Chapter I: Rain Drops and Blood
Rain poured down outside the shop window, raindrops pelting the glass and pavement. The girl adjusted her hood before turning to the shop owner.
“Henry, I’m leaving,” she said, zipping her coat.
“Okay, thanks for stopping by,” the older man responded. Henry had always been like a grandfather to Jaci and she loved hanging out in his shop. The smell of books and coffee mixed perfectly; enough to make her want to fall asleep in the back window seat.
She smiled. “I’ll stop by tomorrow and help you sort the new books.”
He nodded, tossing a rag into the back sink. “Maybe you could help with the coffee then too.”
Her grin widened. “I will.”
She gripped the cold metal handle on the door, preparing herself to step out in the torrential downpour. With a deep breath, she pulled the door open and stepped out into the rain.
She quickly made her way down the street, stopping at the crosswalk. She squinted, trying to make out the flashing neon green man across the street.
“I can’t even see to cross the street,” she muttered, barely hearing herself above the rain.
She looked around once more, trying to see through the white sheet of falling rain. Seeing nothing, she stepped off the sidewalk and into the street. She quickened her steps, trying to get across as fast as possible.
And then she saw it. Blinding white car lights not more than a few feet away. She tried to move but her feet were planted in place. She couldn’t even breathe. In those few, short, split seconds, her heart stopped being.
And then it hit. It felt like she’d been slammed against a wall by a dumptruck. She felt the air leave her lungs and she heard the sickening snap of ribs. Her eyes flickered shut but just for a second, shooting back open as the pain hit.
It hurt so bad. She could feel the bones sticking through the skin in her side. She could feel the blood trickling down her face and into the running water. She could hear herself breathing, but with every intake, more intense pain stabbed through her.
She closed her eyes.
I want to die. She thought.
She’d never thought that before.
Let me die.
She was begging.
Please, let me die!
Why was she begging for death? Jaci had never begged for anything but had merely settled for what she had. She’d never asked for death nor wished that it would take her. She loved her life. But why? Why was she now begging for it to come like the sweet silence after a fight or the hug from a loved one after something happens?
Her body shook, muscles spasming.
“Die,” she muttered.
The last words she remembered before her mind finally went blank.
The last words she ever said.
Unfortunantly for her, it wan’t the last breath she’d take.
Chapter II: The Brown-Haired Boy
Jaci pulled the overstuffed suitcase from the bed of the silver Chevy truck and dropped it onto the ground. She rolled her stiff shoulder, feeling it pop. She massaged the muscles, still stiff and sour from the accident.
“You’re sure you’ll be okay?” her dad asked, getting out of the truck. Walking around to the back, he picked her suitcase up from the ground and made his way to the front porch of the old ranch house.
She nodded, making and “Mhmm” sound.
He looked back at her. “If you don’t like it here…”
“I’ve always liked it here,” she signed. He watched her move her hands - the only way she knew how to speak these days.
He turned around and Jaci thought she saw a tear slid from the corner of his eye. She wanted to hug him and tell him it was fine but she wouldn’t. Couldn’t.
The old Jaci would have hugged him. She would have comforted him. She would have talked.
She gritted her teeth for a second before following him up the porch steps.
“Pa and MeMa will take care of you,” her father said, setting the suitcase down. Turning to her, he said. “They told me they wouldn’t be home till later but that there’s a key under the mat.”
“Aren’t you going to stay?” she asked, giving him a questioning look.
He shook his head. “No… we don’t really get along well these days.”
Her shoulders drooped. Great, so I’m going to be in the middle of a life long grudge.
“Don’t worry,” her father quickly said. “They love you and have always wanted you to come and spend a summer.”
She nodded and took the handle of her suitcase from her father.
“I’m going then,” he said, turning around. He took a few steps before turning around. “I love you, sweety.”
She didn’t nod or sign but rather turned her back on him, pushing her suitcase closer to the door. She heard him sigh and finish his descent from the front porch. A few moments later, she heard the slam of the pickup door and the rev of the engine.
The sound of tires on the gravel made her want to look back and wave but she controlled herself. If he really did love her as he said, he wouldn’t be abandoning her in the middle of nowhere South Carolina.
She bent down and picked up the corner of the rug, grabbing the shiny silver key. She turned it over in her hand a couple of times, thinking.
Her father hadn’t been able to cope with her accident. Her mom had left the small family just days before the accident and during Jaci’s recovery time, she never showed up once. The rumor was she packed her bags and moved the whole way across the United States to get away from them.
Jaci didn’t know why her mother left. She only knew the aftermath. Her father had changed. He didn’t smile as much as he used to. He didn’t talk to her as much as he once did. The one thing that really bugged Jaci was that he never once came in to say goodnight after the whole ordeal.
She snapped herself back to reality and stuck the key in the lock, turning it to the left to unlock it. Trying the handle, she found it was still locked. Once more, she turned the key the entire way to the left but the door still wouldn’t open.
“The lock is backward. You have to turn it to the right,” a voice said from behind her.
She jumped, making a small sound which could be translated as a scream.
“Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” the voice had a hint of a southern accent, something she found quite odd. For someone who was living so far into the deep South, they didn’t have the type of accent she expected them too.
Turning, she saw a boy around her age, light brown hair brushed out of his face. He smiled a grin that seemed to take over his whole face, his eyes lighting up as he did. His soft brown eyes seemed to dance in the midday sunlight.
She waved, her way of saying hi. Then, she signed, It’s fine, you didn’t scare me.
He looked at her hands and then up at her face. “Are you deaf?”
She shook her head.
“Oh,” he looked down at his feet.
She cleared her throat to get his attention. When she had it, she tapped her throat and shook her head.
“Oh, you can’t speak!” he said, understanding. Realizing he sounded a little too excited, he quickly apologized. ’Oh, um, sorry that came out wrong.”
She smiled shrugging. Body language was the best way to communicate with someone who doesn’t know sign language and that was her only tool right now with this young boy.
She wanted to ask him a question so she pulled her phone out of her pocket and pulled up her notepad.
Who are you? She typed, handing it over to him.
“Oh, I’m just a friend of MeMa’s,” he answered, smiling again. “I was supposed to swing by and get some eggs for my mom but it looks like they ain’t here right now.”
No, they’re in town. She typed out.
He nodded. “Makes sense. MeMa normally goes shopping in the early mornings on Friday but I guess she got a late start today.”
Jaci eyed him, surprised at how much he spoke. He added little bits of information that others wouldn’t find important. He also seemed rather happy and lighthearted when communicating with her, something she rarely ever saw with others. When she’d hand a notepad or phone to someone else with her questions or thoughts written on them, they often felt the need to write out their answer and then say it. Other times, they would seem rather bland while talking, unintentionally talking slowly like she was stupid or something.
She smiled. So you know MeMa well?
“I’m like her grandson,” he answered. “She’s known me since I was a little boy! Probably before I was born even.”
Ah, I see.
“Yeah, she sure is nice,” he sighed. “Can I ask you what you’re doing here?”
I’m her granddaughter. I’m spending the summer with them. She answered.
“Oh, MeMa’s been talkin’ up a storm about you! She was so excited about you coming down that she even started brushing up on her sign language. I didn’t understand why but I get it now,” he answered.
Jaci smiled wider. He was nice. He didn’t feel awkward talking about her muteness. He just went with the flow. And he had his own sort of flow. He was easy going with a contagious smile.
She nodded. I guess I’ll see you around then?
“Ah, probably,” he nodded, sliding his hands into his pockets. “Maybe we can hang out tomorrow? I can show you around, introduce you to some people, etcetera, etcetera.”
Jaci nodded. Sure.
He turned with a smile and walked down the porch steps, not looking back to see if she got in the house or not. Something about that made Jaci happy. He wasn’t like her father, feeling the need to turn around and say goodbye. Or like her mother who disappeared without a trace.
She turned the key to the right, her smile widening as it opened. He was right. Pulling her suitcase in after her, she shut the door, not bothering to lock it. Pa and Mema would probably be back any minute anyways.
She left her suitcase in the foyer next to the door and wandered around the house, looking at all the ancient pictures, the fragile antigues, and the well worn paino in the corner of the living room.
She slid onto the bench and let her fingers slide across the keys. It’d been forever since she’d played. Over a year. Yet her fingers still itched to play. They were dancing over the keys, the fingerings to the peices memorized.
The livingroom was gone and she was sitting on the vast stage, lights blinding her. She looked down at the paino, her heart rate picking up. She tapped a single note, the sound resounding through the empty room. The sound gave her confidence and she picked up, her fingers never missing a beat. Her body swayed with the music, the gently music that used to fill her with joy and a sense of belonging.
She stopped suddenly, a knock from the doorway startling her back to the tiny livingroom surrounded by spotless porcelians.
“That was pretty sweetie,” MeMa said, setting her purse down on the couch. “Where were you just now?”
Never never land. She signed.
MeMa sighed. “Why’d you give it up?”
Jaci looked down at her feet and then back at the paino.
It wasn’t for me.
MeMa laughed. “Could have fooled me.”
Before Jaci could respond, she was pulled into a bear hug.
“I can’t remember the last time I saw you,” she sighed. “It’s been to long.”
Last time you saw me I could still speak. Jaci signed once she was loosed from the hug.
The older lady sighed. “That doesn’t change who you are or what’s in your heart.” She tapped her on the sternum. “That will never change.”
Jaci wanted to retreat to some place quite so she could be alone with her thoughts and the many emotions that were flying around inside her head.
A boy stopped by. He said he was here to get eggs for his Mom. She said.
“Oh, that’s Thomas,” she answered. “A sweetheart.”
Jaci smiled. He’s nice.
“You talked to him?” she seemed a little surprised.
The younger girl nodded. Yeah, I wrote on the notepad in my phone and he replied.
MeMa smiled. “He has a younger brother Mike who is mute like you. He gets a lot of teasing because of it but he’s still a sharp young man.”
That’s why he wasn’t awkward while talking to me. Jaci thought. To Mema, she signed, He didn’t know sign language though.
“His brother is just now in first grade and hasn’t really attempted to learn sign language. He’s the type of boy who keeps to himself. He has a type of personalized sign language with his family and friends,” MeMa answered. “Mike’s a nice kid. He has a lot of potential.”
Jaci manuevered around MeMa who went to reposition a few ceramics and made her way to the kitchen where Pa was putting a pot on the stove.
“Hey Pumpkin,” he smiled. “I would have come to say hi earlier but I knew you’d be hungry.”
Jaci nodded, quickly giving him a hug. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and typed on the notepad.
Anything I can help with? She asked.
He smiled fondly. “Yes, could you wash the lettuce?” He nodded at the freshly picked head of lettuce sitting on the counter by the sink.
She nodded and got to work, peeling off the leaves and washing them before tearing them up and dropping them into the three bowls. She opened the fridge door and snagged a pepper, tomatoe, and some cheese.
Cutting board? She asked.
“Bottom drawer by the fridge,” he answered, not looking up from his noodles.
Jaci nodded again, her way of thanking him but realized he couldn’t see her. She ignored the feeling to type it out and show it to him and set to work cutting the pepper and tomatoe into little peices.
When she was done, she dropped them onto the salad and then set to work on slicing the cheese. It was in a rectangular block so she cut it into thin slices and then diced it into small squares, the knife hitting the cutting board in a steady rthyme.
She stopped for a moment and looked up at the setting sun. The moon would be up soon and she wanted to be out there to say hello.
The Moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk to. -Carl Sandburg
Chapter III: Weeping Cherry Tree
I want to go outside for a little bit. Is that okay? Jaci signed to her grandmother.
The older woman looked up from her knitting to interpret what she was saying. “Of course, that’s fine. When you get back in, we’ll probably be in bed so you just do what you have to do, okay?”
Jaci nodded, grabbing an older looking quilt from off the couch.
“Oh, you should sit under the weeping cherry tree,” her grandfather spoke up. “I used to sit under there at night and just think. When I met your grandmother, I proposed to her under that tree.”
Jaci smiled, signing to her grandmother.
“She said that it’s so sweet,” MeMa translated.
Pa nodded, grinning bashfully. “Oh, it was.”
Jaci ducked out of the room as they continued their reminiscing, snagging her backpack as she left the house. Swinging it over her shoulder, she made her way up the grassy knob to the top were the willow cherry tree stood. She ducked beneath the hanging branches, entering a smaller, empty space where cherry blossoms had fallen to the ground.
She walked over to the other side of the trunk where the low hanging branches were parted more than the others, peering out over the hill. She spread the quilt out the ground and sat down, taking in a deep breath of the night air.
And then it hit her. A wave of her childhood. The smoke from a bonfire had drifted up through the valley, taking her back through time to a time when everything was right. When her mother still loved her and her father, when she could talk, when she could play the piano, when her father payed attention to the family. When they would sit out on the patio and listen to the song of the cicadas. When everything was right.
She brought herself back to reality by blinking rapidly for a couple seconds. To opened her backpack and pulled out her notebook and pen. For a few seconds, she dug around inside it until she found what she was looking for. She turned the small flashlight on and held it in her mouth while she she hastily wrote in her notebook.
MeMa and Pa are nice. They’re a sweeter older couple. I should come here next summer. I met Thomas today. He didn’t introduce himself but MeMa did. She told me about his younger brother Mike who’s like me. Mute. She said that he has his own version of sign language and I really can’t wait to meet the little guy. I’m supposed to go hang out with THomas tomorrow and I hope he tells me a little more about himself and Mike. MeMa didn’t mention their parents. I wonder what they’re like.
Jaci looked up from the notebook, the sudden change from looking at the lit page to the black night left her seeing colors.
She chewed on the end of her pen, thinking.
Thomas is nice. She continued. He’s easy to talk too and as I mentioned before, doesn’t care that I can’t talk. I hope we can be friends.
I don’t know why I was so upset at Dad today. Sometimes I wish I could tell him all the things that fly around in my head but I know it’d just hurt him. The one person I really wish I could give a peace of my mind too is Mom. I’m going to stop here because
I know if I don’t, I won’t be able to.
Jaci switched the light off and blindly put away her notebook and pen as her eyes adjusted. She zipped her backpack up and pushed over to the side as she stretched out on her back. Looking up at the stars, she sighed, the only thing she could hear was the quiet singing of the cicadas. She closed her eyes, letting out a big breath. Her body seemed to deflate from all the air and she felt weightless.
She wished she could stay like that for forever but her lungs soon ached from lack of oxygen. She sat up, taking a deep breath once more.
The moon shone bright over the valley, reflecting the lost rays of the sun. Tiny chirps from the crickets was like a lullaby to the sleeping animals that lived in the valley, gently rocking them to sleep. The sun would rise again, they had no fear that it wouldn’t, and it would shine again. That’s how the universe worked. The earth would turn, the sun would go down and it would rise again. That’s how Jaci felt. Her life was like the rotation of the earth. For a little bit, she’d be in the sunshine and sometimes she’d be in the dark, relying on only the moon to watch over her. Right now, she felt like she was lost in the dark, the only thing she could really depend on to be there for her was the moon.
She stood up, swung her backpack over her shoulder, and grabbed the quilt. She stepped out from under the hanging limbs and took two steps forward, standing very still at the top of the hill, right at the edge before the descent.
The valley looked so peaceful, quietly sleeping. She heard a single bark of a dog, echoing through the hollow air. Jaci smiled. This is how life was to be. The sun would rise in the morning and in her life. She’d get out of the dark. She’d get better.
Jaci was up before the sun rose. She wasn’t used to sleeping on somebody else’s bed and she missed the sound of the city outside her window. As she climbed out of bed, she silently cursed the rooster who, for some stupid reason, was crowing his head off before 6:30.
“Good morning, sweetie,” MeMa greeted her, stirring eggs in the skillet. “Did you sleep well?”
Kind of, she signed, rubbing her eyes. Why does that rooster crow this early in the morning?
MeMa laughed. “Your grandfather should answer that one.”
Can you tell him the question? Jaci asked after a second.
“Oh, Jaci, I’m sorry,” MeMa apologized, realising.
She shook her head. No big deal.
Her grandmother relayed the message to Pa by hollering into the living room. She heard the rustling of a newspaper and then the soft thuds of his footsteps before she saw him.
He still looked half asleep, something she found odd since he’d been getting up this early his whole life. He poured himself a cup of coffee before sitting down at the table. Taking a sip, he set the mug down and folded his hands in front of him. Jaci slid in a chair at the other side of the table, waiting for an answer.
“That ole rooster is blind. He’s always been blind since he was just a small chick,” her grandfather began. “He’s always makin’ a ruckus at all hours of the night and early morning because the stupid thing can’t tell the difference between day and night.”
Jaci smiled and her grandfather smiled back.
“How’d you sleep?” he asked.
She gave him a thumbs up and stood up, walking over to MeMa.
I’m going to go get dressed, she signed. MeMa nodded, mixing some pancake batter.
As Jaci climbed the stairs, she pulled her phone out of her pajamas pocket. Turning the screen on, she saw she had a new text message from Drew.
Hey, I was thinking about you. I miss you.
Jaci stopped at the top of the stairs, running a hand through her to move it out of her face. She thought for a moment to reply.
I miss you too. How’s it been without me?
Drew was really the only person back in the city that could relate to her. He knew sign language ever since he was younger because his grandmother was deaf. He was rather close to his grandmother and then when she died a couple years back, he’d met Jaci. At that time, she could still talk but when the accident happened, he was the one who taught her sign language and always made an effort to talk to her atleast once a day.
Her phone buzzed, vibrating in her hand. She glanced down at it, a smile spreading across her face as she saw the response.
Boring. How’s life in the country?
Nice. I may have made a new friend. She replied.
Oooh! Who is it?
His name is Thomas. He has a younger brother like me.
Jaci jogged to her room and tossed her phone on the bed as she dug through her suitcase for basketball shorts and a loose T-shirt. For some reason, Drew’s texts always got her excited and more feeling like herself. She smiled, quickly thanking God for such a good friend.
Her phone vibrated and she practically lunged for the bed, fingers wrapping around it like it was her last hold on sanity.
So it’s probably easier to communicate with him?
Kind of. I don’t think Mike’s that old and I don’t think he’s learned sign language yet. Thomas doesn’t know sign language but it’s easier to hand him a piece of paper with my words on it. He’s not all awkward like some are. She sent.
She glanced at the messy bed and then at the door before quickly pulling the rumpled covers up to the pillow.
Jaci shut the door behind her and tucked her phone into her pocket as she ran down the stairs. Once she arrived in the kitchen, a few pancakes were sitting in the middle of the table, scrambled eggs and orange juice next to it.
The sound of sizzling bacon made her smile even wider. Bacon was her favorite.
“Jaci, the bacon will be ready soon so you have a few minutes before breakfast so you can do whatever. I’ll call you when it’s ready,” MeMa said, flipping a strip of bacon.
She made a “Mhmm” sound before leaning back on her heels, taking in a deep breath.
Bacon, eggs, pancakes, it was what made a good home cooked breakfast rememberable.
Someone knocked on the door, not a normal knock, a hurried knock as if something was urgent.
Jaci answered it, half expecting it to be some wearied person being chased by a bear. Instead, Thomas stood there, grey sweat shirt on, hood over his head, and hands stuck in the front pocket. He grinned at her, making her wonder what was up his sleeve.
“You need to see this,” he said, grabbing her wrist. He dragged her off the porch before she could even register what was happening. Finding her footing, she ran to keep up. He made his way up the grassy knob and under the weeping cherry tree where he came to a stop, peering out over the valley.
On the other side of the valley was another hill, higher than the one they were standing on. As the sun began to peak above the opposite hill, every drop of dew shone like a tiny star lost in the never ending field of green. Each one reflecting the amazing shine of the sun, making the hill look like it was glowing.
Jaci’s breath caught in her throat as she watched the sun rise, yawning from it’s peaceful night. Each ray of light seemed to reflect back to the sun, making the sky shine like a million lights.
The sun was rising on the earth and on her life.
The moon is a loyal companion.
It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human.
Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.
― Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me
Chapter IV: Fall Fast
The cold grass tickled the bottom of Jaci’s feet as she padded back down the hill to the house. She smiled as she jumped over a patch of gravel at the base of the steps. Looking behind her, she saw wet marks her feet left.
Going inside, she saw that the table was already set and the food was ready. She also saw there was another place set.
“Thomas!” MeMa called. “You can join us.”
Thomas peeked his head inside and the rest of his body followed. He walked over to the table and sat down, pulling the chair in under him.
MeMa and Pa held hands and MeMa reached for Jaci’s. She looked at the confused. They hadn’t done this at dinner last night.
“We’re going to pray,” her grandmother clarified.
Jaci looked at Thomas who was already holding hands with Pa and was offering his hand to her. She reluctantly took it, a little confused as to why exactly they did this. Pa prayed, asking God to bless the food. As soon as it was over, they began to eat.
It been forever since Jaci’d had a good breakfast. Most of the time, she just had a bowl of cereal but if she was late, a protein bar. Not that there was anything wrong with her eating habits, she just enjoyed home cooked food.
Thanks for breakfast. She singed.
Her grandmother nodded, cutting her pancakes into little squares. Jaci watched as she practically drowned them in syrup.
She smiled. Her mom would never let her get away with doing– Jaci stopped herself, a sudden sadness coming over her. It had been closer to six months but it still felt like yesterday that her mother was sitting next to her, scolding her for putting to much butter or too much syrup on her pancakes. It was just like yesterday that she could talk– that she could be normal.
“Are you okay. Jaci?” MeMa asked, setting her fork and knife down.
She snapped out of it, looking at her grandmother and then down at her plate, nodding.
Sorry, she signed. Got caught up in the moment.
Her grandmother nodded, going back to eating.
Jaci ate but it was like she was in autopilot. She knew she was putting food in her mouth, she knew she was chewing, she knew she was swallowing it, but it she was doing it subconsciously.
Soon, she realized that all the food was gone and she was chewing on an empty fork. She stood up and put the plate in the sink. She wanted to go upstairs and lay in her bed for a couple minutes, letting her food digest and to sort out some thoughts.
But as she made her way to the stairs, she was stopped by Thomas. He caught her arm, pulling her back from the stairs.
“Wow, there,” he said, smiling from ear-to-ear. “Where are we zippin’ off too?”
She nodded up the stairs.
“Yeah, I figured as much,” his smile seemed to get bigger. “But today is your first day here and there’s somethings you have to do.”
She raised an eyebrow at him.
“Admittedly, it does sound a little fishy but, trust me, okay?” he gave her a pleading look and if he had been five years younger, it might have worked.
She pulled her phone out of her pocket and quickly typed, Why?
“Because I know this area and I know the best places to go swimming,” he answered.
“Come on, please?”
Jaci nodded and was immediately dragged towards the door.
“Get your shoes and follow me,” he said, vaulting over the porch railing.
She grabbed her shoes, looked at the railing, and then ran to the end of the porch and
down the stairs, smiling. Jaci missed laughing. She wanted to laugh. She was happy. But she couldn’t.
I’m not going to think about that right now. She told herself, running up the hill behind Thomas.
He stopped at the weeping cherry tree, waiting for her to catch up. Once she had, he took off again, running down the hill and veering to the left. She followed, twigs and rocks pocking her in the feet. She was half-tempted to stop and put her flip flops on but she knew that if she did that, she’d probably lose sight of Thomas all together.
He was fast, faster than he looked and Jaci struggled to keep up with him. She had been a fast runner at one point in her life, closer to the age of twelve, but now she was mediocre, able to keep up with the majority of the kids in PE class.
She watched as he stopped at the edge of a wooded area, looking back to see how she was doing. She slowed to a stop and put her hands on her knees, gasping for breath. Thomas wasn’t even breathing hard.
That is not okay. She thought.
He smiled at her. “You’ll get faster the longer you live here.”
She smirked, giving him a Really? Look.
He just smiled bigger and began walking into the woods. She followed, stepping over rocks and fallen tree limbs. After a few minutes of walking, they arrived on the edge of a rock face which looked out over a decent sized lake.
Thomas looked at her, a mischievous smile on his face.
Shaking her head, she stepped back, pulling her phone out of her pocket. She typed, I am not jumping.
“Why not?” he asked after reading the message. “It’s fun!”
She shook her head. I’m not good with heights.
He sat back on his heels, crossing his arms over his chest. “Close your eyes.”
Her eyes widened. What? No!
“Trust me,” he said.
She did even though there was a little voice in the back of her head telling her not to. The old Jaci would be afraid to jump, to trust someone but the new Jaci– the person she was– wouldn’t be afraid.
She closed her eyes, trusting. He put a hand on her left elbow and one on her right, guiding her so she was in front of him. She could feel the edge of the rock face beneath her toes and her heart pounded in her chest.
“Okay,” he said. “Take in a deep breath and pinch your nose.”
She did, setting her phone down on a nearby rock.
“Now just step forward,” he instructed.
She couldn’t make her feet move. She couldn’t do anything but stand there, not breathing, not moving.
"You know how to swim, right?” he asked.
“Okay, you have nothing to worry about then. Just step off,” he said, taking a hand of of her left elbow.
She wanted him to put it back on, to give her a little bit of comfort. She wanted to step back from the edge and chicken out. But she couldn’t. She wouldn’t.
“Fall fast. It’s fun– I promise.”
He said the words softly with a hint of a smile in his tone. She took in a deep breathe, pinched her nose, and stepped forward.
She didn’t exactly step off but rather launched herself with a little bit of a jump. As she took off, the voice in the back of her head went from a whisper to a scream, yelling at her to stop.
But she couldn’t stop. The fall was– amazing. The feeling of the air rushing by was almost like she was flying. When she hit the water, her feet burned from impact. The cold water enveloped her like a hug– a cold one– and she sunk to the bottom where she pushed off with her feet, kicking to the top.
“See it wasn’t that bad,” Thomas yelled down at her.
She smiled, waving for him to jump.
He did, landing in the water just a few feet away from her.
“Wow, that never gets old,” he said when he surfaced, shaking his wet hair from his face. He looked at her. “Again?”
She smiled and doggy pattled to shore, pulling herself out onto a bigger rock. Thomas followed, giving her a boost until she found her footing. She practically ran up the hill and around the cliff edge, heart beating in her chest. Not from fear but rather from excitement.
She stood once more on the edge of the cliff, waiting for Thomas. She looked at him as he stepped up beside her.
“Are you goin’ first?” he asked.
She shook her head. No.
“Then I will,” he said.
She stepped back and he stepped forward, launching himself off. He flipped, brining his feet over his head and then down into the water, making a surprisinly small splash. When he surfaced, he looked up at Jaci.
“You’re turn!” he hollered.
Jaci took a few steps back and got a running jump, arms propelling her forward. She brought her legs over her head, grabbing her legs and bringing them into a pike position. She flipped twice before splashing into the water.
“Show off!” Thomas yelled, flicking water at her. She flicked some back at him, smiling.
Jaci plopped down onto the porch stairs next to Thomas, a towel swung loosely around her shoulders. Thomas was rubbing his towel through his hair, messy curls falling every which way. She smiled, wiping one out of his face.
“Thanks,” he said, letting his towel drop around his shoulders. He looked at her. “How are you so good at swimming?”
She pulled her phone out and typed her answer. I used to do a lot of swimming back in the city. Before the accident. I would swim with my friend Drew.
“Ah, makes sense,” he wrapped his towel around him, burrying his chin into the gathered part at the top. A gently breeze blew, making Jaci shiver. She tightened her towel around herself and brought her knees up to her chest.
“Tell me about the city,” he said, breaking the peaceful silence.
It’s noisy, nothing like here. But you come to love the noise. There’s a ton of people who are all in their own little bubbles, barely even recognizing that there’s others around them. There’s a lot of cars, more people walk then drive, but there’s still a lot of them. In places like Little Italy and Chinatown, there are a lot of shops. You can barter with the shopkeepers there, lie a little bit and they’ll do anything to make a sale. She stopped and handed the phone to him.
“Wow, it sounds awesome,” he said, eyes lighting up.
Yeah, it is. But it’s easy to get ignored and lost. It’s easy to go unnoticed. She responded.
He nodded. “I’ve never been to the city.”
Why? She asked.
“My mom doesn’t like all the noise and what not. It reminds her of dad,” he answered.
He went to say more but MeMa called for Jaci.
Jaci looked at him and then at the door before getting up, giving him a pat on the shoulder, her way of saying I’ll be back.
He nodded, understanding what she meant. He fell back against porch, staring up at the sky, thinking.
"Why does life have to be so unfair?"
We ran as if to meet the moon. ― Robert Frost
Chapter V: Message to the Moon
Jaci sat at the dinner table, chin in her hands. MeMa was tossing the salad over by the counter, and Pa was cutting the homemade pizza. She stared at the table before her, not really thinking. She was tired. It had hit her suddenly, weaving it’s traitorous hands through her soul, grasping her heart and pulling. It had seeped into her bones, into her muscles, her whole body aching. Her ribs hurt, the memories of the accident surfacing in her mind.
Her grandmother sat the bowl of salad down in front of her and she absentmindedly began to nibble on a leaf of cabbage. When she had finished, she moved on to another.
MeMa leaned over and pulled the bowl out of her reach. Realizing her salad was gone, Jaci snapped to it and looked at her.
“We haven’t prayed yet,” her grandmother clarified.
Jaci nodded and went back to resting her chin in her hands.
“What’s wrong?” MeMa asked.
Just tired. She answered.
“After we eat, you can go to bed,” MeMa said, pushing the salad back to her. “But you seem to have a lot on your mind.”
Jaci nodded. Kind of.
Her grandmother dropped it, noticing that she wasn’t her usual self. Jaci ate, distracted by the thoughts that she was trying to keep at bay, the thoughts that had been eating away at her for six months.
Jaci helped clean up after dinner before grabbing her notebook, pen, flashlight, and blanket, and heading outside. She jogged up the hill to the weeping cherry tree where she unfolded the blanket and sat down. It wasn’t dark yet so she still had some light to write by. Setting the flashlight down beside her, she began to write.
Why did this happen to me? She began. Why couldn’t it have been someone else? Why did I have to be the one crossing the street right then?
I have nightmares sometimes of the accident. I’ll get hit, I’ll get thrown into the air, I’ll wake up just as the pain begins to hit. But the pain isn’t just in my dream, it’s in reality. I still live with the aftermath– the side effects– of it. My body hurts almost constantly, I get tired more easily, I can’t even express myself the way I used to because my voice is gone.
You know what? During my recovery, a lot of people told me to have faith in God. A lot of people told me it'll all work out according to His plan after Mom left. A lot of people told me to pray, and trust, and all that but not one single person told me that maybe my life was just falling apart. Maybe I was just falling apart. Worthless things do that you know. They fall apart, they die when they finally realize how worthless they are.
Why do you think I’m here? Do you think I’m here to recover and recoup from the accident? No! I’m here because to Dad, I’m a broken mess. A mess that reminds him of the life he once had, the happy life that’s now gone. I just remind him that I will never be able to talk, I just remind him that his wife left him. I just remind him that I’m worthless. That’s why he sent me here. That’s why he’s back in New York, living life like I never existed.
Jaci stopped, collecting herself. This was the most she'd ever poured herself out. She looked down at the words she’d written, sloppily written in a hurry, and then up at the setting sun. She sighed.
I guess the question I want answered is Why? Why me?
She clicked her pen shut and folded her notebook shut before setting them off to the side. Grabbing the corner of the quilt, she brought it in around her, wrapping it tight around her shoulders. She stared up at the sky, the last dying rays of sun lighting it up for what seemed to be a last hurrah.
A couple minutes later, the moon was shining brightly in the sky and Jaci was sprawled out on her back, picking out constellations in the night sky.
Eventually, her eyes grew heavy and her body began to ache from laying on her back. Rolling over, she studied the blades of grass just a few inches from her face. That’s how she fell asleep, rolled over on her side on top of the grassy knob, overlooking the peaceful valley below.
She dreamed while she slept. She dreamed it was raining. She dreamed she was walking down a sidewalk, pulling her hood over her head. She dreamed she was crossing the streets, not able to see anything in front of her or around her. She dreamed she saw the flash of lights as she car barreled into her. She dreamed she was thrown into the air, landing on the slick pavement with a sickening thud. She dreamed she could feel the pain, racing through her body. She dreamed the nightmare again. And she couldn’t wake up.
In her dream, she was laying on the pavement, tears and rain clouding her vision as blood pooled and was washed away by the rain. She wanted to wake up, to stop living in this nightmare, but she couldn’t.
In reality, as she lay on the grassy knob, a tear slipped out of the corner of her eye and down the side of her face, dropping into the grass. In reality, she was alone on the hill but in her dream, she wasn’t alone.
The person jumped out of the car, slightly shaken and looked around. Seeing Jaci on the ground, they jogged over, water splashing up with each step. They didn’t touch her but rather pulled out their phone, dialing 911.
Jaci didn’t want to live this anymore. She wanted to wake up. But she couldn’t.
She heard the person yelling into the phone to be heard above the rain. Sirens wailed in the distance a couple of seconds later and she felt someone put a hand on her arm.
“I’m sorry,” they yelled to be heard. “I called an ambulance.”
She wanted to move, to tell them she was fine, to get up and walk away but she couldn’t. She couldn’t move. Couldn’t talk.
“You’re going to be alright,” they said. How many times had she heard that lie?
Rain ran through her hair, over her face, washing away blood and dirt. The sirens neared and just as the first responders jumped out of the ambulance, she was shaken awake by someone in reality.
She clung to the person, not really caring who it was. They’d saved her in a way. She wrapped her arms around the thicker back, tears soaking through their lightweight T-shirt.
“Hey, hey, it’s okay?” they whispered, soothing her. They ran a hand over her head, combing their fingers through her hair.
She recognized the voice.
It was Thomas.
She wanted to pull away but she couldn’t find enough strength in herself to do so. So she hugged him tighter. For once she wasn’t alone, crying after the nightmare. For once she felt comforted. For once she felt loved.
There was just one moon. That familiar, yellow, solitary moon. The same moon that silently floated over fields of pampas grass, the moon that rose–a gleaming, round saucer–over the calm surface of lakes, that tranquilly beamed down on the rooftops of fast-asleep houses. The same moon that brought the high tide to shore, that softly shone on the fur of animals and enveloped and protected travelers at night. The moon that, as a crescent, shaved slivers from the soul–or, as a new moon, silently bathed the earth in its own loneliness. THAT moon. -Haruki Murakami, 1Q84
Chapter VI: Cookie Dough and Wisdom
Jaci woke up in bed earlier than she would have liked. It was still dark outside and the rooster wasn’t making his usual racket outside. Rubbing her eyes, she reached for her phone on the nightstand to check the time. The brightness of her phone screen temporarily blinded her but she managed to see the time. 3:39. She dropped her phone onto the nightstand and rolled back over with a sigh. Why was she awake right now?
She was aware that her body was hurting. Her ribs felts like they were on fire and her
back and shoulders hadn’t hurt her this bad in a long time. She sat up in bed, rolling her shoulders back and then forwards, massaging her arms. Her eyes were beginning to grow heavy so she dropped back onto the bed and pulled the sheets up to her chin. She curled up in the fetal position, arms tucked in against herself and her knees brought up to her chest. She was tired, her body that is, but her brain was wide awake, not wanting to go to sleep.
She closed her eyes and tried to stay still knowing that her mind would eventually calm down. She drifted off, at what point she didn’t know, but she slept. When she awoke the next time, the sun was already high in the sky.
Stretching, she once more looked at the time on her phone. 10:46. She sat up in bed,
her body protesting. How had she slept this late? How had that stupid rooster not woken her up?
She tossed her blankets to the side and swung her feet off the bed, standing up the moment her feet hit the ground. She quickly changed and headed down to the kitchen. Her grandpa sat at the table, coffee mug in his hand.
“She’s up!” he called into the living room. To Jaci, he said, “There’s some bacon and
eggs in the fridge and there might be a pancake or two.”
Is there any cereal? Jaci spelled out on her phone. She didn’t really want bacon, eggs, and pancakes at ten in the morning.
“Ah, yeah,” he stood up and walked to the cabinet by the fridge. Opening it, he pulled out a box of cereal and set it on the table. “I’m assuming you know where the bowls are?”
She nodded. Yes.
“Okay, well, I’ve got to get over to Sawyers. Promised him I’d help him shear his sheep,” he said, walking towards the door. “MeMa was going to weed the garden today so maybe you could help her?”
She nodded again as she pulled a bowl out of the cupboard. She wasn’t really hungry so she poured a smaller bowl of cereal and poured milk on it. Sitting down at the table, she studied the newspaper as she ate.
As soon as she was done, she washed her bowl out and went to find her grandmother.
When are we going to weed? She asked.
“We’re going to start now. We’re going to work on the back of the house where the sun isn’t and then on the front of the house in the afternoon,” MeMa answered. “Thomas and Mike are coming to help. They’re good workers.”
Jaci nodded, stepping back and out of the living room. She remembered last night and her breakdown. Would Thomas think any less of her for that? She tried not to think about it as she wiped off the table and counters in the kitchen.
There was a knock on the door before it opened and Thomas and Mike walked in. Mike instantly went to the little jar on the edge of the counter, pulling out two or three chocolate chip cookies. Thomas pulled a chair out from the table and swung a leg over it, stradling it backwards.
While Mike was preoccupied, Thomas spoke. “Are you okay?”
Jaci nodded, shaking the rag out over the sink.
He was silent for a moment. “If you want to talk about something anytime, you can let me know.”
Jaci nodded again, sitting down at the table. She pulled her phone out and typed out a response. I normally don’t do that.
“What? Cry?” Thomas asked. “It’s okay to cry. When I lost my father, I cried a lot.”
I don’t cry in front of people. Crying is a sign of weakness.
“I guess that means you trust me, right?” he said, reading between the lines. As much as Jaci didn’t want to admit it, he was right. She had kind of trusted him. He was like that. He was approachable, he was a good listener, he… was nice.
She nodded. Maybe.
Jaci’s attention was diverted when Mike tapped her on the shoulder. He looked nothing like Thomas which was kind of funny seeing they were brothers. He had brown hair that got darker towards the tips. He had bright blue eyes and a rounded face that made him look like an innocent little boy. As she looked at him, he pointed down at the cookies in his hand and then at Jaci, moving his hands in a stirring motion.
She looked at Thomas for help.
“He wants to know if you make cookies,” he related.
She nodded. Kind of.
Thomas related her answer.
The little boy nodded, smiling. As he did so, little dimples appeared. Jaci smiled.
Mike tapped his throat, right above his voice box and then shook his head at Jaci.
“He wants to know if you can talk or not,” Thomas said to her. To the little boy, he answered, “No, she’s like you.”
Jaci looked at the little boy who was giving her a weird look and then over at Thomas.
What’s that about? She asked.
He smiled. “He’s just confused.”
MeMa walked into the room right then, ending the conversation. She grinned when she saw the little boy with several cookies in his hand.
“You better hurry up and finish those ’cause we got some work to do,” she said, heading for the door.
Thomas stood up and swung the chair around, pushing back up to the table. Jaci stood up and hung the rag up, shutting the dishwater door on the way out. Mike stuffed the last cookie into his mouth and jogged for the door, cutting in front of Thomas and hugging onto the hem of MeMa’s shirt.
They followed the older woman around to the back of the house where she began to instruct them on where to start and what to pull.
“Okay, we’re going to start right here. Anywhere you see something green like clover or grass comin’ up, just go ahead and pull it up,” she instructed. “Mike, I’ve got a special job for you--.”
Jaci washed her hands in the kitchen sink, scrubbing at the dirt under her fingernails. Turning the water off, she dried her hands with a paper towel and dried up the little drops of water that had splattered around the sink.
Thank you. She told the middle aged woman.
The woman, Thomas’ mother, nodded, smiling. Her son, Mike was almost identical to his mother. She had the same light to dark brown hair that he did along with the same shattering blue eyes. The only thing that was different was that she had sharper features, more like Thomas. Her cheekbones where more visible and her jaw was more squared. At first glance you would think she was a colder person but the longer you looked, the softer her facial features became. Her blue eyes seemed to radiate happiness and joy.
“It’s nice that Thomas has a friend,” the woman began. “He doesn’t have a lot these days. He did before his father died but after that, he kind of distanced himself from everyone including me.”
Jaci frowned slightly. But he’s a very friendly person.
“Oh, yes, he is,” she smiled. “He takes after his father the most. His father was always a more outgoing person while I am a more reserved person until you get to know me.”
Ms. Glowe, what happened to your husband? She asked.
“Oh, you can call me GiGi,” she smiled. “No need to be formal. Oh, my husband worked in a mine just a couple hours from here. His job was to place the charges and then get out of there but one day, as he was leavin’ one of the charges slipped and I guess he went back to fix it. But, they set it off before he got to it and it caused a cave in, burying him.”
Her bright blue eyes, which had looked like a calm blue sea earlier, turned to a murky grey color, sadness making them look like a raging sea. They were only like that for a second before they went back to their usual light hearted blue.
“But, I know he’s in heaven and I know I’ll see him again on day. It’s just been hard on the boys,” she sighed, stirring the batter before her absentmindedly.
I’m sorry to hear that. Jaci said.
“Oh, don’t be!” she waved it off. “I know a lot of people feel like it’s polite to say they're sorry and what not but a lot of people just say it because it’s polite. I’m not saying that’s why you did it but… I feel like saying sorry doesn’t fix it or make it better.”
Jaci’s eyes clouded over for a second, the thought of the accident coming to mind. The person that’d hit her had sad sorry but it hadn’t fixed anything or made anything better.
I know what you mean. She nodded. When I got injured, the person that hurt me kept saying how sorry they were but it didn’t change the fact that I’d never be me again.
GiGi nodded. “That’s true. But you not being you is your own decision. The accident was - and don’t take this the wrong way- a way to open your eyes to the option of change. Maybe you needed to change, maybe you needed to look at yourself and realize there were some things that needed to be taken care of.”
Jaci nodded, leaning her hip up against the counter. That makes sense. I’ve never looked at it like that. I’ve always looked at it like a curse, a disaster.
“That’s how I saw my husband’s death for a while. Like God wasn’t looking after me anymore. Like I’d fallen to the wayside and done something to deserve it.”
Jaci nodded, watching as the woman molded cookie dough into medium sized balls and placed them on the cookie sheet.
“I’m not going to lie. I was bitter at God for a little bit,” she continued. “For several months, I held a grudge against Him, blaming it on Him. I watched if affect my children, my bitterness that is, and realized that if I didn’t change me, I wouldn’t be able to help them get through their grief.”
How’d you get through yours? Jaci asked.
GiGi stopped molding cookie dough and looked at her. “Jaci, I think you just need someone to talk too. Someone that’s going to listen and help you grow to be a different and better person. Your grandmother helped me through my grief so I could begin to help my children through theirs.”
Jaci looked down at her feet and then up at the woman. Yeah, maybe I do just need to talk to someone.
We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.
Chapter VII: Moonlit Waters
Jaci scrubbed at the dirty plate, trying to clean it to the best of her abilities.
“What do you have against that plate? What’d it do to make you hate it so much?” her grandfather teased, adding another plate to pile. She stopped cleaning and glared at him.
“What?” he asked.
She nodded at the plate and then at the one she was cleaning.
He smiled, getting it. “Oh, you’re upset because you have to clean another plate?”
She nodded, going back to cleaning. He laughed a little before turning back to the table. Placing the now clean plate in the other side of the sink, she grabbed another one from the pile and began washing it. Eventually, all of them were clean and she began to load them into the dishwasher.
She finished and made her way out of the house, grabbing her stuff on the way. She jogged up the hill, her legs were sore from kneeling the whole day to pull weeds. She spread the blanket out like she had many times before but instead of opening her notebook, she sat and stared at the night sky. Maybe it was time she stopped keeping everything in her head or on paper. Maybe it was time to talk to someone who she could trust. She turned and looked down the hill at the cozy house, lit from the inside, shining out to the darkness beyond. She turned back to face the moon which seemed to be waiting for her to make up her mind.
She stood up, looked once more at the house below her before grabbing her notebook, pen, and flashlight, and dashing down the hill to the valley. She knew where she wanted to go. Where she needed to go. She ran along the bottom of the valley, kicking up little pebbles as she went. She smiled as she ran, not having to worry about keeping up with Thomas.
She stopped on the edge of the woods before taking a step inside. The soft bed of branches, twigs, and leaves seemed to creak and groan beneath her and with every step, several sticks would snap. She quickened her pace as she couldn’t see much in the darkness and wanted to get through this part as quickly as possible.
For a second, the voice in the back of her head yelled at her for not bringing someone who knew the way.
The only person that I know knows this place exists is Thomas and it’s too late anyways. She told it.
She wanted it to shut up, to go away and leave her alone but for some reason, she kept hearing it.
You’re going to be here till sun rise.
Shut up. She told it, continuing.
You are lost. The voice said it so blatantly, almost as if it was proud of the fact she was lost.
She rolled her eyes at herself and continued to put one foot in front of the other. Just as she was about to admit she was lost, she stepped out onto the rock ledge overlooking the water below.
Sitting down on the edge, she folded her hands in her lap and looked down into the water. It was a good twenty or so feet and, in the reflection of the water, she could see the bright yellow moon shining along with its many friends. The stars looked like diamonds in the sky and the moon was a big fiery ball of gold.
She smiled and laid back against the stone, closing her eyes. She could hear the crickets chirping, she could hear an owl hooting somewhere in the distance, and, if she listened hard enough, she could hear the rushing of the creek downstream.
She sat up suddenly, remembering why she had come here. She opened her notebook and turned on the flashlight. Unfortunately, as bright as the moon was that night, she couldn't see clearly to write.
Holding the flashlight in her mouth, she began to write.
Maybe GiGi is right. I do need someone to talk to. But that’s kind of the thing. I can’t talk. I can’t express myself the way I used to be able to. I can only write down my thoughts for people that can’t understand my sign language. For those that can understand my sign language, my words have no feelings. They’re just signs that mean things. Things that are empty without meaning, without emotions.
Maybe that’s why I’m like this. I’m just a wh thing with no meaning, no emotions. But I know I do have emotions. Okay,every illistreation or whatnot breaks down somewhere so just bear with me I know I need to talk to someone but who? Who am i supposed to talk to? Who am I supposed to trust with everything inside my head? I know if I tell MMeMa it’ll somehow get back to dad and then I’ll have to deal with more therapy and everything that comes with it. I don’t want that. I can’t tell Drew because he's not here and I am not writing all of that out over text messages. Thomas is here but he can’t understand sign language. But he is a good listener.
Jaci stopped writing for a moment and looked out over the water. The moon's reflection waved back and forth in the rippling water.
But he’s a good listener.
Jaci stopped for a moment and stood up, stretching. Bending down, she picked her stuff up and turned to walk back the way he came. Before she left, she turned around again and looked at the moon, hanging in the sky like it always dah, faithful to the minute.
Goodnight. She thought. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Whenever I gaze up at the moon, I feel like I'm on a time machine. I am back to that precious pinpoint of time, standing on the foreboding - yet beautiful - Sea of Tranquility. I could see our shining blue planet Earth poised in the darkness of space. - Buzz Aldrin
Chapter VIII: A Rooster Calls
Jaci awoke just as the rooster started to call. Rubbing her eyes, she sat up in bed. She scowled at the window in the direction of the noise and tossed her pillow at it.
Shut up! She mentally yelled at it.
She put her hands behind her and leaned back, yawning. Looking around, she noticed that half of her blankets were on the floor instead of the bed.
Might as well get up anyway. She said, swinging her feet over the bed. Standing up, she
tossed the fallen blankets back onto her bed. As she made her way down the hallway to the bathroom, she was surprised to see that there were no lights on downstairs. It was odd seeing that MeMa and Pa were always up before the sun was.
Jaci undressed and got into the shower, turning the water all the way to cold to wake herself up. She stood, numb from the cold water, staring at the shower wall in front of her.
She blinked rapidly, bringing herself back to reality. She shook her head, rubbing her
temples in a futile attempt to get rid of the stabbing pain. Turning off the water, she got out of the shower and quickly got into clean clothes. She grabbed her sweatshirt from her suitcase in her room and pulled it over her head, leaving her hood up. She was cold, shivering as she walked down the stairs.
As she neared the bottom, her pace slowed. Where was MeMa and Pa? Looking around, she looked through the whole bottom level of the house before walking back to the kitchen. The green neon lights on the stove caught her attention.
Jaci face palmed herself.
Idiot! Why didn’t you look at the time before even getting out of bed? She mentally asked herself.
I’m going to murder that rooster. Was her next thought.
She weighed her options. She could either go back to bed and sleep for four more hours or she could stay up and do something. Looking around the kitchen, she tried to think.
I can’t go back to bed. She told herself. I’m already awake.
She rolled her head to the side and then back, the vertebrae cracking all the way down to her shoulders.
I could make something to eat. She said, sliding her hand along the counter, walking around the counter so she was looking out the window above the sink, her back against the counter.
Jaci couldn’t see the moon but she could the see the stars. She smiled, taking a step forward and leaning up against the sink so she could get a better look.
Hello, what’s it like up there?
She inwardly laughed at herself as she pushed off from the sink.
I’m stupid, talking to the stars like they can hear me. She said. She walked around the kitchen one more time, trying to decide what to do. She absentmindedly played with her phone, picking at the frayed edges of her case.
Getting an idea, she opened the pantry and grabbed a bag of already popped popcorn and searched for a minute, looking for chocolate. Finally finding it, she made her way the the sliding door on the side of the house. As she passed the couch, she grabbed a blanket and tucked it under her arm. She closed the door behind her and did this awkward shuffle walk over to the hanging swing. Balancing the chocolate, popcorn, and blanket, she plopped down and sighed.
She set the popcorn and chocolate over to the side and stood up, opening the blanket as she did so. She wrapped it around herself and sat back down, grabbing the popcorn as she did so. She opened the bag and grabbed a decent sized handful which she immediately stuffed in her mouth.
She stopped for a moment, listening to the quiet chirps of the crickets. They seemed to be singing a lullaby to the rest of the quiet world, keeping it asleep while the earth spun through space.
It all goes on.
The thought randomly popped into her head. It was true. Thing change.
Small things change such as her. She changed yet it hadn’t affected the world nor the way it moved.
Jaci opened the chocolate and took a bite, chewing thoughtfully.
It all goes on.
With or without me. She stopped chewing, thinking about it for a moment before
shrugging. It’d be better with me.
MeMa opened the sliding door to the side door and smiled at the sleeping form on the swing. Jaci had the blanket pulled tight around her, curled up as tightly as possible without falling off the swingset.
Shutting the door slowly as not to make any noise, she turned to her husband who was
sitting on the couch, a Bible in his lap.
“She’s just like her father,” she said with a hint of a sigh in her voice.
Pa was silent for a second before looking up. “Let’s hope she comes out differently.”
The rooster called.
Jaci woke with a start, arms flailing every which way. Her sudden movement upset the swings center of gravity and she toppled onto the deck with a solid thud. She lay there for a moment, her back aching and eyes shut in confusion.
Remembering how she got there, she picked herself up with a groan and tossed the blanket back onto the swing. She walked to the edge of the porch and looked around the corner of the house. Tiny rays of sunlight were already peeking over the edge of the hill and she could see the silhouette of THomas standing at the top, waiting and watching.
Forgetting her shoes, she jumped over the railing of the porch and broke into a run. Going around the corner of the house, she held onto the edge of the siding, swinging herself wide before shooting herself forward. She ran at full speed up the hill almost knocking into Thomas as he turned around. He caught her arm just as she flew by, stopping her and keeping her from falling. Once she regained her balance, he let her go and stood beside her.
“I was wondering if you were gonna make it,” he said.
“Oh,” she said, catching her breath. “The stupid rooster got me up at four and then.... You know what, never mind, it’s a long story.”
They stood, side by side, watching as the sun rose once more. The sun always rose. It never failed to show it’s shining face. The thought gave Jaci a feeling of security and she crossed her arms, satisfied.
Her phone buzzed in her back pocket and she pulled it out. Looking at the text, she smiled.
Drew: Hey, I’m calling in a favor.
Jaci: what is it
Drew: I need a place to stay for the summer…
Jaci: I’ll ask MeMa and Pa. I’m sure it’ll be fine.
Drew: Jay, you’ve got to pull this off or I’m spending the summer with my aunt.
Jaci smiled. He hated his aunt. His aunt had never had any children and had the opinion that everyone should be well behaved wherever they were at whatever occasion. If the child spoke when not spoken too, she saw it as sign of disrespect and rebellion.
Jaci: I’ll make it work. I’ll let you know when I get an answer, okay?
Jaci put her phone back in her pocket and leaned back on her heels, smiling. Life was looking up.
The moon, our own, earthly moon is bitterly lonely, because it is alone in the sky, always alone, and there is no one to turn to, no one to turn to it. All it can do is ache across the weightless airy ice, across thousands of versts, toward those who are equally lonely on earth, and listen to the endless howling of dogs. (“A Story About The Most Important Thing”) -Yevgeny Zamyatin, The Dragon: Fifteen Stories
Chapter IX: The Unforgivable
Jaci didn’t do much that day. She wasn’t feeling well and her back and shoulders ached more than usual from sleeping on the swing. After breakfast, she sat on the front porch, legs crossed at the ankles, thinking. Thomas sat next to her, watching the many butterflies and birds fly around the flowers and bushes.
“Whatcha thinking about?” he asked, shifting in his spot. He turned so he was facing her.
Life. she wrote.
“What exactly?” he pressed.
I had a full scholarship to Cleveland Institute Of Music. She stopped. But after the
accident, I stopped playing the piano. They told me that if I start to play by the beginning of the next school year, they would allow me to keep my scholarship.
“Wow, so you’re good at the piano then,” he said. “That’s amazing.”
Kind of. The thing is, I don’t want to be forced back into playing the piano. It was always
something I loved to do and that’s why it was so easy for me to master it. She clarified.
“Oh,” he nodded. “Jaci, I think you might be worry a bit too much.”
She looked at him, raising an eyebrow.
“I feel like maybe the reason you stopped playing the piano wasn’t because you didn’t
find happiness in it anymore but rather that you stopped finding happiness in yourself. I think, deep down, you knew that and you didn’t want to ruin music by attempting to use as an escape when you’re not forgiving yourself.”
She looked down at her hands which were clasped in her lap.
“Don’t take it the wrong way,” he said.
She shook her head. No, I get what you’re saying.
They sat for a moment, each in their own thoughts.
Dad hasn’t forced me to go back to playing just yet but I know he will. I don’t know if I
can though, she told Thomas.
“Maybe you should try to forgive yourself, to forgive your father, your mother, or anybody else really that you feel has hurt you. Maybe you should ask some people for forgiveness. Maybe you’ve blamed the wrong person and need to get that straight,” he shrugged. “But I’m no professional.”
You’re just like your mom. Jaci wrote.
He smiled. “I'll take that as a compliment."
She looked at him for a moment. His brown eyes seemed to be glazed over, more of a
matte brown then a glossy chocolate color. He seemed to slouch more than usual and Jaci got the feeling something was on his mind.
What’s wrong? She asked.
He looked at her. “What do you mean?”
You’re not being your usual self. She wrote.
He laughed, sounding kind of forced. “What do you know about my usual self?”
She knew he was joking, not really meaning it in a rude way, but it still kind of hurt. On the second day she was here, she had seen the happy him, the normal him, and today, she was seeing the side he probably kept hidden. The quite, sad, side.
You can talk to me, you know that right? She said.
Then why don’t you? She asked.
He took a deep breathe. “Please don’t get offended by what I’m about to say but I don’t
know if you’ll understand.”
Jaci shrugged. Maybe not but it doesn’t hurt to talk to someone. Even if they don’t understand.
He looked at her out of the corner of his eye, seeming to size her up in a way. Maybe seeing is she was capable of understanding.
“I feel alone,” he began. “Not in the way you feel, like you’re lost, without a voice, not being able to express yourself. I feel alone in the fact that I can’t turn to anyone. I’ve always been the type of person to keep it all in, to carrying my own burden and ignore all those who offer to help. That’s how I’ve always been. Maybe because when I was grieving about my father’s death, so was my mom and it was like I had no one strong to turn too. Does that make sense?”
She nodded, prodding him on.
“And then, she suddenly seems to be okay with everything and I’m sitting here, asking myself what happened that she can suddenly be so strong again? I don’t understand it. By the time she was finally strong enough for me and Mike, I’d already been carrying my grief for too long,” he stopped, eyes looking down. “You’re the first person I’ve really talked too about it.”
She smiled sadly. You’re the first person I’ve really talked to too. Dad would hire therapists specialized in different fields to get me to let it all out. He was paying them to pry my head open and wave a magic wand, getting rid of all the bad thoughts and memories but what he didn’t realize is that when I lost my voice, I lost my ability to rely on others.
Thomas, I’m here for you, okay? If you ever need to spill to someone, you can talk to me. It doesn’t have to make sense, okay?
He looked at her for a moment, smiling a small smile.
“Thanks,” he said.
She nodded. Anytime.
In the afternoon, Jaci unloaded her suitcase and got settled into her room. She sat her bed, back against the headboard, thinking. Her notebook sat in her lap, pen in the folds of the paper.
Thomas’s words rang in her ears. “Maybe you should try to forgive yourself, to forgive your father, your mother, or anybody else really that you feel has hurt you. Maybe you should ask some people for forgiveness. Maybe you’ve blamed the wrong person and need to get that straight.”
She picked up the pen and began to write.
Dad, I’m sorry being so uncontrollable these past couple of months. I’m sorry that I blamed you in a way. I’m sorry that I changed. I’m sorry. I hope you can forgive me and I hope you can continue to love me as your daughter even if I don’t deserve it. Life is full of ups and downs and the accident wasn’t one I was prepared for and during the weeks of recovery after it, I guess I neglected the fact that you weren’t prepared for it. When Mom skipped town, that made everything worse and I guess, it didn’t help you. Mom was supposed to be with us through thick and thin and she wasn’t there when we needed her most but Dad, always know that I’m here and I promise to be a better daughter.
Jaci stopped writing and turned the page.
I will never forgive you.
She slammed her notebook shut, the words she’d just written all to true. Tossing it onto her bed, she got up and walked to the door, shutting it behind her. She made her way down the stairs, out the door and into the bright sunlight. The green grass swayed before her but she didn’t have time to admire the beauty. She needed to clear her head.
She broke out into a run, quickly climbing the hill. She didn’t stop at the top but ran down the other side and into the valley, following the trail into the woods. Winding her way between trees and over fallen limbs, she found herself at the edge of the cliff face, looking down at the water. So clear. So beautiful.
Without letting herself think, she stepped off the edge, plummeting to the cold, yet gently, waters below.
Jaci let all the water out of her lungs so she sank to the bottom. Her feet touched the sandy yet rocky bottom and she crouched their, arms floating above her. She didn’t want to breath. Maybe she didn’t even want to live anymore.
She stayed there, mind empty of any thoughts, until her lungs ached for air. Pushing off from the bottom, she broke the surface and took in a gulp of breath. Pushing wet strands of hair form her face, she looked around. The world around her seemed so calm still yet inside of her, her thoughts were like a million bullets, ricocheting through her body and mind.
Why did she hate that woman so much?
It was her mother after all. She had that woman's DNA.
Jaci took in more air before dropping back under, letting it all out in a stream of bubbles. This is where she wanted to stay. Surrounded by nothing but quietness and peace.
Just like the moon, half of my heart will always love the dark. -Quotes 'n Notes
Chapter X: The Past Always Catches Up
The next day, after breakfast, Jaci found herself in the guest room, vacuum, swiffer, and duster in hand. MeMa and Pa had said it would be fine for Drew to spend the summer but she would have to clean out the guest room. No one had been there in several years and it was obvious.
There was a decently thick layer of dust on everything including the floor. When she’d
opened the door, she about walked through a spiderweb. She stuck the duster through first, wrapping the spider web around it so she could enter.
For a moment, she looked around before setting to work. She slipped her phone out of her back pocket and plugged her headphones in. Slipping the over her ears, she set to work.
While her favorite songs played, she worked, cleaning out the cobwebs, dusting
everything off, changing the sheets on the bed, and putting the old ones in the washer.
Around the time her stomach started to rumble, she was all but done. She still had to dust the book shelves and vacuum out the closet but it could wait.
Jogging downstairs, she pulled the peanut butter out of the pantry and spread it onto a
piece of bread. As she put strawberry jam on the other slice of bread, a sheet of paper stuck to the fridge caught her eye.
Jaci, just remembered Pa has a doctors appointment today. Will be back around six. -MeMa
Noting it, she nodded and took a bite out of her sandwich. She leaned up against the counter, thinking.
She had talked to Thomas earlier that day when they had watched the sunrise. He had
to help his mom with some things at their house and probably wouldn’t be able to hang out that day. Jaci only had a few things left to do in the guest room before she was done.
As she finished off her sandwich, she considered quickly finishing everything and going swimming. The day was on the hotter side and a little voice was telling her that the cold water would feel refreshing over her tired body.
She jogged back up the stairs and back into the guest room where she began dusting. She became lost in her own thoughts, not really paying attention to what she was doing when she noticed what she was holding in her hand.
Looking down at the picture frame in her hand, she realized who it was. Her father, a
younger version of him, was cuddled in the arms of a younger MeMa and Pa. Jaci set her dusting cloth down and folded her legs underneath her as she rested her back against the bookshelf.
She’d only ever seen a few pictures of her father but she would be able to recognize him anywhere. Her father had a birthmark on the edge of his right eye, a tiny, yet visible, brown dot that had never gone away. She smiled down at the boy in the picture, aware of the nostalgia that was creeping in.
She set the picture frame back on the shelf and continued on with her dusting, a faint smile playing over her lips. She was happy for some reason. She stopped.
Why am I happy? She asked herself.
Because you’ve forgiven him. Because you were finding comfort in the anger you had against him. When you forgave him, you were actually comforted. She answered herself.
She absentmindedly went back to what she was doing and soon, the guest room was clean. The window was open letting the gentle breeze come in, dancing through the blue and white currents, making them jump this way and that. She let the door stay open, giving the room a more open feeling before heading back down stairs.
She glanced at the clock in the kitchen, noting that it was only a little after one o’clock. If she hurried, she could go swimming for an hour or so and be back before Drew arrived.
Just then, there was a knock at the door, making Jaci jump. She tore her gaze from the clock and walked to the door, confused
There was no way MeMa and Pa were back already and Thomas wouldn’t knock and wait for someone to come to the door. He’d just knock and open it.
As she grasped the doorknob with her hand, she got a sickening feeling in her stomach like something grave stood on the other side of the door.
Jaci turned the doorknob, opening it. Her heart lurched, her breath caught in her throat.
“Jaci!” the woman cooed, grabbing her in her arms. “It’s been so long.”
Who is this? She asked herself, trying to pull away from the woman.
The woman let Jaci go and she took a step back, looking at her.
Who are you? She signed.
The woman gave her a confused look. “Why aren’t you speaking? What are you doing with your hands?”
“Do you not remember me, Jaci?”
Jaci knew who it was. How could she not?
Of course I don’t. I’ve made myself forget you a million times over again. I’ve wiped you out of memory, I’ve tried to forget that you even existed! Jaci signed.
“It’s me, your mom,” the woman gave Jaci a strange look.
The one person Jaci didn’t ever want to see. The one person Jaci couldn’t forgive. And she was standing on her doorstep.
"The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas." -Alfred Noyes