Well hey there Pilgrim you're sitting in my spot.
You're you're you're in my sp sp sp sp position.
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Ice Bucket Challenge
“Eh, why you no go w’ me to Duffy’s?” he asked. “I go dere now, you know. Maybe you could ha’ a drink an’ relax some ‘fore you meet up w’Chancey.” His eyes returned to hover below my neck.
“No, thank you.” I took my bag, amazed yet again, by the power of boobs. Nothing rivals their ability to make a man overlook truly pathetic qualities, even bizarre phobias, in a woman. “I need
to meet up with Chance. I’m sure you’re right and he’s just inside.”
“OK. But I be dere if you change yo mind.”
Llyssaer didn’t like her life. She didn’t like her school, where she lived, or most of the people in this oddball, loveless, rinky-dink town. Although she was a pretty girl, with wide blue eyes and silky hair the color of burnt sienna, it didn’t seem to make a bit of difference to anyone around her what she looked like. If she’d had five arms and tentacles for hair she doubted they would give her more than a second glance. Even her parents seemed to barely notice her anymore. When was the last time the three of them had done anything together as a family? Most days her parents were so busy they hardly knew she was there, the neighbors turned their backs to her whenever she walked by their houses, and the kids at school…
She sighed. She didn’t want to think about it. Not any of it.
Once, not so long ago, her life had been fairly idyllic for a teenager. An only child, she had loved school, had lots of friends, made good grades, and got along well with the neighbors, including the giant Saint Bernard, Princess, that everyone in the neighborhood seemed to hate.
Then, somehow, things changed.
She kicked a rock along the now familiar cobblestone trail she followed on her way to school five days a week as memories of times past floated through her mind. The jagged piece of hardened earth offered no resistance to her shoe and tumbled to the side of the path. When it eventually plopped into a leaf-filled, mucky puddle, she barely noticed the muffled splash it made. Although her eyes stared at the trail ahead of her in the distance, her memories carried her back to happier times – back to a place in her life before her world had turned completely upside down.
It seemed as though a whisper of time had passed since she was living with her parents in their two-story gabled cape home in Connecticut. Her father was in the Navy and frequently traveled to distant places engaging in secret missions on his submarine. As a result, Llyssaer and her mother were left to run the household.
Her mother had been a housewife during Llyssaer’s first few years in school but had since gone back to work. At the time it was all well and good, but eventually Llyssaer realized she was spending more time alone than she would have ever imagined possible. Solitude suited her just fine, though; she may have enjoyed spending time with her friends and family, but she didn’t mind being alone.
She had been a good girl back then; well, for the most part. So much so that some of the kids in school referred to her as “that stick in the mud.” And maybe, in a way, they were right, but it wasn’t like she was trying to be that proverbial stick on purpose. She’d heard horror stories about kids doing bad things and, a few years ago, she had just decided she didn’t want to be one of them. She always tried to do the right thing and be the best she could in anything she did. Did that make her a stick in the mud? Maybe, but if it did then so be it.
Sure, she’d had lots of friends when she’d lived in the Nutmeg State, but she’d been one of the lucky ones who hadn’t gotten into a lot of mischief, much to the chagrin of many of those same friends. She supposed her parents could be thanked for this. Although her father had been away frequently with his job in the military, there was no doubt that she had been Daddy’s little girl.
At a very early age, he had begun calling her Llys, which was convenient for those who had a problem pronouncing her given name. Her family and close friends all called her by this pet name, unless she was in trouble, of course, and she couldn’t deny that she always wanted to be the apple of her father’s eye. Since she was very close to him she knew that if she got into trouble while he was gone, his disappointment in her would be oh so much worse than any discipline which might happen as a consequence of her actions.
Llyssaer took a large bite of her Granny Smith apple and looked at her watch, 7:10 a.m. She had to be at school by 7:30 and still had roughly a half a mile to go. She would make it in time and be there early to boot.
“Joy,” she mumbled with sarcasm.
With the final bite of her apple, she tossed it into the nearby bushes. She normally wasn’t one to litter, but this was nature going back to nature, so it was okay, wasn’t it?
From the corner of Llyssaer’s eye, a faint glimpse of something caught her attention. She turned to look in the direction where she’d seen the movement and, at first, didn’t see anything, but after a few seconds she noticed a girl close to her own age standing partially hidden by a tree off to Llyssaer’s left. Beyond this nameless stranger was a small field filled with dry grass and scattered weeds. The girl, whoever she might be, was watching her.
Llyssaer stopped and returned the watcher’s gaze, a little surprised to see her but not really scared. Being an only child, Llyssaer was a tomboy through and through and had every confidence she could put the spying female to the ground if she needed to. Either that or she would just slug her over the head with her backpack. The two inch thick math book she carried within the coarse, black fabric holstered across her back could knock out a muscular, fully grown man if she hit him with it; of that she was certain.
The girl watched her for several long seconds but made no move to approach. Her hair hung past her shoulders, blonde and curly. Although Llyssaer couldn’t see her observer’s eyes, she felt this uncanny prescience that hidden underneath were peering orbs of soft, sea green or maybe a speckled shade of gray. She gave the girl a slight nod to acknowledge her presence then turned and continued on her way. Llyssaer had no doubt if she was late for school, Mom would have her head.
She could have taken the bus to and from school like all the other kids in town but she chose not to, which was no easy accomplishment. Her mother was old fashioned, believing that a teenage girl with no older brothers to protect her would be inviting trouble if she walked back and forth to school by herself every day. In spite of this, Llyssaer had been adamant when citing her reasons for wanting to walk.
“Obesity in this country is rapidly going out of control, mostly because people are lazy. I don’t want to be one of them!”
“The daily walk will give me great exercise,” she insisted, “and the fresh air and sunshine are a bonus!”
She also argued that she was fifteen now… FIFTEEN… and although she knew her mother loved her very much, she couldn’t protect Llyssaer from everything. When would her mother let her spread her wings and fly? When she was 40?
Another reason, which she hadn’t told her mother, was simply that the kids on the bus didn’t like her. Heck, as far as she could tell, the kids in the entire school didn’t like her. Being the new girl in a new school in a new town, she was surprised they never bullied her like some kids did when new students breached their familiar atmosphere. But even without any bullying she still sensed she didn’t fit in. Sometimes, it was in the looks they gave her and sometimes in the looks they didn’t. When walking through the hallway she might pass a group of chattering schoolmates and as she approached a strange silence would fall over them like a thick blanket of quiet. Once in a while she would hear the buzz of whispering behind her back after she had passed, but most of the time she never heard anything from them at all. It was almost as if she didn’t exist.
The kids in this town were strange and she longed for her old town, her old home, her old school, her old friends. Why did they have to leave?
She sighed. She knew why, her parents had explained it to her, but she doubted they told her everything. Parents almost never tell you everything.
Llyssaer swung her gaze around to see if the peeping female was following her, but the path behind her was now empty. She wondered, absently, where the curious blonde waif might have gone but soon her mental focus returned back to her parents and how she had ended up here.
After spending quite a few years as a housewife raising Llyssaer, her mother Pauline had finally decided she was ready for something more from life. She began writing short stories as a way to occupy her time and eventually found her calling as a full time author. As Llyssaer approached those tender teenage years, with a mother who travelled frequently to promote her books and a father devoted to the military, Llyssaer found herself surprisingly independent. Although she would sometimes stay with friends or family while her parents were gone at the same time, Llyssaer embraced the idea of raising herself. Her cousin Daniel lived in the next town, which was perfect on a weekend, but during the week it ended up being too much of a hassle to cart her back and forth so she could catch the bus for school. After all, he had his own family and children to raise.
Realizing their situation was changing, Llyssaer’s parents enlisted the help of their neighbor next door, Mrs. Grenadine, or Mrs. Gren as Llyssaer liked to call her.
A gray-eyed single woman in her mid-50s, Mrs. Gren was a widow and lived alone. She could frequently be seen in her yard gardening, mowing, or hanging out the laundry. Her short, neatly cropped hair had begun graying long ago, but every time Llyssaer saw her bustling around her yard in the sun, she couldn’t help but notice some of the blonde highlights of youth mixed in with her neat, gray mane of age as it struggled for dominance atop the older woman’s head.
Mrs. Gren was a supporter of the red, white and blue through and through and since she knew that Llyssaer’s father, Andy, was frequently away on deployments, she was always checking in on Llys and her mother. Mrs. Gren lovingly referred to them as “the girls next door.” When she learned of their predicament surrounding the times when both Llyssaer’s mother and father would be away on travel, Mrs. Gren generously volunteered to keep a close eye on the teenage girl.
With one less obstacle on their plate and realizing their travel schedules might overlap more often than they liked, Andy and Pauline decided to get Llyssaer a dog, both for companionship as well as protection. The dog, a German Shepherd aptly named Jiminy Cricket, or Crick-a-tick for short, proved to be worth his weight in gold.
With mostly black on top, soft shades of brown beneath, and a bushy, black tail, Crick-a-tick followed Llyssaer around everywhere. The canine companion watched over Llys like his namesake character from Pinocchio, a story the girl had loved as a child. For a while when he was a puppy, she actually reconfigured one of her cloth backpacks so she could carry the pooch around on her back. With her backpack straps pulled as tight as they would go, she loved walking around the house and neighborhood with her curious companion looking over her shoulder like the famed cartoon cricket. Before long, however, the furry beast outgrew the backpack and was soon traipsing around alongside his mistress, day in and day out.
Since Llyssaer spent time with Mrs. Gren at least a few days a week it was only natural that Crick-a-tick, soon shortened to simply Crick, would form a bond with the gray-haired woman as well. Llys used to joke with Mrs. Gren that Crick’s main reason for accompanying her to the house next door was because of the leftover steak bones he received from the older woman on occasion, but in her heart she had no doubt that her special bundle of fur loved the grandmotherly woman just as much as she did.
Llyssaer had just turned twelve when they brought Crick-a-tick into their home and was nearly fifteen when she’d lost him. The unfortunate, horrific event surrounding this loss is what marked the beginning of the end of her happy, idyllic life.
During recent years, crime across the United States had become rampant and Connecticut offered no safe haven from the storm. When two men carried out a home invasion on the western side of the Nutmeg State, killing nearly everyone who lived there, their crime made national news. A few months prior to this incident, however, there had been another home invasion on the eastern side of the state which didn’t receive nearly as much media attention, but should have.
This was the day Llyssaer’s life changed forever.