Friday, October 24, 2014
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Thursday, August 28, 2014
SKELETON PARK is now on sale for 0.99 cents until next Friday! Get your copy today!
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
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Sunday, August 10, 2014
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Sunday, July 20, 2014
It's almost here. Just a few more days!
the real estate agent Mom had been in contact with over the phone, met us in
front of our hotel once we arrived. She was a short, stout woman, with a
flowered blouse and a navy blue pencil skirt exposing stocky pale legs. Her
mousy brown hair resembled a helmet, but her eyes were sharp as razor blades.
Once we made all the introductions, we climbed into her vehicle, planning to
check into our room after viewing a few houses. Pearl
Blurred, chaotic, crimson and black images—a constant scream that sounds like my voice. This is what my life has become. I’m no longer aware of anything—only the agonizing screaming and the occasional distant voice that I can no longer interpret penetrate my new existence. I want to stop the sounds, the horrible visions, but I don’t know how.
Where am I?—what’s happening?—how did I get here?—These are the questions I think of when the screams fade enough for me to process thought. Unfortunately, those moments are fleeting.
I’m losing my mind.
Who am I?
Where am I?
How did I get here?
A high-pitched shriek pierced through my foggy brain and I jumped in my seat. The low purr of the engine had been lulling me into a zombie-like daze, but the horrible sound that was continually haunting my mind for the last week wouldn’t let up. It was a constant reminder of what I had escaped. Not that I needed one; the guilt was all consuming, in my every thought.
“Are you all right, Avery?” my mother asked from the seat beside me, her long black hair flapping in the wind like a crow’s wing. Her question was one she repeated almost hourly. Just because I chose not to discuss what happened didn’t mean there was something wrong. I was fine; I just couldn’t say that about the people we left behind.
I blinked at her, the cloudiness ebbing from my brain and allowing me to focus on her concerned face. “Yes, Mom. I told you, I’m all right.” I couldn’t help the irritated edge in my voice. Any time she brought up my feelings, a wall as thick as the Hoover Damn would form in my mind and I would shut down. It wasn’t something I did consciously; it was simply self-preservation. I couldn’t let my emotions leak out again. I might not recover the next time.
Wrinkles formed at the corners of her mouth as she frowned worriedly at me. It was an expression I had seen often in the last few days. “I know, honey, but I want to make sure we’re making the right decision.”
“We?” I asked, my eyes wide with accusation as I crossed one cramped leg over the other. We had only been in the car for a few hours, but without shifting positions, my limbs felt like they were covered in cement and if I moved them too quickly they might shatter into thousands of tiny pieces.
Mom squeezed the steering wheel, her knuckles turning white as she slowed to make the turn off the highway and into our
. “Yes, I
made the decision. But if you didn’t want to leave, you could have said
It was her idea to leave our home in
. And I knew she would have listened to me, had I
argued. But at the time, I just wanted to disappear. My whole world had
shattered in one single moment and I honestly didn’t know if I would ever be
the same. I had escaped a horrible fate and the memories plagued me. I needed
to get away—to a place where nothing would remind me of that terrible day. Renwood, New
I sighed heavily, pushing those thoughts out of my mind and sinking into my leather seat. The bright, mid-afternoon sun shone in my eyes as I took in the sights around us. There were plazas on both sides of the street with multiple fast food restaurants flanked next to them. The area was jam-packed with stores, gas stations, coffee shops, and even a cinema. Cars streamed around the intersection like army ants marching in formation.
For some reason I was surprised at how busy the place was. I assumed it would be going at a slower pace. And I definitely didn’t expect so many people. It wasn’t all that different from the city we had left behind.
My friends said that we were running away, and maybe that was true. My mother and I had packed up our whole lives and moved right when we were needed the most. And not just to a different city or state—no, that wasn’t good enough. Mom had insisted we move to a different country.
She had done a lot of research before picking our new home in
and—after some favors from friends—had gotten us all the paperwork we needed.
The city she chose was a place called Kingston, Ontario. It was only three
hours away from our former home, but once we drove over the border my previous
address seemed like a world away. Mom had given me exactly four days to say
goodbye to my friends and pack. She was so devastated by what happened and
terrified that I wouldn’t be so lucky if there was a next time, that we were
leaving before we even sold the house. Our real estate agent agreed to take
care of everything and thanks to email and the Internet Mom could handle it
from our new home. Canada
We still had some money left from my father’s death fourteen years ago. He died in a car crash and left us quite a large insurance settlement, making it possible for us to pay for the new house before our old one sold. However, since we moved without even looking for a place to live, we were forced to stay in a hotel until we found one, which meant we were somewhat rushed.
The next couple of hours were plagued with one disappointment after another. The first house she showed us smelled of cat urine, while the next two weren’t available for months. When Mom asked to be shown houses that were available now or in a week or two, we were forced to call it a day. None of the showings
had prepared would
work. Since we were in a Pearl ,
in a different country, without knowing a single soul, I wanted the house we
chose to be perfect. If I was going to hide from everyone and everything I once
knew, I needed to love my new sanctuary. I was sure the perfect house was out
there, we just had to find it. Disappointed with the day’s results, we were
dropped off at our hotel a lot sooner than we had hoped. new city
“This is it.” My mom’s voice was cheerful as she pushed open the door of our hotel room. “Our home, until we can find a better one.” It would also be where she worked. Mom was a graphic designer and could do it anywhere. She specialized in book covers and made a pretty decent living.
Our room was cozy and consisted of two double beds with matching maroon blankets. There was a dresser, a desk, and a TV. Unfortunately the smell of pineapple permeated the room. I hated pineapple. But this was it, home sweet home until we could find something more permanent.
“Why don’t we unpack and then freshen up before we venture out for dinner?”
I hefted my suitcase onto one of the beds, making the mattress bounce, and nodded. “Sounds good to me.”
Once we had both shoved all our clothes into the closet and dresser, we took turns in the shower to wash away the long drive over the border before heading out to eat.
My mom’s phone rang as soon as we let ourselves back into the room a few hours later. It was Pearl, informing her that she found a house that was available now in the downtown area.
I fell asleep that night listening to the hum of the mini fridge and the tap, tap of my mother’s laptop keyboard as she corresponded with clients.
The alarm screeched as if from a distance. I pounded the sleep button and drifted back to oblivion. I needed the silence. After my fight with Caleb, I had cried all night, and my mind wouldn’t turn off until the wee hours of the morning. How could he do that to me? I loved him.
“Ave, what are you still doing here?” my mom yelled, yanking me out of my much needed slumber.
I jolted into a sitting position, instantly regretting the movement. Holding my dizzy head I mumbled, “What time is it?”
“It’s seven thirty. You’re going to be late. You look sick though. Maybe you should stay home.”
I shook my head as I crawled out of bed, Caleb’s chiseled face and big chocolate brown eyes ever present in my mind. His hurtful words still echoed in my ears. “I can’t, I have a test in English today.”
Mom turned away, but stopped in the doorway. “Hurry up then.”
I jumped up in bed with my heart hammering in my chest, the images of that day still hovering over me like a dark shadow threatening to surround me.
“Good morning, honey.” Mom stood in the corner of the hotel room. She was dressed in a violet sleeveless top and light linen pants. Her inky black hair was hanging loose, falling over her shoulders. I looked a lot like her. We shared the same color and length of hair but while hers was straight and silky, mine resembled a poodle. I inherited my curly hair from my dad, who I barely remembered.
Mom had been smiling, but when she took me in, her expression was lined with concern. “Are you okay?” she asked, taking a step toward me.
I glanced around the room, trying to shake off the dream and get my bearings. I took a deep breath once I remembered our situation. We were in a different city, about to go out to look for a new home. We were starting over. I just wished my mind would let me. I forced a smile to reassure her. “I’m fine, Mom. I just forgot where we were.” It wasn’t entirely a lie, but I couldn’t tell her what really upset me. I wasn’t ready to face what had happened. So instead, I yanked the blanket off and rushed into the bathroom to get ready for the day.
I heard her sigh tiredly as I closed the door behind me.
Once I was finished showering, we headed out.
Instead of picking us up, Pearl gave us directions for us to meet her. She had only found one place that fit our time restraint, which meant she needed to look for more after we checked out the first house. The street the house was located on ran parallel to a park. The park was the size of a city block, with a playground and a small basketball court. There were also a few benches and picnic tables scattered along the well-manicured grass. Children of various ages were laughing and running around, enjoying the sunny Saturday afternoon.
“What do you think?” Pearl asked us. She was dressed in a gray pant suit, with a fluorescent orange frilly blouse sticking out at the collar.
I glanced wearily at the park, unsure if I wanted to live so close to noisy kids, and then looked behind Pearl. The house she was pointing at was a red-brick two-story. It was old—I could tell from the aged stone on the surface—but it appeared to be well taken care of. A huge red maple tree practically filled the whole front yard, hiding the large bay window in the front of the house.
Pearl climbed the steps, leaned on the wrought iron railing, and waited as we filed behind her. When we were positioned on the porch, she pushed open the door—to our new home. I knew it was It as soon as I peered inside. Yes, the structure was old, but the kitchen and living room held so much character, it was definitely worth it.
“Wow,” my mother gasped, as she stepped over the threshold. Her heels clicked over the copper-colored ceramic tiles and echoed in the empty room as she made her way to the living area, gazing up at the high-beamed cathedral ceiling.
“This one is definitely ready any time. The owners are desperate to sell before the twenty-seventh,” Pearl supplied, while we studied our surroundings.
“What’s the twenty-seventh?” my mom asked absently, running her fingers over the built-in shelving over the fireplace.
Pearl’s face paled as she visibly swallowed. “Uh…just the closing of their new house.”
I was about to ask why the furniture was gone if their new house hadn’t closed yet, but I lost interest as I glanced around the roomy kitchen. The ivory cupboards were L-shaped with a breakfast bar on the end.
“I love it,” I whispered, wandering up the stairs. There were two large rooms and a smaller one that Mom could use for an office. Unfortunately, I could only see one bathroom, but it was roomy and featured a Jacuzzi tub. The smaller of the two rooms, which would be mine, faced the park. Through the lush trees, I had a view of bits and pieces of the playground and a few benches.
“What do you think?” my mom asked from the doorway.
My eyes were fixed out the window when I answered her. “This is it.” Our sanctuary. I spun around to face her. “Don’t you think?”
She grinned widely and nodded her head. “And it’s a steal, a lot cheaper than the others.”
“Why?” I wondered out loud. Yes, this house was older, but it was closer to the city. I was pretty sure Pearl had mentioned in one of her long spiels yesterday about real estate in Kingston, that it meant it would be more expensive.
She shrugged. “I’m not sure. Pearl just said that the owners were desperate. They want to sell immediately.”
For some reason her explanation made me uneasy. But since I couldn’t explain why, I ignored it and returned my mother’s mile-wide grin. The gesture felt foreign on my face, like I wasn’t worthy of happiness. But I pushed through those feelings and forced myself to enjoy the moment. The house was perfect; I just couldn’t explain why.
“That’s great,” I exclaimed, sharing my mom’s excitement despite my wariness.
She rushed forward, flinging her arms around me. Her touch soothed some of the ache that still lingered in my heart. I hadn’t allowed her to hug me in a week. But at the moment, it felt good, like this was our chance to start over. We were in a new house, new city, in a different country. There were no memories here. I could forget the horrible event. With nothing around to remind me of that day, I could push the awful images to the back of my mind and hopefully, the pain that crept into my heart would eventually fade. With that thought, I returned my mother’s hug, breathing in her comforting scent, ignoring the feeling of guilt that was always hovering in my mind.
A week later we were in our very empty house waiting for the moving van to show up. We had been here all day getting ready for the rest of our stuff. But it only took so long to unpack the four suitcases and three boxes that we had lugged in the car from home. We also had two coolers with food we’d been eating out of from our hotel room. We ate takeout Chinese on the floor of the living room. Once our lunch containers were tidied up, we cleaned out all the cupboards and the bathroom and even mopped the floors with the cleaning products Mom had picked up. Now, we were out of things to do.
My mom had finally gotten hold of the movers and was told they had been held up at customs, but should be arriving anytime. While Mom wore a path on the lawn from her constant pacing, I was across the road at the park. I had found a spot on the ground, leaning against a cold, cement monument, and was drawing a spooky-looking oak tree in my sketch pad. The limbs stretched out from the trunk like skeletal arms reaching up to the pale blue sky. While the rest of the trees in the park were filled with bright green leaves, this one was bare, exposing the bent and twisted branches that slightly resembled bony fingers. Even the bark was missing, like a cob of corn husked and tossed away. The trunk was mostly gray, but was starting to turn white in certain spots. It was the oddest tree I had ever seen and I wondered why the city officials, or whoever took care of the park, didn’t cut it down. It was obviously dead.
Besides a family with four kids, and a woman with a baby, the only other person around was a tall guy about my age. Despite the hot sun that was glaring down from above us, he was wearing jeans and a green army jacket. He was hovering over a golden plaque that was secured to a marble slab. As if he could sense me watching him, he looked up and met my gaze. His emerald green eyes fixed to mine.
Embarrassed at being caught watching him, I quickly looked back down at my partially drawn picture. I rubbed my pointer finger over the trunk of the tree I had just drawn, shading it to appear more realistic.
Despite the heat from the late afternoon sun, I was cool. The trees around me provided plenty of shade to block out the heated rays. The gentle wind brushed my cheeks and ruffled my black hair while it hung over my face as I drew. I loved drawing. I had been doing it since I was a kid. At first I did it for fun, but now it was almost a compulsion. The only time I hadn’t had a sketch pad and pencil on me was during the last week. This morning was the first time I had picked them up since “It” happened. I knew the only reason I was able to was because I was away from all the memories. As I glanced around the park on that very relaxing Saturday afternoon, I felt almost at peace for the first time in fifteen days.
A loud screech pierced through the bubble of contentment around me and I glanced to my left to see what the noise was. It was the brakes of a big, white truck covered in a haze of dirt along both sides that darkened toward the back corners like wings. The moving van was finally here. I shoved my pencil and pad in my bag and jumped up, feeling a little anxious about unpacking our belongings. Would bringing pieces of our old life to our new one take away that tiny bit of contentment I had been feeling?
Just as I was about to cross the road to join my mom, I peeked behind me for one more glance at the green-eyed boy, but he was gone. The spot by the plaque was empty.
It only took two hours to transfer everything that made us who we were from the back of a truck to the new house. When the movers left, we stood in the cluttered living room and glanced around at all the unopened boxes. There was so much to do; we didn’t know where to begin.
After staring at the piles of cardboard for several minutes in silence, my mother turned to me. “Pizza?” Her hair was up in a messy bun and a stray strand fell into her soft blue eyes.
I nodded my head enthusiastically before following her to the door.
We found a small pizza place downtown called Bubba’s and sat in the cramped restaurant to eat our dinner.
“So…are you ready to go back and get to work?” my mom asked, when she finished her own meal, tossing the pizza crust onto her tray, the lump of dough landing on a puddle of brown liquid from the iced tea she had spilt earlier.
“I guess so.” My plate and soda were empty, but the thought of all the work waiting for us at home made me want to order another slice just to put it off.
As she slid her purse strap onto her shoulder, she tilted her head at me, a look of compassion and worry flitting across her face. “Are you having second thoughts?” She meant about the move. And even if I was, wasn’t it too late? We had already bought a house and all our stuff was inside of it waiting to be unpacked.
I glanced down at the tabletop, biting my lip and digging my finger in a crack in the wood. I barely noticed when a small wood sliver stabbed my fingertip. “No. I’m…”
“Worried that unpacking your old stuff will bring back memories you’re trying to avoid?”
So, my mother was a closeted psychiatrist. Who knew? “I’m fine,” I muttered, as the wall I constantly erected in my mind took shape. A crack had formed in the carefully constructed structure for a split second and she had taken that chance to analyze me. I couldn’t let her do it again. I knew what would happen if it tumbled down—my mind would crumble with it.
I stood up, carrying my cardboard dish, shoved it into the trash can and rushed out of the restaurant.
I stood in the street, the warm evening breeze washing over me as I gained control of myself. My breath came out in gasps, my heart pounding in my chest. The images were threatening to break free and I couldn’t allow it. I took a deep, slow breath and pictured a dam; the rapid, raging water crashing against the barrier became the emotions I held back. It was a necessary move to keep my sanity. I had lost it once and I wouldn’t lose it again. Gradually my labored breathing slowed, and my heart steadied in my chest. I took another deep breath and listened to the music that floated in the early summer air from a dance club up the block and some more from behind me. By the time my mom emerged through the door, my episode was once again under control. Together, we walked to her car, her questions in the pizza place forgotten.
Over the sound of our footsteps hitting the pavement, I could hear applause and laughter. I had a sinking feeling I knew where that was coming from. When we had left our house earlier, crowds of people had begun filling the park next to us. When I asked my mother what was going on, she said that Pearl had mentioned to her that there were some people gathering at the park for a rally tonight. So much for my peaceful sanctuary.
Even though I suspected what was happening, I was still surprised at what we saw when we turned onto our street. So many cars were lined up with only a few feet between them I thought of my dad’s old dominoes. I used to take them out and try to picture him using them. Since I was three when he died, I didn’t have any memories, so I tried to force some. It never worked.
The street was so crowded as we cruised past, our car’s tires scraped against the curb while Mom swerved around a large black SUV. When she was finally able to pull into our driveway, I got out and turned around. The park was teeming with people chanting, “Let them go!” I didn’t understand what their words meant and I really didn’t care. I wasn’t in the mood for a gathering.
As I turned to follow Mom into the house, I felt the heat of someone watching me. When I gazed over my shoulder, I saw the guy with the emerald eyes. He wasn’t at the marble stone this time. Now he was leaning on the same monument I had been sitting against earlier…and he was watching me. When he saw me look at him, he smiled. I tipped my lips upward faintly. It was all I could manage before I spun back around, rushing into the house behind my mother.
The rally lasted late into the night, the noise providing the background as we unpacked the kitchen and then our bedrooms. Finally we went to bed, only I didn’t sleep. Instead, I lay on my bed staring up at the stippled ceiling listening to the voices drifting in from my window. The low drone of conversation eventually lulled me into a deep slumber.
The heels of my knee-high boots clicked against the linoleum floor as I ran to class. I was late for first period English and I blamed Caleb Nichols: after a year together, he dumped me. Despite getting ready in record time and having the quickest shower in history, I had still pulled up to the school ten minutes late. Mrs. Robertson had taken her time writing out a late slip, and then I bumped into a boy, knocking his books to the ground. My day was not starting out well, and on top of everything else, I was worried about running into Caleb.
The sound of a door slamming echoed through the corridor. As I got closer to my destination I heard the slamming of another. When I turned the corner into the hallway that led to my class, the sound came again. All the hair on my arms stood on end. What was going on?
I sucked in a deep breath as I jerked awake, yanking myself from the dream. I jolted up in bed and rubbed my eyes. I hadn’t been sleeping very much lately; nightmares and imaginary sounds had been keeping me restless. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep, I crawled out of bed and sat down on the window seat with my sketch pad in my lap. I gazed out at the now empty park before focusing on a blank sheet of paper. I took a deep breath and began to draw; the only light was from the street lamps outside my window. I didn’t know what I was drawing; I just let my fingers go. But I wasn’t surprised when the outline of a face appeared and then thick messy hair. A few minutes later I was staring into the dark eyes of an awkward teen.
Before I could make my mind form any more depressing thoughts, I was turning the page to a fresh one and my pencil was moving over the paper. It was like my fingers were possessed with a mind of their own. But again, when my fingers stilled, I wasn’t surprised at the image. I saw her every morning; her bright smile and her melodic voice woke us up as she read to us from Shakespeare. Miss Adams was young for a teacher and as far as I knew wasn’t married and didn’t have any children. I allowed a few seconds to gaze at the picture and then I turned it, knowing what would come next: another person I hadn’t allowed myself to say goodbye to. I’d just left without a word and I wasn’t sure if I could ever forgive myself.
As I flipped to a blank page, the sound of sobbing had me gazing out the window. The park was now vacant. The only evidence of the rally was a few empty cartons of food and a forgotten stage. The sad sound that had drawn my attention outside grew louder. I leaned my head against the screen that was bumpy and cold against my skin, searching for the source. But there didn’t seem to be one. The park grounds were empty, as were the sidewalks and streets surrounding it. The sobs slowly faded away and, deciding it must be coming from a neighbor’s window, I turned back to my sketch pad. I had more memories to transfer.
I stayed up late drawing a few more faces that haunted my mind and when I finally drifted off to sleep, I slept like a baby.
Over the next week, I spent my days either unpacking or sitting on the ground at the park, leaning against the monument drawing. By day, I drew trees, flowers, or people that frequented the park; but at night my fingers became possessed and would draw the memories that flashed through my mind in a continuous loop. I didn’t know why I did it. Every morning I told myself I wouldn’t pick up that pencil. But each night, I found myself up for hours sitting on my window seat drawing. Then I’d go to bed and the nightmares would come anyway.
My mom often nagged me to venture farther than the park to meet people, but I was happy with my routine. Making friends could wait until school started in a few months. I was too depressed to meet anyone. No, until I had my issues out of my head permanently, I needed the solitude.
The green-eyed guy from our first night here had come back to the park a few times. He was always alone reading a book and would often look my way. But besides that first night, he never acknowledged me.
Exactly a week after we moved into the house, I lay in bed staring up at my ceiling. Once again I couldn’t sleep. I felt anxious and a little confined, like the walls were closing in on me. My self-induced house arrest was beginning to weigh on me. It was twelve thirty at night and I needed some fresh air.
I grabbed my iPod and sketch pad and tiptoed out of my room and down the stairs. Though my mother had been trying to get me to venture out, I knew she wouldn’t approve of me going out at that time of night. When the front door clicked shut so loudly it sounded like a gunshot in the otherwise quiet house, I winced at the sound. My heart froze in cold, panic. I was sure Mom would hear it and wake up. But after several seconds, with no evidence to that fact, I knew the coast was clear.
I padded across the street, my flip-flops smacking against the pavement, wearing only a white tank and cotton shorts, not really sure where I was headed. But since the park was right there, I found myself in the center of it, between the benches and play equipment. The cold grass curled around my toes as the soft breeze brushed through my unruly, corkscrew hair. I stood motionless, staring up at the cloudless black sky dotted with millions of tiny flecks of twinkling diamonds, awed at both the beauty of what I was seeing and how utterly silent it was.
I knew from living here for a week that even at this time of night you could hear the drone of cars whizzing by in the surrounding streets, or voices from people strolling by on the sidewalks. But tonight, it was completely soundless. I heard nothing, not even the annoying bark of the neighbor’s poodle that liked to yip at all hours of the night. Even the constant singing of the crickets that had just recently awakened from their winter slumber was silent. It was both eerie and surreal.
I decided to take advantage of the privacy and enjoy. I lay down on the cool grass with the infinite sky above me, taking in the fresh scent of grass and the honeysuckle that grew just inches from my face. I tossed my sketchbook onto the ground and stuck my earbuds in, then hit play. A female voice came on with my favorite song. As the emotional lyrics and breathtaking piano played out, I couldn’t help but sing along and eventually my eyelids drifted closed. I belted out the song along with the artists, knowing that no one would hear me. I was alone in the world tonight. This park belonged to me and no one was out to care about my lack of singing ability or how loud I bellowed. It was liberating, doing something so careless, without worrying about the consequences or being embarrassed. The music flooded my ears and then my mind. All I could see was the blackness of my closed eyelids. The song took me away from unwanted thoughts, of the faces that appeared in my sleep, and the boy who broke my heart. The music consumed me. “I want you to stay,” I sang along, and then fell silent because that was the only sentence I knew. And when it came around again I chanted once more. “I want you to stayahhah,” I yelled out, and then opened my eyes to gaze at the glimmering stars above me—but that was not what I saw.
Two hazel eyes, shining with laughter, stared down at me. Attached to those eyes was a head full of thick auburn hair and a handsome face with sharp lines and a strong jaw. The guy was about my age and his lips were twitching as he fought laughter.
Since I was expecting to see the sky, his sudden appearance was too much for my mind to comprehend. My heart leap-frogged into my throat and I screamed bloody murder. The shrill scream echoed around me, almost shaking the leaves on the trees that surrounded us. The face that hovered above me washed with horror and disappeared from my view.
I took the chance and sprang up, dancing around like a prize fighter, searching for my intruder, but he was gone—I was alone in the empty park.