A Ragged Bunch and A Motley Crew, Chapter Five
by Echo Lewis, illustrated by Elaine Blier
A serialized story for the summer of 2003
"Laura, honey, wake up." A soft, gentle voice reached Laura, calling her up out of sleep. Where was she?
She sat up, looked around and realized that she was in her own room, in her own bed; and it was morning. But she was fully dressed.
Then she remembered. She had crawled into bed late, too tired, to stay awake any longer.
Usually she stayed awake, waiting to see if her father would come home and if he was angry. She would scrunch up in the farthest corner of the bed and lean back against the wall.
If her father was extremely unsteady on his feet, he would often fall against her door, kick it, then make his way to his and her mother's room at the end of the hall.
Laura always feared that her door would fly open one of these times when he fell against it and he would stumble inside, more angry with her than ever.
But what had happened last night? Why hadn't she heard anything? Had she slept through the noise? Had her parents both been so mad at her that they had not come home, but had gone away?
Why was it Mrs. Peters who had awakened her and not her mother?
Laura, the questions tumbling over themselves in her mind, looked up at her baby sitter, waiting for her to say something.
Mrs. Peters sat down on the bed beside Laura, put her arm around her and told her as steadily as she could about the car accident and the death of her parents.
For Laura, the week after her parents' death remained a strange contrast of blurred images and sharp, clear pictures.
The funeral was fuzzy in her mind, except for the loud, wailing cries of sorrow from some woman who was a distant relative of her mother's.
Laura didn't even know her. She was angry at the woman's display of emotion.
"'Why does she have to be so maudlin?"
Scornful of the woman's lack of self-control, she was, at the same time, guiltily proud of herself for using a new word she had just learned in school.
Pride and stubbornness also kept her own face set and her shoulders squared, So what, she told herself, that she had driven her mother away now, too, as well as her father? She didn't need them, anyway. She wouldn't cry.
It took all her energy to push away the thought that it must be her fault that her parents were dead and that this time they would never come back.
In a fog of tiredness, she did everything that Mrs. Peters told her to do. She ate what and when the kind woman told her to, slept and got up when she told her to and spoke politely with the people to whom she introduced her.
Besides the wailing woman, there was only one other person Laura remembered. That was Uncle Don. He was a stranger too, but his face stood out clearly from the blur of all the other faces. His eyes were so kind, his manner so gentle, that it momentarily drew Laura out of her fatigue and numbness.
She felt a strong urge to throw herself into his arms and sob out all the pain and fear of her broken heart.
But in a panic, realizing, that he had somehow broken through her defenses, Laura looked away from him. She frantically pushed the door of her heart tightly shut again and closed her mind to any thought of help. It was important to stay strong and protected inside herself.
And when she looked at Uncle Don again, Laura saw only another face blurred in with all the others. She was safe.
But, that short encounter left a longing, an aching, that she hadn't known before. Even with all her determined stubbornness of will, Laura couldn't push it away.
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