Promptly Penned is a monthly feature. The prompt changes.
Hey, everyone! In today’s edition of Deelylah goes insane at the end of a marking period, I’m shifting gears a little. So,
no potty mouth here! Well, probably. I think. Maybe not… We’ll see.
Here’s the prompt: “Just call the police. No one has time for your Nancy Drew shenanigans.”
Dacia’s phone vibrated. She checked the message from her dad. Checking in.
She rolled her eyes.
Gerardo, the foreign exchange student living with Troy’s family, nudged her. “Your father loves you. You are lucky he wants to know where you are. Do not be angry with him.”
She shot off a text. At the bridge. No one fell in the creek. She pocketed her phone, hoping her father’s paranoia over her safety would allow her at least half an hour with her friends.
Andy Stanton hadn’t always been overprotective. His behavior was an unfortunate side effect of his wife’s–Dacia’s mother–disappearance. They’d found her body months later, after an anonymous tip, in a makeshift shelter in the woods behind the Dice Cemetery. While her body had been badly decomposed, the coroner said her organs were missing. Some sort of Satanic ritual is what the locals called it.
“I know. He’s just…worried about me, is all.” Dacia toed loose gravel along the bank.
“Yo, D! What’s the plan?” Chloe and Troy meandered up next to her, looking for direction.
The moon was full, and the brilliance reflected from the concrete bridge, creating twinkling diamonds in the creek. The suspension had been replaced at least once since the fateful night when three young women swung from ropes, the life draining from their bodies like starlight fading behind the clouds of a crisp fall night.
Gerardo nudged Dacia. “Dio de Los Muertos is celebrated in my country because we revere those on the other side of the veil. It is not only a day of rememberance for my family–it is a day that we sent messages to the other side.”
“So, what do you have to do to send your messages?” Chloe asked.
Gerardo pulled the pack slung over his shoulders from his back. His gaze met Dacia’s. “I brought things with me. We burn sage and send our messages off with the smoke. Some use candles, but my family isn’t exactly a paragon of the Catholic faith.” He chuckled. “My grandmother was excommunicated from the church for sending a message to my grandfather when prying eyes were around, I’m told, the first year after his death.”
Air expanded in Dacia’s lungs. Head crept along the tips of her ears and made her scalp tingle and burn. She stared intently at the bundle of twig-looking things Gerardo held in his hand.
“Dacia. Breathe.” The baritone notes rumbled in her ear and shook her from her reverie.
“Troy? Where the hell are you going?” Chloe called as she chased him down the bank.
“I think they have something more than spirits on their mind.” Gerardo shook his head.
“We don’t need them, anyway. Right?” Dacia glanced up at the sky. Wispy clouds threatened to obscure their light source.
“We will probably be more successful if they are not here. They will not be focused on the task at hand.”
“So, you think we will see something out here?” Hope swirled in Dacia’s chest, threatening to erupt.
“I am almost sure of it. I just need to know who you really hope to see tonight, Dacia.”
She loved the way her name rolled off his tongue; his accent gave her moniker an exotic quality. “The girls. Who else do you think I’d want–”
“It’s okay to want to see your madre. She left you unexpectedly and I am sure you have questions for her.”
Dacia’s fury rose. “Who told you?”
“No one. I sensed it.”
“They found her body in the woods behind the cemetery. The coroner thought it was some sort of ritual–”
“I am sorry. You must miss her very much.” Gerardo’s whisper drew her closer.
“It isn’t bad,” she said, her voice barely audible. “I have my dad.”
“My grandmother always told my mother that even when she was old and gray, she would still need her. It isn’t the same.”
A lump rose in Dacia’s throat and she pushed it down, blinking away pooling tears. Focusing on the moon, she recalled the last time she’d seen her mother.
The wind swirled colored leaves on the apron of the driveway while Dacia used a toe to propel herself back and forth on the porch swing. Her mind was blank as she stared across the yard into the woods up the hill. A flash of light drew her attention and she squinted her eyes as she tried to peer between the pines and birch trees looking for the source.
Her mother rounded the corner of the house. “Dace, can you do me a favor? Run downstairs and get me that big, orange extension cord. This stupid weed eater has no power. I want to use the plug-in one.”
Dacia sighed and rolled her eyes. “Sometimes, I think you guys had me so you’d have a slave.” She stood abruptly, tossed her shoulder-length mousy brown hair, and made a dramatic turn before heading into the house.
She couldn’t find the extension cord. She spent nearly thirty minutes looking. As she sorted through the family camping gear, searched her dad’s workbench, and braved the spiders in the little room with the water heater, sump pump, and furnace to see if it hung on the wall in there. No luck.
Resolved to give her mom shit for sending her on a fool’s errand, Dacia trudged up the stairs. At the top, she turned right–into the kitchen–and retrieved two bottles of water from the refrigerator before heading back outside.
She let the wooden screen door slam behind her after stomping onto the porch. “Mom! I couldn’t find the cord!”
The Hunter Orange weed eater lay in the yard, abandoned. Next to the tool, a gardening glove was tossed in the grass carelessly–which wasn’t like her mother. Across the yard–halfway to the woods–something nestled into the grass, which needed cutting.
Dacia left the water on the porch rail and jogged across the yard, curiosity getting the better of her. It was the other glove. “Mom!” She pivoted to take in as much of the yard as she could. No sign of her.
Dacia searched the house. The garage. There was no sign of her mother. Her purse was on the kitchen table, and her cell phone sat on the counter, charging.
She began to panic. Pulling her phone from her pocket, she texted her dad. Cant find mom. Purse & phone r here.
His response was almost immediate. I’m feeling weird. Coming home. LMK if u find her.
That was the beginning of two weeks of hell.
“It feels like she’s just gone running an errand sometimes. Then, other times, I’ll remember how long she’s been gone and I’ll freak out because I can’t remember the way she smelled when she got all dressed up for date night with Dad. I think I hear her voice sometimes, but I know it’s my imagination.” Why am I telling Gerardo that? He’s practically a stranger. What if he tells someone at school that I hear my dead mother’s voice? It’ll ruin me. She turned away from him, looking upstream beneath the bridge.
Something silvery shimmered into her line of sight. It was confusing–it was like one of the wispy clouds which threatened to congregate over the moon–and swung like it was the weight at the end of a pendulum. The image coalesced into a translucent figure that seemed to have substance. An old-style dress fluttered in the breeze as Dacia’s heart began to pound in her chest. “Gerardo? What’s that?” She extended her arm, pointing in the direction of the apparition.
Gerardo stepped behind her. “That is Claire. She was murdered–along with her three friends–by a man grieving the loss of his wife. The girls accidentally stepped on the dead woman’s grave when they were cutting through the man’s yard on their way to the creek.”
Dacia couldn’t look away.
Something rustled behind them. It’s probably Chloe and Troy.
Gerardo whispered, “Dacia. Turn around. Someone is here to see you.”
As she peered around his broad shoulders, a figure of the same composition as the one beneath the bridge came into her view. So many things were familiar about it, and Dacia felt drawn to the woman wearing capris and a torn T-shirt.
Images flooded her brain and sensations danced over her skin. Momma.
She sidestepped Geraldo and strode purposefully south several paces until she could have reached out and touched the apparition.
It wasn’t like all the haunting things she’d read about–not at all. Dacia was warm and she could almost imagine her mother’s arms wrapped around her in a comforting hug. The rich aroma of her mother’s special blend of coffee inundated her senses–she could taste it on her tongue.
“Momma? Is that you?”
The specter nodded. “I don’t have much time, Dace.” She smiled. “You’ve grown up so much. You’re gorgeous.” Brushing her cheek–maybe whisking away a tear–she leaned forward. Barely an inch separated them.
“First, I love you. I’m always watching over you, honey. And, as much as you think you’re alone, you never are.”
Dacia could’ve sworn she felt the nearly forgotten caress of her mother against her cheek.
“Dace? The men who took me from you are twisted souls. I need you to tell your father what I’m about to tell you. He’ll figure out a way to get the police to believe him.” Her mother proceeded to tell her about the men and gave enough detail that there would be no denying their identity–once they were found.
Her mother’s image began to fade and the temperature in the area returned to what it had been previously, and the smell of coffee grew weaker. “Momma,” Dacia said, “don’t go.”
“I have to. It’s time.” The image of the woman became more and more translucent until it disappeared.
Dacia walked with Gerardo in silence until they stood on the porch of her house.
“You need to listen to her. Tell your dad.” His expression was solemn, and the corners of his lips tipped down in a frown.
She sighed. “I will. He may think I’m crazy, but I’ll tell him. Tonight.”
Ten minutes later, Dacia sat at the kitchen table as her father made her a cup of cocoa. Not quite like Mom used to, but close.
He shook his head. “This is a little crazy. I checked my email while you were out, and we’re going to spend spring break in North Carolina visiting your mom’s family.”
“That’s nice. I have something super important I want to talk with you about.”
Settling into a chair across the table from her, he said, “What’s up, Buttercup? Did the ghosties scare you?”
She shook her head.
Her dad’s expression shifted from innocent to concerned. “What’s going on?”
“I– I saw Mom.”
All the color leached from his face. He sat in silence and twisted his wedding band for a few moments before he looked up. “I know your mother believed in this sort of thing, but I don’t. Let’s leave it at that.”
Heavy, imaginary weights pulled at Dacia’s limbs. “But, Dad. Mom told me about her murderers. She told me to tell you–you’d know what to do.”
He scrubbed a hand down his face. “Dace, I can’t deal with this.”
“Fine. I’ll just find them myself.” How will I do that? I don’t even have complete names.
“That’s not a good idea. Just call the police. No one has time for your Nancy Drew shenanigans.” His voice was barely a whisper.
“Why do you say that?”
With despair evident in his tone, her father managed to croak out, “Because I know who they are. They threatened to come for you next.”
Check out the Nancy Drew shenanigans everyone else came up with!