In Plain Sight
- May 11th, 2009 -
The last bell for school rang half an hour ago. Students had already dispersed, some getting into their cars, the losers getting on buses. A few of us still remained. I sat in the gymnasium with Gabby; she had been my best friend since Freshman year. She wasn’t the thinnest or the prettiest girl, hell, not even the brightest, but she had money. Her family was loaded. Gabby’s dad owned a few hundred oil wells across Kansas. Not that they wouldn’t have still made good money, but I think they should write a thank you letter to Bush for driving gas prices up.
She watched Craig play basketball, I wrote, that was our daily after-school routine. She cheered him on though she didn’t really understand basketball. I think it embarrassed Craig. He hid it well. Gabby loved Craig. He loved that she let him take her pants off. I’ve tried explaining to her the social game being played, ‘don’t get so close to Craig’, I’d tell her, ‘he doesn’t really love you’. You can’t make a horse drink though. Maybe it wasn’t her fault, maybe there was nothing she could do. Craig played the dating game quite well. I admired that about him. He was intelligent, he understood that sometimes to get what you want, or even need, you have to be willing to remove yourself from a moral code.
I was working on writing a scholarship essay, right in the middle of penning a sentence, listening to Landslide by Stevie Nicks on my iPod and trying to drown out Gabby’s shouts, when my cellphone rang.
“Mom? ....Mom, are you okay?”
“Sara, your father had a heart attack on his flight home. He...he...”
“Is he okay? Was it his pacemaker?”
“I don't know...no one will tell me anything.”
“I’ll be home in 20 minutes, Mom,” I said and hung up the phone.
Gabby asked, “What happened, Sara?”
“My dad,” I said.
“God, is he okay?” She asked.
“He had a heart attack on his flight home.”
“What!? Forget it, I’ll drive, let’s go.”
I reminded myself to hurry. We ran for the gymnasium door connecting to the senior parking lot.
I reached the door first and looked back to find Gabby helping a boy up; way to go Gabby. “Hurry up!” I yelled. We hurried out of the gymnasium and headed for her car. I didn’t mind her driving, but I could have managed.
“Key-less entry, now that’s pretty cool if you think about it,” I said. Gabby gave me a disconcerting look. I wondered how it worked. Why hadn’t I thought about it before? I’m sure you could brute force all the frequencies or codes and gain access to any car. I could add that into some of my writing, maybe into one of my future novels.
I opened the car door. The passenger side seat was filled with empty wrappers, for the most part, Reese's, the floorboard littered with empty Dr. Pepper bottles. “When’s the last time you cleaned out your car?” I asked.
“Last week, why?” She replied. Oh, I don’t know, you’re a slob maybe? I kept my mouth shut.
“Never mind. Let’s just get going.” I pushed the pile of crap onto the floor, slid in ass first, whipped my legs in and stomped on the remnants of Gabby’s sweet-tooth problem and slammed the door. The car reeked of strawberries, the summer sun wasn’t kind to the aroma of her air fresheners. I rolled down my window as Gabby started the car. Country music wafted through the speakers, a song I didn’t want to hear...
...You can let go now, daddy, you can let go
Oh, I think, I’m ready to do this on my own
It’s still a little bit scary but I want you to know
I’ll be okay now, daddy, you can let go...
...a tear rolled down my cheek and touched my lips. I reached out for it with my tongue. Sadness tasted like salt. I glanced at Gabby, her eyes caught mine. “It’s going to be okay, Sara,” she said putting the car in reverse.
A horn blared from behind us as she put on the brakes. She was inches away from slamming into James Braddock's brand new lifted truck. I imagine he pissed himself. He yelled something but I couldn’t make it out. Who cared. She slipped it into drive and the car lunged forward. I dated James last year, he seemed nice but it didn’t last long, such a terrible kisser, he also wasn’t blessed if you know what I mean. I stuck my head out the passenger window making sure he could see it was me and gave him the finger.
Gabby pulled the car out of the school parking lot and onto the highway.
After a short pause Gabby said, “He’s going to be okay, Sara. He’s going to be alright.”
I nodded my head.
“I promise,” she said, running a red light.
“We aren’t going to be if you don’t pay attention!” I yelled.
She rolled her eyes, “They shouldn’t even have put in that stop-light, you know it and I know it.” She was right, that stoplight really was pointless, no one ever crossed there, well, almost never.
We passed the church, we went every Sunday, Dad always drove. I never really believed in the whole man in the sky thing, but it made my parents happy that I went, it also made them more lenient with me. We passed the rock quarry road, there’s a pond up behind the gate heading up to the rock quarry, I don’t think a lot of people know about it, but Dad would take us fishing back there when I was a little girl. Up past the pond, there hid a trash-dump, I had a lot of fun in that dump when I was little, lots of little treasures people had thrown out.
About thirty minutes after leaving the high school we pulled in the driveway. Ten minutes slower than I told Mom it would take. I didn’t anticipate Gabby’s emotional driving when I calculated. When we hit the gravel road a mile before my house, she nearly put us in a ditch. “I’ll drive next time.” I laughed. Gabby didn’t find it funny. I’m not even sure she heard me. Her focus was admirable but her emotion extremely dangerous.
Gabby pulled her car up behind an unfamiliar black SUV with state license plates. “Law enforcement,” I said. Gabby nodded. I swung the passenger side car door open and Usain Bolted for the house as an awful noise erupted from inside. Mom was screaming. I’m sure our closest neighbor two miles down the road heard her, Mr. Whiskers definitely did as he shot out in terror from under our front porch. He sprinted right between my legs, I nearly tripped. “Stupid cat. That’s the fastest you’ve ever run in your life, isn’t it? Fat-ass.” I yelled. Gabby let out a slight laugh, or maybe it was a grunt, who knows?
I ran through the open front door. The cat’s outside, the front door left open, and Mom screaming, the news couldn’t be good. I passed through the living room, down the hallway past the bathroom and into the kitchen. Mom sat at the kitchen table sobbing, her head in both hands. I ran to her, I put my hand on her shoulder. “I’m here, Mom.”
Gabby slid into the kitchen out of control, spilled over the trashcan and almost went with it but the driver of the black SUV caught her by the arm. “Thank y-ou.” Gabby stuttered. “Who are you? What’s going on?” I’m glad she asked.
The driver of the SUV, an older woman with a bit of gray in her hair. She stood tall, shoulders like a man’s. A confident woman, the law-enforcement type. “Which one of you is Sara?” She asked.
“I am, and this is my best friend Gabby,” I replied.
She looked at Gabby, “I...”
“It’s okay for her to be here, don’t send her away,” I said.
The lady nodded, “My name is April Larner.” I noticed the gun at her hip. I wondered how well she could shoot. Pretty good, I guessed. “I’m a Detective with the --somewhere--. As you know by now there was an accident involving your father.” She looked at me. “Your husband.” She looked at Mom, her head still buried in her hands. “I hate to be the one to tell a family this, it’s not an easy thing to do.” She seemed sincere. “I’ll just say it simply. Your father didn't make it.”
Gabby didn’t know how to react, like a deer staring into oncoming headlights. Then as quick as a light-bulb blowing, she popped up, “If you're here then you think there was a crime?” Gabby asked.
“It appears that his pacemaker malfunctioned. At this time we can't rule out foul play.”
“How do you know it malfunctioned,” I asked.
“There were extreme burn marks on his chest that came from the inside. We'll know more after the autopsy,” she replied.
Mom buried her head further into her hands. Gabby gulped and stared at the floor.
“Did he have any enemies? Did he owe anyone any money? Can you think of anything? I know this may be extremely hard right now, but anything you can remember might be helpful.”
Mom lifted her head for a moment, “I...I...I can't think of anyone or anything that would have made someone want to kill my husband.” Tears poured out of Mom's eyes. I held her hand.
--- June 13th, 2009 ---
Mom poured a glass of scotch, tossed a few pills in her mouth and took a drink.
“Okay!” I yelled. “When have I, EVER, missed curfew?”
“You haven’t, Sara. But this is the first time you’ve gone out since your father died.” Mom snapped. “It’s barely been a month.”
“It’s the same party I go to every year after the last day of school, Mom. Kailie’s parents are always there along with Gabby's to keep us in line. There’s nothing to worry about. Calm down.”
Calm down? Why did I say that? I’m so stupid. Blood rushed to my face. My skin warmed. My ears turned red. I braced for a slap.
“Calm down,” Mom repeated. “Calm DOWN!” Her voice grew louder. “You want me to calm down? You’re going off to a high school graduation party. Do you think I was born yesterday? Do you think I never went to a party? I know there will be alcohol, there will be drugs, and there will be teenage boys who will do just about anything to get into your pants, Sara. And don’t even get me started on Kailie’s parents. Your dad bought his weed from her dad.”
Oh, a lecture, why couldn’t she have just slapped me and got this over with? I can’t believe I told her to calm down. It just slipped out. Sometimes it’s like I have no control over my actions. Pull it together Sara.
“Not to mention there will be plenty of drunk drivers out. Your mental state is probably not that well off right now, either. Your father just died. A month Sara. It’s just been a month. Maybe you should just stay home, less chance you’ll make a decision based off of emotion, one that turns out to be horrible. You know, like getting pregnant at 18.” Mom said shooting me a glare.
Of all things she could be worried about, she’s worried about me getting pregnant? Pregnant, really? Maybe I’m not the one who needs to pull it together, maybe it’s her. “Mom, I’m still a virgin.” She didn’t need to know the truth. “It’ll be a long while before that changes. I’m going to be okay. I’ll make it home safe and without getting pregnant. I promise.” I said.
“I’m serious, Sara.” She said, taking another drink. “ I’ve seen...”
“I know, Mom. Trust me. I just need some time out of the house.” White lies, that’s how you keep a healthy relationship. I don’t want time out of the house, I want a glass of what she has, a bottle even.
I walked outside to wait for Craig and Gabby.