Don't Ignore It

September 10, 2013
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I didn’t like it much, but after all, we needed this house. Mom would’ve loved it.
My mother was a whirlwind. She never did anything without a drama or tears. It was her trademark, and we loved her for it. Her death was no different.
The car crash was the start, but not her killer. She actually survived the car crash with a broken arm, a concussion, and some internal bleeding. The doctors suggested a relatively simple surgery to stop the bleeding, only to find there was a lot more of that blood loss than expected. However, it was staunched, and they told us, “As soon as that cast comes off, you’ll be as good as new!”
I walked into the kitchen on the Monday morning the week after she was released, and had time to think ‘Wow, is she ever up early’, before Mom collapsed. She was totally unconscious before she hit the floor, and her skin was a pallid, sallow color. I yelled her name, desperately tried to revive her… and nothing worked. I felt for a pulse, but jerked my hand back instinctively when my fingertips met the skin of her throat. I hovered my palm over her forehead, and was shocked to feel the wild heat coming off of her body. Lowering my head to her chest, I realized that the raspy, scraping sound I heard was her breathing.
I called 911 in a panic. I was so choked up the operator had to trace my call to find out where we were. An ambulance was at our house in a matter of minutes. The uniformed men were suddenly everywhere. They shoved a tube down her throat when they determined her breathing too weak and took her away, glancing back at me solemnly.
My mom shook violently with fever for two days before her heart gave out.
My father was devastated. Our family was in the midst of a divorce, and my parents had been separated for a long time, but despite the hardship their relationship was a love story. Unfortunately, his fiancé Chastity was less than cordial, even after Mom’s death.
Chastity. Where to begin? Dad was less than faithful during his midlife crisis; the woman was the very reason our family split up. She was lovely, of course. Her frame was small and petite, and she possessed high cheekbones and a smile that made you thirst for her approval. There was something off to me about her, though. She was superficial down to her perfectly manicured toes up to her frosted blonde hair. And I suspect those green eyes are contacts. But behind the dazzle that is her appearance, she just seems…cold. She has only ever talked to me when my Dad was present. When we are home, or on an outing alone, her personality chills the air and frosts the windows. She adores my little sister, and spoils her accordingly, which I am thankful for. If she were unkind to Marrie, we would have serious problems.
We had made a family decision to move when the town became distant. I loved our little suburb, but the values were strictly old and Southern. Gossip was as thick as the sweet tea we drink and was served just as liberally at church and the salon. Therefore when my father started dating another woman before the divorce was official-at least that was the story Mom went with- there were whispers. When the same girlfriend showed up to Mom’s funeral with a huge diamond ring on her finger, people became more hostile towards the happy couple, and more sympathetic to Marrie and I. But when the soon to be new Mrs. Tanwen moved into our house, and slept on the same bed my Mother had occupied not two months before, the whispers became shouts and the town’s people did everything but come at us with torches and pitchforks.
Chastity, of course, threw a fit. “I just can’t imagine this environment being healthy for us. For the children!” She had murmured in the midst of our ‘Family Meeting’, eyes welling perfectly with tears. So here we are in some dead end town one hundred and fifteen miles away. I don’t mind, exactly… I just don’t believe in running away from your problems.
“Isn’t it pretty, Sher?” Dad used to call me that name years ago, an abbreviation of my real name, Sheridan. Sheridan Tanwen, a name Mom gave me. I stared at him pointedly for a moment.
“Yes,” I finally admitted. “It’s certainly beautiful.” The house was gorgeous. The chestnut floors gleamed and all the appliances were old fashioned and well kept. The walls were a creamy kind of white, and the air was welcoming. However, my tone sounded less than pleasant. I was moving into a new house, in a new town, where everything from the way the sidewalk cracked to the way the trees moved was different. And to make matters even better, I was moving in with the two people that broke my Mother’s heart just before she died.
“Your tone doesn’t say it’s beautiful,” Chastity remarked. I wanted nothing more than to launch back a cutting comment about how fine the house was, it was the adulterers inside that were of bad design. But I bit my tongue. I really didn’t want to spend the first month in my new home getting very familiar with my room.
“My apologies,Chastity.” My voice was filled with a quiet kind of disrespect, which she thankfully swallowed. If I don’t get too out of line, she takes one here or there.
“We’ll take it!” Dad cheerfully announced quickly, before things could get hotter in there.

* * *
I heaved my school books onto my bed, resisting the urge to plop myself down with them. Two weeks into the school year, and I was already worn down, and tired. Junior year was not kind, so far. We had moved in as scheduled, a week after we bought the house. Chastity heavily suggested I take the attic bedroom, which made me struggle to stifle my laughter. Of course the step mother tells me I have to sleep two floors above her, my father, and my sister!
The décor isn’t much different than my old bedroom. It’s much roomier, and the air is cleaner, thanks to the two nearly always open windows. My bed is new, but the same supple down comforter and lavender sheets mom bought me still dress it. A small desk with a chair is pushed up against the opposite wall, which serves as my school station. Three bookshelves line the wall further down, stopping at my small, French doored closet. Across from that is a soft stool with a purple painted table where I get ready in the mornings. Everything has its place in my room, and I like it that way.
But I don’t like being alone here. The house is too large- we only fill a few of the rooms- and when it’s late at night and I’m certain I’m the only one awake, there’s an ominous kind of feeling that fills up the air. I tried to mention it to Dad once, but he laughed it off.
“It’s your own nervousness manifesting itself in your emotions.”
Ever the psychologist.
Later that night, I’m drying my hair and trying to ignore these thoughts. Something crashes loudly right behind my bed, rattling me. I turn around slowly, feeling someone in my room, afraid Chastity has come up here to get angry and mess everything up in another one of her fits- which she has been doing more of lately. Everyone, me included, is agitated and on edge these past few weeks, even Marrie.
But the only person here is me, and the source of the noise- the crystal vase from the down stairs kitchen table, shattered on my floor in tiny, unsalvageable pieces.
How did that get up here? And how do I hide it from Chastity, she’ll be furious if she thinks I broke it-
“What was that noise?” A loud call echoes up the stairwell.
Too late.
“I’m not sure.” I lie I cover my hands with a t-shirt, making sure to wrap the fabric in several layers over my palms, before quickly sweeping the pieces under the bed. I really don’t need her screaming at me right now.
“Well is everything ok up there? Have you finished your homework and chores?” I try to ignore the condescension in her voice, and roll my eyes. She is always inventing things for me to do.
“In the process.” I call back, sitting back down on my bed. Maybe if I finish all of this I can be in her good graces for tonight.
As soon as my focus slides from the duvet to my history textbook, I hear an peculiar tinkling. I glance up automatically, and have to stop my jaw from hitting the floor. The shards of glass are arranged in a heap, once again in the center of my room.
Heart thudding in my ears, I whisper, “Marrie? Are you messing with me?”
Thick silence fills the room, and I swallow nervously.
I don’t know what just happened, but I don’t want to be in here anymore.
Gathering my books and papers in my arms, I quickly leave the room. I could get done faster in the kitchen anyway, and then I could start dinner.
‘And then vacuum up that broken glass’ a nasty voice says in the back of my mind. I shiver, and try to forget the events of this afternoon.
* * *
I slowly start up to my room, shaking a little. ‘You’re being ridiculous!’ the voice says. ‘Obviously either Marrie was messing with you or you’re seeing things.’ I slowly open the door, and my heart is in my throat and everything starts to spin but…
The glass. Where did the glass go?
I quickly search my room, under the bed where I put it, the bookshelves, and my desk. I even inspect the floor. But it’s completely gone.
Maybe I did imagine it.
‘No, you know you didn’t.’ the voice whispers again. ‘Chastity heard that noise too. And that noise was the glass breaking.’
Something is very wrong.

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