Fiction Friday: Secrets

night tree
night tree (Photo credit: Adam Foster | Codefor)

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

(This is a followup to the story begun here.)

When I invited everyone out to Grammy’s cabin, I thought it would be fun–a way to shed the baggage of the last few months. But you can’t undo the past. It clings like cobwebs I can’t shake loose, despite the laughter, despite the music echoing around the cave, despite the free-flowing beer.

I look at the circle of my friends lounging against rock walls. We all own secrets we’re desperate to conceal. It’s amazing, how much I see in the flickering shadows of this cave I’ve known since childhood. The way Hanna casts furtive, speculative glances at Kresta, who’s dancing hip to hip with Jon. The skeletal thinness of Geena’s wrist protruding from the heavy sweater that can’t keep away her shivers, even as the rest of us fan ourselves in the heat of the fire. Eric’s bloodshot eyes and constant sniffling.

I wonder how Zin’s doing with Grammy. I feel bad. She thinks I planned this, to keep her away from Ned. How little she knows.

“C’mon, Dee, let’s dance!” The music nearly drowns out Chad’s voice–the very limestone seems to shake–as he pulls me to my feet. He swings me round and pulls me in, and I lean into his warmth, fling my head back, let the music and the sensation take me. All I want is to be part of something safe and whole and complete, even if it only lasts a few fleeting moments.

I can feel Ned’s eyes on me. He unfolds his long limbs and ducks under a low-hanging rock to grab my arm. “Don’t do this again, Dee,” he says in my ear, too low for other ears to hear. “You know he’s only after one thing.”

The raw place in my soul breaks open again, throbs physically in the wounded place where my secret was ripped from me, and suddenly all the world is a great, gaping emptiness.

“C’mon, guys,” I yell. “Let’s go back up to the house.”

The chorus of complaints is good-natured. Maybe, like me, they sense that in the darkness of this cave, all our secrets will betray us. Mine seems to hover in the treetops. I could swear I hear her name flying over my head a dozen times before we reach high ground.

At last, the trees break around the cabin, and in the dim light from the bare bulb on the porch, I see Grammy and Zin huddled together. Zin looks up, her eyes aglow with a fierce, protective, and hisses: “Quiet! She’s sleeping!”

When I see the newborn baby in her arms, the earth shifts beneath me, and I realize: no secret stays hidden forever.