Three Years Later…
The yard stood still, no rustles of wind to stir the fragile plants. Crickets burst into high-pitched chirps. The sounds were much too soft to be mistaken for the call of birds. Hundreds of the musical creatures echoed around the backyard as the sun set.
“Gabby,” an irritated and tired voice called out. “Did you hear what I said?”
Gabby, not taking her eyes off of the setting sun, replied quietly. “Uh-huh.” She could almost feel her mother shift to place her hands on her hips.
“Then what did I say?” The child finally turned around, pushing her mousey brown hair away from her face. Frowning, she puffed out her cheeks. Gabby really had been listening, but for some odd reason, she could not remember Lisa’s words.
A huffing chatter echoed around the backyard. Startled, Gabby spun around to find the source of such a strange and unique noise. Nothing showed itself, but the imaginative child could imagine hundreds of possibilities for the noise. The sound reminded her of something from a movie, though no image appeared in her head to accompany the sound.
“Gabby,” Her mother’s exasperated yell drew the child’s attention back to the dull reality. “I am trying to talk to you, Gabby.” That was the first warning. She would get one more before Lisa started really yelling and taking away privileges.
“I can’t remember,” she muttered, knowing her mother would not buy it.
A heavy sigh came from behind her, frustrated. “Marshall’s mother is going to the doctor so he will be coming over for a few hours.” This time, Gabby’s mind understood what Lisa was saying. Her eyes lit up in excitement. Unconsciously, she shifted from foot to foot, waiting for her mother to finish talking.
Gabby did not have the patience to wait for her mother, butting in. “He is coming? When?”
Lisa shook her head. “Early tomorrow sometime. So go clean your room. I want it done before he gets here.” Gabby rushed inside the house, leaving the door swinging wide in her eagerness. Despite her anger, Lisa could not hold back a small chuckle, accompanied by a shaking head.
The inside of Gabby’s room could have hid all of the money in the world, and no one would see any bit of it. Monstrous piles of clothes rose up above her bed and dominated over the room. The piles had no particular order, a mixture of clean, dirty, while, and colored. All blended together in a tall mess.
Littered around the piles that were taller than Gabby’s head were toys. Half-clothed dolls rested against their own miniature piles of their own clothes. Glittering plastic pets played in the dry pools. An Etch-A-Sketch leaned against a purple doll house, a straggle of lines in the middle from where Gabby had accidentally kicked it earlier in the day.
In the large spaces between the clothes piles rested broken crayons on top of coloring books. Gabby also had a few things of her brother Garrett’s, plastic music players and the like. Near the door, a heap of push-pins sat in the middle of the floor, the silver needles ready to attack any unaware feet that dared to pass.
Gabby carefully jumped over them and frowned. The pins were there because of some of the low-hanging posters on her wall. While she was trying to pin on of her hand-made posers to the wall, the container that held the push-pins tipped off of the bed. She had scooped them all into a hazardous pile, planning to pick them up. But then her mother called and Gabby forgot all about the hill of dangerous objects.
The child was grateful that Lisa had not gone into Gabby’s room in a couple of days. If she had, surely the child would have been locked in her room until it was spotless.
“Mom,” she whined, “I will never get it done before Marshall comes tomorrow.”
The woman’s cheerful voice came back from the living room. “Well then, maybe if you get started now, you will be done early enough to have at least a few minutes to play with Marshall before he leaves.” With a loud groan, Gabby slammed her door closed. Stepping carefully over the various toys, clothes, and books, she pressed play on her small CD player.
Shakira blared loudly through the beat up speakers. After peeking around her room to make sure her mother had not walked through the door without her knowledge, she started to do the silly dance Gail had taught her. Down, up, then jump and spin around. Gabby did the silly dance a few more times before starting to clean.
Instead of folding her clothes like her mom liked, the child opted for shoving them into drawers forcefully. Seeing that they would not all fit, the child also threw some into the very back of her closet, out of the sight of prying eyes. She carefully made sure the clothes could not be seen if her mother turned on the light and peeked around.
The toys were even simpler. Throwing the heaviest blanket- which was only slightly thicker than a sheet- off of her bed, Gabby hid most of the dolls and smaller toys on the bed, covering them with a blanket. Strategically placed stuffed animals hid most of the bigger toys.
Coloring books and broken crayons were dumped into a bin with all of her other books. She picked up all of the pins and put them back into their container. Gabby spun around once to make sure everything looked right before nodding once in satisfaction. Closing the closet door firmly shut, she stuck her head out of the bedroom door.
“Momma, I am done. It is ready to be vacuumed,” she said. Without replying, Lisa paused her movie and walked towards the bedroom. Gabby stepped back and let her mother in, sweeping her arms wide. “See? All done!”
Lisa nodded. Casting her daughter another look she walked over to the bed. With one swift movement the blanket- and all of the stuffed animals on top- went across the room. Gabby blinked before blowing out a deep breath.
“I’ll start cleaning again.” Lisa nodded and walked back out the room.
“Fold your clothes too,” She called as Gabby started working. The girl wrinkled her nose in distaste before dumping the clothes out of her dresser as well. Methodically- after restarting her CD and turning up the volume- She went back to work on the room.
After what felt like three hours, Gabby collapsed on the bed, sighing deeply. About half of the clothes were folded and put up, along with her coloring books and crayons. Her dolls and their items were in the process of being cleaned up.
She had the briefest thought that her room was almost like a city. It was inhabited by hundreds of people doing their own things. It was impossible to keep the whole of a city clean. Maybe parts of it, but without everyone helping, it would never get done.
“See,” Gabby said, eyes trained on her dolls. “If you helped me clean, I would be done faster. And you would not be making a bigger mess.”
Lisa walked into the door. “It’s been an hour. Why don’t you take a bath and then go to bed?” Gabby looked at her mom.
“Only an hour? You are kidding!” Lisa shook her head with a smile.
“Nope, it is nine o’clock. You started around eight. Go take a bath, then bed time.” The child slipped off of her bed, heading to the bathroom. She hated baths, but Gabby would do anything to get away from cleaning her room.
After the bath, Gabby wrapped the towel around her body and walked outside of the bathroom. Trails of water followed after her, leaving puddles under the carpet. Grabbing random pieces of clothes from off of the floor, Gabby got dressed.
As the child was leaving her room to say goodnight to her mother, she paused and frowned. Looking back over her shoulder, Gabby let out a gasp. The room that was almost halfway done now was more trashed than before. Clothes that were once in dressers- or at least in piles on the floor- were thrown across the carpet. Dolls and stuffed animals hung off of lamps and dressers. Her coloring books were ripped into shreds and tossed around with broken crayons.
“Gabby,” Lisa said. She was walking through the doorway leading to her daughter’s room. “I came to say goodni-“ she stopped with a gasp. Her eyes were wide in shock. “What did you do?”
“It wasn’t me,” Gabby protested.
“Then who did it?”
“I don’t know,” Gabby said. Her eyes were wide with shock. Lisa shook her head. The girl could see her mother’s anger. She did not know what to do. It was not her that made the mess, but somebody must have.
“Gabby, why are you going through all this trouble to not clean your room? Surely it would be easier to just clean it.” Gabby stared at her mother, mouth agape.
“But momma, it wasn’t me.” Before either of them could continue talking, Gabby heard the strange huffing chatter again. She blinked, realizing that it was not that surprising to hear the strange noise.
“Momma! That is the noise. Whatever is making that noise must be what messed up my room.” Lisa sent her daughter a droll look and strolled over to the window. Pushing the curtains aside, she showed that Gabby’s window was open.
“It is just a gator,” her mother replied, shutting the window. “And what did I say about opening your window.” Lisa left the room, shutting off the light as she went.
Gabby sighed and rubbed her blue eyes. Shoving off all of the toys on her bed, she climbed up under the covers. “It wasn’t a gator,” the stubborn child muttered before falling asleep.