by Than Pence
Rebekah dreams about living outside of her life.
|Rebekah Lovell admired her discarded window panes. The edges were smooth and the surfaces weren’t cracked. Many of the other panes in the dumpster had been too dirty or dangerous for her to handle. But these were perfect for her nine-year old feet.
She sprayed them off on the grass behind her house, mindful that her mother might have something to say about bringing trash into the house. “I told you to stay out of the dumpsters,” she would often say when Rebekah was found with something new that was also significantly used.
Sitting in a plastic patio chair was one such item: Rebekah’s tattered doll. She had named it Cynthia, though she had wanted to name it Cinderella. The story was her favorite because she had longed for a life where everything would turn around and become wonderful and filled with magic. Rebekah knew that naming her doll Cinderella would only make the kids at school taunt her even more than they already did.
Rebekah’s family wasn’t as financially secure as the rest of her peers, a fact that was all too apparent in the clothes that she was forced to wear. They were given to the family in a large, black garbage bag that her mother had brought home from work one night. The clothes always smelled like cigarettes at first and Rebekah hated them. It was all they had though. Her mother had made it clear that the two of them didn’t have a lot of options.
It was because of those smelly clothes – the garbage bag clothes, Rebekah often thought of them – that inspired her to start digging through the community dumpsters. Today, she was glad to have done so because she had found the perfect panes of glass.
She had just finished spraying them off when her mother leaned out of the backdoor. “What’re you doin’, Bekah?”
Rebekah didn’t look at her mother right away. She knew what she’d say. “Cleaning these glass squares.”
“Where’d you get ‘em?”
Rebekah didn’t answer.
“Did you go in the dumpster again?”
“Momma, they’re perfect. See? My feet fits on these.” To prove it, Rebekah lightly put her bare foot on one of the wet panes of glass.
Her mother flinched and stepped out, letting the screened door slam with a clatter of aluminum behind her. “Girlie, you need to get off that before you hurt yourself.” She wrenched Rebekah away from the two glass panes and Rebekah almost cringed when her mother came close to stepping on one and breaking it.
Her mother got down to Rebekah’s eye level. “Now, honey, we talked about this. If the neighbors see you going through the trash, they’re gonna just keep thinkin’ we’re trashy people.”
Rebekah almost mentioned that they were both wearing garbage bag outfits, but decided against it. Her mother looked sad enough.
“Promise me you won’t be goin’ in there anymore, Bekah.”
Rebekah nodded once and her mother didn’t even smile. She stood up and went inside, letting the screen door metallically close once more. The sound made Rebkah flinch again and she stood in the backyard, alone. Cynthia wasn’t much of a conversationalist.
* * *
Following that Saturday, Rebekah went to school and had a dreadful experience.
Sandy Buchanan had told the whole school that Rebekah wore clothes that had been thrown away. At first, Rebekah tried pretending that Sandy possibly couldn’t know, but Sandy was quick to point out that the sundress she wore to school had belonged to her before.
“I know it was mine because I had stained the hem by dragging it through my chocolate ice-cream.” Rebekah knew she’d been found out when everyone started pointing at the stain. It was one that she had noticed right off as well but figured she could pass it off as her own accident and not that of the previous owner.
“I told my momma that I wasn’t going to ever wear that dress again and told her to throw it out. She did, and now Rebekah Lovell the Shovel is wearing my trash!” Everyone in the hall at the moment had a big laugh and Rebekah started crying and went first to the bathroom and then to the office with hopes of calling her mother and being taken home early.
When her mother showed up, Rebekah had stopped crying but knew her eyes were puffy and red. “Bekah, you feelin’ okay?”
She couldn’t even respond or look her mother in the eye. She partially blamed her mother for the entire event as it was her that had brought the garbage bag clothes into their home in the first place. Rebekah nodded, finally, and after signing a document, her mother took her home before lunch.
The drive was hot. The air conditioner didn’t work in her mother’s car and it was raining outside, which kept them from rolling down the windows. It made her stained dress stick to her skin, making her want to take it off even more. Rebekah almost started crying again but refused. She, instead, pulled out her backpack and started doing homework from her morning classes.
When they arrived, Rebekah had finished and was just staring blankly through the pages of her Reading book, thinking about Cynthia and her glass panes and her dumpster excursions. She thought of the garbage bag clothes and how they always smelled of cigarettes. She then tried thinking of her father but the images never came to her fully. She hadn’t truly known her father before he left. Her mother kept few pictures of him around and spoke of him in a way that made Rebekah thankful she hadn’t known the man.
But she still thought of him from time to time. Her thoughts eventually drifted back to the glass panes that she’d left in the back yard from the weekend and knew the rain was getting them extra clean for her.
* * *
Rebekah awoke early the next morning as her mother was getting in from her overnight job. She gave Rebekah a kiss on the forehead, reminded her that she loved her, and then went into her bedroom. Rebekah ate cereal and then went outback, mindful that she shouldn’t let the screen door slam.
The grass was wet from dew and the sun was already past the horizon. She knew she was expected to leave for school soon but that was the last place she wanted to be. She stepped onto the wet grass until she came to her glass panes; they were next to each other like a pair of shoes waiting to be stepped into.
Rebekah gingerly stepped onto each pane, wondering the whole time if her weight might be too much. She heard no cracks from beneath her feet and was thankful for that.
When she raised her head, she felt the warmth of the sun bathe her and she imagined it made her frilly, thin nightgown look like a golden dress. Her mind worked further as she almost felt the glass panes melt and pull upwards to wrap tenderly around her feet to form a perfect-fitting pair of new glass shoes.
Rebekah wasn’t sure which was more important to her in that moment: that the shoes were glass or that they were new, but she did know that she liked where her imagination was taking her. The sky opened up and a glass stairway materialized. Rebekah took each step with care at first, but soon realized that there was no need for caution as the glass was unbreakable. She soon found herself running up the steps and finding a glass castle in the sky.
At first, she thought the scene was comical. It was a glass castle but she couldn’t see inside. The walls were opaque. She stepped forward to discover a glittered path connecting the end of the stairs to the castle. Rebekah moved forward with ease and was at the entrance, knocking, before a half-dozen heartbeats passed.
The knocks did not echo beyond the door and she worried that she had not been heard. But the door opened and she was greeted by a handsome man. She recognized him as the father she never remembered, from the few pictures she’d seen, and he smiled.
Rebekah smiled in return –
– but looked up in time to see the entire structure crumble around her with a flash of lightning and a strong roll of thunder. Her dress’s shimmering hue faded and her feet felt cold. She looked down and saw that she was standing in the rain on a pair of glass panes. The sun was gone, covered by thunderclouds. Rebekah felt like she was crying but couldn’t be sure: the raindrops obscured her senses.
She went inside and absently let the door slam behind her. Shivering, she started towards her room and was surprised when he mother came out. “Bekah, honey, what’re you doin’? Why are you wet, girlie?”
Rebekah started crying, she was sure of it this time, and her mother came forward and gave her a warming hug. “I’m sorry I’m not better, momma. I’m sorry I keep goin’ into the dumpster.”
“Don’t worry ‘bout that, honey. Who cares what people think?”
Rebekah pulled away from her mother enough to look her in the eyes. “You do, momma. And I do. Those garbage bag clothes are the reason I came home early yesterday.” She related the history of the stained sundress and her mother listened with tears welling up in her eyes.
At the end, her mother simply held her again, but said nothing. Rebekah felt awful for mentioning it as she knew her mother was doing the best she could with just the two of them.
Finally, her mother said, “You can stay home today if ya want, honey. And we’ll go shopping for a new dress. Or a new skirt or shoes. Whatever you want.” She was smiling but tears still threatened to fall from her eyes. “Anything for my baby.”
“But… we can’t, momma. We don’t…”
“I have a little on the Target card. It’ll be fine.”
Rebekah stared into her mother’s eyes and felt ashamed for making such a big fuss out of everything. Out of nothing. “No, momma. We won’t. I need to get on to school. That’s what I need.” She paused until her mother finally stopped looking glassy eyed. “Will you take me?”
“Course I will, Bekah. Let me get ready. You need to get out of those wet nightclothes. You’ll catch cold, baby.”
Rebekah did and was waiting for her mother to finish her hair. As she waited, she noticed the rain had stopped. She quietly went out the back door and stood over the two panes of glass. With her dirty, used sneakers, she jumped on one pane and then the other, hearing definitive cracking sounds bounce off the house and into the neighborhood.
She smiled and went back inside without a second glance. She closed and locked the backdoor as her mother came out of the bathroom. “Ready?”
“The back door locked?”
“Then let’s head out, girlie.”
They left and the drive to school was windy: the rain didn’t return and the windows were rolled down, allowing a howl to accompany them. Rebekah used that time to think about what she might say to anyone who might tease her about wearing garbage bag clothes. She realized that she didn’t want to be friends with anyone who would pick on those who were less fortunate.
This would be a good way to weed out those kinds of kids from any potential friends.
Word Count: 1,930