Cycle of Heart: Ache Chapter Four

“Girl, what’s wrong with you?!” came the overly loud and familiar voice of her friend Melissa Marx. The fiery redhead walked by her friend’s side matching her step for step. The thick glasses resting on her freckled nose magnified her ivy colored eyes. Melissa’s pale milk skin was made even paler by the morning light.

“Nothing,” Alice answered.

“Do you know how horrible of a liar you are?”

A deflated sigh tumbled out of Alice’s mouth. She fretted talking about her mother, afraid of the tears it would bring. However she had been around her friend long enough to know there was no weaseling away from Melissa’s emerald gaze.

“It’s my mom,” Alice conceded. “She’s been acting weird lately. I asked her if I could see the comet tonight and she grounded me. Seriously, she just flipped out.”

“Nah, not Ms. Ember. Weird.”

“Tell me about it. She hardly raises her voice let alone ground me. Then boom I get both in one shot.”

“Maybe she’s just stressed out with all the time she’s put in at the hospital.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Whatever’s wrong I’m sure it’ll work out soon.”

“Well no matter what she says I’m going out tonight.”

Melissa came to a sudden halt. When Alice turned in her direction those emerald eyes were giving her an alarming parental look. That look that screams out ‘and who do you think you are’. Nevertheless Alice was equipped with her own look that said ‘don’t look at me like that’. After a brief stare down the friend began to laugh before they headed on their way again.

Between dying chuckles Melissa said, “I’d think about it again before you do it. You don’t want to get your mom more upset. She goes through a lot for you.”

“So that gives her the right to take it out on me? I didn’t do anything.”

“Fine. As long as you know I was against this from the start.”

There was another five minutes before they reached the school. They spent the time talking about anything else. Classes, boys, their clothes, anything that didn’t involve Alice’s mother. Some of Alice’s penned up frustration started to melt away. Her shoulders didn’t seem to be holding as much of a burden. Alice knew that Melissa was her best friend, but she didn’t really appreciate her for all she was worth until now.

Before they knew it they’d arrived at school. School buses pulled up around the same time. Piles of uninterested kids shuffled out like a hordes of zombies. Suddenly the isolated world between the two friends was intruded upon.

Alice was about to make note of this to her friend when she saw that Melissa’s attention was elsewhere. She followed her friend’s gaze across the dew-laden lawn. The eyes came to the trunk of an old tree. Sitting by it was the same black rabbit from the day before. A large floppy ear rested over its left eye, and the right continued to swirl with ink blot composites. The rabbit stood immobile, staring and unblinking. Minus the twitching of a pinkish nose and its long whiskers the rabbit may well have been a statue or gargoyle propped on the grass.

“Isn’t that the cutest thing you ever saw?” asked Melissa, sounding more like a giddy kindergartener. She flashed her pearly whites while doing her best to call the rabbit to her. It remained cemented to its spot. Its gaze searching past the blazing red hair at Alice.

“I’ve seen him before.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, he was right outside the window in astronomy class. He was doing the exact same thing he’s doing now…nothing. Kinda creepy.”

“Creepy? What are you nuts?! He’s adorable.” Melissa made a soft cooing noise as she slowly approached the hare. When she was within an arms length the rabbit darted away into the bushes. She tsked. “Well I never saw a creepy bunny before, and I still haven’t.”

“It was staring at me.”

“It did not.”

“Seriously that rabbit is plain weird.”

Melissa could only laugh in return. “Whatever. You can think rabbits are stalking you all you want. I’ll keep on believing that they’re squishable.”

The school bell cried out, signaling the last call to enter the school before they were late. With a fond farewell the friends parted.

****

The rest of the day was uneventful much to Alice’s delight. No more sightings of one-eyed rabbits along the way. Something about that rabbit seemed like a bad omen. As she thought about it after she saw it the first time her mother started acting strange. Surely that could be blamed on certain black rabbit.

When Alice arrived home she wasn’t surprised to find that her mother had gone to work. Attached to the refrigerator sat a yellow memo paper with a message quickly scrawled on it.

Alice when I come in tonight we need to talk. There’s something you should know. P.S. Do Not Leave This House!!!

“Whatever.”

The way Alice figured it her mother would be at the hospital until eleven thirty. She could go down to the woods and be back in plenty of time. If she wasn’t she’d deal with the consequences when they came. Tonight it was her, her telescope, and the Voldo Comet.

As time went by it grew harder to contain her excitement. She fidgeted and paced about. She was ready with a pack that held her telescope, a notebook and pen. By the time ten thirty came around she darted out the door.

The air shared her excitement bristling against her upraised arm hairs. The sky and wind were full of electricity waiting for the arrival of the comet. Fallen leaves danced and skittered along the ground, crackling as they sped past her.

A smile graced her face, her heart pounded quicker the deeper she plunged into the wood. Pale moonlight broke up the darkness. A hooting owl and a choir of nighttime insects sang the night to life. But ever so subtly another sound was mixed in. The rustling of bushes.

She wished that it was nature that made the bushes restless, but stumbling out into the path was an all too familiar rabbit. It bounded in front of her with its eye dancing all the while. It wriggled its pink nose and nodded its head. For some reason Alice thought that it was giving a cordial bow.

She halted in her tracks at the sight of the black rabbit. Alice wasn’t afraid but very unnerved just the same. As she stood in front of the rabbit the name Moxie twirled on her tongue again.

The rabbit gestured its head in the direction of the woods, beckoning her to continue on. When Alice didn’t respond the rabbit repeated the gesture but more aggressively this time.

She approached the rabbit like it was a coiled viper. Cautiously she stroked its silken fur. With each pass of her hand her apprehension melted away. The rabbit appeared pleased as well, thumping its furry paws as she petted him.

“So what’s your name little guy?” she whispered, continuing to pet the odd rabbit. Of course it didn’t respond. Alice halfway expected it to. Sadly this was only a rabbit she deduced. No more, no less. “Hmm, shy are we? Well since you won’t introduce yourself to me I’ll have to introduce myself to you. My name is Alice Ember and apparently I’m the queen of the loons.”

She took a deep breath and stared to laugh, nervous chuckles masking a hidden pain. “My name is Alice Ember and I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m a girl who should be back home watching the comet from the roof. My mom trusts me. I don’t know why but she does. And now I’m standing out here having a conversation with a bunny.”

With a final rough stroke she rose to her feet, thoughts of her mother rushing through her head. She turned and headed back to the house.

“Alice,” called a gently masculine voice. The girl with the mismatched eyes halted in her tracks. The voice came from behind her. But that was impossible. Shaken she turned back around. There was the rabbit standing on its hind legs indeed bowing to her this time.

“Please do not be alarmed. I, your faithful servant have come to retrieve you.”

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