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Shadows in the Night
It was a regular morning just like any other; the sun was hiding behind the Arizona winter clouds. My foster mom, Mrs. Stewart, was cooking pancakes; I could smell them from where I was sitting on my porch. Both of my parents had died in a car crash three years ago, some drunk had swerved into their lane, causing a head-on collision. Three other people had been involved in that accident, a twenty-two year old man on his way to his girlfriend’s house with a ring in his pocket. He got a broken arm, fractured collar bone, and amnesia. Although his would-be fiancé never gave up on him, they where never married, at least as far as I knew, I lost track of them about four months later. Beside my own two lives ruined. The second person in the crash was a fifty-nine year old man on his way to his grand-daughters tenth birthday, he died on the way to the hospital. The third person was a young girl, she was twelve and sitting in the back seat of the drunk father’s truck. She had a broken left arm and a nasty cut on her forehead. She stayed strong even in the hospital learning the news that her father hadn’t made it. And then there was me, Charlene ‘Charlie’ Muller, I was in the hospital for almost a month. I had been sitting in the back seat of our Camry; I had two broken ribs, a bad concussion and a fractured left arm. Everyone said I was being a strong, hanging in there, but when I was alone I threw in a crazed frenzy everything I could, just to feel the satisfaction of seeing it break. I was hurting so much; it felt as though my heart had been ripped out of my chest and stomped on. But after awhile I began to heal, Mr. and Mrs. Stewart where good people, they took care of me and loved me as there own. I went to live with them, but it wasn’t till almost a year after my parent’s death.
I was in the Foster System for nine months and I got into trouble along the way, I was hurting, I blamed myself at first, thinking I should have died with them. But I couldn’t bear to think if what they would say if they knew what I was thinking about doing. Not all of my foster families where bad, but the majority of them where. What made me finally snap was my foster dad in my tenth home. He came home drunk one day with a red smear on the front bumper of his car, I asked what had happened and slurring he said he had hit something. I completely lost it; I felt rage and hate boil up inside me, at the injustice of it all. That lousy drunk hadn’t even gone to jail for the three murders he had committed, no he had to go die in the same car crash he created, he didn’t live to see the pain he had put his own daughter through. The poor woman who had been waiting for that proposal for so long, the old man who had been so proud of himself for the gift he had gotten for his only precious grand-daughter. And there was me, I had lost everything in that crash, so screaming at my foster dad I called him a lousy drunk who didn’t deserve what he had, picking up one of the many beer bottles lying around I threw it at his face, hitting him in the head. Hours later in a police station crying hysterically I learned he had only suffered a small cut and a headache, but he pressed charges. I already had to strikes on my record for some fights I had gotten into, so this was the last one. I went to Juvy for two months as punishment. As I lay in my cell I pondered everything that had happened, I had almost ruined my life my snapping the way I did, did I really want the rest of my life to go on like this? I finally decided I was going to do everything I could to live right; I didn’t cause any trouble while I was in Juvy, and I did what I was told. My ‘cellmate’ Tiffany had almost gotten me into some more trouble in there too, she was in because she had torched her stepmom’s car (among other things) after another fight. She got four months in here with me; she had been a worse trouble maker than I had been. I was edgy though, I wasn’t the kind to be ok locked up in a place like a Juvenile Detention Center without getting antsy. I needed a way to release some of what I was feeling, so I asked for some notebooks and some pencils. I began writing down all that had happened to me over the past eight months, but I never realized that the release I had chosen would turn into the crazy memoire of my twisted life.
When I got out of Juvy I found out that a couple had been waiting for me to be released so they could adopt me. They had read all about me in the newspaper and got some news from a friend about why I was in there. I met them a few days later, Sarah and Bob where kind and gentle. They didn’t pry and only disciplined me when I was rude or disobedient. I respected them, but I think I also loved them, they helped heal more of the pain in my heart, I knew it would never really leave, but it could fade, over the next two years I felt it doing so. My life finally began to move on, I started a new school in Arizona, it was a small town but it had a lot of occupants. I became known and liked, I wasn't popular, but I wasn't the dark scared freak in the cafeteria corner either. I fit in and went with the flow, to a certain extent anyway. Mrs. S's house was small but homey, I got the guest bedroom and decorated it as my own, the walls where a soft cheery orange, my foster parents didn’t approve at first, but they began to like it after awhile. I liked it and I wanted them to be okay with it too. I wanted their respect and praise just as I did with my real parents. Life moved on, I changed, for the better I liked to think, I was cautious, but not overly so. I was also a very suspicious person, the only people I trusted where my parents and my two best friends. Kat Smithins was fifteen and frisky like her name. She had bright red hair and sparkling green eyes. Rabekah Jackson was also fifteen with honey brown hair and blue eyes, the color of her eyes always seemed so vibrant because of her hair which she always wore in wavy grace around her face, like a frame, Kat's was short and bouncy like her personality. All three of us where very athletic, we were on the volleyball team together, Beka was the best out of all of us, her spikes drove towards you like a torpedo. You either blocked it really well or got out of the way before you got hurt. At night in Kats house we would snicker at how Beka had no idea how much Jason had a crush on her. We could see it but neither of them could, they fought like cats and dogs, Kat and I would look at each other and say "Ask him out already!!!!" Well one day he asked her out, she said yes and they went to the movies; Jason brought her back at nine o’clock exactly, just like her dad had told him. She said she had never had such a great time before, Kat and I frowned in mock hurt, giggling she would only throw her pillow at us. About a year went past, I turned sixteen and so did my friends, I got a job after much searching at a small cafe. Kat got a job at Starbucks and Beka got one as a lifeguard. I liked my job, Kat liked hers too. But Beka quit hers when a swimmer almost drowned, she said she didn’t think she could handle it if someone actually drowned, so she instead began making her own crafts to sell, purses, bows, book covers, flower arrangements, and she took calls for people who made requests for things. She was good; she got a lot of money selling it all. Beka’s relationship with Jason began to grow too, they really loved each other and said so, Jason had gotten a job as a mechanic and said he was going to get a scholarship and get a nice apartment. He had also bought a nice car for cheap, but it needed some fixing, he and Beka spent hours on that thing. I had never seen her so happy before. Kat said she would rather be single, we laughed and teased her about it, saying that when she found him she would fall head over heels for him, he would sweep her of her feet and she would be hooked. Flipping her hair she had replied, "I think he'll be the one who falls head over heels" We laughed for a long time after that one. But one day on a cold October afternoon something happened that changed my life forever for the second time. I'll never forget the day it happened, the whole town was shocked to its core. But I think I was affected the worst, I had no idea how that one terrible event had a link to my past and how it would affect my future.
As said it was a cold October morning, me and the girls were going into town to see a movie, Beka and I were waiting on my front porch for Kat to get there. We waited for almost thirty minutes, we called her cell phone but it went to voicemail. "I can’t believe she has her phone off, she talks into that thing like it was her lifeline, like, all the time" I nodded, she did, Kat and her cell phone where inseparable, it was like the sky turning purple for her to have it off. We waited a few more minutes then decided to go over to her house, but what we saw when we got there was horrible. Cop cars were parked in the driveway and policeman where walking around talking to the neighbors and taking pictures, a Coroners truck was in the road, parking across the street Beka and I got out and walked over, I had the strongest sense of foreboding, like I already knew what we would find. Walking over to a young officer I asked, 'Officer, what’s going on, what happened?'
Looking at me I saw he was only in his early twenties, "And who are you miss?"
"My names Charlie Stewart, this my best friend’s house, this is also her best friend, Rabekah"
He gently took us both by an arm and lead us to the bench in the front, setting us down he said,
"How long have you known Catherine Smithins?”
Beka spoke first; "I’ve known her since I was ten, Charlie’s known her for about two years"
He nodded, pulling out a small notepad he wrote something down. "And you where all good friends?"
He inquired, we both nodded,
"The best, we practically live together we're around each other so much"
The officer looked like the saddest man I had ever seen as he put away his pad.
"I'm so sorry to te-"
"She’s dead isn't she?' I interrupted.
The officer nodded, "I’m sorry to tell you, someone killed her sometime early this morning"
Beka sat there so white I thought she had stopped breathing, then suddenly she leapt to her feet and ran towards the door of the house, screaming "No! No!"
I jumped up and grabbed her, she struggled against me but I held her tight hugging her with all the friendship and understanding I could, sagging she buried her face in my shoulder and started to cry, tears streaming down my face I could only hold her while she cried, I felt her pain more then she would ever know, I had never told them about my past, I don’t know why but I hadn't. The young officer came forward and gently pulled Beka away from me, he held her and smoothed her hair saying it will be all right. Her sobs subsided and I took her back from him and said,
"I'm taking her home"
He nodded and said
"I'm so sorry for your loss"
Those word where like daggers into my heart, bringing back fresh and painful memories of all the people who had said that exact same thing so long ago. Maybe the man saw the look in my eyes or maybe he only understood, because I saw a look come over his face, he opened his mouth as if to say something, but I said
He shut his mouth and helped me walk a shaking Beka to my car. I took her home and put her in her room, stayed until she fell asleep, I had found that crying makes you very tired, I went into the kitchen and quietly told Mr. and Mrs. Jackson what had happened, gasping Mrs. Jackson had turned into her husband’s shoulder and cried, he stroked her hair and whispered it would be all right. I wondered if that was an inbred thing for guys to do to a grieving female, but then no one had comforted me in that way when my parents died, only locked me in cells and tossed me from home to home. How I longed to be held like that, to be told everything would be all right, to feel that sense of love only the man you love can give you. I had lost the only man I knew how to love three years ago in that crash, I didn’t know what it was like anymore. Bobs hugs where ok, but they weren’t the same, and never could be. Jolting out of my reverie I realized Mrs. Jackson was looking at me with a strange look on her face, "Honey, are you okay?" her voice seem to be coming from a long way off. my sight seem to be swaying, then I realized it was me and suddenly the floor flew into my face, only two arms reached out and grabbed me before I hit the ground, I felt strong arms carrying me, something soft at my back, then only blackness.
I slowly drifted back from unconsciousness into the real world. The first thing I realized was that I had the worst headache ever, and that three people were leaning over me looking concerned. Squeaking I scooted backwards, startled.
"Shhh, its okay, your okay."
I leaned back against the pillows I now realized where on couch. The man who had spoken, I realized, was Mr. Peters, the local doctor. He was the only one took house calls,
My mouth was dry; Mrs. Jackson looked relieved,
"You passed out sweetie, how you feel?"
I closed my eyes and sighed, I felt terrible.
"I feel okay, thank you"
Sitting up I asked for some water.
"Sure hon, just a sec"
Mrs. Jackson got up and went into the kitchen; I could hear the glass clink and she pulled it out of the cupboard. Mr. Jackson got up and touched my shoulder,
"I hope your okay, I'm going to check on Becky"
I nodded and gave him a small smile,
"Thank you Mr. Jackson"
He smiled back and nodded. Mrs. Jackson came back in with the water and I drank it quickly.
"Charlie, are you really okay? You seem to have a high temperature, and you look stressed, have you been having migraines lately?"
I leaned back again on the pillows at the doctor’s words
"I really am okay, maybe I’m just getting a fever, and yes, I've had a couple of them in the last few months"
Mr. Peters looked a little concerned,
I was a little confused,
"What’s up Doc? I'm alright aren't I?"
He looked at me with a slightly starlted expression, as though he had been lost in thought."
No, your fine"
He gave me an uncertain smile and rose from beside me on the couch. We watched him as he moved towards the door, turning, he said,
"Drink lots of water and make sure you rest, and I'm so sorry about Katrina" I immediately felt a wrenching pain in my heart, tears filled my eyes and I totally broke down, crying into Mrs. Jacksons shoulder. Mr. Peters looked startled for a second, and then he quickly turned again and left. I cried into Mrs. Jackson’s shoulder for almost twenty minutes before I pulled myself together I said,
"I'm going to go see Beka"
Mr. Jackson had just come down the stairs,
"She’s awake, but in shock, maybe you can help her"
I nodded and rose from the couch, a wave of dizziness washed over me, but I stayed upright and started towards the stairs, I softly and slowly started up the stairs, reaching the hallway I turned in her room. It was cute, with books and bears, posters and pictures everywhere; Beka was sitting cross legged on her bed staring into space. I walked quietly walked over and sat beside her.
“Are you okay?"
She didn’t respond, I hadn’t really expected her too, I knew what she felt, and I knew what I wanted when I was in her position. I sat quietly for a minute to see if she would say something. She didn’t. So I scooted closer and gave her a hug, resting my forehead against the side of her head, closing my eyes I sat with her for a few moments, then getting up I said,
"It will heal, you know, the pain, it’ll be almost too much for a long time, but it will fade and you'll start to remember the things you loved about her, all the fun memories you’ve made together. The hole in your heart will eventually begin to stop hurting, fill it with the love you had for her, but don’t bury it, don’t hide the pain. That will only hurt more, all that anger and sadness boiling inside"
Beka looked up at me with wet, red rimmed eyes, whispering she said.
"You never told us"
I stood there looking down at her with a sad look on my face, I was slightly surprised that she had realized it so quickly.
"It was a long time ago, the pain will never go away, it will become a part of you, grow in that pain and love every moment you have on this earth, because you never know when it will be snatched away from you'
Turning to the door I stepped out, looking back I said
Turning I walked out.
I didn’t stay any longer, I said goodbye to Mr. and Mrs. Jackson and then left. I went home and sat at the kitchen table; Bob had a job at a canning factory and wouldn’t be home till six. Sarah had a job at a gas station. She would be home in a few hours, looking up at the clock I saw it was a quarter till four, actually she would be home in twenty five minutes, I hadn’t realized how much time had passed since we went to Kats house that morning, I sat there staring into space until I heard the back screen door open and close, Sarah came in and threw her purse and keys onto the hallway table, plopping into a chair across from me she asked
"And how was your day honey?"
I didn’t answer, only looked at her with barely held back tears. Looking at me with concern she felt my forehead, 'You feel a little hot hon, you alright?"
I felt tears in my eyes again,
I started, She looked shocked for a second, I had never in the whole two years of their being my parents had I called them Mom and Dad. She looked really happy too.
"Mom, Kats dead"
She just sat there and looked at me in astonishment. We sat in painful silence for thirty seconds,
She finally asked.
"Kat, she’s dead, someone broke into her house sometime early this morning and murdered her"
Sarah sat there and looked at me. Suddenly she started to cry, getting up she came over to me and held me, we cried together for awhile and then separated.
"That is so terrible; I can’t imagine what her parents are going through.”
She looked slightly taken aback, looking at me she sighed,
"You poor thing, what did you ever do to deserve all this death in your life?"
Fresh tears fell down her face. I couldn’t tell who they were for, me or Kat.
"I’m sorry to leave you but I'm going over to see Mrs. Jackson, she'll need a woman’s shoulder in the next few days" I nodded; Sarah never turned anyone away or left a hurting person unattended. Except me, but I didn’t mind, I knew how to cope with death, Mrs. Jackson didn't. Mom could help her through this better than anyone. After Mom left I went up to my room. I closed the door and sat on my bed, deciding that something was itching at me I sat at my computer desk and stared at my black screen, it was the Doc, he seemed almost scared when he looked at me earlier. Nervous, like he had seen what I had before, but it was just a fever, or at least I thought it was. Turning on my computer I turned around and went to the bathroom, picking up the thermometer I checked my temp. 101* Man, I do have a fever.
Going back to my room I was just in time to see my screen come to life. I stopped in freaked shock as the words WE’RE WATCHING YOU CHARLIE, flashed onto my screen.