Writing Prompt Wednesday: Under the Maple Tree

By Whitney Ness
You can find the writing prompt here!
It was only October but already the air was so cold that I could see my breath. I felt like I had been waiting for my cab for hours. My heels were starting to pinch my feet but I had spent 1,200 dollars on them and they looked damn good. I checked my phone. It had only been 20 minutes. I dropped my phone as I heard tires squealing on the pavement. A taxi painted the ugliest shade of magenta I had ever seen came whipping around the corner and skidded to a stop in front of me.
“You Miranda Calloway?” I nodded. The cab driver was a stunningly beautiful woman who looked a little too well dressed to be a cab driver. “Well get in, I’ve got three more customers tonight.” Although she was beautiful she wasn’t very polite. Still, I complied. I had to be at the airport by 9.
“Airport please.”
“Oh I know where you’re going.” She pulled away from the curb and drove north. Maybe she was going around the block, I told myself. 5 minutes later she still hadn’t gone around the block.
“Where are you taking me?”
“Ever heard of the taxi that takes you where you need to go?”
“Yeah, that’s all taxis now take me to the airport.” The bitter taste of bile rose in my throat. I popped an antacid. At this point the chalky tablets worked more as anti-anxiety supplements than antacids. This whole time the cab driver was cool and collected.
“I said need to go, not want to go.”
“I’ve heard of you. Where are you taking me?”
“If you knew where you needed to go you wouldn’t be in my cab right now.” We pulled to a stop in front of the crumbling shack I had called home for the first 16 years of my life.
“How the hell did we get here? It’s an eight hour drive from St. Louis.”
“I take you where you need to go.” I climbed out of the cab and turned to get my bag.
“If I go in there, will you take me to the airport.”
“Sorry Miranda, I’m not that kind of cab.” The cab and the woman faded into mist. Had I dreamt the whole thing? Well, I told myself, there was nothing left to do but go inside, at least I’d be out of the cold. I tested the knob but it fell right off so I decided to knock instead.
“Jess! Grandma! Open up!” I didn’t hear anything so I peered through the window. It was dark, that was normal, lights were too expensive.
“You would show up just to look like the golden child again.” My twin sister certainly sounded more bitter than when I had left but I was pretty different myself. Jess still mostly looked like Jess, except one side of her face sort of drooped now.
“Jess you don’t understand.”
“How’d you get here anyway, hire a limo?”
“You won’t believe me but I got picked up by the pink cab.”
“The pink cab?” Grandma had told us the story of an ugly pink taxi that took its passengers where they needed to be most. Jess laughed. “And it brought you back here.”
“Where’s Grandma?” Jess brushed her hair out of her face. She really had gotten thin. In the moonlight she looked more like a skeleton than a person.
“She’s really sick Miranda. Can’t afford to see a doctor so no idea with what or how to fix it.”
“I can afford it. I’ll get a cab tomorrow and we’re all going to my place. I have a mansion Jess.”
“How’d you get a mansion?”
“I married a 90 year old billionaire 10 years ago. He died 5 years ago.”
“And you never even had the decency to help us out a little. Grandma raised us on what little she made. She even went without food.”
“You’re right Jess, I was incredibly selfish. You don’t have to forgive me.”
“I don’t have to and I don’t want to but I’m going to because my kids need me to be a good example.”
“You have kids?”
“Yep, I was with the same man for 10 years and we were doing great. I got in a car accident and fucked up my face. He cleared out our bank account and left in the middle of the night. I lost my house trying to cover my medical bills. I had to re-learn how to walk Miranda.” Jess shivered. I could see her knobby, freckled legs through the holes that had worn into her jeans.
“Jess he didn’t deserve you. I don’t deserve you. Let’s go inside and get in bed, you look like you’re freezing.” We went into the house and climbed into bed. Jess always fell asleep faster than me. Tonight that rule held true, I could hear her nose whistling, it had whistled ever since I broke her nose in 3rd grade. Jess’ middle daughter was probably that age now. I propped myself up on one elbow. Grandma had always slept by the wall, then there were Jess’ three beautiful little girls, all with the untameable red hair Jess and I shared. Or used to share. I had been straightening my hair and bleaching it blonde since I had left. I had promised Jess that we would wait until we had enough money saved to get the three of us a bus ticket out of this dead end town. One night I had taken the coffee can we were saving in and caught the next bus to St. Louis. That had been 20 years ago. I leaned in close to Jess’ ear.
“I’m so, so sorry. I promise I’ll make it up to you.” I laid back down and fell right to sleep.

Whitney is a Polish born Floridian. She was scared at the tender age of six by her grandma and aunt dressing up as Baba Yaga.... it still haunts her til this day. If you'd like to support Whitney, you can follow her at @witchywhit on Twitter.