During the month of April, I am serializing my fictional short story, “Pomegranates.” New parts are posted every Sunday morning this month. Last week, I published Part 1. If you have not read it yet, please do so now:
Otherwise, please enjoy Part 2 of “Pomegranates.”
Pomegranates - Part 2
By: Shari Lopatin
Pomegranates, © Shari Lopatin, 2019. All rights reserved.
Helen lived directly across the street from me. I could see straight into her front window if I wanted, but I wasn’t much for spyin’. She told me she lived there for fifteen years. Gosh dang, I was still in middle school when Helen moved into that house. I couldn’t imagine livin’ anywhere for fifteen years.
Like me, she lived alone, except for Baby Ruth. But there was always these cars comin’ and goin’ from her house, and people—all kinds of people: Mexicans and artists and ranchers. One day, a lady showed up who claimed to be Helen’s best friend from childhood. She was a Wiccan, and when Helen introduced us, she taught me all about the red candles and black candles and white candles.
I wanted to ask Helen where she was from, what she did, but I feared bein’ intrusive. I hated when people intruded into my life, so I never asked. Helen, on the other hand, wasn’t so shy.
“What do you do?” she inquired one day.
“For a livin’?”
“Of course for a living.”
“Oh, it ain’t nothin’ special,” I told her. “I just work at the local diner.”
“As a waitress?”
“You got a boyfriend?”
I shook my head. “Naw,” I said.
I shrugged my shoulders and looked down at Baby Ruth, who was restin’ comfortably on Helen’s feet. “Guess I just move around too much.”
I anticipated the judgement any moment.
“A girl shouldn’t spend too much time alone,” Helen said, and I grimaced.
“You’re alone,” I said, my voice a little sharp, and then I felt bad. Somethin’ told me Helen didn’t say it out of shrewdness, but rather, out of concern.
“So it would seem,” she responded. Then Helen smiled, but I noticed it wasn’t genuine. Instead, she seemed—robotic. “But honey, I ain’t never alone.”
That night, after I came home from another shift of crappy tips and crabby parents and cat-callin’ married men, I felt an episode comin’ on. It always started with a pit of dread in my gut, like a killer was waitin’ to pounce from the shadows of my closet.
Then I got paranoid, switchin’ on every light and peeking ‘round every corner I could find. The thoughts started racin’, attacking my mind like a swarm of bees, and I started seein’ red, looming and woeful, and it frightened me.
You ain’t no good at nothin’, Jessie Jay.
If no black eyes are gonna teach you respect, maybe they’ll knock some sense into you.
Gosh dang it, Jessie Jay. The least you can do is give me a blowjob if you can’t cook a meal.
I always felt like I was gonna die. I stopped breathin’ and my knees went weak, so I fell to the floor and wondered if I’d be alone for the rest of my life, even though I liked bein’ alone. I hated myself for wantin’ more, for wishin’ my family was there, even when my family was mean.
I wanted it to stop every time, so I cried some more, pleadin’ into the open air. When the pain kept on comin’, I closed my eyes and started wailin’ harder, convulsin’ and clenchin’ my muscles until finally, I fell asleep on the floor. I didn’t remember nothin’ after that.
The doorbell roused me the next mornin’. I’d spent all night on the floor in a fetal position and drooled on the carpet. My neck was killin’ me too. When I called out to ask who’s there, silence responded.
I pushed myself to a sittin’ position, then climbed to my feet. I stumbled to the front door, the taste of yesterday’s food still in my mouth, and glanced out the window. Empty air.
I opened the door—looked left, then right—and finally I glanced down. When I first saw it, I remember feelin’ confused.
A bag of fresh pomegranates.
I reached to grab the bag, unsure at first what I was holdin’, and a note fell from the inside. I snagged it before the wind could, and opened the folded paper.
Please enjoy some fresh pomegranates from my backyard tree. It always produces more fruit than I can eat. Let me know if you’d like more. I have plenty.
I almost dropped the pomegranates. No one had ever left fruit at my doorstep before, and as I stared at the bag of orbs, I broke down cryin’.
I pulled the fruit inside and closed the door, cradlin’ the pomegranates like new kittens. When I peered out my front window, I saw Helen wearin’ heavy gardening gloves and clearin’ away brush as Baby Ruth trotted behind her. I studied her movements, her facial expressions, her keenness. She was a cross between Annie Oakley and Mary Poppins, filled with grit and mystery, but also compassion.
I started to wonder about Helen’s life, her travels, her story. I didn’t even know her last name.
I’ll ask her soon, I told myself. I’ll ask her soon.
I will publish Part 3 next week! If you don’t already, subscribe to my newsletter, Rogue Writer, and don’t miss what happens next!