Compare life to that of a roller coaster ride. Each has its unique share of ups, downs, and unexpected turns that cause your stomach to turn over. Each rides at its own pace, and ends when you least expect it. Some aspects may be pleasant and enjoyable, while others leave you wondering why you jumped aboard. And once it's over, only the memories are left.
As anyone with personal experience could say, memories never die, and Ryan knew that for a fact. Though he was nowhere near adulthood, that didn't mean he hadn't been through his share of troubles.
His life from point-of-view had differed from everyone else he had known. But not in the way of appearance - just all that tragic stuff he didn't like to think about. As he stared out at the beauty of the sun setting gracefully over the lake, he smiled at the many memories he had had with his family, and blocked out the horrible flashbacks that threatened him. Though his life had not been much of a smooth ride, he was still grateful for it, and always would be. Nothing could stop him from believing he had been born into a great family, and was living a life like any other kid his age.
Ryan watched as the waves rolled in gently, crashing into the shoreline like a little monster trying to grab at his feet. Already, he'd been at the beach for around three hours, and he savoured every moment he'd spent here. The sky was beginning to transform from it's dull blue colour to gorgeous rays of pinks and yellows, and he often caught his mother, Theresa, snapping pictures of the breathtaking sight. He was glad she'd chosen to spend a family evening together on the beach to watch the sunset and to celebrate Shirley's fourth birthday. Nothing could have been more perfect than this.
He watched little Shirley sprint along the shoreline, her five-year-old sister Jodi at her side. Their fingers remained intertwined as they entered the water, shrieking with laughter as the water splashed up their legs and sent a cold rush through their bodies. The two sisters tumbled over, allowing themselves to sink beneath the surface. A grin spread across Ryan's face as his two younger sisters continued with their rough play in the lake, and he wondered if they'd ever settle down. Jodi and Shirley had been more rough than Ryan and Cody had when they were younger, and he imagined it would be that way until they grew a little older.
He felt a sudden urge to jump into the lake to join his youngest siblings, but he felt he shouldn't bother them in their imaginary world. His sisters dove underneath the water, and they began to play one of their favourite games, one that all four siblings had always enjoyed during their childhood; The Shark Game. The game had earned its title very simply, as it was a game identical to Tag, but it had to be played in the water. Jodi swam quickly after Shirley, as Shirley squealed loudly in attempt to escape "the shark." More flashbacks returned to Ryan's mind as he remembered all the times he had played the game when he was around their age, and he grinned again. It had always been enjoyable, especially when their father had been around to join them in the fun.
Cody was soon included in the game, and he dove beneath the waves as if he'd been born a professional. He'd always been a better swimmer than anyone else in the family, and it was no surprise that he'd headed back into the lake for more fun in the water. Even if he hadn't been feeling so well the past few days, he was always up for a little fun. "Ryan, come join!" he called out, finally taking a moment to bring his face above the water to take in some air.
Within seconds, he had disappeared once again, and Ryan slowly trudged through the sand and crawled into the water to join his siblings. The sky had grown a little darker, which increased the difficulty in the game, but they preferred it that way. Theresa had situated herself in a lawn chair to simply watch her children engage in their activity, and she felt relaxed. It had indeed been a long day, sending her three oldest children off to their last day of school early in the morning, and caring for Shirley at home all day. She was proud to have lifted some of the stress off her shoulders, and an evening spent at the beach was truly calming. She was happy to see that her four youngsters were enjoying themselves here.
She felt as if the small town they lived in was lucky to own a beach. Besides a corner store, grocery store, gas station, and a post office, there were absolutely no businesses. The town was sparsely populated, with a population of about one thousand or less. The majority of these people spent their summer days tanning and relaxing on the beach situated on a dead-end road in the quiet part of town. Besides the beach, the only fun places that could be found in the town were the parks, where most children spent their summers. But the lack of businesses never bothered Theresa, as she enjoyed living in a quiet area rather than a city which never seemed to sleep. It seemed as though her children enjoyed the place, too.
"Watch out, the shark's coming!" Shirley hollered, slapping the water with her bare hands as if to signal a warning to Jodi.
Jodi let out an ear-splitting screech as Cody stalked her, and as he came nearer, she struggled to get out of the way as if she would meet her fate if she didn't move. The game seemed much more real when it had been Cody's turn to be the shark, since he'd been such an excellent swimmer, and they were happy to have allowed him to join them. "I'm coming to get you," Cody growled, his voice unusually low.
"You'll never catch me!" Shirley said dramatically, like she was in some sort of horror movie.
As it turned out, Shirley hadn't exactly been the greatest swimmer out there, and as Cody came closer, she nearly cried in frustration. "Ryan, help me!" she screamed, her arms flailing about.
Theresa was startled by hearing her, but she allowed her nerves to slowly calm themselves as she realized her children were still playing the game, and Shirley wasn't drowning. "Help! The shark is gonna eat me! Ryan, save me, please!"
She pretended her life were literally dangling from a thread, and she'd slip away any moment. Ryan leaped in her direction, extending his arm so he could pull her away. "Don't let that nasty shark eat you," he told her, humour glinting in his eyes as they met with Cody's.
The sky had gradually changed once again, and it was almost at its darkest. Theresa was barely able to make out their tiny silhouettes in the dark, and she made the final decision to head home, due to the fact that they'd spend literally all night here if she'd allowed them to. "Time to get out!" she hollered. "We gotta head home!"
"Five more minutes?" another voice called back, and it took some thinking before Theresa recognized that the voice belonged to Cody.
"No, it's getting late," Theresa insisted. "Out of the water."
She could just make out the sound of four small groans, and they obediently made their way back to the shore, shivering at the sudden chilly breeze in the air. They hugged their towels for dear life, embracing the warmth and comfort they had to offer. The girls quickly tossed their clothes back on, instantly soaking the fabric of their dresses, while the boys refused to search for their shirts until they'd become used to the sudden change in temperature. It had indeed been much cooler than they remembered, but now they came to the realization that the sun was temporarily gone, and they wouldn't feel its intense heat beating down on them until tomorrow. Snuggling against their towels, Ryan and Cody scooped up their t-shirts from the extra lawn chair, and proceeded to the van.
Theresa had made sure to park extra close to the entrance, knowing it would be difficult to convince Jodi to leave the beach behind. She'd always been a stubborn little girl, and as Theresa glanced over her shoulder, she realized that Jodi was hiding behind a tree, refusing to leave the spot she stood in. "You three jump in the van," she instructed her remaining children. "I'll be right back."
Ryan helped buckle Shirley into her seatbelt, and he climbed into the passenger side, watching the scene before him with a grin on his face. He watched as Jodi sprinted through the sand away from her mother, while Theresa helplessly attempted to catch her daughter and bring her back to the van. Ryan could just barely make out the sound of Jodi screaming above the sound of the waves. Jodi was flailing like a wild animal as Theresa finally succeeded and carried her away, back toward the van. Throwing the back door open, Theresa sighed as she plopped Jodi down on the back seat, and buckled her seatbelt for her.
As Theresa hopped into the driver's side, allowing a relieved sigh to escape her, Jodi remained silent for once, focusing dreamily out the window at the glorious landscape in front of her. The van's engine roared to life, and off they drove, headed in the direction of their home. Jodi's eyes now shone with interest as she watched the giant trees gradually disappear, and she could feel Shirley's chin resting on her right shoulder, watching with her. They were at the ages where everything seemed to interest them, no matter what it was, and something as simple as watching everything move at an incredible speed out the window was fascinating. "That's a big tree," said Shirley, pointing at one centred in someone's front yard.
"Mommy, why don't we have any trees in out yard?" Jodi asked, along with Shirley's statement.
"That's because we haven't gotten around to planting any," said Theresa. "Maybe one day we'll get some up."
The van suddenly began to bump around uncomfortably, and the four children were instantly able to indicate that they were in their neighbourhood already. The roads were poorly paved, and various potholes covered nearly every inch of the street. And it had been just their luck that they'd found a suitable home to live in, but it just happened to be located on the worst road in town. Ryan shifted around in his seat, sighing.
"The stupid mayor should fix this," said Ryan as he shifted around in his seat. "Our tires are gonna pop if he doesn't."
"Well, last I heard, there are going to be some major changes around here," Theresa stated. "The mayor said the roads will come first, and then a new elementary school is set to be built. How does that sound? Soon, this road is going to be fixed, and we can come home smoothly."
"Sounds better." Ryan glanced up at the one-story house they lived in and stepped out of the van as Theresa put it in park. All he needed right now was a nap. After all, it was getting late. Theresa unlocked the door, and the kids burst in, eager for more family time inside. Family time, as in watch a movie or go to their rooms, with their family nearby. Or if they were lucky, they could convince their mother to let them stay up late, just because it was summer now and they didn't need to worry about school.
"Mommy, I'm hungry," said Shirley.
"After all that cake?" Theresa asked. "I don't think you want to explode."
Shirley laughed and gripped Theresa's sleeve. "Please?"
Ignoring them, Ryan kicked off his shoes and dragged himself upstairs, slumping down onto the beige sofa. He'd barely been home all day, and now was his time. Cody plopped down next to him, leaning close as he flicked through channels on the TV. "Whatcha doin'?" he asked nosily, reaching to snatch the remote from him.
Ryan hid the remote under his arm, away from his annoying brother. "Don't touch it," he warned.
Cody laid back in the couch finally, and that was when Ryan caught sight of the multiple bruises that lined his arm. Wonder if Tara finally got him, he thought, and then chuckled to himself. "Who beat you up this time?" Ryan asked, and laughed.
Cody's I-hate-being-sick facial expression transformed into a puzzled expression. "What?" he said, searching the room for anything that might be out of place.
"Dude, you have purple bruises all over you." Ryan stared blankly at the marks, observing them. They were quite ugly, and dotted his arms like a bingo board. He couldn't believe Cody had never saw them.
"Where?" Cody searched his left arm in a panic.
"Other arm, dummy," said Ryan. "Look at them. They're frickin' huge."
Cody examined his arm, searching for the splotches with his heart nearly in his throat. It sounded serious, from what Ryan had described, and it didn't take long at all before his eyes finally landed on the marks. Ryan had been correct, they were pretty big. Cody's dark eyes went wide, and he let out a loud breath as he realized he'd been holding it.
"What are they?" he questioned.
"Bruises," said Ryan. "Did Jodi punch you again?"
Cody forced a grin. "No, she never touched me. No one did. I didn't even hurt myself."
"You don't even feel that?"
"No." Cody was still staring at them in horror, and he tried to remember exactly what had happened in the water. From what he remembered, nothing had even happened. None of his siblings had even been near him, and nothing had hit him. How could he have possibly received them in the first place?
"What are you two watching?" Theresa entered the room, strolling on over to the couch, where the TV blared in the background.
"Cody's arm," Ryan replied, and pointed at it.
Theresa took a closer look at them. "Holy crap," she said. "Enough rough play?"
"I didn't touch anyone," said Cody.
"You must have," said Theresa. "Bruises don't just come out of nowhere."
"Actually, sometimes they do," said Ryan. "But I think he won't admit to Tara beating the crap out of him."
"She didn't touch me," Cody snapped. "I don't know where they came from."
"Well, tell me if they keep showing up," said Theresa. "I'm no doctor, but I'll see what we can do about it."
"Okay." Cody began to feel uncomfortable. He was worried that he would have to go to a hospital, and everyone knew how much he feared hospitals. Hospitals were for old people, not for eight-year-olds. And besides, they were just bruises. Everybody got bruises. Ryan had had a giant bruise on his arm once from falling off his skateboard. Jodi had had one on her ankle when she twisted it on a crack in the sidewalk. And Shirley had had a fair-sized bruise on her cheek from when Jodi "accidentally" punched her. Bruises were normal - he couldn't see why his were any different.
Besides, even if they weren't normal, they had their mother. "Doctor Mom" was what Ryan had come to call her whenever someone was sick. Somehow, she knew exactly what to do, even if she never went to college or whatever to learn about it. She was a natural at it. Maybe the internet was her best friend or something, or maybe she was just really smart. But she always knew what she was doing. And this time would be no different.
Before long, the two brothers found themselves in their shared bedroom, observing the bruises. Even though they were supposed to be sleeping, they thought the bruises looked kind of cool, the way they lined up on Cody's arm. It was like a complicated maze, creating odd paths around the top. It wasn't until Theresa barged in and told them to get to sleep that they stopped fooling around and cooperated, laughing. Tomorrow they'd prove that they were just marks, and they'd disappear by morning.