They were coming closer. She could sense it—something she’d been able to do since she was a child. It was a gift. One she cherished and that had served her well over the years. No one was exactly sure where it came from. But she knew. It was from the days when she was one of them herself.
Lately, though, she was becoming weaker. They would arrive and catch her off-guard. Once, last month, she was taken by complete surprise. It was as if they had popped, fully formed, from the earth.
That day, she discovered she was unable to fight them without prior knowledge of their arrival. That day, she lost a battle.
Maybe it was the person she pretended to be during her soul-sucking job. Maybe it was the stress of people constantly looking to her for answers. Maybe it was simply the pressure of trying to force herself to retain the gift. Whatever the cause, she was losing hold of it.
She shushed the creatures clinging to her and peeked out the slit of sheer curtain draped over the dining room window. Yes. There they were. Marching across her lawn.
In all shapes and sizes, but with uniforms that marked them as the enemy, they approached. She would be ready. She would not lose this battle.
Letting the fabric fall over the window, she backed away, shutting lights off as she went. The knock would not startle her. Not this time. And this time, she would not answer the call of the Brownie Troop. She would buy no cookies today.
She had stopped trying after placing the poisoned salad at Tom’s place for Christmas dinner last year. Though she had diced the onions to minuscule bits and tucked them beneath the romaine, he could smell their strong odor.
“Stupid bitch. Watch what you’re doing!”
She recalled the looks. Pity. Blame.
She shook off the memory.
“Al’s Pizza is right next door,” the cashier said eyeing her basket.
“It’s a special occasion,” she placed the yeast, flour, tomatoes, cheese, and onion powder on the counter.
She spent seven years looking for an anchor. That’s what everyone said she needed. A partner who could ground her, keep her rational, responsible, sensible. Keep her from herself.
She found him and attached herself to his sanity. His kindness soothed, his composure balanced. He tethered her to this world like a kite string. Often, she thought of him when she gardened, digging her hands into the soil, marveling at thin strands stretching, reaching down to set themselves. She daydreamed about roots reaching up. Why not? Into possibility? Into open sky where they might breathe? No, the fragile flowers grabbed earth and wrapped around and held so tightly that it took great force to rip them out. Like the plants, she lived because she was smothered.
Yes, he tethered her—and that is the only way she existed at all.
She could have been as happy as her mind was capable of letting her be. That is when temptation decided to push its way into her pretty life. It shone not like the soft streaks of sunlight through tree branches, but like a flashlight—its beam bright and unforgiving. It exposed her, the delicate ribbon tying her to him morphed into a thick chain. A leash.
She wouldn’t be a dog, even a beloved one. She was a bird and needed to fly. Wiping her palms on her jeans, she picked up dirt-caked shears, cut the cord, and walked away. Away from the home, the computer, the garden, and him. Away from the dust of the place where she had established respectable roots to a place where her thirst for what she wasn’t supposed to want could be satiated. Because what she needed wasn’t an anchor, but an oasis.