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When I woke up it seemed the house was empty; the television was not blaring with the latest report, there was no whirl of the vacuum as Mom constantly cleaned our house as if she could physically rid the family of its dirty secrets when she couldn’t even rid the house of dust bunnies. The most shocking thing I noticed was there wasn’t even a hint of the sickly sweet smell of drugs anywhere in the house.
Had everyone died? Either everyone died or something horrible has happened. Being more than a little scared I slipped on my bathrobe, shoved my feet into a pair of socks and cautiously walked down the stairway. Looking down the hallway and in the living room, I saw no visible signs that my Dad was ever there; no spilled beer or empty bottles, no pairs of underwear hanging off of the coffee table, and not one wrapper from a fast food chain scattered across the floor. Inhaling deeply I noticed it even smelled better. The smell of lavender and laundry detergent replaced the smells of crack, stale beer and sweat. Something was not right.
Wandering into the kitchen I noticed a small and slightly plump woman at the stove with her hair pulled into a simple bun at the nape of her neck. She was humming a slight tune as she slid two buttermilk pancakes onto a heaping platter and turned to plate the platter onto the table with a small thunk. I smiled as I sat down at the table looking at my grandmother who I haven’t seen for over three years. My smile quickly turned into a frown as I realized Grams wasn’t allowed in our house, not since Katherine started to use drugs. Something was definitely not right.
After Grams turned around again to place two cups of juice onto the table, she smiled, sat down, and helped herself to one of the numerous pancakes. Motioning for me to take some too, she moved her glasses from hanging around her neck to on her face. When we both were finished with our meal, I started to ask the questions I have been holding in. “Grams, where is everyone? Has everyone died?” Grams turned away from the sink to talk to me.
“Well now Annabelle, your family is just fine. Their just all out.” She turned back to the dishes in the sink.
“Out? Out where?” My family hasn’t been out of the house for ages, let alone all of them out at once.
“Your mother and father are at a marriage counselor and Katherine is in a recovery center.” She turned to me again, “It’s so good that she is getting help for that nasty addiction she had.”
I just stared at the table. Mom and Dad are at the marriage counselor? Katie is in a drug recovery center? This was too good to be true. Now I could possibly have a normal life!
Then I realized it is too good to be true because it really IS too good to be true. Katherine couldn’t last two minutes without getting high. There was no hope for mom and dad’s marriage; they only live together because they can’t afford a divorce, let alone a marriage consoler. I heaved in a large sigh, trying to memorize everything in this house the way it should be before they came back and destroyed it.
“Annabelle?” Grams was standing next to me wearing a jacket and walking shoes. Strange, I don’t remember her leaving the room…I must have been too occupied to realize she left. “Shall we get going? The day is waiting.” She said and smiled gently. After I had changed we left and walked around town. But even the town was…different. We don’t live in the grungiest place in the city, but then again there never was anything nice about it either. But now, the trees were tall and thick, rustling with dappled leaves. The roads were smooth and not pocketed with pot holes for once. Lawns were being tended to; flowers grew on the sides of the roads and in gardens. Children played with each other merrily calling out to each other. The city was never like this before. A soft wind blew spirals of hair around my face and into my eyes and with it the scent of ocean brine. The sky was a clear blue with puffy white clouds lazily floating above.
Something was definitely wrong. Where were the gun shots? Rats scampering through the yards? Adults arguing, children crying, bleak skies, dead lawns, angry faces? Where is my life? I looked at Grams once more to see her smiling at two children racing on bicycles. I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself before I spoke.
“Grams? Promise to tell me the truth no matter what I ask?”
She looked at me with sadness in her eyes.
“Yes Annabelle,” she said, “I will answer your questions.”
“Where am I really? This isn’t home. Why am I here?”
Grams pulled me into a hug, stroking my hair.
“Oh, my Annabelle,” she breathed. “You are in Heaven. You’re here, because you are dead. We both are sweetie.”
I pulled away from her.
“How?” I demanded.
“I came over to talk to your mother into having you live with me. You never did anything wrong and living there was wrong for you. She refused, said I had three minutes to leave but I didn’t. She screamed and screamed at me, but I went inside to find you in your room out cold. Your mother overdosed you on medicine so you wouldn’t hear the fight she and your father were in. It was raining when we left. I was rushing you to the hospital but on the way a car came at us. The brakes didn’t work with so much rain….the other car hit us so fast.” She paused for a moment, remembering what had happened I guessed. “My only thought was that you were okay, that you weren’t in pain.” She hugged me tighter.
I had tears in my eyes from the terror and from joy. I would never have to see my horrid family again! The thought made my heart feel full and almost energized. But then it started to hurt. Over and over it would happen, my chest lurching with every zap. My eyes closed in pain. Grams looked at me with terror; she understood what was happening before I could. She held on to me even tighter so my ribs felt like they were cracking and she kept on murmuring to herself over and over. A final zap and it ended.
I heard a steady beeping noise, somewhere close by. Shuffling of feet and papers too. But it was the scent that made my eyes fly open; the smell of drugs trying to be hidden under heavy perfume. My sister was at my side, twitching and pacing back and forth. I wonder how she had died. Then I noticed my father and mother there too. The reality of everything came crashing down on me. I was alive. Grams was dead. Heaven was replaced by hell in a moment.