Here’s a short story I did for an Independent Study class. It’s about a young girl’s disillusionment with her father. For this one, I really tried to write in a hugely different style than I usually do. You guys might know that I tend to write with a very cynical, pulpy tone. This is far from that. The end of this story is a little rushed, but I was starting the book when I started this, and eventually wanted to get the hell done with it. Enjoy! Remember to comment!
The moon, out passed the mist above the city, passed the bell tower, whose deep clang subsided into a quiet rumble, past the Bargello and its jutting endless battlements, from whence no one who ever entered ever left. The moon, out past the endless red tile roofs and dirty awnings, which still appeared clean when sun hit them in the afternoon. The moon through the open window and over her bare shoulder, pale. The floor, the big velvet chair, and the bronze of a naked man holding an apple by the door, all illuminated in a dim blue hue, as if waiting, waiting. When the wind would blow, it would send the thin decorative curtains sprawling into the room before settling comfortably, slowly, hugging the frame of the window gently, tickling her playfully. She never turned to look into the room. Why would she? Why, when what lay in the room was so incomparable to what lay out… there, in the world.
The city was usually silent, and although she may have heard a scream from the Bargello, she couldn’t be sure it wasn’t simply a minstrel singing. Otherwise, on those nights, when the lights went in the windows flickered and slept, there was nothing.
Flora was fifteen years old on most of those nights. Maybe last week she was a child, or an old woman. It didn’t matter to her because the silence was all the same, no matter which way she sat, or lay, or crouched.
Her father had told her not to stay by the open window.
He had locked the door, hoping she might find another nighttime hobby. Preferably sleep, although he wasn’t picky. She could do anything she wanted in the house, as long as she avoided promiscuity or, heaven forbid, think about what lay outside the walls of her father’s small castle. After she brushed too quickly past a porcelain vase one night on her way to bed, one of her father’s men walked, his face shrink-wrapped in sleep, to see what it was that had fallen. Flora had been wearing nothing. Her father had barged in, waddling and chaffing through his own thighs, tight red pants, lined with gold stripes. His belt did everything it could to stay up. When he would take it off at night, or when he had a woman in his room, Flora could hear the strip of leather through the door breath a sigh of relief.
But there he stood, with his inebriated, bleary-eyed companion, who was two hours away from a hangover, looking down at her childish body, as she bent to pick up the shards of the vase. He pushed his friend from the room and told her never to be seen in such a manner in his house again. One night when he wasn’t watching, she would go into the room naked and let the wind run over her body like water.
Those were days before her father began to worry. She didn’t know what to think at first. His behavior was brutish, uncharacteristic of a man like himself, but she didn’t know if she knew her father well enough to ask. It was not her place, and certainly should not have been her concern. There was a term that would never cease to confuse her. Her “place”…
One night she awoke, under her sheets, peering through the thinness threads at the outline of the tall bed post with the ball at the top and the curtain draping around her forming a cocoon. At first she wondered if the music from the bell tower had awoken her, but she heard her father’s voice by the door, whispering, “It’s going to be alright,” or something to that effect. It came as a shock to her that anyone would actually say something so generic, but after a moment the purity of his words hit her. He had fallen far.
She couldn’t close her eyes until he had left, but she continued to face away from him, so he couldn’t see the tears welling in her eyes. Even after his heavy steps, like shoes filled with water, had shuffled down the hall across the wooden floor, she couldn’t sleep. The sun fought its way around the world and back to her. A ray of light hit her drooping eyes and suddenly she knew she could spring out of bed and do as she pleased. It was morning. She fell unconscious, and was dead to the world for some time.
* * *
Lambent light danced across her face and licked her nose. A candle by the foot of her bed teased at the hanging fabric surrounding her, but did not touch. The room was dark, although beams of angry white light fought at the curtains by her window, climbing around and squeezing under by the floor. She sat, gazing bleary-eyed at the candle, entranced. There seemed to be a lacuna somewhere within her that she could not place, or name, or describe. It was all together rather irritating, and she might have tried to ignore were it not for the enchanting small blue flame by the wick of the candle that twitched and shuttered whenever she moved, or when there was a breeze. It was distracting.
Voices from down the hall interrupted her, hushed, as a whisper might slip between lips. For her, these sounds were those of someone screaming from a distance incredibly grand. Perhaps this was because she was sensitive to what she was not meant to hear, or because she could understand the desperation in her father’s voice. He spoke quickly and stuttered often, barking occasionally while someone offered consent or apology. She heard his signature waddle, his perambulation across the echoing floor, echoing indefinitely, ringing just slightly in her ears. Normally he was a quiet man, but his actions the previous night, and his rapid change to this forceful brute countervailed Flora’s opinion of him. She feared that he might be losing his mind.
She reached for the floor with her foot and tipped off the edge, landing with all the grace of a frog. She stepped to the window. The curtain was opened and light flooded the room as the metal rings supporting the curtain slid across the ornate wooden bar above the window. She turned. Wooden bed, wooden wardrobe, wooden chairs. If everything were removed, she would still have the wooden floor and her wooden door. If they took both of those things, then she might actually be rid of the mess of a legacy her father had created.
This was the reason for the conversation at the other end of the house. She knew this. She knew this because it was the only thing her father spoke of anymore, although never with her. She had become a ghost to him, only appearing briefly for meals, and passing the closed door of his office in between brief stints as a podiatrist in a back room of the house that held a black bag with some drugs in it. She never opened the bag, but holding it made her feel important, a feeling her father had never given her. She told her wooden doll that it had very stiff feet, and should try stretching. She hoped her father would not find her playing with the doll. He believed that she had outgrown it years ago.
She hovered by the closed door. Her father was too distrait to work. He sank into a chair, the legs creaking under his weight, but then he stood again and paced. Another man in the room grunted. Someone else agreed. Footsteps towards the door. This had happened before. There she would be, sometimes grinning sheepishly, sometimes stoic. She had learned to slip behind the door as it opened, but she didn’t often succeed, and the punishment was always severe. A hand on the knob.
Creaking, it opened in front of her as she slid lightly to the side. A tall man in a sweeping Grey robe stepped out, his crooked nose bending to the left. He saw her. For sure, he had seen her as he walked out, but he closed the door immediately behind him, walking away towards the entrance. There was no small smile on her face, no feeling of relief, and she couldn’t tell why. He had let her go, and she didn’t even know him. The speaking continued in rushed voices from behind the door. There was something dire about the anxiety in her father’s tone. It seemed like she had stood there for near an hour when her father finally made it clear what he was up to. Michele di Lando was a wool carder gone government official. These things meant little to her, but when he spoke of death; she understood that he meant to have that man killed.
It took her some time to realize how far her father had fallen. She watched the door, expecting movement, hesitated, and then darted away.
In the hall by one of her father’s bronze statues, on the windowsill of a large window deeply embedded in a wall dressed entirely in dark wood, she sat, or crouched on the balls of her feet, tearing as she thought of her father’s willingness to conspire to murder. There wasn’t much she could do, and certainly nothing she could say. She rocked slightly; almost hoping her father’s men would kill her instead so that he might learn a lesson. Naturally that was too much to hope for.
Flora’s insignificant salty drops of anger were wasted on the floor, which didn’t seem to care one way or another. She was almost asleep when the tears stopped. Noon came, and she rubbed her eyes, trying to see the light from the window clearly. There had to be somewhere void of, well, her father. He always filled his own shoes and everyone else’s, always wanted to be in control. Unfortunately, he thought that control was just ordering others around. If there was someone he couldn’t touch, it was going to be Flora. She pushed open the window, almost screaming with the effort of lifting the wood and glass from its three-year lock brought on by lack of use. Finally the dust and grime cracked apart and the window lifted smoothly. A gust of wind. There was a roof just out the window, covered in red shingles, like nothing else, and yet like every other roof she had ever known, this was her home. She crawled out, looked at the flowerpots hanging from the balcony just below her. No one ever stood out on these balconies unless someone was yelling for help in the streets below. Then all they would do is shout encouragement. A girl is raped in the middle of the night, and seemingly good people threaten the attacker, but no one does anything.
Still, somehow, it hit farther from home than hearing her father say that he wanted someone dead. She hopped down onto the balcony and climbed down the thick tiles on the side of the building. Twenty feet, maybe less. Her feet cup the cobbles stones and a shiver goes through her body, an incredibly long barefooted walk before her.
No one said anything to her as she began. Amongst the crowd she was just another dirty-footed child. She turned after about a quarter kilometer to look at the window she had clambered from. No one yet. The street in front of her was littered with the members of the human race, and the farther she walked, the more she felt at home.