Elaine leaned farther out the window, stretching the muscles in her arms to their limits. She closed her eyes and smiled at the breeze that caressed her cheeks, cooling the fever that raged inside her.
Her mother interrupted the bonding session Elaine was enjoying with Mother Nature.
“Get back in your bed, girl! Aren’t you afraid of catching your death of cold?”
“I’m not afraid of anything,” answered Elaine.
“You’ll be afraid of your father’s belt if you don’t listen to me, now get!”
“I’m not afraid of anything,” Elaine insisted. “But I’ll get in bed to make you feel better.” Slowly, she reversed herself from the window and returned to her bed, where she snuggled deeply into the covers and winked at her long-suffering mother.
“Sassy,” Susan muttered to herself as she turned and left the room, firmly shutting the door behind her. “I need a drink.”
Elaine cracked her door open to listen to the voices raise in disharmony, as they did nearly every night at this time.
“That child is going to be the death of me, Scott. She’s so willful every single day, and she just says that she isn’t afraid of anything. You know she says it, she tells you, too.”
“It’s true, though, Susan. She really isn’t afraid of anything. She never cried when she was a baby; she never asked us to check anywhere for monsters. For crying out loud, think of Halloween! She laughs every year, no matter what I do to scare her. None of it works. I don’t know why you think you have to punish her for being herself.”
“I punish her for being disobedient! I’m her mother, she has to listen to me. She has to do as I say, or there will be consequences.”
“Elaine doesn’t care about consequences. She only wants to live each day with her eyes wide open. If the world is anyone’s oyster, Susan, it’s Elaine’s.”
“You are absolutely no help at all, Scott. You’re practically as bad as she is!”
Elaine ducked back into her room as her mother stormed by and slammed the bedroom door shut behind her anger. It wouldn’t do to let Susan find out that she’d been listening; Elaine had a much larger plan.
Elaine knew it was time to make her move when she saw the clock ticking out nine thirty in the morning, and her mother was already mixing vodka into her orange juice. Day by day, the hour crept up and up until Susan was drinking well before noon. At this rate, she would be sloshed by eleven.
“I’m going to the park, Mother dear,” Elaine called around the corner to Susan, who huddled at the kitchen table around her cocktail.
“You’re no such anything, fraidy-cat. Siddown and shuddup,” came the mushy answer.
Elaine smiled at her mother. “I’m not afraid of anything.” With that, she danced and skipped around the kitchen, a careful eye on her mother to check her fury level. When it reached critical mass, once more: “I’m not afraid of anything.”
And she kicked Susan’s chair out from beneath her.
As Susan stumbled around the room, desperate to regain her bearings, Elaine darted out the door and across the street, unaware of the high pitched screech of tires, the cacophony of angry horns, and the horrifying sound of warping metal against shattering glass.
When Susan finally reached the front door, she looked out on a veritable horrorshow. The Williams family had been returning from their annual summer trip to Disneyland, and when Elaine had skipped across the street, Mr Williams had overcompensated and rolled the blue SUV.
The baby was dead in Susan’s yard, and Elaine screamed from the sidewalk across the street.
“I’m not afraid of anything!”