Esther Velez

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Month: April 2014 (page 1 of 2)

The Watchtower: Episode 6

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EPISODE SIX: Detour

Toby’s car was uncomfortable and it smelled of vanilla. Lincoln sat in the back, fiddling with the seatbelt, trying to lower the window and lock the door at the same time, but nothing was working.

Didn’t this guy make enough money for a decent car? Or is he pooling all his funds for Lyn’s wardrobe?

“Do any of these seat belts work back here?”

Toby turned around. “They should. I’ve never sat back there, so I don’t know.”

Lincoln sighed. “It’s alright. You’re a good driver. I won’t die,” he said, sarcastically. Toby was perfect in everything. The only thing he’d done wrong was marry Lyn.

He leaned forward in his seat as they pulled out of the community. Black jeeps lined the entrance, with bright lights set up all around them. Dozens of suited men with dark shades and earpieces paced the sidewalks.

This is serious.

Toby brought his car to a stop at the entrance of the neighborhood. A man stepped up and motioned for him to lower his window.

“Good evening, sir. You’ve heard of the quarantine?”

“Yes, sir,” Toby said, nodding. “We’re heading down to Homestead to find my sister-in-law, but we’ll be back in less than an hour.”

“Okay,” the man replied. “You’ve got five hours to make it back. We’ll be doing medical checks on anyone trying to get inside again. If one of you is sick, we won’t let you back in.”

“We’re all fine, sir,” Lyn said, leaning forward. “None of us are sick.”

The man frowned. “We’ll let our medical team make the call when you get back. For now, I suggest you move as quickly as possible.”

“Thank you, sir, and we will.” Toby lowered his window. The man he’d been talking to motioned for an opening and they drove out of the community.

“They’ve got a medical team? This is really serious.”

“I’d say so. Now, Lincoln,” Toby said, glancing at him in the rear view mirror. “How do we get to Homestead?”

“It’ll take us a few minutes to get to the highway from here. You’ve just to keep going straight.”

Toby’s face turned green. Lyn turned around in her seat.

“We can’t take the highway,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Toby won’t be able to drive on it.”

Lincoln swallowed a laugh. Mr. Perfect can’t drive on the highway? What kind of nonsense is this?

“Why can’t you drive on the highway, Toby?”

“I can drive on it,” he replied, “but I don’t prefer it.”

“Well, I don’t prefer taking the long way to find my missing sister.”

“Lincoln, stop being silly,” Lyn said. “We’ve got five hours to find her. If we take the US-1, we’ll get there in less than half an hour.”

“Or you can let me drive and we’ll get there sooner.”

“Show me where the US-1 is, Lincoln,” Toby said, raising his voice. “Let’s not waste any more time on this argument.”

“You’re crazy, Toby, do you know that?” He pointed out the window. “We have to make a left.”

*****

Jamison stood in his driveway, arms crossed. His children hadn’t listened to him and had driven off. Nothing he could do about it now. Rosemarie would come back home on her own, and they’d figure it out after wasting five hours searching for her. Jamison knew his daughter would come back home. That’s what she had always done. She was still the same little girl he’d watched run away from home year after year, only to return home by the end of the day.

He sighed.

I should probably find out who is in charge here.

He didn’t want to leave his fate to a man in a blue suit who didn’t really care about this community. While Jamison didn’t know everyone here, he’d lived here long enough to care for a few of them.

Emmy was inside, making a checklist of all the supplies they had and what they still needed. He hated the thought of leaving her, but she would be safe. He’d told her to lock the door and not open it for anyone. He had his own set of keys, and there was a hidden one for the kids if they needed it.

With his hands in his pockets and his head up high, Jamison walked to the Main Office of the community. He had been living in Goulds Point for over twenty five years. He smiled as he remembered the first time he set foot in the door of his new home. The house smelled of eggs because the pipes still weren’t used to running water through them. Emmy had been with him then, and he held her hand as he led her through the rest of the house.

This is the garage, for your car and mine. If they both don’t fit, I can always park in the driveway.

This is the huge kitchen so you have enough space for when you cook.

These are the four rooms, so each kid can have their own room. I think Lincoln would like this room over here. You know how he likes to watch the street.

This room back here is ours. It’s got its own bathroom and a walk-in closet.

I’m telling you, Emmy, this place is amazing.

They had such dreams for the house. Their kids were going to have friends over all the time. They could invite all their extended family now that they didn’t live in a tiny little apartment. Emmy wanted to host a Bible Study on Tuesdays after the kids left for school. He was going to teach Lincoln how to throw a football, now that they had a huge backyard to play in. It was going to be great. But the future came too soon and swallowed up their hopes and dreams, leaving behind the bones of chaos and destruction. He’d vainly hoped for something different, but if today’s events were anything at all, they were a reminder that things couldn’t be fixed over a birthday dinner or a going away party.

Changing the heart requires time and dedication, and it’s something you can’t do on your own.

His pastor had told him that during a counseling session one Sunday evening. The pastor had been talking about Emmy’s heart, but Jamison knew it applied to his own heart and his children’s hearts as well. It’d taken him almost five years to forgive her, and he knew she was still dealing with some of the guilt. It hadn’t been easy choosing to stay, but he was ready to make good on his promise to take her for better or worse. And things would only get worse. But he’d made it. He may have lost his children for the moment, but he wasn’t finished with them.

*****

“So what do you want to do with your life?” Toby asked Lincoln, looking at him in the rear view mirror.

Lincoln frowned. “I don’t know,” he replied, turning to the window. “Is this really the time for a conversation about my future?”

“I think now is as good a time as any. We’ve still got a ways to go.”

“Well, I love eating food and hanging out at the gym, if that means anything.”

“No, no,” Toby said, shaking his head. “I mean, what are your dreams for yourself? Is there anything you love doing and if you could just do it for the rest of your life, you’d be content?”

Lincoln laughed. “You married a dreamer, didn’t you, Lyn?”

“I married a man with direction and purpose, which is more than can be said of you.”

Lincoln laughed again. “Toby, I don’t know. I’m still a young lad. I have enough time to figure that out, don’t I?”

“You’re twenty years old, Lincoln. You’ve got to man up and do something with your life.”

“Whatever, Toby,” Lincoln said, suddenly feeling defensive. Who was this guy to tell him that he needed to do something with his life? They never even talked! Who did he think he was?

“Listen, Lincoln, I’m sorry if I came off a little harsh,” Toby said after a moment of silence. “It’s just that you remind me of myself when I was younger. Talking to Misty put things in perspective for me.”

“Oh, so you were a player?” Lincoln leaned forward. “Lyn, you’d better cover your ears. Wouldn’t want you to ruin your image of your perfect man.”

“Lincoln, you are so immature.”

“I wasn’t exactly like you, Lincoln,” Toby continued, “but I recognize some of your attitudes and ideas as my own. And all I can say is that I needed to leave those behind if I was to grow up.”

“I don’t care, Toby,” Lincoln said. This man had no right telling him anything. Lincoln knew he wouldn’t listen to anything Toby said, so it was useless to continue.

The car grew silent.

Lyn turned on the radio.

“We have confirmed that this infection is spreading rapidly throughout the state of Florida. It is uncertain if it has its origins there. Regardless, it is doing its damage. The death toll is already in the hundreds.”

“That’s pretty crazy,” Lincoln said. “Hundreds of people dead? Isn’t that what happened with the whole bird flu nonsense? Or the e coli thing?”

“Well, this is obviously more serious than those outbreaks,” Toby replied. “They’ve got the government working to preserve uninfected areas. That goes to show how bad it really is.”

“I just don’t understand why we are only now hearing about this,” Lyn said, shaking her head. “Why hasn’t something this big been on the news before now?”

“Uh, because it’s a government conspiracy,” Lincoln said matter-of-factly. Lyn nodded and switched off the radio, leaving the car in silence once again.

Blue and red lights ahead caught his attention.

“Hey, what’s that up there?”

Toby leaned forward against the wheel. “The police,” he said. “It looks like they’ve set up some sort of roadblock.”

“This is just great,” Lincoln mumbled. “We should’ve taken the highway. And you could’ve let me drive,” he said in response to what he knew Lyn was about to say. She was that predictable.

“Well, it looks like we’re going to have to find a new way to get to Homestead,” Toby said as they came to a stop. Lincoln could see the roadblock clearly now. There would be no getting down south using the US-1.

“Do you know any alternate routes?” Lyn asked, turning in her seat. She had never spent any of her time in Homestead. She had always told him that Homestead was too low class for her, whatever that meant, and she spent most of her free time downtown. Lincoln liked the idea of having more knowledge than her.

He looked around. “We can make a right at the next light. That’ll take us down 248, which we can use to make our way further south.”

“Okay,” Toby said, pushing the gas when the light turned green. “I hope that roadblock isn’t part of a quarantine.”

“And if it is?” Lincoln asked.

Toby turned around in his seat to look him in the eye. “We’ll find your sister, Lincoln. It doesn’t matter if we have to go right in the middle of a quarantine or an infected area. We will find Rosemarie.”

Lincoln raised an eyebrow when his brother-in-law returned his attention to the road.

He was impressed.

 *****

When she opened her eyes, she could only see three things: her hands, her fingers, and the rope tied around her wrist. Wherever she was, thin beams of light trained on her arms but illuminated nothing else. She tried to move her body but couldn’t.

Am I sitting down? Or am I standing up?

She couldn’t tell. The small beam of light flickered in and out of view. She felt her chest constricting as panic set in. She didn’t know where she was, or how she had gotten here. She couldn’t even remember who she was.

No, no, that wasn’t true. She knew who she was, at least, she knew her name.

Rosemarie, she thought. My name is Rosemarie.

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The Watchtower: Episode 5

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EPISODE FIVE: Consequences

Lyn sighed. There goes Lincoln, doing whatever he wants again. That boy never changes.

“I’m going after him,” Toby said suddenly, getting up and running for the door.

Lyn grabbed his arm and pulled him back. “What are you doing?”

Toby turned around. “Lyn, this is something I have to do. Lincoln’s a loose cannon. You can’t trust him out there by himself. Who knows what he’ll do.”

Lyn let go of his arm. Toby was never a strong man. He never persisted in anything. She’d been able to persuade him to ride on a highway that he hated and visit a family that was on the rocks, just for her.

I don’t know how to handle this.

“Tobias is right,” her mother said. “Lincoln will do something crazy. He’s done it before, he’ll do it again.”

“I don’t like this,” her father sighed, “but it’s true.”

“Then I’m going with you,” Lyn said, standing up. “And nothing any of you guys say will stop me.”

“Lyn.”

She walked to the door and turned around.

“Well, are we going or not?”

*****

Emmy shut the door and turned to her husband.

“Can you please tell me what’s going on here?”

Jamison looked away from her. “What do you mean? I already told you.”

“No, you didn’t.” She reached out and touched his arm. “There’s something more.”

“It’s an infection, Emmy. That’s all I know.”

“And our neighborhood is safe?”

“For now.” He pulled her into an embrace. He’d been doing that a lot recently. “What are we going to do about our kids?” He asked, resting his head on her shoulder.

“If Rosemarie is out there, they’ll find her and bring her back,” Emmy said quickly. “Then we’ll make sure we have what we need to survive this thing.”

“She’ll come back here, Emmy. I know it. She always has, always will.” He paused. “Should I have let Lincoln go anyway?”

“Did you really think you could have stopped him?”

“I didn’t want anything to happen to him.” Jamison paused, then sighed deeply. “I guess I wasn’t thinking clearly.”

“Did that paper tell you anything about this infection? How it’s spread, what the symptoms look like?” Emmy knew her husband was trying to process all of this. He always tried to be strong and, even though she hadn’t always been there, she was trying. But, right now, she needed to get him focused on the issue at hand.

“It was not clear,” he said, pulling away from her slowly. “It seems that the government is covering something up. A few other areas are also being locked down, in order to keep this thing from spreading everywhere.”

“Isn’t it strange, though, to quarantine the areas that are safe? Wouldn’t they rather close off the areas with the sickness to keep it from spreading?”

“I don’t know, Emmy,” her husband said, shaking his head. “Who are we to question the government?”

*****

The night was quiet as Lincoln walked along the sidewalk, trying to remember the names of Rosemarie’s friends. If he could get the names, maybe he could get an address, and maybe he’d find her.

Cut out all this “maybe” stuff. You’re gonna find Rosemarie.

Lincoln saw a few kids riding their bikes in the street. Had the government agent told them about the quarantine? He wondered if he should tell them, but thought better of it.

Wouldn’t want to get into any more trouble around here. The association and the security guards already know me by name. Knowing them, they’d spin it into something terrible just to get me locked out of the quarantine.

He held back a laugh. The things he’d done growing up were so ridiculous. He didn’t understand why he’d done half of them. A few were for a laugh. Others, a thrill. A girl. All worthless reasons, but it didn’t bother him. It’d been fun and he’d learned how to take his consequences like a man. That’s probably the only thing his father had taught him. You mess up, you deal with the mess that follows. You don’t blame it on anyone else.

The affair was his father’s punishment, his consequence for being a terrible father. Lincoln let the laugh escape this time. Even after all the pain it’d caused him, he understood its place in his life. It had taught him that everything you do comes around, both the good and the bad.

It had also taught him to be a good daddy to your kids, or else your wife is going to find someone else to make her happy.

*****

“Look, there’s Lincoln!” Toby shouted, waving like mad. Lyn squinted in the dark, but couldn’t see him.

“Hey, Lincoln! We’re over here!”

“I don’t see him, babe.”

A dark shape drew closer to them.

“Hey.”

She still couldn’t see him too well, but the bored tone gave it away. It was, indeed, her brother.

“Any luck?” Toby asked.

“Nope. I can’t think of any of her friends names. I thought I could get their addresses or something, but I can’t remember them.”

Leave it up to Lincoln to know absolutely nothing about the sister he claimed to love. Lyn closed her eyes, trying to probe her memory. She had never hung out much with her sister around the neighborhood, but she remembered one girl she always talked about.

“Well, what about Misty?”

“Misty?” Lincoln shook his head. “Rosemarie was friends with Misty?”

Lyn raised an eyebrow. “What, do you know her?”

“Uh, yes, I do,” Lincoln stammered. “We had, uh, Physics together in high school.”

“You never took Physics.”

“I don’t want to get into this,” Lincoln said, his voice raising. “Let’s just say I know where she lives. It’s over this way.”

He pointed to a house at the end of their block. They began to walk. Lyn held on to Toby’s arm and let Lincoln walk ahead of them.

“What’s up?”

She leaned in to whisper to him. “I’ll bet she was one of his girls.”

“Hey, I can’t worry about that,” Toby replied, “and you have no business speculating.”

“I have as much business speculating as I want,” she said. “He’s my brother.”

“Well, why don’t you ask him? I mean, why not see if your speculations are correct?”

Lyn laughed. Her brother glanced back for a second.

“I don’t need to ask him,” she said to her husband, keeping her voice low. “I already know.”

“Your childishness is growing tiresome,” Toby said suddenly. “Hey, Lincoln,” he said, raising his voice. “Was Misty one of your girls? Is that how come you know who she is and where she lives?”

Lincoln turned around. “Did Lyn tell you that?” He scoffed. “Leave it up to her to say something absurd.”

“I asked you a question, Lincoln,” Toby said. “Was she one of your girls?”

“No,” he said, glaring at Lyn. “Misty was probably the only girl that didn’t want me. And we did have Physics together, which I did take back in high school. I visited her once to study, which I thought meant something else, but she really wanted to study, so I didn’t try anything.” He crossed his arms. “Is that good enough for you, Lyn?”

She didn’t believe him, but it was easy enough to confirm once they found Misty. Lincoln had never opened a textbook in his life. It was a miracle he’d even made it through high school.

“The house is right over here,” he said. He turned to Toby. “I don’t want to go in.”

“Are you two not on speaking terms?”

Lyn scoffed.  “If some guy came over my house under the pretense of studying and tried to make a move on me, I wouldn’t be on speaking terms with him, either.”

“Lyn, you need to keep your feelings out of this, okay? I already told you that I didn’t try anything on Misty. You can believe me or not,” Lincoln said, “but I don’t want to go in there.”

“That’s fine,” Toby said, touching his shoulder. “You can wait out here. Lyn and I will go inside.”

“Thanks.”

Lyn and Toby walked on ahead.

“You need to stop this, Lyn,” Toby said. “I’ve never seen this side of you before. I mean, I’ve seen you angry, but this isn’t just anger. It’s bitterness.”

“You don’t know what I’ve been through with Lincoln, okay?” Lyn felt her guard rising and her voice going cold. She didn’t want to be this way with her husband, but she couldn’t help it. He didn’t understand, and even if she told him, he’d just say that she was wrong and she needed to let it go. That’s all he ever said when she talked about her family.

“I don’t need to know what you’ve been through to know that you aren’t dealing with it properly.” He grabbed her hand. “This is the house. Let’s go find your sister.”

*****

“Your story checks out.”

Lincoln jumped at the voice. He’d been leaning against a car in he driveway next to Misty’s house, remembering. He hadn’t expected Toby’s voice to be so strong. He cleared his throat.

“That’s encouraging.”

“But Rosemarie wasn’t there.” Toby shook his head. “Turns out she had been there, but told Misty she was going to visit her boyfriend.”

“Her boyfriend?” Lincoln stood up straight. “He lives in Homestead.”

“How far away is it?” Toby asked.

“It’s about fifteen minutes on the turnpike.” He looked around. “I hate to ask this question, but where’s Lyn?”

“She’s coming out in a second. She was just talking to Misty a little longer.” Toby crossed his arms. “Misty wanted to see you, but we told her you weren’t around. She said she missed you.”

“I’m sure she does.”

“Why didn’t you want to see her?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Lincoln said. “It’s not so pleasant a memory to dig up.”

“Did you do something you regretted?”

“I don’t regret anything,” Lincoln replied. “I take responsibility for everything I do. Can we please just talk about something else?”

“Okay,” Toby said. “We can talk about why you and Lyn can’t stand each other.”

Lincoln laughed. “Yeah, I don’t want to talk about that either. You can wait here for your wife. I’m going home to tell Dad I’m going to Homestead.”

“You’re not going without me, Lincoln. And if I go, Lyn goes as well.”

“How did I know you were going to say that?”

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The Watchtower: Episode 4

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EPISODE FOUR: Quarantine

His first regret had been taking that job offer. It’d been a fifty percent increase in salary, and it seemed like an incredible career opportunity. His family would be the first to benefit. They would finally be able to get the house with enough rooms for his little ones to live comfortably. He could get Emmy that new car she had always wanted, and he would be able to get himself a new computer. Everything was supposed to have been better. Eighteen years later, and their house had exploded more times than he could count.

Material things don’t make people happy, yes, I know that, he thought to himself. Everyone always says that, but they don’t tell you how you can be happy. They tell you to focus on your family, and I tried that. For eighteen long years, I focused on my family, and it did nothing.

He sat with Emmy on the couch, holding her as he always had. They’d had their troubles, but they’d made it through in one piece. If nothing else, he had gotten that right.

 *****

“Hey, have any of you guys seen Rosemarie?”

Lincoln stood at the base of the stairs, overlooking the rest of the house. His parents sat in the living room, and they didn’t seem to hear him. His sister and Toby were in the dining room, looking at something on her laptop, and they hadn’t hear him either.

“Have you guys seen Rosemarie?”

“She took off a few hours ago,” his mother said, sitting up in her chair. “I haven’t seen her since then.”

“And you guys don’t think there’s anything wrong with that?”

His father stood up and made his way into the dining room.

“She’s got tons of friends in this neighborhood,” his father said. “I’m sure she’s with one of them.”

Lincoln shrugged. His father was probably right. He had had more than enough friends in this neighborhood when he was growing up. He remembered Felix and Mark, two of his closest buddies. They had shared almost everything together, including girlfriends and good times. When he got into the trouble with Karen, however, they didn’t want anything to do with him.

Don’t worry about the past, Link. You don’t live with regrets, remember?

He had seen regrets tear his parents apart. He was watching it tear his sister Lyn apart. She’d done something evil when she was a kid and let it mess with the rest of her life. Lyn was made of anger, and it was disgusting. He had absolutely no sympathy for her.

“Well, it’s getting late. I think I’m going to head to sleep,” Lincoln said, turning back up the stairs.

A loud bang on the front door stopped him in his tracks.

 *****

Lyn jumped to her feet. Who could that possibly be? Their neighbors would’ve used the door bell, and it was too late for it to be a UPS or Fed Ex delivery man. It couldn’t have been Rosemarie. Her sister would have just used the key from under the mat. She was sure her parents wouldn’t have moved it in all these years.

“Who do you think it is?”

Her father didn’t answer her question but moved to the door. Her mother followed close behind. He opened the door.

“Good evening, sir.” A man stood in the doorway, dressed in a black suit, black shirt, and black tie. He held a white clipboard in his hand and didn’t look up as he spoke.

“Good evening,” her father said in reply. “Can I help you?”

“Yes,” the man said, finally looking up. “My name is Adam Smith, and I work with the government.” He showed her father a badge and identification card.

“The government?” Lincoln laughed. “What are you guys doing down here?”

“We’re issuing a quarantine in this area,” the man said, glaring at Lincoln.

“A quarantine?” Her father asked quickly. “What’s going on out there?”

“There is sickness going around and we’re trying to keep it contained.” The man handed her father the clipboard. “The quarantine goes into effect in five hours. You can come and go from the neighborhood as many times as you want until then.”

“Thank you, sir,” her father said, handing back the clipboard. The man nodded and walked away.

“What did the paper say?” Lyn asked. She watched as her father closed the door. His hands were shaking.

“The same thing he told us. People are getting sick and they’re trying to keep it contained.”

“So they think we’re sick?”

“No, no,” her father said, shaking his head. “They’re quarantining this area because it’s one of the only places where the sickness hasn’t been reported.”

“But what about Mary Johnson, our neighbor?” Her mother cut in, her voice desperate. “She was sick, wasn’t she? Do you think it was the same thing?”

“It must be something different.”

“So, what are we going to do?” Lyn asked.

“We will stay here,” her father said. “If we stay here, we’ll be safe.”

“Safe from what?” Lincoln asked. “Is there some kind of danger?”

“Something is not right,” Toby said, grabbing her hand. “Why didn’t they mention this on the news?”

“You see the man who came to visit us,” her father replied. “The government is the one doing this quarantine. My guess is that they are involved in this some way.”

“Involved in what?” Lyn asked.

Her father looked away from her and didn’t respond. There was something he wasn’t telling them.

“We need to get supplies if we’re going to stay here, Jamison,” her mother said, heading to the kitchen. “I will take stock of what we’ve got here, but we’ll need to send someone out—”

“No one goes out,” her father said, his voice raising. “We’ll stay here, where I know we’ll be safe.”

“Well, there’s a big problem with that, Dad,” Lincoln said. “We have to go out.”

“Lincoln, this is no time for your—”

“Rosemarie’s still out there, Dad!” Lincoln shouted.

Lyn frowned. It was true, but there was no reason for Lincoln to get riled up about it.

“She’s out there, and we need to find her,” he continued.

“If she’s around here, that man will tell her, and she’ll come back home.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Lincoln said. “You can’t trust that he’ll see her. We have to be sure. And the only way to be sure is to do it ourselves.”

“I can’t let you go, Lincoln,” her father said. “It’s too dangerous for you to go alone!”

“Yeah, well what about Rosemarie? She’s alone out there.”

“It’s too dangerous?” Lyn asked. “What’s going on, Dad? I saw your hands shaking after you read the paper. What’s going on here?”

“This sickness is dangerous. The government doesn’t even know the full extent of it, but it’s pretty bad. People are dying left and right—”

“That’s even more reason for us to find her,” Lincoln said. “We know we’re not sick, but we don’t know about anyone else. If we leave her out there, who knows what will happen.”

“You are not going out there, Lincoln,” her father said. “It’s too dangerous.”

Lincoln stepped up to their father. “You can’t hold me back.”

With that, he ran out of the house, not bothering to close the door behind him.

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The Watchtower: Episode 3

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EPISODE THREE: Explosion

Lincoln stared at his phone, hoping a message would appear, but none came. No one would help him escape from this prison. Rosemarie hadn’t been back, which was good for her, but left him to deal with everyone else alone.

Why does Lyn have to be so immature? She doesn’t even know how to pick a good fight.

They sat around the television. No one had moved, except for when his father had decided to put on a movie, and they all sat in front of the screen, fuming in silence. At least, he was fuming.

A notification on his phone drew his attention. Someone had tagged him in a post on Facebook. He tapped it and frowned. It was a link to a blog post about a guy eating another guy’s face. They’d gone through this zombie scare years ago. Why were they circulating this story again? Everyone knew that guy was toasted, and there had been rumors that he’d escaped from an insanity ward, or something like that.

Lincoln figured he’d just had a bad run, or a bad trip, and decided to eat his friend’s face. Either way, it was creepy, and he didn’t want to think about it anymore. He’d take zombies over the craziness of his family any day. He would probably feed Lyn to them first, then maybe her husband, and then his mother and father. Rosemarie he would protect. She had had his back growing up, and the only thing he could do was to have her back as well.

 *****

“Hey, look at this,” Tobias said, leaning over to hand his phone to Jamison.

Emmy watched as her husband took the phone from the man’s hand and studied the screen.

“I don’t get it.”

“People have been getting really sick,” Tobias said, wringing his hands. “You were talking about some of your neighbors, but it seems like a whole lot of people are getting sick as well.”

Jamison handed back the phone. “Maybe there’s just something going around.”

“Yeah, like the bird flu or something like that.”

Lincoln opened his mouth but closed it immediately. Emmy hoped he wouldn’t think better of it and make a comment about orange juice. They didn’t need this.

“Hey, can we turn to the news?” Lyn asked, shifting in her seat next to her husband. “Maybe there really is something going around.”

“If it’s local, I doubt the news would care,” Jamison said.

“Goulds never makes the news, kids,” Emmy added. She knew it wasn’t true, though. Two years ago, there’d been a brush fire a few blocks away from here, and it’d been all over the news. They had even interviewed some kids she recognized from around the neighborhood. She wasn’t sure why she’d lied. It had come out so naturally.

Jamison switched the channel, searching for a news station. When he found one, he turned up the volume.

“And, in other news, a roller coaster accident in New Jersey has left at least a dozen dead, thousands more terrified.”

“Oh, leave it up to the news to ruin your day,” Lincoln mumbled, staring at his phone again. Emmy resisted the urge to tell him to shut it off. He was a big boy. He should know how to control himself.

“When we get back from the break, we’ll talk about the startling new trend in female fashion, the—”

Jamison changed the channel.

“Can you tell us a little bit about your symptoms?”

He had landed on one of those medical talk shows. Emmy rolled her eyes. She had seen soap operas with less drama than these talk shows. It seemed as if the medical shows decided they needed to compete with the popularity of medical dramas, adding ridiculous stories and conflict where it didn’t exist.

“Well, I’ve been quite feverish and—”

Here the person tapered off. Emmy looked at the woman’s face. She was pale, sweating, and extremely thin. The panel of doctors sat across from her, studying her carefully.

“You can tell us,” the youngest doctor said, touching her arm. He immediately drew it away.

“My goodness,” he exclaimed, “you’re ice cold!”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” the woman said, covering her face with trembling hands. “I’ve just had this strange desire to—”

She stopped talking again.

“Um, ma’am, I think we need to—”

Suddenly, the woman lunged at the young doctor, grabbing him by the throat. It took all the other doctors to pry her off. They held her against the couch as security guards rushed onto the stage. Emmy rolled her eyes. This was ridiculous.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” the woman sobbed. “I can’t explain it, but when I see him, I want to—”

“What do you want to do?”

The woman stared up at the circle of doctors, her eyes growing wide, her face losing color fast.

“When I see him, I just want to eat his brain.”

 *****

Her father quickly changed the channel. A laugh escaped from Lyn’s mouth.

“Was that lady serious?”

“I’ve seen worse ones,” her mother said, standing up and walking into the kitchen, empty cup in hand. “This woman was mild compared to some of the others.”

“Yeah, but wanting to eat someone’s brain?” Toby shook his head. “That’s kind of out there.”

“Almost like that story that came out a few years ago,” Lincoln interjected, “the one with that guy who ate the other dude’s face.”

“Yeah, and set off an eight month zombie scare,” Lyn replied. “I don’t believe any of that nonsense.”

“You’ve seen the video,” Lincoln said.

“Yeah, and I’ve seen the videos of planes crashing into the Twin Towers.”

“Touché.”

Lyn didn’t know what to say. For once, she and Lincoln had had an amiable argument. She almost smiled.

“Well, I don’t know about you guys, but it’s just a little too creepy for me.” Her father stood up and joined her mother in the kitchen. Lyn listened as he poured himself something to drink. “What would you do if I just started trying to eat one of your faces off?”

“Those guys were under some serious drugs, Dad,” Lincoln said from his seat. “Unless you’re taking something without telling the rest of us.”

“You’re the only one doing that,” Lyn said under her breath. Lincoln didn’t hear, but Toby did. He poked her in the side. She rolled her eyes.

I know, I know. Stay calm. Don’t let it get to you.

They had had a moment of respite from battle, but Lincoln was making it too hard.

“I’m clean, Lincoln. I have been for some time.”

“Well, do you all want some of these cinnamon buns?” Her mother held a tray of the stuff and brought it into the living room. Lyn turned around to see her father’s face. She knew he had hated eating in the living room, but she wondered why had hadn’t said anything. Maybe he’d grown dull in his old age.

“It’s a shame Rosemarie isn’t around for these,” Lincoln said, grabbing one and taking a bite. “I think, next to me, she loves these the most.”

“You mean she loves you the most, or that she loves the cinnamon buns almost as much as you love them?” Toby laughed as he took one.

“Either one, bro,” Lincoln said, laughing. “Either one.”

Lyn felt bile rising in her throat.

How dare he laugh at my husband?

Her anger toward her brother was so irrational. That’s what Toby, and her mother, and her father would say. You need to calm down. You need to let it go.

But Lyn knew why she was so upset with Lincoln. She knew why she would never forgive him. It was not irrational.

And it didn’t bother her at all.

 

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The Watchtower: Episode 2

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EPISODE TWO: Orange Juice and Soap

“They’re here!” Emmy clapped her hands together and jumped off the couch. She had never been this excited before. Except maybe when she had seen Lyn for the first time. She had only been eighteen, and no one had told her what to expect. When she held Lyn’s frail little body, she couldn’t understand how something so precious could come from her. Or Jamison.

He met her in the living room. She slipped her hand in his and squeezed it. He smiled and reached for the doorknob.

“Hey!”

It was Lyn and Tobias. Her daughter threw her arms wide open.

“Mom! It’s been so long!”

Emmy embraced her daughter and held back the obvious comment. They could’ve visited earlier. But it was Lyn’s hate for Lincoln that kept her away.

“Hey, Mom,” Tobias said, leaning in for his own hug. She kissed him on the cheek and gave him a good, tight squeeze. Emmy had always liked Tobias. He was a good man for her daughter. Lyn had done a fine job in choosing a husband.

“Well, why don’t we let you two in the house?”

Emmy stepped out of the way. Jamison stood in the doorway awkwardly, shaking Tobias’s hand. Emmy smiled. It would take a while, but Jamison would see that Lyn had made a good choice. Tobias was almost as good a man as he was.

“Do you two have a lot of luggage?”

“No, we’ve got three suitcases, but that’s not too much for me to handle.”

“No, no, let me go with you, Tobias. I’ve got to put these muscles to some use, don’t I?”

Emmy followed Lyn into the house.

“Are we the first ones here?” Lyn asked, slipping off her jacket and hanging it on the back of a chair.

“Yes,” Emmy responded, picking up her daughter’s jacket. Jamison had a thing about clothing lying around, even if it was just a jacket and they had visitors. She would find a hanger and put it in the closet.

“Well, we’re gonna have to tell the others to park in the lot.”

They walked into the living room. It had once been the dining room, but now that they had furniture, it was a nice space to have the couches and the TV. The switch had been her idea. Jamison didn’t care what she did with the house, so long as she kept it clean.

“I hope the two of you didn’t eat dinner,” she said, moving into the adjacent kitchen.

Lyn laughed. “No, Mom, we didn’t. Toby drove us on the highway, so that’s where we’ve been this whole ride.”

Emmy raised an eyebrow. “Tobias, on the highway?” She peeked in the oven, where twelve biscuits were browning. In a few minutes, she would put in the cinnamon rolls. Lincoln loved those.

“I don’t know how I did it,” Lyn continued. “He must be desperate for your cooking.”

“Well, in the last few years, your father and I have eaten at so many restaurants, I think I may have forgotten how to cook.”

With the kids out of the house, and less mouths to feed, they could afford to go out more. Emmy remembered their last dinner, at Chili’s. She absolutely adored the ribs, and Jamison had made fun of her for making a mess. She had made fun of the way he ate his corn, with butter dripping everywhere. It had been one of those rare good dates, filled with laughing instead of arguing.

“So, is everything ready for you two up in Georgia?”

“We’re moving to Tennessee,” Lyn corrected, moving from the dining room into the kitchen.

“My memory really is shot,” Emmy said, smiling. “I could’ve sworn you told me Georgia.”

“Can I help with those dishes?” Lyn didn’t wait for an answer but turned on the sink and started soaping the plates and cups. Emmy tried to hold back a tear. Lyn was the only child who ever took initiative. If all of her kids had been like Lyn, maybe none of this would have happened.

And you have no part in this? Emmy knew she was just as much to blame for her kids as Jamison. Blaming it on Rosemarie and Lincoln was immature. Almost as immature as she had been when she —

 *****

“I want to thank all of you for coming down,” Jamison said, taking his seat at the head of the table. He looked around at his family and smiled. They were really all here. The house hadn’t blown up yet, so it was a sign things were going well.

“I know some of you had to take a week off from your studies,” he continued, nodding at Lincoln, “but we thought it would be appropriate to celebrate your sister’s last week in Miami together, as a family.”

Lyn and Emmy were smiling. Toby was cleaning his fingers with a napkin. Rosemarie was eying the bread, and Lincoln was playing with his phone.

No worries. What matters is that we are all together. Jamison cleared his throat.

“Let’s pray, and then we can begin.”

 *****

“So I was trying to get him to come visit, but he’s got some family over himself, and they want him to hang out over there.”

Rosemarie and Lincoln sat together in the new living room, drinking from clear plastic cups, talking about her boyfriend. Dinner had been uneventful, and they were taking a break before starting the movie.

“Well, I’ve got to meet him before I ship out.”

She smiled. Her brother would approve of Soren. He was a wonderful guy and he treated her well. Most importantly, he loved God and he was going somewhere with his life.

Well, maybe Lincoln won’t like that part, she thought as she took a sip from her pineapple soda. Lincoln had never been too fond of her faith, but she didn’t push it too much, so it didn’t bother him.

“What have you been doing with yourself up there, Lincoln?”

He smiled. “You wouldn’t want to know.”

“So I’m guessing you haven’t been doing as much studying as you told Dad earlier?”

“You got me,” he laughed. “I won’t stay out there for too long. I can’t keep wasting Dad’s hard earned money, you know.”

“But that’s your special skill,” she teased. He elbowed her in response.

“Like you’re one to talk. You burned through your allotment in, what, three days?”

“I paid off a whole year of rent, buddy, so don’t go there.”

“That’s true.” Lincoln leaned back in his seat, looking at her. “You’re doing alright, sister. I just might be proud of you.”

Rosemarie ruffled his short brown hair. She knew he hated it from others. It made him feel like a little kid, he said, but when she did it, he didn’t mind. They’d been through a lot together. Since the affair, things had been different in their house, and Lincoln had suffered the most. Rosemarie had tried to be there for him, as much as she could, but she had still been growing up. How can you raise someone when you aren’t done being raised yourself?

Her parents sat together with Lyn and Toby, talking and laughing about something or other. The four of them should keep each other. Let her and Lincoln secede from the union. The others didn’t want them. Not really.

 *****

They had all gathered together in the living room. Lyn and Toby sat together on the love seat. It was a tight fit, but with the only other empty seat being next to Lincoln, they would have to make it work. Lyn knew her husband understood her issue with her brother, even if he didn’t share the sentiment. She just didn’t know how much more of his arrogance and ignorance she could possibly take. Didn’t he know anything about decency or self respect?

“Have you two heard from the Johnson’s?” Rosemarie asked, directing her question at their father.

He frowned. “They still live around here, but Mary was feeling sick a few days ago, and they took her up to Jackson Memorial for treatment.”

“That’s a mistake,” Toby said, laughing.

“Lots of people getting sick lately,” Lincoln said. “I had at least five of my dorm buddies knocked out by sickness. I mean, fever, flu, everything.”

“And you made it out clean?” Lyn scoffed. She was pretty sure he’d brought some of that virus home with him. This wouldn’t be the first time he’d brought sickness into their home. The last time it’d been in the form of a sixteen year old pregnant girl.

“Hey, I’ve been a good boy, Lyn, drinking my orange juice and washing my hands,” he replied, keeping his eyes down. “That combination is absolutely flawless.”

“That’s right,” she said, “soap and juice are the solution to everything. Looks like you’ve actually learned something useful up wherever you’ve been all of these years.”

“Lyn,” Toby whispered in her ear. She knew what he meant. Calm down, Lyn. This isn’t the place for this. Let it pass. Well, she was tired of this. She was tired of Lincoln. Tired of pretending that nothing had ever been wrong. Pretending that a little birthday party/get together could fix all their problems. It couldn’t, and she couldn’t stand it anymore.

“No, I’m not going to calm down,” she said, climbing to her feet. “I’m sick and tired of you, Lincoln.”

“That’s ridiculous, I haven’t even done anything.”

“Lyn, will you leave the boy alone?” Rosemarie had risen to his defense. Lyn crossed her arms. It was just like her younger sister to do something like that.

“I will not leave him alone. He goes out to that college of his, wasting Dad’s money on girls and parties, then he wants to talk about drinking orange juice and washing his hands. I can’t stand it.”

“Lyn, you’re not making any sense,” Toby said, his voice low. “He didn’t do anything to provoke this.”

“Oh, so now you’re coming to his defense?” Lyn felt her voice rising, but couldn’t stop the anger. It was as though all her emotions for the past five years had been stored in a pressure sealed bottle, and the top had just popped off. She was ready to explode, and it was going to be messy.

“Listen, Lyn, you want to talk waste, then talk about yourself,” Lincoln replied, getting to his feet. “You sit around in your house all day doing absolutely nothing while your husband slaves away at some hack job, for what? So you can buy some new clothes and a nice car? He works so hard for you, and you don’t even love him.”

“Don’t talk about me like that!”

“That’s quite enough,” their father said, standing to his feet. “We did not gather here so you two could squabble. If you want to work out your differences, we can get you to a family counselor, someone trained to help deal with conflict resolution.”

“Oh, because that worked so well for you and Mom?” This time it was Rosemarie’s turn. Lyn smiled bitterly. Everyone knew Rosemarie hated their father, especially after the affair. It gave Lyn a twisted satisfaction to see someone else as angry as she was.

“We did our part, Rosemarie. How many times do I have to apologize to you? I didn’t mean for any of this to hurt you.”

“Well, it did anyway. Look, I don’t know what you thought you could gain by bringing us all here, but we can’t be fixed. You worked so hard for sixteen years to destroy us, and then you think you can repair it at a party?” Rosemarie laughed and walked out of the living room.

Lyn sat back in her chair. The front door slammed behind Rosemarie and her mother was about to get up when Lincoln stopped her.

“Give her some space, Mom,” he said. “You won’t be able to say anything to help her.”

Their mother began to sob. “Why did this have to happen? We were supposed to have a good time, celebrating Lyn, enjoying each other’s company.”

“There’s nothing to enjoy,” Lyn mumbled under her breath. She realized now what a mistake it had been, inviting Lincoln and Rosemarie. She should have just visited Mom and Dad on her own. Everything would have been just fine.

 

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