Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1421880-The-Refuge
by Jace
Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Adult · #1421880
A lighthouse offers safety, perhaps a refuge for wayward souls.
Awarded 2d place in the Sinister Kisses round (May 08) of the "Invalid Item

Lighthouse on the northern Mississippi River.   Photo taken by Misty John.

She heard him calling.  No, that wasn't right.  Heard wasn't the right word.  She felt him calling her ... in her mind.  She was puzzled; he hadn't called to her in more than ten years.  She'd thought it was over.

And she was frightened.

It couldn't be a coincidence that she'd begun hearing his voice again.  She had been living in St. Louis for the past decade.  It was that time of the year, late winter, when the mist once again rose from the waters.  No, it couldn't be a coincidence.  Why the hell did she return?

But she knew why.  Her folks had died horribly in a terrible accident.  Their house had burned down one very cold night the month before.  The fire had swept through the house.  The night had been so cold, the firemen's efforts to fight the fire were severely impaired.  They had found her parents huddled together in a corner, burned so badly they were almost unrecognizable.  The most disturbing thing was the macabre grimaces of pain etched upon their faces in death.

She left this small hamlet many years before, not caring to ever see them again.  She would not be here now save for the call from the investigators.  An electrical short, they'd told her.  They didn't understand how it had destroyed the house so quickly.  It just wasn't possible.  It was a shame. 

She wondered.  And remembered.

She felt that familiar tug, a longing she hadn't felt in almost eleven years.  She 'felt' the lighthouse fifteen minutes before she saw it as she drove into town along the river road.  It was her lighthouse--hers and Ricky's.
Yes, she was frightened.  But not of him.

It was eighteen years ago when she first met him.  Richard Sands--Ricky.  She'd just moved to Minnesota with her folks; her father had been relocated with his job.  She had just turned seven, a time when moving was exciting.  This was her first great adventure; she was going to make the best of it.  A new town, a new school, a new house, and best of all, a new start.  She was still innocent, a blank slate, as it were, untouched by the trials of life.  She just shook her head.  She didn't want to think about that.

She met him as she stepped from the car.  He was standing by the curb when they drove up.  He said he'd been standing out there every day since the SOLD sign had gone up.  He had known she was coming, he said.  He couldn't explain it; he just knew.

Ricky knew a lot of things, she remembered.  She lost her doll one day.  It had fallen from her backpack.  Ricky knew just where to find it.  The bicycle she'd gotten for her tenth birthday--he'd told her about it three weeks before.  Even the color and the pink basket on the handlebars were as he said.  Likewise, the first time he saw the bruise on her arm, he knew.

Over the years, her parents had become pillars of the community.  Solid, upright, hardworking folk.  Her father was a deacon in the community church; her mother volunteered with the PTA.  Everyone remarked what a perfect family they were.  Only, ... Ricky knew.

It wasn't a real lighthouse.  You know, the kind with a bright light that warned ships of dangerous shoals and such.  No, this was a building shaped like a lighthouse.  It was about 30 feet high and looked just like the real thing.  She never knew why it had been built.  But like a real lighthouse provides for safe passage of those on a river or the ocean, this lighthouse was their sanctuary, their refuge.  They were safe there.

She parked and just looked at it in the evening light.  It was very cold.  She wouldn't stay long.  It hadn't really changed much in 10 years.  However, to her older and wiser eyes, their lighthouse looked far more worn and dilapitated than to a young girl seeking haven from her life.  She thought it was all behind her.  She was wrong.

Her father had come to her room late one night in the winter of her ninth year.  She was startled awake by a hand on her leg.  The hand was large and rough against her tender skin.  It moved higher.  She tried to close her legs by squeezing them together.  Then another hand joined the first, and they forced her legs apart.  The strength of a nine-year-old girl was no match for the 32-year-old bastard they called her father.

She started sobbing as strong fingers began rubbing her private parts through her panties.  So insistent were the fingers, they left bruises on her legs.  Her crying got louder; the fingers stopped and withdrew.  The cycle would repeat itself several times a month until her 10th birthday party.

Oh, what a glorious celebration that had been.  All her friends were there, especially Ricky.  Her brand new bicycle was there too, the exact one she'd wanted.  She had been dropping hints for a long time.

'Ohmigod!'  She had a thought.  That bicycle had been payment.  Or a bribe.

That night her father came to her room, and the nature of the games changed.  No longer was he satisfied with just touching her.  He wanted more.  He made her touch his ... thingy.  She would rub it until he came.

Even now, she couldn't refer to it as a penis, or a cock.  It wasn't something that was natural, used for excreting waste from the body, or good, for use in expressing love and commitment between two people who love each other. 

No!  This was an abomination.

Once, she worked up enough courage to warn her father that she would tell if he didn't stop.  His face turned red and he slapped her, knocking her to the floor.  Ricky knew about the beating before he saw the bruise.  They would go to their refuge, and he would just hold her without saying a word.

Her life spiraled downhill from there.  She lost her virginity to her father when she was twelve.  The following year, her mother, blaming her for her husband's lack of attention, broke her arm.  Her only solace was the time spent with Ricky and their visits to the lighthouse.

She loved those cold Minnesota mornings when she and Ricky would steal away to their lighthouse and just hold each other watching the sun rise over the waters of the Mississippi River.  They would watch as the mist rose from the river, sometimes getting so thick they couldn't see the other side.  They'd dream of floating away on the mist, of getting lost in it and emerging in a new world.

Reality always came crashing back.  She was almost fifteen when it happened.  One morning in early March, they were huddled together against the bitter cold below their lighthouse, happy in each other's arms, as the sun began its slow ascent from the far bank.  Ricky said he heard a voice from out on the river.  It was calling for help.  Neither of them could see anything with the heavy mist.  And she hadn't heard any voice.
Ricky went down to the water's edge, peering intently through the haze.  He failed to notice one rock covered with algae and ... Splash!  He fell in, the swift current sweeping him downstream instantly.  The waters were frigid.  He quickly tired, unable to swim, or even keep himself afloat.  He thought of her, reaching out to touch her mind with his.
'Don't be afraid,' she felt him say.  'I will always watch over you.'

She felt his pull grow weaker, weaker, until....  Ricky slipped beneath the surface, the cold water filling his tortured lungs, soothing them, calming him.  The waters carried his soul through the mist to the other side.  She felt him no longer.

She began screaming.

She awoke in her own bed, a doctor attending her and her concerned parents standing at the foot of her bed.  They were talking.  But their words made little sense.  She thought only of Ricky.  She knew he was gone.  Her protector was gone, her only true reason for living was gone.

She felt a touch on her mind.  'I will always watch over you.'

"Ricky," she uttered softly.  The adults turned, looking at her quizzically.  It was the last word she would ever speak in their presence.

She continued to visit their refuge for the rest of that winter.  He would always come to her when the mist appeared on the river.  As cold as those mornings were, he would envelope her in the mist, strangely warming her as it caressed her face and pressed against her body.  He was like the coming of spring after a long, hard winter.  Gentle and welcome, his presence always made her feel better.

She ran away shortly before her next birthday.  She ran away when the mists no longer appeared, when the lengthening day banished the long shadows, the cold mornings, and the mist.  He stopped coming.  She didn't understand.

So she ran.
She never returned until today.  Tomorrow she would meet with the lawyers.  Words would be said, condolences offered, decisions made, and papers signed.  Tonight, however, she would remember.  And dream.

Dream she did.  He came to her, and was real again.  As real as the first time she'd seen him standing on the curb.  He reached for her.  Try as she might, she couldn't take his hand.
'Why not?' she screamed in her head.

She awoke, drenched in sweat.  The LED on the clock read 5:08.  She rose and quickly donned her slippers.  In her excitement, she left without dressing.  She literally ran to the lighthouse, arriving out of breath, yet strangely alive.  The sun's rays were searching the far bank for the dark ribbon in front of her.  She walked to their spot and sat down ... and waited.

As the sun rose higher in the sky, the mighty Mississippi turned into a slate gray path, then one of bright silver, cold and inviting.  She saw the mist slowly rising skyward.  The cold seeped into her bed-clothes, her sweat cooling rapidly on her body.  She shivered as her damp clothes started to freeze around her.  She was so cold, so tired.  She closed her eyes.

Suddenly, he was there.  Or rather, she felt his presence.  She was no longer cold.  She stopped shivering, his essence warming her.  She looked up and saw Ricky in the mist hovering over the water.  He beckoned to her.  She moved toward him.  Ricky would always take care of her.

She gave in fully and embraced him, joining him.


Her refuge.

Word count:  1784 
© Copyright 2008 Jace (sybaritescribe at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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