WARNING: Might Stir Your Phobias
Red and blue light danced across the brick houses on the street the little girl in the nightgown had fled down. There were no sirens, but squad cars were parked out front of the home Vanessa’s father had barged out of. He was under arrest, placed in the back of one of the squads, the crusted blood and sweat still telling half of the story on the side of his head.
The police were speaking to Andrea and Melinda, who had arrived due to the disturbance. Before they got to the scene, however, Andrea, physically charged and defensive from the night’s events, had racked her nails across Melinda’s chest. She would have none of her desire to take Vanessa away from her care.
A female cop was standing between them, her posture somewhat offensive towards the older woman. The impassive look carved onto her face was immobile.
“You say you want to take your grandchild Vanessa away?” she sighed, forcing herself the ask the questions she must for her job.
“Yes, she does not belong here.”
“You have other grandchildren living in this home with Andrea, correct?”
“Well, yes, Isabel.”
“Then why do you want to take one child away and not the other, if you think they are not safe here?”
Melinda, frustrated and hurt, the cuts on her chest burning from the nail wounds, replied as kindly as possible. “Vanessa, she does not live here with her father like Isabel does. She lives with her other grandparents and is not used to seeing this violence, and I will return her to them. She is not used to seeing this things here, with her father drunk.”
The cop pursed her lips in disbelief. “But she does have visitation rights with her father for this weekend, and that makes Andrea legally responsible for her, not you.”
“Do you see what she did to me?” Melinda motioned to her chest. “This is not a home where it is safe.”
Andrea and Melinda exchanged harsh words, but the officer insisted on sending Melinda away, siding with the woman with more blood on her shirt.
Vanessa was in someone else’s home…in an apartment complex Andrea took shelter in; with a friend or relative, she didn’t know. It was the middle of the night. Isabel and her were led into the place after the police left.
Her pulse had settled, heart slowed back to a normal pace, but she was cold now and felt almost naked, wearing only her nightgown. Tiredness was settling into her limbs and she looked for a place to sit. There was a crib with a baby fast asleep within it, what looked like a small bed, and a couch besides that, both occupied with younger toddlers lying upon them. She became aware of how small the apartment was, and how barren it was of “things.” The room layout didn’t make sense, since there didn’t appear to be designated rooms for sleeping. Even in the kitchen there were only a couple chairs and a table, right next to the room with the beds, and there didn’t seem to be enough to seat even the family they were now visiting.
She stood there, unable to understand the Spanish words flying overhead, and too tired to care. Isabel said nothing but didn’t seem to be nearly as upset by the night’s events as she had been. Instead of speaking, she kept her mouth shut, standing like a lamppost in the kitchen. She let her eyes go out of focus as she merely stared at nothing.
That’s when something stirred in her vision. She was seeing something moving…or many somethings, over in the sink where the white plates were sitting cleaned. She blinked, her eyes snapping back reluctantly into focus. She looked, and sure enough there was something moving on the dishes.
She stepped closer, but once the recognition clicked in her brain with what she beheld, she was instantly hit with a surge of adrenaline anew. Her breath sharply inhaled and held in place, her eyes unable to blink away, lungs burning for the need of air. She could see not just one but many roaches, all winding their way in and around the immaculate plates. They were in all sizes from nymphs to adults, and nobody seemed to see them except her.
She looked to the faces of the talking adults, even to ignorant Isabel, but nobody else shared her overwhelm. Surely they saw them too? She backed away quietly, her bare toes touching lightly as possible on the tile floor…where they also were crawling around. How did she not notice them before?
She wanted to sit - to climb - onto one of the kitchen chairs, but the roaches could climb too. She saw them scaling the legs with impunity. It was like something born out of nightmares. The floor patterns were moving. They squirmed around her, and on the walls they swarmed.
Her female instinct caused her to tuck her gown down between her legs, keeping one foot held atop the other with crossed legs. But there are kids in the next room, she thought. Do they crawl on them? There was no place to escape from the brown bugs with their searching antennas, and they had no fear at all of the lights being on or that somebody might mis-step.
Vanessa shut her eyes, wanting to shrink down and touch as little as possible anything around her. She wanted to leave, to be with her grandparents again, safe and tucked in her big bed with her Cuddle Puppy and Butchie Boy. If only she could will herself away with just a thought.