I’d like to dedicate this series of chapters to those who endure their own demons – stay strong.
Ice cream dripped down my arm. Jade successfully keeps hers from falling down the sleeves of her white blouse. The hot afternoon sun bakes us as we sit on a bench outside of the ice cream shop. The sky was cloudless and a brilliant blue.
“Autumn, you have to try harder! Come on. Are you really going to let the sun melt it first before it does in your mouth?” she teases. She punches me in the arm which only makes matters worse for my cone.
“Hey, I’m trying,” I reply.
I lick anxiously at my now, nearly liquid ice cream, beginning to make an escape through the bottom of my cone. It was the second week of summer after graduating from middle school. Jade and I are ready for two months of glorious bike riding, anime viewing and more ice cream than we could contain.
“Well, you may as well give it to me,” she puts the last of her cone into her mouth and chews. “I’m done.” She smiles deviously and takes my treat.
“No, I can finish this just watch me,” I object and snatch it back.
Jade whips her phone out of her back pocket and the screen lights up. A picture of her and I appear on her lock screen.
“It’s ten to one. Mom wants me home to help her with the garden. But, we’ll watch Bleach after.” She smiles at me as if she’s sorry she can’t watch anime with me sooner.
I nod. “No problem.”
Jade stands up and starts walking towards the traffic light where we would cross to walk home. We live on the same street, so we follow each other. I still lick my ice cream for dear life as the pedestrian light turns into the walking person lit up with white.
I look up and Jade is already half way across. Jade turns around and motions for me to hurry up.
In that moment, something isn’t right. I look to the right and the cars wait patiently for the traffic light to turn green. I look left to see a black pick-up driving much too fast to be able to stop in time at the red light.
Jade is in the way. Jade has to move. The truck isn’t stopping any time soon.
“Jade! Move, Car!” I scream at the top of my lungs. Panic washes over me like a bucket of ice water. My skin feel too tight and I can’t move.
Jade moves. Not fast enough.
The truck moves in her direction as she is running and smashes into her. Hard. She flies into the middle of the street like a doll being thrown across a room. Jade is not a doll. Jade is human.
She lands with her arms and legs splayed in directions that looked like they hurt. Her neck flipped a way that wasn’t supposed to be possible for humans. I could see blooms of red blood on her white blouse.
She wasn’t moving. Why won’t she get up? Why won’t she just shake it off? She can’t. Jade is dying.
I drop my ice cream. I think I cry out but my hearing is on and off. My throat is dry and I can feel my heart beat in it.
“Jade!” I scream again. “Jade, wake up please!”
I didn’t notice before but I could see the inside of Jade’s leg. Torn up flesh and cracked bone stick out like pins and needles. A pool of crimson forms beneath her. I see her chest pump up and down too fast for her to catch her breath, each one slipping away before she could grasp them. Then her chest flattens. She stops breathing. Her eyes are still open.
My best friend broken in red on the street. I was going home to watch anime with her in a bit. When will we do that now? Who will sing the theme song with me? Who will be my best friend? Who will help her mom garden? Why won’t she open her eyes?
“Open your eyes!” I yell, my voice dry and cracked.
My head hurts. An ambulance arrives. Paramedics. Does she need them? Jade is dead.
Three weeks later.
I lay on my bed. That’s really all I can do. Since the accident all I’ve ever felt was nothing. No emotions. I feel so alone and hollow all the time. Friends have stopped by, offering support. What’s there to support? I’m nothing. I tell my mom to send them away.
Mom opens my door. She walks in and sits at the foot of my bed. I feel her weight pierce into my mattress.
“Autumn, you have to eat,” she says warmly.
The last thing I want to do is vomit again.
“Mom, you know that I have nausea.”
“Alright, but you need food, darling.” She strokes my face with her warm fingers and looks at me.
My mom is the most beautiful person I know. Her hair is shoulder length and a golden blonde and blue eyes similar to… Jade. She has a slim jaw and defined lips. I take after her with my lips and jaw line, but I’m all my father with his jet black hair and bright green eyes. My dad is Russian mixed with a tinge of Japanese while my mom comes from a pure French family.
“Well I’ll go get you some Gravol. You take it and sleep since it makes you drowsy, m’kay?”
I nod and she leaves, not closing the door behind her. I pick myself up out of bed and walk to my door. I feel heavy. As if I’m carrying a brick around my neck by a rope. When I close my door, I flop onto my bed once again. I haven’t showered in days. I feel gross and oily. Its early evening and I haven’t touched my tooth brush since yesterday afternoon. I haven’t been outside since that day. I don’t want to do anything but lay in my bed and try to forget. Try to forget Jade in the road, dying before my eyes. When I do fall asleep after endless tossing and turning, my dreams morph into nightmares filled with Jade’s body, broken and bloody in the middle of the road. I wish I could have somehow put her back together like a jigsaw puzzle.
The day of funeral, Jade’s mom was torn apart. I think she left ridged pieces of herself at her daughter’s grave.
When my mom returned, I took the medicine. She said her and dad would be gone for a few hours doing some shopping. For the first time in three weeks, I fell asleep in the blink of an eye.
There’s a soft sounding, female voice in my head. I open my eyes. My room is dark. Okay it’s nighttime. I look around my room, which is eerily different. As if something had shifted. I think my mom was in my room again but she doesn’t sound like that. Definitely not my dad. I look around again and call out for my parents.
“Mom? Dad? You home yet?” No answer.
“Who’s there?” I snap. “Ok who the hell is there?” I’m starting to feel scared. Well, more than I was before. Did someone break in?
I look to my left. My right. Suddenly something, no, someone is in the corner of my eye. I whip my head and she’s in front of me. I’m not sure who she is exactly, but all I know is that. She’s female.
“Hello,” she says. Her voice sounds like cotton, light and fluffy. Almost comforting. But I’m anything but comfortable with some strange girl at the end of my bed.
The first thing I notice is how pale she is. I think she’s a ghost, but she’s not that pale. Then I notice that she’s very petite. She can’t be more the 5 feet tall, as her legs dangle from the side of my bed. Her hair is shoulder length and black as night, much like her very big eyes. I’ve never seen eyes like those before. She’s wearing a long white dress with thin straps that flows longer than her legs d0. I’d think she looked adorable, if not for the situation. She looks sinister right now.
“I-I-um wh-what? What a-are you?” I ask.
I raise an eye brow. “A what?”
“No, stupid my name’s Anora.” She smiles like this is normal. This is far from normal.
“Are you a ghost? Are you a criminal? Should I call the police?” I sound like a six year-old asking the things I am. Not a thirteen year old.
“To which question?” My adrenaline is on high.
“All of them.”
“Why are you here?”
“I’m going to be your friend.”
“Oh no you are not.”
“Yes. I. Am.”
I slap my face with my palms hard and pinch my cheeks until it burns like fire. This must be a dream. No a nightmare. This is a freaking nightmare.
Anora reaches out and takes my hands, keeping me from slapping or pinching myself again. I’m surprised that she can touch me; expecting she would go right through me or something. My jaw almost drops.
“This is not a dream,” she says.
I can feel cold sweat on my forehead. Okay, so Anora says this is not a dream. But who is she to be listened to? I don’t even know where she came from.
“Let’s put it this way. I’m a part of you now and I’m going to help you,” she says.
I must be wasted from that Gravol. That’s what I want to believe. But I can’t.