September 3

The Quiet Farm (Part 7)

[…continued from September 2 entry…]

“Were you in my room?  I dreamed that you stood right there, and watched me while I slept.”

It was the same question Lara had planned to ask Corrinne — but her guest had asked it first.

“I’ve stopped in a few times,” Lara said.  “To check on you.  To see if you needed anything.”

“And did I?”

Lara didn’t respond.  Corrinne had referred to this as “her” room — but she hadn’t earned that right.  She’d been here two days and two nights, and by all appearances hadn’t moved from the bed.  She also hadn’t revealed anything meaningful about herself, hadn’t shared any recollections about her strange illness, or the even stranger disappearance of the entire Headley family.

Or anything she might know about the broken radios and televisions and telephones, the lack of cars along the road or planes in the sky.

Lara felt too weary to investigate such things herself.  Maybe she didn’t want to know.

She could barely summon the energy to step outside to check on the animals.  The food from yesterday remained untouched in the feeding stations.  The horses crowded at the far end of the fence.  The sheep avoided her as she stepped into their pen — they opened their mouths as if planning to bleat, but no sounds came out.

Tomorrow.  If things weren’t better tomorrow, she’d drive into town for help.

Later that evening, after a nap that lasted longer than she expected, Lara once again went to Corrinne’s room.  She tapped gently at the door before entering.  She’d brought a glass of water, and a small plate with bread and cheese, and she set them on the endtable beside her still-sleeping guest.

Then she turned to the wide bureau at the opposite end of the room, leaning down to open the bottom drawer.  She lifted out a dark blue photo album with the word “Family” embossed on the cover.  The first pages contained carefully arranged photos, corner fastened with handwritten captions beneath.  Those images captured her father and mother — their courtship and wedding, some candid shots of family gatherings.  Then, following strict chronology, images of her mother pregnant, followed by baby Lara in the hospital then home in the crib.  There were no pictures of Lara and her mother together.

The second half of the album was more haphazard, with some photos taped down and others tucked loosely between pages.

Among the loose photos, Lara found the one she was looking for.  Her father had taken it on the day of her eighteenth birthday.  She remembered her father had cried a few minutes after taking the picture.  He often cried on her birthday — an occasion he admitted brought him great joy, mixed with terrible sadness.

Lara looked at her younger self in the Polaroid, then held the image up to compare it to her sleeping guest.

No, she hadn’t been mistaken.  Corrinne looked very much like herself at eighteen.  When the girl next woke, she would show her the picture and ask what the resemblance might mean.

In the photo, eighteen-year-old Lara looked healthy, with a forced, closed-mouth smile.  In her father’s bed, Corrinne unconsciously mimicked that smile — which was odd enough, perhaps a simple coincidence as her guest dreamed of better times.

The other odd thing was how Corrinne’s face flushed with more health, as if to better match Lara’s image from years ago.  Her guest was getting better.

And Lara couldn’t help but think:  she’s getting better, while I grow weak, and the animals outside grow silent and sullen and refuse to touch their food.

 

[…continued tomorrow…]