Rabbit’s Foot is a short story that was spawned from a seed of an idea. Since January of this year, I worked through my final semester of college writing, editing, revising, and applying finishing touches to the story. I was lucky enough to have the guidance and support from one of my professors, making sure the story reached its best form. Suspense fiction, this was a new writing experience for me having wrote romanticized short stories in the past. After writing Rabbit’s Foot and many other short stories this past semester, I am finding my true self as a short storiest. (Stay tuned in the upcoming months to read more of these short stories.) So, without further ado, here’s Rabbit’s Foot.
At the close of August, school was beginning and Beatrice, for the first time, would be standing in front of her own class. First grade. When she had dropped out of college in her junior year, she wasn’t sure she’d ever get here.
Revolving around the mistake she made and following withdrawal paperwork and settling financial obligations with her university, Beatrice found herself slumping on the couch at home, watching talk shows all day. At first, her parents respected her choice of dropping out of college, but after those nine months vanished, their voices in her ear to re-enroll or enter the job market became too much. She just wasn’t ready.
After her best friend, Charlotte, graduated college and found an apartment, Beatrice was invited to move in with her, rent free. New scenery, Beatrice was still tethered to the same routine.
Her life had once sent her education flinging out of reach, before, years later, she re-enrolled and reclaimed her life. Now, a well-deserved diploma hung from the wall of her own apartment, framed.
The fan whirring in her bedroom, she removed an outfit from her closet, a white ruffled top and a black pencil skirt from the second-hand shop in town. Beatrice shuffled to the kitchen while simultaneously placing black heels on her feet, Charlotte’s hand-me-down.
Beatrice fished a can of tomato soup for the cramped corner pantry. Cracking the tab and pouring it in a bowl, she let it weakly spin in the microwave. Until steam rose and turned the surface bubbly, she poured it into a thermos and placed it inside her lunch box.
She was off to Edgewood Elementary.
Unlocking the door to her classroom and flipping on the light, the rows of desks emerged beneath the light, prepared to cradle the next six hours of math, spelling, science, and social studies.
At eight a.m. yellow buses released their doors, streams of children exiting and ambushing the front entrance. A quick succession of moments later and Beatrice was greeting them, learning names, and leading each to their assigned seat, large desk tags awaiting them.
Once each was settled, backpacks hung at the back of the room, and buzzing voices were as tame as they’d ever be, Beatrice stepped to the front of the room. “Welcome to the first day of school.” Her feet were planted tightly, knees locked as she tried to control her buckling shins.
The class chimed back “Good morning, Miss Goldway!” She traded a clipboard of the class roster for a stack of fresh paper.
“Miss Goldway?” a boy called out, hand waving through the air, but he couldn’t wait for his cue to speak.
“Are we taking a spelling test today?”
She smiled in his direction. “Just to get your brain blood pumping again.”
Chuckling, he settled his hand on the desk.
Beatrice passed out the sheets of paper, first to a girl in a yellow shirt emblazoned with a fairytale land: unicorn, castle, and all. Next was a girl with brown twisted braids, a black shirt and a pink skirt. But the girl in the third seat struck Beatrice unexpectedly. The girl’s small hand reached for the paper as a beam of light from the ceiling caught the silver chain that dangled.
Beatrice peeked at the name tag. “Isabel is a very pretty name.”
The girl glanced up at her, flashing a rare shade of green eyes, “Thank you.” The charm that drooped from the chain was cut into a recognizable emblem that made Beatrice’s mind warp back in time. The stack of paper dwindled sheet by sheet, as weeks, months, and years flashed through her conscience in bolts to where it all began.
Miss Goldway stepped to the front of the class again, reading the first word. She watched as quizzed faces pondered before writing.
That night in February was nineteen degrees. Last week, snow had coated the campus and sidewalks became frozen like skating rinks.
Beatrice slipped her feet into fur-lined boots. Stamping into them, her friend glanced over at her. “Where are you going?” Charlotte closed her laptop screen and slid off her bed.
“To see Landon.” Beatrice grabbed her coat from the back of her desk chair, stuffing her arms inside.
Charlotte’s eyes narrowed and her lips twisted.
“I’m just returning a book is all.” Spiraling on her heel, Beatrice picked up the library book he let her borrow a few weeks ago. She waved the cover in front of her friend’s face.
“You aren’t staying, are you?”
Beatrice shook her head wildly. Mentally, she had repeated to herself that she’d only return the book and maybe ask how he was. Then, she’d turn around, leave, and never speak to him again. Nothing more would be necessary, as he had broken up with her for a reason he didn’t seem to know himself.
Boots thwacking against the pavement, she walked quickly down the sidewalk, whether to escape the cold nighttime air or to see his face quicker, she wasn’t sure. She still liked him which made wanting to see him longer than a beat feel hard. But being quick was essential because the repercussions could be too intense.
Entering the dormitory, Beatrice climbed the narrowed staircase to the top floor, shuffling around students bustling through the hallways. The walk through the hall was enough to remind her of all the other times she showed up at his door. Back then, her stomach would have floated with anticipation and excitement to see him, cheeks giddy. Now, it made her feel anxious.
She knocked, the door swinging open a second later. Landon’s face appeared inches above hers, reminding of how she once admired their difference in height. Now, it was just an irrelevant factor, something extra to divide them.
“Beatrice?” The room was dim behind him, beside a yellow glow from a lamp and weak blue gleam from his laptop screen.
Her mouth fell dry and a pang of anxiety rippled from her knees to ankles. “I just have your book.”
“Book?” His eyebrows raised as she lifted the cover. “Ah, right.” He claimed it from her grasp, flipping through the pages. “I forgot you had this.”
“I finished it and wanted you to have it back. The library will likely be asking for it soon.”
“I appreciate it.”
“So, how are you?”
Landon tossed the book onto a nearby table with a bang. “I’m doing fine. And you?”
“Would you like to come in?” He opened the door further, a silent invitation. Beatrice could have listened to the promise she made to herself, once, twice, maybe even a hundred times. She could have objected the offer, retuning to her own dormitory, filling Charlotte in on the uneventful excursion. Though, the space between him and her, the open air that easily allowed her to walk into his room seemed magnetic. Nothing, literally, was standing in her way.
The first day of school came and went, the second day gleaming over the horizon.
In the kitchen, Beatrice removed another can of soup from the corner pantry. Chicken noodle on today’s menu. In a silken maroon top and pin-stripe skirt with more bounce than the day before, she zipped her lunch box, collected her bag, and headed out the door.
By eight-thirty, the day’s first lesson was just beginning with another eager question from Russell.
“Are we having another spelling test?” he asked.
“Not today,” she said, dispersing a sheet of paper with introductory mathematics. “We are starting the day with numbers.”
The girl who once wore a fairytale land, had on a white shirt with an illustrated pink cat. And the girl beside her released her long strands. But one accessory remained the same, like a scientific variable. Isabel’s bracelet drooped from her wrist, the charm exact.
A rabbit’s foot.
Beatrice peeked at the charm for a few seconds, watching as it swayed right to left. She slowly placed the paper on Isabel’s desk. Beatrice’s tongue tuned thirsty and her cheeks drained of saliva.
“Is that your bracelet, Isabel?”
“Yes.” She smiled brilliantly. “And it’s my favorite one.”
“Where did you get it?”
She turned her head sideways, nose scrunched. “I can’t remember.”
The space around Beatrice seemed to ripple as she was transported months after the first mistake she committed. The room seemed to shift and contract, widen before closing. Continuing to distribute the worksheet, her shins buckled, body temperature rising as her brain turned foggy, dizzy. Sitting down at her desk, taking a sip of water, breathing in deep, and leaning back in her swivel chair, the succession of pencils scratching paper seemed to echo uncontrollably as she reminisced.
Beatrice cut the engine, the radio pausing mid-lyric. Pushing open the car door, she shut it with her elbow. Her keys fell into her bag, banging against her waist as she walked across the parking lot. Alone, she wished for someone to walk beside her in company, particularly Landon. But he had hardly been trackable. It was summer now and he wanted nothing more than to leave everything behind, just like her, who was probably a memory now. She wondered how Landon was spending his summer, if he was working, or if he found someone else back in his hometown.
Stepping onto the curb, she pulled open the door to the store. A silver-haired man stepped out from behind the counter. He extended his hand, the name Herbert engraved in gold on the nameplate clipped to his tailored suit jacket. Accepting the handshake with one hand, she placed another on her expanding bump.
“Are you looking for anything particular today?” A few customers milled around the shop. Two of them appearing to be a couple in love gazing admiringly at diamonds. A guy toward the store’s center was a solo browser.
“A bracelet, actually,” she confessed, as he led her to a line of displays. “Something that will emanate love and luck,” Beatrice added, her hand still resting on her belly.
“I know just the thing.” Herbert led her to a row of cases. He pointed at something immaculate and shiny before removing it from the case.
Beatrice admired the charm bracelet that sparkled in front of her. The rabbit’s foot danced before her eyes.
“This is perfect.”
Herbert packaged the delicate piece of jewelry as she wrote a check and slid it across the counter.
By October, the world transitioned into a ruby atmosphere as leaves no longer clung to branches, but sprinkled every inch of streets and sidewalks with autumn’s fragments. Tires sputtering on leaves, Beatrice visited Charlotte’s apartment.
She flung herself onto the couch.
“Is something wrong?” Charlotte asked. It was seven p.m. when she stretched into the cupboard and grabbed two wine glasses. Opening the refrigerator, she popped the cork, pouring crimson.
“Something is either wrong or seriously good,” she replied.
Charlotte handed her a glass, they clinked and sipped.
“What does that mean?” Charlotte placed her glass onto the coffee table while Beatrice kept her’s in a grip. Her lipstick left a pale imprint on the rim.
“It’s one of my students,” she explained.
Charlotte’s forehead crinkled in confusion. “Go on.”
“Her name is Isabel,” she began. Gazing around the space, her mind replayed when she once milled about the oak floors, walking aimlessly. Wondering and questioning.
“It’s just that she wears this bracelet everyday.”
“It’s the same bracelet that -” Beatrice paused as Charlotte swigged. “That I bought years ago. Remember?”
She nodded. “What are you saying?”
“Well…” Beatrice made a swiping motion with her empty hand and Charlotte made the connection as her eyes suddenly grew the size of discs.
“No. That can’t be.”
“Maybe it can be.”
“You couldn’t actually think that.”
“He’s an energetic kid, isn’t he?” Russell’s mother asked. Her husband smiled widely beside her.
“He loves answering questions,” Beatrice responded. “His energy helps to wake up sleepy students in the morning.”
Tonight was Edgewood Elementary’s parent teacher conferences. Russell’s parents had signed up for the first available meeting. Early in the night, Beatrice found it difficult to keep up with the conversation. Isabel’s guardians had reserved the second meeting and were standing in the hallway, waiting.
She wondered what Isabel’s guardians looked like, as she wished to never meet them at the time of adoption. She thought that would have made the choice harder to follow through, making the decision more permanent. Though, permanent was what it was. She wondered about their profession and personalities. She wanted to see the faces of the people Isabel referred to as mom and dad. She wondered if Isabel knew she was adopted or if that still remained a secret.
Beatrice concluded the final exchange between Russell’s parents before inviting Isabel’s guardians inside the classroom, guiding them to open chairs. In their presence, her knees and shins trembled, but she stabled them quickly, attempting to ignore the electric nerves. She slowed her breath and heartbeat, careful to not enter a spell of haziness.
“How are you this evening?” Beatrice cupped her hands in her lap.
“We’re well,” the mother spoke. Wavy black hair framed her face, cheetah printed glasses, and fell upon the tailored cream cloth of her blazer.
“How’s Isabel as a student?” her father asked. He ran his hand through his hair. The sleeve of his cuff rising, revealing the glimmer of a silver watch.
“Isabel is a wonderful student, though, she’s one of the quietest in the class. She seems to have a lot of friends and is very smart. Her spelling and reading skills are advanced.”
“How are her math skills?” he asked.
“Math seems to be a challenge,” Beatrice shared. “But I don’t think it’s from a lack of effort. Many students at this age struggle with mathematics.”
The mother said, “Is there anything we can do to help her?”
“The last thing we want is for her to fall behind.”
Beatrice nodded. “Of course, that’s the last thing we want.”
“We could always hire a tutor on the weekends,” the mother said.
“And after school hours,” the father added.
Beatrice watched their bouncing exchange, smiling, realizing how much they cared for Isabel.
“I’d be happy to work more with her. After school for thirty minutes a couple times a week could really help her.”
“That would be wonderful.”
“We’d really appreciate that.”
“It’s what I’m here for.” Beatrice beamed.
Later that night, Beatrice dialed Charlotte’s phone number.
“I met Isabel’s guardians.”
“They seem lovely. And I get to spend more time with her after school.”
“How’d that happen?”
“Her parents thought some extra time tutoring in math might be beneficial. Of course, I can’t disagree.”
It started at the end of October, the first tutoring session of counting backwards from 100 and approximating numbers to the nearest ten. It followed through November and December, adding, subtracting by seven, eight, then nine. The numbers appeared scary, harder, but Isabel remained diligent. Even when she got upset by the work, Beatrice reminded her how far she has come, how much she has learned. And when Beatrice wished for their tutoring session to last longer, she’d peek at the picture Isabel drew of them sitting at desks, side by side. The colorful drawing of tangled lines perched on the windowsill.
Beatrice recommended workbooks and mathematical websites to strengthen and continue honing the skills on weekends and school breaks. By early spring, Isabel was counting money, slow then quick, memorizing the value of each coin and calculating amounts when dollar bills were involved. Later, it was analyzing graphs, reading them, and comprehending the shifts in value of bar graphs and pie charts. Before the end of the year, math became a new favorite subject.
One May afternoon Isabel said, “Thanks for helping me, Miss Goldway!” Her arms swung around Beatrice.
So, this is what it’s like to hug your own child, Beatrice thought.
On the last day of school, Isabel’s mother and father strolled down the hallway to retrieve Isabel. At the classroom door, Beatrice wished Isabel a happy summer before turning her over to her parents.
Back in her junior year, packing up her dorm was hard as the pregnancy delayed her education. The packing made her feel that her life was over as she crammed pillows and bed sheets into a box. Now, at the school year’s end, it was tossing her brightest colored ensambles into a suitcase, leaving behind the gray-scale outfits. Zipping the bag and bouncing into the kitchen, she removed the degree from the wall and Isabel’s picture from the refrigerator. She tucked them both neatly into her bag, careful not to forget the two most important pieces of paper in her life.
She rolled her suitcase down the hall, catching a five a.m. cab to Charlotte’s. Once there, she paused outside her door, staring at the brass numbers of the same address that also used to be hers. She placed a hand on the door handle just to recall what it felt like one final time, then knocked.
A few heartbeats later, “Beatrice? Hey, what are you doing here?”
“What if I told you I was leaving?”
“What?” She rubbed her eyes before scratching her head. “Beatrice, it’s way too early for this. What are you doing?”
“I’m leaving…somewhere. I want to start a new life, begin fresh.”
“Where are you going to live?”
“I’ll send you the address, okay? I have to get going, my flight leaves in less than two hours.”
“Gosh, you really are jetting off.”
Charlotte hugged her friend. “What about Isabel?”
“She’s loved and taken care of. She has everything she needs.”
Beatrice waved down a second cab and stared out the window, enjoying the passing scenery that flashed by in a blur. Soon the sun would climb the sky and only then would she feel more on top of the world than ever before.
Making her way through security before boarding the plane and locating her seat, she buckled in for the journey.