Friday, July 13, 2018

McKenna Speaks (Part 2)

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them.

I’m using: reconcile, abracadabra, book, learn, celebrate

They were submitted by:

This is a continuation of part 1 of McKenna Speaks which you can find here. I really enjoy a tiny subgenre of stories online that are essentially wholesome demon stories. I'm not sure if the intent with this was ever to symbolize that the very kind of people we demonize are not necessarily what we make them out to be through our beliefs or religion, but that is why they mean so much to me. People like me are often demonized for being queer and looked down on, and so many of us are the kindest people you will ever meet, and it is certainly not just my community who deals with this. The prompt I got for Secret Subject Swap last week kind of fit perfectly for that meaning and this genre, so I excitedly dived into telling my own story about a heartwarming demon. It kind of took on a life of its own, though. The more I wrote, the more I enjoyed it, and in doing so, the entire thing ended up being far longer than I would have guessed going in. I won't apologize for that because I absolutely feel like I created something beautiful here, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. The words I received for Use Your Words this week could not have fit better with what I was already writing so here we are. I didn't even have to make it fit. I love when things work out so perfectly like this. Also, thanks to Ash from the blog More Than Cheese And Beer for essentially being my editor on this piece and for always making me laugh.

Content warning for ableism and abuse

To summarize part 1 for you in the briefest way possible: McKenna is a young child who is nonverbal and autistic. Her mom hears her talking one day and finds her with a demon who she banishes out of fear. We see the dad come in later and it is obvious he is not at all accepting of McKenna. We left off when McKenna's mom discovers how her child accidentally summoned a demon because she accidentally does it herself. The father is just about to walk in on that scene.


Chet burst through McKenna's bedroom door and stopped dead in his tracks stammering and stuttering and unable to form an actual question about what was going on.

"Wha--, wh-wh-who, w-w-w-what?"

Tiffani looked back and forth between the demon and her husband trying to figure out what to say and to who or if maybe she should just make a run for it and let them settle things when she noticed McKenna running into the room smiling ear to ear making a beeline for her "fren."

She squealed a little as he reached down and scooped her up in his arms not a claw catching on her skin as if he could retract them like a cat. "FURFUR! YOU BACK TO TELL ME YOUR STORIES?" she yelled so full of excitement she couldn't possibly turn her volume down.

His gravelly voice made Tiffani's insides squirm when he replied, "Yes, tiny girl. But, your mother summoned me, so I shall answer her question before you get your stories."

"Aw, man! I don't want to waaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!"

"Tiny, I will tell you an extra one if you let me conduct my business with your mother. Do we have a deal?"


Mckenna wiggled down out of his arms and ran about the room getting some of her dolls and plushies lined up on the side of her little white four poster bed against the wall for "story time" while Tiffani marveled at the conversation that just took place. Her baby. Her nonverbal tiny baby had things to say. Real things. She had interacted with someone with both words and emotions. It was everything she had prayed for... Tiffani was lost in the wonder of those moments when she felt a sharp pain across the top of her back and fell to the floor.


She felt Chet's hands in her hair pulling her to her feet. The demon pulled McKenna to him shielding her from view as Tiffani stumbled and felt some of her hair rip out into Chet's fist. She pulled herself to her feet again and twisted to face him. "Get. Your. Hands. Off. Me."

He pulled her face toward him and sneered. "Not a chance. Not until you tell me just what the hell is going on in my house."

"You know what, Chet, if I knew myself I would surely let you know just so I wouldn't have to see your ugly ass for the rest of the night, but I don't, so here we are. If you want answers, you're going to have to get your greasy womanizing hands the hell off me so I can get them, you goon."

The shock registered on his face. She had never dared talk to him that way, but it didn't last long before it was replaced with more rage. He backhanded her across the face making her lose her balance. She crumpled on the floor, shocked herself. He might have been terrible since McKenna was born. He may have thrown things in anger and had to fix holes he punched in the wall. He may have worn her down until she was afraid to say no, but he had *never* actually physically hurt her. Not like this.

From her spot on the floor, she could still see the action. Furfur was standing his full height and had McKenna in one arm wrapped in a wing to stop her seeing what was going on, but it didn't muffle her cries. She sounded terrified begging Furfur not to let her daddy hurt her.

Chet was headed in their direction screaming about delivering his child from evil and getting her to the church. Before he could get there, though, Furfur conjured (the best word, she guessed) a ball of light or maybe it was fire. Whatever it was did not at all look like it was good news.

"I do not recommend you attempt to take this child out of my arms. You will not live long enough to hurt her if you do."

Chet stopped mid-stride and watched as the ball grew hotter and redder. She could feel the heat of the thing from her spot on the floor across the room. He stood there 2 feet from it, skin turning pink, mouth open, and eyes wide. Furfur smiled creepily and bellowed out a laugh as the ball disappeared. When his laughter finally died down, he didn't utter another word; he simply pointed at the door. And out Chet went. But, he did turn back looking down at Tiffani and warned, "this is not over. You WILL be answering for what you've done as soon as I make sure I run off this thing you've given our child to." The door slammed, and she just stared, tears streaming down her stinging face.

She jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Furfur apparently felt sorry enough for her to offer to help her up. She took his hand...and felt, well, nothing. Nothing strange. She thought she would certainly feel the evil coming off him. She knew the stories. The church talked about demons so much. In fact, in bigger places the priests were taking exorcism classes. How could he feel so normal?

He knelt down and let her see that McKenna had cried herself to sleep. She looked so comfortable there on his shoulder, at home. Or surely at peace at the very least. Tiffani looked from her to him and back again wondering just what the hell was going on.

"Sit down, mother of Tiny. You still get your 1 question."

She sat at the Hello Kitty table watching as he tucked McKenna in. He knew all the rituals--which plushie slept on which side, to take the larger pillow and put it on the open side of the bed, and turn on the little unicorn nightlight plugged in beside the night table. He even pulled the quilt up just right (which meant past her armpits but not quite up to her neck or she would throw down). He absolutely knew her child, knew her quirks, and Tiffani had no idea how to feel about it.

He crossed the distance from the bed to the table and sat across from her. She hadn't really noticed his smell until he got close--burnt musk (which was not pleasant). He folded himself miraculously into a small enough shape to relax at the table and watched her intensely.

Tiffani thought a lot about what she wanted to ask. "Confused" didn't even begin to cover how she felt. This whatever-he-was had acted in ways that contradicted everything she knew. She wanted to ask about God, about life, about how he came to befriend her daughter, if he stole McKenna's soul to help her talk... But, there was one question she kept coming back to that shown solidly and brightly above the others.

"Do you love her?"

"That is what you want to know of all the knowledge in the universe?"

"No. No, of course not. But...I mean, I think right now for me in this moment it is the most important."

"In that case, the answer you seek is 'yes.'"

"But how?"

He laughed knowingly making Tiffani sigh in exasperation. "You get but one question. Does the 'how' change anything?"

She connected with his eyes for the first real time since all this began, searching. "It could change everything I know, to be honest, but, no, my questions about my faith are not as important as knowing my daughter is loved and safe. But let me tell you, I want her soul safe, too. I want her to be loved for who she is not some version of herself you created with...with a magical 'abracadabra' or whatever it is you do. She deserves that, you know--genuine happiness, to be loved unconditionally by the people who look after her, to be celebrated..." She faltered on that last word. The sobs that had been building thundered out of her body, loud wails of absolute mental fatigue and anguish. The demon never moved, never looked away in embarrassment, never violated her boundaries. He did, however, take a handkerchief out of his pants pocket and pass it over wordlessly and waited her out almost as if refusing to make her cry alone. That can't be right, she thought as she pulled herself together. These are supposed to be the most evil, selfish, violent creatures to exist.

"I am not required to explain this to you. You had your one question. I do, however, want you to know, I cannot lie in answer to a summoning question. She is loved without conditions as you say. I have not harmed Tiny in any way. She speaks because she wants to, when she wants to, no other time. I do not want to see you suffer this as it would cause Tiny great distress, so understand I will be at her call as long as she would like me to. I have no words of explanation for it. I believe when she called accidentally her first time, she needed someone to hear her, and I took the time to learn how to listen."

Tiffani nodded through more tears and tried to get up from the table. Her hip had taken most of her fall earlier, and she was beginning to feel it. The demon was at her side in an instant, though, and helped her to her feet then over to McKenna's bed. He stepped back intuitively giving them some space as she leaned over to kiss her little angel on the tip of her nose.

Quietly the gravelly not-quite-human voice from behind her said, "I shall stay the night to see Tiny is safe from that man you call her father. It is my belief you should stay as well."

So she did. Hesitantly. She was torn between the stories she had heard in church, what the word "demon" was supposed to mean, and what this actual demon in front of her was like. But he made her At the very least she wholeheartedly believed he would not let Chet hurt "Tiny" as he affectionately called her daughter. As soon as she climbed in bed and snuggled against the child with these thoughts whirling in her head, she was out.

Gray light was filtering through the windows when Tiffani was shaken awake. She sat up in a panic startling the demon who already had McKenna cradled like a newborn in one arm.

"Something is wrong. The man left and has returned with someone else. The air feels off. Get ready. He is coming soon."

"Wait. Is your name really Furfur?"

"You ask this now?"

She frowned at his amusement. "It just seems like something I should know, ok?"

He nodded affirmation, "Essentially, yes."

Whatever that means, she thought, as she heard Chet's footsteps hit the stairs. She had no idea what to expect.

He slammed through the door without knocking and swaggered inside exaggerating his steps, hat cocked, looking like he was on the set of an Axe body spray commercial. Behind him, Father Wayne from their church looked on the scene with a horrified expression and signed the cross over himself.

Father Wayne had welcomed them with open arms from the very first time they had attended services. His sermons often ran over time. It wasn't unusual for the first Sunday Service to cut into the second Sunday Service, eventually becoming a single, three hour service of monotonous scripture reading with the occasional self-deprecating jokes about being a bald, overweight, middle-aged man. He was prone to heavily preaching on the submission of wives to their husband, conveniently forgetting the rest of the verse regarding a husband's responsibility to his wife. He insisted on pre-marital counseling sessions for newly engaged couples where he gave the ladies 1950's era advice on how to be a good wife, advice which he persistently extended, unsolicited of course, to Tiffani which she attributed to Chet's not very discreet indiscretions. His sermons were peppered with intolerance disguised as God's Word, and while not everyone in the congregation agreed they often wrote it off as a result of him being a "devout Catholic from another time." But, he had welcomed them unconditionally, and something about the unvarying tone of his sermons often lulled McKenna into a nap. Chet always eyed their child sleeping on the pew between them with irritation, but Tiffani was grateful for the opportunity to worship in the Church with other believers and regarded Father Wayne as a slightly misguided but gentle Man of God.

"When Chet told me you were consorting with demons, I just couldn't believe it, my child. But here you are right in front of my eyes in the presence of true evil and allowing your daughter to be ruined by it."

"But I'm not 'consorting' with anything, Father. McKen---"

Chet interrupted as he always did. "We can see quite clearly with our own two goddamn eyes, you bitch." He glanced behind him at the priest sheepishly. "Sorry, Father."

Father Wayne stepped forward and crossed himself again while Furfur hissed and covered his face with his wings. "BEGONE FOUL BEAST IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT." And just as before, the demon disappeared like he was never there leaving McKenna with no support. She hit the ground hard, head bouncing off the hardwood floor, and immediately began screaming.

"Get the child and hold her down, Chet!" the old priest said, elevating his volume above McKenna's wails. Tiffani looked in horror as Chet dragged the child towards the priest and put his knees over her shoulders while Father Wayne opened a book, a Bible maybe?, laid it on the floor beside him, and knelt down to hold her feet. McKenna screamed even more and bucked wildly on the floor obviously in pain and terrified.


Chet turned and glared at her. "This is OUR daughter or did you forget when you laid down with the Devil, Tiffani? And I'm undoing your evil. I'm taking back OUR daughter. Watch and learn how to be an actual parent. Tough love is a fact of life, baby. Suck it up."

"Tiffani, as your Priest, it is my duty to help your family and your child in any way that I can. Chet has asked me for my aid. We have agreed exorcisms must be performed. I called Bishop Bachman a few hours ago for permission upon which he agreed after Chet laid out the facts of your, uh, sexual relationship with this infernal invader leaving you and your child open to possession--if I could verify for myself that this was the case. As I live and breathe I cannot fathom why you would turn to dark powers to fix a child when our Lord was doing his work. How dare you question his timing? You know, I have an incontinent cat at home. You should try living with that! But I get on my knees and pray daily for assistance from our Lord in helping me care for Humphrey rather than doing sodomy with the Devil's brood. Count yourself lucky we no longer burn people like you at the stake. Now run along and get your chores done before it's your turn."

Satisfied, they both turned back to McKenna while Tiffani sat dumbfounded and more confused than ever. Incontinent cats? Sodomy with the devil? She had not a clue what was going on here as Father Wayne began a prayer.

"May Thy mercy, Lord, descend upon us. As great as our hope in Thee.

We drive you from us,
whoever you may be,
unclean spirits,
all satanic powers,
all infernal invaders,
all wicked legions,
assemblies and sects."

McKenna screeched and growled--nothing new--and clawed at Chet's legs trying to get up. She punched herself in the face and scratched anything she could dig her claws into. It was quite a show, but it was nothing out of the ordinary when she was overwhelmed by the unexpected, afraid, or just overstimulated. McKenna absolutely would not stop trying to hurt herself and anyone around her until she was worn out completely and who knew how much damage would be caused by then.

"In the Name and by the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ, may you be snatched away and driven from the Church of God and from the souls made to the image and likeness of God and redeemed by the Precious Blood of the Divine Lamb."

Mckenna growled again. "It's working, Father. It's working," Chet said almost giddily, but when McKenna managed to get one of her feet loose and kick the old, bald priest in the face, his expression darkened again. Chet reared back and slapped the child across the face splitting her lip and quieting her screams and movements for the moment, maybe knocking her unconscious. "I told you not to spare the rod, babe. She throws these tantrums because she is spoiled as shit, and it's your fault."

Father Wayne had gotten her feet restrained once more and glanced at her bloody lip with slight concern before continuing on, but Tiffani had seen enough. She ran for McKenna's drawings still on floor near the table where she dropped them what seemed like a lifetime ago already. The priest recited his prayers while she frantically searched for the page with Furfur's summoning symbol. She pictured him in her mind holding McKenna so sweetly as shaky fingers traced the design. The paper grew hot, but she held on this time pushing her will and thoughts into the rising shape. Fix this, stop them, make this stop, help Tiny, I need you, please let this work, Tiny needs you.

Furfur rose into his usual shape, wings extended to their full size, but Tiffani felt different this time. She could feel him taking up space in her mind, feel his energy. His voice echoed in her head, "Mother of Tiny, did you push your will into the summoning?"
"My name is Tiffani," she responded in her head.

He sighed out loud and in her mind. "This name obsession again?" He chuckled, and it almost instantly put her at ease. "Tiffani. Did you mix your will with the summoning?"

"Yes. I don't know why. I just....she needs you."

"It is good. I cannot stay here long in the face of such prayer alone. Keep doing what you are doing."

"Why not?"

"Mothe....Tiffani, we do not have time for such long stories now, but if we get our Tiny back, I will tell you the history of my kind. Deal?"

She nodded and pushed her need to help McKenna at him hard enough to make him stumble. His eyes widened a little. "Don't underestimate the power of a mama bear needing to protect her baby," she said out loud this time.

He strode forward, grabbed Chet by the collar and threw him through the bedroom doorway. Father Wayne stood up simultaneously pulling a small cross and vial out of his pocket. He uncapped the vial and tossed the contents on Furfur, who howled in pain and rage, and began praying more intensely.

Little tendrils of smoke rose from the demon's fur where the water hit him, but he was otherwise unfazed even as the priest began shouting the prayers up towards him.

"Most cunning serpent, you shall no more dare to deceive the human race, persecute the Church, torment God's elect and sift them as wheat.

The Most High God commands you, He with whom, in your great insolence, you still claim to be equal.

God who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

The demon laughed viciously and leaned down to look eye to eye with the priest. "How DARE you talk to me about TRUTH. Do you tell your flock the truth of why you left your last church? How you filled its pews with the blood of innocents you whipped in His name? Even children? How you were relocated as punishment for your actions?"

The priest stopped mid-sentence, eyes wide and head shaking. He never said another word but turned and walked out of the room stepping over Chet as he went. In the quiet afterwards, Tiffani heard the slam of the front door and the familiar rumble of the priest's truck starting then fading as he pulled out the driveway.

Chet groaned from the hallway. Furfur's voice echoed in her head once more, "what about him?"

"I have never wanted to hurt someone so badly in all my life...but I could never live with myself if he were seriously hurt. Or worse. Can you get him out of here long enough for me to get things sorted so we can leave?"

He nodded. Tiffani went to check on McKenna as the demon made his way over to Chet. She was breathing, bloody but alive. Tiffani felt the tears begin to roll as she heard the demon telling Chet to get out and stay gone, or things would be a lot worse for him the next time. To Chet's credit he was actually smart enough to heed the advice and skulk out but not before he shouted a parting shot of "demon whore" to Tiffani and got a backhand from Furfur for his trouble. That was definitely going to leave a bigger mark than McKenna's split lip.

He'd never leave them alone, though. Not really. And to reconcile would mean McKenna would grow up in a house with a man who didn't understand her and couldn't possibly love her the way she needed. Leaving with her baby was her only option for now.

She watched as the demon picked McKenna up ever so gently and carried her to the bed humming an unfamiliar tune. He sat with his wings against the headboard and his Tiny cradled in his arms while Tiffani started packing suitcases and and called to transfer what little money they had in their joint account to a secret savings she kept from selling crafts and the occasional odd job. Furfur held McKenna the whole time occasionally leaning over to kiss her forehead, clean and ice her lip, or move a stray hair from her face. When Tiny finally woke up, she hugged the demon tight then scooted out of his lap and ran over to hug Tiffani--something she had not willingly done in years.

McKenna didn't say a word from the back of the car as they drove down the Interstate, windows down, a classic rock playlist of Furfur's (Demons have spotify. How appropriate.) playing through the speakers. For once, McKenna's silence was oka--not something that Tiffani felt compelled to fix. She was going to learn to listen to the other ways McKenna communicated, and she knew just the person--uh, demon--who could teach her how.

She glanced over and couldn't help but smile at the demon's long arm reaching back to hold up a tablet so McKenna could watch old episodes of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. He'd only been doing it 2 hours or so...if that wasn't love, the kind of exhausting love of a parent who would do anything to keep their child content and safe, she didn't know what was.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

The Bergham Chronicles

The Blogging 911

Cognitive Script

Part-Time Working Hockey Mom

Southern Belle Charm

Wannabe Linguistics

Friday, July 6, 2018

McKenna Speaks (Part 1)

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 11 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My subject is: Their eyes were watching God but also something else.

It was submitted by: 

As noted in the title, this will be part 1. Part 2 (which should be the end) will post next week for Use Your Words, so stay tuned. 

content warning: ableist attitudes and language from 2 characters; potentially abusive language from 1

A piercing giggle shattered the silence of the Carpenter home while Tiffani was folding a load of towels and washcloths in their too-tiny, hot laundry room. She dropped the sky-colored towel in her hands, heart thumping in her chest. She wasn't used to those sounds even on summer break and immediately ran for McKenna's room upstairs.

The closer she got the more clearly she could hear two voices--a young girl giggly and happy and a deeper, gravelly one that must have belonged to a man but certainly not her husband. It had far too much bass to be his and was It didn't sound like anyone she knew and certainly not anyone that should be around her child. She was in a state of hyperventilation by the time she reached the pastel pink door covered in lavender flower decals with her daughter's initials stenciled in the center--MLC. She closed her eyes for a moment grasping the small gold cross around her neck and whispering a prayer from her lips for everything to be okay, for nothing to happen to her baby before she turned the doorknob and looked inside the room.

There was McKenna sitting at her Hello Kitty picnic table having a tea party and seated across from her, tea cup in hand and pinky up, was a beast of a man smelling of sulfur and ash. He had dark hair covering his body, twisted horns growing from his head, oxblood eyes, a long tail flipping back and forth lazily like a cat's, and large, black leathery wings folded around him a bit like a blanket.

3 things went through Tiffani's mind. Is he cold? Should I offer him a cup of coffee? Wait is he a demon?

The room began to darken as McKenna shrieked, "I LOVE YOU BEST FREN." The next thing she remembered was that...thing..standing over her shaking one of her shoulders. Tiffani screamed a prayer, and he jumped backwards cowering from her words in the corner while McKenna pleaded, "no, mommy, no, stop scaring my fren."

Tiffani's brain scrambled. She had never heard her child do more than babble as a baby. McKenna was 6 now and had never once said "I love you" to anyone. She had never prayed before bedtime, asked for a cookie, pleaded for a toy. Oh there had been plenty of tantrums and meltdowns. Tiffani rarely understood why and could never predict them with any reliability, but McKenna most often lived in her own little world and had been diagnosed as autistic years ago. It was a part of life, their life, and despite how difficult it was, Tiffani and her husband, Chet, had finally accepted the reality of it. Well, she had. That didn't mean they hadn't prayed for answers at first, prayed to hear their little girl talk and laugh and interact. They'd both worn callouses on their knees from kneeling in prayer and had made a sizable debt from going to specialist after specialist, therapists, pediatricians, miracle healers, priests, preachers, holy trips to healing waters...if she thought it might help, they tried it. But silent days with occasional outbursts and praying for it to all work out in the end was life now. 

They had always been a religious family. Tiffani's folks had been Episcopalian while Chet's were Methodist, but they'd never really been heavy church goers until McKenna's diagnosis. It had felt like a punishment for not being more devout though Tiffani never would have said so out loud. She shouted from every rooftop what a blessing McKenna had been in teaching them how to appreciate the small things and pushing them to find a stronger faith, but deep down it was never as easy as she liked to have people believe. Now they both attended the small Catholic church in town at least once a week. They'd found a second family there who were more understanding and supportive than anywhere else. One of McKenna's fits was all it took to get ugly, pitying looks or all but thrown out the door even at her family's long time church. It had been a long road to finding some sort of acceptance, and their church family had been a big part of learning how.

And, after all that, here was her child talking, TALKING OUT LOUD, to a smelly stranger with man-sized bat wings.

She snapped out of her chaotic mess of thoughts as McKenna moved closer to the thing and talked to him in soft, reassuring tones. "It's okay, fren. This my mommy. She can bring snacks. You like goldfish crackers? We have da pizza ones!" The demon seemed to settle down when McKenna pat his shoulder and stood to his full size grazing the 10 foot ceiling with the tips of his horns. She got a better look at him then in an old band tshirt (maybe Nirvana? but she didn't listen to that trash so she wasn't sure), ripped jeans, a red and black flannel tied around his waist, and Converse sneakers. He looked like he had stepped out of the 90s. Or maybe there was a grunge circle in Hell these days where everyone was unwashed and angry.

McKenna was standing next to him with her tiny, pale arm wrapped around his knee looking up at him full of joy. When he bent forward and ruffled her hair, a jealous rage fired into every nerve in Tiffani's body so forcefully she visibly trembled and yelled at him to get the fuck out of her house, language she never, ever used much less in front of her daughter.

He looked at her, confused and angry, and lunged forward just as she screamed, "I BANISH YOU IN THE NAME OF THE HOLY FATHER." As his clawed hands clamped down on her arms, he was gone in a cloud of smoke. Poof...they were alone. A moment of silence settled around them. Tiffani tried to catch her breath and get rid of the heightened emotions that were still making her heart race, but before she could get herself under control, McKenna went into complete meltdown mode swinging her arms to punch herself in the face and screaming wordlessly before she ran herself into the wall. Her tiny daughter with a halo of brown curls surrounding her chubby, cherubic face backed herself up slowly preparing to rush the wall again when Tiffani caught up with her and lifted her off the ground taking an onslaught of kicks and punches while her baby wailed louder and louder.

All this had been too much for her, and they would have to step into the walk-in closet in the master bedroom where Tiffani had set up their calm cave. In the closet she had a weighted blanket, soft plushies McKenna loved, a velvet sleep mask, and wax ear plugs. When McKenna was like this, she would need near sensory deprivation to calm down or would just have to exhaust herself into sleep.

Once they were seated in the large beanbag Chet had bought a few months back, Tiffani went through the meltdown rituals--McKenna on her lap, the blanket over them both, dodging frail fists, mask, earplugs, plush unicorn to cuddle. There was some kind of calming solace in taking those steps and knowing eventually they would work. It was a therapy all its own working to calm them both in an otherwise emotionally charged few moments.

The next thing Tiffani knew she was waking up to Chet calling her name from downstairs. How long had she been asleep? Had it all been a nightmare?

She moved McKenna off her lap and into the beanbag alone. She looked so tiny to be such a force. Outside the closet, the light coming from the windows was faint barely providing enough to see how to navigate the room without stubbing a toe. They must have slept for hours.

Chet was coming up the stairs as she stepped out of their room, finger to her lips to signal McKenna was asleep. He closed the distance between them and wrapped her in his arms. He still smelled like the soap he used, and the familiarity of his scent and touch released tension in places she didn't even realize it had been hiding. She sighed a little and squeezed him tightly praying for the tears in her eyes not to fall. If she got started now, she wouldn't be able to quit. She pulled back quickly trying to get herself together and shook out of his embrace feeling her walls lock down and close all those emotions inside. For now.

"Another one?" he asked, eyebrows raised and a frown furrowing his face.

She nodded knowing what his reaction would be.

"What the hell about this time, Tiff? We can't keep living like this. You're going to have to stop catering to these damn tantrums she has. You're coddling her! She's got to learn life is tough."

Tiffani just turned and walked away from him. It was an old argument she was tired of fighting and had been for quite awhile. She had cried, begged, took him to the same doctors, sent him links to articles and bought him parenting books for people with kids on the spectrum. He wouldn't hear of it. Nothing was wrong with his child except she was spoiled.

"Spare the rod," he preached every time he attempted to spank McKenna for an outburst (which always, always made it worse). Any time Tiffani tried to reason with him on the topic, she was basically pissing in the wind. She did her best by their daughter, did her part around the house, and buried all the resentment and anger deep in a black, fiery pit in her chest. They barely spoke anymore outside of his bloviating about his job, his bloated importance or why she wouldn't sleep with him anymore. She loved him. He had been her whole world so long she didn't know how to walk away. He was her comfort. He still felt safe. But she also hated the sight of him sometimes...and if she was being perfectly honest he had been running around on her long before she stopped putting out.

"Don't say I never tried to help, Ice Princess," he called as she opened McKenna's door and stepped inside curious to see if she would find the demon waiting there or not. She heard his boots stomping downstairs as she glanced around the room. She was alone, neither monster invading her space.

She got a whiff of ash still riding the air in the room and knew it had been real. She pored over the drawings on McKenna's little table noticing all the old familiar symbols over and over again every page...then the last one. It was something new drawn in red crayon. It was simple--just a few lines, a circle, and arrows--but it was repeated over and over again on the page and each one was marred by a black smudge like it had almost caught aflame...

How many times had that thing been with her daughter? How could I not know? she wondered as she traced a finger over the design.

The paper shook and grew hot in her hands as she traced the last arrow point. It stretched and moved twisting into shape. She screamed barely recognizing the sounds coming out of her mouth. She dropped the paper as the demon from earlier rose into shape in front of her eyes and laughed.

She heard Chet's boots thundering upstairs and his voice calling her name. This. Was. Not. Going. To. End. Well. be continued

Baking In A Tornado 

The Lieber Family Blog

The Bergham Chronicles

The Blogging 911

Cognitive Script

Never Ever Give Up Hope

My Brand of Crazy

Part-Time Working Hockey Mom

Southern Belle Charm

Paradoxical Suds