Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Red (10/01/09)
TITLE: The Child Rescuer
By Sara Harricharan
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The white scarf fluttered gaily as Caryn tied it to the front porch post. She smiled at the empty scrap of fabric, while sweeping the splintered front porch. Peace was possible in this place, maybe.
She cheerfully made sandwiches and lemonade for the father-son carpenter team that welcomed any business in the tiny town. They were polite, hard workers and brought the dilapidated building back to life.
By the second week of work, Caryn caught a glimpse of her rich neighbors. The sullen-faced woman in a baggy business suit, limp hair hiding her face and the loud, expensively dressed, fellow scolded a rag-tag gaggle of children.
She watched the couple leave and the children standing forlornly in the driveway. Caryn shuddered at the sight of the fluttering scarf, it was stained with speckles of red. She was in the right place.
A gnawing pain began to work at the corner of her mind, eating into the soft spot of her soul. She argued within her head and sanity as the urge to rescue the helpless, fought to the surface. She could not deny this calling, it was her life-even if it drove her from the civilized world-again. “Jim?”
The older man appeared, hitching up his tool-belt as he stood beside her, following the line of sight. “We’re all through, Ma’am.”
“Caryn.” She corrected with a smile. “Jim, those children…?”
Jim hesitated, his own face coloring beneath the white beard and moustache. “Them’s the Clemmen kids.” He said, finally. “And you should stay away.”
“Stay away? What exactly is the matter with them?”
The red color crept further down his neck. “It’s nobody’s business, it’s fambly business.”
In two months, the house was completed.
Caryn stood again in the front yard, staring across the street at the foreboding home. The couple came and went at all hours of the day. The school bus never graced the curb. Sometimes a scream or crying would be heard, but whenever she looked to the house, everything would become eerily silent.
Caryn watched the speckled scarf, turn to a bright, crimson red. The very wounds of her life were ripped open and laid before God as she cried in prayer and submission. The time was not right. Yet.
The abuse was daily, the witnesses were plenty. No one ever interfered. When she dared to inch to the end of her driveway, the familiar pull in her heart would halt her.
Not yet. He would whisper and so she waited.
The day madness came, the sweet touch of release fell upon her. The scarf loosened from the porch and drifted to the top step. She picked it up and knotted it around her neck. The cloak of sadness settled over her as she turned to see the shouting match across the street.
There would be no pleasure in this.
Caryn crossed the street, slowly walking up the driveway. She could not wait another second. The scene playing before her eyes was an echo of horrors she’d seen before. The scream caught in her throat as the man shoved the little boy into the stone water fountain, holding him under. Her ears burned with the insults he hurled afterwards, slapping at the older siblings trying to stop him.
“Stop.” Her voice was quiet, her sorrow carried in the wind.
The man whirled on her as the woman scowled darkly. Caryn held up a hand and he froze, the woman similarly transfixed, as Caryn touched the scarf around her neck and moved forward. She pressed a red thumbprint to their foreheads and the scarf blurred white-empty again.
Her attention shifted to the children.
Caryn’s eyes darted to the dark spots on the edge of the soaked, baseball T-shirt. The darkening red made her head ache in a way she had forgotten. She touched his forehead and the name came to her. “Phil? ” She knelt beside his still form, smoothing pale blond hair from his forehead. “You will be fine.”
Both children shrank away as pale green fire shifted from her fingertips and sank into Phil’s stomach. The pain etched across her face mirrored the sorrow of decades before. She gathered Phil in her arms, cradling him close to her chest. “I heard you.” She amended. “He heard you. I came.” She pulled a silver medallion from her pocket and handed it to the eldest.
Her eyes grew round and she burst into tears, throwing her good arm around The Child Rescuer.
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