The Clearing: Part 3
I think I'm at the point were I just have to accept that things are going to remain too busy for the next while. Plus the kids are sick again. This time just colds, but good grief there have been a load of viruses this school year! And we're only half way through October! [sighs in mom] This is the fourth illness to come through - yes, they've each been different enough to know they're separate strains - and I'm hopeful a weekend at home with blankets, hot tea, and silly movies will do the trick for getting everyone feeling better.
3. The Music
The toys leaned closer as Felix studied the contents of the shoe box. There was just an ornate little cube inside with a peg sticking out from a circle of fancy inlay. He lifted it out. The unicorn hanging over his leg wiggled and then spun, its front hooves reaching for the cube. Felix held the cube closer to it, watching as the rounded, sequined hooves repeatedly clapped onto and slipped off of the peg. It stopped trying to hold the peg and looked up at him, the glitter in its eyes twinkling like tiny stars in a scratched-up sky.
Felix turned the cube a few different ways to look at each side of it and found a pair of hinges. He changed his grip and pulled the cube open. Protected in a plexiglas case, the bottom half contained the guts of a music box that were attached to the peg the unicorn had been trying to grab. The top half was a plastic lock box; a treasure vault for a small child painted with old-timey teddy bears that looked like they were… dancing? Maybe. Nothing was inside the vault. The unicorn put one hoof on the peg.
“You want me to wind up the music box?”
They all nodded agreement, each toy holding up the round-ended arms they each possessed. None of these toys had proper hands. Felix smiled at them and snapped the music box closed. He twisted the peg, listening to the ratchet, and nodded to himself when it clicked.
“Do you want to open it?” he asked, holding the cube down to the unicorn. He held the bottom secure as the unicorn’s floppy arms lifted the lid.
The toys leaped and played, silently cheering, as the first few notes tinked. The song paused, signaling that it had wound down at the end, and then strongly clinked into the first few bars of The Teddy Bear’s Picnic. The toys danced around, bopping and spinning in time with the music as the song repeated over and over. Felix wound it up again before it stopped, timing the winding so it didn’t interrupt the tune.
The toys flopped as the music started again, all of them returning to the state of crumpled disarray that had to be reality. The footsteps of a much larger animal were close and approaching quickly. So much for a pleasant breakdown, Felix thought.
Luis stomped into the clearing. The look on his face made Felix very clearly aware that being found here, as a fifteen year old boy playing with dolls set around like they were at a luncheon, the sweet plinking of the music box providing a childishly girl song, was among the top three worst things Luis had ever seen. And that Luis seeing it meant that Felix was the one to blame for causing the images to be seared into Luis’s brain.
The old music box wound down to silence. The rage in Luis’s eyes was making his expression as blank and staring as the toys. Felix’s chest heaved and his heart raced. The unicorn in his lap moved, its head twisting to stare up at him and its front hooves pressing into the back of his hand. He jerked his head down to stare at it and it touched its horn to the peg on the side of the music box before twisting to stare up at him again. It was time to wind up the music box again so the toys could keep dancing.
“I’ll show you,” Luis muttered.
Felix’s eyes snapped up to look at his step-father, the boy shaking as he realized that the man was there. Luis’s hands were slowly working the button at his waistband loose. His second stride landed on one of the tattered kitties with a squeaker, and was the same toy that had played catch with the penguin Felix had retied the stitching for. The peep was truncated and wheezing.
The unicorn in Felix’s lap tapped his hand. He startled so bad that he dropped the music box. The notes it had paused on twanged loose in a harsh chord that shattered the breakdown vision and made Luis’s footsteps sound louder than only a moment ago. There wasn’t anywhere to run away to out here… Felix picked up the unicorn and held it tightly, wrapping his arms around it protectively as Luis kicked through six toys that had slumped over in the middle of a tea party. Felix’s heart was pounding so hard that he thought its beat would bruise his ribs. The unicorn hugged against him so closely that he could feel it turn its head and nod.
Something started growling over in the direction the unicorn was now looking.
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A weekly blog updating on Fridays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!