August 31

The Quiet Farm (Part 4)

 

[…continued from August 30 entry…]

 

The walk to Lara’s farm was almost too much for the young woman.  She barely spoke along the way, her breaths heavy as they trudged the hillside.  The way down was slightly easier on her, but she leaned against Lara for support.

The animals shied away as the two women passed.  They tended to behave in this standoffish way whenever she returned from a neighboring farm, with its own distinct smells.  Lara didn’t think much of it — they’d warm to her again as alien smells faded, and as feeding time came around.

Once inside the house, the young woman nearly collapsed.  Lara had to practically carry her to the unused bedroom.

Her father’s.  The room where he’d died.

“Please shut the curtains,” her frail guest said after she’d been placed in the bed and covered with blankets.  “The sun feels so bright.  It’s hurting my eyes.”

Lara obeyed, pulling shades and tying the curtains with a cord — making the room nearly as dark as night.  “Tell me your name,” she whispered, which seemed the appropriate manner of speech in a quiet, shadowy place.

“Corrinne,” the guest responded.  Her eyelids fluttered briefly, then closed.  “I’m so very tired.”

Lara stayed a while in the room.  Corrinne’s strawberry blonde hair lay soft on the pillow, and  in that dark room the pale skin of her young face seemed to glow from within.

The room was so quiet, and she realized she couldn’t hear Corrinne’s breathing.  Lara remembered her father’s final days in this room, when his breaths had been loud and labored…and then the night when it had grown weaker, and then stopped.

She leaned closer, turned her ear close near the girl’s mouth, and still heard nothing.  She glanced at her torso beneath the blanket, hoping to distinguish the rise and fall of Corrinne’s stomach.  The room was either too dark, or any movement was too slight.

There was only one way to be sure.  Lara reached down, lay her hand on top of the blanket and felt for the breaths beneath.

Nothing.

And then the girl moved in her sleep, both arms emerging from beneath the blanket to lay hands atop Lara’s own.  The hands pressed down, then released, in a repeating motion that seemed to encourage the stomach beneath.  A gasp expelled from Corrinne’s mouth, then her breaths fell into the rhythm of a nervous sleeper.

And still, Lara felt her hand pressed into the tender stomach, again and again, and it was not until a quarter hour later that she was able to free herself.

Her guest slept through the day and evening and into the night.

Lara herself did not sleep until late.  She woke from a vague disturbing dream, and thought she heard an echo of her father’s whistle in the darkened house.

 

[…continued tomorrow…]