Squire’s Isle Created by Geonn Cannon

Further On Down the Road

Summary: On Halloween 2006, Patricia Colby has a supernatural experience in a room

that will one day come to mean very much to her.

Patricia knocked on her son’s door as she passed. “Come on, bud. You’re going to be late for the bus, and I can’t drive you today. Lots to do.” She heard Michael stumbling around, proving he was awake, so she moved on down the hall. Her day wasn’t necessarily packed. She did have one thing she was looking forward to during her lunch hour, but that wasn’t something she advertised. She was even ashamed to admit she was eager for it. To admit eagerness and excitement would mean she wanted it, and if she wanted it, that meant she had to accept the word.

Lesbian. Since her affair was revealed and she became a single mother, she’d hesitated to use the word to describe herself. Nicholas called her worse names when they were fighting but she still didn’t like the label. First she was an adulteress, then a divorcee now she was a lesbian… all she wanted was to be happy, so why did happiness keep coming with titles she cringed to use? But the fact was, all her relationships since Nicholas had been with women. Short affairs that never went anywhere because she didn’t want to bring anyone home to meet Michael.

“Michael, this is Mommy’s girlfriend. We’re dating because she’s a lesbian and I think that’s just a great quality.”

She bared her teeth and thumped the heel of her hand against her forehead as Michael came out of his room with his bookbag slung over one shoulder. She watched him walk by, the hair hanging into his eyes, and it was amazing to her that he was in the fifth grade already. Wasn’t he just a baby, like minutes ago?

He went into the kitchen, looked around, and then looked at her. “Do you have the cupcakes?”

“What cupcakes?”

“Miss Colby is having a Halloween party at the end of the day today. Everyone is supposed to bring something, and I said I’d bring cupcakes.”

Patricia closed her eyes. “Michael, you are not springing this on me at the last second…”

“No. I’m not. I told you about it last week? And you said you’d pick them up last weekend.”

She wanted to argue but she had a horrible recollection of the conversation he was talking about. They were in the car, waiting for traffic, and she’d been texting. Texting the woman she was fucking about when they could meet up. She had been looking between the phone, the traffic, and the surrounding area, and she’d barely had twenty percent of her concentration on what Michael was saying. But she had agreed, and she had made plans to get the cupcakes.

Her voice dropped to a defeated whisper. “Damn it…”

“It’s okay, Mom. You can bring them by at lunch.”

The thought almost made her cry. “Yeah. Yeah, I’ll do that, buddy. I’m sorry.”

“You’ve got a lot on your mind.”

She grabbed her bag and followed him outside. He got into the car and she took out her phone before she backed out of the driveway. She sent a quick text: “Something came up. Can’t make it today. Pls pls reschedule.” She closed the phone before Michael could get curious enough to ask about it and stuffed the phone back into her pocket.

“Okay. Here we go.”

 

#

 

Patricia managed to escape from her desk and hid in her car for twenty minutes, engaging in a frenzied and only partially satisfying bout of phone sex with her current lover. Her car was parked at the very edge of the lot, in the corner formed between two buildings, but she still felt exposed. There were windows that looked down on this spot but their blinds were never opened. The nearest car was four spaces away. But nevertheless she could feel eyes on her as she rubbed between her legs, scratching an itch that had gone mostly unsatisfied throughout her marriage. It was satisfied now, with her string of girlfriends, but it was still not enough.

When the call ended she closed her eyes and rested her head against the seat. They hadn’t said “I love you,” which was standard for them. Patricia would have felt bizarre saying it, but not saying it was also meaningful. She didn’t love the person on the other end of the line, just like she hadn’t loved the last one, or the one before her. She definitely hadn’t been willing to build up a life with the woman who had helped implode her marriage. So if there wasn’t love or a possibility of a future, then why bother?

Because she needed it. God, she needed the outlet, the release, the sheer pleasure of being with someone who could touch her in ways she didn’t know was possible. She didn’t have to be in love to get off when the touch was right, and sometimes all she needed was a brief glimpse of what she could have.

When her lunch break arrived she drove to the grocery store and was relieved to find a box of cupcakes still on sale. She had no idea how many she was required to bring. There were nine in each package, so she bought five just to be on the safe side in the hopes it would cover Michael’s entire class. They came in a variety of designs, so she got skulls, pumpkins, witches, ghosts, and a black cat. She paid and carried the stack of cupcakes out to her car, then drove to Michael’s school.

She stopped by the front office to check in – “I’m Michael Hood’s mom, Patricia Hood. I’m dropping off cupcakes for the party.” – and was directed down the hall to Miss Colby’s room. The secretary warned her that the class was at lunch, and Miss Colby was down as cafeteria monitor, but the room should be unlocked. “If it’s not, let me know and we’ll send someone with a key.”

Patricia thanked her and went down the hall. The classroom was identified with a placard next to the door – MISS COLBY – 5TH GRADE – and Patricia balanced the cupcakes precariously with one arm as she pulled the door open and stepped inside.

The first thing she noticed was the smell. The room smelled divine, like lavender and vanilla mixed with evergreens. The windows had been propped open slightly to let in the natural smells of the island. Nicholas always thought that made things too cold, but Patricia loved it. She liked the autumn chill, even if it meant cozying up on the couch in a cable-knit sweater. Building a fire, cuddling with someone special.

If she had someone special. If she had anyone to bring her hot cocoa and curl up with…

She fought back the depression and looked around the room. There was a table set up at the back of the room with other snacks, so Patricia made her way down one of the aisles to add her cupcakes to the mix. Orange and black streamers hung everywhere, along with cutouts of witches and pumpkins, ghosts and vampires and other ghoulish things.

She put the cupcakes down and, with a quick search, found a Sharpie. She used a sheet of scrap paper and wrote Michael’s name on it with big block letters. Then she used a second sheet of paper so she could write a note to the teacher explaining where they’d come from. “Dear… Miss… shoot. What was her name?”

The door clicked open behind her and she heard soft footsteps crossing from the door to the desk. They stopped when the newcomer spotted her. “Hello… who are you?”

Patricia didn’t look back. She capped the Sharpie and wadded up the note. “Sorry. I’m Michael Hood’s mother. I just wanted to bring the cupcakes I’d forgotten.”

“Oh! Okay. That’s very thoughtful of you.”

“I’ll get out of your hair.”

“Okay.”

By the time she turned around to leave, the teacher was sitting behind her desk and bent down to dig through her purse. Her hair was falling across her face so Patricia couldn’t tell if she was young or old, pretty or not. Probably for the best. Her love life was such a godawful mess that dating her son’s teacher would be like swallowing a live grenade. The way her blouse stretched against her chest when she bent over, though… and that strip of skin where her blouse had pulled out of her skirt…

“Okay! See you.”

“Bye!”

Patricia escaped the classroom, exhaled and shook her head to dismiss any hot-for-teacher type fantasies that might try to take up residence, and headed back toward her car. She was nearly to the door when she realized the thing she was tapping against her thigh was the Sharpie from Michael’s classroom.

“Oh, hell.” She sighed, stopped, and decided she had to go back. When she rounded the corner she saw the teacher – what was her name again? – had left the class and was walking in the other direction. Patricia thought about calling out to her, but it seemed like a big deal to make about a Sharpie. She would just take it back into the class and leave it quietly where she had found it. She looked at the retreating teacher again and noticed how well she filled out her skirt.

“Behave yourself, Trish,” she muttered as she let herself back into the room. She put the marker back where she had found it and turned to leave. As she did she caught whiff of a new scent, one that hadn’t been there before but blended perfectly with the natural smells from earlier. It had to be the teacher’s perfume, and Patricia stopped in her tracks and closed her eyes to take in the bouquet. It was so perfect, so absolutely…

”Got everything?”

            “I think so.” There was a diaper bag, and a redheaded teenage girl she didn’t recognize, and they were standing in a kitchen with a half-eaten bowl of cereal on the table. Patricia saw her own hands – a wedding ring curiously on her left hand – as she packed something into the diaper bag and then zipped it up. She was wearing a white blouse under a tweed jacket that matched her skirt. She couldn’t imagine dressing that nice just to go to work. Unless she had a new job. But what job would require her to look so dressy? God, not real-estate… anything but that.

            “I’ll be back late. Will you be okay with the baby until then?”

            The redhead nodded. “Yeah, I’ll be fine.”

            “Okay, if you need any help, call one of us or call my mother.”

            The girl saluted. “You got it.”

            “Have you seen–?”

            “In the living room.”

            Patricia smiled and brushed the girl’s arm as she went through the door into the living room. There was a woman there, a woman wearing brown slacks and a sweater. She had short honey-blonde hair but her face was turned away. Patricia stopped where she was, overwhelmed by how much she loved the woman she was looking at. She was beautiful, Patricia knew, and her heart was so full of love and joy that it made Patricia better just being around her. She watched the other woman’s hands fold the top of a bag, cinching it shut before she put it down on the coffee table.

            “I’m almost ready,” the woman said.

            Patricia saw a wedding ring on the woman’s left finger. Married. They were married, and this was their home, and…

            A baby?

            They had a baby?

            She reached out and touched her wife’s hand, brushed the back of her neck, and leaned in to bury her face in the short hair above her wife’s ear. She squeezed her eyes shut as the other woman turned to embrace her, and Patricia held tight.

            “Everything okay?” her wife whispered into her ear.

            “Apparently it will be,” Patricia said.

She laughed, and the spell was broken. The perfume scent lingered but it was softer now, less noticeable. During the… vision, or daydream, or whatever it had been, she’d lowered herself into one of the student desks. She extricated herself from it, smoothed down her clothes, and left the classroom. She noticed that she was holding her head higher, her shoulders back, and her mood was infinitely improved from the doldrums she’d suffered that morning.

There could be an endgame. If she didn’t love the women she was spending time with now, there would be one in the future. She didn’t know why she trusted the flash, didn’t know why she was taking it as a promise from some unknown deity that she would be happy again. But the fact it had shown her things she’d stopped wanting years ago – marriage, a new baby – and the fact those things had made her swooningly happy, it was enough to give her hope.

The road she was on wasn’t the one she would have chosen for herself. That was one reason she was so depressed; she felt that no matter what happened, it would be second-best or runner-up to the life she was supposed to have. There was something waiting for her out there, she just had to be receptive to it. She had to be ready to reach out and grab it when it appeared.

That night she cheerfully handed out candy to trick-or-treaters. She expected she would have to force it, but after the first few Spider-Men and Ninja Girls, she found that her smile was easy and automatic. She truly enjoyed seeing what all the kids had chosen for their costumes and she was genuinely sad when the flow of visitors ended.

She ended her current fling the next day and focused on Michael. As disappointed as she had been to miss her lunchtime appointment, she was even angrier that she’d forgotten a promise made to her son. She would not abide letting that happen again. She spent November throwing herself back into her parenting, helping Michael with his homework and letting him know that he was still and would always be the most important person in her life.

They spent Thanksgiving alone, but their meal was full of laughter and jokes. They watched movies all day, and Michael kissed her cheek when he went to bed that night.

Christmas was hard, almost impossibly so, but somehow she found the strength to get through. Michael helped her, since he knew she was struggling.

New Years’, she had some people from work over for a party. 2007 came in with a cheer but no kiss. By now the memory of her vision/daydream/whatever had faded enough that she was starting to wonder if she would ever kiss anyone again. She struggled through January to keep from slipping back into her depression. The winter was cold and bleak, and it seemed rainier than it had ever been.

She woke up on Valentine’s Day and it was raining. The thought was so depressing that she called in to work and told them she was staying home. But after a few hours puttering around the house in her sweats, she decided that she had to do something productive. Their dryer was on the fritz so she put a lot of clothes into a hamper and carted it down to the Laundromat.

She was lonely, and the bell over the door chimed. A beautiful honey-blonde woman came in with her laundry.

The machines they used were across the store from each other. They didn’t look at each other, barely acknowledged one another, but Patricia was very aware of the other woman’s presence.

The other woman had an open-topped laundry basket. Patricia watched her put the freshly-laundered clothes into it, watched as she prepared to go out into the rain and ruin all her hard work.

Patricia remembered the hazy dream now. She remembered reaching out to take the mystery woman’s hand, and the possibility of being happy. She just had to be willing to take the step. She stood up and crossed the room. She had been single for months and, despite the ennui settling over her, she was starting to get used to being single. She was almost to the door, and the other woman was about to take the risk and run out into the storm.

Patricia reached out and stopped her future wife from leaving.

 

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