From "Square Dance" by Paths of Fear contributor Cindy Matthews
Wayne stood to my left. When the music began, he nestled my fingers in
his mitten-sized hands before steering me toward three other couples,
our shoulders scarcely touching. I couldn’t make sense of the
complexity of the required steps. My jaw finally unclenched when the
teacher lifted the needle from the record.
“Relax your shoulders. You’re awfully uptight.” Wayne’s voice
was liquid honey in my ears. When he smiled, a gold tooth glistened.
I had a right to be bad-tempered. Square dancing with Wayne was
draining. He was, after all, a grade twelve student and I was only in
grade nine. Our two gym classes had collided for a five-day unit on
traditional forms of dance.
Before the next song, Wayne pushed long fingers through his thick auburn
hair. He looked older than other grade-twelve guys. He wore cologne,
something musky. Whiskers bristled along his jawline. He was so hip with
his colorful striped shirt and faded jean jacket. Wayne was our
school’s drug dealer.
“You aren’t nervous to be around me, are you?” he asked.
Wayne was an imposing figure next to my petite build. I opened and
closed my mouth before lifting stringy blond hair off my moist brow. I
adjusted my T-shirt and looked away from Wayne, willing myself to relax
by gulping deep breaths. Before the teacher finished instructing us on
the finer points of the promenade, Wayne reached again for my limp,
“Ah, look at that. You’ve got a boyfriend.” Wayne patted the ring
on my left hand.
“Excuse me. I don’t feel so good.” I rushed from the gymnasium and
headed for the girls’ bathroom.
After last class, I boarded my yellow school bus headed for home. All
the good seats near the back overflowed with occupants, so I dumped my
backpack on a seat near the driver. He flicked the defroster on high,
filling the front of the bus with a blast of heat and buzzing noise. As
the driver pulled out of the parking lot, I took in the snowy scene up
ahead. Late afternoon January sunlight flickered on my jeans. We passed
the faceless, boarded remains of an abandoned castle. Crushed corn
stalks stood at attention in the snow-covered fields. I could hardly
wait to get home and tell my mother about Wayne.
Our home rested on eleven acres a few miles from the high school. The
driveway was three hundred yards long and often became drifted in with
snow. Today was no different than most winter days. I stepped off the
bus into a mound of snow.
“Take care,” the driver said before closing the collapsible door
against the fierce wind.
I tied my hood under my chin. The temperature felt much colder than when
I had boarded the bus in the morning. Snowflakes fastened like burrs to
the hairs dotting my face.
“Come on,” I groaned when I remembered I’d left my mittens in my
locker. “This day can’t get any worse.”
I folded my fingers into the sleeves of my parka before clutching my
backpack against my chest. I used the heels of my boots to punch into
the two-foot drifts. Snow draping nearby branches made the trees look
magical. Our bungalow, off in the distance, seemed to pitch and sway in
the wind before disappearing in swirls of snow.
The smell hit me first. Diesel. Then the insistent purr of an engine. I
glanced over my shoulder and spotted a tractor, a stream of snow
bursting from its large blower; it was the farmer we hired to blow out
“Why now? The storm’s just started.” My words eddied in the wind.
The farmer gestured at me to climb aboard. As we inched toward the
bungalow, I noticed my father standing in the doorway to the house. His
hand held the screen door open a few inches. His face appeared drawn,
and the space between his eyebrows furrowed. Despite the coldness of the
day, my body felt clammy. Once the farmer had pulled up close enough, I
stepped down from the tractor and ran for the house.
My father tugged me inside. “It’s your mother..."
Excerpted from "Paths of Fear" by Mrs. Connie Kerbs. Copyright © 2016 by Mrs. Connie Kerbs. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.