Authors: Belinda Frisch
Tags: #Fiction, #Horror
“Hello?” Brea wandered off, talking quietly so Harmony couldn’t hear her.
“You think I’m lying?” Harmony shouted. “Ask him about his new Audi.”
Brea hung up and stomped over to where Harmony was sitting. “You know what? This paranoid track you’re on, you’re going to end up just like your mother.”
Harmony lit up a cigarette. “Funny you say that, you’re already like yours.”
Jaxon’s late model Passat pulled up to Oakwood in record time. If he’d been doing anything at all, he must have dropped it when she called.
Brea dismissed what Harmony said about him, though she couldn’t help but wonder about the details.
“Thanks for picking me up,” she said and kept her face turned toward the window.
“No problem.” He reached for her hand but she pulled away. “You want to tell me what happened in there?”
Brea kept from making eye contact. “What makes you think anything happened? I came with Harmony and Adam. He’s not back and she’s not ready to leave. That’s all.”
He flipped down the visor and opened the lit vanity. Her face was splotchy and her eyes were swollen from crying, visible apparently even from her profile “Let’s try this again. Want to tell me what happened?”
She pulled back her hair and sniffled. “I don’t want to talk about it. Just promise me you’re not going to say anything to my mother about me being here, okay?”
“Of course I’m not going to say anything, but you should know better than to skip school with Harmony of all people. Joan would eat you alive if she knew.”
won’t know.” She hated that he was on a first name basis with her mother.
He handed her a Kleenex from his center console and brushed back the lock of hair that had fallen from her ponytail. “What do you say we make this my fault? You know school called her and told her you skipped. We’ll tell her it was a pre-prom date.”
. She felt on-the-hook accepting his alibi. “I didn’t say yes, you know.”
He pulled out on Route 32 in the opposite direction of her house and school. “You will.”
“You’re always so sure.”
A couple miles down the road from Oakwood Cemetery was Miller’s Pond, a location popular with the driving-age teens because of its seclusion. Brea knew where it was, but had never been. Jaxon, on the other hand, obviously had.
He pulled down the gravel drive and Brea felt her whole body tense. Their secret dating made it easy to avoid telling him she was a virgin. Most of their time together was spent at her house and her mother insisted on the bedroom door staying open. There was no reason he should know, at least until now.
“Jaxon, what are you doing?” Her palms started to sweat.
“You spent the day with the narcotics twins and you’re worried about what
doing?” He laughed. “Relax, would you?”
“I really just want to go home.”
“Brea, you’re acting nuts. What’s wrong with you?”
“I don’t want to be here. Please…”
He set his hand on hers. “I just want to talk. That’s it. It’s really nice here.”
He was right. He parked at the edge of a clearing overlooking the pond. The trees had not yet lost all their leaves and the red and gold color reflected on the water’s surface.
“Is this okay?”
Besides nerves, she saw no real reason to be scared. “Okay.”
He pulled up the emergency brake and turned up the radio.
“I have something for you.” He rifled through the door pocket and handed her a ticket for Shriekfest—a horror film festival hosted for the first time by the Summit Theater in Reston. “I bought two of them for Mitch and me, but he’s going to Maine for the week and I don’t know anyone else that would want to go. No obligation. I just thought you might like to go.”
Gifts, especially considering how she’d been treating him, made her uncomfortable. “I can’t take this.” She pushed the ticket back at him and he crossed his arms, refusing to take it.
“Then throw it out. It’s yours. Do what you want with it.”
“I’ll pay you back.” She put the ticket inside her bag and thanked him.
“I don’t need the money, Brea. I need a date for prom.”
might be an overstatement.
“I…” The whole fight with Harmony negated their plans for the Bloody Mayhem show.
“All right. One last try.” He reached across her and popped open the glove compartment, handing her a small, turquoise box wrapped in a white satin ribbon from inside.
She’d never had anything from there, but had seen the box in magazines. She smiled.
There’s no way Harmony was right.
He wouldn’t go this far if it was true.
“It’s not going to bite.” He pulled the ribbon tail and the bow dissolved. “Your mother helped me pick it out.”
He opened the lid and she let out a small, unintentional whimper.
Of course it’s beautiful. Probably cost a fortune, too.
“You like it.” He smiled, proudly.
“I…I can’t take it. It’s too much.” She set the box down between them.
“Nothing’s too much.” He lifted the silver key necklace out of the box and leaned over her. “One last time, will you please go to prom with me?”
The cool silver rested against her chest, an unintentional sign of ownership.
“Yes,” she said, slumping slightly forward. “I’ll go.”
There was no other answer.
The town library was a ramshackle one-story building that was once someone’s house. The floor plan had been opened up, but it didn’t change the feeling. Harmony was still high when she got there.
She walked around, confused, having no real idea the best way to find Tom G’s obituary with only an unreliable year of death.
A middle-aged librarian in a floor-length skirt and turtle neck asked if she could help.
“I need to find an obituary,” Harmony said. “From 1996.”
“Those would be downstairs in the archives. We don’t have fiche, but we have bound copies.”
She led Harmony down a narrow stairway into her idea of a spooky basement: low ceilings, broken up floor, moisture, and a lot of beams and wires. It was dimly lit and smelled of mildew.
“Let me see.” The librarian scanned the bindings. “It looks like 1996 are from here down. Are you all right? Anything I can do for you?”
Her eyes were as red from the joint as from crying. “No, I’m all set. Thanks.”
Harmony pulled up a chair to the splintering wooden table and searched through the first few volumes.
It wasn’t long before she got a headache from reading in near-darkness and she was about to give up when she saw an obituary ripped from the paper: Gerald Thomas Shippee of 6 Maple Street. Only the first line was there.
6 Maple Street.
It was the house where her mother had overdosed.
Harmony stared at the ceiling, unable to sleep. It was after eleven and Adam’s bedroom was dark except for the flame of the lighter and the scant moonlight seeping in between the blinds. He leaned over and lit his cigarette off hers.
Adam turned on the bedside lamp. “So Brea just up and left? She just walked out of Oakwood alone and unprovoked? Just like that?”
He’d been asking since he picked her up from the library.
The partial obituary repeated in her mind. His name wasn’t Tom, it was Gerald. Gerald Thomas Shippee and the one person that could help her make a connection between her, him, and that house, her mother, was nowhere to be found.
“Yes, just like that.” Harmony kicked off the sheets and got out of bed. “God, will you let it go?”
The cool air shrunk her skin and made it goosebump. She grabbed a towel hanging from the doorknob and wrapped it around herself, and then snuffed her cigarette out in the saucer they used for an ashtray.
“It just doesn’t sound like Brea. How did she even get home?”
“She called Abercrombie.” Harmony slammed the bathroom door.
“Who the hell is Abercrombie?”
Harmony pressed her back to the wall and slid to the floor thinking about what Brea said. “You’re going to end up just like your mother.”
Schizophrenia was poison, one that took her mother’s responsibility, happiness, and love and left Harmony with the remaining shell. A skeleton-thin body the drugs and men used as they saw fit. She wanted to cry, but knew it would only bring Tom back. He thrived on weakness. She stifled a whimper.
“You all right in there?” Adam must have heard her.
“I’m fine,” she said, but she was lying.
She needed to talk. She wanted to tell him what happened with Brea but it meant admitting Tom and she knew better. He would think she’d gone beyond crazy. He would have her back on those pills, back at that hospital—back on that ward. She thought about her time in the psychiatric unit and broke down.