By: Tim Law
You peek out the window of the fancy car that they had sent to pick you up and gaze in awe at the Mayor's impressive residence. The garden is beautiful, a rainbow of roses and other sweetly perfumed blooms. Everywhere you look you see green or color, a healthy garden, a garden of the rich. You think of your own home and although it is nice you know it does not and could not ever compare to this.
You think to yourself, ‘What on earth am I doing here?'
You still wonder as the driver opens the door for you and you step out from the safety of the car's leather interior.
"You made it! At last!" announces the Mayor's daughter, Sarah-May. She gives you a genuinely warm smile. That little worry you had in the forefront of your mind and the pit of your stomach only a moment ago seems to vanish. You return the smile with one of your own before you willingly follow her up the porch steps.
It is hot, a spring day in Marylands. Sarah-May offers you a tall glass of lemonade which you graciously accept. She is wearing a nice pastel yellow dress and you cannot help but notice just how pretty she is.
"Hurry, come in where it's cooler," Sarah-May urges as you sip and sigh. "Everyone is waiting for you."
You wonder who everyone might be but follow Sarah-May inside. She is sixteen, like you, and you know her from school. You think you may just like her like her and for the moment at least it seems like she could be in to you too.
Inside the parlor there looks to be twenty or more members of the Ruthford family. They vary in age from youthful to wrinkled but most seem far older than you. One of the family members slaps you on the shoulder. He is old enough to be your daddy. Although the day is hot this man wears a double breasted suit. Dark, matched with a crimson tie. He looks like he could be headed to the office in town or somebody's funeral. You hope it's not a funeral. You hate funerals.
"Glad you could make it on such a special day," the suited man says with a beaming smile. His facial features look similar to Sarah-May's, possibly an uncle. You nod in reply to his comment, unsure what to say in reply. You wonder for a moment what special day he is referring to, as far as you know it is just another weekend.
You feel light headed, is it the heat? You hear a squeal and a squeak and you look through the crowd of gathered Ruthfords to see a figure in a wheel chair being pushed towards you. There forms a gap in the crowd and you discover it is the Mayor being pushed by the man who drove you here.
"Thank you for the invitation, Your Worship," you begin to say but then the feeling in your head overcomes you. You open your mouth to cry out as the floor rises up to meet you.
"Make some room! Make some room!" calls the Mayor. "Someone catch the body!"
"Did I do good?" you hear Sarah-May ask, she seems to be seeking praise from somebody.
"Yes darling," you hear her mother say.
The last thing you see before your eyes shut and the room goes silent is a woman who is an elder version of Sarah-May proudly squeezing your friend's hand.
You wake up and feel strange old somehow, worn. You are reminded of that night you and that boy from down the street found your daddy's rum bottle. You had both been twelve years old then and thought you were invincible. The next morning had been filled with pain, suffering and a surreal sense of displacement. Exactly how it was you felt now.
"What on earth was in that drink?" you murmur.
To your shocking surprise your voice has changed. It crackles and seems to betray decades of a life you have not yet lived. Deepening your confusion you are no longer in the parlor. Looking around you it seems like you are now in some sort of church. The stain glass windows depict no scenes of any bible you have read. At a guess the six images seem to be of one ghostly figure moving into and out of many others.
"Ah, you are finally awake," you hear yourself say but your voice, your real voice is coming from the altar at the front of the church, a round twelve or so feet from where you currently sit. Looking in that direction you see yourself sitting upon the great stone block. You stretch, and then suddenly you slide off the altar and the white robes that you wear flow. You stride and your hands reach out and clasp about your shoulders.
"I don't " you begin to say but again your voice is cracked and worn. It is the Mayor's voice.
"I think it worked," states the voice of Sarah-May behind you.
She is pushing the Mayor's chair only it is you who now sits with wrinkles on the outside and a woolen rug across your lap.
"I am young again!" the Mayor announces.
"Why?" you ask.
"Cancer," states the Mayor. "It is riddled all through that old body of mine."
"Doc Parsons gave you a month to live, right?" asks Sarah-May, again she seeks approval.
It is strange to see yourself smile.
"That's right," your voice says. "But now I got me a whole lot of years ahead, thanks to you."
"When I'm eighteen you'll see me married," Sarah-May announces. She leans over and you feel her soft lips press against your worn cheek. A day ago you would have been surprised that this girl chose to kiss you. Now the gesture just makes you feel sick.
"You will never get away with this," you growl, furious and frustrated and still confused. Was it voodoo, an arcane spell or some sort of twisted science?
Both Ruthfords laugh.
"Your parents already know," states the Mayor.
"They have promised to keep our little secret and I'll cover for you at school," further explains the young girl.
You feel the pain of the cancer twist your body. It feels as though you hurt from the core of your soul. The chair squeaks, seemingly sharing in your protest as the twisted, conniving Sarah-May takes you from the church.
"I am so glad I thought of you," she states with a sickening smile of joy plastered across her holier than thou face. "I have had my eye on you for quite some time."
Sarah-May sings as she wheels you away.
"I hear wedding bells, wedding bells, wedding bells for two."
All you can think of is how that chance for love, happiness and a life has been taken from you, unfairly stolen. You feel your hatred of Sarah-May, the Mayor and the Ruthford family begin to grow. The greatest feeling of disenchantment is saved for your own family though, those who have sacrificed your youth so that they can find some brief moment of reprieve from poverty. You've been betrayed and left to suffer the cruel fate of another. The rich get richer and live on and on and on.