by Ruth Davis Hays
After a brief titillating glimpse of a stranger in town, Roxi and Cat made plans to spend their weekend searching around the old “haunted” house listed on the land record. But, before that adventure can begin, Roxi must deal with her own ghosts.
The evening slowly grew to late night, most of Orange Grove felt the triumph of their favorite football team, as the game ended and they made ready to fall asleep. Glory to the victors, even if they were only on TV. It was still football. The three young men that had purchased beer from their local Eckerd store missed the game. They had preceded the festivities with a little tussle with what they referred to as a ‘pansy.’
The fight ended far quicker than the awaited football game. It had ended with two of the men unconscious and one dead. The two lucky ones would be questioned, but their bruised egos and fear would keep them from remembering any details of the night.
Raquelle sat cross-legged on her bed. The night was still and quiet. Too quiet. It was always too quiet for her. She looked over at the small, gray radio/cassette player that she had owned since high school. It was her savior from the silence. She wanted to be saved, for with the silent hours of the night came her thoughts. Her mind would spin with dozens of desires and ideas that ricocheted off her skull and plagued her soul with the frustration they brought. This time of night was always the worst. The quiet moments after she had wound her alarm clock and before she clicked on the stereo that would dispel her internal demons long enough for her to fall asleep. She felt so impotent at this time. Powerless to change her life, and lost in how to find the power.
She had tried to achieve her ambitions. She really had. In the five years since her graduation from high school, she had attempted to find work with her art, modeling, acting, and with her music. Yet, she would either find no avenue to start along, or the road only led to people that wanted her money and not her talent. One scam or another. She wanted to work with the arts that she loved, and followed what seemed honest routes. But, the people she ran into usually did not understand her work or ambitions.
She had talent. Many assured her of that. Awards had been bestowed upon her work all her life. Friends honestly liked her music. Her voice teacher had more confidence in her singing than Roxi did herself, at the moment.
After five years of dead ends and closed doors, she was left feeling untalented. Frustrated. This area of the South simply seemed uninterested in trying to sell her wares.
“It’s too cosmopolitan.” “It just isn’t marketable here.” They would say sympathetically. “Why don’t you try more landscapes, they sell.”
Or, “Your photos are nice but, not daring enough. Are you interested in modeling nude?”
Or, “The music is good, just not bouncy enough to dance to.”
Well, She sighed to herself in the deepening gloom, People here just don’t like things that are different. Everyone tries so hard to look like everyone else, and to do everything like everyone else does. No one wants to stand out. Take a risk. I hate it here.
Roxi wanted to stand out. In fact, she always felt she had little choice in the matter. She had always seemed different. Her pale skin did not tan, instead in only turned pink. Light pink, no matter how long she tried to sun herself as a teenager. And, her voice held almost no trace of a southern drawl. Something that was prevalent in her high school. It never had an accent that others in town could detect. She was constantly asked if she was born in the South, and with the reply of Yes, she was met with suspicious glances and disbelief.
Her life dreams always seemed strange to any circle of friends that she could gather around her. They would think it odd she did not want to ‘settle down’ right after high school, like her friend Betty did. She did not want to work in a small cubicle in a downtown high rise in Jacksonville and raise five cats, like Sherry did. She did not want to date men, desperately searching for the Mr. Right that would save her from working and give her existence meaning, like Jan did. And, she did not want to live and die in Orange Grove without ever stepping into another city or state or country, like her father did.
Her father. Jeffry Stanton. A man that had created his own little kingdom in a small trailer in southern Orange Grove and stayed there until he died. He commanded his family like they were unpaid servants. He was a man that lacked the imagination to see children as individuals, and considered the link of genetics as a license to rule their lives. Jeff Stanton, a man she could not stand.
A man she could not seem to escape.
Raquelle shook herself out of her reverie as a chill touched her back. She had not wanted to think about her father again. Not on this night, as things were beginning to seem interesting in her life. Even at the brief thought of him, the intrigue of the past week seemed to dash like glass on the rocks of pessimism that he had installed in her. His voice could echo in her mind at a moment’s notice. His words throwing doubt and bitterness on anything she tried to accomplish.
Quickly, she snapped on the radio to escape the voice, then nestled down beneath the covers. Tomorrow was going to be an early day investigating the old neighborhood on Maple Street. There was no sense in dredging up old ghosts now. Her life seemed dismal enough without thinking about her father.
That night she fell asleep with the bedside lamp on. Its glow gently held back the blackness that threatened her heart.