(November 2022’s short story of the month)
It was just ridiculous enough to be true. Then again, she could be making the whole thing up. It was just so hard to imagine Diane’s father, the respectable banker who never left the house without a suit and tie, actually spending time at “the colony.” Everyone in town called it that.
The colony sprung up a few years ago, and since then, the town had seen more than a few of its respectable members seek the excitement within the extra tall privacy fences.
Cynthia listened as Sammy kept talking, but she found it hard to concentrate after the big reveal that the newest person to go to the dark side was Diane’s dad. It just seemed so unlikely. He was super boring, like worse than her own parents.
She tried to imagine him at the colony and instantly she regretted it. She didn’t actually want to picture that. She shook her head. Without saying anything to her friends, she took her tray and got rid of the rest of her lunch. Suddenly she wasn’t that hungry.
The rest of the day, everyone was talking about it off and on. It was like the only thing that had happened in the last week. Honestly, Cynthia was tired of hearing about it by the time she got home.
As she dropped her book bag right inside the doorway, her mother called, “Snack on the counter. I’m in the middle of laundry. Homework first.” Her mother didn’t even peak out to see who had walked in. Cynthia went to see what her mother had made for a snack. As she stepped past the door to the garage, she spotted her mom folding laundry. She didn’t wave or stop.
Her mother looked up and asked, “Did you hear about Diane’s dad?” She chuckled. She kept talking but Cynthia moved further away, and her mother’s words turned into a murmur.
She grabbed her snack of pb and celery. She walked quickly and snatched her bag off the floor taking the stairs two at a time to escape the gossip.
The next morning, she avoided her family in the morning. She didn’t want to talk or hear about the colony. It grossed her out. The only people who lived there were over forty, no kids allowed. That was probably a good policy.
Cynthia hated the place for one reason—she hadn’t been able to see her grandmother since she’d moved into the colony last year. She missed her. To Cynthia, the colony was synonymous with “homewrecker.”
School was the same as the day before. The hottest gossip was still about Diane’s dad. Apparently, he’d moved in. Cynthia hadn’t listened to that part. She’d thought maybe he was one of those people who just visited the colony for fun. But, he was like her grandma—he’d decided to move in and live there.
The idea made Cynthia shudder—gross. Poor Diane. She would try to find time to talk to her during lunch.
She didn’t get a chance to though. Diane was absent. Sitting her tray down, Cynthia sat next to Sammy.
“Sammy,” she whispered, hoping no one was listening. “Where is Diane?”
Sammy didn’t lower her voice. It wasn’t in her nature to talk at a reasonable level. She was a gossip and didn’t care when other people overheard what she was talking about. “Didn’t you hear?” She gawked at Cynthia like she was out of touch.
Cynthia shook her head and took a bite of her rectangle slice of pizza.
“Well, she won’t be coming back to school. At least, not for a while.” She beamed as she spoke looking around, trying to get others to listen in. “Her mother threw her and her brother into the car the day her dad moved out. They’re staying at her aunt’s. I think my mom said Diane’s aunt lives in the city.”
“Why would her mother just leave like that?” Cynthia asked.
Sammy looked at her like she was crazy. “Because of her dad, duh.”
“Oh, right,” Cynthia responded, blushing. “It just seems like an extreme reaction. I mean, Diane and her brother already go to school here. It seems like adding more problems to what’s happening.” Cynthia was trying to explain herself, but she felt embarrassed. She was sure Diane’s mother felt the same way. Having a family member leave and join the colony was embarrassing. She didn’t like what the colony was doing to families. She wanted to stop it, but she was only a kid. What could she do?
After school, she dropped her bag in the hall like always. She went in search of her mother.
“Mom. Mom!” she shouted.
“Upstairs.” Her mother answered.
She found her mother cleaning in one of the bathrooms.
“I want to call Grandma,” Cynthia said.
Her mother stopped scrubbing the counter and stared at their reflections in the mirror. She didn’t speak.
“Please, Mom. It’s important.” Cynthia whined.
“Why?” Her mother hadn’t spoken to Grandma, her own mother, since she’d moved into the colony either.
“Trust me. I just need to talk to her. I know you’re angry with her, but I miss her. I want to just say hi.” Cynthia begged, hoping her mother would give in.
Her mother let out a loud sigh. “Fine. I’ll get you the number. But just because you call, it doesn’t mean she’ll talk. You know what they do there.”
“I know, but I really need to talk to her.”
Cynthia waited until she could hear her mother cleaning again upstairs before she took a deep breath and dialed the number.
Someone picked up on the third ring.
“Hello, you’ve reached The Colony.” A friendly voice spoke.
“I would like to speak to my grandma, err, Mrs. Hudson,” said Cynthia.
“I’ll see if she wants to speak. Can I have your name so that I can tell her who’s calling?” the voice continued being friendly.
“It’s Cynthia, her grandkid.”
“Just a sec,” the voice said.
Cynthia heard a click and the phone was put on hold. While she waited, she listened to the sound of bees humming.
As she listened to the bees, she grew angrier and angrier. She couldn’t take it and hung up the phone.