This morning, Jesse left me with Mr. Schwartz who took me into Rudford (a town a couple of miles away from ours, Anniston) to go pack up his wagon. He said that we shouldn't have to worry about people seeing me here, but even so, he kept me close to his side.
Mr. Schwartz and I entered the marketplace, but he quickly took us around the back of a shop he said his friend owned. Mr. Schwartz knocked on the backdoor, and after a moment, it opened. Mr. Schwartz made me go in first and I passed by the man who held the door open for us. He was older than Mr. Schwartz with white hair and a mean face.
"You sure the kid can do it?" he asked Mr. Schwartz when he entered and closed the door behind him.
Mr. Schwartz shrugged. "He's got no other choice."
"And what if he gets caught?"
"I've got a good feeling about him; don't worry about it."
The man seemed to want to ask more questions but Mr. Schwartz ignored him, directing his attention toward me. He kneeled in front of me and smiled kindly. "Vivian, there's a dog you can play with in the front room. Why don't you go find him?"
I nodded slowly and headed into the front room, leaving them to talk about my brother.
Rocky only had three legs, one ear that had been half chewed off, and a stubby tail that didn't whack you in the face every time he wagged it. He scared me at first as he was bigger than me and his teeth were a frightening sight, but it didn't take me long to find that he was the friendliest dog. Rocky's bed was in the corner of the room with a little blue ball sitting next to it. I sat down and rolled the ball to the otherside of the room, curious if Rocky would play fetch with me; he didn't. Rocky watched the ball roll before deciding to lay down instead.
I sighed, moving to sit beside him. I ran my fingers through his yellow hair, admiring it. Muffled voices came from the other room, a conversation about my own brother that I wasn't allowed to hear. I wanted Jesse to get back soon. If he were here, he would tell me all about the men's secret conversation eventually. Jesse and I never keep secrets from each other. Yawning, I rubbed my tired eyes and when I opened them again there was a little blue ball next to my foot. I looked to the far side of the room where I had rolled Rocky's toy only to see another little girl smiling at me.
I stood to my feet quickly, picking up the ball as I did so. "I'm sorry, I didn't see you there," I said, smiling back at her. "I'm Vivian, what's your name?"
"Abigail," said the girl, holding out her hands so I could throw the ball back to her.
She was standing in front of the store's front desk about ten feet away from me so it wasn't too far. I winded back my arm and threw it to her. When her hand reached out to catch it, it passed right through her and she suddenly disappeared. The ball hit the front desk, bounced, and hit the shelf directly behind it, smashing some bottles of whiskey.
"What the hell was that!?" the man from the other room shouted. Rocky was on his feet, barking at where the noise had came from. I stood where I was, confused about the disappearing girl named Abigail.
The two men stormed into the room, the man I didn't know seeming much more angry. When they came in, he looked over to the shelf that now had shattered bottles covering it. He looked over at me, a fierce look in his eyes. "Did you do this?"
"I...I...I was just playing catch with Abigail and…." I wanted to explain myself but I couldn't. Even I didn't understand what had happened.
"Abigail?!" Spat the angrier man.
"His name is Rocky, Vivian," Mr. Schwartz added, much more calmly.
"No, not him. The girl! Abigail!"
The other man looked at Mr. Schwartz then back at me. "Oh, that's just great. You bring this kid and her imaginary friend to break my stuff!"
"No!" I protested. "She was right there!" I pointed at the desk.
"Look, her brother will be able to pay for everything when he gets back, Charlie. Leave her alone."
"Leave her alone? She just destroyed my bloody shop!"
"It was a few whiskey bottles. Believe me, you could afford to drink less anyway."
"I didn't mean to!" I added, even though they were ignoring me. "I didn't know she was gonna disappear!"
Charlie turned back to me, rubbing his temple in frustration. "Listen, kid. The shop's closed. No one could have gotten in unless passed us. Just admit you broke it, alright?"
Charlie was standing a lot closer to me than before. I thought about backing away but I knew I was innocent and I was going to stand my ground.
"It wasn't my fault - she was right there!"
"Quit lying already! I know you did it!"
"I didn't! Her name was Abigail, she had long brown hair and was the same age as me and -"
Suddenly, Charlie shot toward me and latched his hand onto my right arm. He gritted his teeth in anger and started to shake me violently. "Enough! I don't want to hear your excuses anymore!"
"Charlie, she's just a kid. Stop," Mr. Schwartz said, moving forward and putting a hand on Charlie's shoulder.
Now he was starting to scare me. I wanted to disappear like Abigail had done. I wanted Jesse to come back because Jesse would believe anything I said. There was nothing else to tell Charlie as the truth just angered him more and more everytime I told it so I struggled against his firm grip, sobbing. Then, as if my wish was magically granted, I heard a familiar voice.
"What's going on!?" Jesse's voice. In the doorway from the other room he stood with a brown bag in his right hand. When he saw what Charlie was doing to me, the bag hit the floor and my brother was on the man in seconds. I was pulled away, Jesse pushing me behind his back so he could be between me and the shopkeeper.
"She threw a ball and broke my shelf! She's lucky she didn't hit something more expensive, or she would have really got it!"
Jesse stepped closer to him. "You don't touch her, you understand? I don't care what she did."
"Jesse," pleaded Mr. Schwartz, "You can pay for the bottles, just do it."
Jesse didn't look away from the shopkeeper but nodded. "You stay away from her."
"Or what? You're gonna kill me like you did your daddy?" Charlie laughed after saying it.
Jesse swallowed a lump in his throat, but he didn't back down. "Maybe."
Charlie didn't seem to like that answer. His eyebrows narrowed making him seem more furious and terrifying, which I didn't realize was possible. I reached up and squeezed Jessie's arm. This got his attention and he looked down at me and turned away from Charlie. "How much did she break?"
"Seven bottles, at least."
I shook my head. "It was Abigail." I whispered to Jesse, hoping he would understand. Charlie heard me and started yelling again.
"Hey!" Jesse yelled back, pulling a wad of cash from his coat and tossing it at Charlie's feet. "That and that bag over there." Jesse pointed at the bag he'd carried in earlier. "It's all yours."
Charlie grumbled a little bit before kneeling to the floor and grabbing his money. Jesse turned to look at Mr. Schwartz. "Can we go now?"
"Yeah," Mr. Schwartz sighed. "You kids go ahead to the wagon; I'll meet you there."
Jesse grabbed my hand and dragged me out of the shop as fast as he could. When we were out, he started pulling us toward the marketplace. "You need to be more careful, Vivian. We can't afford something like that to happen again."
"But it was Abigail!"
Jesse slowed his pace down so that he could look down at me. "Who's Abigail?"
"She was this girl that I was playing with. I threw the ball and she disappeared, which is why it knocked over the bottles."
Jesse pursed his lips and didn't say anything for a moment before looking back up at the road. "Just be careful from now on, okay?"
I nodded. "Okay."
We made it to the wagon and waited for about a half hour before Mr. Schwartz arrived. When he did, we left Rudford for the last time. I was happy, because I never wanted to see Charlie again.