It was raining at the bus stop. It was raining harder than it had rained in weeks. Rosiline waited outside. She wanted to get wet, to wash away the smell. She felt the rain had a presence, which she wanted now for never before had she felt so alone. She could feel the rain whispering all around her. She wished she knew what it was it could tell her, but strain as she might, she could not hear what it was saying. It had been five days since Mal had gone, and what seemed like several lifetimes since Father had gone.
She remembered it quite clearly, how it used to be. The smell of home, of safety. Normality. But then, it had never really been “normal”. Everybody knew it. Father knew it, Mother knew it, the neighbors knew it. Even Rosiline knew it, though she didn’t see why it was a problem. Rosiline didn’t usually see things the way other people did, and she knew that too. She didn’t see why they didn’t like her teddy bear. She didn't think like the other kids, didn’t talk like the other kids, and didn’t like the other kids. Mother didn’t understand, and neither did Father, but he was closer.
Father was a computer programmer, and had been wrapped up in electronics his entire life. A “real geek” as she could here her mother saying.
“But a geek with a job” Father would reply. Father had been an outcast at Rosaline's age, so he could understand a little bit. She had spent all of her “good times” with Father. She always knew him as “Father”. She didn’t like his real name, Earl, so he was Father.
Rosiline remembered her favorite times with Father. To try to make her feel “warm inside”, which Father had said was a good thing to feel. She had been twelve at the time. They went to a lake out in the hills, just the three of them, Rosiline, Father and her stuffed bear. She could still feel the movement of the car on the twisted roads. She remembered the lake, and the dam at the far end.
“This is a reservoir.” her father had said although he was proud of this knowledge. “Those hills are watersheds”
“they don’t look like sheds to me” Rosiline had said. Father had laughed then, which Rosiline didn’t like. She couldn’t tell if Father was laughing at her, or at something else, and that made it worse. They had found a dead buzzard, which was Rosaline's favorite memory. It was two days old, and it smelled it. Maggots chewed their way through its body, and a single remaining eye stared bleakly at the sky.
“That is a vulture” Father had said, once again proud of his knowledge. “usually vultures eat dead animals, but this time he is the dead animal”. Rosiline didn’t reply, she was thinking.
Rosiline had gotten her stuffed bear when she was almost four. It was an early present from Father. She was closer to her bear than to any person, and was sad that she went away. She remembered the way it smelled, musty and aged, as it had been stored in the attic from Fathers youth.She had wanted to name it “Melchizedek”, but Mother wouldn’t let her. Mother wanted it to be “madeline”, but Rosiline didn’t like that. Father had said that it was “Malina”, and that had stuck. Rosiline had taken to calling it Mal, because she liked the way it sounded.
Mal had been the only companion she could trust. Mal and her had been inseparable. The other kids teased her because you weren’t supposed to have a teddy bear when you are 13, at least not one you bring to school. Mal was her only friend, and her only companion. Mal could be very compassionate. Mal was there for her when things went wrong, when she needed someone to talk to. But she wasn’t there for Rosiline when father left.
Rosiline remembered it quite clearly. Mother had called the police. Mother and Father had been in a fight earlier in the night. It was about her, Rosiline was listening. there had been drinking. The police had arrived in short time, and Rosiline could here them talking, loudly. “Stabbed with a kitchen knife, three times in the chest, once in the throat...” Rosiline didn’t move. “...will you please step this way Mrs. Kensington...” And then they took Mother away. Rosiline remained forgotten, poised beneath the windowsill. Tears rolled down her cheeks, and Mal wasn’t there.
But that wasn’t the only sad thing that had happened to Rosiline that week. The day Mal had left was just a few few days earlier. Rosiline was closer to Mal than to Father. There had been shouting between Father and Mother before it happened. Mother said the teddy bear was what was dragging her down.
“It stands between her and a normal life!” Mother had practically been screaming.
“It’s the only thing keeping her together” Father had said, but he had already been defeated. The next day Mal was gone.
“where’s Mal?” Rosiline had asked, but she already knew the answer. Gone.
“lets make pancakes today” Father had replied. Rosiline had gone back to her room, and ignored the warm smell of cooking from the kitchen, and the silence of breakfast in the dining room. That was the day Rosiline knew she could no longer trust Father. He had betrayed her.
She had hidden in her room after that day. She felt she had no one. The arguments between Mother and Father had become unbearably loud. the Father she knew was gone, and Mal was not there to console her. Rosiline could not live like this, and she knew something had to change. She had made up her mind to do it. To take her own life. Life had become worse than the unknowableness of death. Perhaps Mal would be there, and perhaps he wouldn’t. But that possibility was what gave her the strength to do it. The possibility of safety at the other side. Safety through death.
She had snuck into the kitchen, where the knives were, during an especially empty night. Wind rushed outside, trying to get somewhere. Father and Mother were arguing again, and there had been more drinking. Rosiline was on the counter by the door to the dining room, her short legs dangling over the edge. She was holding the knife flat on the palms of her hands, acquainting herself with death. She could feel Mal whispering to her from ever so far away. But then something changed. A conclusion had been reached in the other room. What would they think of her, sitting on the counter with a knife in her hands? Rosiline could feel the inevitable encounter drawing closer.
Mother would be coming. She always stormed away on nights like that one. Rosiline knew somehow that Mother was getting closer, just outside the door. Mother would hate to find Rosiline there. Mother hated Rosiline, or so she thought. Time slowed down, and wound itself up all at once. Mother was about to step through the door. Rosiline knew what was going to happen, and so she did not act. Her hand acted for her, extending in one fluid motion, like silk in a bazar wind. Four times, before Rosiline realized what she was doing. Four times before she could stop herself, and four times before she realized the what was so horrible. It was not Mother. It was Father.
Stabbed in the throat, only a small grugle escaped Earl’s throat. Rosiline went limp, and so did Father. Rosiline could smell the murder on her. In a trance she looked at the window. Back at Father. Window. Father. And then the room seemed too small, the ceiling too low. She slid out through the window, but could go no further for a time. Not till the police took Mother, and all the tears that had been stored up for all those years rolled down her cheeks, and It finally sunk in that Mal was not there. Had never really been there. Was only a stuffed bear.
Rosiline knew she had to leave. She knew she had to go somewhere. Somewhere to think. Somewhere safe. So she went to the bus stop, because that meant freedom. She wished that Father was there, because he was what really mattered, not Mal. And so she stood there as it began to rain, smelling the sweet rotting smell of murder rising up all around her.