ch 8 something: packing up is hard to do

Gram leaned heavily on the handle of the shopping cart, her pocketbook and oxygen tank in the child seat. Natalie and her mother flanked her as the three of them meandered through the local discount home good store to shop for Natalie’s new place.

Her parents had been caught off guard by her sudden announcement about moving out. The best excuse she could come up with was true: she truly did want to be closer to Gram and to school and to try to be more independent. The real reason, of course, she couldn’t tell them.

She wandered away to look at some sheet sets. It was barely autumn and already the stores were stocking Christmas goods. She picked up a bedsheet set that had a snowman design. “Hey, look Gram! Look how cute these are!” she called out, holding up the set.

Gram’s face beamed and she pushed the cart over. “Oh, look at that! Here, let me buy you the blanket that goes with it.” Natalie’s mother stood by and watched. Natalie tried to smile but her mother’s mouth was set in a line.

They moved on and Natalie walked alongside the cart, holding the edge with her fingertips. They accumulated other items—a cooking set, towels, and other necessities

A throw pillow embroidered with a harvest mouse design caught her eye. “Look! It looks just like Mr. Squeaks!” And so Gram delightedly insisted she throw that in the cart, too.  

Oh, what a headache! It was like someone had twisted an iron band around her head.  She drew her fingers across her damp forehead to try to dispel some of the pain. “Hey, I’m just going to run to the restroom real quick! Don’t go too far…” she said and tried to walk away in a straight line.

She squatted in front of the toilet and doubled over with her elbows on her knees. She hated to barf, but if barfing would make this go away then she’d do it ten times. But it wouldn’t come. She wiped the cold sweat off her face with her forearm. Was living by herself really such a good idea?

The building itself was not the highest quality. And the landlord, whom she didn’t see but heard on the phone, sounded—very strange. But the apartment itself was really nice, better than she thought she’d ever live in, and at such a great price. If she had to go, then this was the best opportunity.

The episode passed and she returned to her mom and Gram for one last look through the kitchen supplies before they paid and went home.

The next couple of days found Natalie having completed her packing. She sat on the edge of her bed with her checklist next to her while she stared into Mr. Squeaks’ cage. He was washing his whiskers. He was so tiny when she brought him home that his eyes had been barely open. Someone’s pet had given birth and they were giving the babies away. In retrospect, the owner probably shouldn’t have done that so early. Natalie didn’t know that back then; but things turned out okay. Her eyes filled up and she pushed a treat through the bars. Mr. Squeaks quit washing and took the treat, holding it in both paws as he nibbled it.

She wiped underneath her eyes and stood up. How silly to be like this—he was coming with her. But she was remembering the time he got lost under her dresser and she and her parents had to move all of the furniture around to find him. There were other times she thought she lost him, too. Anyone who knew about him laughed, but she didn’t care.

Each time she dried her eyes, they filled up again. She thought about a green-haired high school girl with no friends. No—that wasn’t true. She had Mr. Squeaks; and—the other—well, she hadn’t seen him in a long time.

Mr. Squeaks was standing up now, sniffing in between the bars and looking through them with one beady eye and then the other. While she fed him another treat, her mother quietly entered the bedroom and sat on her bed.

Natalie turned away and dabbed her eyes.

“Honey, I know Gram thinks this is a great thing, but I don’t think she understands things as well as she used to. Are you sure this is something you’re ready to do? This all seems very out of the blue. It’s not like you to be so impulsive.”

Natalie bit her cuticle. Maybe she was overreacting to her problems. “I mean, I didn’t have to make a deposit—”

A burst of electricity splitting her brain strengthened her resolve.

“—Mom, I’m gonna visit all the time.”

11 thoughts on “ch 8 something: packing up is hard to do

  1. Natalie’s situation seems to me to be the most compelling of the character stories. The hints she isn’t well or completely happy begin to single her out as prey, but for what kind of predator? The suspense building is creating an ache in my stomach. My overactive hunch machine has multiple conflicting hunches on what everyone is driving to, but I know, the surprise twist is coming. It’s going to be epic.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As someone who was sent on a boarding school at the age of seven, I completely understand this girl’s emotional state. Also yes, packing for a home shift is not easy. I have switched so many houses since my childhood that I often feel like a warlord from three kingdoms era who is switching his camps.

    Liked by 1 person

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