Dewdrops were beaded on Hanna's sun glasses, half hidden in the lawn that was prime for another mow. She made them out much clearer than she would have expected with sun up still to come. A Schumann violin passionately wept from the car speakers. Hanna was pretty sure it was Schumann, any way. One chirping bird sang. Hanna wished she could identify the animal from its song, but, she had no idea. She lay on her blanket, beside the driver's side front tire, her body damp, her left side wet -- hair, face, arm, T-shirt, jean shorts, leg, naked foot. Inside the Jeep, Charlie exhaled deep, sharp sighs in rhythm with his sleep, but, not in rhythm with Schumann or the bird. He'd been asleep for hours, since maybe two that morning. Hanna had lain there since Charlie had given up trying to convince her and had went into the car to brood.
As he'd spoken, she'd not moved much, had said nothing but the occasional "yes," "no," or "maybe." She'd elaborated on nothing. From her mind, Charlie had no need to understand, even if he felt he did. She certainly had no need to make him understand. Really, it was more of a question of her not caring that he didn't get it, than her not wanting him to.
Pre-dawn gray had slowly overtaken deep-blue night. The single morning serenade of one chirping bird was joined by a second, then a third. Hanna figured the grounds keeper would be by within an hour of sun up. She should have made Charlie wake up and leave already. She'd not been able to move. A total lack of the will to do more than to scratch an itch, smack a mosquito, or twitch a sniffle. She had felt no more than she had moved, at least inside. Physically, she had felt a few little bugs crawl on her. She'd felt the dew start to form on her and felt the rain from the day before seep up through the blanket. Momentarily these had occurred to her as metaphors of sorts, but, she'd quickly quailed the ideas, each of the several times they'd popped in.
An extensible lack of anxiety, or a pressurized cauldron of fear -- she wasn't sure which was going on.
Off, a bit away from the meadow where she and Charlie were, the engine of a large machine started up. Hanna figured it was the big lawn mower, the one pulled by the tractor. She felt a small specter of hot, dense gas start to materialize in her stomach.
The calm, deep, male voice of the public radio announcer said that Hanna had just been listening to Beethoven, "Trio number 2 in G major." She'd been sure it was Schumann. She rolled onto her stomach. The rich grass fragrance punched into her nostrils. She pulled a knee up under herself and to her stomach and got a foothold in the blanket, then pushed herself up to standing, while a mellow woman gave a bland traffic report on the radio.
Charlie lay in the reclined driver's seat. She grabbed him just above his left knee and shook. "Charlie. You have to go now." She hoped he would be accommodating.
He stretched his gainly, buffed frame, his arms reaching behind him. He peeked open an eye at Hanna. "Wish you smoked," he said.
"Hurry up an get out of here. I think Jordan's about to cut the grass." She tossed the blanket in the back and grabbed the large canvas purse from the ground next to the Jeep.
"Or maybe I wish I didn't smoke," He felt the empty breast pocket of his open shirt.
"Charlie, you need to go. You need go wait by the bridge."
He adjusted the driver's seat up-right then bent forward and switched the radio station. Paul McCartney was in the second verse of "Hey Jude" from his live album. Charlie frowned at that and switched the station again. Kenny Rogers sang "Lady." "Gad, even worse," he said. Then he found Steely Dan, doing "Aja." The tuner rested there. He turned his face slowly to Hanna.
"I judge myself to be even more insane than you," he said, "because at least you don't believe this is all really immoral and a very bad idea."
But he hadn't let it incubate in him for all those months -- and all this time.
The machinery out there was coming closer to her. She looked in the direction the machine grumbled from. It also was the direction of the house. The ball of gas in her stomach expanded, heated; it's density intensified.
"All right, all right. I'll keep up my end of the deal. If you can call it that." He started her Jeep.
She leaned against the hood with one arm, and stroked the stubble on his face with the other hand. She was trying to tell him it would be all right, without using words. She could not have used words with conviction. When he shot a sharp look into her eyes, she knew she hadn't executed her gesture with conviction, either. Perhaps any conviction she could have performed was irrelevant. His smile just before he drove off seemed a response that this all well may turn out very distanced from: all right. He, of course, was correct.
It wasn't as if it was going to be a maleficent deed. Charlie had more or less suggested such. But, again, he did not understand. She tried hard to bury the fact that she has suspected what he has suggested. She tried hard to forget that she's quite often over-thrown her conscience using the weaponry of her yearning.
She often tried to treat this like the child was being subjected to Nazism or something as horrible. It was a weak lie. Hanna always had to fall back on the truth. That she loved her. That everything had been a bad mistake. And she no longer wanted to be Lilly's big sister.
Like Grandfather might have said, "Things are a bit quaggy for you, hey, Child?"
The mower was much closer now. Hanna then realized that there were tire tracks on the lawn, leading from the spot she and her brother had spent the night, to the gravel road twelve yards away. Tracks, sunk into the soil.
She heard Jordan's mower coming very close by, so she moved toward a large thicket of hedges. She hadn't been on this part of the grounds for a few years, certainly since Lilly was born. But, she bet that there was still a nice little cave dwelling in the center of that tall hedge grove. She was right. She had to pull the brush apart a bit, but that was even better. A comfort of sorts came over her. This had been a castle, a space ship, Joanna's whale. Jimmy Faintly had felt her up in there, finally. Paula Devinson had done something even more exotic to Charlie in there, or so she confessed in a drunken high at a slumber party for sixteen-year-olds. Charlie's silence on the subject was Hanna's verification.
Hanna thought about how everybody at the estate would be able to help the police identify the tracks in the soil -- half the township could, for that matter. She distracted herself by bringing up the layout of her parents' mansion in her head, one more time. A faint little voice reminded that this would be a matter for the FBI, not the police. It sounded like Charlie, since he had been the one to originally make the point. Just one more concept for the hand of determination/passion to reach out and push away.
Twenty minutes later, the dawn was turned into early sun-rise, Jordan had already passed by, and Hanna was able to make it three hundred yards into the forest area behind the ranch-style guest house she had lived in a year ago. There were no cars, range rovers, etcetera, etcetera in the driveway. She crept up and peeked through the garage window. All that was there was her father's Roadster, a fixture. No inhabitants to spy her out.
Sadness tackled her. Hanna wept once. Why sad? She thought. Why not afraid? Why not apprehensive? She sat down on her haunches, her back against the wall of the garage. Her head just skimmed the window sill. Like all night before, she could not muster the will to move. She wasn't paralyzed -- except that she would not choose to move.
"I knew you couldn't do this to Mother, Father or Lilly," she heard Charlie say.
He wasn't there. He was surely at the bridge. Charlie never broke a promise in his life.
That's what he would have said if he'd been standing there, though. That's what he would have believed. And as sure as he disagrees with her, she would disagree with him. She didn't care what she was doing to Mother or Father. And what she was doing for Lilly outweighed whatever wrong people were going to put on it. She put her hands on her knees and stood up.
The young woman walked up behind the guest house and then around the side. The pool was empty of water, scattered with a sprinkling of dead leaves. She peered around the front corner of the ranch house at the side view of the main house.
It stood as stately and as ominous as always: Ullman Manor. The Mercedes sedan was parked by the side entrance. Mother usually drove it. Derrick, the butler, had likely pulled it from the main garage not long before. The Ullman automobiles where housed over- night, no matter what.
Again, a dagger of sadness punctured her. The wall of the guest house sucked her up to it. She wiped her wrist across her face. Dew seeping up through the pores of her cheeks. She sobbed.
Again, she would not choose to move. She could not keep from sobbing.
"I knew you couldn't do this to Mother, Father or Lilly."
"Fuck you." she whispered to the phantom Charlie.
She had no idea how long she stood fixed to the wall. She heard the ignition in the Mercedes fire up, then realized she had previously heard some one leave the side door of the mansion and get in the car.
She heard a little voice cry out, "Mommy! Mommy!"
Hanna didn't move. She closed her eyes. With clarity she saw the little girl running up to the car with her little feet, to kiss Mommy goodbye.
She clinched her eye lids tighter and balled her fists. In her stomach, in her chest cavity, an inferno of thick, molten pain. But she refused understanding, denied revelation.
Forty minutes later she walked up to her brother, leaning against her Jeep, at the covered bridge in the remote south range of the Ullman estate. She arrived alone.
Charlie stroked Hanna's cheek.
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