Emily Murray was born in Ottawa, Ontario but moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia to achieve her degrees in Sociology, Psychology and Criminology. An avid reader, writer and crafter, she now lives in Windsor, Nova Scotia with her husband, horses and dogs. She is currently working on her first book, and can be reached via Instagram @eclmwrites
She sat quietly and watched, she’d taken cautious sips from the same glass for the last hour. She flipped through her phone and glanced at her boyfriend who’d been drinking steadily since their arrival. She’d promised to stay sober for no other reason that she didn’t want to make an ass out of herself. She watched as he bobbed around the bar, floating in the alcohol he drank. She sighed, it was going to be a long night.
Finally she settled him to sleep and stroked his hair, he was sweet and funny when drunk-not unlike their Austen. She rubbed his back for a while; she wasn’t tired.
In the morning he insisted he could drive, the strong coffee had set him straight he said. She shrugged, but watched him cautiously out of the corner of her eye. They stopped at her sister’s and picked up their two and a half year old. She nestled the toddler in the car seat and smiled, kissing his rosy cheek.
As they drove his head began to droop and he blinked furiously, fighting with himself to stay awake. She grabbed the wheel in her left hand and pulled sharply. They skidded around a van, the slid into a parked white Mazda--partially hidden under last night’s snowfall. She scrambled out of the car and grabbed the child.
“It’s just a scratch Babe, it’s fine, no big deal.”He said, his hand on the car to steady himself, then he walked a few steps away and doubled over.
“Hey! Hey, you ok? That was my car!” The woman appeared out of nowhere.
“Yeah-we’re fine-I-sorry-I-”She stuttered, pushing away the tendrils of hair that hung in her face, wet with snow.
“Go inside, take him inside-Babe, I’ll deal with this.”He said, pushing her lightly towards the row of townhouses.
She bit her lip and nodded, and she was ushered into the front hall of the middle unit.
“You ok?” She looked up, startled, an enormous man with a beard stood in the kitchen chopping vegetables.
The home was warm and still had the after Christmas glow, where everything seemed to be bathed in amber light. “Sit down, coffee?” She nodded, the turned at a noise. “My daughter Macy, be careful, she’s delicate.” He warned, but offered no other explanation.
She peered at the child, no bigger than an infant, but with the look of a toddler. “Gentle.” She whispered the instruction to her own curious toddler.
They waited in the soft kitchen for over an hour, the adults in silence, her son made up stories for his daughter.
He looked up; “Daddy hurt.”
The man looked up. “Yeah, I just got a text that the ambulance finally showed up about fifteen minutes ago, I thought you knew that.”
She jumped up and grabbed his jacket, “Come here.” She shoved on his yellow and blue snow boots, his floppy hat and tugged him out the door. She looked around frantically; the car had moved. She plowed through the snowy parking lot hitting the key fob repeatedly, listening for it to beep. “Hurry up, we gotta go.”She called over her shoulder, the toddler lagged behind.
Finally she found the car, its back end wedge in a snowbank. “Austen, c’mon.”
She looked back, “Austen?” She turned in a circle. “Austen?!” The toddler wasn’t there. “Austen!”She yelled at the top of her lungs. She stood beside the junk heap of cars, the streetlights threw shadows as more snow fell.
A neighbour looked out the window at the young woman standing alone in the parking lot and sighed-Sarah was drinking again.
She always relieved that night. The night they died and she lived.
GOLD TEETH AND PEBBLES
I climbed onto the crowded bus, myself only making it more congested. I shuffled my way to an empty seat and sat down heavily, resting my briefcase against my leg. I looked over at my seat mate briefly. She was a diminutive child, barely six years old. Her legs hardly reached the edge of the faded red plastic seat. I searched the bus for a parent or guardian but saw nobody who seemed to care for her. She had an old children’s book, tattered and worn with age, resting atop her knee and she looked with interest at the pictures of puppies and kittens engaged in boisterous play. I offered to read it to her, to pass the time till my stop. She handed it to me cautiously, careful not to drop the loose pages. As I read, she continued to stare at the colourful drawings.
After a few minutes I could see she was growing weary of the story. She told me to stop and began telling me a story of her own. She recounted the tale of an old woman with gold crooked teeth.
Every day this woman would drive to a clearing in a twenty year old pale blue pick-up truck. She would smooth some sand and place a perfectly smooth, round pebble on the flattened ground. She then sprinkled a pinch of salt, said a few words in Gaelic and closed her eyes for a moment. Then she would dash back to her truck and return to her house on a hill in a field.
Suddenly the little girl looked out the window and ran off the bus at the next stop. She didn’t say why, she just slipped through the crowd and jumped out of the stuffy vehicle. I didn’t have time to wonder before another lady stood beside me asking if the space was free. I scooted over to let her in. As I sat down again where the little girl had been, I brushed a smooth perfectly round pebble from the sticky plastic seat.