As promised, here is the first installment of my short story entitled House Call.
Check back throughout the week for the rest of its story as there will be a part added each day.
I am very proud of this piece and am honored to share it with you.
Thank you for taking the time and sharing in this journey with me.
written by: d.p.bertison
A spray of chicken chunks and brown slime splashed onto the paper princess, it's pink, crayon-colored dress soaking up the stain.
No," the little girl screamed in spurts, emulating the beats in a dubstep remix. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and started to cry.
Her mother scooped her up off the floor. "It's alright, Lyrica. It's all gonna be alright." Grabbing a tissue from the desk, Abigail wiped her daughter's mouth and the snot and blood that oozed from her tiny nose.
"I ruined her," the girl cried out through the tissue, pointing at the princess in her coloring book.
"Eric!" Abigail yelled over her shoulder. But her husband was already running from the kitchen with a dish towel in hand. He squatted beside the vomit and started to wipe up the mess.
The little girl sobbed louder.
"Shhh, Lyrica." Her mother rubbed the girl's bald head. "It's okay, baby. It's okay."
"It isn't. I ruined everything," Lyrica bawled, contorting into a coughing fit that sent a clot of blood flying to the floor.
"Don't fret, Pumpkin." Eric slid a piece of chicken from the picture. "We'll get you another princess. Maybe one who can appreciate a fine meal when it is served to her." He stood up with a click of his heels - imitating a butler's stance - and manipulated his face into a variety of funny faces that seemed to cheer the girl. Her sobs turned to giggles.
The doorbell rang. Abigail and Eric exchanged a look.
"Is it two o'clock already?" She asked with wide, bloodshot eyes. "We're not ready. We can't possibly do this now." Abigail set her daughter back on the floor by her book.
"If not now, when?" Eric asked, studying his wife's face. Her once luminous complexion, now punctured with wrinkles and worry and fatigue. Her once beautiful, wavy hair, now replaced with a knot of dark roots clumped on top of her head - crazy strands of dead-ends hugging her cheekbones. He knew his own features mimicked hers -
The drawn-in cheekbones.
The cracked lips.
The dark, hollow eyes.
"If not now, when?" he repeated.
"I just can't -" she whispered, choking on her own words. "I can't go through with it."
Eric caressed her cheek with the back of his hand. "It isn't about you."
They both looked at the little girl who sat on the floor, desperately trying to salvage the princess from slime. Sitting there in her own fragility, the little girl looked much older than eight.
Abigail's eyes pleaded with her husband. "Maybe we should recheck his references?"
The doorbell rang again.
"It's time," he said and left the room.
In the foyer, Eric steadied himself and breathed deep.
He studied the front door.
It stood strong and stoic, it's brass handle catching the afternoon sunlight and gleaming an invitation to open it. The etched glass of its center reflected a large shadow, creating a distorted figure on the other side.
Eric stepped quietly.
He took another breath and opened the door.
The man on the porch stood tall against the neighborhood backdrop, filling the space of the door. A dark duster hung on his large frame, reminding Eric of a gunslinger in a cowboy movie. Dark eyes stared through him. Black, leather gloves tightened their grip on a large briefcase.
"Welcome." Eric held out his hand.
The stranger inspected Eric - head to toe, refusing his hand. When he spoke, his voice was deep and he formed the words with his lips before he gave voice to them. "Swanson?"
The stranger continued, "I am Cadwell. I am here for Lyrica."