Friday, September 27, 2019

Winnie #3

Zoe, Vanessa, and Winnie still lived in the small apartment above the bookstore. Winnie slept in a makeshift room that doubled as a living room. It was an odd arrangement but they could neither afford to move or really wanted to move. Winnie woke up to the sound of the television. She sat up and saw an image of an apartment building surrounded by tenants and firefighters.

“What happened?” she yawned.

“Good morning. Another apartment fire. Like what happened at Heather and her family’s. An elderly man died trying to evacuate,” Zoe replied.

“Someone died?” Winnie repeated. “I need to do something,” she said when she was talking to Heather about it.

“What can you do? We don’t have any idea who this person is, why they’re doing it, or where they’ll strike next. If they even strike again,” Heather said. “People on the news said whoever is doing this might stop now that they’ve killed someone. Like this was all a prank that now’s gone too far.”

“A man dies and officials treat it like it’s the end?” Winnie asked. “That’s not right. Someone died and even if this arsonist doesn’t set anymore fire, they still need to be brought to justice.”

“I agree but, again, what can you do?”

In world geography, Savannah was helping Seonna with her classwork. They were working on a worksheet where they had to fill in the blanks from the textbook and selected websites. “Why were you late this morning?” Savannah asked.

“What? Oh. Nothing,” Seonna awkwardly replied. “I just overslept.”

“You’re quiet today,” Savannah said. “Your head also seems to be elsewhere.”

“I’m fine. It’s just the assignment,” Seonna said.

“We’re basically copying and pasting from the book or computer about population density,” Savannah smiled. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Seonna snapped. “Let’s just finish this.”

“Okay. Sorry.”

They went back to work but a couple minutes later, one of the assistant principals came into the room. “I need to see Seonna Toomey,” he said.

Seonna was away from class for the rest of the period and the next one. When Savannah passed by between periods she glanced into the assistant principal’s office and saw Seonna with two policemen. She stared for a few seconds then walked away worried. She saw Seonna again at lunch but Seonna refused to talk about what went on in the office.

At work, near closing time, Savannah was sweeping the floor while Seonna was wiping down the counter. “You need to talk about what happened today,” Savannah said. “It’s eating you up.”

“It’s not. I’m fine.”

“Seonna, I’m your friend. Tell me what’s wrong. You can tell me anything. I won’t tell anyone.”

“It’s about my sister, Allie,” Seonna revealed. Seonna had a younger sister, Alliezandra, who went by Allie. She was eleven and had just started middle school. “She’s been having problems with one of her teachers,” Seonna began.

“What’s going on?” Savannah could tell it was serious by the way Seonna lowered her head as she spoke.

“One of her teachers has been molesting her. According to Allie, he’s done it three times. I know I should’ve just told my grandmother or aunt but I was angry. I went to the middle school and waited for him in the parking lot. He got out of his car and I jumped. I beat the shit out of him. I wanted to stomp his head into the pavement. I beat him up then ran off to school. That’s why I was late,” Seonna explained.

“At least it was for a good reason,” Savannah chuckled. She was now behind the counter with Seonna and put an arm lovingly around her and held her hand. “So what was with the police? Did you report him or…?”

“The son of bitch pressed charges on me,” Seonna said. “The police were at school to arrest me. I had to explain to them that he was sexually assaulting my 11-year-old sister. They were going to go back to question him again and told me not to go anywhere. I haven’t seen them since.”

“You were defending your sister,” Savannah said. “I’m sorry that happened. I wish I could do something.”

“It’s not your fault. It feels good to tell someone. I feel better,” Seonna looked at Savannah. “Thanks,” she smiled. Savannah held Seonna tighter as they looked at each other. Savannah kept from kissing her, hugged her one last time and then went back to sweeping the floor while Seonna continuing cleaning the counter before moving on to the tables.

An hour after Zoe and Vanessa went to bed, Winnie dressed in black pants and a purple shirt, headed downstairs, opened the security gate and left the store, making sure to lock the door behind her. She began wandering the neighborhood and looking out for any suspicious people and while she saw plenty, none were wanting to set fire to anything.

Winnie checked out any siren that she heard, running through the streets and alleys only to come across a police car or ambulance. At two in the morning, she sat down on a bus bench and waited. For thirty minutes she sat and tried to focus on what few people were still out. She then began walking, down one street then up another creating a kind of staircase with her movements. She came across a man also dressed for sneaking around in the dark. He was muttering to himself but she couldn’t make out any words because he was too far away and was wearing a mask, like what people wear during flu season or in heavily polluted cities, over his mouth and nose.

She followed him at a distance and watched him go into an apartment building. It was about three o’clock. She waited right outside, watching the windows to see if one came on. When one didn’t after a minute, she swore at herself and ran into the building. The man was still on the first floor and was fiddling with something inside of the paper bag he was carrying.

“Stop,” Winnie said.

The man looked at her. “No, no. Can’t stop now. Have some business to finish,” he babbled, casually chuckling between each word.

“You don’t have to do this,” she said, walking slowly toward him.

“The voices say that I do,” he said. “Burn. Burn the sinners. Burn them all.”

“You’re not a killer. That man was just an accident. Right? A tragic accident.”

“Tried to send a message. No one listened. Man died. Everyone listening now.”

“How do you know these people are sinners?” she asked, still approaching and trying to buy time. “Have you ever met them?”

“We are all sinners,” he sighed. “Me. You.” He looked down dejectedly then pulled a Molotov cocktail out of the paper bag. “We are undeserving of His love and for that we must be punished.”

He held up a lighter and prepared to light the rag that was sticking out of the bottle. Winnie jumped at him, hand extended. “No!” she shouted and crashed into him, bringing him to the ground. The bottle shattered, spilling gasoline onto the floor, but the lighter fell harmlessly to the floor. Sitting on top of the man, Winnie slapped her hand on his forehead. He babbled a bit more and then seemed to go to sleep.

His eyes then opened and he was surprised to see this young girl sitting on top of him. Her blue and hazel eyes looking down at him with just a hint of a smile as she realized that his mind was now clear. “What the hell?”

“I don’t know,” Winnie said, standing up. “You tell me.”

“I’ve been in such a fog over the last week or so,” the man rubbed his head. “What’s going on?”

Winnie explained and the man could barely hold himself up. He leaned against the wall for support and then had to go outside for air. “We need to call the police,” Winnie finished up.

The man nodded. “Why was I like that?” he asked.

“You just had some demons inside you,” she shrugged.

“And you just knocked them out of me?” he smiled at her.

“I guess so.”

A police car dropped Winnie off at the store where Zoe and Vanessa were angrily waiting. The police had called them to let them know that their daughter caught the arsonist—after sneaking out of the house and wandering the city for four hours. The three of them went back upstairs where Zoe took the lead in the parenting.

“What were you thinking? You could’ve been hurt,” she exclaimed.

“I wanted to help. And I did. I caught him and I saved him.”

“You can’t go sneaking out at night to do things like that,” Zoe said. “We got that call from the police and we were so worried.”

“Worried about what? No one is after me anymore and I’m basically Jesus Christ. I can…do things,” Winnie said. “I cured that man of demons. I can perform miracles,” Winnie smiled big but neither Zoe or Vanessa were smiling back.

“So what are we going to do?” Zoe asked.

“What do you mean?” Winnie asked.

“Do we ground you or…?”

“I think we should sleep on it,” Vanessa spoke up. “It’s late. We have school and a book store to work at tomorrow. Besides, what is this going to get us? Our daughter is special and she actually wants to use those powers for good. You can’t even say that, Zoe.”

Zoe was hurt by that comment. She had laid herself bare last year, owning up to all the bad things that she had done. “You always have kept me grounded,” Zoe said to Vanessa. “No more sneaking out. If you want to help with something then tell us. We’ll trust you. Fair?” she asked Winnie.

“Fair,” Winnie nodded.

“Fair?” Zoe looked at Vanessa, who smiled and nodded at her. “Let’s go back to bed.”