Some more writing for the characters Magnolia, Marie, and Cora, who I've posted other pieces about. Drawings of Magnolia being grumpy to come.......
Two railroad lines ran west along the outskirts of Tipperary Village. Only one was still in use, the other track had long since been choked with scotch grass and weeds, a looming pile of rocks and cement chunks spilling onto the ties. No trains stopped in Tipperary.
Magnolia liked to walk to the rock pile in the evenings, after leaving the Red House from the back. Marie would accompany her, and they would kick off their shoes and sit on the big smooth boulders with their backs to the scraggly woods.
There were the weird rusted remains of something strewn by the tracks, a strange metal frame just taller than their heads with a rotted-out platform sitting there, plus pipes and corrugated sheets and other generally dangerous and sharp-edged scraps;.
The girls weren’t stupid. They didn’t stand beneath the falling-down platform (it was only a matter of time before it really did crash down, hopefully not on anyone’s head) or cut their bare feet on all the rusty metal. “You girls’ll get lockjaw from playing down there, with all that rubbish by the train track,” Colleen, the cook, had warned them. They were careful after that, especially careful, as the dictionary had led them from “lockjaw” to “tetanus” to a very unpleasant sounding description of that disease.
Of course, Ms. Caddigan had no knowledge whatsoever of Magnolia and Marie’s nightly escapes. Cora knew, but Magnolia had blackmailed her into silence by telling her if she told that witch Ms. Caddigan, she’d do what she’d done before and put a snake in her bed and toad’s eggs in her nightgown.
It was the evening of the first day of August, just before the cousin’s second month at the Red House began. No escapes to their secret spot had been possible for over a week, and Magnolia had already complained to Marie three times that day that she was losing her mind.
Marie believed her. It would be hard for anyone, and was even harder for Magnolia to be cooped up in a stuffy old manor house where the amount of people she didn’t like far outnumbered the people she did.
When Marie told her there were good chances of making a break for the secret spot that evening, Magnolia was so relieved and excited she believed maybe she would go insane after all waiting for dinner to be over.
But nothing of great drama happened—their cousin Cora continued to be a brat, Ms. Caddigan continued to be a condescending, expensive-clothes-wearing evil witch, the steak continued to be tough and Magnolia didn’t explode or start throwing silverware. This was a definite good thing.
The two girls quietly put on their sweaters and slipped into the kitchen, while Cora glared at them from the upstairs landing.
“Tell Ms. Caddigan we’re taking our baths if she asks.”
This was what Marie always whispered to Colleen through the screen door as they were leaving. Both girls were positive she wouldn’t tell on them: Colleen was sensible and had been kind to them since they’d arrived, and was also possibly the exact opposite of Ms. Caddigan, which said good things about her character.
The walk to the railroad tracks was short, perhaps six minutes at most, and involved walking to the end of the rambling gardens on the south side of the house and cutting behind the groundskeeper’s hut, where a man named Charley Day lived. The girls had yet to hear him speak a complete sentence, but he seemed friendly enough.
“It’s August first, right?” Magnolia was trying to braid three pine needles together as they walked. Marie nodded.
“The day after tomorrow, we’ll have been here exactly two months. Can you believe it--?”
She glanced over at Magnolia, who had dropped the pine needles and was scowling. Marie stopped walking.
“You hate it here, don’t you.” It wasn’t even a question. Magnolia sighed deeply and plopped onto the ground.
“I appreciate the Red House itself. I still want to explore those attics that Colleen told us not to go in…and I like looking at that tapestry of the elephant impaling people on its tusks. And I like our secret spot…” She stopped and looked Marie straight in the eye.
“But Marie. I despise Ms. Caddigan. She’s made of plastic, I’m positive. And Cora is being more insufferable than ever and I so want to punch her most of the time and HOW am I going to last another two months in tiny little Tipperary village where the only thing the townspeople talk about is how cloudy it is and who the postman last had an affair with! AHHHHH!” She lay down on her back in the exact middle of the path and closed her eyes against the darkening sky.
Marie sighed too and held out her hand. Her cousin was very obviously at her wit’s end, and honestly she was worried as well as to how Magnolia was going to get through two more months here. She was fairly sure her self-control was all but used up by now.
“Come on. Get up. This is halfway over, you know. Now, shall we?” Marie heaved Magnolia to her feet and they walked away in step down the packed-dirt path.