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Sasha leapt across the stream, racing through the trees. She had to get home. She was an hour late already, and she knew she would be in trouble if she didn’t beat her parents home. Breaking through the cover of the trees, she darted down the suburban street. She arrived at her front yard and sprinted through the close cropped grass. She was about to head for the front door when she saw her parents headlights turn the corner.
Cursing under her breath, she changed directions and went to the back of the house. She stumbled across the patio and saw her younger sister, Mary, sitting on the couch. If Mary saw her, she would tell their parents. Sasha had no other choice but to climb. She scaled the side of the house, using the windowsills as footholds. She made it to the second floor and found her window. She slipped and her leg scraped against the side of the house. Grimacing in pain, she ripped it opened and threw herself inside just in time to see her parents opening the door to the room. She bolted up and grabbed her iPod.
“Hey guys,” she said nonchalantly. “How was date night?”
“Fine,” her father replied. “What did you do while we were gone? Mary said you didn’t play any games with her like you said you would…” he trailed off.
“Oh, I was working on a biology project, it’s part of our exam grade, really important,” she lied smoothly. “I’m sorry; tell Mary I’ll play all the Monopoly she wants tomorrow.”
“It’s okay, sweetie,” her mother simpered. “I’m just happy to see that you’re taking school work seriously again.” They both smiled and hugged her goodnight.
She sat down on her bed and looked at her leg. It was slightly swollen and the lower part was completely red. Patches of skin were flaking off and parts of it were starting to bruise. She cursed silently and walked to the bathroom. She poured hydrogen peroxide over her leg and nearly screamed as it started to burn. She sucked in a breath and started gently cleaning the wound. She wrapped it in gauze and secured it with medical tape.
When she was finished, she went over to her desk and turned on skype on her laptop. She brought up the IM page, and began to write a message to Sammi, her best friend.
Hey, just wanted 2 let u kno that im ok…got scraped up a bit sneakin into the house, but im home and the ‘rents didn’t catch me. So worth it 2g2 that party!
Sammi replied within seconds. Yeah ikr! Thnk god! I made it back too… little sis is kinda suspicious tho…it should b ok.
Sasha smiled. Don’t wrry bout it, we’ll b fine. Parents aren’t that smart and little siblings can be bribed?. But I gtg now, so tired and still have cal HW…tty Monday!
Kk bye girly! Sammi signed off.
Sasha ended the IM chat and walked over to her bed. She grabbed her calculus book and began to work through the page of problems she was assigned. She finally finished around one o’clock in the morning and decided to go to bed. She changed into sweat pants and a t-shirt and crawled under the covers. She fell asleep instantly.
The next day, Saturday, Sasha woke up to find Mary staring down at her.
“Ah!” she yelled. “Mary! What are you doing?” she cried.
“Mommy said to come wake you up, we’re all going to grandma’s house today,”
Mary said; hurt spreading across her face from being yelled at.
Sasha sighed. She hadn’t meant to hurt Mary’s feelings. “Oh, Mary it’s ok. You just scared me. Tell them I’ll be down in fifteen.”
“Okay!” Mary perked up and skipped out of the room and down the stairs.
Sasha lugged herself out of bed and changed slowly, her leg smarting as she pulled yoga pants on. She ran a brush through her hair and quickly brushed her teeth. She trudged downstairs, trying not to put too much weight on her injured leg, and grabbed a pop tart for breakfast. She was stuffing it in her mouth when her mom walked in. “Morning, mom,” she mumbled through a mouthful of pop tart.
“Hi, sweetie,” her mom replied, frazzled. “We need to get going now. I haven’t told your sister yet, but there’s bad news with grandma. She passed away last night in her sleep. We are going to the funeral home to hear the reading of her will.” The corners of her mouth rotated up slightly, but then quickly snapped back into a straight line, revealing nothing.
Sasha froze. She didn’t understand how she could’ve died so suddenly, she was in perfect health when the family had visited a week ago. And she was confused, had her mom just smiled? She should be upset.
“H…how did she d…die, mom?” Sasha stuttered.
“Well, we aren’t sure sweetie. The doctors found….nothing. They found nothing,” her mother said.
Sasha looked at her mother, suspiciously. She was hiding something, something about her grandma’s death. Why wouldn’t she tell me? Sasha thought. I deserve to know. But Sasha let it go, if her mom wanted to keep a secret, no one on the planet could wheedle it out of her.
“Come on, Sasha! Let’s get in the car with dad!” Mary whined, tugging at Sasha’s jacket sleeve.
“Okay,” Sasha murmured. The two sisters piled into the backseat of the Taurus. Their mom quickly followed suit, stuffing something into her overlarge handbag. Sasha frowned at her, knowing for sure now that she was hiding something, but she said nothing about it when her mom got in the passenger seat.
Their parents said barely anything the whole hour ride to the funeral home. The only sound they made were answering Mary’s constant questions exasperatedly and murmuring which roads to take.
Sasha sat silently as well, staring out the window, watching the trees whiz by. She was upset; her mom knew something about her grandma’s death. Sasha felt closest to her grandma out of all other family members. She felt like her heart had been ripped out and then crudely sown back into place, the stitches crooked and scratchy. But her mom didn’t seem to notice, she had told Sasha about the death so nonchalantly, it was like nothing had happened. Sasha didn’t understand why her mom wasn’t more upset; after all, it was her mother who had died. Sasha pondered this up until they pulled into the funeral home.
Mary became very confused. “I thought we were going to Grandma’s house!” she whined.
Sasha glared at her mother. “You didn’t tell her yet?” she snapped.
“Well, we didn’t have time before we left the house, and I didn’t want to talk-”
Sasha cut her mother off. “You could’ve made time. You guys go inside, I’ll talk to her,” she said coldly.
Her mother stared at her, shock written all over her face, but she didn’t utter a word as she got out of the car and walked with her husband into the building. Sasha waited until they were out of sight before continuing.
“Mary, I have some bad news. Promise me you’ll be brave, okay? Promise me that you won’t get too upset by this,” Sasha soothed.
“Promise,” Mary said.
“Okay. You know how we were going to go see grandma right?”
“Well, we couldn’t because she passed away in her sleep last night. The doctors said she didn’t even feel it, but now she’s up in heaven with grandpa. Do you understand?”
Mary nodded again. Her lower lip quivered, and her eyes became wet.
“It’s okay to cry. I’m sure you’ll miss her just as much as I do. She knows we loved her very much, and now she’s watching over us from heaven.”
Mary scooted over to Sasha and laid her head on Sasha’s shoulder. Her body started to shake as she broke down. Silent tears poured down her face and pooled onto Sasha’s sweater. Sasha diligently sat there and patted her back, letting her get it out. After a few minutes, Mary sat up and looked at Sasha with her big, electric blue eyes.
“She’s in heaven, right?”
“Right, sweetie,” Sasha whispered. “Are you ready to go inside?”
Mary nodded. Sasha opened the car door for her and they both stepped out. Sasha grabbed her hand and they walked silently into the building. They saw their mom and dad talking to the funeral home director, while a man in a suit stood in a corner by himself, holding a stack of papers.
The girls silently slipped over to their parents and waited until they were finished making funeral arrangements with the director. When they were done talking to him, the four of them turned around to see the man in the suit walking toward them.
They all waited in silence while the man in the suit came over and introduced his self. “Hello, I’m here to read the last will and testament of Irene Marie Johnson. Everyone listen, please. The four of you have been singled out in her will.”
He started to read. First, grandma had left her house and her money to the girl’s parents. Sasha stopped paying attention after that, it got too long and she had no patience. She played with her long dark hair until she heard the man calling her name.
“Sasha, listen please. This part is about you.” She lifted her head and looked at the man. He continued, “To my eldest granddaughter, I leave my wedding ring and my key. They are both very important to me, I trust you with them.”
That sounds exactly like grandma, Sasha thought. Trust her to leave a cryptic message in her will. The man pulled out a briefcase and handed her the ring and the key.
“I don’t know what the key is to, she doesn’t say in her will. Maybe you’ll find it at her home…” the man trailed off.
Sasha’s mom stared at her, looking almost jealous. Sasha was confused again, her mom had gotten a ton of money from grandma, she should be happy about that part. But all Sasha did was nod and walk away.
She stepped outside and got in the car. She examined the ring and the key. She had seen the ring countless times before; her grandma never took it off. She had never seen the key before, though. It was a worn golden color and rough to the touch. Sasha slipped it through her fingers, she felt indentations. She flipped it over and looked closely. There was an inscription that read, Love comes before all, and another below it that said, Use me when you need to. Sasha smiled. It was her grandma’s way of saying goodbye to her. She appreciated it.
She saw her parents and Mary coming out of the home, holding the deed to grandma’s house. She shoved the ring on her finger and the key in her pocket. The other three climbed into the car. They said nothing as they started the journey home.
They pull into their three car garage an hour later. Mary and her dad got out of the car and went into the house.
Sasha went over to her mom, blocking the way into the house. “Mom, what aren’t you telling me about grandma’s death? You’re hiding something, I know you are. Don’t lie to me again; I know you lied this morning.”
Her mom stared at her for a second and then she started to laugh. She giggled maniacally for about three minutes. Sasha stared at her the whole time, fuming. A death was no laughing matter.
“You’re smart,” her mom chuckled. “Yes, I am hiding something. You never thought for a minute that she died naturally, did you? The doctors found bullet holes. And I’ll bet you’re smart enough to figure out who put them there.” She grinned devilishly and whipped out a pistol from her handbag.
Sasha stumbled back against the car. “Mom….how…how could you?” she choked out, confused and hurt.
“Oh, it was easy as breathing, darling. I wanted something from Irene; she wouldn’t give it to me. I killed her. Once she was dead, I thought I would get it. But no, she just had to give it to you. It’s in your pocket right now.” She flicked the safety off the gun.
Sasha stepped back, terrified. She felt the shape of the key, weighing heavily in her pocket. “Why do you want this so badly?” Sasha needed to keep her talking.
“Well, it’s very simple really. You remember that garden behind grandma’s house, right? Of course you do, you used to try and get into it all the time. But it was walled up, and no one could ever find the key to get into it.”
Realization and recognition flowed through Sasha. She had tried to break into the garden almost every day of her childhood. “But why do you want to get in there so badly?”
“Patience, darling, patience. I found the key once. Grandma Irene had hidden it well, but I found it. I needed a place to hide something, well, someone. So I stole the key and unlocked the garden. I hid the person in its depths and buried them. Grandma was smart though. She began to suspect that I had done something, because I hadn’t put the key back exactly where I had found it. She realized what I had done and tried to call the police. So you see, sweetheart, I had to kill her. She knew too much and I wanted that key.”
Sasha didn’t see. She whispered, “You killed someone else?”
“Well, yes, I suppose I did. It wasn’t intentional,” tears started to well in her eyes for the first time that day. “He was eighteen. He wanted to drink eighteen shots on his eighteenth birthday. I was the one who kept refilling his glass over and over again, urging him to drink more. He obliged. Eventually he…he…passed out. His lips turned blue and his breathing was slow. He overdosed on alcohol. I was afraid; I thought I would get blamed for his death and go to jail. I panicked. Everyone was so drunk they didn’t even notice me dragging the kid out the back. I buried him in grandma’s garden. And I forgot about him until Irene started asking questions.” Silent tears slid down her pale cheeks.
Sasha was dumbfounded. Her mom felt bad about accidentally killing someone, but not about purposely killing her own mother.
“I’m sorry, sweetie. You know too much now, too.” Her mom brought the gun up.
Sasha screamed at the top of her lungs. She ducked just in time as her mom pulled the trigger. The bullet whizzed past her ear. She slowly stood up as her dad came crashing into the garage.
“Honey, what are you doing?” he screeched at her mother.
Sasha stood up fully. Mary ran into the garage, and started to walk toward Sasha. Their mom smiled.
“Fine, if threatening you won’t work, I’ll just have to threaten someone else, someone you care about.” She turned the gun on Mary, who started to cry immediately.
Their mom pulled the trigger once again. Sasha dove in front of Mary. At the same time, their dad tackled their mom to the floor and got the gun away from her. Sasha looked to make sure Mary was unhurt, but as she stood up, pain shot through her shoulder. She touched it gently and screamed. The bullet had sunk into the flesh and blood was oozing out.
The mom sat on the floor laughing and crying as the dad called the police. Sasha sat back down and let the tears come out. Her own mother had betrayed her and tried to take her life. She was in shock, and she knew everything would change. Mary sat down next to her and started to sing to her. Sasha gazed into her eyes and hugged her tightly.
“No matter what happens, Mary, I love you. You know that right?”
Mary nodded. The two sisters got up and walked hand in hand over to the line of police cars that had just arrived on their lawn. Sasha was leaning on Mary for support; her arm was still in excruciating pain. She would never feel the same way again, but she knew that everything would be okay. From that moment on, her life would change. From that moment on, she was truly happy.