Title: Twilight Christmas, A Carolina Coast Novella
By: Normandie Fischer
Publisher: Sleepy Creek Press
Publication Date: November 27, 2016
Book Trailer: YouTube link: https://youtu.be/FkID-2clEAI
Linney needs protecting, and Louis is the only one left to save her. She may be his big sister, but her Down Syndrome will get her put in an institution if he doesn’t hide her well. Only, it’s getting harder and harder to pretend he’s older than ten and to keep her safe and warm in this old storage barn. Especially at Christmas, when all his sister wants is a tree with lights, like the one at the church next door.
Chapter One Louis
Louis drew his hand back from his mama’s cheek. No matter how many times he shook her, cried out to her, begged her, she stayed cold and gray. No breath, no tears, no nothing.
He wanted the images of her blank eyes and her pale lips undone. Once upon a time, those lips had smiled around her snaggletooth, one just like his, but it would never catch or embarrass her again.
He wanted last night back. Last night she’d still been alive. Last night she hadn’t smelled funny.
He took a step away from her bed. He’d leave the empty pill bottle at her side and not even try to close her eyes like he’d seen them do on TV. The police would figure out how she’d died, what she’d taken, what had finally let her out of this life and her need to be a mother to them.
He bit hard on his lower lip. He would not get angry at how she’d left them, left him, to cope.
He didn’t hear Linney pad in and couldn’t stop her before she climbed up beside the mama who wasn’t there. As she reached a hand toward Mama’s cheek, he cried out. “No! Don’t touch.”
But she already had. A quick touch. A quick moan. A barely heard “Cold.” And then, “Ma . . . ma? Wake up,” said with the beginning of tears.
He called Linney to him, but she just sat there uncomprehending. He swiped at his nose. It kept leaking, like his eyes did, and his tears fogged up his glasses. He pulled them off, wiped them on his shirt, wiped his eyes with his hands, then stuck his too-loose frames back on his nose and tried to get control of himself. He had to stop acting like a baby so he could fix things. Soon as they found out his mama was dead, they’d come take him and Linney, and they’d put Linney one place and him another.
Just like last time.
“Come on. I’ll . . . I’ll fix your breakfast.” He reached for his sister’s hand. He could do this. He had to do this.
Linney looked once more at the body that wasn’t their mama anymore and trailed behind him to the kitchen area.
“Sit,” he said before he turned back to close the bedroom door, softly, as if anything else might wake the sleeping.
If only it would. If only it would.
He couldn’t think about that. Instead, he got out the sugared cereal Linney shouldn’t eat in spite of it being her favorite, filled a bowl with the last of it, poured in milk, and set it before her. She smiled brilliantly up at him.
He couldn’t eat a single thing. Not until he figured out what to do and how to fix this.
Mama kept her old suitcase stuffed with summer clothes ’cause the trailer didn’t have enough room for more drawers. He dragged it from behind the couch, opened it, and took out everything they didn’t need. Then he went to Linney’s room and got some warm things for her, then some for him. He stuffed those in and remembered he’d need plenty of pull-up diapers for his sister. And the wipe things, in case she had an accident. If she was scared or upset, accidents happened. Too many times. And he hated having to help her, now she was getting older.
It shouldn’t be him. It really shouldn’t.
But who else was there? Who else had there been most nights?
To make the pull-ups fit in the suitcase he had to take out some of his clothes, including his extra sweater. Linney needed more changes of clothes anyway. He could make do. He tried to decide which of his books he should bring. No way he wanted to get stupid just ’cause he couldn’t go to school anymore.
Then he checked around to see if he’d forgotten anything.
The cops would come hunting them if he left the trailer looking like this. While Linney watched, he put everything in order, the way Mama would have, before he sat down to write a note in his best cursive, copying Mama’s writing, fixing things so no one would come looking.
He’d wait until dark. Then he’d fill a sack with other things he’d need and figure out how to get him and Linney and their stuff to a good hiding place. He had time to figure it out.
Figuring out how to make Linney understand why Mama wasn’t in the body back there was gonna be harder. She’d never understand death, but she was a good girl. A four-year-old trapped in the body of a twelve-year-old but with none of the attitude he’d seen on other kids. Linney was the smilingest, happiest girl he knew.
And she was his responsibility.
He took out another piece of paper and tried to make a list of the hows and the wheres. He had to do this right if he was gonna fix things. Find a place, find a way, and use the time until dark to plan their future. He’d already emptied Mama’s hiding jar and counted out the bills. It was enough for now, but then what? Money and running out of it was his biggest fear.
Next to being found and having someone bad get Linney, like had happened to that other girl in special ed.
A life-long sailor, Normandie Fischer has been writing and editing professionally since the seventies. She and her husband retired from cruising Pacific Mexico in their ketch, Sea Venture, to care for her aging mother who accompanied them in 2013 when they sailed from Beaufort, NC, to NYC to publicize Becalmed and to welcome Normandie’s first grandchild into the world. Twilight Christmas is Normandie’s sixth book.
(Paperback will be available soon.)
Web Site: www.normandiefischer.com