The Sun in Motion
“So what happened?” “Okay, so I’m driving down the dark streets of Springfield in my Ford F-150. I try to stay focused on the road, yet, I can’t get shake the feeling I'm being followed. My phone vibrates and I look down for a second to look at it. Seconds later, a truck is barreling down towards me. There's a bright light, then dark. I wake up in a bed, a guy standing above me. “Good morning, sweetheart” I sit up and everything's blurry. “You've been in an accident, hurt your head.” I reach up and there's blood. “But you're safe now. I hope your hungry, because I'm starving!” He pounces on me and that's when I woke up.”
That's the last conversation I've had with my friends. I haven't talked to anyone of them in months...maybe they've forgotten me... Right now, I’m sitting up, restless, staring outside my window. The nurse comes in to check on my bandages. “How’s your head doin’? Any migraines? Any bleeding?” “Nope.” I answer him. “I’m doing just fine. I’m just a bit tired, is all.” “Good, good.” He says, not really focused. “I did fall out the window yesterday.” “Fantastic.” He says as he re-bandages me.” I shake my head as he walks out with a phone in his hand, texting someone. I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure falling out the side of a 20-story building is pretty life threatening.…I would freak out if I heard that.
“STOP YELLING! PEOPLE ARE SLEEPING!” My dad, Alan, yells at my younger brother, Charlie. All the nurses on the floor shush him and he quickly tries to hide behind my mom, Renee, who just shrugs with that awkward smile of hers. She pulls the two of them into my room as I sit up, feeling hungover. “You feeling okay, Liza?” asks mom. I nod. “Ya sure? Cuz’ I can sue the heck outta this place.” Dad offers. “Nah, they’ve had enough lawsuits they’ve won lately.” I give him a half smile as he responds with his signature “Daddy Look” and I roll my eyes. Staring out the window, mom comes and sits on the bed, almost sitting on my legs.
She asks me, “Are you sure you’re okay? We can take you home if you really want us too.” “No, really mom. I’m fine her. I’m better here. I don’t think I’m emotionally ready to go back “home”. I turn away after realizing what I just said. “Why “home”?” She asks, surprised and a little pissed. “Mom…it’s no longer a home to me…it’s a house. Filled with sadness and violence. I can’t go back, I can never go back. I’m not going back to that…that Hell house.”
“WHAT is the big deal?! I thought we were over this? It was a onetime thing. We’ve never fought like that and WILL never fight like that again.” She puts her hand on my shoulder but I shake it off.
“Was it worth it? To PUSH YOUR DAUGHTER DOWN AN F-ING FLIGHT OF STAIRS?!” “Watch your language.” I roll my eyes to my father’s words. He stands up angrily and closes the curtains of the window I’d
been staring out of. Charlie snickers and dad pulls him out into the hall.
I yell at my mother “I am NOT going back to that house!” She starts to cry, like the dramatist she is. “Cut the crap, mom. Don’t try using your “oh, I’m all innocent so I’m gonna make everyone feel bad” move on me. I’m not going back, I’m going to stay at Janie’s house.” “What makes you think you can?” she says, thinking she knows what she’s talking about. “Mom, don’t be daft. Janie already invited me over. After I’m checked out of here, they’re gonna come get me.”
“YOU’RE RUINING THIS FAMILY, Elizabeth!” Oh, first names? The gloves have come off. “ME?! I’M RUINING THIS FAMILY?! Let’s so forget that it’s been ruined ever since Mr. Ming was found “fixing the dishwasher” for you while we were all out. We don’t even HAVE a dishwasher! HOW STUPID DO YOU REALLY THINK WE ALL ARE?!” We’re both silent as I reflect on my words. “OH MY GOD. “Fixing the dishwasher? YOU ARE THE DISHWASHER!” She turns away as I try not to imagine the “incident”.
“Don’t turn this back on me!” she yells. “Don’t you get it?! It was always on you! It’s never OFF you! You’ve been cheating on dad for the past 5 years! Don’t you think it’s hard enough for me not
to tell him about Jacob, Alex, Jonathan, Nathan, Arnold, Jason, Bernie-” she holds up her hand to me. “OK, we get the point…but I’m a good mother. I’m not some skank! Don’t you understand my-” “No,
I don’t really think I do. If you want to be a good mother, I suggest you start acting like one.” She gasps and starts to pace the room. “A GOOD mother doesn’t sleep around with anything that
walks. A GOOD mother doesn’t slap her kid when they’re drunk off their ass. A GOOD MOTHER DOESN’T PUSH HER DAUGHTER DOWN A FUCKING FLIGHT OF STAIRS!!!” She slaps me; HARD. I look at her with tears
running down my face. She stands there, covering her mouth as if she saw someone else do it, and not her. I stare straight into her eyes, “I hate you.”
I’m running out the door, passing my brother and dad eating ice cream cones, and run into the empty elevator. My head is spinning as I pace around the elevator. I press my hands against the icy glass wall as tears fall to the floor. I look at myself in the mirror and can’t believe what I’ve become; my mother. I breathe on the glass and draw my face, putting X’s over my eyes. I fall to my knees and rock back and forth. I hear the elevator ding so I stand to my feet, stumbling, trying to put myself together.
Walking out into the lobby, I try to act natural. I look over to the front desk and a lady is looking at me with shock in her eyes. Two men come running behind her and she points to me. The men look at me and I bolt out the door. “Please, someone help me!” I yell running down the sidewalk. Everyone looks at me like I’m crazy. I don’t blame them. A 16-year old girl running down the street in a hospital gown? Not a good image.
I feel like my life is a TV show. It’s like the two hulk-sized monster nurses are hunting me with a giant net and giant syringe, desperately trying to catch me. I look around, trying to find
a place to hide. There’s an alley across the busy street, but that’s a stupid idea. I keep looking, but they’re catching up so I have to hide somewhere. I decide to run across, trying to run around
traffic. I get to the last lane and a taxi speeds up and almost hits me, but I dive onto the sidewalk. The men run around the corner as I hide behind a dumpster in the alley. Trying to catch my
breath, I slide down the brick wall and slump on ground, not caring about how cold it is. I feel something wet on my arm and I look down, but it’s too dark to tell. The metal door of the building
swings open and a drunken man is pushed out.
“I don’t…care what you say…I’m a perfect actress!” he takes drinks between words. He throws the empty bottle against the wall. “Damn, actors.” An English accent comes through his drunken slurs. I stand up slowly, walking towards him slowly. “Excuse me?” He looks at me with confusion. “What do you want, kid?” “I need help.” “Hey, I don’t have no money for no druggies.” He puts his hands up defensively. “No, I NEED your help.” I show him my arm and there’s a gash on my arm, its cut deep. “Oh, god!” he exclaims. “Please, I can’t go back to the hospital. Help me, please.” He thinks about it. “…okay. Come with me. I know a friend of mine who can help. We walk to his car and the two men are down the sidewalk. “Oh, no!” They see me and start running. We both get in the car quickly.
“GO!” He slams on the gas and we jet ahead. The men get into a car and chase after us. “They’re gonna get us!” I say in a panic as I watch behind us. We swerve towards the interstate and fly off the bridge. The sun is coming up, but it’s faster than usual. We’re flying over the edge, into the water. The sun is still moving, always in motion. I watch it as the car finally plunges into the water. I look up through the windshield and watch us float down to the bottom of the river as the light shines angelically on my face. Everything has gone numb and all sound has escaped from my ears.
The man next to me is freaking out, trying to open the door, but it won’t budge. He grabs a gun out of the glove compartment. My breathing slows and I start to get light-headed. My vision gets blurry as he yells at me, trying to get me to stay awake. He tells me to hold my breath, though I can’t hear him, so I assume he is by the way he holds his nose. He kicks in the window and uses the gun to knock out the rest of the glass. The water pours in and I can’t breathe, even if I wanted to. He grabs my arm and pushes me out the window. I black out.
I wake up on a beach. Slowly, I hear waves crashing and seagulls cawing as my hearing returns. I sit up, holding my head, with a major migraine. My sight slowly transitions between blurry and clear. I look around, trying to find out where I am. The bridge is above me and the car is nowhere in sight. I don’t see the man anywhere so I call for him, “Hello? Mister? Hey! Anybody, there?” No one answers. I stumble to my feet and struggle through the hot sand with no shoes on my feet. Realizing I still had no REAL clothes on, I search for some washed up stuff, but no dice. After about an hour of trying to get picked up by someone, a SUV stopped for me. Unfortunately, it was my parents. I sit in the back seat as they drive me back to the hospital.
“How did you find me?” They don’t answer. “You DO realize what happened? Right?” They’re silent. “Will you answer me?!” Mom abruptly turns in her chair. “We’ll talk about this when we get back. Just sit down, sit still, and shut up!” She turns back around and I sit quietly, staring out the window.
The doctor fixes my arm up as I tell my family about what happened. Mom and dad give me a whole ultimatum about running away. Dad starts, “YOU COULD’VE BEEN KIDNAPPED!” Then mom, “…OR RAPED!!!” Dad yells, “…OR KILLED!!!” Mom yells, “HOW COULD YOU BE THIS STUPID?!” Charlie sits quietly, playing his DS, in the corner. I open my mouth, then pause, taking in all their judgment. “Could I…just say…I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being a screw-up. I’m sorry for being human. I’m so, SO, very sorry that I can’t do anything right. But what gives YOU the right to ridicule me?” They look at each other, then look down. “Could you please just understand me, just for a few minutes, and actually talk to me and tell me you love me…” Tears start to form in my eyes. “…and just…just be there…cuz…I need you guys, and I don’t know how I can live without you.” They stare at their feet, then at each other. “At least look at me!” They look at me, surprised. My mom tries to put her hand on my shoulder, but I turn away. Looking hurt, she sits down in a chair.
“You know your mother and I try our best to do what’s right for you.” dad tries to convince me. I don’t believe him. “So all those years of telling me I’m not good enough and yelling at me for NO goddamn reason was what was best for me?! Oh, I don’t know. How about you hold me when I’m scared, or kiss me when I fall and get hurt, or just even say you love me? Why can’t we be a normal family? Why? Tell me. Why?” They don’t know how to answer. I must’ve stumped them.
The doctor walks back in. “Excuse me? Sorry to interrupt, but can I talk to Elizabeth real quick?” None of them move, looking down, seeming disappointed. “Yeah, doc. I’m coming.” I hop off the bed and we walk into the hall. She closes the door behind me and checks the clipboard. “So…after you…ahem, “left”, you said you were driven into the bay?” “…yes, ma’am.” “Well…thank you! We’ll take care of it. You can leave first thing tomorrow morning.” “Thank you.” We shake hands, she nods and returns back down the hall. I walk back in my room, ready to defuse this bomb we call a family.
The Moon Appears in Dark Places
Turns out I’m living back at home; such a mistake. I haven’t been upstairs yet. I slept on the couch last night, but I’m so excited for school today. Haven’t been in a while…I miss my friends. I was only a freshman when I “dropped out”. My parents and the school have been making arrangements about this. I gotta go to summer school and stay after school every day, then do a lot over the weekends…my social life has officially ended,…because of my parents. I guess it would’ve happened this way, anyhow. They HAVE to be the most embarrassing set of human beings in this hemisphere. And yes, this hemisphere. I don’t believe it when teenagers say the world. That’s such a BROAD statement. I’m getting off track…okay. Where was I? Oh, yeah. High school.
I go to James W. Hawthorne High School. Go Red-Hawks! (I’m obligated to say that every time we mention the school.) I’m waiting at the bus stop at 6AM. It’s really cold, mid-January. Freshman year, I was the only one at the corner, but a boy walks up and stands next to me. He’s about six foot-something and he’s wearing a gray V-neck which shows off his biceps. He has a light 5-o’clock shadow going on. 4-o’clock shadow? Well, whatever. He looks freakin’ hot.
He turns to me. “Hey, I’m Jackson.” “Elizabeth.” I answer him as we shake hands. “I’m a junior. You go to Hawthorne?” He asks me. “Yeah, I’ve been out for a while. Are you new?” I’ve never seen his beautifully chiseled face before. “Nah, I came here early sophomore year. What grade are you?” “Oh, I’m a junior, too.” “Oh, me too. Cool…cool.” We stand there awkwardly until the bus arrives. He turns to me before stepping on. “You can sit next to me if you want.” He smiles. I smile back. We walk about mid-way and he sits down. I sit down next to him.
“So….if you don’t mind me asking, what were you outta school for?” I clear my throat and swallow the little bit of saliva I have left. God, my mouth is so dry. “Um…my mom pushed me down a flight of stairs.” “Oh, man. Really?” His nose cringes. How cute! I can’t help but smile. “Yeah, busted my head open, fractured some bones, minor injuries.” “Minor? Wow, I would’ve never came back to school.” “Yeah, I thought the same way. But, I miss all my friends. Besides, it was just a freak accident. I finally forgave them.” He lets out a small, breathy chuckle. It makes me smile harder.
We stop at the next stop. A group of kids start to get on the bus. A LOT of kids. In the gaggle are my two best friends, Tabitha and Janine. Janine sees me, “LIZA!!!!!” Everyone looks at me and I look at her with wide eyes. She and Tabitha sit in the seat across from us. Jackson looks over at them and smiles. They wave and giggle. I look at him confused. He gives me a shrug and I turn back to the girls. They’re staring at him as he greets some of his buddies sitting behind us.
“Girl!!!” Tabitha says with a smile on her face. Janine jumps in, “When did THIS happen?” I raise one eyebrow in confusion. “This? What’s “THIS”?” “You know…you and him?” She points at Jackson. “Um…I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Tabitha leans over to me, “You know. When did you get with that?” She points over at Jackson. “Omg, no….NO! I just met the guy!” “Mmmhmmm…” They both smirk and I suck my teeth. “Janie, Tabby…I can’t believe you guys didn’t visit me in the hospital…at all.” “Well, Liza, your parents told us it was too soon to see friends for you and you needed “space”.” “Yeah, from THEM!”
I can’t believe my parents. They told me my friends were probably busy with school. Yeah, too busy for me, alright. Jackson sits down and whispers to me, “Your friends are kinda weird.” I smile, “Yeah, they are, aren’t they?” I look back over and they’re making the “Oh, I see you” look. I roll my eyes and smile to myself. We talk about our classes, which we share all of them, except the last, and he asks me, “Mind if I stick with you today? I can help you and stuff.” I hesitate, too long, and answer, “Sure, okay.” “Oh, if you don’t want me to—” “No, no. I do.” We smile at each other. “Oh, by the way, call me Liza.” He smiles at me and nods. Thank god…I’m not weird.
Now that I think about, Jackson looks strangely familiar…Well, anyway, where was I...Oh, yeah. We get to the school. It’s covered with petals (…or leaves?) from the large Chinese Pistache trees surrounding the area. I love the red berries that fall onto the ground. I used to sit in the courtyard, under the trees, and sketch the rabbits and squirrels that would sneak up and take some. I remember one day, just a normal Tuesday. I was sitting outside, under my tree, and a black rabbit came up and sat next to me. I didn’t move, trying not to scare it. It hopped in my lap and rubbed its head on my thigh. It was dark black with a spot of white on its nose, like no other I’ve seen. I’d pet it gently and it always came to visit me every day from that point on. Except, on the Friday of Thanksgiving break that year, I was back under the tree, like every day. I was waiting for Licorice, that’s what I named him, but he never showed up. I’ve never seen him again.
We all walk into the front doors together, greeting the people around us like we’re superstars. “No pictures! Thank you, Los Angeles! You’ve been a great crowd! Deuces!” We all laugh as we arrive in the Math wing. “Where’s your locker, Jackson?” I ask. “Oh, it’s over in the science wing. I don’t use it, anyway.” “Oh, okay.” We stop at Tabby’s and Janie’s lockers. They put their bags in and take nothing out. “What, do you guys not have class all day?” “What do you mean?” Tabby asks, confused. “No pencil? Paper? Nothing?” They still look at me confused. “Whatever, let’s get downstairs.”
We walk towards the stairwell and our principal, Mrs. Rockwell, stops us. “Hey, guys. How are you all?” We all greet her back. She turns to me. “Ms. Roberts. How are you?” A little scared, I answer. “I’m good, ma’am.” “Good, however, I need to speak to you in my office after lunch. Just come on upstairs and tell Ms. Jones to let you in.” She pats my shoulder and continues on. “Wow, Liza, what did you do?” Janie asks jokingly. I say sarcastically, “Oh, I don’t know. I wonder what I did.” We laugh and continue on downstairs. I get on the landing and some guys are staring at me. “What’s going on?” I ask my posse.
We continue down the stairwell, the guys undressing me with their eyes. I cover myself as if I really were. “Oh, my god. You guys!?” Janie and Tabby shield me from them and we run into the guidance office area. I look at them, checking my shirt. “Is my shirt see-through or something? Why does everyone keep staring at me?” They shrug at me. I try to keep calm, take deep breaths, and I slump down to the floor. Jackson comes around the corner, “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” “Yeah…I-I’m fine. Just…a little anxious.” He sits on the floor next to me. “Are you sure? Want me to beat somebody up?” We both chuckle. “Nah, its fine. I just don’t know why they were all staring at me.” I stand up and our guidance counselor, Ms. Carson, comes by. “Good morning…Ms. Roberts? Are you okay?” I look at her with a fake smile. “Yes, ma’am. I’m great!” She senses I’m lying. “I need to speak with you in my office. Right now.”
I wave bye to my friends and awkwardly shuffle into her office. She sits in her chair and I stand across from her. “Oh, you can sit down.” I do and she clasps her hands together. “So…you’ve been out for the past…” She looks down at her desk calendar. I say, “18 months.” She seems surprised about the number. “Yes, yes…and what was the re—” “My parents pushed m—“I hold my tongue.”…I “fell” down the stairs.” She shakes her head. “How awful! However, I need you to know that you will have to work hard to graduate next year.” “I know, I know.” “You should! This is really important. You’re a year behind! Even though you left late your freshman year, you still need to make up that part of the year, your sophomore year, then while doing that, you need to keep up with your junior classes! If you can’t pass all the courses, you will have to return to the 9th grade.”
“WHAT!? NO! THAT’S NOT FAIR!” I protest. “I’m sorry, but you chose not to come to school. It’s your fault.” OMFG! How can she do this to me?! “My fault?! My parents pushed me down the stairs.” “Don’t give me that bull. Suicidal teenagers do things like this all the time.” I am NO suicidal teenager. “No, no! My parents—” “Don’t blame your mistakes on you parents. We all know what you did.” I stand up in anger. “How could you say that?!” “I just tell it like it is.” “Oh, my god! This is unbelievable!” “I need you to leave my office, please. Close the door on your way out.” My jaw drops, I grab my bag and angrily leave her office, slamming the door behind me.
The bell rings, time for class. I walk upstairs to the social studies wing and there’s Jackson standing in the hall, talking to some group of girls. Being the tall guy that he is, he looks like a tower standing in the middle of the gaggle. (BTW, gaggle is a group of geese.) I walk up behind the girls and he sees me. He excuses himself and the girls scoff at me. He asks me, “How’d it go? What happened?” I shrug. “Nothing special. Just some grades stuff, no biggie.” He nods and the late bell rings. We rush for the door and make it in before Ms. Andrews sees us.
Jackson sits at his desk. I stand by the front board and Ms. Andrews stands next to me. “Good morning, class. We have a new student today, well, an old student. This is Elizabeth Roberts. Please take a seat, darling.” I smile and sit in the desk next to Jackson. The announcements come on over the intercom. “Good morning, Hawks! Caw-caw! These are your morning announcements. Please stand for…” I zone out as we stand for the pledge. Jackson notices snaps me out. “Oh...wha-what happened?” “You spaced. What’re you thinking’ about all the time?” I shrug. We all sit back down and they continue. “Attention class of…” I turn to Jackson. “So, tell me about yourself.” “Oh, okay. Um...where do I start? Uh...I was born in Connecticut. Um, I moved to Springfield about...4 years ago, I think. I went to Georgetown middle for my 8th grade year...uh, and here I am now.”
“Oh, cool. How about your family? Any siblings?” “Yeah, I got two brothers, both younger than me. My mom got remarried to my new dad last year. His name’s Jerry. I don’t really like Jerry.” “Oh, that’s too bad.” “Yeah, its life. What about you? Where are you from?” “Class! No talking during the announcements!” yells Ms. Andrews from her desk. We all hush for a few seconds and start talking again.
“Well, I was born in Chicago and when I was 5, my mother gave me up. I moved into a foster home and was adopted almost straight away. When I was 8, my adoptive family and I moved here in Springfield and here we are now.” “Oh...I don’t know what to say.” “Its fine, you don’t have to say anything, just listen.” He nods.
“Well, Jackson. A few years ago, I found out a secret about my mother. I’ve been keeping it a secret ever since. Then last year, a little bit before Christmas, my mom came home drunk and my father waited up for her.
She came in the front door, stumbling everywhere. Dad stands up and starts yelling at mom, calling her names. She starts stomping up the stairs, which I’m at the top of. She stammers past me, without noticing. Dad follows her and grabs her arm. “Let go of me, devil.” She spits on him. He growls and I step in. “Stop, dad! She doesn’t know what she’s doing.” She looks at me. “I know what i’m doin’...you can’t tell me nothin’.” She grabs my arm. “Mom, what are you doing?” She drags me back down the hall towards the stairs. “Let me go!” I yank my arm out of her grasp. She puts her hands on my shoulders and starts shaking me. “Mom...please...stop…” Dad tries to pull her away from me, but she gets agitated and shoves me, causing me to fall backward down the flight of stairs. Then, everything went dark and I woke up in a hospital bed.”
The bell rings, this time a fire alarm. “Everyone outside. Quietly and calmly.” We all pile out the room and go outside to the front of the school. Jesus, its freezing. I start to shiver as Jackson and I walk to the far part of the parking lot where Janie and Tabby are. They see us coming towards them. “Hey, Liz! Jackson! Over here!” We wave and smile to them. “Hey, Tabby?” “Yeah, Janie?” “What starts with a J and ends with an H?” “Oh, I don’t know, Janie. What starts with a J and ends with an H?” “Jackbeth!” We both look at them, confused, as they laugh uncontrollably. “Whatever, guys. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
I stand there, just looking at all of the dead trees. Jackson look down at me and notices me shivering. He stands behind me, puts his arms around my waist, and rests his chin on top of my head. Heat rushed through my body. “You looked cold.” I smile to myself as we waddle in place.
A teacher yells, “Time to go back to class! Everyone go to class!” We all walk back inside as slow as possible. A screech is heard from across the parking lot. It’s my mom’s SUV, but she’s not driving it. Charlie’s head pokes out the window and he screams my name, “LIZA! HELP!!!” He slams on the brakes. Eyes wide open, I run over to the car. “Oh, my god. Charlie! How did you get here like this?!” “I don’t know. I’m scared! Help me, Liz.” “Okay, calm down. Open the door.” He gets out and I get in. Having my permit, I’ve got some kind of idea about driving, but not parking. I drive to the end and park in a place between two smart cars. I get out and Charlie runs over and hugs me. “Thank you, Liz.”
Mrs. Rockwell walks up to us. “What’s going on here?” “My little brother drove here from who knows where are he’s scared. I don’t know what’s happened, but he needs my help.” “Come with me, the both of you.” She walks us into the school, down the hall, and into her office. She calls mom and dad, who I know will be furious at Charlie, and I sit out in the hall while she talks to my scared little brother. I’m sitting on the cool tile floor with my knees up and I’m shaking in anticipation. When my parents get here, shh’s going down.
My parents storm into the front door like the dark raincloud they are. I stand up, still shaking furiously. Mom runs straight past me, nearly pushing me over, and dad stops in front of me. He grabs both of my shoulders, “Are you okay? Are you hurt? Where’s your brother?” Not giving me any time to answer, he just runs into the office. I lean back against the wall and slump down to the floor. I try to hold back tears, but my own mind prevents me from doing so. The bell rings and everyone starts coming out their classes. I start to cry harder then cover my mouth so I don’t let out my hyperventilated breaths. I cover my face with my hands and wipe my tears with my sleeve.
Janine, at first not noticing me, walks by me. She drops her bag and crouches down to me. “Oh, my god! Liz? What’s going on?!” I look up, face dripping with smeared mascara and tears rolling down my cheeks. “Here, let’s go fix you up.” She puts her arm around me as if I broke my leg and escorts me to the nearest bathroom. The bell rings and I’m sitting on the counter, Janie fixing my make-up. “Now, Liza. Tell me what’s going on.” 5 Minutes Later…
“Well, that’s not very fair! How could they do that?! I outta…” I’m sitting on the floor of the surprisingly clean bathroom floor. Janie’s sitting on the counter, lying across it like it was a bed. “No, its fine. I just need to space myself, ya know? I gotta stop thinking and do.” “Are you sure that’s what you want?” I nod. She helps me to my feet and we exit the bathroom. Walking across the hall, I see my parents standing outside the office, talking to Principal Rockwell. I hug Janie goodbye and pray I won’t be blamed for this. Mom shakes Mrs. Rockwell’s hand as dad puts his hand on Charlie’s head. Charlie turns around and looks at me, pre-empting dad to do the same. He motions me over and I start to walk over there when Jackson comes running out of nowhere. “Liz! Janie’s fighting Tabby downstairs in the cafeteria!” Shocked, I drop everything and run down stairs with him. My parents follow behind, along with Mrs. Rockwell.
We get to the bottom of the staircase and everyone is standing on tables and chairs, all with their phones out. Jackson runs over to some of his friends and I run into the circle. Shoving people out the way, I finally reach close to the middle and there’s Janie and Tabby, lying on the floor, pulling each other’s hair. I break through the first people and try to break them apart. “Stop it! You guys! Cut...it….out!” I struggle but finally break them apart. They stand on opposite sides of me, I being in the middle, and I look at both of them. Tabby’s lip is busted and Janie’s hair is in shambles. Mr. Johnson, our assistant principal, breaks up the crowd. “Everyone to class. Move it!” His booming voice echoes throughout the building. He comes up to us and pulls me aside. “What’s going on here?” “I don’t know. That’s what I came down here for to find out.”
We both look at them and they look at each other with a death stare. “Janie, Tabby, why were you fighting?” Janie, still looking at Tabby, turns towards me. “Well, Liza. Right after I left you with your parents, I walked downstairs to go to class. I was walking by the lunch room when THIS Bitch tackled me and started pulling my hair!” “That is totally not what happened!” Tabitha disagrees. Mr. Johnson escorts them to his office and I walk back over to my parents. “What’s going on, Liz?” mom asks sincerely. “They were fighting. I don’t know why.” “Come on, we’re going home.” Dad says as we turn to walk back up the stairs.
On the way back up, I ask about what Charlie was driving here for. All he had to say was, “The moon appears in dark places.” I yet to understand what that meant. I’m kinda scared.
We walk into the house and in my head, I’m singing my favorite song... “Baby be the class clown, I'll be the beauty queen in tears. It's a new art form, showing people how little we care. Yeah. We're so happy, even when we're smilin' out of fear. Let's go down to the tennis court, and talk it up like yeah. Yeah.”
My dog, Pooh-Bear, comes running from around the corner. He must be the cutest dog ever. I pick him up and he puts his paws are on my shoulders and he licks my face. He’s a Pomeranian and sometimes I dress him up in a sweater or something. He loves it and right now he’s wearing my favorite sweater to dress him up with. My grandma used to knit his sweaters, but she passed last April and I’ve been making them myself. They’re not as good as Grandma’s, but I do my best.
I set Pooh down and walk into the kitchen. Charlie’s rummaging through the fridge. I slide across the granite counter-top. “Boo!” I yell into his ear. Charlie jumps. “Liz! You scared me!” “Shouldn’t be leaving the fridge doors open, should we?” He rolls his eyes and leaves to the living room with his hands full of junk food. I get off the counter and grab an apple from the fruit bowl. “You should start being healthy, Charles! It’s good for your health!” I take a bite of it and it’s rotten to the core. “Uggh! Maybe being healthy isn’t so good for you.” I throw it straight in the trash and walk back into the foyer. I stand in front of the stairs, having a flashback of the incident. Taking a deep breathe, I slowly climb the stairs.
The stairs must’ve been taller than I thought. By the time I get to the top, I’m out of breathe and a little dizzy. I know I’m not out of shape, but god! I continue down the hall and walk into my nearly empty room. I knew I never had that much stuff, but I don’t remember it being this echo-ey. “Hello! La-la-la!” Dad walks into the doorway. “I see you’ve noticed some things are missing. Well, we had to get rid of a few things because of some water damage.” “What?! Oh, no.” I look around the room. “Where’s Bugaboo?” I start to rummage throughout the room. “What’s a Bug-Boo?” “No, not “Bug Boo”, Bugaboo! My stuffed Panda?” “Oh, that old thing? I’m pretty sure we threw that out. “What?! You did not. OMG, I gotta go get him.” I run past him and down the hall.
I check a bag outside my parents’ room; nothing. I then check the bathrooms, kitchen, and outside. I sit on our porch and dad pokes his head out. “He’s gone…” I start to sniffle. Dad comes from in the house and sits next to me. “I’m sorry, Liza. We can always get you another one.” He pats me on the back and I shake my head. “No…I-its fine…I think I’m gonna go to bed.” I get up and walk back in the house. I can tell he knows how disappointed I am.
I plop on my softer-than-soft bed and Pooh comes and lies down next to me. “Hey, boy. I love you, but I do miss Bugaboo a lot.” He licks me face. “However, I love you more!” I scratch behind the ears, just how he likes. A yawn pops out of nowhere, making me form one of the most horrifying faces of all time and it shows; Pooh looks terrified. I sit back up and change into my “just sitting around at home waiting for my life to be over” clothes. (Sweatpants, oversized-T, and mix-mashed socks.) I grab a hair tie off my dresser and tie it up into a bouncy pony. Feeling too lazy to do anything, I plop back down on the bed and fall asleep.
“Morning,babe!” I open my eyes to a blurred image. I can tell it’s a guy. “Hey, sleepy-head. Wakey, wakey, eggs and bacey!” He kisses me and I smile. I sit up and look around the room. Everything’s still blurry, but I can tell it’s the apartment from the dream before. I turn back towards the figure. He’s not the same guy as before, but he does seem strangely familiar. I walk into the kitchen and there’s eggs and bacon,…I think, sitting on the counter by the stove. I sit at the island bar and he makes me a plate. “Voila, Madamesoile.” He does that little “kiss his fingers” thing and presents it to me. “Thank you.” I say with a mouth full of scrambled egg. We both chuckle, I almost spit up the eggs, but quickly recover. “You ready for L’s party? Its January 14th…two weeks from today’s Friday.” I nod and then instantly wake up.
I look out the window and its dark out. Pooh is sleeping in his bed, slightly snoring. I smile a little and walk into the hall. Its really dark in the hallway so I try to be careful on the stairs. I turn the corner into the den and the TV is on. I look at the chair and there’s dad, passed out. I peek out the window. Of course, mom’s out late again. I get so mad, my blood rushes and I feel like I’m on fire. My stomach rumbles. I walk into the kitchen, hoping something will fuel my hunger. “Yes! Hot Pockets!” I grab two frozen pockets from the freezer and pop them in the microwave.
I grab them out the microwave and put them on a plate. Then, I get the honey mustard out on squirt a whole bunch onto them. (BTW, try it. It is DELICIOUS!) They say to wait two minutes, but who really listens to that? I take a bite of one. “Aggh!” It burns the roof of my mouth and now I’m doing a “Fluff, the retarded magical dragon” face. Now its more of a dog that just came inside from going on a walk. “Jesus! It burns!” I hear a car pull up. Look who it is. I finish the first pocket and grab the other. Mom’s stumbling toward the door. “Oh, no. I better hide.” I grab my plate and run into the closet.
Mom gets the door open and dad instantly wakes up. She slams the door behind her and throws the keys to the floor. Dad gets up to stretch, then notices mom. She starts taking off her clothes, down to her undies. Dad finally stops her. “Renee, stop!” She looks at him drunkenly. “Oh, hey, Bay-bee!” She giggles and starts to kiss his neck. “Honey, stop it. I can’t believe you’re drunk again. Do you have NO self control?” She swipes her hand across his cheek, making him more pissed off than he already is. He lets her go upstairs and turns off the TV. Now I’m in the dark; just great. I quietly emerge from the closet and feel around for the stairs. After stubbing my toe twice, I finally get up the stairs and run into my room. Pooh woke up, now he’s sitting on the window sill, relaxing in the mid-night moonlight. I plop back down on my bed as mom and dad start fighting. Its muffled but I can still hear it loudly.
“We have two kids together and a nice house with good sustainability.” Dad points out. “Hey, Einstein. Lay off the Ingles, I’m still a little hungover.” She falls, I can hear her body drop to the floor, hard. “Oh, god. You are a MESS!” dad growls. She starts to get back up. She struggles out her words, “I-I just don’t know how I can keep doing this to Liza.” Whaaatt? “Well, Renee…you agreed to this. You can’t bow out now.” He says as he helps her to her feet. “I know Alan, but I don’t know if it’s very fair to anyone to keep doing this.” “He knows what he got himself into. You just gotta let things play out between them two.” Oh, my gosh. Could they be talking about Charlie? Or Jackson? I can’t believe this.
They stop talking and everything goes silent throughout the house. I sit up in my bed, thinking about what I just heard. I can’t believe they could do this to me. What are they hiding? I’ve gotta find out.
Trouble in Paradise
I feel the world spin around and around and around on its axis. I’m lying in bed, hot and bothered, when Pooh comes and lays under my arm. “Its too hot for that, Pooh.” I roll over towards the wall. Why is it so hot? God, I’m burning up! I get up and wipe the sweat from my forehead. Its lighter than usual outside the window. What is going on? I open the window and its even hotter now. Where’s the A/C? I walk into the hall to check the thermostat. 101. Lordy Jesus. I try to turn the air on, but its not working. I walk back up the hall, defeated, and jump back on the volcano and fall asleep.
I wake up,drowning in my own sweat. Pooh isn’t around so I assume its breakfast time. No one woke me up, surprisingly. I get up and stretch. I look outside the window and its noon-ish looking. “No. Way.” I run down the stairs, and into the kitchen. Empty. “Oh, my god! I can’t believe them. I peek out the front door and the driveway is empty. I run back upstairs and get dressed. I don’t even bother with my hair and just tie it up with a scrunchie. The door bell rings and I run downstairs. They knock, “Liza?” I immediately stop and ask, “Jackson?”
“Yeah, open up.” I do and he walks in. “Hey, Jackson. What are you doing here?” “Just wanted to see if you wanted to hang out.” He says as he relaxes into the couch. “Um, Jackson. Its Thursday, and we’re supposed to be going to school.” “Well, my parents told me not to go to school today so I’ve just been playing basketball all morning.” “What? Why?” “I don’t know. Something happened yesterday after school and Its closed or something.” “Oh, really? I wonder…Let me call Janie, she’ll know.” I run and grab my phone from the kitchen and plop back down on the couch next to Jackson and text Janie.
“HEY JANIE!!!!” “Wat gurl?” “What happened yesterday?” “wat u mean?” “Why aren’t we going to school today?” “o Tabby shot it up yesterday.” “WHAT?!” “yea, she came up there with a gun and started shooting. Killed 12 people” “OMG, JANIE!!! WHY?!” “I think she found out her boyfriend was cheating on her. BTW ease up with the caps” “omg, I can’t believe this. Come over” “k I’m on the way.”
“So?” Jackson asks. I can’t get the words out. “U-um…” “Liza? What happened?” “Tabby shot up the school yesterday afternoon. Killed 12 people.” “Oh, my god…why?” “Her boyfriend was cheating on her.” “Oh, wow.”
The door bell rings again. I get up to answer. Its Janie and she’s shaking really bad. “Janie? Are you okay?” She collapses a little and we help her onto the couch. “Whoah, Janie. I’ll get you some water.” He runs into the kitchen. “Janie, what’s going on?” She starts to cry. “I haven’t been able to sleep, to eat, to think. I-I just…” Jackson comes back in with a glass and hands it to her. “Thanks…” She sips it. “What happened?” I ask. “I’m the one who’s been cheating with Tabby’s boyfriend.” Jackson and I sit in shock. “R-really?” I ask her. She nods and I grab her a tissue.
“Yeah, and that’s why she started to fight me yesterday…and she got away. So now I’m super scared she’s gonna come after me.” Jackson stands up, “Liza? Can I talk to you in the other room?” I get up and we walk into the kitchen. I ask him, “What’s wrong?” “What are we gonna do, Liza? This is serious biz.” “I know, what are we gonna do? Do we call somebody?” “Yeah, we have to call the police.” “Okay, hand me my phone.” He does and I start to dial when there’s a loud knock at the door. I peep out the window and its Tabitha.
“Oh, my god. Jackson, take Janie upstairs and hide in my parents’ closet. I’ll handle this.” “No, no. I’ll do it.” “Jackson…I need to do this.” He nods and runs into the den, then up the stairs with Janie. Tabitha knocks again. “Janie! I know you’re in there! Come on out!” I take a deep breath and open the door. “Oh, hey! What’s going on?” “I’m looking for Janie. Where is she?” I shrug. “Wanna come in?” She thinks about it and then there’s a thump upstairs. “Who’s that?”she asks suspiciously. I hesitate, “Oh, my brother.” She pushes her way in. “For real, its no one.”
She walks into Charlie’s room, “Yeah, your brother, all right.” She checks in the closet and then returns into the hall. “Tabitha, please don’t this.” “Do what? All I wanna do is talk.” “Really? Well, here she is.” I pull out an old doll and throw it at her and run. I go into the closet and hide with Janie and Jackson. Tabatha comes in and checks under the bed. “Come on, you guys. You know how this works. I kill Janie for stealing my man from me, then Liza for being a bitch about it.” Jackson yells, “Not if I do something about it.”
Janie and I put our hands over his mouth. I whisper-yell, “Oh, my god, Jackson! Shut up!” “Oh, hiding in the closet, are we?” She slowly walks over to the bed and sits down. I answer her, “You don’t have to do this.” “You know what, Liza? I think I do. I’m tired of everyone just ignoring my feelings and just pretending I’m cool with it. I loved Ray, and she took him from me.” She starts to reload her gun. Janie stands, “Wait! Tabby, please, just listen.” “I’m tired of listening! It’s time for someone to listen to me for a change.” She stands up and we all scoot back to the back of the closet. She starts to walk closer and closer, but turns and leans on the door.
“Ha…I never thought it would come to this, ya know? I imagined all of us graduating together, having kids and make them be best friends.” She chuckles, then starts to cry. “You know…I wasn’t always the crazy bitch I am. I used to be a nice, quiet, girl that would sit in the back of the room and never be noticed. Look at me! Ha, I’m a mess.”
I hit the back wall and notice its hollow. There’s a small door to my right. “Jackson…look.” I whisper. He turns around and reaches for the knob. “Wait, get Janie.”
Tabitha starts to pace around. “I just don’t know what I can do with my life I just…I’m so confused. Maybe after finally doing this I’ll be focused.” She cocks her gun. “Okay, get ready, Janie. I loved you.” She cracks the closet doors and points her gun in. She quickly opens the doors, but only to find we’ve already left. “What?!” She checks everywhere, but can’t find us. “AGHHHHH!!!!” she roars as she trashes the house. Her eyes burn with fury and tears. “YOU WERE MY FRIEND!!!!”
Janie starts to cry. Jackson and I try to calm her down. I rub her back, “Janie, its gonna be okay.” Still crying, she shakes her head. “No, I caused all this. I deserve it…” “Don’t talk like that!” Jackson says as he scoots over to her. She leans away, towards the wall. I look at Jackson and he motions me over, with arms wide open. I scoot over and he puts his arms around me. I look at his watch, “Oh, my god! The party!” “What?” Jackson says, eyebrow raised. “My brother’s birthday? It’s at that pizza place downtown at 4 and its like, 2:30. I gotta go.”
I stand up quickly, too fast actually. I stumble a little as Jackson helps me re-balance. “Whoa. Wait a sec. You can’t go with a manic out there.” “My parents were counting on me. I gotta—“ “No, Liz. I won’t let you go.” “NO! I HAVE to!” “Why? Why do you HAVE to?” “I…I-I can’t tell you.” “You know what? There are so many secrets I share with you yet you’re so closed with me. How do you think I could have girlfriend with no trust?” “…girlfriend?”
Janie quickly stands, “Trouble in Paradise?” She looks at me with daggers. Jackson turns away and sits on the floor. “Excuse me?” I walk up to her. She stands akimbo, staring. “Liz, you heard me. You complain and whine about how sucky your life is. Yet, when someone else has problems, you just ignore everything!” “That is NOT true and you know that, Janie. I don’t complain or whine, I just try to be myself.” “Well, stop trying!” She quickly turns around, whipping her hair in my face. I turn towards Jackson, “I can’t do this anymore.”
I poke my head out the little door. It’s quiet so I venture out more. Jackson and Janie don’t notice as I close the door behind me. Struggling to stand, I slowly creep up to the closet door, peeping through the shutters. Tabitha’s gun is sitting on the bed but she isn’t around. The doors creak and I hear the toilet flush. I lunge for the gun and Tabitha emerges from the bathroom. I point the gun at her. “Well, well, well. If it isn’t the head trauma patient.” “Don’t call me that.” “…why don’t you just go ahead and shoot me? Come on, do it.” She opens her arms wide. “Come on, Liz. Shoot me. Shoot ME. SHOOT ME!” She lunges forward and everything goes black.
I fall to the floor, ears ringing and my vision had become blurry. It sounds like I’m underwater; trippy. I look around and everything is slurry, like if I were drunk. (Not that I would know.) I rest my head on the carpet, giving up on trying to stand, and stare at the closet doors. Janie and Jackson come running out. Jackson kneels down to me. He’s saying something, but I can’t hear him. He looks frantic and he’s holding my arm. I look over towards Janie and she’s crying hysterically, hovering over Tabitha’s bleeding-out body. Jackson calls Janie over and she looks at me, shocked. The left half of my body goes numb. I try to speak, but no sound comes out. I black out again.
I’m sitting in the hospital, sleepy and with a numbing pain in my arm. “Ow, what’s going on?” I look around the room, no one’s around. “Oh, great. I’m talking to myself.” Just as I say that, Jackson comes out the bathroom, towel around his waist. I pretend I’m asleep as he walks over to the couch and sets the towel down. He’s wearing shorts underneath. Damn. “Well, Liza. You got yourself in a bit of trouble, huh? Shot in the arm…wow. I would’ve probably been screaming in pain but you…you. You were cool as a cucumber.” He chuckles and I smirk, but quickly hold it back. He walks up to the bed as he puts his shirt on. “You were always cool to me. Even when we first met…” He kisses me. I’m smiling hard in my mind, but hide it on the outside. “…I’ve always loved you.” He holds my hands in his, then puts his headphones on.
After about half an hour, Jackson falls asleep and I get out of bed. The floor is cold on my naked feet as I walk into the bathroom. I look in the mirror. “Ughh, I look like crap! God, I look awful…I look like I died.” I look down at my arm. There’s a bandage covering a blood stain. “Did I…” I peel off some of it and there’s a bloody scar on my arm. I get dizzy a little. “Oh, my god…did I get shot?” I start to panic and pace around the bathroom. There’s a knock at the door, “Liz? Its Jackson, open up.” I get myself together and open the door. “You okay?” I try to hold back tears, but can’t. “No…” He embraces me as I cry into his chest. “Shh…shh…its okay. You’re okay.” I calm down a little. Sniffling through my words, “I…was shot?...How?” He sits me down on the bed. “Well, we believe that when you were shooting Tabitha, she shot you. You killed her, but she shot you in the arm.” “…I-I killed her?” He nods then looks down. “Oh, my god…I killed someone…Am I going to jail?” He smiles. “No. No jail for you. It was self-defense, so you won’t be responsible for it.” “Oh, good…” “But…Tabby’s funeral is…next month…a Saturday. Do you wanna…” “Yes. I do.”
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 8th
I’m sitting in the back seat of my mom’s SUV. It’s a rainy, gloomy day for a funeral. It may be a little inappropriate for me to be going, but I need to. Tabby’s parents said to come by afterward, so to not offend anyone. Charlie is sitting next to me, watching Spongebob on the TV embedded in the back of the driver seat headrest. Dad’s driving, being the careful driver he is, way too slow for comfort. Mom’s on her ipad in the passenger’s seat, pinning stuff on Pintrest. Then, there’s me. I’m leaning against the window, sitting behind mom, just staring at the rain. I breathe on the glass and draw in a heart. I put a crack down the middle and write, “R.I.P.”
We arrive to the grave site and Tabby’s family is about to leave when Jackson’s parents walk towards me. Mrs. Turner stops in front of me, “You did what you had to.” She rests her hand on my shoulder. I don’t nod. Nor move, for that matter. I just stand there as she walks to her car with Mr. Turner. I tightly grasp my umbrella and continue on, following mom and dad. We pass people shaking hands and talking in hushed tones, all of them aren’t familiar. We reach the actual grave and Tabitha’s casket is still above ground. Jackson and Janie are sitting on a bench when they motion me over. They both stand and Janie opens for a hug. She starts to cry as she rests her chin on my shoulder. I look at Jackson, tears in my eyes, and he puts his hand on Janie’s shoulder. She stops crying, wipes her tears, and takes a deep breath. “I can’t believe this is all my fault.” “Janie, don’t say that.” “It’s true. I cheated with her boyfriend and then I hid. I’m such a coward. I didn’t even have the balls to talk to her face to face.” “She would’ve killed you. Better to be an alive coward than a dead hero.” Jackson reassures. She nods and her parents call her to leave. She does and I stand there, arms crossed, trying to get warm. Jackson gives me a warm hug and leaves to his parents. I sit on the bench and cry to myself.
My family and I get back in the SUV and we’re all quiet on the way home. When we get home I immediately go upstairs and flop down on my bed. Pooh jumps on me and licks me face. “I’m not in the mood, Bear-Bear.” He yips and I nudge him away. He whimpers and scurries out into the hall. I sit up, wipe my tears, and grab the phone. I dial the number and it rings. I ask, “Meet me at the diner?...Okay, I’ll see you there. Bye.” I hang up and change into some dry clothes. I pull on a black hoodie with my favorite pair of blue jeans and my black converses. I check down the hall to see if my parents are awake. Dad just went to bed so I turn off my light and sneak out the window. I climb down the trellis and hit the ground when I hear thunder. I run to my bike and unchain it from the rack. Then, I’m on my way.
I arrive to the diner and park my bike out front, not bothering to chain it up. Who cares? I run inside as another thunder boom roars. There’s a sign next to the door, “PLEASE WAIT HERE TO BE SERVED.” Its old and tattered so I assume they don’t care anymore. I sit down at a booth on the far side of the diner, in the corner, next to the old jukebox. A waitress roller blades towards me and nearly trips over when she stops. Hold on, I gotta describe her for you. For one, she’s old, like 72 or something. She’s wearing a heavy layer of makeup, which NONE of them is her color, and a pink poodle skirt. She’s wearing a varsity jacket, probably from the 50’s, (Not sure if its part of the uniform.) and some super red roller skates. She talks with a country accent and you can tell she’s a smoker. She talks to me, “Hey, sweetie. Can you read the sign?” “Um…yeah. I didn’t think the sign was…” “Its fine, child. What’cha wanna order?” “Can I get a cup of coffee? I’m waiting for someone also, so can I get two pieces of that cake over there?” “Yes, ma’am. I’ll be right back with your coffee.” She skates away.
With nothing to do, I stare out the window, watching the rain droplets race down the window. I focus on one, right next to another, and it reaches the bottom before the other. “Yes!” I yell out, thinking I’m alone. I don’t dare look around because I know everyone will be staring at me. A car pulls up in the parking lot. It’s a black truck, not really sticking out other than an Auburn flag on the driver’s side window. Someone gets out, decked out in all black. They walk into the diner, look right, then at me. It’s Jackson’s brother. He starts his way towards me so I stare back out the window. He stops next to me, “Excuse me. Are you Elizabeth Roberts?” I turn to him. He looks JUST like Jackson, just with a light beard and gauges. “Yes. Can I help you?”
“May I sit? You can call me Spider, by the way.” I nod and he sits across from me. “What’s going on? Where’s Jackson?” “He couldn’t make it. He sent me here…to give you this.” He puts an envelope on the table and slides it over to me. I grab it and open it. Afraid of what it is, I take a deep breath, then unfold the paper. It’s a note from Jackson:
Excuse my cursive. :) I just wanted to tell you everything I’ve hidden from you over the past few months. I fell in love wi
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