shantallow

wants

under

your

skin

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Shantallow: How it begins

Just Like You Said It Would Be

I don’t do this anymore. I don’t cut left onto Bridge Road and follow it past Holy Trinity High School where the trees are shuddering together in the wind, a sign proclaiming “WELCOME BACK STAFF AND STUDENTS” squatting malevolently in front of them. I don’t swing a right into Newtown Creek, one of the more exclusive areas of Tealing, tapping my fingers impatiently against the wheel as I cruise by grass as green as a golf course but as stern and precise as a marine’s crewcut. My heart isn’t thumping erratically, like a kid making sure his feet don’t hang over the bed so the thing that lives underneath won’t grab them, while houses with porches only slightly smaller than the apartment I lived in four years ago flash by my windows

It’s not happening. I told myself I was finished with this last time. The last thing I need is to look like a stalker. I’m more like a ghost haunting the last site of my happiness. Although maybe that’s being a stalker too.

Meanwhile the sky overhead is a ceiling of unbroken black, moonless and starless the same as if there were nothing up there. But I know better. I know that when the cloud cover breaks the stars will twinkle with ostentatious brightness, appearing three times as plentiful as they do on my street in Balsam where the streetlamps follow the townhouses’ example of crowding near to each other. Memories of the glittering Newtown Creek sky—and other useless things—close in on me while I approach the Mahajan house, the sick feeling in my stomach creeping up my throat in slow motion as I take my foot off the gas.

My neck swivels to the right, my gaze darting beyond the cobble stone post with the address “288 Margate Avenue” etched neatly into it, to focus on the Mahajans’ wide, shapely driveway. A single car is parked on the far left, under a maple tree—a muddy white Kia Rio that I spotted occupying the same space about five weeks ago. Mr. Mahajan drives a silver Nissan Infiniti and only this past November Mrs. Mahajan bought an electric blue Impala to replace her five year old Passat. Tanvi doesn’t care what kind of car she drives but her parents gave her a Subaru Legacy because it had a driver death rate of zero on a highway safety study.

Obviously the Kia doesn’t belong to any of them. It’s not necessarily relevant either.

But then again, maybe it is.

I don’t stop. I step on the gas again, zooming by the house as though I have another destination in mind.

The tall trees of Newtown Creek are swaying anxiously around me, shrubbery and the occupants of flowerbeds shaking with such force that they look like they’d appreciate a coat or a blanket. Ultimately either would only blow away because the wind’s picking up steam as I leave the Mahajan house in my wake.

I was never here tonight. No one knows any different.

When things go bad you’re supposed to walk away from them and stay away. It’s survival instinct.

You don’t poke around in the mess, dragging your hands through it like a four-year-old with finger paints. You don’t stomp through it getting it on your shoes and trailing it around after you, leaving permanent stains.

It really shouldn’t matter who the white Kia belongs to. I’m gone.

My shoulders loosen as the Mahajan house shrinks in my rear-view mirror, and then disappears altogether when I hang a left and start working my way back to the main road. The detour has cost me less than ten minutes. I’m good.

Suddenly a lightning bolt zigzags through the sky off to the east. So quick that I can’t be sure whether it really happened or if I imagined it. My windshield is dry, but now I’m anticipating raindrops, looking at the trees’ sinister dance while my mind reaches for a familiar shadowy feeling that’s suspiciously like the sensation of falling. A slippery unease as chilly as an ice cube tickles the small of my back, my body jolting into high alert mode. My spine and neck tingle like I’m out of place, backwards in time without remembering the specifics, only that I’ve been exactly here and now before.

They say that young people have déjà vu more than older ones, that the experiences steadily decrease after age twenty-five. But in this case the sensation could also have something to do with barometric pressure—blood vessels in my head expanding or contracting to compensate for changing oxygen levels.

It’s going to storm. It’s only a question of when.

More to come . . .

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Visit the website of Cara's alter ego, C. K. Kelly Martin, to learn about her other books.


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