by Sarah Lundy
Wrote this with my best friend years ago.
I woke to the soft pitter, patter of rain on my bedroom window. It's been raining like that for the past two weeks. It makes me want I could just curl up underneath the covers and stay there forever, but I knew Carter would be waiting outside for me to get ready for school.
Carter and I have been best friends since I started my new Elementary School when I was seven, I had just got a steady foster home with Joey and Louise. We've been inseparable ever since. Carter was gorgeous with his short black hair, his eyes, an iridescent blue. Standing 5'9, only four inches taller than me. The only family he has ever had is his aunt and uncle, who don't really care. His parents abandoned him before we met, going on an adventure in life but leaving him all alone.
Carter also has a troubled past that haunts him constantly but he always seemed to make my wrenched life a little better despite everything he's been through. Joey, my foster father, was always drunk or high and Louise, his non-existent wife, was rarely there. When she was, she covered in new cuts and bruises with a wad of cash in her pocket. I've never seen a dime of that put towards bills or to me of course, but between babysitting and helping clean up yards around my neighborhood, I can buy a few school supplies and some clothes here and there.
We live in a small town in up state Pennsylvania. My parents disappeared. I have no memory of them, not even a glimpse of there faces. By the time I was 6, I had been through so many foster homes, I couldn't even count them on all my fingers. No one wanted me. Not even my long lost uncle, twice removed. After that, I grew up with Joey and Louise as my guardians, but raising myself.
My friends call me Jessa or Jess, but my full name is Janessa. I've always caught guys eyes, but they always turned the other cheek at my ratty appearance. My hair was auburn with natural highlights. I have a slim but curvy body with olive skin. My eyes are a vibrant green, it seems unnatural to me but I've never seen my parents. I'm a fair height, being 5'5. And I swear: I swear I'm crazy.
Outside I could still hear the rain as I pushed the warm covers off of me. Pulling the cool jeans over my legs, I shiver, hearing Carter honk his horn. That was a morning routine. I get up late, he honks, but I still take my time to get dressed and eat. I grabbed my backpack, tossing it in the back seat, and pull a black hoodie over my head as I ate the last of my strawberry pop tart.
When I got to the door of the Nissan, he was pushing it open just in time for me to jump in. "Looks like somebody's having a bad hair day," he said as he put the car in drive and eased away from the curb.
Crap, I had forgotten to brush my hair and put it up in my normal ponytail. "Haha," I said sarcastically as I dug through my backpack hoping I had remembered to throw my comb in it.
The ride to school seemed to take longer than usual. The horrible line of thunder storms that have plagued our town for the past few weeks left a feeling of apprehension. The air was cold, like a walk-in-freezer in the middle of summer after being in the blistering heat of the sun.
My first class was Algebra 2, the worst subject in the world. Also the worst teacher, Mr. Gonzales. All he really did was play movies and watch us, making sure we didn't have any fun in his class, even though watching movies was considered fun in high school. We didn't have to do anything. It might as well be a free period. We pulled into the school parking lot and hustled even though I knew we would be late, again. The bell for first period started to ring through the vacant hallways as we walked into the main building. Four drastically long hours before lunch started, then we would be able to talk to Kayne.
Kayne, he was probably the one that was better off with a family. He looks just like his 'evil' mom, with his brown hair and golden brown eyes. He stood a few inches taller than me.
When I walked into class late, Mr. Gonzales gave me a look that sent chills down my spine. Ever since the start of junior year, I've been his least favorite student. It's as if he knew me before we ever met or at least before I remember. He was tall with a mid-size build, onyx black hair along with a matching mustache. He always wore a suit with a matching tie. I sat at my desk as far back in the class as possible, grabbed my textbook from my bag and turned to page 187 just like everybody else.
I jumped as the bell sounded, I must have fallen asleep. Which isn't very good for me, that's definitely an F for class participation. I shoved my book back into my bag and started for the door but before I could reach it, Carter walked in with a look of anger hinted with terror splattered across his face. I walked faster to reach him quicker.
"He skipped again." Hearing those three words sent my blood rushing through my veins.
You see, Kayne always had a tendency to skip class, before Carter and I had deviated him from his usual "process" to get through the school day. At least we convinced him to go most of the time. He would be in second period, I knew that for sure. His mom would probably still ground him for life, but he never missed English. He was a smart kid too. He was only a few years younger than us but he was just as smart as me.
"He'll be in second period for sure, it's his favorite," I said hopefully with my fingers crossed.
"I hope so," Carter sighed. "Lets go make sure."
We walked side by side, urgently wanting to get to the English room on the 3rd floor. We all had the same class, English 3. It was Kayne's favorite subject so he excelled in it, which is the only reason he was in it in his sophomore year and didn't skip it. Ever.
Filled with relief, we saw him in his seat in the back row, diligently working on the assignment on the board. Kayne looked up as we walked to our seats in front of him and waved at us smiling. The school day went on very uneventful, the cafeteria food the same as usual. We met after school by Carter's car like always and he drove all of us home. Kayne first, then me. Our routine unchanged.
While driving Kayne home, I chide, "You know you aren't suppose to skip. Remember? You promised us no more ditching."
"Well, I woke up late, so I got there when 1st ended," Kayne explained.
"Uh huh, sure. I know better, your mom is going to kill you, she must have gotten a call from the school already," I snap, unbelievingly.
Trying to convince us it was the truth, he murmured, "She's at work. So is my dad."
"Let's hope your right," I left it at that knowing his mom but at the same time not wanting him to get grounded again.
We rolled up his drive way and I walked him to his front door were his mom met us. "I got another call from the school today Kayne. Explain now!" I could hear the venom in her voice.
"I got up late mom I swear!" Kayne exclaimed.
"Mrs. Anderson, he was in second period today. He might just be telling the truth this time," I told her as she glared at me. I've never been her favorite person. She thinks I'm corrupting her son, but little does she know, I'm the one who convinced him to get off drugs and fly straight... so to speak. I've always been told I was beautiful, but not many guys really payed attention, I had ratty clothes and dirty shoes. In her mind though, I was the bad, older influence.
"Thank you for your input Janessa, but I think I can handle this," she replied, grabbing him by his arm forcefully and dragging him inside.
The weekend crept up slow, but it was finally here. Carter, Kayne, and I were planning on going to the creek to catch crawfish but it was still raining and getting colder. We decided to stay inside instead. We went to Carters house because it was the most peaceful with no druggie parents or over protective mothers.
I hadn't slept well the past few nights. Night terrors hadn't really been a problem till recently. I'd been getting about four hours of sleep, to scared to close my eyes for to long, but it had taken its toll. Fatigue took over and it was all I could do, not to collapse onto Carter's bed.
Kayne looked at me for a few seconds and finally spoke up. "Jessa are you feeling okay?" He asked worried.
That got Carters attention. "Yeah? Jess you don't look too good."
"I'm okay. I guess I just haven't been sleeping very well.... I... I've been seeing and hearing things at night that can't be real." The fear in my voice, scaring even myself.
"What do mean? Like Deja Vu or actually seeing and hearing thing that others don't?" Carter asked trying to lighten the mood that had overcome us.
"Door number two would be the correct answer," I whispered grimly.
"What do you hear?" Kayne inquired.
"I don't know, I can't quite make it out. It's more like murmuring or static in the background on a T.V..." Frustrated that I couldn't make out the voices, I stomped my foot.
"Well, tell us the next time it happens, maybe we could help," Carter sighed and made me feel a little better.
How could they help me? I couldn't even figure things out. What makes them think that they can? Right now, I just wanted to forget it and have some fun with my friends. "Okay, but I kinda just wanna hang and not talk about this anymore."
"Alright. What do you wanna do then?" Kayne asked.
"How about a movie?" Carter offered.
"How about the tree house?" I retort obviously, rolling my eyes.
We all just looked at each other, smiled and ran out the door, down the street, and into the woods where we could escape from everything and just have fun in our own world. We re-built this thing a few years after Carter and I met. It was just a simple thing. We found it broken down with a rope ladder that looked like it would break if a fly landed on it. It was hidden deep in the woods near Carters' house, between two large oak trees. When we found it, there was wooden planks missing on the sides and the roof was caving in like it had been there for centuries. We decided to fix it up and make it our own. Now it has a new ladder that's more sturdy and we used ply wood to cover the holes and roof. We even painted it a darker brown to match the surrounding trees. It was always the place that we could all go to get away from everyday life, day or night.
When we got to the treehouse, it looked as if nothing had changed and time had stopped. Nothing mattered here. The past, the future, nothing. We only worried about the now and then in our place. Kayne got there first as he jumped to the ladder, teasing Carter for being so slow.
I got up the ladder to see the boys whispering to each other and become silent when I pulled myself to the top. "What's so important I can't know about it, huh?" I asked with a curious look. I was slightly annoyed that they always stopped talking when I came in the door.
"What? Nothing, just guy stuff. You wouldn't get it Jess," Kayne blurt in a way I knew he was lying.
"Yeah, it's nothing Ness," Carter sighed disappointingly.
Carter has always been caring and compassionate but lately he's been acting a little different. Looking at me and just smiling and pointing out the most random things, like the dimple in my right cheek when I smile, or that I tend to bite my lip when I'm nervous. I just couldn't decide if it was just good observation or something more.
I've always knew Carter was cuter than the other guys at my school and girls envied me because we were friends. Just like guys envied him, but people were scared of us because we weren't "like" them. We always had our own way of doing things and they didn't like that.
It didn't matter to me why he'd been acting different, all I knew is that I really liked it. I liked the thought of Carter wanting me just as much as I wanted him. I would even admit (to myself) that I've had a crush on him for a long time now. Even though nobody would ever hear me say that out loud.
I had gotten home late. Louise was gone and Joey had his poker night in full speed. Five extremely drunk and perverted men.... Not my idea of fun.
I was walking down the dim hallway to the comfort of my room when I heard a deep hoarse voice yell from behind me. "Aye Janessa, ya's got's a letter today from some fella. It's on da coffee table by 'em cigarettes' dere," Joey slurred.
A letter? I had no family and I only had two friends that lived within a few blocks.
My Dear Janessa,
It's been an awful long time. I bet your all grown up and now a woman. I would say you probably look like your father but you always had your mothers eyes, and her stunning cheek bones with the same dimpled smile. You most likely do not remember me but my name is Stanley Maiston. I'm your grandfather, my son was you dad. I know your wondering why I never took you in after the horrible tragedy with your parents' disappearance, but that is a story that's needed to be told in person. I have made some foolish mistakes in the past, but I would like a chance to explain myself if you would let me. I would love to have you come stay the duration of your spring break with me in your manor. You may invite whom you please. If you would please call when you get this. It's a lot to ask from you but I'm desperate to mend this broken heart I've burdened myself with.
Please Call. 555-875-9613.
Your Sincerely Sorry Grandfather,
Grandfather? In my manor? This all seemed a little far fetched. I grabbed the house phone from the receiver in the kitchen and ran back to my room. I needed to know if this was all real, so my shaking fingers dialed the numbers written on the page and waiting as a dial tone filled my ear.
"Hello?" An older man with a deep English accent answered.
"Stanley?" I replied, worried about if I had made the right choice to call so late.
"Janessa is that you?" I heard as his voice started to tremble as if he were crying.
"I got your letter..." I paused, waiting for an answer.
"Thank goodness. I thought you wouldn't get it like the other ones," his voice filled with relief.
"Other ones?" I asked confused.
"I have written more than one letter to you my dear, but your foster parents didn't feel like giving them to you, apparently."
"Well one's never here and the other is drunk or high 24/7, it must have slipped up," I said in a smartass voice.
"I'm so sorry. Please let me prove that to you. Please come for your break," he sounded so sincere as he talked.
"During spring break?" I looked down at the letter. "And I can bring whomever I'd like?"
"Yes," he replied.
"But I have another question..." I told him as I prepared myself for the most answer, not sure if I really wanted to know, but it was apart of my history. "What did you mean by 'My Manor'?"
"Your parents left you their estate in the Hillside. You also have a large inheritance when you turn eighteen. You didn't know any of this?" He sounded surprised.
"No, I didn't know anything about my history until this conversation."
"Come to the Manor for spring break and I'll explain everything to you," he bargained.
"I'll think about it. But why now?" I replied.
"Take all the time you need, and call me whenever you would like my dear."
"I most certainly will," I breathed. After hanging up, I realized that he hadn't answered my question.