and as for the clouds
just let them roll away
Her dad picks her up on a Tuesday. His face is stern when she opens the door. His eyes sweep her room quickly, quietly, and settle on the computer still set up on her desk.
“Dad…” she starts, but doesn’t know where to end.
“Laura…” His voice is heavy with disappointment. He steps forward, hands in his pockets, and she steps aside. His mouth is a grim line. “C’mon, honey, let’s pack your things. It’s time to go.”
They work in silence. Laura can’t bring herself to say anything to him, and he seems determined to leave as quickly as possible. She keeps her head down, hiding herself in her hair, as she packs clothes and CDs and books.
She left the other half of the room as it was as long as she could. Betty stayed for a few days until her parents could come for her.
But after, the school insisted Laura have a new roommate, and Natalie moved in.
LaFontaine and Perry had boxed Carmilla’s things.
Laura packs her computer last and stares at the empty side of what used to be her room. She can’t look at Natalie’s side. The bedspread is all wrong. It smells wrong. She sucks in a breath and closes the door behind her.
She leaves the yellow pillow with LaFontaine. Just in case.
It’s an eight hour drive through winding mountains. Her dad leaves talk radio on low, and Laura stares out the window, tuning out the voices to watch the trees. They don’t speak the entire way home.
“I don’t understand how you could flunk out of school, Laura.”
“I told you, Dad. There were… circumstances.”
“Circumstances? I watched that video project of yours. You and your friends have pretty vivid imaginations, but this isn’t a joke, honey.”
“No. No, it’s not.”
She enrolls in a community college close enough that she can live at home. She takes journalism and literature classes, and on a whim signs up for Intro to Philosophy.
She only makes it halfway through the first lecture before throwing up in the trashcan in the hall.
She drops the class the next day.
The snow finally melts in mid-April. Laura sits and watches the clouds race each other across the sky. The bench beneath her is cold and hard, cutting off the circulation in her legs. Laura sits, and the wind is biting cold, whipping her hair around her face. She longs for soft, cool hands instead.
The sun is beginning to set, staining the sky deep purples and pinks. She can see the first stars winking down at her. She shifts her gaze to stare at the trees instead.
She dreams that night, for the first time in seven months, of a black, crawling thing without a face, and a girl, with dark hair and dark eyes, calling to her through the blackness of night.
For the first time in seven months, Laura smiles.