All she sees are the reeds whispering soft, sweet, crooning, kind words while her parents shout loud, bad-mouth, I TOLD YOU THIS AND I TOLD YOU THAT. Harsh, chemical, acid burning hate they propel at each other each day while she lays in the soft grass. Their words are melting the sugar off the bare, candy-cane box-cut home.
“Cuz we’re poor, baby, we’re filthy poor, and you and your new shoes ain’t helpin’.”
Money. It always comes back to money. Julia hasn’t got a gold pot or a rainbow, but she wants one so she can dump it all over her parents, dump it on herself and be content.
She’s a dandelion in their lives. Make a wish and she’ll fly off to fulfill it, but try as she might, there’s no money that her young self can find.
No peace for the searcher.
A shout shatters her brief pin-thin calm into a million pieces, and when it reknits, the edges are jagged, cutting, more fragile than before but stuck inside her, clawing blood out and pushing themselves in, clear-cut wisdom straight to the heart. It hurts. It’s rooted in her beating artery.
I’m growing up, leaving. I’ll never be poor again.
Julia Douglass stands at the pier with a friend, Caroline Conway. Caroline, with flyaway autumn hair and parchment pale skin. Caroline, with sweet words and a kind soul.
Caroline’s explaining to her how there’s this guy, and he’s really sweet but super lonely because he’s lived out in the country for a while. He’s homeschooled, doesn’t know anybody, and nobody really wants to know him.
Julia’s only listening for one word.
“And, he’s pretty rich, only son of two business people, and-”
She’s been nursing that wound for a long time, letting it grow and grow until every sunset represents her unending desire.
Now a guy perches awkwardly on the pier. He’s looking to take off, fly away from all this cacophony of interaction.
She and Caroline approach, and they introduce themselves. Julia looks over his suit, who wears a suit at the pier, his cufflinks, his watch.
“I’m Carlton, Carlton Saunders,” he stutters, hands gripping, breaking away. She can see his skin peeling, spreading like dead leaves on the windy autumn ground.
Dripping gold, he’s dripping gold and you’re going to collect all of it.
He blinks. People don’t normally smile at him.
Watery brown eyes give her another look. They look like dirt, but he is dirty, filthy rich.
And she needs the money.
Saunders’ house is crumbling under all the knick knacks and bric-a-brac. He’s showing her his parents, and they’re looking at her like she’s another knick knack, while he’s looking at her like she’s a pot of gold.
Money. His house is dripping in it.
In his own room, the bed is folded neatly, antebellum curtains frame the smiling view, and the dresser gleams from too many nervous polishings.
He’s asking all the sweet, southern pastry filling questions like Do you want anything to drink? or Do you...