The Dark Light of Day(5)

By: T.M. Frazier



“How old are you, Miss Ford?” Sheriff Fletcher asked. He cracked his knuckles impatiently, like he couldn’t wait to get this over with and head to Sally’s all you can eat Saturday fish fry.

“Seventeen,” the robot said.

“When will you turn eighteen, honey?” Miss Morgan cooed, trying to offer me some sort of comfort.

“Not for a while.” Ten months, actually. I had graduated a full year early. When I told Nan I wanted to drop out of high school, she’d given me the only other option she would agree to. “If you want out so bad Abby,” she’d told me, “just hurry up and graduate early.”

Like it was as easy as taking in the afternoon mail.

It was tough work, but I’d done it. Nan had made me feel as if I was graduating from some Ivy League school instead of public high school in Coral Pines.

I caught my reflection on the window behind the sheriff. I was still wearing my cap and gown. It was like the happy me that was supposed to be there was mocking the pitiful me who was in her place—the me who’d just had her world ripped out from underneath her in one short conversation.

Sheriff Fletcher cleared his throat yet again. “Miss Ford, my office is required to take action to have un-emancipated minors placed in child protective services. By the time the paperwork is filed and the case is assigned a social worker, you would only have to be in the system for a few months before you become a legal adult and would no longer require their care.” He shifted in his seat, very obviously adjusting his privates under the desk. He continued. “This is a small town. We ain’t got those kinds of resources at the ready, so it’ll take a while. For now, Miss Morgan has agreed to look in on you from time to time. If you really want we can send you up north to CPS right away, but I have a feeling that’s not what you want, now is it?” It was a statement, not a question. He seemed irritated he had actual paper work to do and less concerned I’d just lost the only person who ever gave a shit about me.

He smirked and tilted his head, like he was waiting for me to thank him. Yeah, thanks for barely skimming over the tiny fact that Nan was dead. Thank you so much, sir, for kindly offering me the option of not being sent away with the afternoon mail and back into foster care hell. I would run before they came for me. I would never go back into that fucking system.

Sheriff Fletcher stood and handed me a card with Reverend Thomas’ phone number on it. “The Reverend can help make all your arrangements.” He said it matter-of-factly, as if he’d just given me a coupon for a buy one get one free at the car wash. “Sorry for your loss, Miss Ford,” he called over his shoulder as he headed out the door. The echo of his heavy-booted stomps trailed behind him as he disappeared down the hallway, whistling as he walked away.

Miss Morgan tried to pull me into an embrace. I jumped when she touched me and took a quick step back, knocking my graduation cap off of my head.

No tears, no sobbing. No praying to an imaginary God who’d forgotten about me long ago. I called on the familiar numbness to take over.

I’d been through shit like this before. I didn’t need anything but my barriers.

Nan was dead, and it was probably my fault. I knew that.

Case closed. No need to dwell on something I couldn’t change.

Right?

Miss Morgan bent down, retrieved my graduation cap from under the desk, and dusted it off with the palm of her hand. She was careful not to make contact with me as she placed it back on my head. She made no attempt at another awkward Comforting Troubled Teens 101 embrace. Instead, she studied me intently, as if she were searching for answers to questions she didn’t dare ask out loud. I imagined it included something along the lines of, What happened to you, little girl? Where do you go from here? I didn’t need her pity.

I didn’t need anything from her or anyone else.

I turned to leave.

“Abby!” Miss Morgan called out. She stopped me before I could rush out of her range. Carefully, she reached for the tassel hanging from my graduation cap and moved it from right to left.





Chapter Two





The days that followed blended together. Day into night. A permanent dusk. A mix of daydreams and nightmares.

They call the figure that takes our loved ones from this world the angel of death, when really he’s just a corrupt errand boy who hides deep within his hood when he comes to take souls to the other side. It’s not a bad gig really. He probably doesn’t feel, doesn’t mourn.

He was more like me than I’d realized.

I envied him. To take without feeling. To deliver people from one world to the next without the surprise or shock that always seems to come with unexpected death.

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