss the bus again. We can make it through this month, Mom. Don’t worry.”
Lucy’s mother grunted and took a sip of her drink. “I doubt that!”
When Lucy ran out the door, her mother was passed out on the couch with her empty glass on the floor.
Later that day hunger pains gnawed at her belly as Lucy entered the quiet and lifeless apartment. A few pieces of cheese and a package of hot dogs sat on a shelf in an otherwise empty refrigerator. She whispered, “Gee Mom, still no food! What am I supposed to eat today?”
She made her way to her mother’s bedroom. The door was open. Her mother laid naked on the bed, reeking of booze, cigarettes, and vomit. The sight and sound overpowered Lucy’s senses. She leaned on the doorway, “Hi Mom, I’m home. How was your day?” No surprise to Lucy, her mother made no response.
Lucy couldn’t remember the last time she shared a normal conversation with her mother, for it seemed her mother was always either drunk or on the verge of a mental meltdown. Lucy left the room discouraged, but then anger grew from down in her gut. She raced back into her mother’s room, “Why are you always drunk?! Oh, I hate you!! I wish you were dead!”
Lucy’s face turned coral red, and tears fell from her eyes. Rage flowed from down in her belly. Lucy had lost all control. She started shaking and hitting her mother, as if something or someone was causing her to react. She stopped when her mother coughed. She left her mother’s room to calm down.
Soon after falling asleep, Lucy had a reoccurring dream. A kind woman with blond hair and love in her eyes was speaking to her, and the dream ended at the same point. A large hand grabbed her. She woke.
When Lucy got home from school that afternoon, her mother was gone. Lucy hoped that her mother had left to buy groceries. All that was left were a few stale crackers and a piece of dry cheese. She ate her meager supper in silence.
As Lucy was headed to bed, a crash and a sound of laughter came through the front door. Her mother was home, and she was drunk again, but this time she brought home a new guy. He was an older man. He said, “I hope this is the right apartment.”
“Hi Mom, I see you brought home some company.” As she examined the strange man, a chill ran up her spine. “Hi, I’m Lucy, and I guess you’ve met my mom. Thanks for bringing her home.”
The man shut the door behind him as he helped her mother through the door. He waited until Lucy had a strong grasp around her mother’s waist before he let her go. As Lucy carried her mother down the hall, the man followed them. Lucy felt a lump forming in her throat, so she brought her mother into her room and locked the door. She shouted, “You can go now, I know you can find your way out the door by yourself. I’ve got this.”
He did not answer, so Lucy hoped the man had left. As soon as she laid her mother on top of her bed, the doorknob moved. Lucy grabbed her cellphone and called the police, “Help, there is a man trying to get into my room! I live at 325 Rundle Road, apartment 4C. Please come quickly. My mom is passed out, and he is trying to get into my room.
“We will send an officer right now but stay on the phone.”
Lucy ran to her closet, closed the door behind her, and climbed into the crawl space that was hidden behind a panel door. A loud crash and a thump came from the direction of her bedroom door.
The man spoke in a calm voice, “I know you are in here, Lucy! Don’t think you can hide from me.” A pause, and then a loud thump and a gurgle came from the other side of the closet door.
Lucy froze. She knew the man was hurting her mother, but she kept quiet in her hiding place. He opened the closet door. “I know you are in here. Like I said, you can’t hide from me.”
Lucy saw his face through the slits in the panel, but he could not see her. Lucy held her breath.
Sirens in the distance announced that the police were coming. The police busted through the door and arrested the man before he had discovered Lucy’s hiding place.
When the emergency team came, they took her mother away. She was pronounced dead on arrival.
Lucy was shaking from the experience, and she sat in silence when the police officer said, “I’m afraid your mother didn’t make it, Lucy.”
“What? My mom is dead?” She cried. “It’s my fault. I told her that I wanted her to die! If I didn’t say that, she would be alive!”
“This was not your fault, Lucy.”
“Yeah, well I was a coward and hid in the closet when that monster killed my mom. What does that make me?”
“A smart girl. You did the right thing.”
“I will never forgive myself!”
“Look, I know a couple who are foster parents. Let me see if I can arrange for you to go stay with them tonight. We will help you get settled later, but I would feel better if you were with good people tonight.”
“Why can’t I stay here? I can take care of myself!”
“No, you can’t stay here. This is a crime scene. Trust me, Priscilla, is real kind.”
“Sure, what does it matter, anyways. My life is over!”
“Well, I don’t believe that.”
A kind lady greeted Lucy and the officer as they came to the door. Pointing to the lady the officer said, “This is Priscilla,” and pointing to Lucy, he said, “This is Lucy. Thank you, Priscilla, for agreeing to take Lucy on such short notice.”
“No problem, Steve. Welcome to our home, Lucy. I am so sorry about your mom! You can stay here as long as you like. Now let me show you to your room.”
As Lucy walked up the stairs and down the hall, a small dog came running and tried to jump on Lucy. She squatted down to pet the dog. “You didn’t tell me they had a dog! I love dogs! I always wanted one. Oh, he’s so cute!”
“You can pick him up,”Priscilla said, “He loves to be held. He’s an attention hog, for sure.”
Lucy picked up the dog with enthusiasm. As she walked down the hall, a room came into view. A big window with white and blue curtains brought light into the room. A large bed covered with decorative pillows sat against a wall, and a desk loaded with art and writing supplies was facing the window. “You have a lovely home, Priscilla, I really love this room, but I can take care of myself, you know.”
“Oh, I have no doubt you can do perfectly well, but you need a place to stay, and I hear you are an artist.”
“How did you know that?”
“Steve told us.” She pointed to the police officer.
Lucy glanced toward Steve and said,” How?”
“You can call me officer Steve if you would like. I saw the artwork in your room, along with your art supplies. I guessed.”
“Oh, Thank you, Officer Steve.”
“Well, I must be going, duty calls. Good luck, Lucy.”
That night, Lucy had the dream again. She recognized the face of the kind woman as belonging to Priscilla, and this time, the hand embraced her.