Eryka found the Roberts’ invitation for her to stay overnight to be…unsettling. She and their daughter were childhood friends, but Pam had been gone for years. Disappeared. Crawled out of her bedroom window and into the inky blackness of the night.
“No, we keep it unlocked!” Mrs. Roberts cried, popping the window’s lock into the open position.
“S..sorry.” Eryka said, not knowing what else to say. Her discomfort was a 12 on a scale to 10. She held a hand up the way she would for a wild animal.
“She might come home.” She gave Eryka a wry smile and left the room. Mr. Roberts lingered a few seconds longer, gaze caught between Eryka and the window, mind far away, as if wondering if he wanted his wife’s statement to really be true.
Eryka sleeping in Pam’s room was their idea. She said yes; anything else would’ve been cruel. The Roberts endured enough cruelty after Pam’s disappearance. Eryka’s folks weren’t the only ones to think Pam was better off gone, one way or another.
“You don’t mean that, do you?.”
Sigh. “If you only knew the things we knew…” her Dad would say, her mom clutching his hand.
Eryka sat the geranium she brought on the empty window sill. A gift felt inappropriate, but plants had always been Pam’s first love.
Besides, if any place needed new life, it was that room. This house.
She laid down on the bed that still smelled of a parent’s miscalculation of a teenager’s perfume. She flipped through the pictures labeled Pammie, a name she’d hated for years, which her parents always used.
In fact, the entire room had the feel of discontinuity, between who Pam really was and the person her parents imagined her to be. A pot much too small for the plant inside, conforming the roots to its rigid shape until it killed the life inside.
Sleep proved difficult. Lines from Pam’s favorite poem—written in fluorescent marker on a banner above—glowed red in the darkness.
We are the seeds of the tenacious plant
After a while, Eryka’s eyelids grew heavy. Moonlight’s shadows crept and crawled, fingers touching every inch of the room.
The limbs of the geranium seemed to grow and rise, its tentacles pulling itself up on the window.
A shape formed, sticklike and weak at first. As it moved closer to the retreating Eryka, the thing gained in mass and shape, eventually become that of a girl on the precipice of her power.
“Are you there?” The voice spoke low and soft. “Eryka…”
Eryka watched the wet, dark shape crawl on its knees, then finally its feet. The thing’s eyes sat sunken. Its once brown skin a vomit green.
The thing reached. “I’ve been traveling. Come with me.” The words trailed.
Eryka held out her hand, the sadness on Pam’s blank eyes an irresistible call. Best friends forever…we’ll travel the world…
Suddenly the bedroom door opened; the lights flashing bright. The apparition hissed and leaped back, away from her charging parents.
“We knew you’d come back! We knew you’d come back for her!”
Pam struggled in her father’s grip, her slick green skin rubbing off on his cotton shirt. Her mother attempted to fit a child’s nighty on her womanly body. “You can’t be seen like this! It’s unladylike!”
Pam’s cries were gurgled and wild.
Eryka rushed to the window and opened it. Not thinking, she bit Mr. Roberts’ shoulder. He screamed in pain and loosened his grip just enough for Pam to slip free.
“Go!” Eryka said. Pam slipped through the window, her body a tangle of vines. She disappeared once again into the night.
“Don’t leave, Pammie! I’m sorry! Don’t leave!” Mrs. Roberts cried.
But Eryka knew Pam would never come back. No matter what, she was better off, a tenacious plant free from a potted death.