Life's Changes Ch. 03byEmeraldKitten©
I'd like to thank anyone who's read my 'series'... this last three non-erotic pieces are the baring of my soul.
When this particular one was originally posted, it got a few negative comments about the way it was written. I tried to do it a different way, but this is how it wanted to come out.
I appreciate the time you've taken to read these submissions.
Have a lovely day. :)
'Run... I need... I've got to get away from here... I need to run... I can't breathe! Run... Get away...'
Danielle's shoulders shook as she tore out of the barn and headed away from the structure. Tears fell unchecked down her cheeks, and anguish shone from her eyes. She ran without a thought to where she was headed; she ran like the hounds of hell were after her.
A strangled sob tore from her throat and she stopped, dropping to her knees.
"Why?" It was no more than a whisper. "Please... why?"
Danielle rocked forward, wrapping her arms around herself. Her eyes clenched tight, tears still slipped through her lids and splashed haphazardly on her thighs. Her chest heaved, each breath wrenching from her.
'I can't do this... it's too hard...Why? Okay, Danielle, get up. Pull yourself together... you've got to be strong... you've got to take care of your mom and grandma... get up! I can't. It's too much, it's too hard. I just can't... You Must, and You Will.'
Drawing a ragged breath, Danielle leaned up, opening her eyes. The sun nearly blinded her, and she squinted, looking out across fields of green. The tears had stopped, but the solid ache in her chest where her heart was almost crushed her. Sitting back onto her bottom, Danielle pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. To any passerby, she looked like a country gal relaxing in the sunshine.
But up close, if you gazed into her eyes, you could have seen her heart breaking. Danielle felt a dark cloud settling around her, drawing her into its depressing grasp, and she wasn't strong enough to stop it. Despair sat on her shoulders, and she wore them both like a cloak. Turning her head to the side, the wind ruffled her hair off her face, and dried her tears.
There was nothing left to do but cry.
"What's to become of that cake tray?" Danielle asked her grandmother.
"This? I don't know." Millie continued washing it.
"Who's is it?" Danielle inquired.
"Mom's. Well, I guess it's mine now."
"I see." Eyeing the plate, memories of a Christmas Eve flooded Danielle's mind.
"The Hickory Nut Cake is in the kitchen. Would you take the lid off, and slice it?"
"Of course. Want a piece?" Danielle asked with a smile.
"Yes, I do believe I'll have a slice. Not too big though."
"Okay. Want a cup of coffee?"
"That sounds good to me." The sweet, weathered face lit up in a smile.
Danielle went to the kitchen to do her great-grandmother's bidding. She removed the tin lid, exposing the cake, and she got the serving utensils out, as well as a stack of plates.
"Here it is everyone, Greatma's infamous Hickory Nut Cake. Get it while the gettins good!" Danielle finished cutting the slice, and placed it on a plate.
Grabbing a cup of coffee, she headed to the living room.
"Here ya go Greatma. A piece of the best cake in the world."
"Thank you, Danielle. Are you having some?"
"Danielle?" Millie asked.
"Oh, what did you say?"
"I asked you if you wanted it."
"Yes. I get it when you die." Danielle gave a half hearted laugh.
"You can have it now. I'll take it for ya." Millie answered softly, with a small smile.
"If you're sure... thanks."
"I am." Millie smiled again.
Suddenly blinking back tears, Danielle turned her face away, but her gaze fell upon Greatma's chair. Another memory shocked her system.
Danielle and her mom had been making hard tack candy, fudge, and other miscellaneous Christmas-y goodies.
"Ya know, last Christmas just wasn't the same without that Hickory Nut Cake. I wish Greatma would've been able to make one." Danielle mused from the kitchen table.
"I know what you mean." A sly smile slid across her mother's face.
"What? I don't like that look." Danielle laughed.
"You could make one. Go get Greatma's special plate. Surprise her."
Danielle jumped up from the table.
"That's great! I'll be back! Wait, what all do I need!?"
After making up a list, Danielle practically ran to her car, and made the drive to Greatma's house in record time. Pulling up the lane, Danielle giggled with glee. Then the smile fell from her face. How was she going to sneak the cake pans, the serving plate, and the lid out without Greatma seeing? From the kitchen, you could see right into the living room, and all you saw was Greatma's chair.
Walking through the door, Danielle knew she'd figure it out.
"Well there's Danielle. How are you?" Greatma was in her chair, just as Danielle suspected.
"I'm good. Me and mom are cooking and baking up a storm. I needed to steal a couple.. Um, cookie sheets from ya." Danielle applauded herself mentally.
"Well, you know where they are. Help yourself."
"I do. Thanks." Danielle took off for the kitchen, glancing frequently into the living room. She got a grocery bag and put a couple cookie sheets in it, then got another bag and put the pans she really needed in it. The hardest part was getting the serving plate. It was in a different spot, and Greatma might wonder what she was doing.
Biting her lip, she quietly opened the cupboard. Glancing into the living room, she looked directly into Greatma's eyes. She jumped back like a kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar.
"I'm hunting some light Kayro syrup for the hard tack candy, in case we need a little more." The lie rolled off Danielle's tongue easily.
"Well, that's where it is." Greatma smiled and turned back to the television.
Danielle let out her breath, and reached again for the serving plate. Got it! Quickly, albeit carefully, she put it in the bag, and went to the back porch, setting it there, so she wouldn't have to walk past Greatma with it.
Another thought hit her. She needed Hickory nuts. Danielle went to look in the freezer. Sure enough, there was an old peanut butter jar full of them.
"That oughta do it. I'm outta here. Mom's going to be having a nervous breakdown. When I left, we had three pans of candy going. Hope they didn't hit hard crack at the same time." Danielle laughed, said good bye, and headed home.
That night she made the cake, and was very happy with it, and proud of the results.
The next day was Christmas Eve. Danielle went out early to curl Greatma's hair and make her pretty. She snuck the cake in, and set it on the dresser in Greatma's bedroom. People arrived left and right, and the party was in full swing. Everyone was having a great time.
Danielle headed to the living room, and dropped into a crouch beside Greatma's chair.
"I have a surprise for you." Danielle said, barely containing a grin.
"Now, I told you guys not to buy me presents." Greatma looked at her through her bifocals.
"I didn't buy it. I stole it." Danielle tried to adopt a serious face, but failed horribly.
"You stole it?" Greatma looked alarmed and confused.
"Well, I made it, after I stole the supplies. I'll be right back."
Danielle headed for the bedroom, retrieved the cake, and as she stepped through the entranceway to the living room, lifted the lid off with a flourish.
"Oh! That's my serving plate! Is that a Hickory Nut Cake? Ahh, that's what you were really doing yesterday, wasn't it! You sneaky thing!" Greatma cackled, and reached for the plate.
Danielle tipped it down so she could see the beautiful cake.
"I know it won't be as good as yours, but it wasn't the same last year without one."
"I bet it'll be better than mine. Why don't you bring me a piece?" And she awarded Danielle with another smile.
"Here's the bag of frozen foods. Is there room in your car?" Aunt Ann asked.
"Yeah, I'm sure there is." Danielle snapped out of her thoughts, then hefted the trash bag, taking it to her car. Upon returning into the house, she said, "My car is full. There are a couple boxes in my truck, and a cat carrier in the backseat. Anything else I'll have to load in Grandma's car."
"Okay. Why don't you help Millie unload the wardrobe." Aunt Ann said.
"Will do." Danielle headed up the stairs and opened the wardrobe, calling for her grandma to come help.
"Throw away or keep?"
"Keep. Most of these are good clothes." Millie responded.
And so the conversation continued. Danielle finally grabbed the full bag and headed to the car, loading it into the trunk. On her way back up the stairs, another memory assaulted her.
"What in the world are you doing?" Danielle shrieked as she stood at the bottom of the steps, staring at her great-grandma.
"I had a box of goodies that needed put away, and Millie hasn't gotten to it yet. So I did it myself." Greatma calmly replied, scooting down another step.
She was on her butt, one hand on the stairs, the other on the railing, scooting down the steps.
"Don't ever do that again! You should have asked me!" Danielle headed up the stairs, ready to help if she needed it.
"I'll remember that." Greatma smiled, and continued her descent.
"I think I'm going to get outta here. I've taken pictures, and we're all loaded."
"Okay. Be careful Danielle. Watch for deer." Millie said, following her granddaughter to the car.
"I will. See ya when ya get home." Danielle started the car, and began backing down the lane. Glancing over, she waved at her grandma. She was standing on the ramp that led to the front door.
Danielle stared blankly for a moment at the wooden ramp. It had been built for Greatma, once she had to be in a wheelchair. Well, she didn't need one all the time, but the ramp even made it easier for her to go with her walker. Steps hadn't agreed with the old woman for years.
Another memory struck, and Danielle started laughing through new tears.
"Come on ya old crows!" Danielle said, trying to usher Millie and Greatma out the door.
"Wait, let me make sure everything is unplugged." Millie went upstairs to check.
"All right. Come on Greatma. Do you want to walk, or ride down in the wheelchair?"
"I can walk. We'll take the wheelchair with us though." Greatma stood, wobbled, and started on her way to the door.
Danielle followed close behind, ready to catch her if she fell. It had been raining all morning, and the ramp was slick. Once they were outside, Danielle wrapped her arm around her great-grandmother and helped her to the car. Danielle got her settled in, shut the door, and strode back up the ramp, mindful of the rain.
Grabbing the wheelchair, she hollered for Millie to hurry it up, and went back out to the car and loaded the wheelchair into the trunk. Millie still hadn't appeared, and they were about to run late.
Danielle heaved a sigh of frustration, stomped back up the ramp, flung open the door to the screened in porch, and stopped when she saw Mille was standing at the main door, locking up.
"Come on lady! We're going to be late!"
"I'm coming!" Mille finished locking the door, and threw her keys in her purse.
Danielle spun on her heel and pushed through the screen door, starting down the ramp.
Danielle opened her eyes, and stared into the branches of the pine tree. Flat on her back, she laid there, trying to catch the breath that was knocked from her. Disoriented, she tried to sit up, but her tail bone screamed in protest. Looking to the side, she saw Greatma. She was sitting in the car, calmly and patiently, but she was leaned up in her seat, looking out the window. She'd seen Danielle fall.
"Oh my god! Are you okay?" Millie stepped out and hurried to Danielle's side.
"I am fine!" Danielle started to stand again, was almost there, but her foot slipped, and she landed on her butt.
"Oh, babe, are you... hehehee... are you..." Millie bust out laughing.
Danielle turned to glare at her, then looked to Greatma. She was still in the car, her shoulders shaking with mirth.
Danielle collapsed into a fit of giggles.
"Well that about does it I think." Danielle talked to herself as she made a last trip around the house.
She wouldn't be back out until the auction, and after that, she'd never return. Nostalgia swept over her and she felt tears sting her eyes. The house was silent, except for the air conditioner fighting the heat. The walls were bare, most of the furniture gone. She stepped into Greatma's bedroom, and leaned her shoulders against the doorjamb.
The whir of the sewing machine comforted Danielle. She was laying on Greatma's bed, watching her sew. She was twelve, and her mom was at the hospital. Millie had suffered several seizures, and was in a coma. Danielle's mother stayed at the hospital for hours each day, coming home long enough to shower and change. That left Danielle to spend time with Greatma.
Danielle tried to read but couldn't. She tried to color, but couldn't. Tried to watch T.V., but couldn't. She wasn't in the mood.
Suddenly, Greatma looked up and asked if she was hungry.
Danielle only nodded.
"There's some pretzels over there, and a jar of peanut butter." Greatma smiled slightly, and went back to her sewing.
Danielle retrieved the pretzel rods, and dipped them in the peanut butter, sitting quietly on the bed, munching away.
"Are you scared?" Greatma asked.
"Yes." Danielle's reply came out a whisper.
"It'll be okay."
And Danielle believed it with her whole heart.
Danielle pushed off the doorframe and smiled, flipping off the light. As she walked through the house, she ran her hands lovingly over the hutch, the dining room table, then crouched down, looking underneath it. Yep, the crayon marks were still there. She smiled at that long ago afternoon of boredom that led her to draw on the underside of the table.
She stood back up and continued through the house, resting her hands on the walls, as if she was drawing strength from the old structure. Her breathing quickened, and she felt the tears press demandingly on her eyelids. Danielle fought it off as best she could. Suddenly, the dam broke, and she collapsed onto the staircase.
Heart wrenching sobs tore through her chest, and she cried. Each tear released anger, fear, loneliness, frustration, sadness, and even happiness. She cried for the loss; she cried for the end of an era.
Danielle's shoulders shook, her chest heaved, and she gasped for breath. The mournful sounds echoed off the empty walls, and only added to the desolation.
"Okay.. Okay.. Calm down.. Okay...god...." Danielle pleaded with herself, with God, with whoever was listening.
It was just too much. The pain was so extreme, she couldn't move. She leaned back against the wall, crying out her anguish.
Finally, very slowly, the tears stopped. She hiccupped, and found the strength to wipe her face. Danielle sat starting straight ahead, still unable to move. A picture of her great-grandmother's face flashed behind her eyes, and Danielle's lip turned up into a small smile.
One last, final tear made its way down her cheek, over her chin, and down her neck. It caught on her shirt above her heart, and Danielle's smile widened.
"The auction starts in about 15 minutes." Aunt Ann said, and everyone shuddered.
Danielle was going through the house, looking in drawers and cupboards, making sure nothing got missed. Under the sink, there was the old orange juicer. She smiled and picked it up. The glass was chipped around the rim, and automatically her mind's eye played the old movie.
"Would you like some orange juice?"
"Yes, please." Danielle looked up from her book.
As was habit, Greatma got up at 7:30, had breakfast, then went back to bed until about eleven. It was breakfast time, and Danielle had just had a cup of coffee. She had decided to read, since sleep alluded her.
Danielle watched the old, seasoned hands twist the orange halve on the juicer, and deftly pour the juice into a glass. Again, she repeated the process until there was a cup full.
Danielle smiled and took the cup, taking a sip.
"Nothing better than homemade orange juice." She grinned.
"You remember that." Greatma smiled, and went about making her own glass.
"I'm taking this. Is that okay?" Danielle asked Aunt Ann.
Ann smiled, and said, "Of course it is."
The auction got rolling, and with each minute that passed, with each item that was offered, Danielle got more and more anxious. She finally felt her eyes rolling around in her head, and she looked to escape.
Heading outside, she gulped the fresh air, trying to stave off the panic attack that was threatening. Swallowing against bile that crept into her throat, Danielle went to the barn. The things that had always been there, weren't the same. They were on the auction list....
'Run... I need... I've got to get away from here... I need to run... I can't breathe! Run... Get away...'
Danielle's shoulders shook as she tore out of the barn and headed away from the structure. Tears fell unchecked down her smooth cheeks, and anguish shone from her eyes. She ran without a thought to where she was headed; she ran like the hounds of hell were after her.
'I can't do this... it's too hard...Why? Okay, Danielle, pull yourself together... you've got to be strong... you've got to take care of your mom and grandma... get up! I can't. It's too much, it's too hard. I just can't... You Must, and You Will.'
Danielle willed the pain to stay down. She squared her shoulders, lifted her chin, and gave a proud toss of her head.
Outwardly, she looked strong and sure. Inside, each step that took her closer to the house broke another sliver of her heart away.
Her walk was disturbed only when her feet absolutely refused to move, and she covered her halting stride by turning and looking at a tree or a flower. When she was in control again, she'd continue on her way.
This was it. The last walk. With a imperceptible shake of her head, she decided.
She was ready.
Danielle eyed the auction-goers warily. They were vultures. They got boxes full of goodies for mere dollars. Several times, she wanted to jump up and scream 'NO!" at every person there. She wanted to stomp her foot and tear the headset/microphone from the auctioneers head. But, even as she thought it, she knew it was impossible.
Item after item was shown and described, and the flock of vultures moved to each new section. Danielle couldn't watch it any longer. She found a spot that wasn't crowded with people, and settled down. They finished going through the things outside, and moved to the house for some other items that had been too burdensome to move.
All of that out of the way, they took an 'intermission' of sorts, before they auctioned the house and the adjoining farmland.
Danielle still sat in the same spot, chain smoking and drinking her Diet Coke. The auctioneers stand was set up not far from where she was, and she watched the men talking. Inwardly she cursed them. How could they do this to her?
Deep down she knew it wasn't their fault. But it felt wonderful to blame someone.
Suddenly, it was as if they'd blown a horn, or made an obnoxious announcement. The vultures gathered around for another feeding frenzy. Panic clutched Danielle's heart, and the adrenaline surged through her veins.
Her family closed around her, some sitting with her, others standing uncomfortably.
The auctioneer rambled on about the two tracks it was being sold in. All the information she already knew, yet refused to understand flowed in one ear and out the other. Danielle's mother clutched her hand and squeezed; her grandma subconsciously rubbed her shoulder.