I'm running blind, surrounded by shadows as they dance and move over the foliage under my feet. If I look closely, sinister faces appear in the black mass, daring me to fall. I'm not sure if they're what I'm running from, but I definitely make sure not to look down again.
My pant legs are soaked along with the arms of my long sleeve shirt from having fallen endlessly in the wet dirt beneath me. My heart races faster and faster, threatening to pound it's way out of my chest as I weave in an out of appearing trees, doing my best to avoid any and all contact. Ahead of me appears a light. It's dim but in the darkness it calls out to me like a beacon, summoning me. Unable to look at anything else, I see the outline of a person form, that much I can make out. As I get closer I slow down to a slow predatory walk. Eyes alert and wide open as I make my way further and further to the shadowy figure.
"You're not supposed to be here."
I whirl around and stare into the eyes of. . .
He comes to stand behind me, heat radiating from his closeness. His right hand reaches to cover my mouth. "Shhh."
All fear rushes out of my body with one word. He familiar scent rolls over me seductively, making me relax even more. I pray he never lets me go for fear I will fall. He lowers his hands slowly and rests them on my hips. His cool breathe hits my neck making me shiver. I want to ask him what he's doing here, but words freeze inside my mouth when I hear somewhere ahead of me, a woman screaming.
I wake up gasping for air and frantically clutch my bedsheets. I look around my room searching for Zarik, when I realize I'm still in my room and not a forest. After a few deep breaths, I gain control over my breathing and try to remember my dream before I can forget the details. Everything about it felt so real. That's the weird part, I've never had such a vivid dream. I can still feel the weight of Zarik's strong hands on my hips and his cool breath on my neck. I close my eyes thinking of his tea tree oil musk and smell it everywhere, filling up my room with that intoxicating smell. It all seemed so real, but of course it did, it's a dream.
My alarm flashes obnoxiously in the dark on my nightstand. 6:00am. Ugh.
I lower myself back onto the mattress and try to fall back asleep, however unlikely, hoping to be back with Zarik.
Sunlight seeps through the cracks in the blinds, and shines unto my face. There's no way I can ignore that. I toss off the covers angrily, sitting upright. A sudden realization comes to mind; today is my last day before school. The thought makes me sick. I don't want to see the faces of the kids I've grown up with. Don't want to see them point and stare as they recognize the girl who lost her mother is me. I can't stand this anymore! I can't stand to be in this house and act like I'm okay. My eyes aren't the same anymore. They're filled with grief and loss and on top of that, anger. Anger at the police for their half hearted attempt at a search. After two weeks they called it quits. I don't even know if she's still alive. That's what angers me the most. Not knowing. I probably never will.
The memory of that day flashes in my head.
Dad holds me in front of him, hugging me protectively from behind as the police enter our home and give us the heart wrenching news. I close my eyes nearly the whole time. It was as if it wasn't really happening but I knew better. He lost it after they left. It was the middle of the night. I've never seen him lose his cool, but I saw him cry and my heart nearly ripped in half.
I have a million questions but no one can give me the answers. I've never felt so empty.
I stand up, walk to my closet and get dressed, like I care.
Ten minutes later I find myself standing in my parent's room holding a note in my hand. It's from Dad. His chicken-scratch cursive handwriting is hard to make out, but after a few seconds of deciphering, it says: he was called into work and didn't want to wake me. He'll be home after 5.
I refold the note in half and place it back on his dresser. He must have known I'd look here after not finding him in the kitchen or living room. I didn't want to come in here, but I had to know he didn't leave me too.
Chills run over my body, I haven't stepped beyond the door in 3 months. The room is still hauntingly the same. I picture Mom in bed, lightly snoring. The memory makes my heart throb painfully. Same grey carpet and plain white walls. Above the queen sized bed hangs a cross. On the right side of the bed is a small table, an alarm clock resting silently.
I walk to the bed and sit down, my foot hitting something underneath. I shouldn't be peeking at my Dad's personal belongings, but I can't help myself. It's like seeing a grocery bag on the counter and not looking to see what goodies it contains. One way or another you're going to look in it, the suspense just gets to you in the end. I get down and pull out a worn shoe box. The corners are split down to the edge and smells moldy, it's a mystery how this thing still holds itself together. To my dislike, it reminds me of. . . me.
I pull out the shoebox the rest of the way and notice my Mom's name written on the side in big black letters. Anne. My hands tremble, I can't make them stop. The sight of the box sets me on edge. Should I look through it? Will Dad know I've been in it? He always notices if something isn't in the right place, he's OCD like that. But it's just Mom's old stuff, I don't see how he can freak out too much. Inside I grab an old picture of my parents holding my birthday cake when I was five. The birthday cake was themed after The Little Mermaid. I remember it like it was yesterday. I sat at the kitchen table with a blindfold over my eyes, eager as ever. I begged and begged continuously for a Little Mermaid cake, and somehow I knew Mom would get it for me. They sang to me as they rounded the corner to the kitchen, singing louder and louder as they finally set my cake down in front of me. Mom took off the blindfold for me as they finished the song. When I blew out the candles, I had one thing in mind; keeping my parents together. So that's what I wished for. I was so afraid my parents would end up like all the kids' at school. Divorced. But I never thought one of them would mysteriously go missing. Not in a million years.
I take the picture and set it aside. Next, my fingers find a piece of paper.
It's a note to my Dad.
I tried calling you but I didn't get an answer. Anyways, I'm going with a co-worker to Henderson Park to talk over business arrangements. I won't' be too late. Call you when I'm on my way back.
Henderson Park? What co-worker?
I look at the date, 6/22/12. The day she disappeared. Coincidence? Highly doubtful.
My mind whirls. I'm seconds away from vomiting. Why didn't he mention this note? Maybe the police would have been able to find her if they would have seen this. Maybe he didn't find the note or the shoebox. . . Impossible. He saw it, I know it.
My thoughts scatter when I hear the front door open and close, then I hear my name. I frantically put everything back in the shoebox and shove it under the bed, praying desperately he doesn't notice. I silently sneak out of his room and try to make it sound like I had just come out of mine. I walk in my bedroom and then walk out, shutting the door behind me and walk down the stairs steadying my nerves.
"Kaylee?" My Dad asks, his voice getting louder.
Cool it Kaylee, it's just your Dad, there's gotta be a perfect explanation for the letter. Stay calm. "Yeah?" I peak my head out from the stairs and see him jump.
"Gah, Kaylee." His hand goes to rest above his heart.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you," I laugh nervously.
I step off the stairs and walk to the kitchen where I find him now washing his hands in the sink, his back to me. My nervous demeanor changes when I see his slumped shoulders. He must be having "one-of-those-days" again. I take a seat at the table and try to forget about the note. At least for a little while. Right now Dad needs me.
"I was just thinking about what to make for dinner, any ideas?" I ask. I am hungry and it is time for dinner.
"I don't' know." He rakes his hand through his greying brown hair, and turns to face me. He looks tired. Dark heavy lines show under his eyes telling me he hasn't been getting much sleep. I feel for him. I haven't gotten much either.
"How do you feel about Mac and Cheese?" I ask lightly. I get the response I has hoping for.
He sighs, expelling all his frustration, and smiles. "Yeah sounds good to me."
I love that me and my Dad share the same love for cheesy noodles. I never get tired of eating them. He doesn't either. That's what makes it work.
Dad goes to take a quick shower and I'm left to make dinner. No sweat, I can make Mac and Cheese in my sleep. When I get the cheese on the noodles and in separate bowls, their in our stomachs within seconds. I feel undeniably bloated, but the heat from the mac and cheese warms me.
When I shovel the last bite into my mouth, I slump back in my chair. I look at Dad and see him doing the same. I may look like my Mom, but me and Dad act the same. Sometimes it freaks me out, but then I remember how close we were. We were one of the closest families I'd known. It was always the three of us against the world.
Dad insists that he does dishes. I try to make it seem like I want to do them for his sake, but I don't put up much of a fight. If there's one thing I absolutely hate, it's dishes. I walk back to my room victorious, fists pumping in the air.
I sit on my purple-grey dyed sheets and massage my hands to keep them from aching. I'm pretty sure I have arthritis or something. It makes sense. It's like that feeling you get when you've been forced to write in a rush and your hand cramps up involuntarily. But after having experienced this for most of my life, I know the only thing that will make the soreness go away is drawing.
I get up and walk straight to my desk, turn on the light that's clamped on my bookshelf directly above, and grab a pencil and my drawing pad in the top drawer. My hand grasps around the pencil and makes contact with the paper. I instantly feel relief. I let my mind drift from the drawing pad, to tomorrow. God, help me. I'm not ready for this. Everything would be easier if I could just stay home, away from all those hyenas that call themselves people. Deep down they're only savages. If they find a weakness, you're dead.I think back to P.E. when I was a Freshman in high school. Our teacher had us working out in the fitness room. Practically all the girls complained, but not me. I just kept going, moving from tread mill to barbells. I didn't see the use in arguing, why not just do it and get it over with?
After class, some of the guys patted me on the back and gave praises like I was one of them, calling me a beast. No biggie. But when Josh Moore patted me on the back I went into giggle mode. I couldn't help it! Stacy Cornwell saw how I reacted and gave me hell the whole rest of the year -still probably will- and made fun of me endlessly. She made up rumors about me having a shrine of Josh in my bedroom closest and all this crap that only she would have the messed up mind the think up. Oh what I wouldn't give to have her disappear off the face of the earth.
I think of Zarik and how beautiful he is. He'd never let anyone hurt me. I don't have to know him to know that. You can see it in his eyes. Something about him draws me in and I wonder if there's something more to him. If I were to ever have a boyfriend it would be him.
I look down ready to admire my work. Something about it seems awfully familiar. The drawing is dark and blurry, trees everywhere and then theres a light. The pencil drops from my hand when I notice what I've drawn.
It's my dream.