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.
Trembling, she realized she had no idea where to start with him. So much of what she’d remembered made her feel crazy, and it was her life. She stared into empty space and was overcome by the desire to leave as Hugh had done. Instead she lifted her hands, trying to recreate the experience of ‘searching’, hoping that success would erase the feel of water or let it recede.
Nothing miraculous seemed anywhere near. Air felt like air, her hands like hands. She’d been able to ‘feel’ other memories deeper than this one she’d mastered — played with, escaped through — but she couldn’t find the way now. Perhaps nervousness was stunting it — guilt, Hugh’s attempts to fix her, his anger juxtaposed with the heaviness of the things he’d undertaken on her behalf.
She stopped trying and had a woeful, healing cry about how mixed up life could be, the good and the damaging packed together so tight that the monumental task of separating them had long scared her into remaining unhappy. Trying to fix everything Hugh thought was wrong with her, trying to save a mother who wanted to be saved and looked after by her only child, hadn’t made her happy. Those efforts reinforced the illusions that their desires were faultless, and anything Aliss wanted was suspect until they told her otherwise.
The last thing Carlene wanted from her may have been what drove her away. Aliss didn’t understand why Hugh thought a man had followed her to this world — she couldn’t recall leaving, only bits of having arrived — but she remembered that night’s conversation at her mother’s house.
Walking through the front door, toward Carlene’s smile and outstretched arms, made Aliss think things could be different. Maybe she’d meet apologies, not prodding. Unsure if Hugh knew she’d seen him in his car halfway down the block, she refused to go near him until after talking to Carlene. His admonitions had been coming for days, so she’d avoided him when she could. She was determined to ask her mother more questions before making a decision.
Carlene wore sleeveless gold silk over faded jeans, repeating with ease the alluring look she’d never lost, one Aliss had hoped she inherited. She’d been as glad as her mother when people mistook them for sisters. It meant she was pretty enough to be compared. Even when Aliss tried not to be pretty, fancying the sort of initial power Carlene wielded wasn’t far away.
“I’m glad you’re here, Ali,” Carlene said, leading her daughter to the dining room table set with some store-bought almond cookies and a pot of tea. As they sat next to each other, she raked her fingers through her waist length hair the way she did when trying not to appear nervous.
Aliss savored the aroma of the peach-scented black tea she liked, soon realizing she’d have to pour.
“You see now that it’s not a bad thing, right honey?” Carlene said.
“We’re not going to visit first, like civilized people?” Aliss poured their tea, then dipped a cookie into hers.
Carlene’s smile took a familiar hard edge before flattening. She reached for sugar. “I don’t need your twisted sense of humor right now.”
Aliss hadn’t gauged the toll before letting the line slip. She hoped her flinch was imperceptible. If it showed, Carlene would load the reason for it like ammunition and aim without hesitation. Aliss would fall, no matter how the truth in Hugh’s tirades about Carlene stood in relief to the way he’d delivered them — no matter that Aliss wanted to be comfortable saying no to her mother. What mattered was that she’d only said it when no one would suffer — no one but herself.