Authors: A.M. Hargrove
Tags: #Teen Paranormal
“Daddy, the police are here!” I yelled as the two officers rang our doorbell.
“Hello, young lady. Is your father at home?” they asked.
By that time, my dad had entered the foyer and said, “Can I help you officers?”
“Are you Henry Pearce?” When my dad nodded, they continued, “Mr. Pearce, are you married to a Mariah Pearce?”
“Yes,” Dad hesitantly replied. “Why? What’s going on?” he choked out.
“I’m so sorry to inform you sir, but there’s been a terrible accident.”
Another car had crossed the centerline and hit my mother’s car head on. She had died instantly as she drove home from the grocery store.
When I heard the news, I started to hear a buzzing in my ears. I couldn’t make out any more words; it was like the voices I heard were coming from the next room. I never told her goodbye or that I loved her. The next thing I remembered, I was lying on the sofa with a cold cloth on my head.
I was eleven years old then, and I couldn’t help thinking there couldn’t be a worse time to lose your mom. Who would I to talk to about periods, boys, prom dresses? Who would help me tame my unruly red hair? What was I going to do? My guts had been ripped out, and I was dying.
The funeral was a blur; I couldn’t even recall who was there. My stomach clenched incessantly. I couldn’t keep anything down. I stood with my dad, squeezing his hand with all my might. It took my mind off the possibility of vomiting everywhere.
My life changed dramatically after that. The fun had been sucked out of me, leaving me pathetically miserable.
* * * * *
“Maddie, are you okay?” I head someone asking.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I guess I am a bit excited with everything going on here.”
“I understand,” Mrs. Newman replied. “Honey, are your Mom and Dad here?”
One part of me wanted to lash out and say, “Um, that would be a big ‘NO’ seeing as they’re both dead,” but I knew that would be rude and totally uncalled for. So I went with my usual response instead.
“No, ma’am, they aren’t. It’s just me, myself and I today,” I said with a tug of a smile.
Mr. and Mrs. Newman both gave me a surprised look that quickly turned to pity, something else I abhorred.
“Don’t worry, it won’t be a problem. There are all sorts of students they have recruited as ‘Moving Aids’ out there. You can find them by their t-shirts. They are the ones wearing red,” I supplied.
“What a wonderful idea,” Cat exclaimed. “I wonder if any of them are cute?”
“Cat, I don’t think this is a time when you need to be worrying about that since you have loads of stuff to do,” Mrs. Newman admonished.
“How about we head back down for another load?” I suggested, saving Cat from any more comments.
In reality, the “Moving Aids” were a blessing and we all made short work of hauling everything up. I only had one “oops” too. Let me explain that. I was horrifically clumsy and had been my entire life. My mom did her best to rectify that to no avail, bless her heart.
I had been lugging up a plastic bin filled with all of my intimate items, such as panties and bras. As I walked through the door to our suite, the toe of my tennis shoe caught on the threshold and I tripped. I shot like a rocket across the room, trying my best to prevent a crash and burn. Unfortunately for Mr. Newman, he was standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he took the brunt of my momentum. My plastic bin burst open and we both tumbled to the floor. When I finally was able to sit up, I was mortified by what my eyes beheld. Mr. Newman was lying on the floor with all of my panties and bras mounded over his head. He was a vision in thongs! Cat and her mother were in hysterics, slapping their knees and hooting. With my face burning with embarrassment, I dashed over to him, stuffed everything back in the bin and scurried to the bedroom. What a way to make a first impression.
Our suite was actually pretty cool. In the center was a main living area with a non-cooking kitchen. By that I mean it had a microwave and full size refrigerator, but it didn’t have a stove or oven. That was fine by me because boiling water could sometimes be a high risk activity for me.
Off the main living area ran two hallways. On either side was a bathroom, a vanity area, built in dressers and two walk-in closets. The hall ended at the bedroom, which was quite sizable for a dorm. It contained two lofted bunk beds and two desks with chairs.
I looked around trying to decide where to put everything. Once we got to work, we set up the room in no time flat and then started the unpacking and stowing of everything.
Our other two suite mates, Carlson Kittredge and January St. Davis, were doing the same thing so it wasn’t until the evening that we were able to convene in the living area and start getting acquainted with each other.
Admittedly, I was dreading this part as well. It wouldn’t take time before the famous questions would hit. I had prepared myself for the inevitable queries, but they always rattled me nevertheless.
“So Maddie, why didn’t your parents come?” Cat asked.
“Well, it’s sort of a long story,” I said.
“If you don’t want to talk about it, I understand.”
“That’s not exactly it. I don’t think you’d want to hear the boring details. Maybe some other time. Okay?” I asked as I knotted my fingers.
I averted the topic to what classes everyone had enrolled in and mentally congratulated myself on dodging an emotional bullet. I glanced at Cat to see her looking intently at me. She hadn’t bought it for a second.
“Anyone hungry?” Carlson asked.
“I’m starving!” I said.
“Let’s go grab some pizza,” Cat suggested.
“You all go on ahead. I have tons of stuff I need to do before I head to bed,” January piped in.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
She nodded and I added, “We’ll bring you something back,” as we headed out the door.
* * * * *
Later that night, Cat and I were lying in bed when she whispered, “How do you think it’ll work out between Carlson and January?”
“I don’t know. I think Carlson is insensitive to January’s situation. It’s obvious she has to put herself through school and it’s also obvious Carlson hasn’t had to lift a finger for anything in her entire life. Did you see all the clothes that girl moved in? I wondered if there were enough days in the semester for her to wear them all.”
Cat snorted saying, “I know, right? And they had movers to help her. I didn’t think they’d ever stop carting stuff up here. I still can’t believe it all fit.”
“But you have to admit, she really is sweet. I think she says stuff without thinking.”
“I think you’re right. Maybe this will end up being a good experience for both of them. It may teach Carlson how the other half, you know, the normal half, lives,” Cat remarked.
“You know, if you ever want to talk about your situation, you know, about your parents or anything, I’m here.”
“Oh, thanks. There isn’t not much to say. It’s kind of, well, not very pleasant. That’s why I don’t talk about it much. My mom was killed in a car accident when I was twelve and my dad died of a heart attack last October.”
“What? Holy crap! That’s terrible! I’m so sorry!”
“Yeah, I know. It totally sucks. It’s not a good topic for me and it was kind of sad and all today. That’s why I didn’t want to talk about it much.”
“No, I totally get that. I’m sorry I brought it up. If I hadn’t been so darn nosy and kept my big mouth shut and all.”
“Hey, it’s okay. You were only trying to help. I’ll tell you the whole story someday. But my eye lids are threatening to slam shut on me any minute here, so I’m gonna have to call it a night. Oh, and Cat?”
“Thanks. That means a lot to me.”
“Hey, what are roomies for?”
I was sitting in the kitchen with my dad and we were discussing college applications. He was insistent on me applying to several different schools. I had only one interest and that was Western Carolina University. He was worried I would regret it if I didn’t at least look at other schools. I finally agreed and he gave me one of his smiles. I loved his smiles. They were like getting hit with a good dose of badly needed sunshine after a week of cold rain and grey skies. They always made me feel good all over.
He made me feel exactly the same way when we went backpacking. We hiked all over the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the Pisgah National Forest. The days and weeks after my mom died, Dad and I were constantly on the move up on the trail somewhere. We gained a sense of peace and serenity there that we couldn’t find back home. Shivering from the cold or drenched in sweat, we loved it all the same.
Dad taught me all the tricks of living outdoors—how to tie every kind of knot known to man, how to pitch a tent in the best spot, where to find water, how to protect your food from the bears, how to start a fire, how to stay dry in a deluge, how to stay warm in the snow, and how to cook using a teeny tiny camp stove. We did some serious bonding on those trips.
“So Dad, you know I have to be close to the trails right?”
“Yes, sweetie, I do. You have other options though, such as Appalachian State University and the University of Tennessee. You know I wouldn’t even dream of suggesting a college that would put you too far away from your beloved trails!”
“Hey! You only have yourself to blame for that,” I said as I stuck my tongue out at him and he laughed.
Suddenly I was in my AP physics class and an announcement came over the intercom telling me to report to the principal’s office. I glanced at my teacher with a questioning look, but he shrugged, so I grabbed my backpack and headed to Mr. Emery’s office.
When I walked through the door, I knew something was wrong because Mr. Emery was accompanied by Mrs. Overland, the senior guidance counselor, and Mrs. Woodburn, the school nurse. My heart did a major flipflop and I immediately asked, “What’s going on?”
“Maddie, I am so sorry to have to tell you this but it’s your father. I’m afraid something terrible has happened. Your father suffered a major heart attack at work this morning.”
“No! Oh no! I have to go to him!” I jumped to my feet and started running toward the door.
“Maddie wait,” Mr. Emery cried. “You don’t understand.”
I slowly turned around to face him. I knew what he was going to say. I just knew it.
“Maddie, your father, he didn’t make it. The paramedics got there as fast as they could but it wasn’t in time to save him.”
Every bit of oxygen in that room had somehow disappeared. I tried to inhale, but there was simply no air anywhere. I fell to my knees and tried to breathe. I also felt the light leave the room. I think it left my life as well. My dad was everything to me. He hung the stars and the moon. He was my reason for living and breathing. No wonder there wasn’t any air. He had taken it away with him when he died. I doubt there would ever be any air for the rest of my life. No air, no light. What good was life without air or light? Darkness. That’s what I had to look forward to forever.
“I must go to him.” I stood on trembling legs.
“Maddie, let us call someone,” said Mr. Emery.
no one to call,” I numbly said.
“Maddie, are you sure there isn’t anyone we can call?” they asked. “We need to release you to someone.”
any relatives. I’m alone. Okay? I want to go see my Dad.”
The school nurse, Mrs. Woodburn, took me down to the emergency room, and there he was. At six feet tall, my dad was a fairly large man, yet he looked so small lying on that table. It was apparent they had tried so hard to save him. He was still hooked up to a bunch of tubes, wires and other things. Then, some woman came in and asked me where they should send the body. I didn’t have the foggiest idea of what she was asking.
“Honey, do you know which funeral home you want to use?”
I was still confused, but then it plowed into me. I would have to plan his funeral.
“I guess, Price’s,” I croaked, my throat suddenly felt filled with sawdust.
Mrs. Woodburn, the nurse, took me home. I wanted her to take me to school to get my car, but instead, she took my keys and said someone would be dropping it off. When I got home, there sat my dad’s empty coffee cup on the kitchen counter and his empty cereal bowl in the sink. His bed was made, as it usually was; his bathroom was neat and orderly. There was nothing unusual to make you think that he hadn’t felt well. I climbed on his bed and held his pillow to my face. That’s when the tears hit and I cried myself silly.
Hours later, I heard pounding on the front door. I kept hoping it would go away, but it was relentless. Eventually, I got out of my dad’s bed and answered the door. It was all the girls from the cross-country team. They pushed their way in the house. They had all kinds of food and drinks. One of them, Lillie, had brought her mother.
Lillie’s mom, Mrs. Mack, kept telling me how sorry she was and invited me to stay with their family. I refused, of course, but luckily for me, she took over making all sorts of phone calls. She, along with my attorney, Jay Dennis, literally saved me; they took care of all the arrangements for the funeral and Mr. Dennis handled everything else that had anything to do with finances. I couldn’t have gotten through it all without them.
“Maddie. Maddie, wake up. Maddie!”
“What?” I yelled as I shot out of bed.
“You were crying. I tried to wake you up, but you must’ve been dreaming.”
“Oh, sorry Cat. Sorry I woke you up,” I groaned, rubbing my eyes.
“No, it’s okay. Is everything okay?”
“Um, yeah,” I sniffed. “I’m fine. I have them sometimes. Dreams, you know. Well, I have them a lot, actually. Sorry I disturbed you. I guess I should have warned you.”
“No, don’t worry about it. You were really sobbing though. Do you want to talk about it?”
“Not tonight. Maybe someday, but not right now. But thanks Cat. I appreciate it.”
“Hey anytime, Maddie.”
Cat and I jumped into college life with both feet. We both joined the local hiking club. One of the reasons I had decided to attend Western Carolina was because of its location. It was situated a mere handful of miles from The Great Smoky Mountain National Park and my love for hiking and backpacking pushed me in this direction. Cat and I had promised each other we would do weekend trips to the Park as often as we could.