“Don’t move and it won’t hurt so much,” My mother said tapping my head with the comb. I winched. She sighed and brought the comb slowly through the sections she was working on, stopping at the ends and snipping them off cleanly. My locks had grown about mid back length and they were becoming tiresome so it was time for a hair cut. She worked quickly knowing that my tolerance for this task wouldn’t last. Snip. Snip. “Don’t squirm.”
It hurt because my hair tangled at the ends as it always had and well, you try having someone rip hairs out of your head by the roots. I try to keep still. I count. 1..2…3…4 “OUCH, DAMN IT!”
“Watch your mouth,” My mother says slapping my head with the comb again. I turned on her. “You try having someone yank your hair!” She started a retort but at that moment my brother came in and she was distracted I turned my head quickly to see who was at the door and… slice.
“Oh my god! Honey, grab a towel!” My mother screams. My brother, coming out of his shock, runs to the bathroom down the hall.
“What? What’s wrong?” I say but I see the blood before I even feel anything. It runs like watery syrup down my front. Down my right shoulder and arm. Down my budding breasts.
“Hold it!” My mother shouts bring my hands to my neck and squeezing. Then there is pain. More than I can handle. My brother returns with the towel and hands it to my mother. She wraps it around my neck and tells me to hold it tight. I start to cry.
“Come on!” My brother shouts. Everyone is yelling at me and the tears come harder. Then I’m in the car. My brother is driving me to the hospital. It so cold outside and I haven’t got any shoes on. He’s going to fast and I want to tell him I’m ok but there is blood and my eyes are stinging from the tears and it hurts. The hole opens when I talk so I don’t.
We round a bend and a car is coming but there’s ice and we slide and the car swerves and we swerve to miss it and we hit the barrier and then there is only darkness.
I’m happy in the dark. The dark, painless and quiet, protects me. When I wake we are back inside the house. This house where I grew up and where I feel most safe. I wait for my mother to come back but she doesn’t. I call for her and only silence is returned. I call for my brother and he too does not answer and I look and see that the towel, once white, drips red. I stand up slowly and get another towel from the bathroom, leaving the other in the sink. I walk to the other side of the house and call but it hurts so I stop.
I walk into the Living room and I can hear my mother and brother talking. I breathe a sigh of relief. I follow their voices. I go into the family room and I see them standing in front of the entertainment center. They look different.
My mother is wearing a dress, I remember it from pictures of her. It was her favorite before the fire and she’s lost weight- she looks younger. My brother is clearly only 10 years old where previously he was 17 and older and bigger than me.
“Don’t go!” they both scream and it scares me enough that I freeze.
“She looks right,” My brother said looking at me. I can see directly in his eyes he’s only an inch taller than I am.
My mother grabs me and pulls me away from the door.
“If you leave you’ll get stuck too… No. No you won’t. It’s before the fire. I think it’s before. You weren’t here before.” My mother shakes her head. “I don’t understand. I don’t… I don’t”
“Mom,” I say as she starts to slide out of focus. My brother’s arms cradle me as I slip out of consciousness. I can hear but I can’t see. Why can’t I see? I’m on the floor in the path between the living room and the family room.
“She’s lost a lot of blood.” I hear my brother say then they move in front of me. They are shielding me.
“Who are you?!” My mother screams. “What do you want?!”
“I can help,” I hear a voice- its syrupy and strong and calm. “Let me.” I can feel my mother and brother are backing away and the man crotches next to me. He smells like lemons and sunlight. I can tell he is big and strong and dark like black coffee. He moves like a priest and there is prayer on his lips. He pulls two small round orbs from his robs and opens my mouth forcing them slowly down my throat. It hurts but then I can feel my neck and it hurts less until it doesn’t hurt at all.
“Sit up,” The Priest tells me and I do. I open my eyes. He is handsome and his smile is warm.
“Who are you?” My brother asks putting all his minuscule height in front of our mother to protect her.
“I’ve come to help. You are special but you are trapped in time- in a time before.” Then he looks down at me. “Yes, little one, you are too.”
My mother laughs. She looks so young and her hair is so long. “We are not special.”
“Yet, here you are. Between. There are few moments powerful enough to create a division a line that marks before and after. Your family has had so many you are in neither. You live in the in-between and now have shifted to a before.”
“A before?” My brother shakes his head in confusion.
“One of many. ” The Priest says “One that you preferred… perhaps you’d like to stay?”
My mother looks around. The house is as it was before the fire. The walls are clean and there is a feeling of peace in the house.
“We were happy here,” She said quietly.
“You were happy now,” The Priest corrects.
“Dad was here…” My brother whispers.
“And he still is,” The Priest cocks his head knowingly.
“What happens if we don’t go back?” I ask. My throat healed as though it were never cut.
“You would move forward from here. There will be new befores and afters, new ripples of choice and fate. The old future becomes a dream you had once and reality resets.”
“And if we wanted to go back?” My mother asked half-heartedly.
“As simple as a hair cut.” The Priest eyes twinkled as he looked down at the scissors clutched in my mother’s right hand.
“This choice you must make for yourselves. For all men must choice which master to serve and which to live for. Which will you choose?”
We looked at one another- the question in each glance. My mother holds up the scissors.