The barn was quiet when Denae awoke. Everyone was still asleep and the loft was dark, even the horses below made no sound. Denae stands, her legs shaking in the bitter cold as she shakes the sleeping bag off of her bare skin. Flipping a flashlight around her fingers she climbs down the trembling ladder. This is her family's barn, she's surrounded by all of her closest friends, but still, something felt wrong. Like some uninvited creature was lurking in the shadows. Something clangs behind her and she whips around, turning the flashlight on as her horse, Magnolium, hits his rear end against the stall wall. Denae laughs to herself queitly.
"Steady, girl." She whispers to herself. She slowly turns around, dark blonde hair twisting along with her, standing behind her was her best friend Jaycee. Denae opens her mouth to scream, startled, but Jaycee clamps a hand over her mouth.
"Shut it, it's just me." She growls, brushing her ruby hair out of her hazel blue eyes, her pale freckled face ligthing up in the essence of the flashlight. Denae calms down, her heart rate quickly decreasing.
"You scared me." Denae snaps, pushing past her, her feet twisting in the dusty floor. Jaycee shrugs, following her into Denae's father's heated office.
"I got up to use the bathroom and saw that you were gone." She answers plainly. "Are you okay, Denae? You're shaking a little." Jaycee plants a soothing hand on Denae's arm.
"Well it may have something to do with the fact that you just scared all that was holy right out of me." Denae growls back her friend. Jaycee laughs and the two of them lean against the desk, eating sunflower seeds.
"Why are you up anyways?" Jaycee asks, spitting a shells into the garbage bin. Denae shrugs.
"I just woke up." She says. Jaycee shrugs and looks into the darkened barn, the only light was the dim candlelight from the stick Denae had lit a few moments ago. "This place is creepy at night."
"Yeah, I've always hated waking up alone when we have these sleep overs." Jaycee admits, looking around. Denae scoffs.
"Oh is that why you always feel the need to wake me?" She giggles. Jaycee shrugs.
"Perhaps." Jaycee gets off the desk and takes the flashlight out of Denae's hand. "I'm going to the bathroom. Wait here, I'll come and get you when I'm done. And don't kill anything while I'm gone." She teases. Denae stands alone in the office watching Jaycee's silhoutte disappear in the flickering candlelight.
Jaycee's bare feet pad across the dewy grass. Denae had a large property, stretching out for almost seven miles. Her Dad had inherited it from his evasive Father after he died. Her Grandma had raised two children with only the help of her parents and a large donation from the Father every year. But once Denae's Grandpa died, her Dad took over the land, moving the family to Lac La Biche when she was two.
As she reached the house she pulled the door open quietly, hoping to not wake they yappy miniture Maltese they'd bought Denae for her birthday last year. If Maximus woke up, it would be a matter of seconds that the rest of the household would be lively as well. She manages to make it down the hallway, stalking past Maximus, the dog catches her familiar scent and lays his head back down. She exhales, relieved, sliding the bathroom door shut. She quickly goes pee and washes her hands. She glances up into the mirror at her long wavy hair, Denae always called it ruby, but lately it had been darkening into more of a rich red wine color. Either way, she knew she looked good. Her eyes are narrowed and almond shaped, but pale blue and a browny green stirring in together. Her face was pale, more then normal, and her freckles were reddish as well, the same freckles that ran all the way up her forearms. Despite being a ginger, Jaycee was beautiful, and did a great job of keeping her temper.
"Denae?" Jaycee calls out into the dark barn. There isn't a response, even though in this dead silence, you could even here Skylynn moaning softly in her sleep up in the loft. There is no way Denae missed that. There's also no way Denae left the office and made it back to the loft without pissing her pants. Jaycee whips the flashlight back and forth across the floor, making sure not to trip on anything that would wake the other girls. She makes it to the office safe.
But it appears empty.
"Denae?" Jaycee hisses again, scanning the office. She turns and hurries to the ladder, calling on her way up. "Hey, you guys!" She yells loudly. They ruffle in their sleep, the four girls shuffling inside their sleeping bags. "Hey!" Jaycee yells loudly, enough to shake even Sasha, who sleeps like the dead. "You guys wake up!" She yells again, grabbing Skylynn's toilteree bag and throwing it hard at the wall. The sound erupts through the room and the girls sit up, Sage screeches. Jaycee does a head count. Four, not five.
"What the hell, Jaycee? What time is it?" Danni groans, grabbing her pillow and placing it against her knees. Jaycee doesn't answer, she's scanning the loft. "Where's Denae?" Dannie mumbles, pushing herself out of the sleeping bag like the rest of the girls.
"That's the thing, I don't know." Jaycee says, hopping off the ladder. They all turn on their flashlights and follow her. They set out, searching high and low for Denae, calling out her name. Jaycee circles back, deciding to check the office again.
"Guys, I found her!" Jaycee yells out into the dark barn, she hears eight different feet thrundering towards her from all over. When they approach, they stop and stare at the dead body on the ground.
"Denae!" Skylynn screams and she throws herself at her friend. Jaycee is kneeling by Denae's head, looking for any injuries. Sage, Danni, and Sasha, stay a good three feet away, frozen with shock.
"Call 9-1-1!" Jaycee screeches, common sense kicking in. Sage takes off immediatly. At first they all think she went to go phone the cops but they soon hear her puking outside. Sasha joins her. Danni is still frozen. "Call 9-1-1!" Danni slowly reaches for the phone on the desk. Her fingers pressing buttons roboticly, she doesn't seem to be aware of anything as she tells the officer where they are and what happened.
They arrived in about ten minutes, and they put Denae in the back of the ambulance and drove off, her parents and friends in the cars behind them.
The worst memory Jaycee will carry with her is Denae's mother's face when the doctor told them that Denae was dead by the time she hit the office floor. They explained it in very long confusing words that could barely be understood over her wailing.
"Denae died of cardiac arrest. It's very uncommon in people her age but it could have been brought on by a series of different difficulties with her heart. Right now we're leaning towards Long QT-" Denae's Father cut him off.
"Long QT Syndrome?" He finishes. The doctor nods sadly. "My Father died of it when Denae was two. Is it passed genetically?" He asks. The doctor shrugs.
"It is an inherited heart rhythm disorder that can cause fast, chaotic heartbeats." The doctor says, rubbing his eyes. The rapid heartbeats, caused by changes in the part of your heart that causes it to beat." He informs the lot of us. "It may lead to fainting, which can be life threatening to someone with this condition." A tear drips out of the doctor's eye and streams down his cheek. "In this case, her heart's rhythm was so erratic that it caused a sudden death. Young people with long QT syndrome have an increased risk of sudden death." He says.
That's all her friends ever learned about her death. That is was medically caused and maybe even preventable if Jaycee had huddled her into the house along with her. Nobody blames Jaycee, but she blames herself. Even if nobody could have stopped it. The doctor had said she was dead before she hit the floor....