Home > Into the Dim (Into The Dim #1)(5)

Into the Dim (Into The Dim #1)(5)
Janet B. Taylor

“I’ve forwarded you the email from Lucinda,” he said as he got out of the car. “I never met her, but she and your mother were very close, you know. Promise me you’ll at least think about it.”

I snorted. Sure. No problem. I’ll just hop on a plane. Easy-peasey.

Unlike a normal person, I wasn’t worried about crashing. I’d researched the chances of that, and they were infinitesimal. No. It wasn’t splatting into the ocean and cracking into a million pieces that made my teeth itch. It was being trapped inside that suffocating metal tube.

As I walked across the porch, the memory zipped into place.

My mom was a prominent historian and author of a dozen popular biographies. Universities all over the world paid her very well for her lectures and book-signings. She’d tried for years to take me along on her circuit. She’d begged, cajoled, promised me a great time. A little over a year ago, I’d finally agreed. We planned it for months. We’d fly into London and rent a car, and I’d actually get to see some of the historical places I’d spent most of my life studying. I wanted to go so badly, I could taste it. Then, three days after my fifteenth birthday, we went to the airport.

It was an unmitigated disaster.

I tried. I tried so hard to make myself get on that plane. In the end, my mother had boarded alone, while I vomited quietly in my dad’s back seat, the claustrophobia-induced migraine splitting my skull in two. After that, no matter how much she begged, I wouldn’t even discuss it.

Alone in my bedroom, I slumped in my battered desk chair, staring down at the smears of red graveyard mud that tracked across the frayed carpet. The muted clink of dishes rose up through the floor. Below, I could hear the muffled voices of people who’d followed us home. Done with the whole mourning thing, they were busy stuffing their faces with casseroles and neighbor-baked pies.

She’s gone. She’s really gone. And now Dad is leaving me too.

But ten hours on an airplane? Impossible.

The area inside a typical Boeing 747 is 1,375 square feet. The average size of a small house. Not so bad, right? A house. Plenty of room. No big deal.

But if you’re in a house, you can go outside. You can step out and breathe the air. If you want—if you need—to.

Panting, I lowered my head to my knees as tiny jets of agony began to pulse across my scalp. An invisible band slowly tightened across my chest as sweat gathered at my hairline and across the back of my neck.

When black spots appeared at the edge of my vision, I knew I was seconds from hyperventilating. Grinding my teeth, I forced myself to perform the breathing technique Mom and I had practiced over and over, when everything became too much. When the vast quantities of information that never, ever left my brain just kept expanding.

In . . . two three. Out . . . two three. That’s right, Hope. There you go. Slow and easy. Just keep counting.

When my breath had normalized, I sat up and turned back to the computer. The subject line in the forwarded email read, “Invitation from your aunt.”

Aunt. I scowled at the four black letters. Yeah, right. Might as well say “Invitation from a total stranger.” My mom and her only sister had been close, that was true enough. They’d talked on the phone every week. Sometimes for hours. But Mom always claimed her sister was something of a recluse. She never visited. And in all those years, she’d never asked to speak to me. Not once.

I tapped ragged fingernails on the wooden desk. I didn’t need to read the letter. I’d committed it to memory in that one, quick glance. As I’ve already offered my condolences, I shall not do so here.

I grunted. Wow. What a sweetheart.

My gaze snagged on the postscript.

I also believe there are insights she might gain at her mother’s childhood home which would not be feasible for her to discover in her current circumstances.

“Insights?” I muttered. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

I stood and paced to the window. Even here, in my own space, I felt suffocated. I shoved the sash open, but the muggy June air only made it worse.

Frustrated, I slammed it back down. Wrapping a fist in the nubby curtains, I started to jerk them closed, when a blaze of blue caught my eye. Our neighbor’s massive hydrangea bush.

I flinched away from the window as the memory sliced me apart.

The annual Walton Fourth of July picnic was mandatory. Only imminent death excused attendance. That year, Mother Bea had hired a professional photographer, who’d spent the day snapping candids. Twelve, chubby and awkward, I’d spent my day ducking out of them.

As the sun waned, my grandmother had perched in her favorite wicker chair before a great wall of blue hydrangeas to begin formal portraits. When the photographer called for the grandkids, Dad towed me toward the plethora of cousins. Stifling a sigh, I’d arranged myself near the back. Mother Bea’s perfectly permed gray head swiveled, scanning her progeny. When the photographer raised his huge camera, she gestured for him to wait.

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