The Department of Psychology was paying for this flight, with an extra stipend besides. Even with Gordon's child support, life away from home was expensive. Planes, hotels, and restaurants were for other people, vacationers and business travelers with someone to share the trip with. May felt a wave of loneliness.
Listening to Kylie humming beside her, May looked down. She hadn't planned on motherhood, hadn't counted on anything as wonderful as Kylie coming from the worst experience of her life. Kylie was a fairy child, unique and odd but -- if May could believe Dr. Whitpen -- gifted instead of disturbed. May had been instructed to keep a diary of her visions, a blue notebook she filled with everything Kylie told her and with details May observed.
Right now, Kylie stared at the men up front with growing intensity, her eyes taking on what May called "the glow." She was seeing something. She bit her lip, to keep from blurting it out. Her eyes slid from May to the forward compartment and back again. Six years old, she was small for her size. Wavy dark hair fell to her shoulders, and velvet brown eyes gazed out from her creamy face, radiant as if lit from within by candlelight.
"Don't, Kylie," May said.
"But--" Kylie began.
"I'm tired," May said. "Look somewhere else. Draw pictures. I'll switch with you, and you can have the window seat."
Kylie shook her head and gave an exaggerated shiver, sliding low in her seat. She stared at the big men up front, her eyebrows knit together with fierce concentration.
"It's a baby one," she said, frowning as she clasped her hands in her lap.
As if feeling the intensity of Kylie's stare, one of the hockey players looked over his shoulder. He had the aisle seat, and as he turned May noticed a mischievous glint in his gray-blue eyes. A flight attendant stepped forward to yank the curtain shut. Blocked from view, their conversation and laughter were just as loud. Kylie stared as if she had X-ray vision, as if whatever she had seen was still there, in plain sight.
"Great," came an annoyed voice from the row behind. "Put the Boston Bruins on a plane, and watch the stewardesses disappear."
"They're screwing up the play-offs anyway," someone else said. "The Maple Leafs will finish them off tonight."
"The hell with hockey," a woman said with a laugh. "Just give me Martin Cartier."
"The hell with Martin Cartier," a man growled. "Just bring me a drink."
Kylie seemed oblivious to all the talk. Sitting between her mother and the stranger on the aisle, she was growing paler by the minute. May stuck the papers and her diary into a folder and snapped up her tray table. Her heart felt heavy, and her chest ached. She watched Kylie stare at the curtain, her mouth moving in silent words.
"Let's switch places, honey," May said, unsnapping her and Kylie's seat belts. "It's springtime down there, and you can see the new leaves. See all those fields? All the trees? We must be over Massachusetts by now. See if you can count--" She paused, lifting Kylie out of her seat and plunking her by the window. Kylie's skin felt clammy, and May's heart was racing. The businessman let out a loud exhalation as May kicked his briefcase out of the way.
"She wants her daddy, Mom," Kylie whispered, clutching May's wrist. "She wants to kiss him."
"Count the barns," May pleaded, pointing out the window, trying to find something to occupy Kylie, take her mind off the hallucination.
"Oh, but she'll leave--" Kylie started, sounding sad. She swallowed, looking into May's eyes. May could almost watch her willing herself to obey, to stop whatever vision she was having and act like a normal child -- count the barns or sing her ABC's or look at the Berkshires or ask to be taken to the bathroom.
Kylie had started seeing angels when she was four. She went to nursery school and realized that she was the only child there without a father. A month later, her beloved Great-Granny -- May's grandmother Emily -- died of a heart attack. Then, one spring day, on a hike around the Lovecraft Wildlife Refuge, the two of them had come upon a body hanging from a tree branch. All rags and bone, the skull had grinned down like a decomposing witch. The police later identified it as the body of a drifter, Richard Perry, who had committed suicide.
Copyright © 2001 by Luanne Rice
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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