Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chapter 144: The Sticking Place

Mrs. Plunkett might has well have been speaking in tongues and standing on her head as she stood in front of the classroom Thursday afternoon. Rosie was aware of two things and two things only.

The first was the doorway to the classroom and the fact that no matter how often she kept glancing at it, neither Luis Santana nor Tommy Page had darkened it up to this point. And the day was more than half done.

The second was she could not stop thinking about the conversation she’d had with her father the previous evening.

She had fully expected him to quite literally lose his mind when he found out she’s been keeping company with Lynch’s Boys. So his uncharacteristic chattiness about the subject was unnerving and bizarre. Since when does he ever bother to talk to me? Other than to find fault, anyways. She kept turning it over and over in her mind, trying to figure out what had just happened.

More troubling, however, was the fact that her new friends had not shown up today. She really didn’t expect to see Luis, but Tommy’s absence was unexpected. Did my father say anything to them? Did they find out he knows? Where’s Tommy today?

What was my father trying to find out? And why would he care?

She glanced worriedly at the door again, Mrs. Plunkett’s voice barely registering in her consciousness over her own internal chattering. So, Rosemary, her father had said, forced cheerfulness obvious in his tone. You mean there are only the four of them at the station? How is Lynch running his mail schedule like that? Where did they go off to?

Gooseflesh broke out over her skin as she remembered the limping stranger with the gravelly voice. Something wasn’t right.

He’s paying that creepy man to find out the same stuff he’s asking me... “I suppose it might be fun to question one of them. Want me to do that, Burgess?” the man had said. Her father had threatened to call the sheriff at that.

That was a threat. She shivered, a strong sense of foreboding creeping over her. What if he goes out to the station? I bet the crew doesn’t know anything about this.

Her blood went cold. What if that’s why Tommy and Luis haven’t shown up? Her mouth unconsciously dropped open. What if that man stopped them on their way over here? What if he...what if he made good on his threat to “question” them? Who would know if he ambushed them on the trail? It’s a good long way out to the station from town...they wouldn’t be missed for a while.

Rosie felt the constricting fist of panic beginning to tighten around her insides, the same way it had tightened inside her when she saw the frightening stranger out in front of her house. The idea of him doing....well, something dreadful... to her friends made her feel sick inside.  She knew it was entirely possible that Luis and Tommy  simply had not been able to come to school today. It was entirely possible that they either got bored with the whole affair, or had work to do, or any number of completely innocent things happened. Except that they both seemed pretty sure they’d be back today.

The remains of the day stretched out before her like a ribbon of molasses, eternally long and unwilling to break. Her very chair felt like a giant, clutching hand against her body, holding her back, holding her still, unwilling to acknowledge the catastrophe unfolding just down the road. Mrs. Plunkett droned on, her voice a dim buzzing, her face maddeningly, excruciatingly calm and oblivious.

How long would it take me to get out to the station?

The thought made her chest pound, her breath quicken. What if I get out there and nothing’s going on at all and they laugh at my worry? What if they think I’m being forward....or worse, a nuisance? Her ears began to burn. They would think, great, now we can’t get rid of this stupid little girl...

What if they were just playing with me? Laughing behind my back at how easily they can make me think they like me?

She thought of Luis’ sweet brown face, the wary trust in his dark eyes, and the embarrassment in his voice when he confessed his secret to her. He reads to me, SeƱorita. Comprendes? He’d been afraid she might laugh at him for his inability to read, afraid she might think less of him. He had cared what she thought of him.

Luis had not been playing with her.

She took a deep breath, gathering her courage. If I want to look through Father’s books before I head over there, I don’t have a lot of time before he gets home...

She raised her hand. “Mrs. Plunkett...” her heart was in her throat. Lying was not something she did often, or with ease. “I need to go on home, please. I’m suddenly feeling poorly.”


Kat said...

I love Rosie more and more the more we see of her. The fact that she shares a name with my amazing headstrong cousin doesn't hurt either! lol

Regina said...

I'm so glad you all like Rosie so much.

Basically, Rosie is my tweenage self.

She looks nothing like me, and her life and family is nothing like mine. But I remember how it feels to be an awkward, unpopular dweeb and all the insecurities and self-doubt that comes with it. I remember all the second guessing and fear of bullying and the idea that nobody gets me at all.

That was a long time ago, and I don't have to dig too deep to dredge up those feelings so that I can write from inside Rosie's head. Every internal dialog she's had on here is one I've had in my own head.

Actually, I suppose you could probably say that about all my female characters. And several of my male ones. ;-DDD

Amy Simeister said...

How very sweet and wonderfully Brave of Rosie to try a bit of espianage for her friends. I am really starting to like this girl a lot.