AN: This story, I believe, was originally written for the June 2004 Challenge on SD-6 (a now dismantled board). The prompt: "The last time mommy caught me drawing on the walls, she…"
Sydney may have mastered her letters, and she may have been able to read "See Spot Run," but her drawings still lacked a little in panache.
Or so Laura thought, contemplating the formerly pristine wall in front of her and the forlorn magic marker at her feet. The particular shade was inconsequential in the scheme of things- a brilliant red, much like the color of fresh blood- but, much like an amateur psychologist, she thought she spotted meaning nonetheless. Mayhem waited there, and pain, and fate.
There was a heavy sigh behind her. "Our daughter is brilliant," Jack stated rather glumly, almost as a reminder, and his right hand dropped on her shoulder.
"And yet," Laura replied lightly, "she cannot grasp the fact that markers and walls were a match never meant to be." She turned, quirked an eyebrow. "Can you tell what it is?"
"A cow?" He shrugged. "A red cow-horse-thing."
She turned back, eyeing the uncertain creature. "Or something along those lines."
"Maybe a cat."
"Or some kind of wild-flower." She gave a shrug that almost matched his, nuance by nuance. "Will you pick up some paint, later?"
He gestured towards the garage door, a wry grin appearing. "We still have some left… from last time."
"The purple dog," Laura replied, remembering it well.
"I still maintain it was a house. And it was definitely fuchsia, as opposed to mere purple."
Her look was doubtful. She pulled away from his grasp. "You'll be late."
He was used to her caustic moods, and his response to her possibly offensive tone and actions was a smile and a quick, hard kiss. He pulled away, noting the newly acquired sparkle that had stolen into her eyes with satisfaction.
"I'll be home a bit late, tonight," he said casually as he collected his coat. "Do you need anything from the store?"
She leaned back against the doorframe, her face rather grave for a Friday morning. "No. Hurry home, and I'll meet you at the door."
Another kiss, gentler this time, and he walked out the door. He missed the way she stared at his retreating form, memorizing every line. This time he walked away from her, she noted, albeit unknowingly. In future years, perhaps she would walk away from him.
It was an almost impossible thought, but she was a sensible woman, and she knew how the game was played, even if she didn't like the rules.
Muffled footsteps in the hallway announced the sheepish entrance of her daughter, who, despite knowing house rules as well as she did, often didn't deign to follow them. She caught Sydney's eyes, and looked slowly toward the wall.
The ashamed look on her child's face was enough, for the moment. Laura thought wryly that her actions later in the day would probably keep the girl from picking up a marker for the rest of her life.The last time mommy caught me drawing on the walls, she…
Sydney would learn, in time, and probably sooner than Laura would have liked.
"Pancakes?" Laura offered, subtly kicking the marker away from the wall and under the fridge. Sydney nodded, watching her mother carefully.
After all, the last time she had drawn on a wall she had been sent to her room for several hours.
She perched on the chair somewhat warily, but the idea of pancakes was a rather overwhelming force. Her mother only made pancakes when she was happy, or at least that was the association Sydney had made.
Laura, almost at odds with herself, purposefully chained herself to mundane, ordinary tasks- cooking, cleaning, watching Sydney (who seemed particularly destructive that day, and broke three glasses in near succession). There were things she needed to do in those hours, much more important things, but in her mind was the foolish hope that if she never did them, then the time would never come.
Walking out the door was inevitable. Whether she did it with or without Sydney beside her was a question, and whether she did it without leaving a clue behind was another.
Hours later she carried the half-empty paint can into the kitchen, standing motionlessly in front of the drawing for a stretch of almost ten minutes. Near the table a small dustpan waited, the shards of the Sydney's last drinking glass glittering under the light.
She glanced at the clock. It was nearly four, which was much too late in her opinion. Outside, stray drops of rain fell halfheartedly, and a lazy wind snaked through the trees. The sky was an appropriate shade of sickly, mottled white, and as she pulled her hair back in a rubber band a strand of gray twined in her fingers.
Mechanically she dipped the brush into the can, smoothing the paint across the walls. The color from the marker would be hard to cover; it would take at least three coats, probably more. Something for Jack to do later, she supposed. He would either through himself into a frenzy of work, or he would retreat in his study.
Neither of which would benefit Sydney. Should she leave her child with a grieving father, or subject her to a mother who would be of necessity different from the one she had grown up with?
Logically, she knew the answer. Emotionally, she entertained threadbare possibilities.
Sydney paused inside the door of the kitchen. "Momma?"
"Yes, Sydney?" she asked, covering another small section of the wall.
"Can I watch TV?"
Laura shook her head. "Go take a nap," she replied firmly.
Sydney hesitated, knowing instinctively that she had gotten off easy that morning, and it was a good idea not to further bother her mother. She tiptoed away and up the stairs, and when she curled up on her bed, it was not long before she fell asleep.
Laura backed away from the wall some minutes later, dissatisfied. She hated to leave a job unfinished, and she suspected that another coat of paint would not go amiss on the wall.
It was a quarter past five, she noted as she grabbed her keys, and paused when she found herself drifting towards the staircase.
It wouldn't do to wake Sydney up, she knew. She should sleep, safely unaware. Laura had missed the chance to hug her daughter one last time, to look at her before leaving. The idea was almost a physical blow, and it took a moment for her heart to get back on track again.
But she straightened her shoulders and walked towards the door, her visage emotionless. The rain dotted her hair and clothing in a miserable staccato beat.
She walked away from her daughter, today. She thought, perhaps one day she'll walk away from me.
Traffic was light, and the rain sprinkled across her windshield was hardly an impediment to her driving. It could be seen as one, she knew, and the section of the local bridge that she had chosen was notorious for accidents, even in fine weather. It wouldn't be a surprising incident in itself, she knew. The surprise was always the person involved, and how much alcohol was present in their blood later.
The authorities and gossips would only have one of the two. They would have to make do with her presumed identity.
As she neared the bridge she turned off the radio, abruptly cutting off the newscast in progress. Had she been paying attention to it, she might have heard the announcement that would have saved her time and spontaneous creativity.
The bridge was closed.
She slowed to a stop behind a screen of trees, aghast. The team was waiting for her. If she didn't appear at the chosen hour, then what would they do?
She knew: they would report her lack of consideration, and she would be punished, along with her family, if her superiors proved to be in a particularly nasty mood that day.
Surely, she thought, it couldn't be this hard to fake her own death. She surveyed the bridge carefully; though there were workers near by, they were absent at the moment. On break, she supposed, probably trying to dodge the rainstorm.
She barely took the time to consider her actions, and seconds later she swung out from behind the trees. From their angle, she would merely be an ignorant speeder who lost control on the bridge.
The wrench on the wheel was instinctual, as was her flinch and stifled gasp as the car crashed through guard, shattering the headlights. There was a moment of pure silence, followed by a reverberating crash that echoed through her bones.
She was careful to count as the car sank and hit the bottom, filling up with water. If she was off either way, she could drown unnecessarily, never reaching the extraction team. It was curiously second nature to her, although foremost on her mind was the home she had left behind (and foolishly so, she now thought, even as her lips wrapped around the air valve to the tire). It took all of her willpower to not gag on the fetid air that met her lungs, tasting almost rancid on her tongue.
It wasn't for long, she reminded herself, and checked the waterproof watch that encircled her wrist. She would survive this, and everything that would come. She had no lack of air, no matter the quality- she did, after all, have four tires at her disposal.
Ten minutes passed, then another five. It was dangerous to stay in this spot; divers would come soon enough. She took a last breath and struck out for the opposite shore, where she knew brush ran wild- the perfect cover for the errant spy.
A half a mile away, leaving an impressive search team behind her, she ran across a dark van she knew well, and a man she knew even better. He dropped his cigarette and scuffed it out in the sand, a hat shading his face against the rain. He ignored her sopping wet clothes and tangled hair, and simply caught her glance.
"Not so easy, hmmm?"
She shot him a scathing glance, and ignored the outstretched hand of another of her compatriots.
"I would expect you to know better," she spat, struggling against the hands of the men who drifted out of the shadows around her. "Is this any way you treat a loyal soldier?" she asked indignantly as her watch was pulled off of her wrist, and her earrings roughly jerked from her ears. She hissed quietly as she felt the unmistakable slip of her wedding and engagement rings from her left hand, and palmed professionally by one of the men behind her.
He looked back up at her, a faint tinge of sympathy in his eyes. "My orders, Irina."
She stared at him, uncomprehending. "I've done nothing."
He opened the set of doors on the back of the truck, shrugging. "I cannot help you there."
He caught her arm as they tried to foist her into the truck, struggling to pin her hands. She paused, watching him warily.
"Do you have any last advice, William?" she asked acerbically, his green eyes meeting her brown.
He released her arm, and waited until they had successfully tied her arms behind her back before replying.
"Forget the dead you've left," he said, face drawn and gray. "They will not follow you."
The doors slammed shut, leaving her with a naked hand and an eerie chill running down her spine.
Someone has walked over my grave, she mused, and thought of the dead.