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Author's note: This was my piece of work from the NANOWRIMO competition I competed in this past November. I've never really taken an interest in anything other then realistic fiction so this was an interesting change for me but I really did enjoy it and I hope you all do as well!
Suddenly I heard the familiar sound of soldiers footsteps pumping under the ground, there vibrations raced through my body. Almost instinctively I began to race up into the nearest tree and not a moment too soon I was hidden high up in the leaves. I could just barely now make out the shapes of the group of three or four men walking under me. They looked as if they were walking sluggish and didn’t move very quickly but I still didn’t risk sneaking down in case they had a Sniffer with them that could catch me in an instant. After they were long gone I shimmied my way down the trunk of the tree and reached for my map, there wasn’t anyone who looked like they were on my path or coming towards me and I wasn’t that far away so I continued to walk on.
My heart pounded a thousand beats a minute as I walked down the aisle, one hand placed on the casket and the other one down at my side. Everyone was staring at me from the audience, they were waiting for me to cry or at least show some sort of emotion as to how I was feeling about the whole situation but I didn’t flinch at all. My mother walked in front of me with my grandparents, and my brother stood on the other side of the casket across from me. His hand was placed ever so delicately on the box and you could hardly tell that it was the same little boy who just a few days ago had been playing football in the backyard getting all muddy and disgusting. He was so poised and so strong at the same time, it was amazing to look at. My mom’s sobbing echoed throughout the church but I had heard enough crying over the last few days so I tried my best to tune it out and stayed focus on my walking. One foot in front of the other, I thought. Okay your almost there the front pew is not too far away. When we finally reached the first row of seating my grandparents shuffled us into the seats and it wasn’t until we sat down that I realized they had been playing music this entire time. Watching You by Rodney Atkins, it was my sister’s favorite song.
The priest stepped up to the podium and began his speech. Just a traditional one about how sad death is and everything like that and how young people should never have to die, really I just tried to block everything out. That’s all I had really been doing at all these past couple days, I couldn’t stand everyone telling me how sorry they were and all those bullshit condolences. There was only one person I wanted to hear sorry from and that was the idiot driver who drove his car right into my sister, but no I would never hear those words because he said it wasn’t his fault, yeah right.
Next it was my turn, Cressida had said she wanted me to give a speech at her funeral when she died and I had agreed, but only because I intended on already being dead when her time came around but nonetheless I promised and I had to keep my promise. I got up gripping the speech tight in both hands as I walked up to the podium. I unfolded the paper and starred at the words I had written for a minute, they were crap. Absolutely nothing like what I wanted to say and absolutely like nothing I knew Cressida would want me to say so I did something that shook everyone up just a bit. I crumpled the paper up in a ball and threw it on the floor behind me.
“Hey everyone, so I know right now I’m supposed to say something about how great Cressida was and don’t get me wrong she was totally great. Like absolutely the best big sister anyone could ask for but I really don’t feel like spitting out crap that you guys already know and don’t need to hear. What I need you to know that Cressida was the kind of best friend that you’d call your sister and I was lucky enough that she actually was my sister. She was the type of person who would forgive that driver for hitting her and tell me to do the same but you know what? I don’t want to forgive him because I’m pissed.” I paused for a minute and let the idea sink in everyone’s head. My mother started crying even louder but my grandpa had a huge smile on his face and a thumbs up to keep going so I did, “ That driver took the best part of my world away and I’ll never get her back. And I’m sad and I’m mad and I’m going absolutely crazy trying to find normal again but I won’t. Because the truth is our family hasn’t seen normal since I was ten years old before my father died… and I miss normal. I miss waking up to pancakes on the table in the morning and a hug from everyone in the house. I miss my family and nobody can change that. And I’m sure everyone here has someone they miss but I just want to tell you that it’s okay to be sad sometimes and mad and even a little bit pissed off but we just have to keep moving and be happy for what we’ve got because it’s what Cressida and my father would have wanted and it’s what I know all of your family would want. So thank you very much for coming out to support my family in our time of need I know my family would appreciate knowing how many people love and care for them and I truly do appreciate all you do for us, so thank you again.” It wasn’t until I stepped down from the podium that I realized tears were streaming down my face. My grandparents stood up to hug me and the crowd roared in applause as I walked back down to be with my family. My grandpa gave me a look I had only seen once before, the same look he gave my father when he held my little brother for the first time; it was a look of pride.
When the service was finally concluded I didn’t feel like hanging around for the refreshments so grandpa offered to drive my brother and I home. Nobody said anything for a long time but finally grandpa broke the silence,
“So Justin, what did you think of Farah’s speech? Pretty amazing right?” We peered at Justin through the mirror and I could see him sitting in the backseat, a sad depressing look plastered across his face. He shrugged,
“Yeah… it was really nice Farah.” I turned my head to look at him. Our eyes met and I felt everything he had been feeling now. I felt his pain and sorrow. He was a just a six year old boy who had lost his father before he even got to know him and now lost his big sister and if I wasn’t careful he would lose me to and I couldn’t let that happen because he needed me just as much as I needed him.
“I love you,” I whispered ever so softly to him. He nodded his head like he knew and understood but didn’t say anything back to me. “You know were going to survive this,” I tried again. He turned his head away from me and looked at the window trying to hide his face from showing me his crying eyes. My grandpa patted my leg for reassurance.
“Of course were going to survive this,” he said. “We’re going to do more than just survive we’ll be great, things will settle down soon and we will be just fine, one big family, you, me grandma, Justin and your mother. It’ll be great you’ll see!” We sat in silence for the rest of the ride.
When we finally reached the house I felt a sense of relief, it was the first time it had been this quiet since the accident and it was finally feeling normal. The inside of the house was cleaner then I had ever seen it. Grandma had been in frantic cleaning everything in her path for the past couple of days. The usual scents of hairspray, mud and a little hint of wet dog were replaced with the smell of cranberries and lavender, which was actually quite refreshing because at least none of it would remind me of Cressida.
Grandpa offered to whip us up a batch of pancakes but we both refused not quite realizing at the time how he was trying to create a normal for us again.
“I think I just want to go to bed,” Justin said.
“It’s only 6:30 bud, you sure?” Grandpa replied. He nodded and headed for the staircase around the corner.
“I’ll come help you get ready,” I offered. We grabbed hands and walked up the staircase together taking one step at a time. When we reached his room he ran in and crawled under the covers and immediately I could hear him crying. I walked over to the bed and placed my hand on his back taking slow deep breaths trying to soothe him. After a few minutes of just letting him cry I finally spoke,
“What’s going on Justin?” He pulled the covers off of his face just enough for me to see his eyes.
“You wouldn’t understand!”
“Try me,” I said.
“I don’t have anyone anymore. Nobody cares about how I feel. Crecy was the only one who understood me and now she’s gone!” he wailed.
“I know.” I said as I laid down next him. “She was the one who got me through everything, especially after dad died…”
“What was dad like?” he asked. I thought for a minute before speaking,
“He was awesome. And he loved you like crazy.”
“But I was just a baby when he knew me, how could he love me?”
“You were his boy in a sea of girls,” I laughed. “He was so happy when you were born.” Justin laughed to and then finally said,
“Do you think he would like me now?”
“Ohh he still loves you just the same,” I promised.
“Is dad in heaven?” he asked.
“Yeah, Dads in heaven.”
“And Cressida, she’s in heaven to right? With Dad?”
“Yes Justin, Dad and Cressida are in heaven together and one day when you’re a very old man Dad and Cressida will be there waiting for you,” I promised.
“Thanks, I love you,” he replied a little embarrassed.
“I know, I love you to,” I replied. He rolled over and I rubbed his back the same way Cressida had for him when he was younger. We both dozed off and let our dreams take us away into a trance of tranquility.
A couple of days had passed since the funeral and things finally felt like they were calming down in the house. Grandma and grandpa moved into the guest room and I finally got up the courage to return to my old room. It was the room Cressida and I had shared since we were babies and going back into it was something I had been dreading since the accident but I knew eventually I would have to return.
Packers had come in the day before and moved hers and my bunk beds out and replaced them with one big full bed. They also took her desk and boxed up most of her day to day items which made the dorm style room feel more like my own bedroom. I entered the room to find it nothing like I remembered it. The walls had been changed from a flowery purple to a light and airy beige color and all of the childish decorations had been removed and replaced with some more sophisticated lamps and wall art. Under any other circumstances this would have been my dream room, but today it just felt like they were trying to make me forget about her which obviously could never happen. I patted the new bed before sitting down on it, smoothing out the new white and brick colored comforter. The bed was beyond comfortable, especially in comparison to the old cement like mattresses we used to sleep on but still something felt wrong about this whole thing. I would sleep on that block of a bed for an eternity if that meant I could have my sister back and nothing they tried to buy me could ever bring her back and that was the saddest thing of all. They tried to make everything better but they were just making it worse. I shoved my face in one of the satin pillows and cried soaking the material with my tears.
“Sweetheart what’s wrong?” her voice startled me and I tried to wipe away my tear quickly before looking up at her.
“Ohh Grandma, I didn’t see you there,”
“Baby girl, what’s going on with you? Do you not like your new room?” She asked so tenderly. I smiled at her, she had definitely been the rock in this family for as long as I had known and always wanted everyone to be happy before her own self.
“Ohh no Gran, I really truly do love this room,” I said.
“But…you didn’t expect this many changes this quick?” she said in more of a statement way rather than a question.
I looked down a quilt as I shook my head yes. She understood completely. “Farah, you’re a sixteen year old girl whose already lost her father and now just lost the only sister she’s ever had…”
“But I’m supposed to be the strong one,” I interrupted. “Justin needs a constant in his life, someone to take care of him and mom obviously can’t do it.”
“But you don’t have to do it either,” she patted my arm. “That’s what I’m here for and your grandpa. We want you both to feel loved and live nice lives no matter how un-ideal the situation may seem we want you kids to be as happy as you can possibly be all the time.”
“I know,” I smiled. She grabbed my body up and scooped me into a hug. I was surprised by how strong she could still be in her increasing age, lifting my entire body up but I disregarded it and sat practically in her lap and embraced the love.
“Grandma?” I said.
“Yes my Fairy?” It was the nickname she had only called me when I was a little girl to make me feel special. It was one that was suited for me during my six and seven year old “Fairy Phase” and also went nicely with my name.
“Ready for what dear?”
“I think it’s time I go back to school,” I said. “Don’t you?”
“Why, yes. I do think that could be a very good idea,”
“This Monday then?”
“If that’s what you want, I’ll let your mother know the plan.”
“Thank you Gran, I really love having you here through all this,” I smiled and hugged her again.
“I’m not going anywhere,” she whispered. “I promise.”
I spent a total of 34 minutes just looking at myself in the mirror on Monday morning which was a record count seeing as I never really paid much attention to how I looked, but today was different. I wanted to make sure I didn’t look too happy to be back at school but I also definitely didn’t want to go totally gothic and look like I was chronically depressed. Defiantly I settled on just one of my normal outfits, slightly worn out skinny jeans, a green t-shirt and some plain flip-flops. The weather was really getting too cold to still be wearing t-shirts and sandals but I didn’t care much because I just wanted to be comfortable today.
Gran already had pancakes and freshly squeezed orange juice waiting for me on the table when I came clumping down the stairs that morning.
“Howdy sweet pea!” Grandpa called from the family room where he was laying on the recliner already reading that mornings newspaper.
“Hey Papa,” I smiled back.
“Well it’s good to see you in such a chipper mood this morning,” Gran said.
“Yeah I guess I am,” I replied.
“Excited to get back to school?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I guess I’m a little anxious, you never know what people are going to say.”
“You’ll be great,” she reassured me.
“Yeah and if anyone gives you any trouble just give me a holler and I’ll pop one on them,” Grandpa said making a fist and taking a couple fake swings through the air. Gran and I both started cracking up at the thought of it.
“Hey do you know where Mom is? I’ve hardly seen her at all these last couple days,” I asked.
“I think she’s just been pretty tired lately,” she told me but I knew exactly what she meant to say. Your mother has fallen into another deep depression state just like she did when your father died. Yeah I knew exactly what had been happening. I dropped the question and just tried to scarf down my breakfast quickly before I could leave the house.
The school was a short walk from my house, it was one that Cressida and I had always taken together but I tried not to think about that now. I always walked through one of the neighbors backyards to get to the school, they had a son in the grade above me, Wes, but I didn’t even think he knew my name. He and Cressida had dated for a couple of months a year before but he broke her heart when he cheated on her with her best friend. She cried for almost a week before finally getting over it but I sat with her for all those hours in our room listening to her sob over this boy. After that she never walked through there yard to get to school and I never heard much about him again, but sometimes when I was alone walking to and from school I would go that way and see him and when I did I would give him the most despicable look I could think of. He would just stare at me and then turn away quickly his eyes were icy cold and heartless.
On this particular day he saw me coming and sprinted out the back door just to catch my attention.
“Wait up!” he called. I turned around and stared at him just as I always did, but this time he didn’t turn around and walk away so I dropped my look. “Fanny right?” he asked.
“No, it’s F-A-R-A-H,” I said nice and slow.
“Right, Farah, that’s what I meant…” I put “the look” back on my face. “So umm listen, I’m really sorry to hear about your sister, she was a sweet girl.”
“Thanks,” I said sharply and turned to walk away but his hand stopped me. He grabbed my shoulder, not hard enough to restrict me in any way but just enough to make me want to stop. His hand was so warm and he almost sounded genuine with his gesture. I turned back around and looked at him. I had never realized how blue his eyes were or how his chin was curved in just the right direction, now I could see exactly why Cressida had liked him so much, he was hot with a capital H.
“So listen,” he continued. “I just needed to let you know that and also if you need anything let me know. Hopefully I’ll see you around Farah.” He smiled an absolutely perfect smile and then darted back into his house leaving me standing in the backyard alone, absolutely star struck.
I don’t know what I was expecting when I arrived at school but definitely not what I received, which was absolutely nothing. I mean it’s not like I really wanted a “Were sorry your sister died” parade or anything like that but literally nothing was different than any other average school day. Nobody talked to me, as usual except of course for Hadley, my one and only friend at Mountain Range High.
She came bouncing up to my locker her tight blonde ringlets bouncing off her shoulders. I had always wanted to look like Hadley, her face was absolutely flawless and she had the most gorgeous bone structure, from first glance you would think she was one of those bitchy popular girls but after holding a conversation with her for more than a couple minutes you’d realize why she hung out with someone like me. Hadley had been cursed with a terrible stutter since we were young kids, I was the only one that would play with her in the first grade and now we’ve been best friends ever since. Listening to her talk is pretty normal for me now, like listening to someone with an accent, you never really get used to it but you learn how to decipher their words. She came up next to my locker and smiled,
“You’re b-back sooner then I-I’d thought you-you’d be.”
“Yeah I just needed to get out of my house I guess and they said if I didn’t see the therapist then I had to go back to school.” She laughed but then quickly halted and moved back to a more serious face. “It’s okay to laugh around me you know,” I gave a little chuckle.
“Ohh I-I know I j-just didn’t want t-to…”
“Really Hads it’s perfectly fine, I just don’t need to think about it all right now. I want everything to go back to normal.”
“Okay,” she smiled. I grabbed my books and shut my locker so that we could head to homeroom together.
My classes went relatively average throughout the day. Most of my teachers expressed their condolences towards me and a couple of kids said they felt sorry for me and my family but the only highpoint of the day was hearing from all my teachers that my homework was optional until I got back on my feet. But honestly didn’t they understand that if I wasn’t okay then I wouldn’t have even come to school in the first place?
After the final classes I was at my locker packing up to go home I saw him walking towards me, giving some look he probably thought was seductive but I thought just made him look constipated . It was Wes; he had his messenger bag slung over one of his shoulders and a lacrosse bag hanging on the other. I had to say he looked even better than he had this morning.
“Hey,” I heard a voice say. It wasn’t until now that I realized he was standing right beside my open locker and talking to me.
“Hi” I said.
“So… umm… I thought maybe I could walk you home today, if that’s okay with you of course,” he joked.
“If you want,” I smirked.
“Well only if you want.”
“Whatever,” I said not realizing how flirtatious I was being by playing hard to get. I bent down to grab my backpack but he beat me to it and said,
“I got it,” When he couldn’t see my face for a minute I just smiled and almost wanted to laugh because this all felt so surreal to me.
The walk felt longer than usual. It was never more than five minutes but I realized that I hadn’t wanted it to end and we were just taking a stroll through the woods behind his house. We talked for what seemed like an eternity about absolutely nothing which is not something I could usually do with anybody because I had always hated mindless conversation. But for some reason this time I loved it because he loved it. He listened to every syllable I spoke so intently and I loved having someone that would listen that way, it reminded me of Cressida, he reminded me of Cressida.
When we finally reached my front door I was lost for words.
“Thanks for today,” I smiled. “It was exactly what I’ve needed.”
“Well umm thanks again,” I turned around to go inside.
“Wait!” he called just as I was almost all the way inside.
“Would you maybe like to go out with me sometime?”
“Like a date?” I smiled.
“Well uhh yeah, unless I mean you don’t want to?”
“I’d like that,” I wasn’t quite sure what I was saying for a minute but the words just came out of my mouth like a reflex.
“Great! Okay I’ll see you around,” he grinned.
“Bye, Wes,” I laughed. It wasn’t until he was completely out of sight that I had realized what I had done. Ohh lord help me, how am I ever going to explain this one, I thought. I looked up at the sky for no real reason and said, “I’m sorry Cressida, I hope you forgive me but that boy is just so damn cute!” I felt a ray of sunshine fall down upon my face and I decided that was the sign I needed, I was going out on a date with Wes Rossini.
I awoke in a panic in the middle of the night from one of my dreams. It was the first one I had had since the accident and I immediately turned on my lights and reached for my journal in the bed stand. It was something I had been doing since I was in middle school, every time I woke up in the middle of the night from a dream I would recount everything I could remember in my notebook and then in the morning I would try and decipher what it meant. I guess it was because I had never grasped the concept or reason for dreams so at least finding an idea for why I thought what I thought helped me get through them.
The journal was a tattered old suede thing that my father had used first to write down his own thoughts when he was growing up. Many of the pages had been torn out or ruined so it was mostly just my writings now but there were a few of his old entries in the front and every time I got scared I would run my fingers over the words and I was able to feel him around me, like we were connected. I flipped to the first page with no writing on it and started writing:
October 12, 2012
I was running through a forest, away from someone but I kept turning around to look at them for some reason and they were much quicker than me. They had almost caught me when something lifted me up into the sky and then the people below couldn’t touch me. I was high above everyone because someone was holding me but I wasn’t sure who at first. I can remember how gentle their hands were and I could barely fell them. She spoke to me and said,
“Look at him, down there, he’s bad news,” I looked down but I still didn’t know who it was so she kept talking. “Be careful Farah, Be very careful he’s a bad person,” I kept looking down at the ground but we were too high now and I couldn’t see him anymore.
“What do you mean?” I tried to ask her but she didn’t respond to me so I kept pleading with her.
“Stop!” she finally yelled. I thought she was talking to me but when I turned around I realized I was wrong. The girl holding me was being attacked by some sort of black bird creature and I was the thing they were fighting over. She started crying and begged the creature to stop and before I even had a chance to say anything the girl’s finger slipped and I began to fall to the ground. As I descended I could finally see her face, it was Cressida’s. Cressida had dropped me. I fell and fell for what seemed like forever and just before I was about to hit the trees I stopped falling…
I laid the pencil and notebook down just like I always did when I was finished writing and tried to go back to bed but this dream was different than the others. I couldn’t shake that feeling I got from seeing Cressida’s face the way I saw it in my dream, she looked absolutely petrified and I felt helpless like there was nothing I could do to help her. And when I tried to tell myself it was just a dream and that Cressida was safe with God in heaven I felt even worse, because what if I was wrong? What if she was in trouble and I was being selfish by just trying to ignore it? No Farah, shut up! I told myself. Your beating yourself up over nothing just go back to bed. So that’s what I did. I lay back down on the comfy pillows, just as I always did and left my notebook waiting until morning when I was just slightly more coherent.
When I woke up the next morning I wasn’t even thinking about the night’s events and I probably wouldn’t have even remembered the dream for a while if I hadn’t tripped and fallen flat on my face from the notebook I had left on the ground.
“Damn thing,” I muttered under my breath as I lay hunched over on my back, taking a mental examination of my body to make sure I was okay before sitting up. I reached for the notebook and flipped to the back page where I had left my entry but for some reason I couldn’t find it. I read over the last entry in the book, it was one from two weeks prior. This can’t be right. Someone must have taken it! I’m positive it was written right here I thought as I examined the page where I knew it was written. But no, the words were nowhere to be found and from the looks of the binding no new pages had been torn out, so where could it have gone? I searched the entire room looking under my bed and in all my other notebooks but the words I was sure I had written were completely missing. I decided to give up on my hunt and just try my best to recount the dream again. I was pretty sure I had it all written down and I was relatively pleased with myself when right before my eyes the words vanished from the paper.
“OHH MY GOSH!” I screamed throwing the book onto the ground. I had no idea what to do so I did what any teenager would do, I hid the book. Nobody would believe me if I told them what was happening and I was rational enough to know that before I went and blabbed about this to the whole world. I pulled out an old shoe box and placed the book in it and then placed that in one of the loose floorboards under my bed. My heart pounded and I was in a cold sweat lying on the ground in my room.
“What on Earth are you doing?” my mother’s voice rang throughout the room.
“Mom! Whoa you scared me,” I said. She walked in promptly and sat down on my bed, but I stayed laying on the floor still in a half panic.
“I’m so sorry,” she began to cry.
“No, I should have been there more after your dad died and now, this. I promise I’m going to do better. I want you and me to be what a mother and daughter should be. I want us to talk like we used to,” she said.
“I know Mom, I want that to,” I said earnestly.
“So let’s start now,” she suggested. “What’s going to on with you? How are all you’re friends?”
“Friend.” I said abruptly. “And she’s good ohh and guess who asked me out on a date?” I said smiling.
“A DATE! OHH MY GOODNESS WITH WHO?” she sounded genuinely excited.
“Cressida’s Wes Rossini?”
“Yeah… Do you think that’s wrong?” I asked.
“What do you think?” It was just like her to do this, answer my question with another question but I guess being a therapist for a living this was bound to happen. I thought about what she had said for a minute and I couldn’t quite think of an answer so she said, “You are a teenage I think you need to do this for you.”
“You think Cressida would hate me though, I mean if she were here,”
“Hate you…No. Be mad…Absolutely.” The expression on my face sunk. “But baby listen,” she said grabbing my chin and pulling my face up to look at her. “It’s a sister’s job to be mad at you sometimes; if you aren’t fighting then you aren’t really sisters.” She laughed.
“So you think I should go?”
“I think you should do whatever your heart is telling you to do,” she said. I didn’t know what my heart was telling me to do, I felt like I was picking a boy I just met over my sister. So I went with my brain instead, and my brain said my sister was gone and that I deserved to at least try something new in my life.
“I’m doing it,” I told her. “I’m going on a date with Wes Rossini.”
“That’s what I’d thought you’d say,” she smiled. My phone started buzzing just as she said that and I reached over to the night stand to pick it up. It was a text message from a number I didn’t recognize and when Mom gave me a strange look I opened it and read it aloud.
“Hey this is Wes, I got your number from someone at school, hope that’s okay but I just wanted to make sure we were still on to go out and stuff…” I smiled bigger then I had in a long time and she smiled at me back, a look of almost pride in her face. “What do I say?” I asked.
“Well you’re sure you want this right?”
“Absolutely,” I wasn’t actually that positive but I knew that if I didn’t say that I was sure I would end up talking myself out of it.
“Well say it, say that you think it’d be fun to go out and then get a day already so we can go shopping!” she laughed.
“Okay,” I smiled and began typing reading aloud everything I was writing, “No that’s totally cool and yeah sure I’d love to go out if you still want to?” I read it over and over in my head analyzing every word I had written trying to make sure it wasn’t too eager or to babyish. “What do you think? Is it bad? Should I change it? Ohh I knew it, it’s horrible, and he’s never going to like me!” I yelled.
“Whoa! Whoa sweethearts settle down, he is going to love you just by you being you. If he doesn’t then you should not even waste your time okay?”
Okay,” I said pressing the send button. My heart continued beating faster then I knew was possible and I couldn’t stop shaking. When I thought he was surly never going to text back and that I was definitely going to die of embarrassment my phone started buzzing. Mom and I both jumped slightly with excitement. I opened the message and read it,
“Great! How about Friday around 7:30? I can pick you up?” I looked at her just to make sure that was okay and she nodded her head yes. So I typed back: Okay it’s a date see you then
“Well I think that we need to go shopping for this little date, don’t you think so?”
I was shocked at the turn around Mom had made in just a couple of days, she was a completely different person even better then she was before Cressida had died. She let me skip school on Friday so we could have a girl’s day in prep for my date that night, it wasn’t usually like me to enjoy those kinds of things but I was just excited to spend some time with her.
She decided that today would be day of surprises for me which was definitely not what I usually liked to do but I decided I could roll with it for today. We pulled up to a building with a sign on the front that in big cursive letters read, The Getaway Day Spa. I suddenly felt very uncomfortable, the idea of massages and getting your nails done was a complete foreign concept to me and I reluctantly followed Mom out of the car.
“Aren’t you excited?” she said with a huge smile plastered across her face. I sort of half nodded in agreement still anxious about the whole thing.
When we walked in the whole building smelled of aromatherapy products and all of the workers were dressed in head to toe white suits, it was supposedly to create a soothing and tranquilizing effect for the spa goers but to me it just smelled like a bad Bath and Body Works lotion and the people looked like wannabe ghosts. A chipper young woman greeted us at the front desk,
“Hey Susan, how are you? And who’s this, one of your kids?” So my mom was a regular here I guessed, that would explain where she had always been running off to on Saturday mornings.
“Hi Jill,” she replied to the receptionist. “Yeah this is my daughter Farah…she has her first date tonight,” she tried to whisper inconspicuously but it really wasn’t. I grinned with a sort of embarrassment that a little kid gets when they do something bad but still funny in public.
“Well we’ve got some great treatments for you guys today,” she typed a couple things in her computer. “Yep that’s what I thought; you guys are getting the Paradise Seas Treatment. It’s absolutely fabulous; you two are going to have so much fun! Let me just get Riley to set you up in some dressing rooms.”
“Great thanks” Mom replied. In that moment a very attractive man came out from behind a set of swing doors. He was dressed in a similar but more masculine outfit and escorted us down a hallway towards a set of small closet like doors. When we reached two next to each other that read vacant he stopped and unlocked them for us. Inside the rooms were equivalent in size to that of a dressing room but they were decked out from head to toe in lights and there were hooks with little signs above them. On read: Coat. Another said: Purse or Bag and on another hook there was the biggest and fluffiest white robe I had ever seen but no matter how many signs were posted I was still confused. Did they want me to put the robe on? Should I leave some of my clothes on? What if I was wrong and you weren’t supposed to put it on?
“You almost done my mom?” my mom called from outside. I opened the door just slightly enough to peek my head out and see what she had done. She was wearing the robe and also the matching slippers that accompanied it.
“I coming,” I told her quickly. I threw my clothes off as fast as I could but decided it would be best to leave my bra and underwear on, just to be safe. I slipped the shoes on, the temper-pedic sole mushed in between my toes. I opened the door and saw her waiting for me outside on one of the benches. “Ready!” I said.
“Okay,” she said looking at some sort of itinerary. “We have seaweed wraps first along with facials and then were going to get massages and then…”
“Whoa,” I cut her off. “One thing at a time please, I’m new at this whole spa thing,” I told her. She laughed,
“Alright, so seaweed wraps?” I nodded my head yes. As we walked down the hallway towards the procedure room I whispered quietly to her so nobody around us could hear,
“What’s a seaweed wrap?”
“Ohh my dear, you have so much to learn,” she chuckled placing her arm around me.
I had never had a seaweed wrap before and it if you took the name literally that is exactly what you get, your whole body covered from head to toe in seaweed and from the smell of it, it was fresh from the ocean. There was also that whole embarrassing moment I had when the lady had to tell me that generally people did this naked, and she meant full moon naked. When my mother saw my face well she just thought it was the funniest thing in the world and couldn’t control her laughing, even the lady doing the wrap thought it was a little funny but me, I just thought the whole thing was repulsing. I mean, who would ever in their life, think getting a seaweed wrap was enjoyable. But I did it. The lady wrapped me as tight as she possibly could in thick green seaweed. Mom was on the table next to me and I thought she looked ridiculous in the all green suit but I realized that I looked the same way if not worse. After we were all bundled up the facial people came in and told me to lay my head back. First they steamed out our pours of toxins and then rubbed a stinging paste like substance all over our faces. I felt absolutely miserable. After what seemed like a lifetime the facial came off along with the seaweed wrap and I had to admit that my skin and face did feel remarkably soft but I could assure you I would not be doing that again anytime soon.
“Wasn’t that amazing?” Mom asked me after.
“Sure…” I replied my face still burning slightly.
“Ready for massages?” she asked eagerly. My stomach started to rumble and I wasn’t quite sure I could handle another mystery kind of procedure so I asked,
“Do you think we could skip massages and just go straight to lunch and manicures and pedicures?” she looked almost slightly relieved.
“That’s sounds like a good idea to me, I was beginning to thing we would never get to eat,” she laughed.
We walked over to the outdoor facility and sat down in two big chairs under a cabana, there was a table in between them with two menus on it. A young woman dressed in the all-white uniform came over to us and started filling the tubs beneath our feet with water.
“Is this temperature good?” she asked. I dipped my toes in and told her I was fine. She placed my feet in it for me then promptly stood up and walked away.
“So what do you think you want for lunch?” Mom asked me as she reached for one of the menus and handed the other one to me.
“I don’t know what’s good here, but you probably do,” I said just a little bit too sarcastically.
“Well,” she said disregarding my comment. “I like the chop salad with vinaigrette dressing but you’d probably like a chicken Caesar wrap more I’d bet.”
“Yeah, that’s sounds good. I think I’ll get one of those and probably an iced tea if they have it,”
“I’ll bet they do,” she replied. A waiter came over and took our orders followed by the pedicurist who brought just about a thousand nail polish color choices for us to pick from. Mom had decided before he even came on her usual French tips but I choose a bright purple which I knew drove her a little crazy but she kept her mouth shut today. Just as our pedicures were starting lunch arrived and I was so thankful because being focused on someone touching my feet was making me sick to my stomach.
By the time the pedicure was over my lunch was long gone and I had blown through three ice teas, I never knew someone had the capability to rub feet for that long but apparently they did and now my whole body from head to toe was smooth as a babies bottom. By this time I was ready to leave the spa and honestly I just wanted to go home but Mom had one more surprise for me that I just had to do.
We drove for a couple of miles before coming to the strip mall at the end of the road. She parked the car outside the Justice store, one that I had shopped at when I was in elementary school and middle school. I had never really liked it, all the clothes were bright neon and covered in peace signs but Cressida had loved it when we were younger. Ohh please do not let her take me shopping in there! I thought. But to my surprise we weren’t going in there, she took me into the building next door, a Nordstrom. I had only been in the department store once before, when I was younger with Cressida and my father to get mom a gift for her birthday, it was her favorite store. I mean it was no Prada or Versace or anything like that but it was the closest thing to it for her.
“Mom what are we doing here?” I asked genuinely.
“Well you honestly didn’t think I would let you go out in those clothes,” she replied in a snotty voice looking my outfit up and down. I looked down at the outfit I was wearing, yoga pants, UGG Boots and a zip up sweatshirt.
“What is that supposed to mean?” I asked already knowing the answer.
“Well Farah, honestly it wouldn’t kill you to put on a dress and some heels once in a while.”
“It might…” I muttered.
“Come on,” she said dragging my arm into the store. “At least try it, for me.” Reluctantly I followed her inside.
The store smelled remotely similar to the spa and there were so many paths you could take. The Men’s Department, Women’s Department, Babies, Kids, Teen, Shoes it was all too much to handle. She pulled me up the stairs and into the teen department which was nothing like I would have thought it would be like. All of the clothes were simple and sophisticated, nothing to frilly or to over the top. Maybe I can handle this, I thought. I women with her hair slung back into a tight bun and wearing a black blazer suit came up to us almost immediately.
“Can I help you find something?” she asked directing the question more at me then Mom.
“Yes,” Mom cut in. “We need an outfit for my daughter Farah to wear on her date tonight,” she said putting a little too much emphasis on the word, date.
“I’d be glad to help,” she said happily. We went around to all the sections and I grabbed what stood out to me the most first, that’s what the sales receptionist, whose name was Miranda told me to do. I picked out a couple of cute flowery dresses but I saw Mom grab some more provocative ones when I wasn’t looking.
She took me to the dressing rooms and I started trying them on. Nothing seemed to look right on me, the flowered patterns drained the color from my face and even the plain ones I had chosen were just not right for this.
“This is all wrong!” I cried. Mom heard my crying from outside and ran in the room and started banging on the door.
“Farah what’s wrong?” she asked.
“I look terrible!” I mumbled under all the crying.
“Here,” she said throwing an all black dress over the door. It landed smack on top of my head and when I saw it I wanted to scream.
“I can’t wear this!” I complained.
“Just try it on,” she urged. Reluctantly I slipped off my clothes and shimmied into the dress. I thought it would be absolutely terrible but to be honest it wasn’t half bad. “Let me see!” Mom said. I walked out of the dressing room my eyes were puffy from crying. “You look beautiful,” she gasped.
“Really?” I replied.
“Not a doubt in my mind.” I walked over to her and gave her a hug and then sprinted quickly back into the dressing room to take it off.
After we went to the shoe department and against Mom’s desires I settled on a pair of silvery sandals. And even though I knew she wasn’t 100 percent satisfied she was so happy for me and finally felt like we were bonding again.
That night I couldn’t help but look at the clock every two seconds. 7:32, where is he I thought. Ohh my god he’s probably bailing on me, I should have figured. I laid my bed practically ready to burst into tears like some idiotic girl in a bad romantic comedy. And just when I thought he was surely never going to show up and that I was definitely going to die of embarrassment I heard the knock on the door. It was relatively subtle and if I hadn’t tuned my ears in to listen for it I would have completely missed it but I definitely couldn’t miss my mother’s greeting for him as she answered the door.
“Ohh hello you must be Wes,” she practically screaming and acting as if she had never met the boy in her life even though we’ve lived across the street since forever and he dated Cressida. I practically sprinted to the staircase after that but when I reached the top step I paused for a moment and remembered something my dad had always told me. “Walk like a princess and stand up tall, show that boy that you are the boss of him and he’ll never break your heart. I promise.” He told me that when I was eight but I still tried to believe it would hold the same for this event. I straightened out my dress and fluffed my hair and just like a real life princess I placed my hand gently on the railing and cascaded down the steps. Everyone was already down stairs waiting for me and as I came closer so did Wes holding the biggest bouquet of flowers I had ever seen. For a moment time stopped completely and I felt like a sense of magic washed over me, spark were flying and I didn’t want it to end.
“You look amazing,” he gaped holding out the flowers for me to take.
“Thank you,” I replied grasping the flowers but then putting them on the table beside me.
“You kids have fun,” Mom said smiling bigger than I ever knew she could, almost on the verge of tears.
“But not too much fun, “Grandpa chimed in. He led me out the door where a rather large black SUV sat in my driveway.
“Cool car,” I stuttered.
“Yeah? Thanks, it was a gift for my seventeenth birthday.” I had always forgotten that he was a year older than me, but of course I should have realized because he had dated my older sister and he was obviously her age or she wouldn’t have done it. He ran slightly ahead of me and grabbed the passenger seat door waiting until I was completely inside before shutting it and then running over to the other side to get in as well.
He led the conversation for most of the ride, which I was ecstatic about because I wasn’t too good at leading small talk with others. He asked me pretty basic things about school and my family and friends. Then I would reply with pretty simple answers that consisted of things like, I like English the best in school, I live with my grandparents, mom and brother and my best friends name is Hadley and she can be rather annoying but I still love her. He laughed at the last answer and then told me he had a friend just like Hadley that got on his nerves all the time but he was still just so genuine so how could you not love them. I wanted to make a joke about the four of us all double dating but I decided against it because it was only our first date and I wasn’t about to scare him off by making a dumb comment.
“Hey this might sound completely ridiculous,” he said. “And don’t laugh but what if your friend Hadley and my friend George and you and I went out on like a double date sometime.” I looked at him speechless my mouth practically hanging on the floor. “Okay, Okay,” he laughed. “I’m sorry it was a bad idea.”
“Ohh my goodness, no I’m sorry,” I said trying to pull myself together. “It’s just that I was thinking the EXACT same thing just then.” He started cracking up.
“We must be connected then.” Neither of us could stop laughing after that and by the time we did we had arrived at the restaurant. From the outside I could tell already it was a very high end and sophisticated place. One where a husband and wife might go for their anniversary, not where two teenagers would go for a first date but I was immediately relieved that I had gone with the black dress over one of the floral print ones now the only thing I was regretting was getting the stupid sandals and not some fancy heels like Mom had wanted.
“Wes what is this?” I said with a huge smile on my face.
“This is Rossini’s” he replied.
“Rossini’s, you mean as in your last name?” I asked a little confused.
“That’s right, this is my father’s restaurant, and I hope that’s okay with you?”
“That is absolutely perfect,” I said grabbing his hand and looking right into his big blue eyes.
“Good,” he smiled back.
The hostess immediately greeted us as we walked in and sat us in a cute little private booth away from most all of the people.
“So you bring all of your dates here?” I asked in a slightly interrogation kind of way.
“Nope,” he smiled. “Just you.”
“Okay,” I grinned. I hadn’t stopped smiling the entire night and I was genuinely having one of the best times of my life. The food was absolutely impeccable and everything just seemed to be going so magical. There never seemed to be a dull moment in our conversation because it seemed like we had so much to talk about but still like we had known each other for years. I felt like he knew me better then I even knew myself sometimes and it felt amazing. When we were done eating I decided to slip away into the bathroom before we would leave.
There was a younger women in their wearing some sort of uniform, a bathroom attendant probably I thought. She greeted me with a sort of fake drained looking smile but I said hello to her when I walked in. I stood over the sink and looked at myself in the mirror taking a couple deep breaths before turning to the attendant and saying,
“Can I ask you something kind of personal?” She just stared at me for a moment and then nodded her head yes. “So this may sound pretty dorky, seeing as I’m sixteen and all but… I’ve never kissed a boy and I don’t even have the slightest clue how one would go about that.” Her drained face had suddenly perked up and she had a smaller more genuine smile now, but she almost looked as if she were going to start laughing. “I knew this was dumb,” I said turning to walk out.
“Wait!” she called. “It’s not dumb and you know what,” she said walking over to me.
“What?” I asked.
“When I was your age I was the exact same way, I was scared.”
“I’m not scared per say,” I said trying to deny it but in all honesty I was scared as hell.
“Okay, then you probably don’t need my help,” she said walking back to her station.
“Wait! Okay I guess I’m a little scared,” I reluctantly admitted. She turned back around to face me nodding her head. “So what do I do?” I asked.
“Nothing?!” I yelled. “What do you mean nothing? I need help here I ‘m sinking over here and what if he dumps me because I’m so bad at it.
“If he really likes you, then I promise he won’t. It’ll all come natural just trust in yourself and don’t do it if you’re not ready to. Now go on,” she said waving her arms. “Before he thinks you left him.” I rushed out of the bathroom contemplating everything this lady I had just met l me. Was I ready? Of course I was I thought, I was sixteen, I had to be.
When I got back the table he was still waiting for me.
“You ready to go?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I replied. He handed me my sweater and then got up from the booth. As we walked out he reached for my hand and grasped it in his gently enough so that if I wanted to pull away I could but I didn’t so he grabbed it slightly tighter. I felt an electric charge run through my veins and my heart started racing. Were only holding hands I told myself. No big deal you do this with your little brother all the time so just settle down. But it was nothing like holding my brothers hand, this felt like a huge deal and I was a part of it, a part of a big deal. When we reached the car I didn’t want to let his hand go but I did just long enough so that we could get in our separate sides and then we reunited again on the inside.
The drive felt longer this time around and it wasn’t until I looked at one of the road signs that I realized we had already passed our street. “Where are we going?” I asked a little concerned.
“There’s just one last thing I need to show you tonight, before we can really call this a perfect date.” I pretended to act afraid but in all honestly there was no one in the world who I would have felt safer with and as cliché as it might sound since we had only just been on one date I trusted this boy with my life.
We got off at the exit for Headlands Beach, a beach right on the lake that I hadn’t been to since I was maybe seven or eight.
“I know this place,” I told him.
“Yeah, it’s one of my favorite places to go to just, think sometimes.” He pulled into the parking lot and grabbed a big bag from the trunk.
“Wes, it’s closed,” I told him pointing at the sign that said the beach closed at 8:30 on Fridays.
“Then I guess were going to have to be a little rebellious tonight,” he laughed. “Race you!” he yelled taking off full sprint for the beach, taking one giant leap over the rope fence.
“Wait up!” I called after him.
The beach looked so different at night and when no people were polluting it, it felt so private. He was paused right in the middle of it all just staring at the waves. “This is nice,” I told him walking up behind him.
“Yeah…so are you ready for the big surprise?” he asked me.
“I guess so…” I said apprehensively.
He grabbed my hand and pulled me in the direction of the lighthouse which was a couple hundred feet away. When we reached the building he kicked off his shoes and grabbed ahold of the rusty latter leading up to the top.
“Are you coming?” he asked.
“Just tell me what we’re doing,” I demanded.
“You have to trust me and follow me to find out.”
I did trust him and disregarding my usual fear for heights I kicked off my shoes and began to climb the latter. We finally reached the top where there was a small landing for standing but it had gotten pretty dark now so I couldn’t see what was below us. “Ready?” he asked me.
“Ready for what?” I pleaded with him.
“We’re going to jump!”
“Ohh hell no!” I yelled. But he reached for my hand and looked at me with such big eyes.
“Trust me.” He started slipping off his clothes revealing all of his skin except for where is underwear sat. “Well you’re not going to jump in that pretty dress, right?” he asked.
“You sure this isn’t a ploy to get me half naked? I’ve seen all the movies,” I joked.
“I promise,” holding up his right hand like witness at court. I quickly slipped my dress off but then instantly regretted my choice of undergarments, they were all white and not in the least bit sexy, if that didn’t spell out inexperience for him I didn’t know what would. “Let’s go!” he said grabbing my hand.
“Wait!” I said quickly stepping back from the edge. “This isn’t dangerous, right?”
“It’s safe Farah I promise.” I took his hand tight in mine and stepped towards the edge. “On the count of three. 1- 2…” but before I hit three he pulled me from the building and we fell hand and hand towards the water below.
When I finally landed the water was so icy cold it burned my skin and I couldn’t see anything, Wes reached out and finally touched me leading me over to the place he had left our shoes and towels. “That was fantastic!” I told him as he wrapped me in a towel.
“I told you you’d like it,” he said placing one towel around him and then another big blanket around the two of us.
“I guess you were right,” I replied. We both were turn to look at each other and our faces were so incredibly close in that moment. For what felt like forever we just stared at one and other. And then without even fully realizing what was happening our lips were pressed against each other’s, we were kissing. We were kissing my very first kiss and it felt just like magic. All these years I had expected my first kiss to be just awkward and uncomfortable but this wasn’t. It felt like we were one person in a non- creepy sort of way. I didn’t just like Wes anymore, I loved him.
For the next couple of weeks I was completely Wes crazy. He walked me home every day after school and called me on the hour after that, we were absolutely wild about one and other and we got along fabulously. He took me on romantic dates and always sent me the sweetest text messages, we seemed like we had been dating for years when it had really been less than a month. And as much as he always reminded me about Cressida somehow he also helped me forget about the pain I felt from not having her to. He made me feel the happiness I had been missing for so long. And at first Mom was ecstatic about how happy I was but her joy soon turned to a slight worry.
“Maybe you and Wes should, I don’t know slow down a little bit,” she suggested one day.
“SLOW DOWN!” I yelled back at her. “Mom don’t you realize he loves me and I love him!” It was completely unlike me to behave this way but in that moment I felt like I was defending something, something that was mine.
“You hardly know each other,” she retaliated.
“So what? You and dad got married within three months of knowing each other at least I’m not running off to the chapel with Wes!”
“That’s different…” she muttered.
“Your dad and I were grownups! We made a decision that we thought was right.”
“Well maybe Wes and I are right!” I yelled and stomped up the stairs like some bratty teenager which really I was being.
I grabbed my phone and called Wes immediately following. I just pressed the number one speed dial and the phone started to ring. It didn’t buzz for more than two sounds before I heard his voice on the other line.
“Hey Farah, what’s going on?”
“I need to get out of this house!” I cried. “My mom is being a total b**** and I just need someone to listen.”
“Be right over!” he said hanging up the phone. I knew Mom would never let him in after that so I texted him to come up the fire latter. It was one that he had used to sneak in for Cressida and I knew he knew what I was talking about. I reached under my bed to grab the latter but my hand was stopped by something else, it was the book. My dream book that for some reason I had completely forgotten about over this last month. I slipped it in my drawer for later and then went to hang the latter from my window.
Wes was already waiting outside my window when I went to throw the ladder down. He had a huge smile on his face just like he did every time we were hanging out; it was one of the things I loved the most about him. I dropped one end of it down and the other end I latched to the window sill. He jumped on to the bottom and began to climb up. When he finally reached me he jumped into the room and greeted me with a kiss. I had finally gotten used to always kissing him when we saw each other and now it all just felt so natural.
“So honey bunches, what’s wrong?” I had never really liked the pet names he used but I figured I could put up with them if it was what he wanted.
“My mom thinks we need to slow down,” I said blatantly.
“What?!” he said pretty enraged.
“Wes, honey, please keep your voice down, my brothers asleep next door,” I muttered.
“Well excuse me but I’m pissed off right now, is she trying to keep us apart? You cannot let her do that!”
“What? Do you want to break?!” he was heated now.
“NO OF COURSE NOT!” I cried.
“Farah, I love you.” he said. It was what I had been waiting for with all the time we had been dating. I knew we had both been feeling it but I wanted him to say it so it would finally feel true to me.
“I love you too Wes,” I smiled. He embraced me in a hug and we stood there together just for a moment feeling each other’s warmth.
“I want us to be together forever.”
“Me to,” I replied. After I had finally calmed down from my fight with Mom I told him he should probably go home so we didn’t get caught and he agreed. I watched him slip down the latter in the pitch black of the night’s sky and then I closed the window and rolled the ladder back up.
“You know mom did not want that boy here,” I turned around to face the familiar sounds and saw Justin looking up at me.
“Then don’t tell her,” I told him very sternly. He looked at me and when I got closer to him I could see the tears streaming down his face.
“I miss you,” he cried.
“What do you mean Justin? I’m right where I’ve always been,” I said hugging him.
“No, you’re like Mom used to be. You left me, alone.”
“I don’t understand, I’m the same person and I’m right here.” I assured him.
“No. You leave me all the time, to be with that boy.”
“Wes?” He nodded his head yes and backed away from me.
“You’re not Farah anymore!” he screamed and ran away.
As mean as it sounds I tried my best to disregard his comments to me and walked back to my own room. When I turned on the light the room felt dimmer then usual and looking up at the light fixture I could see that half of the light bulbs were burned out so I turned on the table lamp on the bed stand. When I sat down on the bed I saw it again, my dream book, for some reason it felt like it kept creeping up on me. I grabbed the tatty book and opened it back to the page where the words had mysteriously disappeared. The page was still blank except for a small smudge in the middle of the page. No, at a closer look I realized it wasn’t a smudge it was words, words I knew I had not written. But they were much too small for me to make out without some assistance so I grabbed the old magnifying glass that Grandpa had given me for my 13th birthday. I held the glass over the words and read it out loud. Three simple words that made relatively no sense: Go to Sleep. Go to sleep? I thought. What in the heck does that mean? I looked at the clock, it read 12:34am, and maybe I could go to sleep if the book said so I guess I had to at least try something new, to at least try my best and make sense of this magic that was happening to me, as crazy as it sounded.
I slipped off my clothes from that day and put on my comfiest pajamas, ones that could put me to sleep in an instant. They were mostly just for the winter seeing as they were made of all fleece but I loved the cute penguin pattern and the soft feeling against my skin. After I was feeling extra comfy I pulled back the covers on the bed and slipped ever so delicately into the blankets. Immediately I felt my eyes begin to get sleepy and I drifted off into a deep rest. I wasn’t quite sure how long I had been out before I had the dream it went like this.
I was hanging out somewhere in the sky with Cressida and we were so happy and giggly, just joking around with each other like the good old times when I big boom shook up the ground we were floating over. We rushed outside and there were lots of other people like us, floating around and they were all confused just like us. When you looked down you could see a lot of dark faces and they were staring up at us with disturbingly evil faces. Each one of them seemed to be staring directly at me but the others who were like me and Cressida gathered around me for protection…
I guess I woke up after that because I didn’t remember anymore of any dream and when I finally awoke the clock read 7:30am so I had practically slept a full night. I grabbed the dream book from my floor and looked at the page where the words had been written but the smudge looked different this time so I grabbed my magnifying glass again and held it over the smudge. This time it read: Sweet dreams and I’ll see you soon. I jumped back a little with fear at that one. Could it really be Cressida? I thought. No, that’s ridiculous, you probably slept wrote that yourself. Ghosts are not real!
But I couldn’t shake off what it said. I had seen Cressida in my dream and now it said this so it felt like her communicating with me, somehow she was talking to me.
I lay back in my bed trying to fall back asleep. Forcing my eyes to roll back in my head hoping to send myself into a deep rest but I just couldn’t fall back asleep. In an act of distress my body became inflamed with an overwhelming heat sensation and I immediately threw the cover off my body. Usually that would have cooled me off but the thick fleece of my pajamas was still too overwhelming. I jumped out of my clothes throwing them to the floor and laid on still on the cold wood in nothing but my underwear.
“What the hell are you doing girl?” Grandma’s voice startled me. I just barely turned my head to see her looking at me with a confused expression on her face.
“Dying of heat stroke,” I complained. I heard her footsteps walk from the door and into the bathroom down the hall. She turned on the tap of the sink for a minute then returned.
“Drink this,” she said handing me a small plastic cup of water. I drank the whole thing in two gulps then threw it on the ground next to me. “Something shook you?” she asked. I nodded my head very slightly. “You want to talk about it?” I shook my head no. “Alright,” she said patting my back. “It’s all okay, nothing will hurt you.”
I pranced out to Wes’s car on Friday evening for one of our weekly dates, but tonight was especially big; it was our one month anniversary. When I hopped in the passenger seat he greeted me as usual and then handed me a cute little bouquet of flowers.
“Happy one month!” he smiled. I kissed him and then said,
“Aww babe, this is so sweet.” He then started the engine and pulled out of my driveway before replying.
“Well you deserve them.”
“So, where are we going tonight?” I giggled.
“I can’t tell you that would ruin the surprise.” We drove for what seemed like forever before pulling into the beach parking lot.
“Not the lighthouse thing again,” I pretend whined. “We’ll absolutely freeze to death.”
“No, not the lighthouse thing,” he smirked. “Well not exactly.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” I demanded.
“Trust me,” he urged. He helped me out of the car and wrapped his jacket around my shivering arms before we started walking down the beach. Neither of us said much of anything, we just held each other’s hands and enjoyed the company. He led me up a stairwell I had never seen before that made it so you did not have t climb on the boulders to get to the lighthouse.
“Did you do this?” I asked insinuating about the steps.
“Yeah,” he smiled and grabbed my hand leading me to the lighthouse.
“No jumping!” I warned him one more time for emphasis.
“I know,” he laughed. He led me to the door leading to the lighthouse and opened it with a key.
“Where did you get that?” I asked but he deliberately ignored me. There was a light switch inside and he flicked it on revealing a stairwell. He led me up the stairs until we reached two paths, one with more stairs and the other a door.
“Close your eyes,” he directed me.
“You know Wes, if this were a scary movie I’d probably the girl that gets killed right now, am I wrong?” I asked sarcastically.
“Just do it,” he urged. “For me.” I did what he said and covered my eyes with the palms of my hands. He grabbed my arm and led me into the room. It smelled like cupcake scented candles, my favorite.
“Can I open them?” I asked.
“Okay,” he said. “On the count of three, ready, one, and two…” I released my hands and gazed upon the room. Twinkling lights were floating upon the ceiling and candles decorated all the walls, it looked absolutely beautiful. It was classy and sophisticated and completely private. In the middle of the room sat an elegantly decorated two-person table with two trays of some fancy food, probably from his father restaurant. I turned around to thank him but all that came out was me planting a huge kiss on his lips. “You peaked before three,” he laughed kissing me again.
“I’m sorry,” I smiled. “But thank you.”
“Let’s eat.” He said leading me over to the table and pulling out my chair for me to sit. I took in the aroma of all the foods in front of me, there was all of my favorites. Mashed potatoes, steak and peas and there was also a basket of bread of on the table, my absolute weakness. I reached for the fork closest to me, not paying attention to which one was the “right” one and dove right into the potatoes first. They tasted fabulous and I could tell there was extra butter on them just for me.
I was the first one done, which didn’t surprise me but he laughed when I scraped the last of the potatoes from my plate. “Would you like some of mine?” he joked offering me the last of his potatoes. I contemplated the offer for a moment but then realized he was joking and probably would like it much if I stole his favorite part of the meal as well.
“When we finished he said, “Do you want to see something else?” I nodded my head yes and led me around the rest of the lighthouse. There were quaint little rooms all over the lighthouse and we finished on the top deck, where we had first jumped together.
“How do you know so much about this place?” I asked him staring deeply into his glassy blue eyes.
“This is my lighthouse.” I laughed for a minute thinking he was joking but I soon realized he was dead serious. “Haven’t you ever looked at the sign?” he asked. I thought about it for a minute,
“Sew’s Lighthouse,” I remembered suddenly.
“Sew is Wes spelled backwards. It was a gift from my grandpa after he died, and Wes was a family name so this place has been in my family for a while now”
“Wow…”I smiled. “That’s so cool.”
“I’ve wanted to fix it up for a long time now and maybe even live in it someday.”
“Alone?” I asked getting closer to him.
“Or not alone,” he smiled gazing down on me. He wrapped his arms around me and embraced me for a couple silent seconds.
“Can we sleep here tonight?” I asked nervously.
“Farah…” his voice trailed.
“Ohh I see,” I replied.
“No baby it’s not what you think, I just want the first night here to be perfect and homey and right now this place isn’t either of those things. You understand?”
“Yeah I get it,” I said wrapping myself in his arms again.
We walked along the sand back to his car. I took off my shoes and felt each grain mushing between my toes like a handful of beads in your hands. I grabbed his hand hard and pulled him down into the sand.
“Hey!” he yelled. “What the heck was that for?”
“I just want to love this moment right here, right now,” I told him. “With you.”
“Okay,” he replied and lay back with his head in the sand gazing up at the stars. I did the same not paying any attention to all the sand getting twisted up in my hair. He reached down and grabbed my hand.
“What if I told you something that was impossible to believe?” I asked not knowing very much what I was doing.
“I’d tell you I’d try,” he said. “I’d tell you that if you believe it then so do I.”
“No matter how crazy it is?” I asked.
”No matter how crazy it is, I promise I will love you for you.”
“You won’t believe me.” He pulled my head up from the sand.
“Farah, just tell me.” He pleaded.
“Okay,” I took a deep breath. “I saw her, Cressida in a dream and then she left me a note, in real life.”
“Okay…” he said motioning me to keep talking.
“She can’t really do that though can she?” I asked. I watched him study the words coming out of my lips.
“Do you think she can?”
“I kept trying to tell myself that it was just me sleep writing but I really think it was her. She wants to see me and she won’t give up, so neither should I. Sound crazy right?”
“No,” he shook his head. “I believe you.”
“Because you have to or because you want to?” I asked.
“Because I love you.” It wasn’t a direct answer but I knew if I pleaded more I would just sound crazier so I stopped.
“Thank you,” I replied. We stood up and started walking back to his car now.
“Thank you for trusting me,” he said as we walked.
“You’re the only one I would trust,” I smiled up at him. He helped me into the car and then climbed in the other side and started the ignition.
When he reached my driveway he got out to walk me to my door as usual but I stopped him in his tracks. “Tonight was perfect and nothing could make it any better. Let’s just stop her tonight,” I said motioning for him to get back in the car.
“Are you sure? I don’t have to come in I could just walk you to the door,” he pushed. I shook my head no and motioned for him to get back in the car. He kissed me goodnight and I told him I would see him later before he got back in the vehicle and shut the door. Even though it was right across the street he waited until I was all the way inside the house to pull out and I watched him from the window as he drove ever so carful 400 feet to his own driveway.
Since my date with Wes my nights had been especially sleepless and Cressida, or whoever it was writing in my journal hadn’t ceased their work. The mysterious writer had left me a multitude of notes consisting of things like: I love seeing you, all the time and also one that was especially scary that read: The battle is just beginning, sleep tight. They always followed one of my dreams which also always went about the same. Cressida and I doing something together, usually flying and then evil terrible people would try to hurt us but you could never see their face or who they were and almost always they wanted me not her. At first I would almost always wake up in a shaking panic in the middle of the night but slowly my body became tolerant of the bad night mares and I would sleep right through them to a point where the dream would end with a dramatic death or something that would have to shake me to wake up. Then after I would instinctively reach for the book and nine out of ten times there was a new microscopic message to be read that related to the dream I had just lived through. But tonight’s dream was different than the others, more vivid and more normal, most of it.
Cressida and I were just sitting at home on the couch with Mom, Dad and Justin, but it was weird because we were all our current ages even Dad looked as if he had aged more then I remembered him. Well at this point we were watching Dad and Cressida’s favorite show, MASH and dad was just rolling at some of the jokes they were cracking and every time he snorted Mom would look up and roll her eyes because she always hated the way he did that when he laughed as hard as he could. Suddenly there was a knock on the door and out of character Dad jumped up first to answer it. When he opened the door large flying figures bombarded the house and everyone scattered but I didn’t move because my feet were locked in place. They grabbed Dad first and when they touched him his body went completely lifeless, by this time I was screaming and crying but I still couldn’t move. Next they did the same to Mom and Justin and their bodies reacted the same but not Cressida. When they touched her she wailed out with an unbearable scream and I could tell she was in a tremendous amount of pain and it killed me, I mean absolutely broke my heart but still I had no ability to move my feet. Finally after putting up a giant fight she lost and her whole body went limp. They carried their bodies out of the house and left me there screaming and once they finally left my feet moved again. I ran outside but there was nothing in sight. I was alone, I was abandoned and my family had just been stolen from me. I laid down on the cement and when I felt like I was sinking into it.
That was when I woke up feeling like I had sunk into my bed and in a sweaty panic I realized I had been crying as well. I reached for the book immediately and looked at the page but there was nothing there, not even the old smudge. I flipped through all the pages but the only things there were my oldest entries.
“Dammit!” I screamed throwing the book to the floor.
“What on Earth is going on in here?” Grandma’s voice echoed throughout my room. I took a quick glance at the clock, 4:13am.
“Ohh Gran, sorry about that, I just…” I stuttered. She walked over to me slightly dazed and helped me up into the bed.
“What’s going on baby girl?” she asked a little dazed.
“Just a bad dream I guess,” I mumbled.
“Farah, sweetie you’re different lately, talk to me.”
“Grandma, really I’m fine,” I persuaded.
“No, no you’re not fine. I know you haven’t been sleeping and I haven’t seen Hadley around in a while, is it something with that boy?” I shook my head no and started crying. “Tell me? What is going on because this is not the normal Farah I know,” she said looking around.
“I just miss Cressida sometimes,” I said beneath all my tears. “Sometimes I think she’s here and then she’s not, and she’s not coming back is she?” By this point Grandma was on the verge of tears as well and she pulled me into a huge hug crying,
“Baby, I know, I know it’s hard and I know how much you want her back but she isn’t coming back and I wish I didn’t have to say that but I do,” she was full out crying now with me and I didn’t even realize how awkward it was to see my grandmother like this.
“But did you ever miss someone so much, so much that that you thought you might die without them,” I asked pulling out of our hug and wiping my eyes. She nodded her head yes.
“I bet you didn’t know this but I had a Wes when I was about your age to.”
“No you did not?” I asked trying not to laugh. But she nodded her head yes.
“His name was Houston Campbell, we were high school sweethearts and I loved everything about him, except one little thing,” she continued.
“What? What was so bad about him?”
“Houston used to get drunk with this gang of kids a lot, the bad kids of the town.”
“Was that your deal breaker?” I asked curiously.
“I don’t know. Maybe it would have been or maybe not but I’ll never know because you see one night he took it too far.”
“He hurt someone?” I asked naïvely.
“Himself,” she said looking down. “He was messing around on the roof of some one’s roof when he was really drunk one night and fell off. He broke his head practically right in half.”
“I’m sorry Grandma, that’s really terrible,” I said trying to empathize.
“It was. I used to cry every night and I used to have dreams of what our future together would have been like…” her voice trailed.
“How did you get over it?” I asked.
“I met your grandpa,” she said smiling.
“But I don’t have another sister,” I said. “I can’t just replace Cressida. She’s not just some boyfriend.”
“I know that, but you need to focus yourself on something else. You see I will probably never forget about Houston, because I loved him, and as hard as that is for you to understand but I love your grandpa to, more then I loved Houston and now I don’t cry every day, Houston wouldn’t want that for me and Cressida wouldn’t want you crying all the time over her either.”
“But I don’t know how, she was my whole life and I mean now I have Wes but sometimes I just need a girl you know?”
“You have a girl. You have three girls,” she replied. “Me, your mother and if you start bringing Hadley around more I’ll bet you will still have her to.”
“I need Hadley; she was always there for me when nobody else was.”
“Call her, hang out with her and maybe even take a little break from Wes…” her voice trailed towards the end.
“You were conspiring with Mom?” I asked. “About the whole Wes thing?”
“No,” she said. “I just can tell it’s changing you to be around him and I think girl time never killed anyone.”
“Okay,” I listened kindly. “Tomorrow I promise I will call Hadley.”
“Good,” she smiled and stood up to leave the room. I glanced at the clock when she left and it read 4:48am. We had been talking for over a half hour and I was now completely awake. I grabbed the journal I had kicked under the dresser and opened it to the pages Dad had written his own entries in. I dragged my pointer finger over the words, and could feel them protruding slightly off of the page. I suddenly realized that I had never really read what they said but only felt the words on the page. I opened up to one of the more legible pages and started reading it, it was dated to a time when Dad would have been about 19 or 20 but I soon realized this was not about his dreams but his realities, it was a diary. I started reading the short entry to myself:
Today I met this girl, in the park when I was walking Butch; she bumped right into me when she was running, completely oblivious to everything around her. I knew instantly I was in love with this woman. I practically ripped the earphones from her ears and demanded she tell me her name which she did. It was a beautiful name, the most beautiful name I had ever heard. She spoke each syllable so delicately and I was in love with every second she breathed in my presence, it was love at first sight for me and I’d be willing to bet it was the same for her. We have a date this Saturday and I’m sure I’ll be marrying this girl sometime soon. Her name is Marcela.
“Marcela?” I said reading the name out loud over and over again. That wasn’t even remotely close to my mom’s name?!? I thought. How could he have lied like this to me, to Mom? I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I couldn’t tell my mom, it would crush her. I tossed the book away and wiped it from my memory just as I did with everything else. I crawled back under the covers and buried my face in the sheets.
Snow rained town over the entire city for the first time all year today so I did what Cressida and I used to do together every year on the first snow, just this time alone. I packed a basket of soup, bread and a thermos of hot tea, and then I put on all of my winter gear, were talking boots, gloves, and a puffy bubble jacket and I walked out the door not saying anything to anyone, I just disappeared.
I walked down the street and out of our neighborhood then making sure no one was looking I snuck into the woods behind an old abandoned church. There was a small clearing in the woods and for some reason the sun was always shining there, it could be raining and still the sun would shine on each rain drop in that area of grassy land. And the way the snow glistened when it fell was absolutely magical to see and to be a part of. I grabbed the old plaid blanket from my basket and laid it down on the frozen ground. Then I sat down on top of it and started to take out my food. I poured myself a cup of the tea and just sat there watching the snow fall down all around me drinking my steaming drink.
As I sat there in my own serenity suddenly something jolted at me from behind and my tea was spilled all over my clothes and body. I whipped my head around to see what it was but there was no one or nothing there. Then I heard something coming from the woods, it sounded like a crackling noise and then an ear piercing scream. At first I couldn’t recognize what sort of thing could make such a terrible noise but then I realized what it was, that was the exact scream of Cressida. I immediately jumped up from my blanket and took a 360 look around the area but I still could see nothing. The screaming got louder and I covered my ears because it hurt so bad to listen to. I finally realized it was coming from the left side of the trees now and ignorantly I ran into that part of the woods in an attempt to see what was wrong. At first it looked completely normal except that the screaming was immensely heighted and it was almost unbearable to listen to. Just when I was about to have to leave from the noise a voice started to whisper. I thought it was just a gust of wind but then I heard her voice ringing in my ears, Cressida’s.
“Help me sissy,” it told me.
“Help you do what?” I pleaded. Suddenly a strong force knocked me to the ground. I felt my face smack down onto something sharp and I shooting pain ran throughout my head. The screaming stopped after that but my vision started to blur and everything started to go blurry. I tried to stand up but I felt to faint and needed to sit back down. My whole world was spinning and then out of nowhere I heard the music, the music from Cressida’s funeral, her favorite song Watching You by Rodney Atkins. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from but the same few stanzas kept replaying over and over in my head, her favorite ones.
“Farah! Ohh my goodness what the hell happened to you?” I heard Wes’s voice around me now. He ran up to me and wrapped his warm arms around me then turned to look at my face. “Farah that cut is really bad we need to get you to a hospital!” He scooped me up in his muscular arms and carried me out of the woods. That was when I fell unconscious and I don’t know what happened after that.
I woke up lying in a hospital bed, my head throbbing. Wes was sitting on one side of me and Mom was on the other holding Justin on her lap.
“What happened?” I mumbled to no one in particular.
“We were hoping you could tell us that?” Mom replied.
“I was in the woods, having the winter picnic that Cressida and I used to have and then I think I tripped, or something.” I decided not to tell her about the screaming, it would just complicate everything.
“Well, it was a wonder Wes went out looking for you,” she smiled over at him.
“Mom can Wes and I have a minute alone maybe?” I asked. She nodded her head yes and then took Justin and stepped out of the room.
“Wes, how did you know I was out there? Were you following me?” I asked.
“Well I kept calling your phone and I got worried when you didn’t pick up, we were supposed to hang out today remember?”
“Ohh yeah… I forgot,” I mumbled a little embarrassed.
“Well then I looked outside and remembered something important, something that Cressida had told me a long time ago. She told me about the first snow tradition, and I guess I just assumed. Well when I showed up to the clearing and I saw all your stuff, but no you I got worried. Then I heard something fall in the woods and you probably don’t remember much of the rest do you?” I shook my head no.
“Did you bring me here?” I asked. He nodded,
“I practically carried you here, you broke your wrist too you know?” I looked down and realized I had a big purple cast on my left arm. “And you have thirteen stitches in your forehead,” he told me.
“Well I can feel those,” I said sarcastically.
“Do you need more painkillers?” he asked sweetly. “I can go get the nurse to give them to you.”
“No,” I smiled placing my good arm on his leg I realized though that even though it wasn’t broken it still had a multitude of cuts all over it. “Can you get me a mirror?” I asked him.
“I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” he disagreed.
“Wes,” I pleaded. He nodded his head and cut up to hand me a small hand mirror. I held it up to my face first.
“Ohh,” I gasped at the sight of my own self. There were hideous cuts all over, my left eye was practically swollen shut and my forehead had those thirteen ghastly stitches that he had talked about.
“You’re still stunning,” he reassured me but I refused to listen.
“I’m hideous,” I replied. He shook his head no,
“You could never be hideous. And anyways the doctors said the eye should heal in a week and the scar on your forehead won’t be too big, probably not even noticeable,” he tried again. I couldn’t listen to his compliments anymore because I knew everything he said was a lie.
“Leave,” I said bluntly.
“What? Farah I don’t understand, what did I say?”
“It’s what you didn’t say, the truth. You know I look horrible and you can’t admit it, I don’t want you to have to look at my ugly face anymore,” I cried.
“But it’s not…” he continued.
“Just shut up and leave!” I yelled. Mom ran in at that comment and promptly escorted Wes out the door without much of a struggle.
“What’s wrong?” she asked after he was gone. “Did he say something that upset you?” I nodded my head yes. “What was it sweetheart? You can tell me.”
“He said I was stunning, that I was still beautiful even in my ghastly condition,” I cried. She looked a little flabbergasted at this so I continued. “I just want him to tell me the truth; I’m ugly so just say it. And don’t YOU dare tell me I’m not because I am!” I cried harder now. She climbed into bed with me and gently brushed the hair from my face, avoiding the tender spots.
“Okay,” she said. “You’re not stunning like this. You’re not even beautiful. You are a hot mess, but it will get better baby girl, I promise.” It wasn’t exactly what most teenage girls would have wanted at the time but it was what I needed. I needed her to tell me that I was right and he was wrong. But that it was going to get better for me and that I was going to recover from this.
“Thank you Mommy,” I said nuzzling myself closer to her.
“You’re welcome baby girl,” she held me tight in her arms. I closed my eyes and drifted off into a deep sleep resting in my mother’s arms like a baby finding safety in their strength and comfort in their warmth.
I spent four days in the hospital before they finally let me go home. They wheeled me out of the hospital in a wheelchair holding all of the gifts people had brought me during my stay. This consisted of a teddy bear from Justin, a balloon from Hadley and flowers from Wes that he had not brought but had delivered to the room. In fact I hadn’t seen or heard from Wes since our big blow up on the first day of my stay and I hadn’t even realized that this was the longest either of us had gone without seeing or talking to each other.
“I’m so super duper excited you’re finally going home!” Justin exclaimed as we loaded up the car.
“Me too,” I smiled at him. The swelling in my eye had definitely gone down and many of my smaller bruises were gone but I could tell whenever I looked at Justin in just the right way he still got freaked out, like he didn’t really think it was me. He gave me a quick grin and turned away fast to climb into the car. Mom helped me out of the wheelchair and I limped into the front seat. Turns out I had also fractured my ankle so I also had to wear a big metal boot on it, but I was just happy it could bear weight or with my broken wrist I’d be in a wheelchair longer.
As we drove home I realized that Mom was actually going the speed limit for once which was quite shocking for me.
“Can it be true,” I said jokingly. “My mother is actually going the speed limit?”
“Ohh be quiet! I just can’t take another accident in this family,” she laughed. When we pulled into the driveway Grandma and Gramps came outside almost in a full sprint to greet us. Both had severe hospital phobias so they weren’t able to come see me over the past couple of days and I know Grandma felt especially bad about it.
“Ohh my gosh,” I thought I could see her mouths say when she finally saw me, but I was still inside the car so I couldn’t technically hear anything. Gramps greeted me by my door and practically lifted me down from the seat and didn’t place me on the ground until he was sure I was balanced.
“Glad to have you home kiddo,” he smiled leading me inside as if I had never been there before.
Grandma had made a huge meal and pie for us but I was still really tired so I asked if I could just go upstairs and rest for a while and of course nobody stopped me. I limped up the stairs dragging my leg behind me. When I reached my door I went to turn the handle but it opened before I had the chance. Two eyes peered out at me and I instantly realized whose they were.
“Wes!” I practically yelled. He placed his hand over my mouth and then helped me inside the room and shut the door behind us.
“Do you want to tell me what the hell you’re doing in my bedroom?” I demanded this time slightly quieter.
“You should get off that leg,” he said placing his hands on me and trying to move me to the bed but I pushed him off and moved myself. “I know you weren’t happy the last time we talked, but do I really deserve this?” he asked. I thought about it for a minute. He probably didn’t deserve this kind of treatment but I was defiant and stuck to my attitude.
“I didn’t even hear from you, you just left me sitting in the hospital for almost a week without me even hearing a simple, what’s up from you! I was worried Wes, I thought you cared about me!” I said angrily.
“You were worried about me? You were the one who told me to get out remember that?” he snapped back.
“For a couple hours not for five days, and you can’t just show up here in my bedroom,” I replied. “You gave me no warning or anything!”
“I’m sorry,” he said nicer now. “I just missed you, I wanted to see you and see how you were doing.” He came and sat down on the bed next to me.
“I missed you to,” I told him.
“You look a lot better.”
“So the truth comes out now,” I joked.
“Well are you going to completely freak out if I tell you I still think you look beautiful?” he asked already implying the compliment.
“No,” I smiled. “And thank you.”
“So you never really told me how you ended up in the woods anyway…” he said. “I mean I know you were in the clearing but what dragged you to go in the woods? Don’t you know that’s dangerous,” he sort of chuckled.
“Remember how I told you about Cressida, and how I saw her.” He nodded his head yes.
“Did you see her for real of something?” I shook my head no.
“I heard her. This probably sounds crazier than the dream thing but I heard her screaming in the woods, a painful scram.”
“How did you know it was her?” he asked looking at me more seriously now.
“I don’t really know. I mean the only one time I’d heard her scream like that was when she was 12 and broke her legs falling down a hill but still somehow I just knew, it was like a sisterly instinct I guess, pretty crazy huh?” I don’t think he knew what to say then because he just kept looking at me like he was about to start laughing or crying or a little bit of both. “I don’t need you to make fun of me you know?” I told him. “I don’t care if you believe me, I know what I heard.”
“I believe you,” he finally replied.
“How?” I asked. “This is absolutely ridiculous how can you seriously believe me? I mean I’m not lying but still, nobody else would believe me I told them this so why do you?”
“I guess I just want to so badly, I just need to trust you the same way I would want you to trust me”
“Then do you want to hear the craziest part?” I asked him and he nodded his head yes.
“Do you know Cressida’s favorite song?”
“Watching You by Rodney Atkins,” he replied. “She always made me play it in the car.”
“Yeah well when I was passing out or whatever I could hear it, but not being sung by Rodney, Cressida was singing it.”
“Wow,” was all he could get out.
“Wow?” I asked a little confused.
“I mean it’s just crazy to me, that you are so in tune to the supernatural, you’re like magical or something,” I smiled at the idea, it has definitely always appealed to me to be thought of as magical.
“You don’t really think she could be in trouble do you?” I asked contemplating the idea.
“No, I mean isn’t death supposed to be nice and happy and peaceful?” he asked.
“Well yeah but what if it’s not?” I asked. “What if the spirits are in trouble and they need my help?”
“I guess you just have to have hope and faith that it’s all just one big misunderstanding that they aren’t really trying to contact you. You know Cressida hasn’t been gone that long so maybe, and I’m not saying this for a fact but maybe this is your way of dealing with things.”
“Does it make me crazy?” I asked a little concerned.
“No,” he laughed a little. “Not even in the slightest way.” Just then there was a loud banging knock on my door.
“Farah, what’s going on in there, who are you talking to?” Mom’s voice demanded.
“Oh s***,” I muttered. “Remember you didn’t come in through the front door, she has no clue you’re here.”
“Ohh…” he stumbled. She jiggled with the door knob for a minute before the door flung open and she stood there staring at Wes, flames fuming inside her.
“Hi Mom,” I said very chipper. “Uhh Wes just showed up to check on me and make sure I was doing alright,” I told a sort of fib.
“Really?” she said not believing a word of the bullshit coming out of my mouth.
“Sorry, I was just leaving,” Wes replied.
“I think that would be a good idea,” she snapped. He grabbed his jacket and hustled out of the room and this time used the front door to exit the house.
“How did he even get in here?” Mom asked looking around.
“I honestly don’t know,” I replied. “I mean when I came up to take a nap he was just sitting here and I didn’t know what to do, but I swear we were just talking,” I reassured her. “I mean I hadn’t seen him since the day I told him to get lost when I was in the hospital.”
“So are you two still together?” she asked. “I mean that didn’t break you up right?”
“What do you care?” I snapped.
“I don’t know Farah, sometimes I can’t stand that boy but sometimes I know that he is just the same as your father was. I know you can’t help but fall in love with him, Cressida sure did.” It always stabbed me in the heart a little bit when she referred to Wes like he was Cressida’s first and acted like I was just sloppy seconds. “Ohh I didn’t mean that,” she said when she saw my face. “It’s just that when I see you and Wes together I see so much of Cressida and your father in you, I know they would be proud.”
“You really think Wes is like Dad?” I asked.
“I really do.”
“And you really think I’m like Cressida?”
“You and Cressida were sister’s Farah. With or without Wes you will always be two of the same.” I couldn’t help but smile at this, I had wanted to be like Cressida since I could walk and talk and now I was. I was a little part of Cressida and that just made me as happy as I could be.
I couldn’t have been more elated to return to school on Monday. It seemed like over the past couple of months all I had done was spend time in hospitals and funeral homes and quite frankly I just needed to be around people my own age and put a little knowledge in my head. I needed to smell the dry erase markers and listen to my teacher’s and see their familiar faces, but most of all I just needed to enjoy my junior year and have a little fun.
It wasn’t hard to see that everyone had their eyes on me when I walked in the door. Maybe it was because I was sort of like a new kid to them since I was never there or maybe it was just the two bulky casts dominating the majority of my body. I could see Wes walking toward me all bright eyed but suddenly someone jumped in our way and started blabbering off to me, it was Hadley of course.
“Ohh my gosh, Farah! I’m so happy you’re here!” she said jumping up and down in my face. I tried to peer over her to see where Wes was but she kept blocking my way.
“Hadley,” I snapped placing my arm on her trying to settle her down. She stopped jumping and just looked at me and I took a quick peak over top her head just to see Wes now walking in the opposite direction. “Sorry about that,” I mumbled.
“No problemo,” she replied still giddy. “Ohh Farah, I forgot to tell you, Jennifer wanted to see you in her office today…to talk.” Mrs. Li (aka Jennifer) had to be the meanest principal that any high school had ever had, rumor had it that she once had a mentally challenged kid expelled for going into the girl’s bathroom on accident one day and another kid got suspended for witnessing it and not stopping it. Needless to say she was definitely a tough cookie, on that I didn’t want to mess with.
“Ohh, s***,” was all I could say, walking away from her and towards the office. I walked down the hallway that now seemed much shorter then I remembered it and entered the office of the schools secretary which led right into Jennifer’s office.
“Farah Becker?” the secretary asked me kindly.
“That’s me,” I tried my best to hold my smile. She pressed a button on her telephone then told me to just go right into the office. I walked over passed the secretary’s desk and reached for the doorknob, holding it slightly longer than any normal person but finally took a deep breath and entered the office. I stood close to the door and finally she turned around from her computer to face me. She gave me a big toothy smile, one that would probably scare babies, but still I took it as a nice gesture and a good sign. She motioned for me to take a seat across from her desk and when I finally did she just stared at me for a moment looking me up and down.
“We’ve missed you here at Mountain Range,” she said nicely. “Haven’t seen you very much you know? It just seems like one less than stellar thing after another and I don’t do this for everyone but I just wanted to check in with you and make sure everything is okay. Is everything okay? At home? At school?” she asked.
“Not much to complain about,” I replied.
“Well that’s good to hear, and how about your little brother, how is he doing?”
“Very good, thanks.”
“Farah, let me just cut to the chase,” she said bluntly. “I want you to go back to your normal life here at Mountain Range and I just need to make sure that’s going to happen for you, I need to make sure that you will be the same student you were before all this bad stuff hit you like a ton of bricks,” she said motioning her arms up and down my body.
“Mrs. Li I really appreciate your concern,” I said just a little bit too sarcastically. “But the thing is, I won’t be the same and nobody can change that because nobody can take away the sixteen years I spent with Cressida. And I promise you I’m trying my best but I will never be the same and whether the new me is better or not all I need from everyone is acceptance. Does that make sense?” I asked now realizing how sentimental I was getting. She nodded her head yes,
“Farah that is all I needed to hear. And I just want you to know that the entire staff, especially I am here for you, we are supporting you so if you ever need to talk about school or something personal you can come to us and I promise we will be there okay?” she said making direct eye contact with me.
“Okay, thank you” I nodded looking down slightly and hobbled out the door. When I exited the office Wes was already there waiting for me.
“What was that about?” he asked motioning back towards the office. I wasn’t quite sure what kind of terms we had ended on the other day and we hadn’t spoken since so I decided to play it off like it had never happened at all.
“Ohh I don’t really know, Mrs. Li just took it upon herself to confront me about my personal and family life issues,” I said.
“Umm… that’s sweet of her I guess,” he chuckled. We approached my locker and I dialed in the combination and plumped my whole body on the ground to get my books. “I can do that!” he exclaimed to late because I was already sprawled out on the ground doing it myself.
“I’m not incapable,” I joked.
“I know, I just want to help you,” he smiled. When I had finished getting my stack of books for the next couple class periods he almost instinctively reached down to grab them for me.
“Stop,” I said putting my hand up. “I can do this.” He then proceeded to help me up which again I refused to accept. I shimmied my way up the lockers and prayed to God nobody would turn the corner and see me in this state of independence. After I was just barely standing I bent over and attempted to pick up my books which probably weighed at least ten or fifteen pounds. After a couple minutes of watching me struggle he finally couldn’t take it any longer and picked them up for me.
“Hey!” I complained but secretly I was mad he hadn’t done it sooner.
“I couldn’t watch you’re pitiful show anymore,” he laughed. He hobbled along with me down the hallway towards my first period class which we were already twenty minutes late for.
“It’s so weird,” I said.
“Being back, here I mean it almost feels normal again.”
“Is that a bad thing?” he asked. But just as I was about to reply some ones lost pencil that was conveniently in the blind side of my vision but in my walking space tripped me and sent me flying to the ground and landing against a wall. “Farah!” I heard Wes scream but my head hurt so badly and I couldn’t open my eyes. “Ohh my goodness Farah your head is bleeding really badly, we need to get you to a doctor,” I heard him say. I mumbled a little bit and felt him touch my arm gently. He then proceeded to sprint up and run across the hall into the nearest classroom. I could hear him practically yelling at the teacher begging them to come outside and help me. Finally a teacher of some sort came outside and saw me lying on the ground. What seemed like almost immediately the nurse arrived and then an ambulance.
“How long as she been bleeding like this?” I heard an EMT exclaim.
“No more than twenty minutes,” Wes replied. Had it really been twenty minutes, I thought. It definitely did not feel that long but what does twenty minutes feel like? I can’t seem to remember. They lifted me gently onto the stretcher and carried me outside. The cold air stung on my face like a hundred bee stings.
“Wes,” I whispered ever so softly.
“I’m right here Farah,” he said grabbing my arm. “I promise, I’m not leaving your side this time.” I could hear the ambulances siren louder now; the noise was literally vibrating throughout my head. It seemed like we hadn’t been moving but after only a couple minutes the EMT’s lifted me from the ambulance and rolled me into the sterile hospital hallways.
“What do we got here?” the one doctor asked.
“Minor head injuries, stitches ripped from a previous accident, not too bad,” the EMT replied.
“You know how long ago the previous accident was?” he asked probably assuming from my two other casts.
“Eight days,” I mumbled. “Broken wrist, fractured ankle, thirteen stitches in head,” it was all I could get out at the moment.
“Good what’s your name sweetie?” the doctor asked.
“Farah Becker,” I slurred.
“Can you open your eyes for me?” the doctor asked but I shook my head no splattering blood all over and it wasn’t until now that I even realized how much I had been bleeding. “Okay Farah that’s alright we’ll call your parents and get you all stitched up okay?” I nodded my head yes not leaving blood all over my clothes now. “Is it okay if we give you some medicine for the pain?” he asked.
“Yes,” I mumbled in reply. Almost immediately someone had grabbed my arm and was poking it with a needle full of some sort of sedative medicine. It rushed through my veins and blood stream and I slowly drifted my eye balls to the back of my head. I wasn’t sure if the drugs were supposed to knock me out but after that I don’t remember anything so I guess that’s what they did, which I was fine with.
My eyes fluttered open and I could see the familiar bright lights of the hospital shining down on me.
“Farah?” I heard my Mom’s voice around me. When my eyes finally opened all the way I could see her body standing over me.
“Mom?” I asked already knowing she was there.
“Ohh, Farah,” she gushed. “What the hell are we going to do with you?” she started laughing. I sat up further in the bed and immediately tried to reach up and touch my head but her hand stopped me. “No sweetie you have to stop. The stitches are still new I don’t want you to hurt yourself again,” she told me. I lowered my hand and placed it back at my side.
“Can we go home?” I asked.
“Soon,” she promised. “We just have to wait and make sure you don’t have a concussion from that fall.”
“Are you mad at me?” I asked.
“No, but Grandma is going absolutely crazy, she said that you guys live together but never see each other because your always in the gosh darn hospital!” she joked. Just then the doctor walked in the room, he had a very attractive face and what looked like a nice body to but I couldn’t really tell under his white lab coat. He was holding his clip board in one hand and a stethoscope was wrapped perfectly around his neck and if I would have seen him in any other situation I’d tell you he was a fake, some Hollywood actor trying to make it big on one of these popular doctor shows.
“How’s the patient?” he asked nobody in particular chuckling slightly.
“Doing well,” I replied. “Just want to go home; I’ve spent too much time here already.”
“Yeah, I can see that,” he said examining his clip board. “Well besides the bones you already had broken and the now eighteen stitches plastered across your forehead I would say everything looks normal, and no concussion,” he told me looking happier then I probably did.
“So I can go?” I asked eagerly.
“Yes, you are free to go,” he told me.
“Thank you doctor,” Mom and I said simultaneously.
“Ohh and Farah,” he stopped before walking out the door.
“Don’t come back here for a long time!” he started laughing almost in a hysteric and then walked out the door. Mom almost immediately stood up and started packing a few items in a bag and then handed me a fresh outfit to change into. I quickly ran across the room and closed the bathroom door behind me holding the clothes in one hand and the back of my gown closed with the other. I kept my head down and the lights off at first, trying my best to avoid any eye contact with the mirror. I tore the gown off and threw it in the garbage can next to the sink then proceeded to pick up the clothes that I had placed on top of the sink. Finally I couldn’t take it any longer, I had to turn on the lights, I had to look at myself, look at the damage I had done. The light bulb flickered a little when I flipped the switch and I still kept my head down but I finally had had enough and I looked up. At first I didn’t recognize the person that stared back at me in the mirror. The stitches protruding from my forehead looked twice as bad as I remembered them and there was some new bruising around my nose. My eyes looked tired and drained although I didn’t feel that way and I looked awfully sickly.
“Ohh my God,” I mumbled to myself unable to stop staring at the reflection in the mirror.
“Farah is everything okay?” she asked giving a slight knock on the door and jiggling the locked door handle.
“Yeah, Mom.” I called back trying to refrain myself from crying. Quickly I tried to shimmy my way into the outfit without hitting any of my major wounds which wasn’t too difficult because Mom had thought ahead and just brought me a sweat suit sort of thing that zipped up the front.
“Farah?” she asked again knocking on the door louder this time. “Sweetheart what’s taking so long are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” I said a little more chipper this time hobbling from the bathroom door with a smile on my face. Suddenly a nurse came in rolling a wheel chair in front of her and carrying some sort of clipboard.
“Farah Becker?” she asked examining her clip board.
“Yeah?” I asked a little confused.
“This is yours,” she said signaling towards the chair. “We just need a parent or guardian to sign the waver and you’re free to take it.” Mom walked over and took the clipboard from the nurse and scribbled her name down on it and then handed it back to her. The nurse examined the signature for a moment and then proceeded to exit the room leaving the wheelchair just sitting there.
“Why the hell is she bringing me this?” I asked completely ignoring my use of what Mom would call vulgar language.
“Farah,” she said nice and slow. “Your doctor and I both agreed that to avoid any more of these little accidents it would be for your own good to just stay in a wheelchair until your ankle heals.”
“No,” I replied bluntly.
“Well sweetheart I’m sorry you feel this way but it’s not really an option. But hey it will only be for two weeks, three tops okay?”
“No, not okay,” I snarled.
“Farah, let’s be reasonable here,” she pleaded. “You and I both know this isn’t ideal but it’s for your own good and trust me it won’t be as bad as it sounds okay?”
“You really believe that?” I asked still angry.
“Sure,” she said in a slightly sarcastic tone. “I mean, look at this cool thing, it’s motorized so you don’t have to push it because of your bad arm,” she said showing me the little joy stick looking thing on the arm of the chair. I had to admit it probably wouldn’t be too terrible to not have to hobble around for two weeks in that stupid boot and having a motorized chair was pretty cool to.
“Okay,” I agreed and sat down in the chair. She had a satisfied look on her face and the motioned for me to lead the way out the door. It took me a little time to get used to the controls but by the time we were leaving the hospital front doors I had mastered it and could go forwards, backwards and side to side with no trouble at all.
“See this isn’t so bad she,” Mom said.
“I guess not,” I agreed. Grandpa was waiting outside for us with the car and he helped me out of my chair and into the car.
“Pretty snazzy ride you got here Farah,” he said talking about my chair.
“Thanks!” I laughed climbing into the back seat and shutting the door behind me.
When we got home Grandma seemed twice as happy to see me then when I came home the first time and I didn’t even think that was possible.
“FARAH!” she yelled with joy running out the front door. I jumped down from the car probably a little too hard and gave her a huge hug.
“Farah,” I heard Mom’s voice call from behind me. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” She motioned to the back of the car where my wheelchair was sitting. I let out a small groan and hobbled back towards the car.
“Farah, I installed a wheelchair ramp around back for you and also a lift for up the stairs,” Grandpa told me enthusiastically.
“Thanks Gramps,” I replied. “But really I’m only in this dumb thing for like two maybe three weeks, you didn’t have to do that.”
“But I want you to feel comfortable, we all do,” he replied with a huge smile on his face. I plopped down in the chair and wheeled myself to the back and up the ramp into the house.
Everything had been moved enough to create clear aisles for me and it led to a direct path to the staircase. I had an urge to just stand up since no one was watching and hobble myself up the stairs but I knew I would have to get used to sitting for at least a few weeks so I tried the stair lift for the first time. I wheeled myself onto the platform and flipped the switch that started its movement upwards. It jolted forward up the incline when suddenly Justin emerged from behind the wall at the top of the stairs.
“Ohh my gosh!” he started laughing at my humiliation of being in a wheelchair.
“You’re just lucky I can’t beat you up from here!” I called to him. He sprinted away from the steps as I slowly but surely approached him. I rolled myself off the platform and down the hallway into my bedroom. I was feeling pretty tired so when I was finally alone in the room I jumped from the chair and hobbled into my bed not bothering to change my clothes before crawling under the warm comforter folded back on the bed. It didn’t take me long to drift off into a deep sleep and fall back into my normal routine of nightmares, again a vivid one:
I was stuck in that damn wheelchair sitting helplessly on the ground when all hell broke out above me. At first it just looked like dark rain clouds but quickly the started swirling around in a crazy commotion, faster than any tornado or tropical storm I had ever seen. I pressed the joy stick on the chair to speed forward but it was broken or at least not moving. The cloud like figures started swirling closer and closer to me and then I heard the screaming again, the same screaming I thought was Cressida’s. The clouds kept swirling closer and closer to me then finally I was able to jump from the chair and fell to the ground in an absolute panic, my whole body shook with fear. The clouds swept me up and knocked me down into the ground, below the deepest roots of the oldest trees. When I had finally fallen for a couple of seconds at what felt like hyper speed I was dropped down into a deep disgustingly grey stone jail like room.
“Cressida!” I called trying to get anything even the screaming to come back. Suddenly a deafening laugh could be heard from around the corner. It snorted loudly and rounded the corner but there was no face. He just evaporated through the wall and then was in my cell. He pushed me down onto the ground and told me I was weak and that I was a loser. I thought he had come in there to kill me but he just kept taunting me. Telling me that I would amount to nothing, telling me he had always hated looking at my face. “Who are you!” I demanded. He didn’t respond but started laughing his horrible laugh right at me. “What do you want from me?!” I tried again.
“Freedom,” it grumbled just loud enough so that I could hear it. He came even closer to me now but before he could touch me it was all over. I was awake now, laying on the ground panting with fear, but I was safe and it was just a dream.
My heart was beating and I just stayed shaking on the ground in fetal position. I had apparently fallen pretty hard because I could hear the footsteps of all of my family members pounding up the stairs. Mom opened the door first and rushed to my side and touched my sweaty head and Grandma and Grandpa followed close behind.
“Farah, are you okay? What the hell happened to you? How’s your head?” I didn’t really process anything see was saying to me but just nodded my head yes instead. With all the adrenaline in her body she lifted me up from the ground and placed me back on the bed. “Farah can you talk to me?” she said looking into my glassed over eyes.
“I’m fine Mom,” I mumbled still a little dazed. She let out a sigh of relief. “It was just a bad dream and I fell out of bed, but really don’t worry about me,” I told her.
“Well I can’t help it,” she laughed motioning for Grandma and Grandpa to leave the room. “It’s my job to protect you.” I didn’t want to discuss the topic any further so I brought up something new, something she probably wouldn’t be happy about but at least it was something new.
“Mom?” I asked.
“Yeah, sweets?” she replied.
“Can you do me a favor?”
“I want to call Wes, I want tom see him today, now,” I told her. She looked confused at first and almost pretended like she didn’t know what I was talking about but then she finally agreed.
“I’ll grab you’re cell phone,” she said walking out of the room. When she had left I slipped off my bed again and hobbled over towards my dresser. I looked in the mirror at my face again; it looked the same as before, terrible. A hair brush was sitting just below me and picked it up and started to aggressively run it through my hair in an attempt to look better.
“Aghh!” I screamed at my hideous reflection in the mirror. Mom instantly was in the doorway looking for me to be on the ground or something else again but to her shock I was standing up straight looking in the mirror except this time I was just about on the verge of throwing a fit.
“Farah, you know you should be sitting,” was all she could say motioning towards my chair.
“I’m ugly,” I said changing the subject. “Even when I was perfectly healthy I was still ugly Mom, my hair is a wreck and my face is not symmetrical. I am ugly!” She picked up a pair of scissors off my desk then walked over to me.
“So change you,” she said picking up a piece of my hair and chopping an inch or so off.
“What are you doing?!” I screamed.
“You want to change your hair don’t you? I can give you a haircut. You want to fix your face? Put on some makeup,” she said grabbing one of my lip glosses and handing it to me.
“You’ll do my hair?” I asked nicely.
“Yes,” she smiled. She forced me back into the chair and I wheeled myself into the bathroom.
We shampooed my hair first and then she combed it out nice and smooth with one of those fancy styling combs. Then she started to measure out pieces next to each other for layering length.
“Where did you learn to do this?” I asked.
“Ohh I used to work at a salon when I was in college and I guess I just picked it up,” she told me taking a snip at the first piece of hair. She worked for almost a half hour holding up pieces and then symmetrically cutting each side the same length until the whole process was complete. Then she took her good blow dryer and ran it all over my head until the hair was smooth and dry. I spun my chair around and looked in the mirror. My raggedy old split ends had been completely transformed into a layered masterpiece and I was on my way to looking and feeling better.
Next she pushed me into her bedrooms bathroom and started going through all her makeup drawers. She grabbed a couple things that she called “The Necessities” and handed them to me. “You put the mascara on first then the lightest eye shadow on your entire lid and the darker one on the bottom of the lid got it?” she asked. I nodded my head yes and she moved on to show me how to never get lipstick on your teeth, which sounds crazy but is actually an ingenious idea that I cannot even explain because it is too confusing. When I looked in the mirror for the final time I was blown away. The girl that I had seen just hours ago was completely transformed and actually looked almost beautiful.
“Thank you Mom,” I cried. “Thank you so much!”
“You’re so welcome,” she replied reaching down to hug me. I wheeled myself back into my room and grabbed my cell phone from the bed and started to dial Wes’s number into it. It didn’t ring much before he picked up and almost in a panic before I could say anything started,
“Farah? Farah is that you? How are you can I see you?”
“Wes, slow down,” I told him.
“I was just worried,” he replied in a sort of attitude.
“I know, I understand that you were. I want to see you, are you busy?” I asked changing the subject.
“No, I’m at home right now just hanging out. Can I come over or will your Mom freak out again?” he asked sarcastically. I tried to ignore the fact that the last time he didn’t enter the house through the front door and that was to root of her anger so I just told him,
“No, she won’t be mad, just make sure you knock on the door first,” I laughed a little at my own joke but his silence told me he didn’t think it was funny. “Wes is everything okay?” but before I received any answer the line went dead. I wheeled myself over to the window where I could see the front door of his house. He was already walking outside, sluggish but slowly he made his way to the front door. I watched as he rang the bell and I heard it ding though out the house. Mom rushed to answer it and let him in the front door and almost immediately sent him up the stairs to my room. He knocked on the door once gently before pushing it open. I whipped my head around first like I didn’t know he was there and then the rest or the chair followed.
“Hi Farah, new ride you got there?” he asked directed to comment towards my chair.
“Yeah,” I laughed. “Punishment for being a klutzy idiot I guess.” He plopped himself down on the bed but quickly stood up with and embarrassed look on his face. “You can sit,” I told him motioning towards the bed but he shook his head no.
“I can’t stay,” he said with a crackly voice.
“Wes is everything alright?” I asked.
“Farah, I don’t know how to say this gently so I’m just going to come right out and do it okay?”
“Wes what the hell is going on?” I pleaded again this time more seriously.
“Farah, I just don’t think we should be together right now.”
“Right now or at all?” I asked feeling more angry then upset.
“Well I guess we’ll see how things go in our lives, but mostly just right now I just think it would be better if we were friends,” he said refusing to look into my eyes.
“Is it because I’m like this?” I asked confused.
“No Farah, I don’t care how you look you know I think your beautiful all the time,” he replied.
“What’s her name then?” I asked immediately jumping to the conclusion of him cheating.
“You know it’s not like that Farah,” he said now looking towards me now.
“Why would it not be? Seems to be the trend with you. First you cheat on Cressida now me I understand you don’t have to explain, just get out!” I yelled.
“Farah you need to understand that you and Cressida will NEVER be the same, I liked Cressida… a lot but I LOVED you Farah,” he told me which just made me more upset.
“Loved…” I whispered quietly to myself contemplating the word. He started to walk towards me but I put my hand up to stop him. “Leave,” I said but he didn’t move. “LEAVE!” I yelled. So he turned around and walked out the door leaving me in my room completely alone and feeling abandoned.
I didn’t let anyone know what had happened to me and Wes. After he left though I just went downstairs to get some food because I wasn’t sure if the hole in my stomach was coming from the crappy way I was feeling or the fact that I hadn’t eaten in almost twelve hours. I opened the fridge and just looked at the bottom self because that was all I could see or reach. There was half a gallon full of gross whole milk, an old yogurt, a jar full of pickles and a container of left over pasta from a couple nights ago. None of it really seemed appetizing but I wasn’t in the mood to ask for help from anyone so I decided on the pasta. I scraped the rigatoni from the container and put it on a plate then place it in the microwave. It felt so weird to be at eye level with the counters and to have trouble reaching for the food in the microwave but I managed on my own which made me feel good. I placed the hot plate on my lap and then wheeled over to cabinet drawers to grab a fork. The place where I usually sat at the dinner table had the chair missing and now just an open space. I pulled myself up into the open space and set my meal in front of me. I took a stab into the pasta and just as I was about to place it in my mouth a voice halted my tracks.
“Don’t eat that!” Grandma’s voice yelled startling me. I turned my head to look at her concerned face staring directly at my food and I lowered my fork slowly.
“Why not?” I asked curiously and also slightly concerned.
“Well it’s just probably spoiled by now and I don’t want you to get sick, that’s the last thing we need,” she laughed.
“Ohh…” I mumbled taking the pasta off the table and wheeling it over to the sink to dump.
“Farah, you know you can talk to me if something’s going on with you and you know I won’t tell your mother, if you don’t want me to,” she said more seriously now.
“Grandma I’m fine,” I lied.
“I saw Wes leave here pretty quickly though…”
“Yeah, he was just busy.” Another lie.
“Okay but just please, focus on yourself right now, God knows you need it the most,” she said chuckling again.
“Thanks Gran,” I said wheeling past her and out of the room to go back upstairs.
Immediately I saw it when I entered the bedroom, you couldn’t miss seeing it even if you were blind; the book was sitting right there in open space opened up to a middle page. I couldn’t stay in that stupid chair any longer when I saw the book just out in the open. I practically sprang out of the seat and just scooted along on the ground until I reached the book. There were new words on the page, but this time not microscopic, they could easily be read with just looking at the page. I studied each letter as I read it aloud to myself, “I love you, meet me in the meadow at four, and we can see each other.” I couldn’t help but read it over and over to myself making sure I had seen it correctly. Did Wes write this? I thought. To try and get me back? And how the hell would I ever even get to the meadow in my condition? I didn’t really care about any of this though I just knew that I had to get to the meadow, it was one of those gut feeling you get. I glanced at the clock and saw it read 3:30pm. Without really thinking about what I was doing I wheeled myself down stairs and out the back door grabbing my coat from the hook on the way out. Luckily nobody caught me leaving the house and although it wasn’t like me to sneak out it kind of felt fun and exciting because knew it would piss Mom off. I wheeled myself down the driveway and it wasn’t until now that I noticed I could probably hobble quicker than the chair went, but still it was fun to go along for the ride and I would still make it by four to the meadow no matter which mode of transportation I took. I was about half way down the street, about to turn into the path leading to the woods when Wes’s piercing voice stopped me.
“Farah! What the hell are you doing?” he yelled towards me. I spun around and yelled back at him,
“Why do you care?!” and I spun back on my path and kept going. He jumped in his car and drove up next to me now.
“Where are you going? I’ll drive you there because you’re doing now is obviously not safe,” he said motioning up and down at my chair with his eyes.
“Just shut up and go home Wes!” I yelled. “I’m not your problem anymore remember?”
“We’re still friends, Farah,” he said in a nicer tone now.
“I don’t want to be your friend and besides you can’t know where I’m going, nobody can…” I mumbled.
“So what if you get hurt again? Who’ll protect you?”
“I don’t need protection.”
“Just tell me where you’re going so that I can find you if you don’t come back by nightfall. I promise I’ll leave you alone if you do and I won’t tell your parents,” he posed a pretty good deal. I contemplated the offer for a moment and then told him the truth,
“The meadow,” it was all I said.
“Are you crazy?” he asked in a rhetorical way but I answered anyways.
“No I’m not crazy! Just leave me alone okay? You promised, remember?” I reminded him. He looked down into my eyes and I could tell he didn’t want to leave but he knew he had to if he didn’t want me to absolutely hate him. So he rolled up the car windows and sped away leaving me to return to my adventure. I looked down at the clock on my phone and saw it read 3:44pm I would have to hurry now.
When I reached the woods I had to leave my chair at the edge of the trees and hobble the rest of the way to the clearing. It seemed to take much longer this time but mostly because it took twice as much energy to walk the trail lugging around my big boot cast. I reached the meadow breathing heavy but when I looked down at my phone again I saw that I had made it by just two minutes.
I stared around the grassy area but there was nothing there, nothing but shining grass and just one single flower in the middle of the patch of land. I hobbled over to it and studied the petals; it was a sunflower, a big tall sunflower. This was the sign I needed to tell me that the note had definitely come from Cressida.
One time when Cressida was a younger girl and danced in ballet classes the whole family got together to go to her end of the year recital. I was upset because I wanted to be a dancer to but I wasn’t old enough and I thought they all looked beautiful, Cressida looked beautiful and I wanted to as well. Of course Dad couldn’t tell her enough how beautiful she was and she used her “Ballet Manners” as she called them and gave a very cordial thanks you to everyone for coming. All of the dancer’s dads gave their daughters bouquets of roses after the show, except our dad. He handed Cressida the biggest bouquet of sunflowers I had ever seen. At first she looked completely mortified and embarrassed, all she had wanted were roses and she didn’t receive them. Dad saw her face and walked over to whisper something in her ear, something that only the two of them will ever know what was said. After that she looked at everyone and declared that sunflowers were the best flowers in the world and they were her favorite.
This was how I knew it was her, because she never stopped loving sunflowers and she always told me that every time one of us saw a sunflower in the meadow God was standing over us, singing our favorite songs. I kept staring at the petals on the flower; each one was so different and unique. I was so consumed in my thoughts of this little flower I almost didn’t hear a faint noise in the distance. It was about the same decibel as someone whispering in your ear, it was asking me a question, and Cressida’s voice was asking me a question.
“Are you alone?” she asked.
“I’m alone,” I mumbled just assuming it could hear me.
“Can I come out?” the voice asked again.
“Where are you?” I asked it. Suddenly I could hear footsteps ruffling in the trees and out of nowhere she appeared.
“Do you see me?” she asked. All I could do was nod my head up and down for a moment.
“Cressida!” I screamed and fell to the ground in a crying fit.
“Hi sissy,” she said now standing by me. I sat up and started scooting away from her quickly. I didn’t know why I was scared but I just didn’t expect to see her like this, to see her in an almost human like form, she looked so alive but so dead at the same time. Her skin was sparkling and there was a sort of aura surrounding her.
“Is it really you?” I asked in disbelief.
“Yes, it’s really me,” she replied. I couldn’t stop crying and I didn’t know why but I just didn’t believe it. I had been praying for this moment to come since the day she died but I had always logically convinced myself it was impossible and now it was possible, I was really talking to my sister, my dead sister. “Can you see me?” she asked seeming just as confused as I was.
“I don’t know,” I replied.
“Did you know that I was sent here? That I’m supposed to bring you with me, but if you won’t come I’m not allowed to stay,” she told me but I didn’t really understand what she was saying.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Don’t you know? Didn’t the dreams tell you? We need your help to save the Upper World. Ohh man I really thought those dreams were pretty clear that I was in danger” It was all starting to make sense now with the dreams and all the fighting, she had been trying to contact me, I knew it.
“The Upper World? Cressida what the hell are you talking about?” I asked slightly more panicked now.
“Sit down,” she said practically knocking me to the ground now. “When you die, like I died and like Dad died you don’t go to heaven…” I cut her off,
“Dad?” I asked curiously. “You’ve seen Dad? How is he? Does he remember me?”
“Yes, yes of course he’s fine and misses you a lot but still Farah, focus I have to tell you how you have to help me!” she yelled.
“Okay, tell me,” I told her.
“We’re under attack right now, the world you think of as Heaven but I call the Upper World is being attacked by the place you call Hell but I call the Under World, following” she asked and I nodded my head yes so she continued. “They’re trying to take over and turn the entire Soul System as it’s known into a dark place just like the Under World and we have to stop them and especially there leader if we ever want to leave peaceful after life’s.”
“But I don’t understand how can I help you?” I asked more confused than ever.
“Earth and the world I live in now are two completely separate places, you practically travel through a time and space barrier to get and leave here, and does that make sense? That the Upper World isn’t just up like everyone thinks, it’s a whole other universe.” I wasn’t quite sure I understood everything but I was trying, I was trying to comprehend how this all worked in a logical way when the truth was, it didn’t. Nothing about this was logical but then again nothing about why anyone dies was logical to me either. “We have a leader in the Upper World, you call her God but we call her Aversa because that is her real name,” she told me.
“Her?” I asked just getting more confused.
“Yep,” Cressida laughed. “The God you think is a guy is really the sweetest woman I have ever met.”
“You know God, I mean Aversa?”
“Yeah, and she knows you better than you think,” she told me still laughing a little.
“So what does she want with me? I mean I’m just a little teenage human I can’t really fit into this whole equation can I?”
“Well that’s what I thought at first, I mean no offense sis but you’re not really the warring type if you know what I mean,” I nodded my head in agreement. “But for some reason you have a gift…” I cut her off,
“What kind of gift?”
“You can see me can’t you?” I nodded my head yes. “And hear me?” I nodded again. “That’s the gift, you can see us and we can see you and communicate with you.” I still didn’t understand,
“But how will that help you beat these bad people?”
“Well you see sis that freaks most sprits out, like enough to make them run home and cry to their mommies and I mean I’m not going to lie to you Farah it kind of freaks me out to just look at you like this,” she said staring me up and down with a semi- disgusted look on her face.
“Well thanks,” I smirked. “How do you think I feel seeing you like this?” she laughed a little, the same way she used to laugh but this time with more seriousness in her voice.
“There’s a catch though you know, to me bringing you with me,” she started to get very serious now.
“What kind of catch?” I asked.
“Well you know we can’t just bring people into our world, they usually have to have died first you know?” I nodded my head to show I understood.
“So I have to die in order to save you and your world?” I asked immediately considering the idea.
“Well that’s the thing, if you are going to be the secret weapon, you have to be alive and be a human with a soul in a human body, you see I don’t look like this in my world,” she said. She kept saying my to describe things and it freaked me out to hear her talk about the place she was like she had belonged there all along, like she had never had a life on Earth, never had a life with me.
“Can you do that?” I asked. “Can you take me to the Upper World how I am?”
“That’s the thing, Farah do you know how coma’s work or say anesthesia?” I knew the basics of both but I wasn’t exactly sure how each one worked. “You see what happens in both is that they keep you right on the brink of death so much that you become a dead person in a body literally for those periods when in a coma or under anesthesia and enter into one of The Worlds. Most people aren’t out long enough to remember what they were a part of but some people do, that’s where all those stories come from…”
“About people seeing the light and stuff?” I asked cutting her off.
“Exactly, so they want you to do that, be put in a coma and be out just long enough to help us.”
“How long?” I asked.
“A week, maybe a month tops,” she said trying to make it sound better than it really was.
“What about Mom and Justin, what will they think? That I’m about to die?”
“We could hide you, you could go missing,” she suggested. I knew there wasn’t much of a choice; I knew I had to do it I just didn’t know how it would all work.
“Okay,” I agreed.
“Farah, there’s one more thing I have to tell you before you agree to this,” she said.
“What is it?” I asked.
“You know there is a chance…”
“A chance of what?” I said getting worried now.
“A chance you won’t come back. That the anesthesia will be to strong and…”
As I wheeled myself home from the woods I didn’t want to think about anything I had just discussed with Cressida. I didn’t want to think about leaving my family on Earth and traveling through time and space and I dint want to think about dying, all I wanted to think about was spending time with everyone I loved, in a completely normal fashion. I rolled myself in the back door of the house and saw the clock on the stove read 7:42pm; I didn’t even think I had been gone that long. Everyone was waiting for me around the table, Mom and Grandma were holding cups of coffee and their hands were shaking the exact same way. Even Justin was sitting in Grandpa’s lap looking like he was going to cry.
“Where the hell were you?” Mom flipped when she finally saw me wheel myself into the kitchen. Justin jumped from Grandpas lap and ran towards the steps but I knew he couldn’t resist but to hang around within ear shot to listen to Mom blow up at me. “We thought you were hurt or worse yet dead!” she cried.
“What do you have to say for yourself?” Grandma backed her up.
“Nothing,” I said shaking my head pretending to be disappointed in myself as well.
“Nothing?” they both replied in unison.
“Yeah, I know leaving without saying anything in my condition was wrong and I promise it won’t happen again okay?” I said in my sweetest most apologetic voice. Mom ran over and wrapped her arms around me in a hug.
“I’m just glad you’re safe,” she smiled.
“Me too,” replied Grandma who also came over and gave me a huge hug. “But I don’t understand why would you leave like that?”
“I guess I just needed to clear my head, go for a roll,” I joked.
“Did something happen?” Mom asked.
“Well…” I said letting my voice trail.
“Remember you can tell any of us anything,” Grandma reminded me. “No judgment what so ever.” They all nodded their heads in agreement.
“Wes broke up with me, when he came over,” I told them. Mom and Grandma both made awing noises and ran over for round two of hugs.
“That little bastard,” I heard Grandpa mutter to nobody in particular. “Well I ought to kick that little punk’s ass,” he mumbled again.
“Are you okay sweetheart?” Mom asked me ignoring Grandpa’s aggressive comments.
“Yeah, I am now,” I replied. “I thought I would be devastated and all but you know I guess it’s not really that big of a deal, I mean we only dated for like two months.”
“Well I think that is a very mature thing of you to say,” Grandma replied. I gave them all a little fake smile and immediately tried to change the subject.
“So did you guys save me any dinner?” I asked realizing how hungry I really was now.
“Yeah, I baked a macaroni casserole, your favorite!” Grandma smiled. She scampered over to the fridge and grabbed a huge casserole tin from the shelf and set it on the counter. “How much do you want?” she asked grabbing me a plate from the cupboard. My stomach started growling a lot now so I replied,
“A ton! I feel like I could eat a horse!” They all laughed at my comment and that was what I had been going for so I felt accomplished. She handed me the plate after it had been warmed and I took in the aroma of all the melted cheeses realizing this could be the last time I ever smelled this casserole again. I started to scarf down the food but stopped when I realized everyone was just staring at me. “Can I help you?” I asked setting down my fork full of food.
“We are just so happy to have you here, safe with us,” Mom said staring right at me now.
“Yeah, I don’t know what in the world I would do without you,” Grandpa smiled. I immediately felt a rush of guilt fall over me, guilt that I would be leaving them, guilt that I was being selfish by doing this even when I knew I was being selfless by doing this it still felt like someone was losing. And what If Cressida was wrong, what if I couldn’t help them and then everybody would lose. So all I could do was return the gesture,
“I love you guys too, more then you will ever know,” they all gathered around me for one final group hug before relinquishing me to go upstairs.
When Justin saw me coming he sprinted up the steps where he had ben eavesdropping and into his bedroom. I let the ramp take me slowly but surely up the stairs and when I finally reached the top I went directly into his room. He was sitting on floor pretending to play with some Jumbo Lego Blocks and when I came in he hardly looked up.
“Hey bud,” I said just loud enough that I knew he would hear.
“Hi,” he mumbled back still not looking up from his toy.
“Are you mad at me? I asked attempting to talk on his level. He nodded his head yes. “What did I do?” I asked. He finally looked up from his toy and I could see there were tears streaming down his face.
“I thought you were going to leave me to,” he cried.
“Justin, come here?” I said pointing to my lap. He walked over to me and then carefully climbed onto my legs remembering to put the most pressure on the good leg which shocked me because I didn’t think he would know to do that. “Justin, I’m never going to leave you,” I lied. It broke my heart to look right into this little boy’s eyes and lie but I knew there was no other way.
“You promise?” he asked me. “Do you promise that you will never leave me?” I tried to quickly think of any other way to answer his question without completely lying but there was no way around it, it was lie or tell the truth and that obviously that couldn’t happen, so I had to lie.
“I promise I will never leave you. But here’s the thing Justin, you might not always see me but I will still be here. And you might not always hear my voice but I am still talking to you. So even when we aren’t together you just have to know that we are and that’s how I will keep my promise that I will never leave you,” I said now almost on the verge of tears myself.
“But how will I talk to you and see you when I need you?” he asked almost in a panicky voice.
“In here,” I said pointing to his head. “And in there,” I said motioning towards the bed. “Whenever you need me and I am not available I will always be available in your dreams, that is the place we can always see each other whenever and forever.” He leaned over and gave me a big hug and whispered something to me that he hadn’t said in a long time to me,
“I love you.”
“I love you to buddy,” I said hugging him back. Just then I realized what he needed to get through anything that might happen to me. I wheeled the two of us across the hall and into my bedroom. My dream book was sitting right there on the dresser where I had left it and I knew it was time for him to have it. “Here,” I said handing him the tattered book. “Any dreams you have with me, write them down so you never forget.” He smiled and opened the book to my own words running his tiny fingers over the lettering just as I had done with Dads.
The night had passed to quickly and when I woke up the next morning I immediately tensed up, it was all sinking into me now, reality was finally setting in. I had made sure to tell everyone an extra “I love you” and I even sent Hadley a card in the mail that she would get in a few days telling her how much I loved her and appreciated her sticking by me through everything. I felt prepared yet still very nervous. I dressed myself in comfortable clothes and even though I knew I wouldn’t feel anything I still felt like I might just want to be dressed like that.
I woke up before everybody else because I knew I had to be gone before they saw me leave or I would never hear the end of it. I left my chair upstairs this time and just hobbled my way downstairs. When I got to the kitchen I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and scribbled a note directed to whoever it might concern that read: Gone for another walk to clear my head, don’t flip out this time! As I wrote it I wondered how long it would take them to start looking for me and if they would even know what time I had written it at. I left it in plain sight right on the front of the kitchen table and then hobbled out the door.
We had decided to meet in the meadow again and then Cressida would set me up to be transported and also hide my body for the period of time when I wouldn’t be in it, technically. When I arrived I thought she wasn’t there yet but she quickly emerged from behind the same tree’s she had come out of yesterday and greeted me with a smile.
“You ready sis?” she asked seeming more anxious than I was.
“Ready as I’ll ever be I guess,” I responded with little confidence. She led me into the patch of trees where she had come out of and showed me the hiding place which was actually very elaborate and nothing like I had expected it to look. Mostly due to the fact that I was expecting something human and Earthly and this was definitely neither of those. The tent couldn’t be seen without looking obscenely close to it, it was perfectly camouflaged by a set of fake trees that blended perfectly with the real on and parts of it were even painted to resemble braches and wildlife. Inside the structure was an elaborate medical setup and a little bed for me. “This is crazy,” I said in awe.
“Well we want to make sure you get the best possible care so that we have the best chance of you coming out of this,” she replied nonchalantly. “Let’s get this going okay? Aversa wants us there as soon as possible so you can be briefed on everything.”
“Okay,” I replied plopping myself down onto the bed.
“Okay Farah you’re going to see a portal kind of light, I will be right there with you the whole time but just don’t resist it okay, just follow me through the portal okay?”
“Alright,” I agreed. She started hooking my body up to a bunch of machines and wires then directed me to place a sort of gas mask over my face which I did. Within seconds my eyes were closing and I felt myself being transported to what felt like a whole other world. I was in a whole other world, a Trans kind of dream and although I had never smoked weed before I was pretty sure I felt high right now and to be honest I now knew why people wanted to get high, because this felt freaking amazing! I felt like nothing could touch me and it was just me against the rest of the world, with my sister by my side and we were unstoppable. But then I saw the light that Cressida had been talking about and I snapped back to some sort of logical mindset. It kept coming closer and closer to the two of us and I wanted so badly to run away from it because I felt like it would take this great feeling I was having away from me. But I remembered what she said; I resisted all of my urges to run from the light and ran directly at it. It swallowed the two of us up into this sort of vortex and then almost instantly spit us back out into a new place that I had never seen before.
I was standing in a grassy area of land, it looked sort of like the meadow only prettier and the entire place was covered in wild flowers. I was sitting down in the tall grasses and almost immediately I stood u and looked around for something, anything.
“Cressida!” I yelled not seeing her anywhere.
“Behind you,” she said. I turned around and there in front of me stood my sister, only she didn’t look like my sister. She looked relatively similar to how she had on Earth except this time she was floating and her body looked angelic, like an aura sparkling magic gases was surrounding her.
“Cressida is that you?” I asked in amazement.
“Of course, what were you expecting?” she asked. “I mean seriously, did you not grasp the concept when I said we would look different then you? That we need you to look different for a reason.”
“I guess,” I replied a little embarrassed.
“Well sis as much as I would love to stay her and discuss this with you, Aversa’s been waiting for quite some time to meet you so we better go,” I nodded my head in agreement.
“Should we go?” I asked walking away.
“Where are you going?” she asked laughing.
“I don’t know, I was just going to start walking, I mean I don’t figure there are taxi’s here, are there?” I said jokingly.
“We don’t drive or walk here…”
“Ohh excuse me, shall we float?”
“No, you just have to think.”
“Think?” I asked confused.
“Exactly, so let’s say we are going to the Homeland Center, which we are so then all you have to think is “I want to go to the Homeland Center” and poof you will be transported.”
“Just like that?” I asked still a little confused by the whole thing.
“Yep, just like that!” she smiled pretty pleased with her explanation. “Try it,” she urged. She started to close her eyes but quickly I stopped her in her tracks.
“Wait Cressida!” I yelled.
“What?” she asked annoyed.
“I’m scared. Is it going to hurt? What if Aversa doesn’t like me?” She floated over towards me and I good feel her flowing good emotions into my body. “What was that?” I asked not feeling so anxious anymore.
“It will help calm your nerves, but trust me this won’t hurt a bit and Aversa hardly ever doesn’t like someone so when she sees you I bet she will be bowing down her head with thanks.”
“Okay,” I agreed.
“Good, just follow my words and do everything I say,” she told me. I nodded my head yes. “Alright close your eyes and repeat in your head, Homeland Center, visualize it, a big elite looking building...” Suddenly I felt like I was being disintegrated and transported across space again. When I reemerged in my human form I was standing outside an elite looking building just as Cressida had described it. A petite young looking woman, who was in the same form as Cressida emerged from the building when she saw me, standing outside. She was dressed in a long white dress with sleeves made of lace. Cressida was standing next to me now and when she saw the woman coming she whispered in my ear,
“Hello my darlings,” the woman, Aversa, who now looked much more intimidating said to the two of us. “Cressida, it’s always a pleasure and this must be Farah, your sister.”
“Yeah,” Cressida said pushing me forward a little bit. I held out my hand anticipating a shake but she just came up to me and made the most intense eye contact I had ever seen. Her eyes were every color you could ever imagine thrown together in a way that you might think would look like puke but actually looked magical and beautiful and I was immediately envious of her. My arm floated back down to my side and after about two minutes she stepped back with an intimidated look on her face.
“Is something wrong?” I asked Cressida after Aversa didn’t say anything for a moment. Cressida had a terrified look on her face as well and I was just confused.
“She saw something, something in your eyes she didn’t know about you, something that changes things,” Cressida finally replied to me. I didn’t quite understand how she could see anything in me from just gazing into my eyes but nothing here made a whole lot of sense so I just went with the flow.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Ohh it’s probably nothing, sometime we mix things up,” Aversa finally replied to me.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Positive,” she smiled. “Why don’t the three of us go inside and have some sandwiches and lemonade why don’t we?”
“Sounds good,” I agreed. “At least one thing will be normal here.” They both laughed and we entered the building. Inside was a grand lobby with a huge chandelier in the middle of the room and many people hustling and bustling off to different places. “Wow,” I gasped in amazement.
“Wait till you see her office,” Cressida whispered to me and Aversa turned to me giggling. We walked through the lobby until we reached two huge sliding doors that opened up into her office. There was a sitting area in the middle of the room and a couple things that looked like televisions on each of the walls. In one corner was a dining table for probably meetings rather than eating and I felt like I would break something just staring at it. The entire room was so amazing and made the presidents oval office look like an outhouse.
“Take a seat anywhere,” she said waving her arms like the whole thing was no big deal. Cressida plopped herself down in one of the chairs and I followed her lead. Aversa brought over a tray of food and Cressida immediately reached for it. It reminded me that she was still the same person that loved to eat and could just casually hang around anyone; although I had always been jealous of this it was comforting to see her like the same person she had always been.
“So Farah…” Aversa’s voice trailed off. I immediately perked up and gave her my full attention. “We need to talk about what we can do, for each other,” she said smiling. I was slightly taken aback from this comment, mostly just confused because I assumed that it was a one way street what I would be doing. I figured I would just help them fight the Under World and whether they won or lost I would go back to my normal life in the end, hopefully.
“What do you mean?” I asked her.
“Well Farah, we want to help you too,” she smiled. “We want you to feel special here, because you are special.”
“We?” I asked confused.
“Everyone, here in the Upper World, we are a community and we love each other and we love you,” It seemed so odd to hear her say this, a woman I had just meant loved me and for some reason in a little part of my heart I felt like I loved her to. I turned to look at Cressida but she was just nodding her head in agreement.
“What are you thinking?” I asked.
“What is it that you want?” she replied. I didn’t know what I wanted; it was a hard question to answer. I wanted a lot of things but none of them seemed suitable for the situation I was in. There was only one thing I could think of wanting and it was so close to my reach I could almost taste it.
“I want my father, I just need to see him and talk to him, is that okay?” I asked staring right at her trying to tug on whatever emotional heart strings she had.
“Done,” she replied shaking her head in shock with my answer. Cressida was sort of laughing to.
“What’s so funny?” I asked trying to laugh to thinking I was missing something.
“Well it’s nothing just that he’s right outside; we were going to do that anyways,” she said.
“Can I see him now?” I asked disregarding their laughing. She nodded walking over to the desk pressing a button and then telling the speaker to send ‘him’ in. Almost immediately the man who I could recognize from miles away as my father came barging through the doors of the office.
“Where is she? Where’s my other little princess?” his voice bellowed throughout the office and I smiled when I heard it. When our eyes met he flew over to me and wrapped his arms around me in one of the biggest hugs he had ever given me. I wrapped my arms around him to and took in a whiff of his scent. I was expecting him to smell how he had before, like pine trees and wood from being outside all day but now I didn’t know exactly what he smelled like. It was an odd smell something I had never smelled before, and although it didn’t have a foul odor I backed away with a little bit of fear; fear that he wasn’t the same. “Farah, what’s wrong? Aren’t you happy to see me?” he asked concerned. It was definitely a bad reaction for me to have because really I was elated to see my father after six years but the truth was it just didn’t feel right, it felt like hugging a great aunt that you only saw once a year, just awkward. Aversa couldn’t take her eyes off of me and I could tell she was shocked.
“Maybe we should leave them alone for a moment Cressida,” Aversa suggested. Just like that they had both disintegrated and disappeared out of the room leaving my father and I alone. Every step he came closer to me I backed up a little bit more until finally I was almost pushed up against the wall.
“Do you want me to leave?” he asked looking like he was about to cry.
“No,” I shook my head. “I’m just scared, no not scared that’s the wrong word, it’s just different you’re different.”
“I think I need to leave,” he said.
“No!” I said trying to stop him before he would leave without my control.
“No, trust me this is for the best,” he told me. He closed his eyes and immediately started to disappear out of my sight. I closed my eyes to follow him but I couldn’t think of anywhere to go. Aversa and Cressida burst through the door and stared at me with confused looks on their faces.
“Did Dad leave?” Cressida finally said. All I could do was nod my head yes, I felt like I had lost my father for the second time and all I wanted to do was get him back. “We can get him back you know, it’s not that hard,” she laughed like she knew everything.
“How?” I asked immediately perking up.
“Just follow my lead,” she smiled.
“Don’t you remember Dad at all Farah? What was the place he always went when he was fighting with Mom?” Cressida asked already knowing the answer. I thought about it for a moment but couldn’t think of anything, to tell the truth I didn’t remember my parents fighting that much but I knew when they did it was always masked from me so it probably occurred more often than not. “Don’t you remember Dad’s favorite place, where he always used to take us during the summer?” It came to me then, I knew the exact spot she was talking about.
“The fishing fountain!” I yelled with excitement. She and Aversa both smiled at my joy in figuring it out. “Do they have a fishing fountain here?” I asked immediately regretting saying that because I knew they probably had one.
“Of course,” Cressida laughed. “I don’t think Dad could handle it here without that spot, it’s his peace you know?” I nodded my head in agreement.
“Well let’s go!” I urged. Cressida turned to look at Aversa as if she was looking for some sort of permission and she replied,
“Definitely, just have her back here for the dinner meal; I want to discuss many things with Farah.” Cressida nodded her head yes and I shot her a thankful smile which she returned with a similar expression.
“Okay Farah, just like before, all you have to do is think about where you want to go, remember?” I nodded and replied,
“Yeah okay, so I just have to think take me to the fishing fountain and I’ll get there?” she nodded and urged me to go first this time. I closed my eyes and this time tried hard to remember what the fishing fountain had looked like and I imagined myself there with my father. Almost instantly I was being transported through the vortex like field again and was shot out onto my butt into a patch of soft grass. I sat in the grass and looked around for a minute but didn’t see Cressida anywhere. Suddenly, what seemed like out of nowhere I saw the fishing fountain and my father, hanging over the edge looking at his reflection in the water. It looked just the same as I remembered it, a grassy prairie like field and a small water fall flowing down into a river. I never really knew why we called it the fishing fountain because it wasn’t a fountain at all but I definitely remembered fishing in it. We would place traps at the bottom of the falls and when wish would flop over the edge they would be caught in the trap. Cressida and I would drag them home in our bare hands and through them down on the counter for Mom to cook up. It was one of the best memories of my father I had.
I walked up behind him and although I knew he had probably heard me coming he waited until he saw my reflection in the bright blue water before turning around.
“You like this place?” he asked.
“It’s the best place in the entire world,” I said knowing that saying this would tug on his heart strings.
“Did you ever go there after I died?” he asked. I shook my head no.
“It was too hard, to think about it you know? It was too hard to think about how you should have been taking Justin there, how we should have been there as a family.”
“Do you tell him about me?” he asked obviously talking about Justin.
“I try, Cressida used to more but I try and he watches videos of you from way back when and when he sees the ones of you and him as a baby I think it makes it more real for him like even though he never really knew you, you aren’t just some lie, you were real to everyone.”
“I am real,” he replied his voice cracking now.
“I doesn’t always seem that way,” I cried. He pulled me down to sit by him and pointed to his reflection in the water.
“That’s as real as anyone could ever be.”
“But to me you’re as real as Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny,” I sort of half laughed and cried at the same time and he did the same.
“You know I haven’t been fishing here either,” he said changing the subject.
“What do you mean, Cressida said you come here all the time?” I asked confused.
“I do,” he admitted. “But not to fish, just to think, mostly about you and Justin, how much I miss you.”
“Do you not fish because you miss us?” I asked feeling sorry for him.
“Yes and no, I just haven’t been able to do it without help, you know and nobody else knows how to help me the same way you or Cressida does,” he replied smiling now.
“I could help you…” I replied.
“I don’t have a trap.”
“I could help you build one,” I suggested. He immediately jumped up in excitement and grabbed me up with just one hand. He led me over to a shed I hadn’t even seen before now and opened the door to let me inside. It wasn’t like the shed that we had at our house that he used to build traps and other basic things in, this one closer resembled a barns size and there was so much more inside then just his basic set of tools. He seemed to know exactly where he was going once we were inside. There was a large building table in the center of the room and when he threw the wood down on it a faint layer of fresh sawdust flew up in the air around us.
“Well I thought you were going to help me,” he laughed motioning for me to follow him over to where all the hand tools hung on a wall. I grabbed the only tool I really knew how to use; a hammer and he grabbed all the rest. We spread them out on the table next to the wood and he immediately began to make tick marks on the pieces, to me it looked like he had never forgotten how to make these traps and he definitely didn’t require my help. “Well are you going to help me or not Farah?” he asked. I scurried over and grabbed the wiring that went in the bottom of the trap and brought it over to him.
After we worked for what seemed like about an hour, but it could have been longer the trap was finally finished and it was the best trap I thought we had ever made. “Should we use it now?” he asked seeming so happy with our work. I definitely wanted to but then I remembered what Aversa said about me being back by the time of the dinner meal and I didn’t want to get Cressida in trouble so I asked him,
“W I hat time is the dinner meal? I have to be back for it.” He shook his head like he didn’t know what I was talking about.
“I don’t work on Capitol time, sorry. Actually I don’t work on anytime,” he laughed. “But I can take you back to the Homeland Building if you think you need to go, this fishing can always wait.” I didn’t want it to have to wait and he knew that, but I didn’t want Aversa to get mad either so I agreed that it would be best to go back. And so we went, this time hand and hand I transported through the vortex with my father.
We landed right in front of the building this time and Cressida was there waiting for us with a huge grin on her face.
“Cressida, how come you didn’t come to the fishing fountain before? You were supposed to get me back here in time for dinner,” I reminded her.
“I knew you’d get back here in time,” she smiled looking more at Dad than me and I nodded in agreement. “Well come on let’s go dinner starts in fifteen minutes, Aversa is inside waiting for you.” I started to walk towards her but noticed that Dad wasn’t following us.
“Aren’t you coming Dad?” I turned to ask him. He just shook his head no.
“Capitol dinners aren’t really my thing,” he said with a little sarcasm in his voice. I wanted to tell him that I wanted him to come and that I was sure he was invited but the truth was he probably wasn’t and I didn’t want to be the one to cause a bunch of chaos my first day here. I nodded my head and then mouthed “Goodbye” to him then turned to run and catch up to Cressida.
“You know you will see him again, this isn’t goodbye forever,” she reminded me. I knew that was true but it still always hurt to see him go. When we reached the doors of the Homeland Building and stepped inside it was even more decked out now than I remembered it being before. The main corridor had less people running around and more people dressed in elegant outfits holding glasses of champagne making mindless small talk. I immediately felt underdressed and out of place and when the doors closed behind us the loud slam of them turned everyone’s attention towards me, the girl that didn’t fit in with all the beautiful flying people. I wanted to run away and hide but Cressida had her arm placed on my shoulder holding me in place.
Aversa emerged from her office looking even more beautiful than before. She was dressed in a light coral gown and was holding a glass of champagne as well walking towards us.
“Hello my dears,” she smiled. I was captivated by her glowing face and her ability to completely disregard our casual attire that didn’t fit in with anybody else. “Cressida, my darling you know where the gown parlor is right?” she nodded her head and without saying anything more grabbed my hand and pulled me across the room towards another door.
The gown parlor was exactly what it sounded like. When she opened the doors all I could see were rows and row of gowns lining the wall and on the other side of the room was a place where hair and makeup could be done for about twenty people.
“Wow,” I gasped amazed that this place could keep shocking me more and more every day. Almost immediately two bubbly women emerged from behind one of the racks of dresses.
“Hi,” they both smiled at the same time. I realized they were twins then and it immediately made me crack up the way they talked at the same time. They looked at me with confused looks but just shook it off. “Can we help you?” they asked. I nodded my head yes and when they looked closer at me I could tell they saw something that frightened them.
“What did I do?” I asked Cressida.
“Ohh it nothing really, they just aren’t used to seeing a… well a… a human,” she replied.
“A live human?” I asked.
“Exactly,” They were backed up farther now so Cressida told them. “She’s here to help us. Aversa sent us in here for dinner dresses are you going to help or what?” They nodded at her sternness and immediately began pulling dresses for us. They kept sneaking glances at me but neither would look for more than a couple of seconds.
“Is everybody going to treat me like this?” I asked Cressida a little upset.
“I’m sure Aversa will fix it tonight,” she reassured me, but I wasn’t so sure. After a couple minutes the girls returned and told Cressida our dressing rooms were ready for us but still they wouldn’t look or speak to me. When I looked in my room there were so many beautiful gowns hanging up and all of them seemed to be perfect, I didn’t want to pick just one to try on first. I decided to pick based on which one I thought would fit the best but they all seemed to be my perfect size. I grabbed the silky navy blue one from the top, and when it was all on and zipped I was sold. It was beautiful and I didn’t even want to try any more on. I stepped out from behind the curtain and spun around in a couple circles before seeing that everyone was watching me.
“This is the one,” I told the girls. Quickly they scurried off into the back room leaving me standing out in the big room alone. “Cressida are you almost done?” I asked not hearing anything from her dressing room. She came out hovering in the air spinning around in circles dressed in a long dark purple dress. I immediately felt self-conscious about my decision, because she looked so much better than me. The girls returned holding boxes of shoes for me to choose from and again they were all in my size.
“What do you like?” I asked one of the girls attempting to make small talk. She looked at me with panic in her eyes and then finally handed me a box with little silver heels in it. I was weary about wearing heels in front of all these people but I took them and put them on because I didn’t want to disrespect her. When I looked in the mirror to my surprise the shoes at brought the entire outfit together and I looked fabulous except for the fact that my hair and face didn’t really match my clothes. The one who had given me the shoes came over and delicately asked me if I would like to have my hair and makeup done and I agreed.
When the whole ordeal was complete I stood up for one final look in the mirror. Cressida was behind me and together we looked like stunning young women, and I was proud to say that. At that moment Aversa appeared in the room.
“Ohh Farah, you look beautiful and you to Cressida,” she smiled handing us glasses of what looked like champagne. Cressida took a sip but I just held on to the glass trying not to spill it as I walked in my high heels and also because I wasn’t to found of any form of alcohol. “Shall we go? I think the people are getting hungry,” she laughed. Aversa led the way and Cressida followed but I hung back for a minute and couldn’t stop admiring my reflection in the mirror. “Are you coming Farah?” Aversa asked looking back at me. I snapped back into reality and looked at the two of them staring at me.
“Ohh I’m sorry, coming,” I replied scurrying over to them. As we walked out of the room everybody was staring at us, at me. I immediately wanted to run back in the room and vomit but I kept moving forward. As they saw the form I was in many people tried to mask their gasping noises but I could still hear them clearly.
“It’s okay,” Aversa mouthed to me. “Just follow my lead.” And that was exactly what I tried to do.
I took small steps pretending that I was the bride at a wedding and trying to keep myself from pouncing on all the people making snide comments about me. Each time a took one step forward they all took five steps back away from me until they were all backed up against the wall as close as they could go. I was relieved when I finally reached the table and took my seat next to Aversa and Cressida. Aversa directed everyone to take their seats and cautiously they all approached the table and sat down. Before the first course was even served Aversa stood up and addressed the crowd of probably about twenty people.
“Hello friends,” she smiled.
“Hello Aversa,” they all replied in unison which I thought was slightly creepy.
“I just wanted to welcome you all here for this meal tonight and introduce you to our new friend,” she said pointing to me and letting everyone stare for another moment. “This is Farah Becker, from Earth and she is going to be our secret weapon in defeating the Under World!” she said with excitement. Everyone stared for a moment like they were still confused. “Farah is a special child,” she told them and this time ohhs and ahhs echoed throughout the room. I didn’t exactly know what that meant but if it made them like me I guess I just had to go with it. “Farah is going to lead this war to a victory, with the help of her big sister Cressida, girls stand up for the people,” Aversa told us so we obeyed. As we stood the crowd roared in applause but we quickly took our seats again slightly filled with embarrassment. “This dinner is to inform you all that we are going head on into this war and we will not be holding back! We will win and we will stay pure through the whole thing!” The crowd applauded again and Aversa thanked them and took her seat very professionally acting like the whole thing hadn’t even happened. I stared at her in awe but she just ignored me and directed the first course of food to be sent out.
“What does she mean that I’m special,” I asked Cressida once everyone had started eating.
“It just means that you can see us, I mean you knew you were different right? Well people like us don’t see that all too often is all,” she replied.
“Ohh, well what does she mean that you and I are going to lead this war?” I asked.
“I’m not really sure, probably what she said, that we will be leading it.”
“But were just teenagers do they really think we know anything about spirit wars?”
“Look sis, this kind of thing is unprecedented in this world, they don’t know anything about this and they are willing to try anything. Seriously do not stress about this now, just eat your food okay?” she said sounding a little irritated now. I obeyed what she said and sipped my soup quietly trying not to make eye contact with any of the people staring at me.
When the meal was complete everyone stood up and began mingling again but I couldn’t bring myself to move from the seat I was in. “Farah, get up now,” Cressida directed me sternly.
“I don’t know what to say if the talk to me,” I replied almost shaking.
“I’ll be right by your side the whole time okay?” she said trying to pull me up from my chair. I stood up and started to walk with her over to a crowd of faces that looked friendlier then some of the other peoples which were comforting. They looked younger than many of the other people but still maybe older then Cressida by a couple of years. “Farah, these are my friends, Jess, Monica and Kennedy,” she said pointing each one out. They nodded at me but didn’t say much. “Guys, this is my sister Farah, I promise she is more scared of you then you are of her,” Cressida laughed. They all looked up at about the same time and gave me sort of half smiles but still didn’t look at me full on.
“It’s true,” I tried this time and the one that I thought was named Monica finally looked up at me. “I am more scared of you then you are of me,” I laughed and she sort of chuckled to.
“You two look alike,” she squeaked. I smiled at the compliment partly because I was happy I got one of them to talk to me and partially because I loved when people told me I looked like Cressida.
“Thank you,” Cressida and I both responded at the same time. The other two girls looked up now and I looked right at them. “So how old are all of you?” I asked just trying to get them to talk to me but none of them responded.
“Well I’m one hundred and twelve,” Monica laughed.
“Really?” I asked confused. “You don’t look it.” She started cracking up at this comment and then said,
“Well technically I’m twenty but still I’ve been dead for almost one hundred years so whatever you want to think,” she said laughing. I tried to laugh to but I was still a little intimated by them.
“Yeah, Cressida’s the little baby of the group,” the one named Jess finally said. “I’m fifty six but really only nineteen in my features,” she laughed.
“Is that how it works?” I asked. “You don’t age anymore once you...die?” They all nodded their heads.
“Sort of cool no?” Monica asked me.
“Yeah,” I replied trying to contain my fear. I peered over to Kennedy who hadn’t said anything yet and was just staring off into space looking more depressed now then fearful of me.
“Is something wrong with her?” I whispered to Cressida quietly.
“She doesn’t like to talk about this,” Cressida replied.
“I don’t understand why though,” Monica said. “Death isn’t something that we should be ashamed of I mean seriously ask me anything and I’ll tell you,” she said sounding a little more enraged now.
“Do you mind if I ask how you died?” I asked taking her up on her offer right then and there. “I mean it’s just that young people don’t die all that often so, I was just wondering.”
“I was in a war, in Europe somewhere and I was shot with an arrow right here,” she said pointing to the middle of her head that looked flawless now. “I was just a battle nurse but you know s*** happens I guess.”
“Wow,” I gasped.
“And you didn’t die, yet you’re still here,” she trailed off probably trying to make sense of it herself and I just nodded my head yes. We stood there in an awkward silence for a moment then Aversa came prancing up to us.
“Hello Farah, and ladies,” she said nodding at all of us. “I see you’ve met some of your sister’s friends Farah, they will be very helpful to you in the coming days.” I didn’t quite know what she meant but I smiled politely and nodded my head to show I understood.
“They’re prepared to fight, prepared to go down,” Cressida said.
“But where do you go if you go down here?” I asked confused. “I mean isn’t this the end?”
“Well we assume that you become a prisoner of war to the Under World, but that’s just an assumption of course,” Aversa replied.
“Do we even have an army to be reckoned with?” I asked knowing that if they didn’t know much about wars then this topic, although seeming like a given may not be to them.
“We thought you would do that,” Aversa replied trying not to seem too distraught with the question in front of everyone.
“Okay and what about supplies, what kind of weaponry do you have?” I asked a little irritated now.
“I have no idea,” she replied. “But Farah, let’s not discuss this now, it hardly the place,” she mumbled to me.
“When would you like to discuss it?!” I was yelling in an almost outrage at her now.
“We can talk about this tomorrow, alone and when the venue is more suitable for this conversation, okay Farah, so please quit making a scene,” she said.
“I don’t know if I want to do this anymore,” I replied lowering my voice and waiting until the crowd that had been watching our scuffle backed off.
“Farah please, doesn’t say such rashes things right now, just think about it overnight will you?” Cressida said butting in. I nodded my head in agreement and took a deep breath and looked at Aversa.
“I need to see my father first, then tomorrow morning I will come to see you and we can talk about this and what we are planning, okay?” I more told then asked her. She nodded her head in agreement and it felt powerful for me to be dictating the ruler of this place around, I had power and I like it.
Cressida had directed me to transport myself to a building with the name “Pie Families”. I thought it was a funny name for a building but it was the apartment complex that her and Dad lived in together and it was meant for families that could have incoming members at any time, with the idea that they will slowly fill in the “Pie” of a family unit until it was full and they could move into the “Full Family Structures”. We both appeared outside the building at almost the same time and she quickly grabbed my hand and dragged me inside. I kicked off the heels as a ran with her not bothering to pick them up and I let my long gown hang onto the asphalt ground and get dirty without a care in the world.
“I cannot believe you talked to Aversa that way!” Cressida yelled at me once we had reached the door that I assumed was hers. She placed her hand on a scanner on the door and it immediately beeped and opened for her. Inside the main room was huge and the rooms coming off of it looked the same but the interior design definitely didn’t match the floor plan of the house. It was very modestly decorated, an old worn out sofa sat in the middle of the room as well as some pretty old appliances in the kitchen and there was no doubt in my mind that this was the decorating work of my father.
“Dad!” I yelled into the house first pushing Cressida off to the side.
“He isn’t here,” she told me smoothing out her dress to show her anger with me.
“Well where is he?” I demanded.
“When I’m not home he goes over to the neighbors for dinner, the Falk’s, they’re a young couple that died in a car wreck a little while ago to and adopted a couple babies since they’ve been here to fill some emotional void I guess. I don’t think Dad likes them to much but it’s better than being alone and he likes it because Mrs. Falk is a great cook,” she laughed.
“When does he get home?” I asked completely disregarding her story and only caring about my own problems.
“I don’t know, seven maybe eight,” she replied. “Come on we can kill some time and get your bedroom set up,” she grinned like she knew something I obviously didn’t.
We walked into the room next to what looked like hers only this one was all white and bland and looked nothing like the bright purple and green room that I had assumed was Cressida’s.
“This is my room?” I asked feeling a little disappointed.
“Here,” she said handing me a little electronic tablet that contained many fabric styles and also a smaller picture of the room I was staring at.
“What do I do with this?” I asked feeling dumber than ever.
“If you can dream it you can create it,” she smiled sounding like a commercial for a little girls coloring activity. “Just pick your favorite fabric and press the okay button and then poof, it will show up right here, isn’t that cool?” she said sounding pretty pleased with her explanation. It did sound pretty cool but I wouldn’t be hanging around here much longer hopefully so I didn’t really care what my room looked like for a couple of nights. I decided to make it look just like my old room at home, the one that Cressida and I had shared with a couple of upgrades which made me feel more at home. When I was done Cressida walked in and stared around the room then after a couple minutes of silence she fell to the floor in a fit.
“I’m sorry Cress, I’ll change it see,” I said reaching for the tablet and started pressing buttons.
“No don’t!” she yelled. “I like it actually I love it.”
“Then why are you crying?” I asked confused.
“It’s just seeing this reminded me of all the great things in your life and Justin’s and Mom’s that I’m going to miss out on and I don’t want to!” she replied angrily. I didn’t know how to respond to a comment like that because I knew there was nothing I could do to stop her from missing out on these things and I didn’t want her to miss out on them either.
“Don’t think about the adventures that we’re going to have without you but think of the adventures that we’ll have together,” I told her happily.
“But you’re going to be on Earth and I won’t,” she whimpered shaking her head.
“Cressida, when I die we are going to have an entire eternity together so if and when I go back to my life on Earth it will only seem like a second compared to all the time together we will spend here, okay?” I asked. She nodded her head yes and straightened up her body, smoothed her dress and got up pretending like the whole thing hadn’t just occurred. Just then we heard the front door swing open and Dad came tromping through holding many boxes of food.
“Dad!” I yelled like a little kid running to the front door to greet him. Cressida slowly walked behind me and he waved to her from beneath the big hug I had given him.
“Back so soon girls?” he said.
“It got tiresome pretty quickly,” I replied. He nodded his head and smiled when he heard this.
“So I guess you’ll be staying here Farah?” he asked and I shook my head yes. “Damn Capitol can’t even put up their leader for a couple nights,” he muttered under his breath but I knew he wanted us all to hear it.
“If you don’t want me here…”
“No!” he yelled. “This is your house as much as anybody else’s and you will always be welcome here
“Even if I become a vegan and start showering only once a month,” I said it to crack a joke because Dad hated these types of people more than anything in the world and he would always let you know it if he didn’t like you.
“Even if you did all that,” he said pretending to choke back tears. I laughed and we slowly proceeded over to the sitting area and took seats across from each other.
“Dad I need to talk to you about something pretty serious,” I told him very earnestly now.
“Uhh well Farah this is usually your Mom’s category of expertise but since she isn’t here right now okay,” he nodded. The way he said ‘but since she isn’t here right now’ struck me like a ton of bricks. That was what Mom had always said to talk about Dad being gone and now he talked the same way about her.
“No Dad,” I laughed at his awkwardness. “This is about the war; I need your help.”
“With any particular thing?” he asked.
“Everything!” I replied. “Aversa thinks that I’m an expert on this kind of stuff and I think we both know I’m not.” He nodded his head in agreement and Cressida did the same. “But…you are,” I smiled.
“So what, you want me to do everything for you? Is that what I’m supposed to do?” he asked a little sarcastically.
“No,” I shook my head. “I want you to lead this and Cressida and I will be your co-generals,” I said pretty pleased with the names I had just come up with for Cressida and myself.
“No,” he replied.
“No?” I asked making sure I had heard his response correctly.
“Right, I will be your co-general and consultant Farah but this is something you signed up for and I can’t make this kind of commitment just go away.” I felt like crying but I knew that wouldn’t help my cause anymore so I just kept my expression on a lock and stared right at him for a couple of minutes.
“Fine,” I huffed.
“Good,” he replied.
“Br ready to go to the Homeland building bright and early tomorrow, we have a lot to talk about,”
“Perfect,” he grinned.
When I awoke the next morning it was in a daze. I felt like I was in my own bedroom for some reason and I felt like I was back at home, back when I was ten. But almost immediately after I stepped off the edge of the bed Cressida came running through the door carrying a tray of breakfast foods.
“I made you these, your favorite,” she smiled. I examined the plate and saw it was filled with Belgian Waffles, hot maple syrup and a glass of what looked like grape juice.
“Thanks,” I smiled.
“You’re welcome,” she replied sliding the plate of food onto the desk carelessly and then plopping herself down on the bed. “I put some of my clothes in your closet to pick from, you know to wear today,” she said. I had completely forgotten I had to go to the Homeland Building today to talk to Aversa and I immediately got butterflies in my stomach thinking about it.
“Ohh I totally forget,” I replied rushing over to the closet to see what was in it. All of the clothes resembled Cressida’s personality to a tee, they were very casual yet still very modern, and a sort of Bohemian style which went good with her skin coloring that always seemed to be darker than mine.
“Don’t rush, it’s only seven thirty on Capitol time,” she replied but I still kept hustling around the room trying to make myself look perfect.
“What should I wear?” I asked holding up two different outfit choices, one casual and one a little more professional.
“Go for the casual one,” she pointed. “They will like it more if you look more…well more human,” she replied. I slipped off the sweats I had slept in and shimmied my way into the dark skinny jeans and long sleeve shirt. “Here put this on,” Cressida said throwing me a cute crème colored scarf. I twisted it around my neck a couple of times and then fluffed it up afterwards.
“How do I look?” I asked spinning around in a couple circles.
“Very cute,” she smiled. I could hear Dad outside the door now and the griddle of the stove frying up something. The smells immediately started to fume into the room and I knew immediately he was cooking his famous chocolate chip pancakes. I rushed out of the room and into the little dinette of a kitchen.
“Are those what I think they are?” I asked with a huge grin on my face already knowing the answer.
“You have a very good nose,” he laughed.
“Well I inherited it from the best.”
“Are you ready for today?” he asked flipping a couple pancakes onto a plate and handing them to me.
“No,” I mumbled through my stuffed mouth.
“We should probably go soon,” he said. “Where’s Cressida?”
“Probably still getting ready I guess,” I laughed.
“Guess those things never change,” he replied. “You sure haven’t.”
“In a good way or a bad way?” I asked curiously. But just then Cressida burst in the room and started to freak out so he didn’t get a chance to answer my question.
“Why is everyone sitting around? Come on we have to go!” she exclaimed. We both laughed at her excitement and suddenly we had all closed our eyes and were transporting through the vortex to the Homeland Building.
When we arrived Aversa was already waiting in anticipation for us in her office. When we entered she stood up and looked over each and every one of us with extreme scrutiny.
“Hello Becker family, how nice to see you on this beautiful morning,” she smiled staring especially at me.
“It’s always a pleasure,” Cressida replied cutting me off before I could say something she wouldn’t like very much.
“Come, come please sit,” Aversa said directing us towards the couches. Dad and I plopped down on the sofa but Cressida and Aversa sat delicately on two leather seats and placed their hands cordially on their crossed legs but I still didn’t move from my comfortable position and neither did Dad. “So obviously we are having a little dilemma in figuring out what to do about the Under World situation,” Aversa said.
“Obviously,” I muttered and Cressida shot me a dirty look but Aversa just ignored my immature comment.
“Nothing that can’t be solved,” Cressida said positively with a huge fake smile on her face.
“We need an army,” I butt in.
“A big one,” Dad said backing me up. “There’s no doubt in my mind the Under World will have a mass of people, strong people.”
“An army,” Aversa scribbled down on a notepad.
“You need a way to win,” I said trying to make sense of that in my head.
“Well that’s why we have you,” she replied sounding a little confused.
“I mean, if I don’t work. How are you going to take in them as prisoners of war, or kill them again or whatever?”
“Ohh,” she said now for the first time contemplating the fact that that could very well happen and then scribbling it down in her notebook.
“Right, so weapons,” I told her making sure she understood that that was what I meant.
“Weapons,” she repeated scribbling that down in her book as well.
“Also you should get some war veterans for the main commander’s okay?” I asked.
“Ohh that’s a good idea,” she smiled jotting some more notes down.
“You need to start as soon as possible, the recruiting process, got it?” Dad asked her.
“We can do it!” Cressida chimed in with encouragement.
“If you say so,” Aversa replied not seeming so confident. We all promptly stood up and broke off into groups to start what seemed like the beginning of something that would never end.
I rushed over as quickly as possible with Cressida to the Speaker Room in the back of the Homeland Building. Inside the room was just a small microphone sitting on the counter and many notes of previous announcements plastered on the walls. In every house and building of the Upper World was a tiny speaker that could alert the citizens of anything at any time and that was exactly what I needed to do to get soldiers.
“What do I say?” I asked Cressida a little concerned and feeling pressed for time.
“Start by getting their attention,” she replied. “Make them remember you and make them want to listen and want to help.” I immediately knew what I wanted to say so I grabbed the microphone from the counter and started my speech.
“Attention citizens of the Upper World, we need your help! If you are physically and mentally capable report to the Homeland Building immediately, I repeat report to the Homeland Building immediately if you are willing to join the fight in the defeat of the Under World! We need everyone’s help so please, please help us!” I practically yelled into the speaker.
“Wow sis, I didn’t think you had it in you to do something like that,” Cressida laughed once my finger was off the speaker button.
“Alright let’s go meet Dad outside with the sign-up sheets,” I replied trying to ignore her comment. She nodded her head and like little girls we ran out the room and down the hallways to the front doors of the building. We burst outside to see Dad sitting at his table alone overwhelmed with a ginormous crowd of women and men of all ages trying to push to the front to sign up for the army.
“Dad!” I called unable to contain the happiness I was feeling. I rushed down the front steps and he couldn’t stop smiling either.
“You see sweetheart, people want to help, I knew you could do this,” he grinned.
“This is just the beginning,” I reminded him. “We haven’t quite done it yet.”
“But I have a good feeling about this,” he smiled handing me a clipboard and directing me to form another line for sign ups. I directed half of the crowd to get in line by me and took their names, phone numbers and addresses and then telling them that we would be in contact. The line seemed endless and we sat outside for seven hours before it finally came to a close. In total we had thousands of willing fighters and pages upon pages of names and telephone numbers. I was proud and feeling confident in our abilities by the end of the day.
When Aversa saw how many participants we had signed up she nearly fainted on the floor but quickly pulled herself together and checked that task off of her duty list.
“Well I have to admit Farah, I wasn’t too confident in you until now, good job,” she smiled genuinely happy with the work we had done.
“I couldn’t have done it without my family,” I looked over at them.
“Of course,” she replied thanking them to.
“Aversa, now that I did that can I ask you to do something for me maybe?” I asked trying not to sound too greedy.
“Of course Farah, anything for you,” she replied.
“I was wondering if I could at least take a peek at my family or something, just so I know that they are okay.” I looked over at Dad after I said it and saw him staring at Aversa shaking his head no and she looked very conflicted. “Please,” I pleaded. “I just need to see them so I know,” I was almost crying now. She finally broke down and nodded her head yes leading me over to the TV screen nearest the sitting area. Both Cressida and Dad promptly followed behind me in anticipation. She grabbed the remote and asked me who I wanted to see first.
“Justin,” Dad replied for me. Aversa looked at me to make sure that was alright and I nodded my head yes so she pressed a few buttons before he finally popped up on the screen. Grandpa and him were sitting at the kitchen table playing checkers but he didn’t seem very interested in it and just kept staring at the ground but then Grandpa pulled his head up and spoke.
“She will come home soon buddy,” he said obviously talking about me.
“She promised she wouldn’t leave me,” he whimpered.
“And I’m sure she didn’t,” he replied positively but Justin wouldn’t say anything after that.
“Shut it off!” I yelled at Aversa. She immediately clicked the TV screen off and stared at me waiting for my reaction.
“I didn’t want you to do it,” Dad reminded me.
“I’m not done,” I told him.
“Farah, they will all be the same, trust me you don’t want to put yourself through that right now,” he said putting his arm around my shoulder and patting my back.
“I don’t care, show me my mom,” I said ignoring my Dad. She nodded and the screen clicked on again showing a seen in the local police department and Mom was sitting in the office of an officer our family knew pretty well.
“Please,” I heard her beg him. “You have to help me do something, my daughter is missing!” she wailed. “I can’t lose another one, not now.” I glanced over at Cressida but she kept her eyes locked on the screen so I looked back as well.
“Mrs. Becker I feel for you,” the officer replied. “But I can’t do anything for you yet, you need to wait 48 hours. Its state laws, I wish I could help you but I just can’t,” he said shaking his head and getting up to lead her out the door. Just when I was about to make Aversa shut it off the officer whispered something to Mom.
“Turn it up!” I yelled and she clicked the volume button a couple times until we could hear what he was saying.
“My best advice to you, wait her out. Most teenagers leave for a little while and they come back when they run out of money,” he told her with a sort of sarcasm in his tone.
“Not my kids,” she exclaimed slamming the door on her way out. Aversa flipped the power switch and her image disappeared.
“Anyone else you need to see?” Aversa asked me. I contemplated checking out Hadley but figured I really wasn’t too concerned about her; she had dealt without me before and could do it again.
“No,” I replied shaking my head.
“Are you alright?” Dad asked me seeming very concerned.
“Yeah, I’m alright.”
“I told you not to do it,” he said. “It doesn’t help anything at all you know?”
“I know,” I replied not really listening to what he was saying but just thinking about the footage I had just seen over and over in my head.
“Focus on what’s ahead Farah, on what you will be able to change,” he reminded me. I really did want to focus on what I was there to do but I just couldn’t bring myself to stop thinking about all the people I was hurting in the process, the people I loved on Earth.
“I miss them Daddy,” I said starting to cry not caring about who was watching. He grabbed me up in his arms at that and sat me on his lap like a little girl.
“I do to baby girl.” He replied coddling me like a baby, which was exactly what I needed.
Over the next twenty four hours we did more than I had ever even thought possible, but in actuality everything that was happening seemed impossible to me. We had created an entirely new training facility for all the soldiers and from what I could see they were actually looking pretty good and of course they were under the command of Dad because he wouldn’t have it any other way. Along with that an elite set of unprecedented weaponry had been created from the best scientists of all the centuries that to me seemed like unbeatable tools even though they were still not so sure.
The following morning I showed up to Aversa’s office bright and early, before Dad or Cressida had even woken up yet. I knocked on the door gently before just entering because over the last few days it had come to feel more like my office then Aversa’s at times.
“Hi Farah,” she said a little startled. “I dint know you were going to come in so early.”
“Well I just thought I could get a little work done, before everybody else. That’s okay isn’t it?” I asked.
“Farah we need to talk, just the two of us,” she said very seriously. I stopped shuffling through the stack of papers slowly and looked up at her giving my full attention.
“Is everything okay?” I asked concerned.
“Well I need to talk to you about something I don’t think Cressida wanted to talk to you about, because it’s a hard topic,” she said.
“I think anything you tell me now couldn’t possibly shock me,” I laughed.
“Farah, I think you and I and everyone else here knows you aren’t like us.”
“I know,” I replied having known that since the beginning.
“And do you know how we can’t really die again?” I nodded my head yes. “Because we aren’t alive, we don’t have a beating heart,”
“I understand,” I said, at least trying my best to understand.
“But you aren’t dead, Farah. You aren’t dead and you aren’t alive. You are a ghost with a beating heart, does that make sense?” she asked. I had never thought about it the way she posed the question because I knew I was different but I hadn’t thought about my heart beating and theirs not. It all felt so real and so alive that being dead never even crossed my mind.
“So what are you trying to tell me?”
“I don’t want you to be like me and your sister and your father, not yet at least, you’re not ready,” she told me.
“Okay, so I’ll try my best to wake up from this when it’s all over, but if I don’t…”
“I’m not worried about you waking up; I’m worried about you being killed here, from the people of the Under World,” she cut in.
“So you’re worried that their weapons could actually kill me?” I asked already knowing the answer.
“Yeah,” she nodded.
“Well then I’ll be careful when I’m in the field then, really I will,” I replied reassuringly.
“I don’t want to risk it, it’s not safe,” she said seriously. “I think that you have don’t so much for us and now I think it’s time you go home Farah.” I looked at her straight in the eyes almost on the verge of tears.
“To my Dad’s house?” I asked knowing that wasn’t that place she meant but still having the slightest glimmer of hope.
“Farah, you know what I mean. I think it’s time you go back to Earth and go back to your normal life with your Mom and brother.” I couldn’t help myself and tears just began to stream down from my eyes.
“But you need me,” I wailed. “And I want to be here with you and everyone!”
“I know you do but I don’t think you should, so tomorrow I want someone to go unhook you on Earth and then we’ll see you again Farah, I promise.” I didn’t want to listen to anything she was saying all I could think about was not being there, with my sister and father.
“Don’t do this to me!” I begged her.
“Farah I don’t think you understand, you just should not be here for this, we have it under control okay?”
“No!” I yelled. “You don’t understand, you don’t understand anything!” I closed my eyes and quickly shot myself into the apartment where my dad and Cressida were asleep. “Dad!” I yelled when I didn’t see him in the main room. Quickly he ran to where I was and groggily asked,
“Farah, sweetheart what’s wrong?”
“Ohh Daddy,” I cried. “Aversa’s sending me home and she won’t let me stay to help and you have to fix this!” He wrapped his arms around me and I could tell he was genuinely sad as well. “Please Dad, don’t let her send me back, not yet I’m just not ready.
“Ohh Farah, I want to help but I don’t think I can control it if Aversa thinks you need to go home,” he told me.
“Daddy don’t you want me here? Don’t you want my help?” I asked.
“Of course we do baby but I can’t control Aversa when she controls me,” he was almost crying now. By this time Cressida had come out of her room and was listening to our entire conversation. Her hair was a wreck and her eyes were puffy red from crying. “Ohh Cressida, don’t cry baby,” Dad said when he saw her.
“Daddy please don’t let Aversa take her away,” Cressida cried.
“Cressida we talked about this, you know that this couldn’t last forever,” he told her.
“But she was supposed to stay until we won, they promised!”
“Please Dad talk to her, for me,” I begged him and Cressida backed me up with her killer puppy dog eye batting that always used to work on him.
“I’ll talk to her,” he said smiling down on us and we jumped up and down with excitement. “But I am making NO promises that her answer will be what you want.”
“Deal,” I grinned.
I walked into Aversa’s office directly behind Dad a couple hours after my meltdown had occurred. He didn’t bother to knock on the door just like me and just barged in. I saw she was sitting with another person and enjoying a cup of some sort of drink so it was probably especially rude to enter like this but Dad didn’t seem to pay any care.
“Aversa we need to talk, now,” he told her with the greatest of urgency’s.
“Mr. Becker I am in a meeting right now you need to leave and wait outside,” she told him slightly appalled by his actions. I looked at the man with whom she was in a meeting with and he looked slightly terrified when he saw how enraged Dad had gotten. I shot him an apologetic look but still didn’t move from my place.
“While I’m sorry to intrude on you like this, I need to talk to you about something very urgent and influential on the coming days events,” he said trying to be a little more formal but also more discrete this time.
“Aversa maybe I should come back later,” her guest said standing up to leave.
“Yes that sounds like a great idea,” Dad replied smiling. Without even receiving a reply the man stood up and swiftly left the room.
“David Becker!” Aversa practically screamed. “Now I have been more than tolerant of your family’s inconsiderate and rude behavior at times but this has crossed the line!”
“No!” he shot back. “You crossed the line when you thought it would be best to send my daughter back to Earth, when we need her!”
“Farah,” she said looking over at me kinder now. “We talked about this; you know why you can’t stay.”
“What did she say?” Dad asked me looking slightly concerned.
“She said, well she said it wasn’t time for me to die, so she was sending me back to my life on Earth so I could live a normal life,”
“Is that what you want?” he asked me. I hadn’t thought about what I had wanted in this whole thing at all because all I had been concerned with was what Aversa was taking away from me, my choice. And now that I had a choice I didn’t have a damn clue what I wanted.
“Well isn’t it what you want?” Aversa asked. “Don’t you want a normal life with your family and your friends never having to worry about when some crazy war will break out?”
“Yes,” I nodded my head but before she could say anything I finished my thought. “But nothing will ever be normal again so no, actually the answer is hell no! I don’t want the normal I had so why not have something abnormal that I love, at least for a little while and you know Aversa the truth is whether you think I’m ready or not I am not afraid to die, I’m not afraid to lose the people I have on Earth because they will live on without me but I don’t think my Dad or Cressida could handle it, they are strong individuals but they need me more then I know and I need them to,” I finally finished feeling pretty pleased with the speech I had just given.
“Okay,” she replied.
“Okay?” I asked.
“Okay, you can stay but only until we win, only until we defeat the Under World and then you try to go back, deal?” I nodded my head slowly with a huge grin plastered across my face.
“Yes, absolutely one hundred percent yes! Thank you so very much Aversa you don’t know what this means to me,” I exclaimed.
“I just hope you realize what you’re getting yourself into,” she smirked.
“I do,” I told her.
“I think you are prepared physically and you have a team of semi elite soldiers ready but you both need to prepare mentally, you need to grasp the concept of losing each other, does that make sense?” she asked and we both nodded still trying to make sense of it.
“What do you suggest?” Dad asked for the first time finally seeking a little help.
“Spend some time together, do what makes you both happy and do it right now because this war could start at any moment at any time of day,” she reminded us. Dad and I both looked at each other and I immediately knew we were thinking the exact same thing.
“The fishing fountain,” we muttered in unison.
“Go fishing then, for old time’s sake,” she smiled. I immediately closed my eyes and so did he and we transported ourselves through the vortex to the same fishing hole we had been at just a couple days before.
The grass was sparkling even brighter then I remembered it and the water was flowing at just the right pace for catching fish and if I wouldn’t have known better you would have thought it was all an enhanced movie. Dad was stepping along the grass and walking over to me holding the trap we had built a couple of days ago.
“You got it!” I exclaimed prancing over to the waterfall. He came over and set the trap underneath just as we always did to catch the biggest fish that hid in the back of fall. We sat there for only a few seconds before the first big fish was caught in the trap. I scooped it up with my bare hands and threw it in the bucket that had mysteriously ended up right behind me and although I was seemingly having the time of my life something didn’t feel right.
“Dad,” I said but he cut me off.
“I know Farah,” he said almost smiling but completely understanding what I was about to say. “It’s just not the same.”
“I mean I know she always complained about the smell and stuff and she never even touched the fish but she belongs here, it’s all of our tradition,” I reminded him.
“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” he said whipping out a very high tech cell phone that I would have never expected to see him with. He started plugging in a number and then held the device up to his ear while it rang. “Hey Cress, its Dad you’ll never guess where I am,” he said after the phone had rang for a couple minutes. “Yeah so obviously you have to be here to so can you come down here? Great see you in a few.” He hung up the phone and we went back to our fishing with our feet dangling into the flowing water.
Cressida arrived quicker than I expected her to and instead of taking her time to get down to the stream she came in a full out sprinting fly with a terrified look on her face.
“What’s wrong Cress?” Dad asked her first.
“It’s time,” she panted. “They’re here and it’s time!”
“Where do we go?” I yelled but nobody responded. They had already transported themselves somewhere and left me in the pasture, alone and feeling hopeless. I decided the homeland building would be the best place to go or at least the place where the most people would be. I shut my eyes and was shot into the vortex and then shot out right outside the Homeland Building.
I looked around and everything seemed so peaceful and serene so I couldn’t believe that the people from the Under World had just arrived and invaded. A young woman was casually walking with a young child down the street and another older couple were holding hands and enjoying ice cream cones. What the heck? I thought. This cannot be right. I rushed up the cement steps and into the Homeland Building to find it in absolute chaos. When I spotted Cressida I pushed through a group of about fifty people just to get to her and find out what was going on.
“Oh Farah finally there you are we have been looking everywhere for you,” Aversa stopped me in my tracks. She had a panicked expression plastered across her face.
“Aversa, Cressida told me they were here, is it true? Is this the start of it?” I asked panting a little. She nodded her head but kept staring at something behind me. “Aversa what’s wrong?” I asked turning my head to look at what she was nothing was there, well nothing unusual at least.
“They trapped us,” she muttered.
“What was that?” I asked making sure I had heard her correctly.
“Farah you stay right here, please,” she said rushing off to the nearest window. I did what I was told and stayed in my place, not moving for anybody. Cressida spotted me and came running up with a slightly panicked expression as well which was not something I would expect from her.
“I saw you talking to Aversa, where did she go? I think we might have a little situation,” Cressida informed me.
“What kind of situation?” I asked. “Because I think Aversa thinks we have a situation as well.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well we were talking and then she said they trapped us and then she ran off and told me to stay right here,” I told her.
“They trapped us? Ohh s***!” she practically screamed.
“Cressida what is going on?!” I demanded.
“We can’t leave, we can’t get anywhere because they trapped us,” she cried.
“But what does that mean?”
“It means we can’t travel through our minds any more, they put a bubble around us so we can’t leave whenever we want!” she sounded very concerned and now so was I. Aversa came running back now to where we were standing now and she looked right at Cressida first.
“They’ve trapped us,” she muttered to her and Cressida just kept nodding her head to show she knew. “You have any ideas on what the hell we should do?” she asked. They both were quiet for a moment and then in the same instant turned their heads to look at me.
“We can’t leave…but she can,” Cressida said looking at me and grinning. I was confused but didn’t say anything for a moment. I looked over to Aversa and she was smiling as well.
“What do you mean I can leave? You mean I can get through the trap?”
“And shut it down,” Aversa finished. “You can leave the barrier probably, because you can walk and you get through it. We just have to make sure no one from the Under World see’s you. That will be our biggest problem.” I knew that this was the reason why I had come here and why I had gotten to stay and I knew I shouldn’t have been afraid but I was terribly panicked. I was freaking out because although I wanted to not be afraid to die, I was terrified. “Can you do it?” Aversa asked. I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t know what I wanted to say but I knew what I had to say. I wanted to run now and hide away because I was so scared.
“I don’t know,” It was all I could think to say before I took off in a full sprint towards the nearest room where I could hide. I ended up in the dress room and when I shut the door I turned around and slid my back down the door and started crying.
“Can I help you with something Miss Farah?” one of the twin dress makers squeaked very delicately. I looked up to see the two of them standing side by side staring at me, their small eyes glistening.
“No,” I mumbled through my tears.
“Is everything okay?” the other one asked.
“Well I know we might just seem like little seamstresses,” she said. “But we are pretty damn good listeners to.”
“You’re not scared of me anymore?” I asked and they shook their heads no and took seats on either side of me on the ground so I proceeded to tell them the situation I was in. I told them how I had begged to stay here and how I had said I wasn’t afraid to die but how I really was. I told them how they wanted to send me out of the building to break down the barrier but how dangerous it was and I rambled on and on for about twenty minutes before one of them finally stopped me.
“What do you want?” she asked. What did I want? It was a question I had been trying to answer myself for quite some time.
“I want to do what’s right,” I said.
“Then do what’s right,” she replied.
“Yeah, do what you think is right,” the other one chimed in.
“I don’t know what’s right!” I complained.
“What is right are what you feel, what you feel in your heart and what you know will benefit more people then it will hurt,” she said. I thought about it and contemplated the idea for a moment and all along I had known what was right and what I had to do, even if it was scary it was what I had made a commitment to do and I was going to stick by my commitment.
“I know what’s right,” I said.
“So what’s your decision are you going to do it?” they both asked me in anticipation.
“I’ll do it!”
“Farah, let me in!” Cressida yelled banging on the door just had she had been for the last twenty five minutes. I opened the door which startled her a bit and walked out with a big smiled on my face. “Farah you are ridiculous,” she yelled. “Aversa has been going nuts and I promised I wouldn’t come back without you.”
“Well then let’s go,” I said already running off back towards the main room. Cressida flew up behind me and I sprinted as fast as I could until I saw Aversa.
“Farah,” she yelled when she saw me and began to fly towards me weaving through the crowds of people. When we finally reached me she just stood in front of me staring at me with gleaming eyes. “So what’s you answer?” she asked.
“Yes,” I smiled and when she heard my answer she did to.
“Yes?” she asked just to reassure she heard me correctly.
“Well I’ll have it arranged as so as possible,” she told me. “Just please wait in my office for now, okay?”
“Okay,” I smiled and rushed off to her office dragging Cressida along with me. We opened the doors and entered the room and for the first time it was all quiet and I didn’t hear any of the drama going on around me. I plopped down on the couch and Cressida did the same in one of the sofa chairs. We just stared at each other for a moment and then I couldn’t stand it any longer. “Cressida do you think I can do it?” I asked pretty casually. She glanced over at me quickly but then looked again and stared longer like she was looking over my physically capability.
“Farah, I wouldn’t trust anybody else to do it,” she smiled. I still couldn’t believe her, I wanted to but I just couldn’t because i didn’t believe in myself. “You need to know how strong we all know you are,” she said sensing my stress.
“I just don’t feel like it sometimes,” I shook my head.
“I know,” she nodded. “But trust me you’re an instinctive kind of person and I know you will do what’s good for us, I believe in you.” I nodded my head but still couldn’t bring myself to say anything because I felt like I was on the verge of a breakdown. Just then Aversa came bursting through the doors. When they opened I could hear the crowd of people louder now, I knew they knew what was going on and they were just as terrified as I was. Before she had a chance to say anything Dad also walked through the door and casually sat on the couch beside me.
“Ohh Mr. Becker I didn’t expect to see you here, actually I didn’t think you were invite to this little PRIVATE meeting,” she said sounding very irritated.
“Well when it concerns my daughter you can be sure I will always be present,” he said firmly.
“Very well then, I was just about to brief Farah on what it is she will have to do for us.”
“Alright well don’t let me stop you, go on now we haven’t got all day,” he chuckled but her face stayed stolid. She took a deep breath in and continued with her introduction.
“Well Farah, we are going to first test to make sure you are able to break the barrier safely and then after that…”
“Wait, wait, wait,” I cut her off. “How exactly do we go about this little test?”
“Well pretty simply,” she replied. “You see we just take a small finger or maybe a toe and see how it reacts before we send your entire body through,” she smiled seeming pleased but I was not so happy.
“And what if the barrier is like electrically charged or something, what if it kills me right there on the spot? What are you going to do then?”
“Farah, that is highly unlikely, actually virtually impossible I assure you it won’t occur,” she said. “Now may I continue?”
“Yes…” I said slouching back down into my seat.
“As I was saying after the test is complete we will proceed to place Farah in one of the zones we believe to be a safe zone, or not so heavily guarded,” she said clicking the remote and pulling up a map on one of the TV screens. I looked up at the screen and saw three color coated sections. The section we were in was purple and was entitled, the bubble around that were two other colors, red and green. The red was considered an unsafe zone while the green was titled safe zone. “Does this make sense to you?” she asked all of us after we had stared at the screen for a moment.
“It’s pretty basic,” I smiled now noticing that the green regions were substantially smaller than the red regions.
“Well good,” she grinned. “Well let’s go then.”
“Now?” I asked a little concerned with the small amount of time I had to let this all sink in.
“Now,” she nodded. She stood up without saying anything further and just started to walk towards the door to leave. I jumped up along with Cressida and Dad and rushed over to the door to follow her. We walked towards the very back of the building, a place I had never seen before and walked out the back door. Outside I could see a very thin piece of glass like material surrounding the premises and I knew instantly that that was the barrier they were talking about. A couple of the scientists that had worked on our weaponry were already waiting outside for us and grinned when they saw me coming.
“You ready for this?” one of them asked me.
“No,” I laughed. “But I’m going to do it!”
“Well that’s all we really need,” he chuckled. “Follow me.” I walked over with him towards the barrier but after we reached within a couple feet of it he stopped and told me her couldn’t go any further because he wasn’t sure how it would work with him. He directed me to just take the tip of my pinky finger and stick it on the barrier and if I didn’t feel any pain then to put the rest of my finger all the way through. I stuck out my pinky finger like an old English lady and delicately let it hover over the barrier. I suddenly got horribly scared to touch the glass, I didn’t know what it was going to do to me and I really didn’t want to find out.
“Come on Farah, you can do it!” I heard Cressida voice encourage me. I found the strength and placed my finger down on the glass and instantly my whole hand fell through it. I pulled it back quickly and then put my whole arm through it again cracking up.
“See if you can go through!” one of the scientists yelled. I placed my leg in first and then took an unnecessary giant step through the barrier and then quickly jumped back inside.
“I’m good!” I told them looking over my perfectly uninjured body with a huge smile on my face. I ran back over to them to get my next instructions.
“How do you feel Farah?” Dad asked me.
“Perfectly fine,” I grinned.
“Are you ready to find out what you have to do for us now?” the scientist asked me.
“Absolutely,” I assured them all.
I stared at them waiting in anticipation for my instructions. I kept glancing back at the barrier to make sure nothing was going to change on it.
“Farah is you listening to me?” Aversa said and I realized I hadn’t even known she had been talking to me.
“I am now,” I replied looking back at her.
“Well I was saying that once you get inside it is absolutely crucial that nobody from the Under World catches you before you are able to take the barrier down, are we clear? If that happens everything could be ruined,” she told me sounding very concerned.
“Yes, yes it’s very clear,” I replied still not listening as much as I should have been.
“Okay so once you are inside you need to find the place where they control this thing and shut it down,” she said looking around at the bubble surrounding us.
“Okay, I got it. Don’t get caught and shut down the control center,” I repeated the instructions back to her.
“Farah, I love you, you know that right,” Dad said placing his hands on my shoulders and looking right into my eyes.
“I love you to Dad,” I smiled. “And you to Farah.”
“Just dot do anything stupid while you’re in there,” Cressida laughed. “Promise me that.”
“I promise,” I grinned at her and she mouthed I love you to me as well. I turned around from all of them and walked over to the barrier walls. I stepped through it more casually this time and before I ran off I turned around one more time to look back at everybody watching me. They were all waiting in anticipation for me to leave or something to happen to me but I just waved and smiled at them all each individually before I ran off.
The outside of the barrier felt just the same as the inside to me, pretty average but I knew now that I was on the outside I had my mind transport so I should probably use it as much as possible. I crept around the corner of a large tree and expected to see something scary or intimidating but I saw nothing. I was expecting to see a bunch of Under World soldiers but all I saw was a small deer prancing through the woods, the whole thing was actually very tranquil. I pulled out a small electronic mapping device that Aversa had given me. It showed all of the safe and unsafe regions and used GPS coordinates to show me my exact location and many of the enemy soldier’s locations as well. The unsafe regions were quickly spreading towards me so I started to move in the opposite direction. I didn’t realize how close they were until I heard the laughing of one of their voices.
“This should be a quick takeover,” his deep voice bellowed out around the land. I shuttered with fear when I heard it and immediately used my hunting skills that Dad had installed in me as a little girl and climbed to the top of the nearest tree. When I was up quite some ways I took out the ma again to see that the soldiers were just a couple hundred feet away from me. I climbed a little higher and masked myself in leaves and branches. Almost immediately after my masking I could hear their loud footsteps under me.
“I just can’t wait to blow that bubble to smithereens,” the other soldier laughed. My mind immediately jumped to Cressida and my father sitting helplessly inside the barrier, their only hope was that I could shut it down.
“Well the quicker we make sure everyone is inside of it the quicker we can do it,” the first man said. They sprinted off in the opposite direction but I didn’t leave my tree for at least fifteen minutes in fear that more men were behind them. When I finally did jump down I immediately knew where I wanted to go before I did anything else and although I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do for the entire community I had to go there first for myself, I had to go back to the house. I closed my eyes and was immediately transported into the house but I didn’t open my eyes for a couple minutes after the transport. I don’t know if I was scared of what I would see or what I wouldn’t more or if I was just so relieved that it had actually worked to transport but after quite a bit of time I finally opened my eyes. The entire house looked like a stampede of wild cattle had run through it and everything had been destroyed. My emotions were a raging mess by now and I just wanted to scream and cry and beg my Dad to tell me what to do but he couldn’t even I he wanted to and that was the worst part.
After what seemed like just a couple minutes of sitting on the floor in outrage and despair I closed my eyes again and put myself back in the very same tree I had been in before. This time when I opened my eyes though the scene was completely different. Crowds and masses of soldiers marched along the grassy fields holding up electrified sticks of some sort. Any animal that dared to get in their way or that was even spotted was immediately zapped and fell instantly dead to the ground. I shuttered when I saw the men zap a pour little rabbit and her babies each one after another falling to the ground.
“Split up!” I heard a general scream. I immediately reached for my map and saw that there was only the smallest sliver of safe land left and it was rapidly being invaded. I switched the map to the “Concentration” setting which could show me the amount of soldiers in one area. I figured that where the most people were was where the control panel probably was and that could help me figure out what my next move had to be. The map showed the most people by the front of the Homeland Building, right before the entrance and right where the bubble started.
“Well that’s just swell,” I muttered to myself laughing on the inside at my joke. When I saw nobody else coming for a while I jumped down from the tree and headed off on foot, it was the only safe way to know exactly where I would end up all the time.
My muscles were aching and I felt like I was about to collapse by the time I had been walking for almost five hours. I was about three quarters of the way to where I needed to be and I had already had to dodge three soldiers and one sniffer machine, that resembled a dog all of which added to my high levels of drossiness and fear. The sun had already set by now but I knew that the best time for me to shut down their machines would have to be at night and that there was no other way for me to do it all during the day. I kept on walking and with each step I took I turned the pain I was feeling into pride, or at least I tried to.
Suddenly I heard the familiar sound of soldiers footsteps pumping on the ground, there vibrations raced through my body. Almost instinctively I started to climb up into the nearest tree. Not a moment too soon I was hidden high up in the leaves and I could see just a trio of men walking under me. They were acting sluggish and didn’t move very quickly but I still didn’t risk sneaking down in case they had a sniffer with them that could catch me in an instant. After they were long gone I shimmied my way down the trunk of the tree and reached for my map, there wasn’t anyone who looked like they were on my path or coming towards me and I wasn’t that far away so I continued to walk on.
Finally after what seemed like forever I reached the edge of an area where a group of about one hundred soldiers were resting with a couple other ones keeping watch. Most of the men were just sleeping on tarps on the ground but in one area I saw a pretty large and rather fancy tent, it was then that I was ninety nine percent sure that was where the leader was sleeping and also due to the number of guards surrounding that particular area. I remembered Aversa had told me that when I found the leader he had to be the first one destroyed or there was no chance in hell of me ever getting to the controls to shut down the barrier. My heart was pounding and I thought for sure that the sound of it was going to be heard by the soldiers and I would be caught. I placed my hand over it trying to calm the beating down but it had no effect.
I tried my best to just focus on the mission I was about to have to complete. Get in the tent, kill the leader and make it a commotion, then run as fast as you can to the control box and shut down the barrier, I repeated the steps over and over in my head. They didn’t seem too difficult but I knew completing them all in a fluid and continuous motion without getting caught would be no easy task. Cause a commotion but don’t get caught, I could honestly say I had never heard that one before. I crept around another tree and snuck over closer to where the tent was. There was a small back opening that was unguarded and that I hadn’t noticed before and all I could think about was how perfect this all seemed to be starting out but how it would probably end very terribly because that was just my luck.
I first opened the flap of the door before fully entering. I could see a small cot on the other side of the room and a table next to that with some fancy technology I had never seen before. There only seemed to be one person in there and they were knocked out cold so I entered pretty casually but still trying not to make much noise. I pulled out a small syringe full of fluid that Aversa had given me. She promised that it would instantly kill whoever was injected with it and they had even tested it on someone who had generously offered to lend their ghostly life to the cause. I made sure the needle was pulled back just right and took tiny steps over to the edge of the bed. The persons face was covered with a light blanket and I couldn’t bring myself to pull it back at first. I just stood there breathing as silently as I knew possible and let thoughts over come my mind and body. How did I even get here? I thought. I mean why was I chosen to do this, there had to be some power even larger then Aversa that brought me here tonight, to this destiny. It just didn’t make sense that so many people have relatives that die every day yet still I am the person that was chosen to be here right now in this moment about to kill the leader of the Under World. My whole body was overcome with emotions that I could hardly comprehend.
I finally came closer to the bed now but still couldn’t bring myself to pull back the blanket yet. I repeated the steps of how to cause the perfect commotion in my head. Wake him up, let him scream for no more than a second and then stick him as fast as you can and run! It was all Aversa had told me to do and it made enough sense, a pretty basic yet still difficult plan to carry out because if any guards came in through the back and front doors I was screwed.
When I pulled the blanket back I finally saw the body of this man for the first time, but his face was covered with some sort of masking. He was just a human boy. No older than twenty one and just above average in his height probably although it was hard to tell with him lying down. I just kind of stared at him confused but sense I had pulled the blanket from his body he shivered a bit and I tossed it back on him. I didn’t know why this felt any different to me then killing one of the ghosts of the Under World but it did. I felt like if I did this I would be killing somebody who was like a brother to me, someone who understood this whole world as well and understood the human world just the same. He started to groan and move around a little bit under the covers now. Then he pulled the mask off himself and I immediately jumped back with fear when I saw his face.
“Wes!” I sort of whispered and screamed.
“Farah,” he mumbled wiping his eyes but not seeming at all disturbed by my reaction.
“What the hell!” I screamed.
“Ohh my God Farah!” he replied. I don’t know if it was because I was so shocked to see him in here or if I didn’t know what to do now but I was half expecting him to jump up and hug and kiss me. For a minute he really looked like he was about to but then he just sat back down on the bed.
“Aren’t you going to call the guards,” I asked but he just shook his head.
“Are you going to kill me?” he asked obviously noticing the syringe in my hand. I didn’t say anything for a moment because I didn’t know what I was going to do in that moment.
“No,” I finally answered. I walked over and sat down on the bed next to him neither of us said anything. “Is this why you believed me all this time?” I asked. “Because you were a part of it to?”
“You weren’t supposed to know…”
“It was all a trick then? Our relationship, you never really liked me did you?” I asked.
“Look Farah, I didn’t at first it’s true but that all changed after our first date trust me, that’s why I had to end it so suddenly,” he begged with me.
“Don’t lie.” I mumbled.
“I’m not but this is the country I fight for and you obviously don’t,” he said motioning around.
“You were going to blow up my family, everyone I love,” I cried.
“Farah, it was only business,” he said acting like it was no big deal.
“Business my ass!” I pulled the needle from my lap and before he even had time to react I pushed it into his neck. “That was for my sister, and this one is for me,” I said pushing the fluids out and into his neck sending his body instantly into a limp and lifeless state. His eyes rolled back in his head and I felt nothing as I ran from the tent.
Never in my life had I run so quickly from a place. I looked back only once as I was leaving to see Wes laying on the ground alone and dead with the needle still hanging from his neck. Wes was dead, it was a feeling that was unprecedented for my body and I didn’t know if I was happy or sad about it. I guess I was a little bit of both. Happy that I had killed the leader of the Under World and was that much closer to setting everyone free but also a little depressed because I had loved Wes and now it was all over, not that I was planning on going back with him after all of this but it was all over now forever even as friends. And I guess I was also just a lot of shocked, I had never pictured to see Wes standing before me as the person I had to kill and I had also never expected to kill him. I couldn’t help myself but to think about all of this as I ran from the tent and looked around for the control box.
“Help! Help! The boy has been hurt!” I heard the first soldier call out to nobody in particular. People in groups of tens and twenties started to make their way quickly over to the tent to see what they could do when in actuality I was the only one who knew he was already gone.
“My son!” I heard a shrill woman scream. “My boy, who the hell did this?!” she cried. I didn’t want to look back for fear that I would be forced to look at the woman whose so I had just killed, Wes’s mother, her only son. It all made sense now to me, why Wes had only talked about his father and I had never even heard about his Mom, she was what you may call “a bad egg” and he didn’t want me to know. But I really did feel sympathy for her at this moment and although I didn’t regret what I had just done I wished it didn’t have to hurt anyone so badly. “Find who did it and have then killed!” I heard her voice beckon. My whole body shuttered when I heard this but I just tried to keep moving and look for the control box. My eyes darted back and forth but I didn’t see anything anywhere, all I could see was the same thin outline that defined the barrier.
It wasn’t until I really took a good look around that I noticed there were no more soldiers guarding the perimeter of the barrier. They had all rushed away in an ignorant movement to go take care of the already dead Wes. There were only two very stiff looking soldiers hanging in there spots. I assumed that where they were was where the control box was, I felt so close and these two men were the only two people standing in my way of doing that. I decided the only choice I had was to take a risk and go out on a limb and try my best to get them away without them noticing I was a human. I didn’t have much of a choice and I guess I really didn’t have much to lose either. I ran out right in front of them and yelled.
“Help! Help! Please come help us we need everyone’s help! Wes has been injured,” I cried pretending to be just like them and pretending I was genuinely concerned with the situation. They looked at me for a moment with skepticism but to my amazing and unexpected luck another young women came screaming almost the exact same thing to the guards. They immediately threw the masks from their faces and laid down their electric sticks and went running towards the scene where everything had happened.
Almost immediately when they left I saw it, the control box just sitting out in the open. I was so close now I could almost taste the victory. I ran up to the little box and flipped the lid open. There were four little switches, which doesn’t sound too complicated but I was completely confused and I felt like I was at a standstill, one that I didn’t have too much time for. They were blue, green, yellow and red containing no labels or anything to indicate what each one did. I stared at them confused, feeling stupider than ever that I was this close and about to let four little buttons ruin everything, just because I couldn’t figure them out. I immediately ruled out the red button, thinking it was the detonator that left three more one blue, one green and one yellow. I didn’t have a clue what to choose, it would have to be a guess, and although it wasn’t a logical thing to do it was the only thing I knew how to do.
“Ohh my lord, ohh my lord,” I just kept telling myself aloud hoping that in some chance a higher power would be able to help me pick the right one. I looked up to the sky but saw nothing except the bright light of the sun shining down upon me and in that moment that was the only thing I needed as a sign to know exactly what button I was going to pick. I slammed my hand down and held it there for a moment and when I picked it back up the yellow button sprung back like a sling shot. Nothing happened at first and I thought I may have pressed the wrong button but I didn’t want to pick another one in fear that it was going to do something dangerous. Just when I was positive I had done something completely wrong the barrier started to fall down around me and everywhere else. Well it didn’t really fall more as it disintegrated into the air.
Upper World citizens began to cheer and jump around when they realized they were free and the soldiers who had been trained and were prepared stormed from the Homeland Building and towards the group of Under World soldiers who were mostly just standing around hopeless and ultimately awaiting their deaths. I raced into the building to find my dad and sister but I was stopped in my tracks by someone, an old frail lady with eyes full of tears.
“Thank you my child,” she cried tears of happiness to me.
“You’re welcome,” was all I needed to say to get her to grab me up in a big hug and start kissing me on the cheek. She let me go and bowed her head in an almost apology for being so energetic towards me. “Please go celebrate, this will be a good day for us,” I told her motioning towards the rest of the crowd. She hobbled her way down the stairs and sort of held herself towards the back of the crowd but still a part of it. I smiled when she threw her arms up in the air and started making her little old body jump up and down with the rest of the crowd of happy citizens.
“Farah!” I heard Dad and Cressida’s voice both yell. I turned around and saw them racing down the stairs toward me, arms held out wide. I buried myself in both of their arms and embraced the warmth they both gave off.
“I did it,” I was practically crying with happiness now.
“I’m so proud of you baby girl,” Dad replied. “I knew you could do it.”
“It was Wes Daddy,” I cried.
“Wes?!” Cressida practically screamed at me.
“He was the leader,” my voice shook. “I killed Wes.” It felt so weird finally saying it aloud and I wanted to puke when I saw Cressida’s face, it was one of complete disbelief.
“You killed Wes?” she asked still stunned.
“Yeah, sis I think I did,” I replied even more shocked.
I fell into her arms and cried and she jus held me up trying not to let my now limp buddy drop. I whimpered and let my whole self fall to her now having a sort of regret for what I had done.
“You did the right thing,” she said trying to encourage me. I could feel a strong aura coming towards us now. “Look Farah, someone’s here to see you,” she said pushing me back up to face forward.
“What’s wrong Farah?” Aversa asked sounding just like my mother.
“I killed him,” I cried letting it all sink in for the second time.
“I’m so proud of you,” she replied gleaming.
“Do you know who I killed?” I asked her and she just shook her head no.
“The only boy I thought I would ever love,” I whimpered.
“Your boyfriend? Wes?” she asked already knowing the answer but I nodded my head yes anyways. “Farah, take it from me,” she said pulling me in closer. “You will love many, many boys in your life and some will break your heart and some hearts you will break yourself but one day you will find the perfect most wonderful guy for you and when you are old you die and be able to live here together, and that is because of what you didn’t here right now.” she smiled and then gave me huge hug. I nodded my head because I knew it was probably true but I still didn’t want to accept the fact that I had killed him so I looked to Dad for some more encouraging words. He didn’t say anything for a moment and almost looked like he wasn’t even paying attention to me but then finally spoke.
“Let’s hope it’s not too many boys in your future,” he laughed not knowing what else to say. I sort of laugh cried and then ran a few steps into a giant hug with him that he wasn’t expecting. “I’m proud of you Farah,” he mumbled into my ear.
“I know,” I whispered back pulling away from the hug.
“Well clean up is going to be a mess,” I joked to everybody trying to avoid any jokes about the sentimental moment I had just had.
“I don’t think so,” Aversa replied pointing over to the battle field where all of the dead soldiers were laying. One after another they each began to designate into thin air just as the barrier had when I shut it down.
“Where are they all going?” I asked confused.
“I don’t know,” Aversa shook her head. “But wherever it is I hope it far away from here.”
“You can say that again,” I agreed.
“Well I should probably go settle things down before they get to chaotic,” she said motioning to the growing wild crowd. We nodded in agreement and she hurried off to go take care of the situation at hand leaving just Cressida, Dad and I standing alone on the staircase.
“So what happens now?” I asked. “I mean do I just go home and pretend this whole thing never happened?”
“I guess you have to,” Cressida replied.
“We knew this magic couldn’t last forever,” Dad agreed.
“How much time do I have?” I asked.
“As much as you need,” Dad told me.
“We never did get to finish our fishing trip,” I grinned at both of them insinuating exactly what I wanted to them.
“Shall we go now? You know it’s always calm after the storm,” Dad replied using his favorite phrase to describe the situation.
“Let’s,” Cressida and I both replied. Almost immediately we were being transported through the vortex, which now felt almost normal to me now and being shot out in the field right beside the river and waterfall. The place looked untouched by the soldiers and our trap was still sitting in the same place it had been before we left. Had they not reached this place? I wondered. Or did they not want to ruin its beauty? I raced Cressida over to the water and even though I was on my two legs and she was flying I still won just like old times. I reached down and picked up the trap from the ground examining it to make sure it was still okay, which it was.
“Come on Dad!” I called motioning my arms for him to come join us. He rushed over and stood beside me as I placed the trap under the area the water fell. Fish immediately began to drop and the small ones were able to get out while the larger ones were trapped in so that we could catch the ones we wanted to eat. “Look at that,” I smiled up at him. I grabbed the flopping fish right out of the trap avoiding its spiky scales and tossed it into a bucket Dad had grabbed for us. It flopped around a bit before falling limp to the bottom. I through three more fish on top of that in the matter of about three minutes and when we had more than enough to have a meal for thirty Dad finally had to tell us to stop.
Everything felt so surreal in that moment. The sun was gleaming down on my hair and making it warm just the way I liked it to feel. The blades of grass were sparkling and the way Cressida’s laugh sounded beside mine felt so completely normal and I never wanted that moment to end.
“When do you think Aversa will make me go back?” I asked not wanting to think about it but still needing to know the answer.
“Well I think that after everything you did today she’ll at least let you stay to have one last meal with your family,” Dad replied talking about eating the fish. “Should we go home and fry them up?” he asked.
“I don’t think we have much of a home to go back to,” I replied now remembering how I had seen the house completely torn up and vandalized.
“What do you mean?” they both asked.
“I went back there, when I needed a place to hide quickly and well the soldiers from the Under World had completely destroyed it,” I replied. They both looked at me stunned, like they couldn’t believe what they were hearing. “I’m really sorry guys,” I said not knowing what else to say because i could honestly say I had never been in this type of situation before.
“There was nothing you could do,” Dad said shaking his head still in disbelief.
“They were probably looking for me though, and that’s why the wrecked the house,” I reminded him.
“Don’t worry about the house it’s not that big of a deal we can figure something out,” Cressida said trying to stay positive.
“I wish I could have stopped them,” I shook my head.
“Don’t beat yourself up Farah, why don’t we go back to the Homeland Building, I’m sure Aversa would be more than willing to figure something out for us.
“She better after everything Farah did today,” Cressida laughed.
“Can we go now? I just feel terrible and want to get this all sorted out for you guys before I leave and everything you know?” I asked.
“You lead the way,” Dad smiled motioning towards nowhere in particular.
We appeared in the Homeland Building right before the usual Capitol dinner time so what I expected to see was not what I got. I mean I knew things wouldn’t be the same and all, seeing as this was the day we had just fought and won in a war but still. The usual hustle and bustle of the main room was reduced to just a few people strolling by in no hurry at all and dressed in completely casual clothes and even Aversa’s secretary was not as high strung as I remembered but this time acted calm and at peace when we walked through the front door.
“Is Aversa here?” I asked politely. She peered down from over the magazine she was reading and directed me to just go right in the office where Aversa was.
“Can you guys maybe wait out here for a moment?” I asked Dad and Cressida before I entered the office. They looked a little confused at first but reluctantly agreed and sat down on a couple of couches in the waiting area. I didn’t enter the room until they were fully seated and relaxed and when I did enter it was very swift and quiet. Aversa was laying on one of the couches with a big blanket covering the lower half of her body and a book in her hand. It was a side to her that I had never seen before and it sort of stunned me for a moment when I saw that it was really her.
“Ohh Farah, please come in and take a seat,” she smiled pointing to the chair across from the couch she was on. I curled up in one of the chairs and waited for her to speak again. “You know it isn’t every day I get to do this kind of stuff,” she said talking about the reading and just lounging around.
“Must be nice to have a break sometimes then,” I agreed.
“You know I can never thank you enough for everything you did for me and for everyone who lives here, you changed our lives and now we never have fear,” she said looking right at me with glistening eyes.
“You were scared?” I asked sort of joking not being able to believe that she could actually ever be afraid of anything.
“I was terrified,” she laughed.
“Me to,” I admitted.
“Well is there something you wanted to talk about? Or something I can do for you?” she asked. I nodded my head yes and looked down with sad puppy dog eyes. “What is it?” she asked. “You know I owe you anything after this so just ask,” she laughed.
“I have to go home though, don’t I?” I mumbled. She looked at me for a moment almost like she didn’t hear what I had said but then through the corner of my eyes I could see her nod her head yes.
“I’m really sorry Farah, I know how much you love it here and love all of the people here,” she actually sounded very genuine but still tears welled up in my eyes thinking about it.
“How long do I have?” I asked just wanting to get the time constraint out there as soon as possible.
“I don’t see any reason to make you dwell on being here much longer so as soon as possible would be best, okay?” she asked not really caring about what I thought because she was going to send me back anyways so I just nodded my head in agreement.
“Maybe you would like to make a little speech to everybody, thank them all for their bravery and commitment and thank them for believing in you,” Aversa suggested. I contemplated the offer for a moment, I didn’t know if I would be able to do it without completely breaking down but I knew it was probably for the best.
“When?” I asked.
“How’s after dinner work for you, we could have you home by nightfall,” she said happily. I agreed but then threw in one final condition.
“Yes sweet girl?” she replied.
“Will you take care of them for me, they need someone watching out for them,” I chuckled talking about Dad and Cressida.
“The new house is being designed as we speak,” she smiled.
“How did you know about that?”I asked in awe.
“I know everything,” she replied. Before I could say anything else she told me, “You better go work on something for that speech now, dinner ends in a half an hour.” I stood up without saying anything further and walked out of the room.
When I emerged Dad and Cressida immediately stood up waiting for me to say something but I stayed silent so Cressida talked for me.
“Well what happened?” she asked anxiously.
“She said the house is being fixed as we speak” I replied trying to choke back tears.
“Well that’s good,” they both said enthusiastically.
“Farah what’s wrong?” Dad asked concerned.
“I have to leave,” I started to cry. “Tonight,”
“Ohh sweetie I know that isn’t what you wanted, I’m so sorry,” Dad grabbed me up in a hug. “Do you want to do something fun until then?” he asked trying to cheer me up. I shook my head no.
“I can’t, Aversa wants me to make a speech before I go,” I told them.
“Really, so we can’t even hang out tonight?” Cressida sounded like she was about to cry as well.
“Will you guys help me?” I asked still trying to wipe the water from under my eyes.
“Well we can try,” Dad smiled not sounding to confident in his abilities.
“Let’s go to the office in the back room,” Cressida suggested leading the way. “It’s quite an inspirational place I’ve always found.” We walked down the hallway together arm and arm like a bad ending to a movie until we reached the room which ironically had a little title card on the door that just said “OFFICE”. When we entered the whole room looked nothing like what I was expecting and office to look like. I was expecting to see rows of desks and maybe some printers and paper, really a pretty drab place but what I got was nothing like that. The place looked like something out of Santa’s Workshop, decorated with tons of bright colors and spaces for artistic expression.
“This is the office?” I asked still amazed.
“Yeah, you like it?” Cressida asked.
“Let’s get to work!” I suggested with more enthusiasm this time not even remembering how sad I was just a couple minutes ago.
It had seemed like way less than a half hour had passed when Aversa found us scribbling away on a notepad in the office, still bouncing ideas off of each other.
“I thought I would find you all here,” she laughed. “Are you ready to go Farah? Ohh and of course the rest of you should come as well,” she said. I looked back at Cressida for a moment and she just stared back at me with a sort of depressed yet encouraging expression on her face telling me to go.
“I’m ready,” I replied.
“Great, well quite a crowd as gathered outside to see you so this should be pretty exciting,” Aversa admitted. The butterflies in my stomach immediately began jumping around and I was regretting ever agreeing to this in the first place. But when she led me out the door I pushed myself to keep walking forward. “Are you ready?” she asked when we approached the front doors where I could already here the crowds of people chattering. I immediately looked down at the clothes I was in and realized for the first time that I hadn’t changed in a long time, they were covered with dirt and half of the sleeve on the shirt had been torn while I was climbing the tree.
“Wait,” I said stopping in my tracks. She turned around to look at me and then asked what was wrong. “I can’t go out there looking like this!” I practically screamed.
“Sure you can,” she said with encouragement. “I think it really will heighten your speech as well.” I wanted to go run and change quickly but I also knew there wasn’t much time for that so I would have to deal with it. “Are you ready now?” she asked.
“Yeah, let’s go,” I replied. She opened the big grand doors for me and the cool breeze of the night hit my face immediately. The cheering coming from the crowd rung in my ears and I really wish I had a glass of water right about now.
“Go on,” Aversa urged me forward while she herself stepped back a bit. I gripped the speech tight in both hands and just kept taking small steps forward trying not to trip over anything of the unknown. Everything in my head went blank for moment but when I stepped up to the podium on the stairwell it all came flowing back to me. I tapped on the microphone a couple of times and did a sort of clearing my throat in it to get everyone’s attention before I began. They all quieted down and put all of their attention onto me.
“Hi everyone,” I stuttered looking down at my speech again. “I can never truly thank you all enough for everything you did today and over the past couple of days. It may just feel like a simple victory for us but in actuality it is a victory for every new person to enter this magnificent land,” I took a moment and paused while everybody clapped their hands in agreement. “Until now I never really realized how strong each person here is as an individual but how when we gather ourselves in a team we are that much stronger and tougher to be reckoned with! We were invincible people today and I congratulate each and every one of you for that,” I said sounding and feeling very presidential which was emphasized because of where I was standing on the staircase. “Now I must tell you with my deepest regrets that I have to leave. I wasn’t meant to be here right now and I have to go home and be with my family, so for now this is goodbye. I will honestly miss each and every one of you until we meet again,” I cried now trying to wipe the tears from my face to hide them but it was to no avail, I was absolutely balling. Then they all did something that I wasn’t expecting. Each one of them raised an arm and held it out for me and then in unison they all said,
“Until we meet again.” I stared at it through my salty tear filled eyes and just kept crying even more until finally Aversa forced me to exit the stairs.
“That was beautiful,” Cressida cried grabbing me up into a big hug.
“Thanks,” I replied.
“Really a nice, nice job Farah,” Aversa agreed. “I think we will all be waiting now until the time we meet again,” she smiled. I looked over at Dad who was keeping his distance from all of us, his head was facing the opposite direction and he just kept staring at the Homeland Building. I said goodbye for a moment to Aversa and Cressida and rushed over to him.
“Hey Dad,” I said trying to smile now and sound less like I had been crying.
“Hi,” he mumbled keeping his head turned far away from me.
“What’s wrong?” I pleaded.
“You made a beautiful speech,” was all he replied with.
“But is that what’s wrong?” I asked. He wiped his face and I could now see he had been crying, trying to hide it from everyone. After he pulled himself together a bit more he turned to look at me and said,
“Farah did you know the first time I set foot in this building was the day I got to come see you for the first time, I mean in this world?” I hadn’t known that and I guess I couldn’t have really expected him to have thought he wasn’t much of the Capitol type as he would always call it.
“No I didn’t know,” I replied shaking my head.
“Farah you being here as changed my second life,” he cried again.
“Dad I’m sure if you want to come here more often they wouldn’t be opposed to it or anything I mean they kind of owe you and…”
“No, no it isn’t that,” he laughed cutting me off. “It’s just that, even with Cressida here I still wasn’t happy enough, I was half full. I never wanted to die you know?” he asked shaking his head. “But when you came I was happy again, I was full and happy and I loved having you here because you did that,” he said. I didn’t know how to reply to that because we both knew I still couldn’t stay no matter what he said and that made it that much harder to deal with. All I could do was run up into him and him the best hug I could. “What was that?” he asked a little confused.
“Until we meet again,” was all I needed to say.
“Are you ready for this?” Aversa asked me as she started to hook up my head to a bunch of wires and systems in a small room in the Homeland Building created just for this situation.
“No, but that’s okay,” I smiled trying to calm my nerves down.
“It won’t hurt a bit you know?” she asked. “I promise.”
“I know,” I reassured her because she was starting to look a little jittery as well now. “Can I ask you something?” I asked.
“Anything,” she replied attaching the last of the chords.
“How long have I been gone, I mean from my life back on Earth?” I guess I just needed to know sense I hadn’t thought about it almost the entire time I had been here. She mumbled something like she was trying to hide it from me but I asked again to hear it right.
“Two weeks,” she shuttered a little when she said it.
“It didn’t feel like that,” I replied knowing I couldn’t do anything about it know.
“Time just flies here I guess,” she said.
“I guess so.”
“So are you ready?” she asked. I knew I didn’t feel ready but I didn’t really have a choice so I just had to do it.
“Yes,” I replied. She started punching some sort of coordinates in the machine and then right before pressing the send off button told me,
“You will end up right where you were when you left, okay? Just don’t do anything stupid and go home and Farah remember never, I mean ever repeat any of this, got it?” she asked.
“What do I say when they ask where I was all this?” I asked confused.
“Tell them you were kidnapped and are free now, it’ll be a big huge story and they’ll never catch anyone so there is nothing to worry about.”
“Okay,” I agreed still not knowing how that would actually end up working out for me.
“Now?” she asked. I just shook my head yes gently and she pressed down on the little green button. I felt a tingle run through my body and finally my eyes forced themselves shut and I could feel myself being transported through the vortex. Only this time it felt different, the vortex was much longer than usual and I felt like I was floating in the clouds. I could feel myself come out of it now and the same cushiony bed I had left on was now underneath me, but I couldn’t bring myself to open my eyes. I don’t what I was scared of, change I guess. Finally I brought myself to just peak out of one eye. There around me I was in the same place as before I had left a place Cressida had stood with me just two weeks ago. I sat up and through my legs from the bed but didn’t bring myself to put any pressure on them yet. One at a time I placed them to the floor. I wobbled a little at first and got very dizzy but quickly I was able to regain my muscle control and stand up completely. It wasn’t until now that I realized the casts were still overwhelming my now tinier stature. Although I didn’t feel hungry I could tell I was noticeably smaller and I guessed that this could just ad to my kidnapping story.
“I guess I should go home,” I said to nobody in particular. I hobbled out of the tent I was in and looked around at the world in front of me. It all felt so real, much realer then where I had been. The bright sun stung my eyes and forced them to squint but it felt so warm against my dehydrated skin. I couldn’t even remember where I was going, my old hose didn’t feel like home anymore and the place I wanted to be wouldn’t take me back.
I emerged from the woods and found myself on the beaten old path that was actually a much untraveled road now looked even more tired than before, I guessed large groups of people had probably walked it over the last couple of weeks, looking for me. I don’t know if I was expecting to still see a ton of searchers, if there even were any but I just didn’t expect it to be as quiet as it was. I began to hobble across the road, but the casts were definitely slowing me down and I wondered if they had found my wheelchair when they were looking for me.
Before I was even given the opportunity to react I saw something hurdling towards me. At first it just looked like a little red blob but within seconds the blob became I giant pickup truck coming right for my body. I felt stuck and as much as my brain told me to move my heart held my body in its place. He had to be going well over the thirty five mph speed limit and when the truck was just yards from my body I could see the driver, we locked eyes and by the time he finally noticed who I was it didn’t matter how much he slammed on the breaks, I was going to be hit.
I guess I expected the slam to hurt a little more than it did. I mean don’t get me wrong the first three seconds were the worst pain of my life, but after that everything seemed to subside. I had felt my body get tossed to the ground and within seconds the driver ran out of the car and rushed over to me. His cold hands touched my wrist, checking for a pulse.
“Damn it,” he muttered. “Breath Farah, breath.” I didn’t understand how he knew my name, were there posters up around town. I could hear him crying now and although my eyes were closed I knew exactly who this was. My breaths got shorter and I knew I was going to die; I was going to get my way after all. “This is not happening, ohh please God not this!” he kept crying. I wanted to reach up and touch him, tell him I was alright, that this was okay but I couldn’t bring my body to do so. All I could think about was what everyone would day when I returned, Cressida, Aversa and my father; I could only hope they would know I didn’t plan this for myself. “Why me?” he kept pleading. I knew my final gasps of breath were coming to an end now. I used all of my power and forced my eyes open and locked mine with his. I could see his shirt soaked with the blood coming from my stomach and his face had the feeling of guilt written all over it.
“I love you grandpa,” I mumbled before shutting my eyes for the final time.
“Come back!” he demanded. I could hear the sound of the ambulance in the background now, but by the time they got here it would be too late. I was already dead. There was no light though; nothing special like everybody on Earth seems to think there is about dying. The vortex felt just the same to me as it had before. I floated along until finally I showed up in a place I didn’t recognize.
People were bustling around and pushing people into categories based on age for something that resembled processing of inmates at a jail. I didn’t feel right and I just wanted to get this over with and go see my family.
“Name?” a woman asked me.
“Farah Becker,” I replied trying to stay calm. She looked at me suspiciously, like she was confused of some sort.
“Excuse me?” she asked confused.
“Farah Becker,” I repeated. She grinned and everyone around us stopped there commotion to stare at me, which was more uncomfortable then it had been the first time. I looked down at my floating feet and immediately forgot about everybody’s staring. I was normal now; I fit in with everybody else. People went back to what they were previously doing and now seeing my “new” self I couldn’t help myself from smiling big.
“Welcome to the Upper World Farah Becker, glad to have you here, forever.”
Forever was the word that always had seemed impossible to me but now being dead I realize that it’s not all its chocked up to be. Don’t get me wrong I love my life here, in the Upper World. I mean I’ve been here for thirty five years now and I’m living a great after life but sometimes I wonder how long this can really go on for. My grandparents showed up shortly after my own death and my mom not too long ago as well so we all wait for Justin, we wait in anticipation. But every so often I’m able to check in on him. He isn’t the sweet little boy like I used to know though; he has blossomed into a wonderful adult. He has a lovely wife that I can see he is crazy about and three little girls for children whom I know must drive him crazy but he loves them and I can’t wait to meet them in person. I know he misses us all like crazy but he and his wife have made quite a family for themselves so I don’t worry about them all that often.
I to have met the love of my life, and I can finally say I know this for a fact. His name is Alex Lowe and I know that this is the place I was meant to be so that we could be brought together. We live right down the hall now from my family, with his as well and now with our son and daughter, William and Alexis, who we adopted last year. William is five and died from a genetic disorder while the actual cause of three year old Alexis’s death was never determined. I never really pictured myself being a mother, especially to children that were not my own, but I’ve really fallen in love. I know one day they will return to their real parents but I don’t care, I want to raise them with my love and when we get to that point we will face it as a family, we love each other and that’s all that matters now.
Aversa and I have remained a sort of friends throughout all of this and I think that’s just where we shall remain. They offered to let me become some kind of high ranked Capitol official but I humbly declined the offer. People here don’t see me as the girl that saved the world anymore but as the average mother of two who loves her family and life. I think that’s how it should be, I mean I was never much for the glamorous life and nothing could change that. I’m still just that shy little girl with big dreams sitting on my bed waiting for her time to come when really every second is her time.
Acton, Ma, Massachusetts
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