Chambray Curtains Blowing in the Wind

by Rochelle Campbell

Sally was in the kitchen humming tunelessly to herself as she put together her favorite cake from scratch. She had just added the eggs to the other ingredients in the bowl when she heard heavy purposeful steps coming towards her trailer. Sally shrugged her slim shoulders and began whipping the batter that would turn out to be a big moist sour cream cake. MMM! She couldn�t wait.

Only when the already half-open front door was flung open, banging against the side of the trailer, did the panic set in.  The white plastic bowl fell onto the counter from the crook of her arm, and the wire whisk went with it making a small thud.

"Where are 'ya, Sally?" thundered a half-forgotten voice.  The heavy steps slowly came further into the modest sized mobile home.

"Come and greet 'yer long lost uncle," he said with a sneer in his voice.  Sally froze by the stove.

Junius?  Oh, God.

"Okay.  I'll come and find 'ya," he said.  She heard his slow, slightly uneven tread advance into her home.  Only a few yards more and he would be at the kitchen's entrance.  Sally tugged at an errant wisp of fine yellow hair as her eyes darted around the room in search of the big knife with the worn forest green handle.

Bruno, her husband of one year, had given the knife to her for her birthday earlier this year and said, "I want you to learn to use this.  To protect 'yaself if I ain't 'round 'ya."

Bruno even taught her to throw the big knife � not well, but passable enough to stop someone from bothering her.  But could she throw it now?  In the midst of her rising panic?

"Why don't 'ya make it easy on yaself and come on out?"  Junius asked, "All I want to do is talk wit ya."

Sally drew a sharp breath, and forced her brain to not speed backwards in time.  She forced herself to not recall the unmentionable moment.  She was only 23, but Sally knew that reliving that black past time would only lead to trouble today.

"You was always so damn high strung.  Could never get you to settle down and play nice wit ya paw and me."  Sally started shaking her head forcing the flooding memories back � refusing to feel the pain�again.

Junius� footsteps stopped in front of the closed bedroom door, which was only six feet from the kitchen door.

Sally took a deep breath and remembered that she was no longer a killer.  She spent six months in a psychiatric clinic for evaluation and 3 � years in protective child services for killing her father.  After that, she was released to a work study program that supervised her for another two years.  Sally was told this was to ensure that no lingering murderous tendencies surfaced.  She learned from the myriad of psychiatrists, counselors and therapists that  she had to work through her pain and fear and assert her own will.

Easier said than done, but what would Dr. Vincent or Counselor Primanger do now!

Sally's feet begged her to flee but she ignored the impulse.  The only way out was where Junius had come in, the front door.

What about the window?  I can squeeze through it, can�t I?

Sally ignored that errant thought as well and snatched up the knife and hurried into their bedroom, which was off on the right opposite the entryway into the kitchen.  She closed the bedroom door quietly and locked it.  She whirled around and grabbed the phone and dialed the only three numbers that could save her life.

�911 Operator.  Where�s the emergency?�

�354 Laurel Drive.  Hurry!  A man�s here tryin� to come and hurt me,� Sally said in a hoarse whisper.  �Come now.�

Something in Sally�s voice touched a nerve in the operator and Sally heard a thud and heard the woman screaming for a unit to get to Laurel Drive.  Sally dropped the phone in fright when Junius turned the knob on the bedroom door.

�Just the right place for you to be�� Sally heard him bark a wet raspy laugh. "I knows ya in there, Sally," he said.  With a loud splintering, the birch door gave way and Junius strode into the room, his footsteps muted by the fallen door.

NOW! screamed a voice in Sally's head.  Junius had stopped to leer at her. �You�ve filled out nice and right there, little girl.�

Sally languidly lifted her aim, sighted the way Bruno taught her.  She knew better than to aim for the chest.  An overabundance of conditioned psycho-babble phrases made sure of that; she aimed for the inside of Bruno�s thigh. 

The knife whizzed across the pale blue linoleum floor making a slight whistling sound as it went.

"Here I come � uuhfff," Junius� laugh was cut short.  Sally heard a dull thud and a brighter sound as the knife hit bone.  She was still in position and slowly put her hand down and drew her right foot back so it was in line with her left.

The knife was sticking out of his right thigh and Junius was staring down at his leg.  Sally stared too for a long moment.  The knife had hit home but she still didn�t feel safe.  She didn�t feel like she had when she stopped her father from ever hurting her again.  The maw was still open.  Junius� heart was still beating and she was not safe.  A panic rose within her and she yearned to make herself feel safe; she wanted to go and get the gun Bruno kept under the bed. She took a step towards the bed but snapped herself out of it and swiftly turned around and faced the tall narrow window instead.  She had to trust that dialing those three numbers would make her safe; that�s what she�d been told over and over again.

The pretty chambray curtains blew inward, gently caressing her face.

Sally had fallen in love with them at first sight and bought them at full price.  They reminded her of her mother�s eyes.  Those sweet gentle eyes were the same shade as the chambray curtains.  Those eyes were always so caring even when they were surrounded by purple-green marks from Daddy�s fists.

Sally brushed a single tear away.  Mama was dead because she didn�t fight back.  Sally did fight, but too hard last time.  This time she fought smart.

Sally heard a heavy thud that shook the trailer.  She glanced back quickly and saw blood seeping out from around the knife which was still in his thigh, but Junius was on his left knee holding his back and the sides of his injured thigh.  A strangled gurgling sound was coming from his throat.

Sally moved the curtains and raised her foot to the window ledge.  She was about to slip out the window when she heard his voice sounding like thunder ten miles away.

"I�m gonna kill you for this!  You bloody wench!  You�re just like that simpering mother a �yours but worse!  At least she could take it without retaliatin��" He stopped short when he heard the sound.

In the distance � a police siren.

Junius tried to stand now but he slipped on his own blood and went down hard.  He barely averted falling onto the knife.  He caught himself on the wall and he swore a blue streak.  Sally looked away and glided out the window and landed lightly on the dirt outside and jogged towards the oncoming siren sound.

Just then, a loud report rang out and a zooming wind raced past her left ear.

Sally screamed and ducked and began running faster in a zigzag pattern.  She began crying even as her feet started running towards Tricia's trailer fifteen yards to her right.  Instinctively she kept low.

"I'm gonna kill you, ya evil little witch!  Where are you?"

Sally heard him bellow.  She kept running, refusing to look back.

The police cruiser screeched to a halt several paces from her and she darted behind it.

�Where is he, Ma�am?�

She pointed and screamed just as another bullet rang out.

"Where are you!!  I'm gonna � You!  I see you!  All of you! No damn cops scare me!  You can't get away, Sally!  I seee you!"

�Sir!  I�m a police officer!  I suggest you put down the gun and place your hands on your head.  We can still sort this out.�

"Who�s ever you are, I ain't got no trouble wit you.  I jus� wants my niece, Sally.�

�I�m a police officer!  Put down your weapon!�

In answer, another shot rang out.

�Officer, I hurt him.  He�s got a butcher knife sticking outta his leg.  He can�t move too fast.�

�Good girl.  Stay here.�

The officer went to the left and stayed low and got into the bushes.  Sally couldn�t see him anymore.

The next thing she heard was the officer shouting, �Put the gun down, Sir!  I just want to talk to you!�

�The hell you do!�

Sally heard muffled scuffling and then a shot rang out loud and clear then a heavy thud.  A moment later the officer appeared in the window.

�He�s down.  Hurt pretty bad but I think he�ll live.  I�m gonna call for backup and an ambulance,� he ducked back inside and Sally cocked her head and heard some muffled talking from inside the house.

It was over.  It was finally all over.

Sally heard a sound and didn�t recognize it; it was her own breath releasing itself.   She was finally safe.  They were right.  The doctors and counselors and housemothers were all right.  She didn�t have to kill to make herself safe. 

She slid down the side of the police cruiser slowly and plopped on the moist ground.   She tried to cry, but no tears came.  The fear and the anger were gone, leaving her empty, voided out.

Sally looked over towards her home and saw the chambray curtains.  They were blowing in the wind.  Those eyes were smiling.  The bruises were gone.  Mama�s eyes were clear and bright just like her heart.

Sally looked up.  The sun was setting.  But she kept seeing Mama�s eyes.  They looked free�

Something inside of Sally withered and died under that steady gaze, and the first seedlings of peace began to grow in its place.

BIO: Rochelle Campbell began her career as a journalist writing for local and regional newspapers and magazines such as FATE, Belle, New York & LA Casting and the Upper Eastside Resident. She also did a year-long stint at the New York Times as a legman (a field reporter). However, her passion is ignited by fiction. She is a graduate from both the Writer's Digest School for short stories, and Sime~Gen's Essence of Story writing program. Ms. Campbell is currently working on a suspense novel.