Remember When (Suggestions?)
Author: Jewel Heart

Chapter 8
Chapter 8

“You can't possibly be serious, Mrs. Kenward,” I said. “This is irrational. The fact that there is a spread of murderers across the continental U.S. all acting at once with the same purpose is absolutely illogical. This would have to be a work of terrorists if the death rate has increased as much as you have told me.”

“Oh, but it is true, my dear,” she answered nervously.

“Mom, don’t be silly. This is just something used to scare us,” Gabriel stood by me.

“Why would they try to frighten us?”

“To impose taxes, or increase sale rate? It’s the government, Mom.”

“Yes, but Gabe—” She shook her head at her son’s stubbornness. “Be back before it’s too late, please?”

Gabriel handed his mother the drooling child in his arms. “No problem. We’ll be nearby.” Putting his hand on the small of my back, Gabriel directed me towards the door. “You don’t suppose that this is actually happening, do you?”

“Why wouldn’t it? There’s a good chance that it is occurring, to be completely honest. It’s just the overall factors that seem unlikely.” I chose my words carefully. “If this were focused in a specific area, like Salem, for instance, then I would believe it. But we’re talking about a clean spread of homicides across fifty states. How logical does that really sound?”

He stared vacantly ahead. We strolled towards the house. “Not very but there’s still a chance it could happen. There’s always a possibility.”

I did not speak. We searched throughout the upstairs bathroom and half of the second bedroom. Not much found; mainly furniture and clothing; some jewelry as well. It wasn’t until a few minutes upon our departure that we discovered anything of interest.

“Hey, Lithia,” Gabriel hurried from behind a dozen stacked cardboard boxes. “Take a look at this.”

I jumped up and carefully stepped around the objects scattered across the floor. In hope that this would be something worthwhile, I ended up stumbling and just barely catching myself from crashing into Gabriel. In disappointment, I stared at the box’s interior. “Books?”

“Journals,” he corrected. “From the sixteenth century.” Gabriel seemed lost in the history, turning each golden brown page with care and desire to know what the next page held. “And seventeenth…eighteen…all the way to last year.”

“Seems like Maxine visits this place a little more often than I thought.”

All of a sudden, Gabriel stopped, rereading the final page of the most recent journal. He looked at me quickly before shutting the journal and relocating it. “The final entry was written minutes before New Year’s Eve.  Which means that she is continuing with one for this year.” He released a choked laugh, shaking his head. “These books are scattered. They aren’t ordered by date.”

“We have over three hundred journals to find, that means.” I scratched my head and shifted my weight to my left foot. Crossing my arms, I sighed and threw my head back. “Do you plan to read them all?”

“With Mrs. Knapp’s permission, of course. History is fascinating.”

“Forget the old hag,” I scoffed. “Just read them.”

“I think we should find the entire collection first.” Gabriel nodded.

“Do you know the muffin man? The muffin man? The muffin man?” I sung to Ariel, Gabriel’s baby sister. “Do you know the muffin man that lives in Drury Lane?” The blue eyed baby smiled a toothless grin and patted my face.

Gabriel’s parents were out on a date and I had been invited over for dinner. I was playing with the children, amusing them while Gabe worked in the kitchen. I would have helped if I had been any good at cooking. The best I could do was setting up the table. No matter. I love kids.

“Aaron? Do you have any instruments?” I asked the kindergartener. “Like drums or maybe a small guitar that’s called a ukulele?”

“Gabe has a drum set in his room,” replied Aaron. I smiled at him and asked him to show me the way. He complied.

“Last room to the left,” I muttered under my breath. It was. He had the same room. Everything had changed since I last saw it. The color scheme was now white, khaki and dark gray-blue, the furniture was rearranged and a laptop sat on his bed. At a corner, a DW Drum Kit sat. I brushed my fingertips over the plates. “I don’t know how to play this, Aaron. I can only play steel drums,” I admitted.

“Then why did you ask?”

“I ran out of things to talk about.”

He shook his head, dark hair bouncing in front of his face. Aaron came towards me, took my hand and led me out the door. “We should go eat now.” I nodded.

At the other end of the house, Gabriel was already serving his seated siblings. The teriyaki smelled glorious and seemed to be quite the hit, as displayed on the children’s faces. I was seated at the head of the table, crammed next to Gabriel. The table seated six comfortably. Since there were nine homo sapiens at the dinner table, we had to make some room.

As suspected, the food was tasty. There was plenty of chatting from the little ones telling Gabe and me about their days. All of them had good days filled with the fun of playing indoors with all the toys provided for them. Three of the eight year old quadruplets had spent the day over at a friend’s house and the last one, John, had a friend over and they spent the day at the park.

“They’re so sweet,” I said to Gabriel after they had all been sent to bed. “Why wouldn’t you want a big family?”

“I never said I didn’t,” he disagreed.

“You seem to regret them a bit, don’t you?”

“There was a lot of teasing about having so many siblings while growing up. I mean, it’s not hard, just kids can be cruel—especially if they don’t know you.”

“I would love them either way,” I said. “I would have beat up anyone who ever hurt or teased them. But, I guess we all want what we can't have.”

“Why can't you have it?” Gabriel flipped his hair and fluffed a pillow before sitting down on the couch. I sat next to him in the lotus position. He only narrowed his eyes pensively at my stance.

“Really? Mum was young, but dad died before he was thirty three. If they had wanted to have a kid, then they would have had another.”

“I’m sorry to hear.” His head hung shamefully.

Red stained tears burned my eyes. Memories flooded in: walks down the park, jumping into piles of golden, brown and red leaves, swimming practice with two parents cheering, playing on the swing set with my best friend Gabriel Kenward, steel drum lessons and practicing ballroom dancing with dad—I began sobbing. Catching myself quickly, I shook my head and covered my eyes with dark strands of hair. He didn’t seem to notice.

“It doesn’t matter. Mum could have remarried if she wanted to,” I thought aloud.

“Wait—your father was thirty two when you were how old?” Gabriel was thinking too much now. I was wary, but said the truth.

“I was thirteen. Mum was the same age as dad.”

“They were so young? Did they marry early?”

I shifted uncomfortably. “They married when I was three,” I admitted. “He...well, he wasn’t exactly my father. More of a stepfather.”

“What about your biological father? Did he die as well or was it a simple divorce?” Gabe was wrapped in my past as much as he had been in the journals. When he realized all he was asking, his eyes widened. “Oh—no, you don’t have to tell me. I’m sorry.”

“No, don’t worry. It’s fine.” I sighed. “My biological father—well, I’m not sure. They were never married and, I mean he could have died, but he wasn’t that old from what Mum used to tell me.”

“You never saw him again?”

“You aren’t getting it, are you?”

“Getting what?”

“My father, he wasn’t present at all—I don’t even know who he is.” Gabriel’s empty stare pained me as much as the acid of the following words. “Gabe, I was a rape baby.”

He went cold, paling and darkening gravely. “Oh,” he choked out.

“Yeah,” I said shakily, putting my head in my hands. I was drowning in a pool of memories which forced itself into my lungs no matter how much I pushed it away.

“Did you have any siblings?”

“No, not really.” I exhaled and wiped away a falling tear. “She died.”

“I’m sorry your mom had to die, Lithia.” Gabriel hesitantly wrapped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me to his chest. It was warm and toned.

“It was my sister.”

His hand tightened around my shoulder. I couldn’t understand why he was involving himself in this. “You told me you didn’t have any siblings weeks ago, though.”

“She died young; only two years old when she perished.” I choked. “Her name was Ilima—she was so beautiful. Her hair was the same color as mine and her eyes were electric blue. So pale....She was white and cold like ice. Then her forehead would boil and her cheeks would turn red. She would cough and cough up blood and we’d have to take her to the hospital. On the way there she would get sun burnt. Mum and dad had to keep her home locked away so she wouldn’t catch anything more serious. I was eight when she died—I didn’t know what to make of it.”

Patiently, Gabriel listened to me cry about my sister. When I was done shedding tears, I suggested I leave and he shook his head. Sitting me back down at the couch, Gabe wrapped his arm around me and had me rest my head on the curve of his neck. After placing a blanket over us and playing Rocky Horror Picture Show, he kissed my head. As if we were a couple, he thought of this as cuddling while I convinced myself that this was nothing more than unwanted sympathy.

“I don’t need your pity, Gabe,” I whispered. “I’m more emotionally stable than anyone realizes.”

“It isn’t pity,” he said. “I just care.”

Deep down in the locked away chest of my memories, a blue light struggled to escape. I did not see the television or feel Gabe’s warmth. An entire different scenario played before my eyes and I mindlessly took part of it.

“What would you say if I jumped out of a window and fell dead, Gabe?” I asked, studying the rain outdoors.

I brushed my fingers on the cool window in Gabriel’s room nine years ago. Dressed in a blue dress the color of my eyes, I twirled around, enjoying the feel of the dancing skirt. Gabriel had been playing Halo: Combat Evolved, but was dying for having paused to glare unbelievingly and furiously at me.

“I wouldn’t say anything,” he eventually said. “I would slap you and then take you back to the hospital. Finally, after they revived you, I would kill you. That easy.”

“Didn’t think you cared so much,” I muttered sarcastically.

“Torna, you’re my best friend, of course I care.” I sat next to him and began braiding his bangs. “What are you doing? I’m not a doll.”

“You’re my doll,” I said sweetly. He shook his head and undid my work. “Where’s the other control?”

“Here.” Gabriel handed me the controller. “Why were you thinking of that?”

“Because things can end so quickly.” Desolately I thought of Ilima. Nobody other than Mum, Dad, Maxine and me knew about it. Nobody had seen Mum for nine months—if they had, they thought it had been a miscarriage. “You can be dead in the next second and not know why. You won’t know who cared or why they did.”

“Hey, Torna,” he stopped me. “I’m nine. You’re nine. Don’t think about things too big for your age, alright?” He patted my head. “Things will be easier that way.”

“I can't,” I apologized. “There’s too many thoughts to let go of, but thanks, I guess.”

Gabriel hugged me. “Just play Halo. That always helps clear my thoughts.” He motioned to the screen. I was winning.

“I’ll try.”

The blue light dimmed and returned to its cell. I blinked slowly and delicately, dark lashes blurring my vision. My head rested on Gabriel’s chest and arm hugged his chest. He held me carefully, as if not to break me and breathed evenly beneath me. He had fallen asleep as had I.

I shifted, adapting to the environment. I don’t feel like going home. Wonder if I can spend the night. No, no, no, Tornado. You’re Lithia Redd now. Gabe isn’t your best friend anymore and you will not sleep over. I unwrapped myself from Gabriel’s arm and stood up, collecting myself. I found my red scarf and opened the front door. He can care for the children alone at this point.

Turning the light on in my room, I threw around some textbooks that were scattered on the bed. I froze. On my bed stand, the locket I found sat carelessly and a note neatly folded next to it.

It actually does need one.

 

I ignored the note and readied for bed. Need what?

 

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