Previous installments of Entanglement can be found by clicking Home on the header menu and scrolling down. If you haven’t begun the series and would like to, here’s a shortcut to Part One.
The day before, as Aliss searched her mind (and a haunting movie) for clues to missing time, facts, and explanations for feelings she couldn’t make sense of, she had craved the surety of self-rule. Trembling on the floor now with uncomfortable, incomplete answers, she pieced together a different opinion of impending clarity, shocked at the ugliness in her that it seemed to reflect. “How could I forget Hugh?” she thought. “Why would I forget any of this?”
Aliss thought better of Miller’s unwitting misdirection, the sight of him, his questions, his small talk, every bit of the anchor she thought she’d seen in him that had threatened to slow her down, stop her, make her forget the things she wanted to decide for herself and decisions she believed she’d made. Being led around by an attraction to Miller seemed even more preferable now to wading through whatever revelation came next.
Guilt from these thoughts wrapped around her like a vise, allowing doubt to invade her core. Perhaps her mind wasn’t the best place to incubate plans for the future and devise a key to employ them. This darkness seeped in, familiar yet indistinct, reaching deep like an old struggle, particulars faded, constriction still strong. Comfortable at the edges, chilling inside — giving up control this way felt like a cunning trap. She wondered how it felt so awful and safe at the same time, then snatched the question back for fear of the answer.
As pieces of her life lurched back into view, she realized she hadn’t called or tried to see her mother, Carlene, in months. The shock of this made her headache worse, twisting her stomach at the same time. It was too important a thing to have forgotten, but she hadn’t dug out the reason why. Instead, another memory came, as if her new present could only be built with the tiniest threads of the past stretched one by one over the bones of the woman she’d been yesterday.
Carlene’s boyfriends had each sounded different when they fought with her. One’s voice grew higher as their arguments escalated, until he squeaked. One punctuated details of every complaint by emphasizing the ends of words, slamming his fist on tables or walls, stomping his feet on the floor. One kept his voice so low that Aliss only knew he was being mean when Carlene’s voice rose. “What did you say to me?” she might yell or, “You just don’t have a soul, do you?”
When Carlene and Randy fought, their voices were loud but so even that Aliss would get sleepy as she listened to them. Dozing off and on, late into one particular evening, she remembered how their venomous tones had become background to her dreams.
She was awake when they’d stopped and Carlene came to her room, as usual instead of theirs, after the fight. She slipped under the covers, back to her daughter, to lie along the edge of the girl’s bed, heavier than stone. Aliss patted her mother’s shoulder. “You’ll be okay, Mama,” she said.
Carlene’s voice was cold. “You should be asleep.”
Aliss withdrew her hand fast, staring at Carlene’s dark hair tumbled across the pillow and shining in the streetlight flooding through the window. Urgent plans to clean her room and make toast for Carlene’s breakfast took shape in Aliss’s mind, comforting her, the best fixes a little girl could come up with. When it was time to try again, she rolled on her side and rubbed Carlene’s back slow and steady. Without a word, Carlene softened, and Aliss fell asleep curled into the small of her mother’s back.
Aliss shuddered as another awful feeling crept over her and took hold.