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Old 02-04-2004, 06:36 PM   #1 (permalink)
Psycho
 
Location: Room Nineteen
short story for creative writing class

The sky was so thick with clouds it almost appeared to be foggy that morning, but it wasn’t. Angelica felt like she couldn’t see more than four feet ahead of her, even inside the dull apartment. Too bad for the people who drove from out of town in hopes of torturing their skin into darkness—darker than their hair and neon yellow bathing suits. They probably won’t even use sunscreen. Just because they can’t see the sun doesn’t mean its UV rays aren’t getting to them, she thought. The symptoms of melanoma were pushed from her mind with the opening of a door and the sound of her mother’s heavy bare feet on the light brown shag carpet of the living room behind her.

“You hungry? Want me to make you a breakfast sandwich for the road?” Magdalena stepped onto the cold brown linoleum of the kitchen floor; one hand was holding her side, which was trying to escape from her tight black jeans and leather belt, while the other arm was straight, resting over it uneasily (the push-up bra didn’t help the matter). Lately she did not know how to act around her daughter, but this morning she felt a stronger need to be affectionate and to receive affection in return. No matter the importance of her grudge (and pride), that need of love was hard to resist.

Without looking away from the window over the sink, fingering the I Love Lucy magnet on the white refrigerator, Angelica quietly said, “No thanks. I can get something later.” The reflection of her mother looked down at her own perfectly painted red toenails. Magdalena looked strangely pure and god-like; her bleached blonde hair fell in disheveled waves about her acne-scarred face that was caked with the usual foundation one shade too light. Angelica’s own face was plain. Her dark features shown boldly against the gray sky outside. She had no marks from harmful dermatological conditions during puberty. Only that one, indented line loomed beneath her left eye like a shallow cave in the sandy rock walls down at the beach. It had been with her from the first time she could remember looking at her reflection. Her mother always told her it was her damned father’s fault. He should have been watching her more carefully. Angelica wondered if her skin had anticipated him leaving. Maybe he took a small part of her with him.

Looking at her daughter’s hunched figure hidden beneath a black hooded sweatshirt, Magdalena gave in to her overwhelming emotions. “Sorry about our argument. I know you have to leave. But can’t you just stay here until school starts?”

Angelica turned around. “You wouldn’t understand.” The last thing she wanted to do was hurt her mom, so she withheld the truth from her.

“You have two more months for Christ’s sake.” Angelica set her jaw, her hazel eyes blazing, so her mom softened her tone: “Just stay here please. It will be our last few weeks together before you go off to college. We can rent movies when I’m not at the restaurant and go shopping on the weekends. We’ll do makeovers just like old times.”

“It’s not old times Mom. Besides, you never have much time for me when Jeremy’s around anyway,” she mumbled pointing towards her mother’s closed bedroom door. “I have to finish packing.”

“That’s not fair,” Magdalena whined and followed her daughter into her room. “I try to spend time with you when he’s not around, but you’re always busy.”

Angelica zipped up the efficiently packed black suitcase she had just bought two days ago with some extra money she had earned that weekend in the office. “I have work!” Angelica was feeling crowded. “Cal Tech is offering me some money but not enough to cover everything. I have responsibilities,” she said rather resentfully, accenting the last word by standing up and setting the suitcase down with a thud on the carpet.

Magdalena sat down on the bare, stained tan and white mattress, hands over her eyes, and made the crying sounds so familiar to her daughter. Angelica’s grip on the suitcase handle loosened, as did her grip on her emotions. Magdalena heard her daughter’s black high-healed PayLess shoes clunk towards her and felt her reassuring hand around her shoulder.

“I’m sorry Mom.” Angelica spoke in her practiced, soothing tone. Rubbing Magdalena’s bare shoulder, Angelica moved her head closer to her mother’s in an effort to comfort her but instead got an uncomfortable glance down her tight red exercise top. Images of Jeremy and her mother embracing and thoughts of Jeremy desiring her mother made Angelica’s stomach tight with hatred and repulsion. Giving her mom’s shoulder a quick squeeze the daughter stood up and walked to her small open window in an effort to occupy her mind with something else. The white paint was peeling away from the wood; it had been exposed to moisture for years. Only the few lines of paint that had escaped the wood outline stuck fast to the glass. She took in a deep breath of fresh air and began to fiddle with the telescope she had since elementary school.

Magdalena wiped under her eyes, careful not to get a red acrylic fingernail in one, and watched her daughter. “I had to save my tips for a long time to get you that thing.” She sniffled. She remembered how round and bright Angelica’s face had looked. All the excitement built up to nothing. Not many stars can be seen from the city where the electric lights cast a thick net over the navy-black sky. Angelica had remained excited in spite of the sparsely decorated sky. She had been able to look closely at the moon, as if it was under a microscope, and a few stars (a couple ended up being planets). She didn’t need the weak telescope anymore—Cal Tech would supply a powerful replacement.

“I know.” Angelica observed the clouds parting to let a portion of sunlight through.

Pushing up from the bed with a sigh and a grunt, Magdalena said, “I don’t know how you turned out to be so scientific and technical about everything. You know I was in the art department when I was in school. Fashion design. I guess your father was more of a businessman than me. Strange, I don’t know how you would have got it from him.” Angelica had heard the story before. Her mom used it to guilt her into getting a job among other things. When she had found out she was pregnant, her mom chose to drop out of school with only two semesters to go. Everything would have been easier if her mom had just finished that one year. Then Angelica would be free. Even though she had never met her father she felt sympathy for him sometimes. It took her a long time to realize that he wasn’t the monster her mom portrayed him to be. She knew he must have been the recipient of her blame when he left town. They both had gone through the same thing with Magdalena; at least they had one thing in common. Angelica had only recently begun to think this way—her soon-to-be independence had opened her mind.

Turning to her mother, Angelica gave her a long, tight hug. Her thick brown bun got in the way, pushing against her mom’s cheekbone. “Don’t worry Mom. I’ll visit you at least once a month,” she comforted her once again. Jeremy would keep her company anyway. Magdalena held her tight, her own tears of fright falling freely once again. She could taste the salt water.

Stepping back, the daughter lifted her purple backpack with spots of discoloration on the bottom to her shoulders. Her head hanging even more than usual under the weight, she stooped to pick up the suitcase. Kissing her mom on the cheek she said, “I’ll call you when I get there.”

“Alright. I love you.” Magdalena’s voice had a sound of expectancy in it.

“ I love you too,” Angelica said reassuringly as she walked through her doorway and through the living room. She leaned her left shoulder on the wall going down the stairs following the trail of dirt, sand, and oil from many years of sticky bodies leaning against the same path of beige paint. The suitcase hit the bottom two steps as Angelica struggled to get it to her peeling blue1989 Honda. She threw her backpack carelessly into the backseat and fit the suitcase behind the passenger seat. As she was closing the door her mom came down the stairs. “Here,” she said handing her a bag of potato chips. “For the road.”

“Thanks mom.” She gave her one last hug then awkwardly stepped into the car, backed out of the garage, and turned right onto the street from the apartment’s driveway. At the stop sign she pulled a worn piece of paper from her front jeans’ pocket and read her father’s name and his address. He wouldn’t be too far from her new apartment.

Maybe he’d take care of her now. With a sigh she put the paper on the passenger seat, unconsciously fingering her scar.
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