“Death ends a life, not a relationship.”
I was having a rough day. It seemed that nothing was going right. So I went to the place where I always go when I need to escape reality, the woods. But I didn’t go to just any random spot in the woods; I have a special spot I go to. A spot that is only known to me and one other person; he is my grandfather. This place is extremely special to me. It is the only place that makes me feel close to my grandfather again. Ever since he passed away six years ago, I have always felt that there is something missing in my life. So every time I have a bad day, a problem with a friend, or just need to escape for awhile, this is where I come.
I lay down on the grass that grew just along the edge of the clear lake. As I looked up at the beautiful, white clouds in the sky I remembered the last time I had been here with my grandfather.
It was the morning of July 9th, 2005, the same day of the tragic event that took my grandfather's life. He and my grandmother had been arguing again, so he did what he always did when he got frustrated with grandma, he came and got me. He never told my parents exactly where we were going, and they never asked. They knew that grandpa and I had a special place somewhere in the woods that he loved to take me too. They always said it was his way of bonding with his favorite (as in only) granddaughter. So when grandpa showed up on our doorstep at about eight in the morning, no one was surprised. As soon as I saw him I ran to my room. I quickly put on a pair of old jeans and a dirty pink t-shirt that I found on my floor. As soon as I finished I ran out and hugged my grandpa super tightly.
"You ready to go Jay?" He asked, using the nickname that he came up with when I was still a baby. He was the only person who ever called me that, and to me that made it all the more special.
"I sure am! Let’s go! Let’s go!" I said with a big smile as I grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the door.
He chuckled and yelled over his shoulder toward my parents as he chased me out the door. I excitedly jumped into his old, rusty, red pickup truck and put my seatbelt on. As we drove through the back country of the small town of Yoncalla, Oregon, I sang along with the country music he had blasting through the speakers and watched the trees out my window.
After about an hour of driving grandpa took a left turn onto the old dirt road that leads to our special spot. It was a long bumpy ride, and by the time I saw the glittery blue of the lake I was practically jumping up and down in my seat.
My grandpa parked the truck at the end of the dirt road and I jumped out of the truck and ran to the water. I kicked off my flip-flops and stuck my toes in the water while I waited for grandpa to bring the fishing poles and tackle box down. Grandpa and I sat there by the lakeside all day just fishing and talking, laughing and messing around. It was just getting dark when grandpa decided to take me home. Neither of us wanted to leave but we both knew we should, so we gathered our stuff and got back in the truck. The last thing I remember about that night was telling my grandpa that I love him and falling asleep on the ride home. I know something happens after that, and I know it's something important, but I can never remember what it is. My parents and councilor call it a repressed memory. They say that since I was only eleven at the time of the "incident" that they expected me to repress the memory of the tragedy of that night. I could never remember what was so tragic about that night. All I can remember was waking up the next morning to my parents crying beside my bed. That's when they told me. I could barely comprehend what they were telling me. I just couldn't understand how my favorite person in the world could be dead. I fought the thought of it for days, but when we went to eat dinner with grandma that very next Saturday, and I saw that my grandpa wasn't there, that's when it hit me. I knew then that what my parents told me was true. My grandpa was dead.
I wipe the tears from my eyes and kick the rock in frustration. I hate not being able to remember the rest of that night. I shake my head as I take off my light blue tank top, revealing my solid red bikini top I had on underneath. After I shimmy out of my jean shorts I pull my long, thick, black hair back into a ponytail. As I slowly walk into the nice cool water of the lake a feel relieved from the heat of the day. I swim my way out to the middle of the lake and dive my way to the bottom. As I swim I think about my grandpa. Just as I reach out and touch the bottom of the lake I finally remember what happened after I fell asleep in grandpa’s truck that night. Everything hit me so fast. It was all a blur in my mind. I could feel the pain of something hitting me in the face, I could hear the sound of glass shattering, and worst of all, I could see the look on my grandfather’s bloody face as he took his last breath. And then, right there at the bottom of the lake, something happened to me that had never happened before… I passed out.
I slowly open my eyes and gasp for breath. I have no idea where I am or what just happened. Great! I think to myself. Its another July 9th all over again! I slowly turn my head and look around. This place looked like the place grandpa used to bring me to, and I could see my truck parked at the end of the dirt road right where I left it. But this couldn’t be the same place because something was different, something just didn’t feel right. I slowly push myself up into a sitting position and look out over the lake. I know I was just swimming. The last thing I remember is diving to the bottom of the lake, and then all of a sudden I woke up here on the grass.
Then I remember what happened. I remember that I had been diving to the bottom of the lake when the memory of the night of my grandfather’s death hit me. And the next thing I know that horrible night is replaying in my head. I hear a loud bang, see my grandpa’s head fall onto the steering wheel and feel the pain of small shards of glass as they hit my arms and face. I start kicking and screaming, knowing I need to get to my grandpa and make sure he’s okay.
"Grandpa! Don't go! You can't leave me! Grandpa..." I scream as the feeling of loss washes over me. Then all of a sudden I felt two big, strong hands on my shoulders and someones body weight on my torso, as if they were trying to hold me down. Now I know why something felt different about this place, it's because someone else is here. My grandpa and I have been the only ones who come here for so long that having another person, an outsider, around here messes things up. As soon as this realizations hits me I start resisting this stranger's hold on me. I scream and kick and squirm, just trying to get him off of me.
"Whoa there... calm down. calm down. Just take a deep breath and relax. I'm not here to hurt you... I'm here to help." The stranger sitting on top of me said in what seemed to be an Italian accent. I slowly open my eyes and am stunned when I look up at this invader. My heart starts pounding as I notice how gorgeous he is with his green eyes and dark brown hair that hangs down over his eyes. From just one look at him I could tell that he had some amazing muscles. Everything about him was just, well, hot. Then it occured to me that this amazingly hot Italian guy was sitting on top of me and I couldn't help but wonder why. Then I remembered my short flashback and realized that I must have physically been screaming and thrashing around just like I had in my flashback. All of a sudden my thoughts were inturrupted by the sweet sound of his voice. "Okay... good job... now can you tell me what your name is?"
"I... my..." I stumble to find the right words to say. And after I realize how completley stupid I must look I clear my throat and say. "My name is Jaylee. Who are you? And how did you find this place?"
"Whoa... one question at a time there cutie." He chuckles and rolls off of me then sits beside me. "... and I'm sorry but I can only allow you three questions."
"Why?" I ask automatically.
"Is that your first question?" he asks with a small grin.
I shake my head and quickly say "Nonononono! My first question is... What is your name?" I ask as I sit up.
"Good choice... My name is Orlando Dante Frotis." He answers in a calm voice and a smile.
"Okay Orlando. You are obviously italian... so my next question is... How old are you?"
"I am 19 years old." He said, using some Italian word that I've never heard before.
"How did you find this place?" I then ask, making sure to choose my question carefully.
"Well, bella ragazza, that.... is for me to know..." He stands up and looks at me. " ... and for you... to figure out..." And with those last few words he turns and walks back into the woods, leaving me completley confuzed. What the hell does bella ragazza mean? How did he find this place? Will I ever get to see him again? With these questions repeating themselves over and over in my mind I jump into my truck and drive home.
"Children begin by loving their parents. After a time they judge them. Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them"
As I walked through the front door I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Is that my parents fighting? But they never fight. I kick off my flip-flops by the front door and set my stuff down on the ground, then I follow the sound of my parents' voices and find myself standing in the kitchen. I can't believe what I see. My dad has my mom pushed up against the wall with his hand raised like he is going to slap her. The look on my face tells me he is angry which is weird because I have never seen even a hint of anger in my dad. He has always been gentle and calm no matter what the situation was, well, since I was born anyway. My mom did tell me about his dark past. She said he wasn't always the sweet gentle man he is now and that he wouldn't have changed if it hadn't been for her. She helped him get over all of his "little" problems. But that was the past. Wasn't it? I think. As I stare at my dad my thoughts changed. Well... apparently it's the present too.
As I turn my gaze over to my mom I gasp and cannot believe what I see. There is a red mark on her right cheek that has the shape of a handprint. As I stand there staring at my mother anger starts to build inside of me. Then I notice the tears falling from her eyes and I know he has crossed the line. That's when I take off across the kitchen toward my dad.
"What the heck do you think you are doing?" I grab his arm as soon as he is within my reach. "Let go of her!"
"Jaylee honey, go to your room... I'm fine and you don't need to see this." My mom says in a soft whisper. Even though I know she doesn't want me in here, doesn't want me to see this and definitley loves both me and my stupid father enough to deal with what is going on and moves past it, or "Forgive and forget" as she always calls it, I refuse to move, refuse to let my own father treat her like this.
"Let go of her! She doesn't deserve this!" I yell as I tug on his arm again. But this time, instead of ignoring me like he did before, he let go of my mother and turned on me.
"She doesn't deserve this?" He spits in my face as he pins me against the refrigerator." Do you even know what she did?"
I shake my head slowly and look over at my mom who now has the phone in her hand. From where I'm standing I can't quite see the numbers she's dialing but I can see how many buttons she pressed. One... Two... Three... Four... Four buttons? What kind of phone number only has four buttons? I think to myself. Then I watch my mom put the phone to her ear, and it isn't until I see her turn her back to me and start talking quietly into the phone that I know what's going on. She has called the police.
Then my thoughts are inturrupted by my father's booming voice. "Do you Jaylee? Do you know what your stupid excuse for a mother did?"
"No..." I say, realizing my voice is shakey and weak. If I'm going to hold him off until the police get here then I'm going to be stronger, more confident. So I clear my throat and try again. "No, I don't know what she did, but I do know that whatever it was couldn't have been bad enough to deserve this kind of treatment from the man she loves. The man who..." I think about what I say next. Do I really want to go into their past and remind him of the trouble he had gotten himself into and who had to help him fix it? Well, it's risky but it seems to be my only option.
"The man who cheated on her 10 times with 10 different women AND the same man who murdered her first child only because she had it with another man during a time when the two of your weren't even together. And it doesn't stop there. She is the one who made it to where you didn't go to..." I feel a sting on my cheek and suddenly stop talking. "Did you..?" I start to ask but can't quite get my full question out because I'm so shocked.
"Yes Jaylee! I did just slap you! God! Your as stupid as your poor pitiful mother is!" He shakes his head.
I shake my head and give him a shove, but he didn't move. That's when I noticed something different about him, something I had never seen before. All of a sudden I could smell his breath. It smells like alcohol and something else, something I've never smelt before. That's when I realize that my dad is drunk, and with this realization comes more anger. "You slap me AND you hit and disrespect my mother!? Wow! I think you're the stupid one dad! Because as I was saying before you rudely inturrupted me..." I shove him again, but it still doesn't do any good. "She is the woman who kept you out of jail because she decided not to press charges against you even though you truly deserved to go to prison! And man was she devastated when she lost that baby but she loved you enough to forgive and forget! After all of that you are gonna yell at her and slap her. I can't believe you." I take one more shot at shoving him away from me, putting all my effort and energy into it, and to my surprise, he stumbles backward and falls on the ground. "And to think I looked up to you... God... I WAS STUPID..." I yell down at him with my fists clenched.
He tries to stand up but I just shake my head and put my foot on his chest to hold him down. Just as he makes another attempt to get up three police officers come through the door. I back away and watch as they bring him to his feet and handcuff him. As they walk him out the door I run over to my mother and quickly take her in my arms. I hold her there and let her cry on my shoulder.
When she is done crying she lifts her head and looks at me. I reach over and wipes the tears from her eyes, knowing that I am now the only person she has left. I take her by the hand and lead her up to her bedroom, knowing she is tired and needs to sleep. As she lays down in bed she looks up at me and I can see the sadness in her eyes.
"Jaylee..." She whispers softly.
"Yes mom?" I whisper back.
" I'm gonna miss him..." She says as she falls asleep.
I nod and leave the room. As I shut my mother's bedroom door I whisper to myself. "And surprisingly.... I will too..." On that note, I went to my bedroom and opened my window. With one easy movement I popped my screen out and set it on the ground. Then I slid out my window and landed on the soft grass. From there I just ran. I didn't know where I was going so I ran until I couldn't run anymore.
"One kiss breaches the distance between friendship and love"
About ten minutes later I find myself sitting on a swing at a nearby park with my head in my hands. As the slight breeze gently swings me back and forth I think about all the events that have accured today. I went from having a horrible day, to having a decent day (after I met Orlando), then back to having a crappy day.
"Well today just sucked!" I said fairly loudly to myself, thinking that no one else was around. Boy, was I wrong. As soon as the words left my mouth I felt a pair of strong hands gently push my back. I turn my head as my swing moves and see Orlando, his perfect body visible by only the glow of the street light that isn't far behind him, standing behind me. I can't help but smile as he gets ready to give me another push.
"Wow. Horrible day huh? Did meeting me just ruin it for you?" He says as my swing goes forward again.
I shake my head and smile as I get a tingly feeling on my back, right where he had touched me. I don't know why his touch makes me feel like this but I do know this isn't the first time. I got the same feeling earlier today when he had me pinned at the lake. Normally I would think something like this would be weird and completley crazy but honestly, I like the feeling his touch gives me.
I then remember that Orlando is standing right behind me, pushing me on the swing and waiting for me to respond to his question. "Uhh..." I try to speak but can't find the words to say. He just chuckles and walks over and sits on the swing next to me. I look straight ahead and clear my mind of everything that has happened today except for the few moments with him at the lake. Then I turn to him and smile.
"Actually Orlando..." I say. "Meeting you was the best thing that's happened to me all day." Then I jump out of my swing and land firmly on my feet. I turn on my heels and face Orlando. I barely have time to blink before he is off the swing and standing next to me.
"Well that's certainly good!" He says as he walks toward the grassy field that sits behind the park. When he reaches the field he sits down and gestures for me to come sit with him. I walk over to him and sit across from him. Then he smiles at me and asks "So... if meeting me wasn't what made your day so horrible, then what did?" I sigh and look down at the grass as I explain to him everything that happened that day, starting with my stress from school, moving on to the lake and meeting him, and ending with the fight with my dad.
There is a long pause then I feel Orlando's fingers under my chin as he gently tilts my head up so my eyes meet his. After our eyes lock he slowly pulls his fingers out from under my chin and grabs both of my hands in his. When I instictivley start to pull my hands away he gently tightens his grip and whispers "Just relax... It's all over now..."
I nod as tears start to fill my eyes. I feel Orlando loosen his grip on my and I quickly cover my face with my hands. He puts his hand under my elbow and helps me to my feet. After we are both on our feet he wraps his arms around me and pulls me close to him. Surprisingly, I don’t pull away or try to resist. Instead I just rest my head against his chest and let the tears fall.
After I’m done crying I slowly lift my head and look at him. As our eyes meet he uses his thumb to gently wipe away my tears. Then he whispers “Breathe bella ragazza, just breathe…”
I take a deep breath and exhale slowly. After I calm myself down I ask quietly “Orlando… Can I ask just one more question?”
He smiles and shakes his head. “No no… You already had your three questions and now is not the time for questions.”
“Then what is it time for?” I ask, not understanding.
“It’s time to take you home so you can get some sleep.” He says as he takes me by the hand and leads me back across the park and from there I show him the way to my house.
After we arrive at my house Orlando walks me to the door. I tell him thanks and as I reach for the door handle I feel his hand on my shoulder, and hear his sweet voice whisper “Jaylee…”
I turn around and look at him. “Yes?” I barely have time to say that one small word out before I feel his lips on mine. I can’t believe how soft and sweet his lips feel against mine, but it didn’t last long. The next thing I know he has pulled away, gently pushed my hair behind my ear and is already walking away.
“Orlando!” I holler after him, but the only response I get is seeing him turn around in the middle of the street and look at me.
Then he says, just loud enough for me to hear. “Goodnight, bella ragazza… Sleep well.” With those few words, he turns around and disappears into the night.
”Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy.”
I go inside and lay in my bed. After tossing and turning for about an hour I get up and walk to the kitchen. I make myself a bowl of Captian Crunch and sit down at the kitchen table. As I eat I stare at the empty kitchen and think about all that has happened in just one short day. I finish my cereal and put my bowl in the sink. Then I go to the family room, sit on the couch and turn on the T.V. I flip through the channels, trying to find something interesting to watch, but nothing is on. So I turn the T.V. off and lay on the couch. As I lay there my mind drifts back to the evening I spent with Orlando, and only a few short moments later, I'm fast asleep.
I'm running throuh the middle of a dark forrest. I'm breathing hard and keep looking behind me, half expecting someone to be chasing me. When I don't see anyone I stop running and try to catch my breath. Just as I start to calm down, I hear something loud in the distance. BANG! It was another gun shot. I scream as loud as I can and start running again. I know I'm in danger but I can't seem to recall what exactly I am running from. All I know is that if I stop running, I will die.
Finally, I collapse and fall to my knees, but I know I need to keep running. So I stumble to my feet, only to fall right back down. I know that my body will no longer allow my to run. I slam my fist on the ground as the feeling of defeat washes over me. Now I'm definitly dead. I think to myself. It won't be long before they, well he catches up and puts a bullet through my heart too.
"Psst!" I quickly snap my head to the side. All I see are a few trees and a bush. Then a tall figure steps out from behind the tree that is closest to me. "If you want to live then come with me." Before I have any time to think I jump to my feet, having to swing my arms in the air to keep my balance.
BANG! There goes another gunshot. This man could be dangerous. I think to myself as I quickly stumble toward the stranger who claims to be able to save me. He could have been sent to kill you. I know this is a possibility but what other options do I have?
"Follow me..." The stranger said and started heading away from the path I had been on. I don't object. I follow him without one word. I know this could mean the death of me, but it could also mean that I will not die tonight.
We walk silently though the woods until we reach a small cabin along a stream. The stranger ushers me inside and locks the door behind us. As he turns to face me I realize how astonishingly gorgeous this stranger is. He is tall, probably about 5 foot 8, with blond hair and light blue eyes that almost look green when the light hits them just right. He is skinny but I can tell he most likely works out at least once a day. He just has that build of those guys you would see at a gym.
"You were lucky I came when I did." He says quietly. His voice doesn't match his appearance. You would think it would be deep but sweet and soft, but it's exactly the opposite. His voice is rough and almost sounds scratchy. "Just a few minutes longer and you would have been..." He runs his finger along the base of his neck. A gesture that lets me know exactly what he was going to say next.
"Yeah... I know." I say, trying to appear calm even though I was terrified by this stranger. "Thank you, by the way... you know, for saving me back there."
"Yeah. Sure. Whatever." He says. "The only reason I saved you is because I have a very important message to pass on to you, Jaylee."
"How do you..." I started but was quickly inturrupted.
"No time for questions sweatheart.." He says, his eyes locked with mine. The his expression turns dark and he says in a deep and low voice. "Whatever you do Jaylee, you have to avoid..."
BANG! BANG! Two gunshots went off and one of them shattered a window.
I scream and sit straight up. I look around, slightly confused about where I am. After my eyes adjust I realize I'm in the living room. I reach over and turn on the lamp that sits on the coffee table next to the couch.
"It was just a dream" I say out loud to myself. "It had to have been, you aren't in the middle of the forrest and you are the only one here. It was a dream"
"What was a dream Jaylee?" I jump and turn towards the voice. I let out a sigh of relief when I see my mom standing on the other side of the room. She is already dressed in her work clothes and has a cup of coffee in her hand. She looks surprisingly well considering what happened last night.
"I just had a nightmare" I say with a shrug. "Wait... you are dressed for work? And drinking coffee? What time is it?" I quickly jump up and run to the window. I push the curtains out of the way and look outside. I am blinded by light and quickly shut the curtians. Then I lean against the wall and let my eyes readjust.
"It's a quarter to eight sweetie." My mom says.
"Eight?!" I take off toward my room. "I'm going to be late for school!" When I get to my room I dig throught my dressers, trying to find something to wear. Finally, I decide on my favorite pair of jeans, a tight pair of skinny jeans that I found on sale at Aeropostle last year, and a light blue tanktop. After putting these on I run a brush through my hair, make sure my part is straight and grab my makeup bag and throw it in my purse. I grab my purse and backpack and run back downstairs.
"Mom, will you give me a ride?" I ask, already halfway out the door.
"Sure thing honey." She grabs the car keys and we both head to the car.
I climb intot he passenger seat, put my seat belt on (an automatic reaction since the "incident" with my grandpa) and pull down the visor. I inspect myself in the mirror and pull my makeup bag out of my purse. I quickly apply some foundation, mascara and lipgloss. Normally I would wear more than this but I was in a hurry. I put everything away, close my makeup bag and put it back in my purse right as we pull into the parking lot. Mom puts the car in park in front of the school. I grab my things and open my door, then before stepping out I turn and give my mom a hug.
"I love you" I whisper as I pull away and step out of the car.
"I love you too, Jaylee." She says. And with that, I shut the door, turn around and face the school. Welcome back to reality. I tell myself as I walk inside.