...Six...When I got out of bed at 6 I did not go to work as planned, but I did get dressed. I put on a pair of jeans, a black tank top, and my Metalica sweatshirt before slipping on my dark purple converses and walking out the front door. I walked down the streets of the city from my town home to a small suburb nearby and knocked on the front door of a familiar home. When a small girl answered the door I smiled towards her and used sign language to tell her hello and asked if her dad was home. She nodded before running into the house and I came in. I shut the door behind myself but I was quickly attacked by a golden retriever puppy that was nearly two years old now, “Hey Sandy!” I said energetically as I kissed the dog’s nose, but my attention was diverted when I heard someone stop next to me. I looked up to the man only a few years older than me and smiled.
“Hey there, stranger,” He said with a smile and I stood, “What do I owe the visit?”
“Want to go for a walk?” I asked and he gave me a concerned look while nodding. I grabbed Sandy’s leash from the coat rack next to the door and then we left. The man took the dog’s leash from me and handed me the small girl in his arms who smiled and hugged my neck as we walked.
“The last time we went on a walk was when your brother’s 2nd death anniversary came by almost four months ago. It’s been a while so something must have happened that was pretty bad since you even skipped out on work.”
I nodded as I looked to Sandy as she trotted in front of us, “I’m sorry I haven’t come to see you lately, Ben.”
“It’s alright. You were busy,” He replied but then looked to me with a sideways glance, “What happened that has made you so upset that you are dressing like you used to?”
“My brother tried to rape me, the man who loves me will now never speak to me again, and my band mates and a past student have figured out who I am,” I replied as we finally got into the main city and had to stop at a crosswalk as the light remained red and told us not to cross, “In less than ten minutes everything I have created since I came here shattered.”
“Are you going to be okay?” He asked me as the red light went away and a green walking stick figure came to view so we started across the road.
“No,” I whispered as I looked down to Sandy again, “I’m not okay and I don’t know if I ever will be. Seeing my brother and making the man who loved me hate me was bad enough, but seeing the upset faces of the men I miss so much sent me into insanity. I have broken down.”
“Let’s go somewhere and sit down.” He whispered and I nodded. When we walked into a restaurant the woman at the front desk frowned as she saw Sandy come in with us.
“Excuse me, but there are no dogs allowed here. I will have to ask you…” She started to say but we both looked up as a familiar woman put her hand on the girl’s shoulder.
“That is a helping dog, Cindy. She is very behaved and will not cause a problem,” The older woman said before giving me a large smile and coming around the counter, “Well long time no see, Ray. How have you been?”
“Fine, and yourself Miss Edward?”
“Good, good. Would you guys like a seat?”
“Yes, please.” I replied and we followed behind her as she went over to a table. The wooden table was one of the newest ones she had gotten last month along with three newer chairs that must have come in last week since they were not here two weeks ago.
“I’ll give y’all a few minutes to decide what ta’ eat.” She announced before walking back over to the front desk. I set Rebecca in the chair next to mine as Ben patted Sandy’s back so that she sat where a fourth chair would be if it was put at his side.
“Do you think this might be leaked out to the public?” He asked as he watched me roll up Rebecca’s sleeves of her shirt.
“The band would never dream of doing that and Austin does not have enough information or understanding about the situation to do anything. But, my brother raises a red flag. He would tell anyone, but hopefully the fear of my planned fiancé finding me will stop him from breathing a word.”
Miss Edward came back to the table, “What would y’all like?”
“Three sodas will be all for today, Miss Edward, thanks.” Ben replied before she walked away. It took a few moments to get our drinks but once we did I warned Rebecca not to spill the drink.
“What do you think I should do, Ben?”
He sighed as he rested his face on his hand, “Are you asking me as your late brother’s friend, as you friend, or as a doctor?”
He seemed to contemplate the reply and then looked to me. His dark green eyes stared me down, “You have to decide what your personal dream for your life is before anything else. Ignore Eli, ignore the wishes of Evan, ignore your students, ignore you fans, ignore your band mates, ignore me, and think about what you really want. All of this shuffling back and forth between mind sets is not healthy. You need to decide what you want and then factor in everyone afterwards. Once you’ve decided that then you can figure out where to go from there.”
I looked down to the table, “That is easier said than done.”
“But this is not something you can put off any longer, Ray. You need to decide once and for all what you want to do.”
“You’re right,” I whispered and then we became silent, “I think I should go. I should be resting.”
He nodded, “Alright.” He turned to his daughter and told her it was time to leave so she got up. I paid for the drinks before we left the restaurant and started back towards Ben’s house, “We can walk ourselves home, Ray. You need to go the other direction.” He whispered so I stopped walking. As I watched Ben, Rebecca, and Sandy turn the corner of the street we had stopped on I felt suddenly alone and unsure. I turned around on my heels and headed for the hair salon near my home. When I walked in a small bell chimed as the two women who owned the place smiled towards me. “’Afternoon Ray! What can I do ya’ for today?” The eldest sister asked with a harsh accent.
“I just want a haircut.”
“Alright,” She said as she led me to a chair and I sat down, “Now how much are we talkin’ here? An inch?”
I looked to her through the mirror in front of the chair, “I want it all off,” I replied, “Only long enough to be spiked or straightened if needed.”
“So a boy’s cut?”
I nodded, “Exactly.”
“Whatever ya’ say.” She replied before starting the process. When I left the hair salon almost an hour later the fall winds reached the back of my neck for the first time since I came here. I went home and immediately went to sleep so I could get the rest I had promised Ben I would get.
I woke up at six per usual and got ready for classes. I put on a black suit and a light blue silk shirt before slipping on a pair of black pumps. I put on more makeup than usual before using hair spray to flatten my new hair. When I left the house with my bag, coat, and keys in hand I drove to school. When I got into my classroom classes were about to start so I quickly got set up for the day and felt uncertain about the plan I had set up.
I took a deep breath as my call started to ring and was relieved when the phone went to voicemail. I cleared my throat right before the beep, “Hey Chris, this is Raven Patrice…I’m sorry I haven’t contacted you for five years now, but I didn’t want to get you involved with my life again until I had everything fully settled. Well now that I’ve finally reached settlement I want to talk to you. A lot of things have happened since I disappeared so I was hoping you could come visit me or let me come visit you,” I took a deep breath, “I will be making my big début tomorrow at 7 at Texas University, where I work now, and I’d like for you to be there. So, anyway, I hope you’re doing well and I hope to hear from you soon.” I hung up the phone and then dialed another number. I took a deep breath as it rang and was surprised when the phone was answered.
“Nicky? It’s Raven. Can you talk right now?”
“Yea, we’re having a break right now from practice so I can talk. How are you doing?”
I sighed, “Better,” I replied, “But I actually called to ask if you and the rest of the band, along with Kevin, will meet me to talk.”
“Sure, when do you want us to meet you?”
“Meet me tomorrow night at 7 at the college campus for the football game.”
“Alright, then I’ll see you later.” I whispered before hanging up the phone. I looked down to the soccer field and watched two boys practicing. My mind was blank as I watched them and I did not regain focus until there was a knock at the door of the teacher’s lounge. When I turned to Olivia she smiled to me and came to my side to look down at the soccer players also.
“I heard you’re going to sing the national anthem at tomorrow night’s game,” She stated as the taller boy of the two went to the goal and started to catch the other boy’s shots, “Will Austin be coming to hear you sing?”
“He’s busy tomorrow.”
“Ah,” She whispered, “Well I’m leaving for the day so I’ll see you tomorrow night.” Olivia left shortly after and I left about ten minutes after her.
The next day of classes seemed to go by in a blur and I did not feel as though time went by at a regular rate until the two football teams started to warm up. When both teams were called off to go over their strategies for the game the older man who had set up the microphone in the middle of the field gestured for me to come to him. I stood and fixed my short black dress before going over to him with a smile. He adjusted the height of the microphone before looking to me, “Knock ‘em dead.” He whispered before turning on the microphone and walking off the field. The man in the booth to the side of the field made it so he could speak and everyone fell silent.
“Good evenin’ longhorns! Before we get this game started lets’ have all gents’ take off their caps and everyone put their hand over their heart so we can join in the national anthem led tonight by our very own World History teacher Raven Patrice!” He called and everyone in the stadium cheered but the area fell silent as I cleared my throat. I put my hand over my heart as I faced the American flag on the side of the stadium.
“Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light! What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming! Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, o’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming! And the rocket’s red glar, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there! Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!” I sang as I refused to take my eyes off of the flag and as the crowd started cheering frantically I realized I was crying. I quickly forced myself to stop and wiped my cheeks with my hands before smiling up to the crowd and walking off of the field.
“Let’s get this game started!” The announcer called as I walked out of the stadium through the entrance that was now closed off to get to from the bleachers. I sat on the edge of the bike rack right outside of the exit and looked up to the sky. There were no stars to be found due to the light given off by the lights of the city.
“Good job out there,” A man whispered and I turned around to see Ben watching me in a pair of slacks and a dress shirt. He came over to me and wiped a tear off of my cheek that I had missed, “It must have been hard for you to sing again. You haven’t sang since Evan left and even when he was still here you would only sing when asked to by him.”
I looked to his face, “I forgot about this feeling given to me while I sing.”
“You shined beautifully tonight and did not falter. You should be proud of yourself,” He put his hands in his pant pockets and looked to the bike rack, “The way you sang tonight was different than the first time I heard you singing.”
“My brother taught me that song I sang that day.”
“Evan taught you that song?”
I shook my head as his glance came back to me, “My eldest brother taught me that song when I was a child.”
“By eldest brother you means Elijah, correct? The same man that has raped you many times.”
I nodded and looked up to the starless sky, “That’s the one. He used to be the perfect older brother until the day that all started. I was so young I did not even understand what it meant.”
“So when I saw your eyes searching the bleachers tonight, were you looking for him?”
When I looked to him I felt a sore spot in my heart, “No, I had invited some people I wanted to see me and wanted to see if they had actually come.”
“Raven!” Someone called and I looked over to see Nicky running over to me as Sly, Dwayne, Ash, and Kevin walked slowly behind her.
“I guess I should go,” Ben whispered before walking over to my side and kissing my cheek, “Good job today.” With those words he disappeared into the parking lot as I turned to Nicky. She hugged me quickly and then held me at arm’s length to get a full look at me.
“I love your dress!” She gushed, “But you were great tonight!”
“Thanks, I’m glad you could come at such late notice,” I replied with a smile, “But weren’t you guys supposed to leave town early yesterday morning?”
“The guys twisted our schedule around so we could stay for a whole other week.”
“That’s great,” I replied and then sighed as I looked away from her, “Nicky, how is Austin?”
She seemed saddened as I looked back to her, “He’s alright.”
“So he contacted you?” I asked and she nodded, “I’m glad to know he is alright.”
“He’s worried about you.”
I smiled, “That sounds like him,” I replied and looked to the guys behind her, “He reminds me a lot of the guys in that way.”
Nicky let out a laugh as she turned to the guys, “Omigosh! You’re so right! He’s a lot like the guys!”
“I’ll take that as a complement,” Sly said as he and the other guys came over to us. Sly looked down to me, “Your voice sounds as beautiful as ever. It was nice to hear it again.”
I looked to the ground, “Thanks, I was glad my voice was not horrible since this is the first time I have sung in 2 years.”
“Why did you stop singing, Rave? All we ever talked about in school was growing up and having you sing in a band with us,” Dwayne whispered as he put his hand on my cheek, “You love to sing. You always have.”
I put my hand over his, “But I loved Evan more.”
“Has Evan asked you to stop singing?” Dwayne asked and before I could answer Nicky grabbed his arm that touched me.
“She stopped because her singing led Evan to killing himself!” She stated as she looked to the band, “She is torn up when she sings because that is what she believes killed Evan!”
I leaned onto Nicky slightly so that she looked to me. I smiled to her with warmth, “It’s alright, Nicky. I have come to terms with losing Evan. I have learned to accept that it was not entirely my fault. I have the man who just left to thank along with you guys,” I glanced to Sly, Dwayne, Ash, and Kevin, “If all of you had given up on the band I don’t know what I would have done. Every time something would happen that would make me upset I would just turn on the TV and learn about your newest accomplishments,” I looked directly to Dwayne, “I have realized recently that when I used to talk about the past I did not mean exactly what I said. As long as you guys stayed together and succeeded I would be happy.”
“Raven.” Dwayne whispered as I looked to the ground and within a moment I was crying. When I looked up and everyone saw my tears I immediately ran into Dwayne’s arms. He held me tightly against him and I held back with equal strength, “Please, Raven! Don’t leave us again! We can’t live without you here!”
I put my face into his shirt and for a moment the horrors of the world disappeared, “I’ve missed you guys so much!” I cried as I was yanked away from Dwayne’s grasp and into Ash’s arms. He embraced me tightly as my head rested near his shoulder.
“Don’t leave us behind anymore, Rave! We want to be with you and help you! That is what best friends are for!”
I kissed his cheek lightly, “I won’t go anywhere without letting you guys know again.”
When my last class ended the next day I smiled towards Mr. Howards as he knocked on the doorframe of my lecturing room, “Good evening Mr. Howards, how can I help you?” I asked as I turned my chair towards him. His warm smile made me feel better.
“Well I was going past the dean’s office to come see if you needed any help this afternoon and he asked me to come in for a moment. Apparently one of his past roommates from college was here and was searching for you so he asked me to bring the guy down,” Mr. Howards turned towards the doors of my lecturing room and sighed, “You can come in now.” He called to the door and I watched as Chris slowly walked into the room. He was more handsome than ever and now seemed more reformed.
“Thanks for bringing me down here, Nick.” Chris said as he put his hand on Mr. Howards’ shoulder.
“Yes,” I agreed, “But I do not need any help this evening, Mr. Howards so would you please tell the dean that my guest made it safely to me?”
“Sure, see ya’ next week, Ms. Partice!” He called and then quickly left the room. I looked to Chris who just stared at me.
“So you got my call?” I asked and he nodded as he walked over to a globe on the front desk of the room.
He twirled the globe around, “Yes, but I did not get it until last night after the game because I had an emergency surgery yesterday that delayed me getting home.”
I looked to the computer I was by as it shut off. I stood and started putting my papers into my bag, “I wasn’t sure you would even come so it was of no surprise that you did not show up last night,” I closed my bag, “How long will you be staying in town?”
“I will stay here as long as you will let me,” He replied as he stopped the spinning globe, “I made sure to not move or change numbers so that when you could contact me again we would be able to meet. I have been waiting for you to contact me for 5 years so I do not plan to leave until I understand everything.”
I smiled slightly towards him, “There is a place I have never shown to anyone that I want you to see,” I whispered, “Will you come with me?”
“Lead and I will follow,” He replied and I nodded. I led him out to my car and then quickly drove out to the place I wanted to go. When we drove up to the cemetery it was already dark out but Chris still followed me as I walked in between tombstones and we stopped at the spot I had never brought anyone to. Chris stared at the stone and then looked to me, “It is too dark to read.”
“That’s alright. I have seen it so many times I have memorized what it says,” I took a deep breath, “Here lies Evan Glen Patrice; may he rest in peace. Born May 22nd, 1974—Died September 28th 2012.” I looked to Chris as he stared at the stone and shook slightly, “I’m sorry,” I whispered, “I went to visit him one day and found out he had hung himself that night in between nurse shifts and he was dead before someone found him.”
Chris stared at the rock, “I would have never imagined Evan would do something like this in a million years,” He whispered, “Leaving you alone was the one thing I thought he would never do.”
I looked to Chris, “He died the moment I took him from our home town,” I whispered, “I killed him way before his body died,” I looked up to the unforgiving sky, “I had a 50/50 chance in making him as happy as I possibly could with the path I chose for us and I chose the wrong one that led to his death.”
“You should’ve come back to my side after that, Raven. I could have helped you get over the loss.”
“I couldn’t face you after I had killed your best friend,” I replied, “How could I face the guy I have been in love with since I was a kid and tell him I had killed his best friend?” As the moment I had been waiting on came I took a step and stood on my toes. Our lips met as the final blow fell and I wrapped my arms around Chris’s neck. I pulled away from him and smiled slightly, “When my moment came I wanted you and Evan to be with me,” I whispered, “And I wanted you to know how much I love you. I am glad I was able to fulfill my wish.” My grip became weak as I shook and Chris tried to keep me standing with shock.
“Raven! What’s wrong!” He demanded as he shook my limping body, “Answer me!” He yelled as I looked to him again.
I smiled the best I could, “I’m glad I got to see you one last time.” I whispered as I could not keep my eyes open any longer. As they shut I heard Chris screaming for me to wake up before I lost consciousness.