Authors: Colette Cabot
Tags: #Contemporary Romance
The Day The Siren Stopped
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons either living or dead, as well as any events or locations is entirely coincidental.
In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, any means of reproduction, either electronic or physical, of any part of this book, without written permission is unlawful piracy and deemed a theft of the author's intellectual property. You may use the material from this book for review purposes only. Any other use requires written permission from the author or publisher.
Table of Contents
She was not exactly considered a beauty, not if you looked at each of her features individually. But everyone around Kathy Mae was drawn to her and thought her beautiful. It's not that she didn't have nice features, but she did nothing to enhance her appearance. Perhaps it was the youthful look of her long, brown hair, especially when she wore braids, or her lack of eye makeup that made her face seem like that of a baby china doll. Her large brown eyes set within a pear-shaped face along with her light complexion made her seem ethereal—somehow beyond the harshness of this world. And that was far from the truth of her life.
People shunned her because of her background, that of an abandoned waif raised in the loveless home of her mother’s sister. The walls of the old shanty were dreary and yellowed from cigarette smoke. The dirt and grime of the house was a constant feature no matter how constantly and diligently Kathy Mae performed her chores. A chemical test might prove that the germs had been scrubbed away, yet the look was dull from years of exposure to unwholesome elements.
Aunt Anna never had any children of her own and repeatedly told Kathy Mae that this was a burden which she was grateful not to have had. Kathy Mae accepted the label, that of being a burden, as it had been implanted by her only caregiver from a very early age. When she had turned eighteen and finished high school, she saw few options, as none were presented to her. Her grades had been adequate, but not exceptional, and no one was encouraging her to apply to colleges. There was no money for college anyway, and she saw no way possible to borrow the funds. Probably, there could have been a way, but with her average grades and extremely low self-esteem, she did not see it happening for her.
Kathy Mae, now about to turn thirty, earned $3.00 an hour shuffling books into their proper place at the local library. It only provided her ten hours a week, but it was the only job she could find in town. Her love of books made it bearable; they were like old friends willing to share their secrets. They never judged her, condescended to her, or changed their feelings toward her. Books also provided a source for the only adventures she had ever known, and she had resolved that this was to be all that life had to offer—for her, anyway.
Borough, Missouri used to be something to look at. It had been, until the train stopped running through town. That had been years ago, and now the village of two hundred and fifty people sat stagnant with boredom as years passed and neglect deteriorated the once quaint and charming buildings. The only opportunities for work came from either the local chicken shack, the library, a small gas station, and a very few domestic service jobs. Most people, ones with transportation, worked in the neighboring town of Nevada, only about twenty miles away. Here they boasted a supermarket, a thriving McDonald’s, a plastics plant, and a small hospital. It was considered the “big city” to most—having a population of about ten thousand people.
Throughout it all, amid all the sour circumstances, Kathy Mae was not bitter. In fact, she accepted quietly that this was the life God saw fit to give her—and she felt determined to ride it out. But, every now and then, she found herself filled with an overwhelming longing to be loved, to have someone actually love her for herself. Like in the books she read, a deep love would make her world immensely better. It was a daring concept, from her perspective, and she wasn't sure exactly where it came from—someplace deep inside her, someplace strange to the Kathy Mae she had always known.
She longed for this thing she had never experienced—a sense of true love, and it left her feeling confused, wondering if someone somewhere hadn't somehow loved her once—or how could she even know what she was missing? Her mother and father, both being drug addicts, had handed her over to Aunt Anna when she was only an infant. They considered her a needy brat, always crying and wanting something, as was the nature of babies. Although they lived in a nearby town, she hardly heard from them much, except for when her mother came occasionally to borrow money which she usually didn't get because Aunt Anna hadn't any to spare. On those occasions she barely got a hello from the woman who had borne her, much less an actual greeting that could have been even loosely construed as affection.
Kathy Mae accepted the “needy” label, too, the one with which her parents had branded her; she was, indeed, needy. No matter how hard she worked to keep it hidden, an aching need to feel wanted, welcomed, or even loved gnawed at her inside. Throughout her childhood she dreamed of having parents that loved each other as well as herself, but she was now an adult, and she resolved to shirk that part of herself. She had no time to contemplate spilled milk. What was done was done.
Kathy Mae heaved a sigh as she pushed a copy of
To Kill a Mockingbird
in its place. The books she read introduced her to people who loved each other happily in the end. They had conflicts which they resolved; challenges which made them stronger, and they lived with people who provided things she could only dream about. These things she read about and dreamed about so that when she met such situations in her own life—someday, when that happened—she would know how to recognize it, how to prepare for it, and how to accept it as real.
The night before, when Kathy Mae was cleaning up after dinner, she stood watching her aunt sitting in the living room, all 350 pounds of her, smoking her cigarettes and laughing at the television. The sound of her cackle caused her to cringe every time she heard that ugly sound. She recognized the anger in her heart and knew she felt resentment toward her. It was a feeling she could not change, no matter how much she felt she probably should. She resented the fact that her aunt sat around all day doing nothing while she labored endlessly around the house and yard. Some of the townsfolk jokingly called her Cinderella, and she realized they were right. Like a wicked step-mother, Aunt Anna found new chores for her as soon as others were done.
Anna called out to Kathy Mae, “Hey, did you finish the dishes yet? You are so slow, Kathy Mae. Look at you—who ho is ever going want to marry you? You are simply a mess. I pray for the Lord to give me patience with you, girl. After all, we may be in it for the long haul—just us two spinsters living here all alone.”
Kathy Mae stood there looking at the ugly scene, hearing the horrid comments coming from a mouth foul from decayed, yellowing teeth and even worse for the words coming from it. It frightened her to think that this would be her life forever, that they would be
together in this place for the rest of her life. Something in her said,
Why can’t I be happy? Why can’t I go to college? Because
says so? It seemed if she were physically able to endure this life, perhaps she might also able to change it. It was an awakening of sorts. She had realized a vision, had seen a picture before her—one from which she wanted to erase herself and draw anew. I am going to look into some classes, she told herself, and I am going to make it.
It suddenly dawned on her that she worked in a library—a storehouse of information, a place of learning, a depository containing a wealth of information. Early on a Tuesday, Kathy Mae decided to visit the self help section at the library. She realized that it wasn't logical to think that she had been laden with problems never faced by anyone before. Somewhere, somehow, someone had experienced a situation similar to hers—and this had probably been written of in some book. She was able to locate several books that seemed relevant, chose one, and checked it out.
The old crone, Mrs. Goodall simply snorted when she read the title,
Ten Ways to Improve Your Life Overnight.
“What are you planning on doing?” she chuckled cruelly. “Are you going to come in tomorrow as some stranger I won't even recognize?”
Kathy Mae just nodded politely and smiled. This was her employer; this was an old lady; this was someone I am going to ignore, she thought to herself as she took it home to read. From the very first sentence Kathy Mae was hooked. The words spoke to her.
“The key to being happy is to never hold back. Never limit yourself to what other people think of you. Instead, move ahead with vigor and enthusiasm. This is the first step on the road to happiness.”
There, indeed, was a road to happiness, she thought. And, this was a road she could follow. She would learn from this book. It made sense to her. She thought about that line over and over in her head while she made dinner that night. The thoughts of others had been clouding her mind all of her life. It was so simple. Already, she felt a sense of hope.
That night she looked at herself in the mirror. Her smile was a good one, she thought, as she examined her slightly crooked teeth. They could be straightened when she could afford it. No, the image before her was not a disaster. Perhaps it was a mess, like her Aunt Anna had said, but messes were for cleaning up. That is something she knew how to do. Her hair was messy, but fixable. Her eyes were nice—a little makeup might enhance their color. Looking better might help her to feel better, she thought.
The next morning, Kathy Mae woke up early, made the bed, and walked into the stench of the area known as the living room. Still wrenched with the odor of stale cigarette smoke, hardly a room for living—it was a room that even the dead would not want to spend time. Today, she would not let the smell affect her, nor the noises coming from her aunt disturb her. It was the day for her to search for a new job, and a new life. She passed quickly to the doorstep and grabbed the newspaper to see the employment listings. That caused her to frown. There were only three job listings.
“Looking for a dancer for men's nightclub. Women ages 18-35. Call Bubba
Desperately needing a housekeeper for the local American Legion. Come on by.
Country Real Estate needs a receptionist. Apply in person.”
Out of the three advertisements, she first considered becoming a dancer. That fit within the parameters set by her family. It was probably expected for her to become a druggie or a prostitute, and this position was not far from those ends. Housekeeping was something for which she had much experience as well as talent, but it was the opposite of what she dared to hope for. She decided to head directly over to Country Real Estate office as soon as she could change into her freshly laundered khaki's and a new white tee shirt from Wally-mart. Unfortunately, these were her best and most presentable interview clothes. They would have to do.
Kathy Mae headed out the door while it was still early, leaving Aunt Anna to fend for herself, do her own cleaning, and fix her own breakfast for a change. The woman stayed up until one in the morning watching comedy shows and usually slept until noon. More than likely, Kathy Mae would come home to find a living room strewn with empty snack bags and torn candy wrappers. It wasn't likely she'd bother to cook eggs for herself. Perhaps she didn't even know how. It wasn't as if her aunt had actually taught her how to do it. She had merely screamed at her failed attempts until Kathy Mae finally got it right.
She walked past the Davis kids running like hooligans in their yard, tossing dirt and screaming. It was a sight she enjoyed seeing every day—happy kids lucky enough to have two parents who loved them. Their daddy worked two jobs, so that their momma could stay home doing what mom’s did best—taking care of her kids and loving every minute of it. Sometimes Kathy Mae had seen her out running around playing with them outside. She squirted them with the hose in the summertime; she built snowmen in the wintertime. And, when dad came home, they all ran to greet him with hugs and kisses. They might have been crazy hooligans, but they were laughing all the time.
Seeing them reminded her of her own childhood when she used to dream that her daddy and mommy were off the meth. Not knowing what that was, she knew that when her Aunt Anna told her about it that it was the thing that kept them from being a happy family. Compared to them, Aunt Anna was a jewel. Seeing the Davis kids on this day—the day after her plan began to evolve—filled her with hope that the rest of the world was not as dreary as hers had become.
She walked the two miles to the real estate office with all this new hope in her heart. Arriving at the door, she found the building dark inside and the parking lot still empty. She had forgotten that they didn't open until 9 am. The clock on the courthouse showed it was only 8:30. So she detoured across the street to the Do-nut Dip to grab a cup of coffee and a bear claw which she brought to the picnic table in front of the shop. She waited patiently in the shade of the old Elm tree, pondering her prospects as she watched for someone to appear and open the doors.
She daydreamed as she sat there, seeing herself being hired, seeing herself filing and typing, seeing herself being paid. Then a familiar voice came from one of the cars at the drive thru across the narrow street. She turned cautiously to see who was laughing in that middle-aged smokers cackle, and she saw her mother.