After hearing that she won’t be able to return to L.A. and getting told off by a used car salesman, Nora Starke finally breaks down. In her darkest* hour she is visited by unpleasant childhood memories. Don’t worry though – this is temporary, she will get back on her feet. Because, as you should know by now, that’s how she ROLLS.
Remember what she looks like?
*= for NOW, of course. This is just a hiccup compared to some things that will befall Nora later on.
See also: Meet Nora Starke
From chapter five
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the landscape invades her. The trees and the hills all have their own unique shape, but they differ little. Mile after mile they seem designed to lull the city mind asleep, the mind used to zooming around a myriad of subjects, touching each with swift and featherlight judgement before moving on. There are not enough variables for that kind of thinking here; the trees aren’t growing with any particular intention, the hills are not susceptible to opinions. Everything came from the same and will remain the same. Nora’s mind can’t find anything to control, and has nothing to do here but loiter.
A strange emptiness settles inside her, an emptiness she remembers from long ago, and she feels herself slowly losing grip. Some people like to think about nothing, she thinks, and laughs aloud in the confines of the car. Finally she comes upon an exit, to the left, which she hopes will take her back to the main road, but instead this second road takes her deeper into the woods, until it ends at a small creek surrounded by steep rocks. I should do something, I should do something, it runs through her head, but she can’t think of anything to do. She screams. The sound is restricted and unsatisfying, and she gets out of the car to scream properly. The ground is softer here; her Louboutin kitten heels sink into a layer of sticky mud. Her shout drowns out the babbling waters. “AAAAAHH!”
Minutes pass. Down below, the stream has pushed some drift wood into a corner; it tumbles around and bumps into the same rocks over and over. When Nora steps forward, her right shoe sticks in the mud. The heel breaks off with a snap. Ice cold, wet earth enwraps her foot. Without looking down, she steps out of the other shoe as well, and lets the cold creep up her legs. She spreads her arms and lets her head fall back, eyes closed. Something soft strokes her face. She opens her eyes and looks up into a endless grid of snowflakes, and before she knows she’s falling into it.
The emptiness is biggest around her father. She doesn’t understand that, really, because he seems so alive: he is one of those indestructible people who never get tired. Sometimes he’s on the road to sell coffee machines for weeks, and then when he comes back to the house he is banned from the bedroom by her mother. Once Nora caught him sleeping in the bath tub, a bottle of Four Roses cradled in the hollow of his neck. And even then he woke up fresh-faced and without a crinkle in his suit.
Still, the emptiness is a part of him. He comes and goes when he wants to, without telling Nora or her mother, and one time when he came back he went into the neighbours’ house instead of theirs and when they went to pick him up he couldn’t remember their names. But maybe that was a joke. She can never tell. Like that time they were in the car on the freeway and he said he was going to give her driving lessons. He pulled her onto his lap and told her to steer, but she was only six. “Jim!” her mother said in a small constricted yelp, like she was being strangled. “Jim, Jim!” And her father laughed and put his hands back on the steering wheel over hers. Because it was just a joke.
Her mother has her own kind of emptiness. She’s always cleaning. The living room looks like a showroom, like the one Nora once saw in a big furniture warehouse. All the books there had the same titles and they were empty inside. That scared her, books with no letters inside them. Even now, she almost never opens the books in their own living room, because she’s afraid that one day she’ll find them empty.
Pink is her mother’s favorite color. The chairs and the couch are bright pink chintz, and the side tables have trays with thick pink candles on them, positioned in the exact right angles. Some delicate light pink roses sit in a vase on the table. It’s always the same, every house they move into, and it always looks like nobody lives there. “Nanette,” her father will say sometimes, “Nanette, I don’t want to live in a fucking doll house.” And they go up to their bedroom to scream at each other and when they come out one of them is hurt.
Nora likes to help her mother, because she understands. When it’s all perfect the strain goes out of her mother and she becomes the young Nanette again, the one from the wedding pictures, twirling forever in her white dress and red lipstick, the actress people said would go far. Everything just needs to be tidy. Sometimes, when her father isn’t around and her mother goes out to do auditions for a couple of days, Nora stays home all by herself and tries to keep the house looking like nobody lives there. She tiptoes through the rooms and eats standing over the sink. The only room she fears is her parent’s bedroom. That’s where the emptiness comes from, the one room in the house that isn’t tidy, the one room where the mirror always gets broken or a lamp gets smashed through a window or a tiny drop of blood soaks into the bed spread. When something like that happens, they usually move shortly after. And every time Nora thinks it will be different in a new house, maybe, and it never is, until she finally learns.
Emptiness travels with you.