While her brother, the good son, the proper child, was studying arithmetic, she gently placed her wings by the kitchen door. She didn’t want them to get in the way. They never did, however. No one ever really noticed them. The others were too busy admiring Eric’s halo to notice Tay’s wings.
Tay loved this time of night after dinner, especially in mid-October when it was getting darker earlier. Eric was, as usual, self-absorbed. And Mother and Father were always absorbed with Eric.
So when the rain began and Mother pulled the drapes so the cold wouldn’t bother her precious son, Tay slipped down the hall to the kitchen, onto the enclosed back porch, and stepped into the wet autumn night.
She raised her face to the sky letting the rain fall across her face like tears. Only these tears weren’t the hot salty ones that carried grief from her soul to water the soil with the hope of growing something beautiful. No these cold tears rained down her face, cooling her fire. She could feel their journey down her neck and between her breasts stopping just short of her naval.
Tay walked towards the little white gate that led to the forest. When Eric was born, Mother insisted Father build a white picket fence so Eric wouldn’t wander into the forest behind their house. Father did everything Mother wanted. Tay decided it wasn’t because Father loved Mother. She knew that wasn’t true. Father spent too much time away from Mother to love her. Father did everything Mother demanded, not because of the money they would inherit someday when Grandmother finally passed, but Tay knew it had to be because the family name was to be passed on by Eric. Tay never understood why this was so important. But it was. And life in the household bowed to Eric.
The little gate to the white picket fence that was only high enough to keep out uninterested wildlife never interested Eric. He never left for the forest. As a matter of fact, he never went further than the back porch with its windows looking out over the green grass and dark forest beyond. He always sat in the same place staring, never moving. He would get his notebook and write equations for hours on end, occasionally looking out the windows.
However, the little gate always fascinated Tay. Rather, the forest beyond called her from the first time Mother set her in the grass and returned to the porch to sit with Eric. Tay learned quickly how to work the gate clasp.
The first time she got out, she was about two years old. She remembered hearing Mother call to her, but no one ever came to get her. Tay wandered for hours in the field between the house and the forest, afraid to venture into the dark.
Later, when Father returned home, Tay was retrieved and spanked for being a bad girl. It was then Tay decided she would someday leave for the forest.
But it wasn’t as big a deal as she thought it might be. Soon her parents were totally ignoring her and she was free to explore as far and as long as she wished. As the years passed she would bring trinkets and blankets and extra clothes to leave behind.
She found a perfect cove where she placed some books and a few snacks she kept in Tupperware bowls with lids so the animals couldn’t get into them. Leaves and ferns decorated her forest room. Animals would pass by as she read or recited poetry or painted. They would pause and she would welcome them and they would go on their way.
Tonight the rain was falling with a fury she didn’t understand. As she walked, she kept her face to the sky. She didn’t need to see the path. She knew the way by heart. The rain left a sheen flowing down her body. Her clothes became heavy, soaked with tears from the sky.
Tay knew there was going to be sadness soon, a deep sadness that would engulf her. She could feel it. But she wasn’t afraid. She knew she had a safe place to ride out the storm. Her cove would be almost free from tears falling from the grey autumn sky. She would wait and listen. She would know what to do. Something would tell her.
After she changed into dry clothes, she settled into the cove lighting a lantern she stole from the garden house. Father looked for it for weeks after she took it and Mother laughed at his forgetfulness. Mother was sure he had thrown it away or left it at some campground hoping for an excuse to get a new one.
Tay loved the lantern because it belonged to her Gramps. It was rusty, just like he was. But it gave beautiful light, just like he did. She missed him, especially on rainy nights like this one when he would make her hot chocolate and read her poems from Whitman and Dickinson and stories from the bible.
Tay was a bit cold and wrapped herself in one of the blankets. She was opening her book of Emily Dickinson poems in honor of her Gramps when she heard it.
First, two quick pops. A pause. Then one more.
It was unmistakable. Father practiced every week and she would hide in her cove with earplugs not to hear the crisp fire-cracker snaps of his pistol. He was an expert shot and he never missed.