Mr. Williams squirmed in his chair. Sitting on the opposite side of the desk, I wondered why I had been called from first period. I rarely frequented the principal's office being an average student I didn't draw much attention. It helped that my peers shunned me leaving me to my quiet existence. It's how I liked my life.
But today was different; the beads of sweat that dampened his forehead trickled down his face. His skin held a green tint, and he looked like he was going to hurl at any moment. He stared at me taking deep breaths; the affliction his eyes harbored told me that it was bad news. However, I couldn't fathom anything I did to make him look this way.
His hands shook as he removed his glasses. Rubbing his eyes, he attempted to compose himself. The tension that emitted from his body had me on the edge of my seat. He took another deep breath before he replaced them.
"Serenity... I don't know how to tell you this." The somber tenor of his voice added to the quiet stress that gripped my body.
I smiled warily at him, trying to prompt him to continue. So I could get out of here and the dread that filled the air.
He sighed, looking down he folded his hands trying to stop them from trembling. I sat as still a stone waiting for him to tell me whatever he had dragged me in here for.
"I just received a phone call from the airport." His eyes flashed to mine - I recoiled from the distress that burned within them - as he relived the conversation. "The plane your parents were on crashed when they reached Puerto Rico. One of the engines exploded..." He paused trying to will himself to say the rest. I held my breath in anticipation as the tears clouded my eyes. His voice was a whisper, "There are no survivors."
An excruciating scream erupted from my throat as my beating heart ripped from my chest and shattered into a million pieces.
Mr. Williams came around the desk, placing his hand on my shoulder, "I'm so sorry, Serenity."
The tears stung as they rained down my face. The tiny office turned into a prison. I had to escape! I pushed Mr. Williams away and scrambled past his hands as he sought to detain me. I leaped for the door. It slammed against the wall as I burst into the hall.
The bell rang. A sea of teenagers flooded the hallway surrounding me, all their eyes turned in my direction. But I couldn't see them through the tears. They were just a crowd of faceless people pressing in on me. The only thing I could see was my parent's faces.
Racing through the long main hall, I ran towards the parking lot on the other side of the school.
When I rounded the corner, I slammed into a cheerleader knocking her down. The girl's books scattered across the corridor. Her voice was laced with venom as she spat, "You're going to pay for that!"
But I didn't even pause, I just kept running.
When I made it outside the sunshine blinded me, making me shade my eyes as I ran through the aisles. Finally reaching my car, I fumbled with the keys trying to get them in the door.
That is when Mr. Williams caught up to me.
"I can't allow you to drive in the state that you're in." He said this in an authoritative tone. He took the keys from my hand as he turned me around.
But, I couldn't deal with him touching me. Backing away from him, I slammed against my car.
His eyes widened as he took a cautious step towards me. His pitch softened to a soothing tone as he said, "Serenity. I'm only here to help you."
When he reached out to pull me away from the car, I threw my hands up as an unearthly shriek tore from my mouth it sliced through the morning air making him jump back. My body trembled violently as I withered to the ground. I pulled my legs to my chest as my world came crashing down. All I could do was cry. Thinking, this can't be happening! Why is this happening?!
As I laid there on the hot asphalt, time stopped. The world turned black before my eyes.
I heard Mr. Williams sit down a short distance from me; not letting me out of his sight. I didn't care; my body was paralyzed by the desolation that possessed my soul. I turned to stone from the pain realizing that my life would never be the same.
When my tear ducts ran dry, his voice pulled me from the darkness, "Is there any family you can call?"
I nodded once, not sure if my voice would even work. He helped me up, escorting me back to his office. I staggered through the hallway under the mountain of grief and guilt that tried to obliterate me from this earth.
When we entered the office Mr. Williams had to call my only living relatives. After he told my Aunt the horrible news, he held out the receiver, "Your Aunt would like to talk to you."
My hand shook as I reached for the phone and placed it to my ear. Aunt Angie's frantic voice was filled with tears, "Oh Serenity. Are you okay?"
Striving to find my voice, I choked out, "No, come get me!" I don't know how she understood what I said. To me, it sounded like a squeal.
"Don't worry; your Uncle is leaving as soon as we can get his bag packed." I could hear them rushing around trying to gather what he needed.
I nodded into the receiver because my voice vanished before handing it back to him.
Afterwards Mr. Williams called Mrs. Steele, the neighbor I was staying with, to come pick me up.
I curled up into a ball in the chair as reality drifted away. I was left alone with the ghostly images of my parent's smiling faces. The last moment we spent together tormented me. My father pulled my mother from the death grip she had around me. Before they boarded the small plane they charted for their second honeymoon.
I didn't think twice when they decided to fly themselves rather than taking an airline. And, why would I? My father had been a pilot for twenty years. At the time it had seemed like any other flight except my mother was accompanying him.
I remembered the tears that trailed down my mother's face as she waved one last goodbye before they entered the plane. The image reminded me of the selfishness I took part in. I convinced them to go immediately instead of when they planned. I wanted to celebrate my birthday and graduation on the same day, so I could visit Aunt Angie sooner. Now, I was getting exactly what I had asked for. The guilt over the unchangeable result of my decision was burning me alive. My soul was on fire, ignited by the remorse and consumed by my self hatred. When the fire finally subdued only my charred remains were left in its aftermath.
Aunt Angie's husband, Jason Philip, made it to Brandon the next afternoon. He picked me up from Mrs. Steele's. When I got in the car I turned to him unable to stop myself from demanding, "We're not going back to the house, are we?!"
Crossing my fingers behind my back I prayed he wasn't going to submit me to the memories that laid within. My question caught him off guard; he looked me over obviously seeing the panic on my face at the thought.
"We can stay in a hotel." The sympathy in his tired eyes laced his deep voice.
I let out the breath I didn't know I was holding in. The tension of the situation captured both our tongues as we drove down the road. I stared out the window trying to process what had happen only yesterday. The truth of my new reality seemed less absolute today it felt more like a bad dream that I could not wake from. The only thing reminding me that it wasn't a dream was the pain that vibrated through my uninhabited body.
Uncle Jp checked us into a hotel only a few miles from my house. I lugged the heavy bag I packed for spending the week at Mrs. Steele's - cursing myself in my head for always over packing - my small frame couldn't handle the weight. I only struggled for a short distance before Uncle Jp took the bag from my hand. When we entered the room he placed them in the closet. I stood by the door staring at the floor; I didn't know what else to do.
"What do you want for dinner?" I looked up at his question. His eyes drooped as the fatigue from driving all night set in. His shoulders slumped as he took a seat in the chair next to the phone.
I shrugged, it didn't matter to me; eating felt pointless next to the death that stared me in the face waiting to incarcerate my damned soul. I crossed the room to go sit on one of the two twin beds. I laid down as Uncle Jp ordered something for dinner. Staring at the ceiling I focused on putting up the most impenetrable walls I could to block out the memories. My gaze was drawn to a speck of mold in the center. When I constructed the first walls the black mold festered and spewed, coming to life.
My eyes widened with fear as I realized death was near. It slithered across the ceiling blanketing it in a second - I had to bite back the screams. When it shot down the walls it hit the floor with a thunderous roar. My body quivered as I closed my eyes waiting to be devoured by the slayer that was charged to execute my convicted soul.
A knock on the door pulled me from my rightful death; I gasped bolting upright as the asphyxiating blackness receded. My uncle jumped from where he sat asleep in the chair. I looked at him nodding my head as I strained to breathe. Trying to convey to him that I was okay.
He looked at me curiously but before he could ask the question within his eyes there was another knock on the door. Uncle Jp opened it the delivery guy stood on the other side, we both had forgotten about the food. He paid the guy and we sat down at the table to eat.
I stared into the untouched plate in front of me. My uncle cleared his throat pulling me from the darken thoughts that constricted my body like a straight jacket. I glanced up through the veil of my long hair, to see his plate empty.
"Serenity, I know this is hard" He took a deep breath trying to steady his voice, before he continued, "but you have to eat darlin."
I grimaced internally, disgusted with myself for letting my uncle see the turmoil that held me victim. When I sighed, his hand covered mine. His voice was almost inaudible as he said, "I miss them too."
The tears filled his eyes, I tried to look away but the loss that brewed within them entrapped my body. He turned his head - breaking his hold on me, I cringed in the chair - as he attempted to fight back the tears. He stood promptly retreating from the room unable to keep them at bay any longer.
I sat there paralyzed by his grief. It took me a moment to compose myself. Staring at the door, it dawned on me that I had an opportunity to please not only my uncle but myself as well. I jumped up grabbing the plate. Carrying it into the bathroom, I dumped the contents into the toilet. When I finished disposing of the evidence I went back into the room to clear the table.
My uncle came back in as I was throwing away the last of the empty boxes. He stared at me obviously doubting if I ate. I looked away avoiding the question knowing that if he asked I would not be able to lie to him. And if I tried my voice would show the blatant untruth. I pressed my lips together wishing I could distort reality as easily as any other teenager.
Finishing with the boxes, I attempted to cover my skittish escape by yawning and stretching a little trying to emphasize my exhaustion. Looking down, I said, "Well... I'm going to get ready for bed."
I turned around, before he could say anything, heading for the closet. I grabbed the first clothes I could from my bag as I labored to pace my steps and not run into the bathroom. As I crossed the threshold my uncle's voice interrupted my withdrawal, "Darlin..."
I took a deep breath through my nose, trying to prepare myself before turning back around. I couldn't look him in the eyes so I stared at his feet.
"I wanted to make sure you know that if you want to talk about... what happen. I'm here, okay?" He took a deep breath, "I know this is a major change for you and that it will take time to adjust. But know your aunt and I will be here for you no matter what. We will help you through this. I just don't want you to think that you are going through this alone." His voice sounded so certain that I could be saved - the fear that attached shackles around my ankles added to my anxiety, knowing that there was no hope for my condemned soul.
I nodded my head taking a step backwards towards the bathroom as the tears welled up in my eyes. His feet took a step with mine making me freeze. He sighed, "Just know darlin, your parents' love you and we do too. We just want to do right by you and them."
Unable to listen to my uncle any longer, I took the last step into the bathroom slamming the door behind me. I leaned against it, trying to keep the walls up as I fought back the tears. Stumbling to the sink I used it to brace myself as I struggled to breathe.
When I finally slowed my pulse and regained as close to a normal breathing rhythm as I could, I changed my clothes. Sitting down on the toilet I tried to buy myself time before going back into the small confining room. Staring into the patterns on the tile floor I tried to keep my attention from falling back into the black abyss. It didn't last long; the anarchy crept back in from the shadows that saturated my mind. I jumped up, leaping through the door.
I stopped short, spotting my uncle's dormant body lying on one of the beds. The bellowing snores that filled the room were the only indication that he was still breathing. He hadn't changed his clothes and he still wore his hiking boots. He must have crumbled as soon as I went into the bathroom.
I tipped toed past my uncle's slumbering body, his limbs hung off the bed like massive branches seeking the ground below. I climbed into the other bed, the springs squealed with every movement. When I finally laid my head down on the pillow, I turned onto my side. Sure that if I stared at the ceiling again the stealthy assassin would come forth and finish what he started.
I stared into the nothingness before me, sleep eventually caught up to my worn body.
A small plane flew across the charcoal sky reflecting on the ocean underneath. The roar of the engines cut through the suffocating eeriness of the night. I held my breath watching from the opposite shore as the plane crossed over the reef, only releasing it once they reached their destination.
Suddenly, a piercing boom shattered the quiet night, the ground shook beneath my feet. I covered my ears watching as the planes metal frame erupted into a fireball of carnage. It streaked across the sky as it spiraled out of control to the earth below. When it struck the coast the force of the impact sprayed flaming debris skyward like a meteorite. The wreckage dug itself deeper into the shore, hammering the final nails into its coffin.
I cried out in horror but nothing came out my mouth. I pushed my body to run to their rescue, but my legs were buried in quicksand. I fell to the ground battling to get to my parent's by any means. I fought the force, digging my nails into the ground I screamed at the top of my lungs. But fighting was futile it dragged me away and into the surrounding darkness.
"Serenity! Serenity! Wake up!" My uncle shook me by the shoulders. "Wake up, darlin!"
Gasping awake, my body already sat up right. I looked around confused on why I was back in the hotel room instead of dying alone in the bleakness of the eternal night.
My eyes widened to see my uncle on his knees in between the beds. The cool tears drenched my face and my throat throbbed from all the screaming. It dawned on me that my voice may not have worked in the dream but it worked in reality. Shame crept up my cheeks making them flame.
"Are you all right, darlin?" Honest concern reflected within his dark eyes - I flinched internally, realizing he needed reassurance. His childless life did not prepare him to deal with a tormented and grieving teenager.
The tables turned, and now I needed to be the strong one for my family's sake. I took a deep breath; vowing to bury my feelings deep within, and put my family's well being before my own. I mumbled, "Nightmare."
I could feel his eyes on me but I couldn't look at him. He sighed before saying, "Its all right darlin your here now. Nothing can hurt you." I had to fight back the mocking laugh that threatened to spill from my lips at his words. Nothing can hurt me? Of course not when there is nothing left for me to lose. He continued, pulling me from the maniacal voice within my head, "Now why don't we try to get some sleep." His hand stroked my hair, "We've got a busy week ahead of us."
I nodded my head before lying back down. Clenching my fist, I fought back the sobs. Too afraid to close my eyes because of the death that lay waiting - like a lion - to pounce and slaughter my forsaken soul.
Over the next three days, my uncle stayed busy taking care of everything.
He went out every day to handle all of the legal work: transferring guardianship, putting the house up for sale, and selling my car to a dealership (all of the documents were already drawn up, but I was too depressed to notice).
I didn't care; nothing mattered anymore.
I was allowed to graduate early, under the circumstances. I was going to miss walking in my graduation ceremony. It had once been my life's importance, now it only seemed childish and petty.
My parent's bodies were recovered. But they were too badly damaged to have an open casket wake. While Uncle Jp planned the small wake - I protested to leave Florida as soon as possible, but he shut me up by saying my parent's wanted people to pay their respects before we could leave. We came to a compromise to leave the day after the wake. Once we move back to my aunt and uncle's farm in Elkmont, Tennessee; we would hold the true funeral service, spreading their ashes.
Remaining imprisoned in the hotel room, I only allowed the darkness of my tarnished existence to ravage me whenever my uncle was away. I spent the solitude huddled in the corner replaying the dream that haunted my soul and scarred my mind. Yet, the days were nothing compared to the darkness that raped my spirit at night. Thankfully, I kept the mental breakdowns unseen as I strived to conquer the mask I wore in his presence.
The morning of the wake, I stumbled into the bathroom trying to escape my uncle's sorrow ridden eyes. It was hard enough to lock away my pain, and keep up my charade, without seeing it reflected on his face. I attempted to shrug off the grief of his stare. My stomach flopped uneasily, at the realization of what the day held, as the vomit burned my throat. I scrambled for the toilet. Luckily, I made it in time and didn't miss.
I sat back on the cool tile surrounded by the green pastel walls. Groaning at the sight of the color, it made my stomach constrict again. I put my head between my knees trying to breathe and settle my stomach.
"Are you all right, darlin?" Uncle Jp asked banging on the door.
I sighed, silently cursing the paper thin walls, wishing I could have some privacy to compose myself. I wiped my mouth with a piece of toilet paper, before replying, "Yes, I'm fine. I'll be ready in a minute."
His shadow slipped through the crack as he hovered on the other side of the locked door.
"I'll be outside. Whenever you're ready to go." He didn't stay for an answer.
Breathing in deeply I concentrated on finding the strength to uphold my facade. Fortifying all the cracks that were showing I attempted to prepare myself for what must be done.
After a few minutes I lugged myself off the floor staggering to the sink. Unscrewing the cap I quickly brushed my teeth. Then I changed into the plain black dress that hung on the back of the door. Slipping on my shoes before turning around, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. What I found there matched the ugliness I felt inside.
My wide slanted eyes had dark circles under them from all the sleepless nights. The crying had left them bloodshot and puffy. The golden brown outer ring of my iris was clouded. While the red veins deepened the inner dark brown ring that encircled my pupils. Blotchy patches covered me, from head to toe, making my tan complexion pale. The new living dead pallor of my skin, made my natural two toned hair resemble my eyes. The top half of my hair, the medium chestnut tone, dulled. While the raven black hair underneath brightened against it.
My body's natural oddities, labeled me an outsider among my peers. Even with my family I always felt alone. They all had dark brown to pitch black hair and their eyes ranged the same shades. In our family history there has never been someone who looked like me. Sighing, I tried not to dwell on my past insecurities. But the way I looked now didn't help. It exiled me from the living leaving my charred soul left to wander in limbo. I didn't like seeing my reflection; I didn't deserve one. To me, a reflection is reserved for the living. And I died along with my parents in that plane crash.
Looking away from the mirror I finger combed my hair before turning around unable to keep Uncle Jp waiting any longer. My feet dragged against the carpet as I exited the hotel room and got into the car.
Driving silently to the funeral home, we arrived to a full parking lot. I grimaced as we past the entrance and the mourners. My uncle parked the car; I paused as the anxiety churned within my stomach.
"It'll be okay. We can leave if it becomes too much." He said this in a soothing voice as he turned to me placing his large hand on my shoulder.
I couldn't answer him, I didn't know what to say. All I wanted to do was to be strong and to not be a burden. I nodded my head once before stepping out the car. Ready to get this over with and banish myself to the lonely existence I merited.
Uncle Jp got out and came around the car to where I stood. He offered his arm. I took it; silently thanking him for his quiet support. He led me past the grieving onlookers and into the funeral home.
I kept my gaze down, determined on staring at the floor. But it didn't matter, we stood out among the crowd. All eyes turned to us as if they could see the dark cloud that brooded over me. My uncle led me to the center of the waiting room. I caught a brief glimpse through the tightly packed bodies of - what I suspected was - the viewing room. I quickly looked away unable to stand the sight of it knowing what laid within.
My uncle's broad body towered over the mourners that walked to and from the viewing room. His Cherokee features were darkened by the pale grey suit. He stood there, next to me, proud to be honoring his older first cousin and his wife's half sister. Ready to welcome anyone who offered their condolences. I envied the strength he exuded. But I knew I could not rise to his level.
As the first mourners stepped forward, I shrinked back behind Uncle Jp. Thankfully, unnoticed. But, I wasn't able to block out their voices as they offered their regrets. Their words swirled around my mind like a thick haze.
The constant opening and closing of the viewing room door made me flinch every time it slammed. I watched as a group came out the room. They were all dressed in navy blue suits. I realized that they were my father's flight crew. As the first group moved away, the crew advanced. I closed my eyes, praying that I would turn invisible. They all stepped up, one by one, shaking my uncle's hand. Each praised, how great a person my father was. And how much he would be missed. The tears burned my eyes; I tried to blink them away before they spilled over. The last crew member stepped back. I sighed, grateful that I had not been noticed. But my father's co-pilot, Greg Harper, stepped around my uncle.
His eyes were filled with tears as he took my hands. His voice wavered, when he said, "Malachi was the best among us. You and Bernadette were his life... " His voice broke, he cleared his throat before continuing, "We are so sorry for your loss. They will be truly missed."
Incapable of listening to any more condolences, I yanked my hands from his. Disregarding the look I received from my uncle, I quickly retreated from the room. When I burst through the front entrance of the funeral home, I spotted Mrs. Steele and Sarah walking up the steps. Turning, I prepared to bolt the other way.
"Oh, Serenity! There you are." Mrs. Steele's voice rang out.
I froze, hating myself for not escaping when I had the chance. Shutting my eyes, I took a deep breath struggling to maintain my shield while all it wanted to do was come crumbling down.
Collecting myself, I opened my eyes before turning around and waving slightly. Realizing that if I spoke they would see what kind of darkness had it's strangle hold around me. And that was something I didn't want anyone to see.
They smiled at me but it didn't reach their eyes. Mrs. Steele stepped forward with her arms open. I tried not to flinch away as she embraced me. She squeezed me tight, saying, "We've been so worried about you."
I held my breath, attempting to strengthen my voice.
"I'm okay. There is no reason to worry." I lied. I hoped they wouldn't hear the difference.
Mrs. Steele released me. I took a step back; making sure I was out of her reach. She looked me up and down; I stared at the ground.
"Well, I will give you two a moment." Mrs. Steele said, before heading inside the funeral home.
I could feel Sarah's eyes on me, but neither of us knew what to say.
She sighed, which made me look up. The pity I found in her hazel eyes made me cringe away from her. Sarah's eyes widened in response. I averted my gaze, unable to look at my only friend.
"So, when are you leaving?" She broke the awkward silence poking the elephant in the room with a stick.
"Tomorrow." I mumbled, not wanting to say good bye but I knew there was nothing left for me here.
I looked up in time to see her head fall as she looked down.
"What am I supposed to do without you?" She asked meekly.
Sarah was an outcast like me. That was what brought us together. We've been best friend since the first day of junior high.
I looked away as new tears burned my eyes.
"I don't know... I don't want to say... good bye." That's all I could say.
She looked up at me as the same tears clouded her eyes. We embraced before muttering promises that we would see each other again. We both were unable to accept a true good bye.
When Sarah went inside to find her mother she left me alone under the open breezeway. The giddiness that eclipsed my body made it tremble as I realized I could finally escape. The menacing voice inside my head chimed in, demolishing my happiness, reminding me that someone could come out at any moment. I quickly slipped around the side of the building. Spying an old oak tree with low hanging limbs at the far corner of the lot, I sprinted over to it. Climbing up; I sought sanctuary among it's branches.
I stayed there hidden by the thick veil of moss, waiting for the wake service to end. I watched as, one by one, the mourners departed. Finally, Uncle Jp came out the funeral home. He carried the urn that held my parent's ashes. I climbed down the tree and walked over to where he stood. He didn't comment on my rudeness, or vanishing act. He just led me back to the car. Once we were in he handed me the urn. I couldn't stand to hold the container, as my burnt soul longed to be inside. I placed it by my feet - not wanting to touch it, but unable to have it far from reach.
The next day, I stood outside the shell of my former life. The overcast sky, shadowed the house, adding to the despair of the day. I chewed on my bottom lip, attempting to muster the courage to go within and pack away the memories.
Uncle Jp walked past as he loaded the boxes into the car. He paused, looking me over, before continuing on with the task at hand.
I took a deep breath then grabbed an arm load of boxes. Entering the house I headed straight upstairs to my room.
The house felt hollow, the warmth that once vibrated through the halls had disappeared. Leaving nothing but the feeling of a vacant crypt. The floors groaned with every step I took waiting to pull me down by my ankles. It called to my tormented soul longing to entrap me in my rightful tomb.
When I finally reached my room, my hand shook as I turned the knob on the door. The hinges squealed as it gently swung open. The cold draft that surged forth, seeped through my skin, freezing my bones. My body convulsed as the air rushed from my lungs. Peering into my room I tried to understand what caused such a drastic plunge in temperature and explain the eerie feeling that lingered. Yet, everything appeared to be the same as the day I left it.
I choked, my lungs thirsted for air, prompting me to breathe.
Shifting my weight, my body was apprehensive to go inside. A small voice in the back of my mind screamed to run the other way. I had to will myself to stay and not fold to the coward that concealed itself within me. I fought back the dastardly tears that dampened my eyes. Inhaling deeply, I attempted to lock away the panic that enveloped my body before I dashed into the room.
I dropped the boxes on my bed and picked one up. Folding it, I quickly filled it with the first clothes I could grab from my closet. I did the same with the next two boxes, ransacking my dresser.
I didn't care what I took. There wasn't anything significant enough for me to miss. I resolved to pack away as little as I needed wanting to keep the reminders of the life I lost to the bear minimum.
Turning around, I went to retrieve what I needed from the bathroom.
The board that decorated the wall next to the door caught my attention. The collage of pictures that clung to it was once a memento of my life. But now it only held the distorted images of almost eighteen years past. My parent's smiling faces inhabited every photo. The collage captured their blissful twenty-two year marriage, and my life up to where I stood now.
The tears filled my eyes as the tarnished memories I tried to shut out toppled my walls and assaulted my mind. My vision blurred as I sprinted into the bathroom, scooping up my toiletries in one fluid movement. I rushed back into the room throwing them into one of the boxes. I began carrying the heavier boxes downstairs. Unable to stand being in the house any longer and among the memories that reside within. I placed them in the car before charging back inside to retrieve the last pieces of my destroyed life.
Once I reached the top of the stairs the muted light that cast through the windows cloaked the hallway in shadows. They morphed into demonic silhouettes that danced along the walls. The hall lengthen elongating the death march to my room. I blinked my eyes in disbelief; swallowing hard against the disturbed knot that rose within my throat.
I sucked in a deep breath. Chalking up all the strange activity I felt here to my overactive imagination. Settling my nerves the best I could before heading towards my room. The floorboards creaked behind me, mimicking my steps. The feeling that I was not alone coursed through my veins as doubt settled within the pit of my stomach. My heart hammered when I looked over my shoulder only to find the hallway empty.
The sight should have relieved my stress. But my normally rational mind pleaded for me to hurry up. Quickening my pace I continued on. The floor's boisterous booms hastened echoing my stride. The alarm that ensnared my body made me leap into my room. I slammed the door and leaned against it. Expecting the floor's thudding to cease when I stopped.
Thump! Thump! Thump! I thought my heart was going to implode as the floorboards shrieked past my door. The sound receded as it advanced down the hall.
Cracking open my door I peeked out. Catching a glimpse of a man's shadow slip into my parents' room. My eyes widened as my hand released it's hold on the door. I took an involuntary step back into the hall. Walking cautiously towards the room I wondered why the house fell silent. It frighten me more than the pursuing shrills the floorboards had produced.
Stopping in front of their room; I paused not sure if I wanted to go in. My body said to run the other way and my mind agreed. But something held me there lost in between. The rustling that came from within pulled me from the haze that entrapped my mind.
"Uncle Jp?" My voice shook as I took a step forward pushing back the open door.
Something, or rather someone, blurred as they ran across the room. They snapped the window open so fast all I saw was a shadow leap out.
"No!" I screamed, but they were gone in the next second.
Darting to the window - I imagined the person that was dumb enough to jump from the second story, their limp and lifeless body on the ground below. But when I looked out the window the yard was deserted. My mouth fell open as I scanned the lawn. Attempting to find any indication that someone had been here. But the bleakness of the fading light obscured my sight.
A chill ran down my spine as my mind tried to explain what I had seen. Unable to find a logical answer, a voice shouted in the back of my head to get out while I still could. Backing away from the window I turned preparing to escape this forsaken place.
I only took a few steps before something caught my attention. I froze in front of my parents' bed. A small green box sat on the edge of it. My eyes flickered to the door, back to the bed, and then to the open window. As my mind spun trying to understand where the box had come from and what was happening.
The cool breeze that filtered through the room made the tag flutter. Revealing my name written in my mother's elegant script. I bound to the bed snatching the box up. When I opened the lid the gold light that glistened off the encroaching night held me there paralyzed. I stonewalled the tears that threatened to spill over.
The bracelet jingled as I pulled it from the box. It had to be my graduation present. The charms that dangled from it encompassed my life. They're were: a pair of baby shoes, a palm tree, a plane, a small horse, a diploma, and a heart. My gaze was drawn to the heart as my thumb glided over the engraving. I whispered the inscription, "More than life itself."
The tears burned as they blurred my vision. I fumbled with the clasp realizing that it was a locket. Finally unfastening it I gasped falling back onto the bed. I stared into my parents dark eyes and smiling faces that laid inside. The family portrait would be the only reminder of my once happy life that I would take with me.
Curling up into a ball on the bed it felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. I couldn't keep the walls up anymore the flood gates broke and the tears cascaded down my face. The pure pain of my guilt ripped through me like a bolt of lightening. Screaming silently in agony as I relived the tainted memories. They flashed by like a flip book ending with the image of our last embrace. It hung before my eyes staying there until the river ran dry. Then I heard the approaching footsteps coming up the stairs.
"Serenity, are you almost done?" Uncle Jp's voice vibrated off the walls as it filled the room.
Bolting upright, afraid to be caught in my disgraceful act, I quickly wiped my eyes. Snatching the bracelet off the bed I shoved it into my pocket before darting into the hallway.
My uncle looked up at my tumultuous entry from where he stood in front of my room. Staring at the ground, I tried to avoid all eye contact. I stepped past him entering the room. I walked over to the boxes and my uncle followed. He asked, "Is this everything?"
I nodded once knowing that my voice would reveal the truth of my anguish. Chewing on my bottom lip, I struggled to lock away the maniacal illusions my repentant mind fabricated.
"Is everything okay?" My uncle's question caught me off guard.
I kept my gaze down attempting to lace my voice with false bravado, "Yes, sir. Everything is fine." I fought to keep my tone level. To sound as calm and collected as I could manage.
I felt his eyes boring into me but I refused to look up. Afraid to show him that the treachery of my disguise was taking control of my uninhabited soul. My eyes burned as it seeped into my core chilling me to a degree that could only be achieve in Antarctica.
He let out a heavy sigh obviously tired of trying to decipher my emotional riddles. He said gently, "All right then... Let's get this in the car. We've got a long drive ahead of us." He picked up a box,"Your aunt expects us to be home by supper."
We finished packing away what was left of my life. I stood next to the car ready to drive off into the sunset and escape the dark memories of the life I lost.
As I took one last look at my home the tears threatened my borders. A curtain fluttering on the second story window drew my attention. Two people stood in the shadow of the room - I blinked, involuntarily rubbing my eyes. Looking again there was nothing there but a curtain fluttering in a nonexistent breeze.
My eyes widened as the fear chained me to the ground. I struggled to move my feet; panicking as the night crept forward. My uncle started the car freeing me from the chains. I turned around jumping into the safety of the parked car. Uncle Jp looked at me, I shook my head informing him that I didn't want to talk. We started down the street. I glanced over my shoulder as my past was devoured by the nocturnal demon. A shiver ran down my spine as the last ties were severed. Turning around unable to watch as everything I've ever known faded into the distance. Leaning against the window, I hoped that the next chapter in my solemn life would not be as disastrous as the last.
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