Welcome to Whisper Pines
Author's NoteOk so I know its been a while and I apologize for that. I'm still not done with this story though sadly. I haven't been able to write much of anything in the past few months. Things are just not great right now. I do have this chapter and two others finished though. Maybe by the time Ch.9 is posted, I'll have a few more written and ready to go. Don't count on it though :(.
I finally stopped puking.
I’ll admit it wasn’t pleasant. I’d been doing it all week so I thought maybe I would start getting used to it. The thing about puking though, no matter how many times you do it, you never get used to it. I’d been doing it a lot too. At first, it was because of the concussion of course. After I came home from school Wednesday, I spent all night either trying to rest or rushing to the bathroom. Thankfully by Thursday, things were better. At least as far as the concussion was concerned. I was in and out of the bathroom all Thursday too but the nausea was mostly gone. It was my stomach that seemed to be the culprit. The town doctor---Dr. Riley---made a house call. I mean how cool was that, I thought that only happened in old movies.
He declared the concussion having run its course.
That didn’t explain why I was throwing up though.
He had an answer for that too:
“Common stomach virus. Its been going around. She must have picked it up in the nurse’s office.”
Yeah, he had said “She” too. It didn’t matter that he knew my full name and that everyone was referring to me as Charlie. Even Pop tried to correct the man but he was pretty old. He either didn’t hear or didn’t care. My gender was hardly of any importance in the situation. When you’re sick, you didn’t really care if the old senile country doctor called you he, she or it. All you wanted to do was get better and do it fast.
It was Friday now.
I didn’t want too but I ended up missing school yesterday and today.
The first time in forever.
I think that honestly made me sick more than anything.
I finally stopped throwing up and flushed.
I really hated this feeling.
I walked to the sink and splashed water in my face. I groaned at what I saw in the mirror. I looked horrible. Haggard and worn out. There were dark circles under my eyes and my hair was a mess. Not that I cared much for what my hair looked like but I at least ran a comb through it every now and then. Today and the last few days though, it looked like I stuck my head in a fan or something. Maybe it was from lack of sleep. This stomach bug wasn’t good on my sleep cycle. Add that to the fact that I was afraid of slipping into a coma if I slept too much because of the concussion and I’d maybe had about a day’s worth of sleep in the last few days.
Fiona noticed it last night during our Skype call too.
I felt so bad about neglecting our calls. I apologized when I talked to her, telling her how hectic things had been. She apologized too. She’d been pretty busy herself, what with practice and school. I think this whole long distance Skype friendship was going to be a strain. Not only because of the three hour time difference either. We both had school and she, of course, had practice too. We talked for about an hour last night though. I told her about school and of course about that dick Hunter and the concussion. She sent me her best wishes and wished she could be there to help me feel better. Just hearing her say that was good enough.
She asked about the pendant too of course. When I told her about the Heart club, the first thing she did was roll her eyes. She insisted I find the necklace’s owner though. She once again emphasized how important friends were to a girl. I couldn’t help but be reminded of her own friendships. I couldn’t really call them what they really were though---competition. All of her friends were in her skating club and though friendly with one another, they were still competing to be the best.
I couldn’t even imagine how that was.
One minute a friend could be your BFF and then stab you in the back the next.
It must have sucked.
It must have been nerve-wracking too.
Thinking about it now though was a mute point. I only had one friend to worry about. For some reason, I just knew Rex wouldn’t stab me in the back. I knew it because he’d been my friend this whole time. Even when I forgot about him. I don’t think he had many either. Sure there were the guys he sat with at lunch but something told me they were just friends of convenience. I remember the distant look he gave me the other day when Connie dragged me off to her table---it was disappointment. He wanted me to sit with him. In hindsight, I probably should have. As nice as Connie was, I just couldn’t see myself making any lasting friendship with her. She was looking for a boyfriend and honestly, I wasn’t over Fiona.
There was also Clara too.
I’m not sure what she was to me.
I didn’t feel attraction to her but there was something else.
I just needed to know her.
A gentle knock on the door drew me from my thoughts.
It was grandma.
“I’m ok, Grandma,” I said, shutting off the sink.
She was a wonderful person. I loved her too death. She was, however, starting to smother. I know when you’re sick, it's nice to have people around to take care of you. Grandma was great at that. I think she just took the job a little too seriously though. She was constantly hovering. Every time I moved she thought it was because I wanted something and rushed to my side. In a way I guess I couldn’t really blame her. All her children were grown and distant. Mom and Aunt Grace both moved away and Uncle Kurt, well he was probably not much of a son, to begin with. I’m pretty sure the twins were like their father. After all, there was only that one picture of them on the mantle.
Grandma didn’t seem to have a lot of practice being a grandmother.
I think she was trying to make up for lost time.
I stepped out of the bathroom to find Argos waiting.
Ever the loyal companion.
He perked his ears as I rubbed his head.
“Good boy,” I said as I walked back to my room, he followed at my heels.
He followed me into the room again.
Dad had finally relented when he saw how much the dog wanted to be with me. It's hard to deny something like that when he literally slept outside my door. I don’t think Dad was too happy about it and frankly, I didn’t care. I was a little pissed at him actually. He said this move was supposed to be different, a time for us to be a family again. Old habits die hard. As soon as he got back into work, he got absorbed into it again. Sara and I took notice. He tried to explain it away as “new guy” things but we both knew what it really was. He had a purpose again. Being home had been painful. His sloth was his grieving. He was done with Portland, done with his life there. Here he could start fresh. Which apparently meant starting nothing fresh because he fell right back into work again.
I never expected him to change.
Letting Argos into my room wasn’t really relenting, it was avoidance. Once he got focused on one thing, all other things for Dad seemed less important.
I sat on the edge of my bed, Argos put his head in my lap.
Looking around the room, my eyes fell on a picture of Mom. It was her when she younger, maybe sixteen. She was with another girl, a definitely younger and more carefree version of Ms. Willis. It was weird to see such a stern woman smiling and looking happy. The two of them were hugging, both turned and smiling at the camera. Mom looked so young. She looked happy too. She had a great smile that I missed more than anything.
“He’s doing it again, Mom,” I said to the photo.
I’d taken to talking to it since arriving here.
It was the only one in the room that really spoke to me. There were other pictures of her but this one seemed different. The others were candid and somehow less alive. This one felt more real somehow. That’s why it was no longer on the wall either. I took it down that first night and put it on the bedside table where it was currently sitting.
I quickly envisioned Mom’s response:
“You know how he is, sweetie.”
I didn’t have to make those words up.
I’d heard her say them more times than I could count.
I picked up the photo, rubbing her smiling face with my finger.
“Why did you leave us?’ I asked softly, a tear rolling down my cheek.
There was another gentle knock.
Grandma stepped into the room a moment later.
“Are you feeling any better, sweetie?”
I shrugged. “Still throwing up but not as much.”
It was true. I’d only thrown up that once. I felt a little better too. The fever was down a bit and it didn’t feel so bad when I moved. Before I’d been all achy and stuff. I wouldn’t say I was one hundred percent though, maybe sixty five or so.
She came over to me and put her hand on my forehead.
“Well, you do feel a little cooler.”
That always amazed me. I never really could understand how people did that? I mean she touched my head and could instantly tell if I had a fever or not. I think it was a Mom thing. I didn’t get sick often but when I did, Mom always touched my forehead too. She could easily proclaim if I was fine or “burning up”. It must have been this secret passed down from mother to daughter or something. Though I’m sure there was some overly complicated scientific explanation for it. No matter though, Mom’s were always pretty accurate about their built-in thermometers.
“How about I bring you another bowl of Chicken Noodle soup?”
The soup was a mystery to me as well. I didn’t even really like soup but somehow it made me feel better. I’m sure there was an explanation for that as well but I didn’t really care.
“That would be awesome.”
She smiled, stroked my cheek gently and walked out of the room.
When she got to the door though, she stopped and stared at me strangely.
“I think your father and grandfather might be right, your hair is getting a bit on the long side, isn’t it?”
I reached up and touched it.
She smiled sweetly and left.
Confused, I got up and walked over to my mother’s vanity. It was covered in a bunch of girly things: old bottles of nail polish, some face cosmetics. Her hairbrush I left untouched because it still had some of her hair in it. Even this old hand mirror. Then there was the jewelry box. It was ornate and polished. My mother talked about it more than once. She said she wanted to give it to Sara but confessed that it was probably something my sister wouldn’t have cherished much. Over the last few days, I was tempted to take a look inside out of curiosity but stopped because it felt too intimate. Almost as if I was invading her privacy somehow.
It was stupid I know.
Trying not to think about that and more about my grandmother’s comment, I looked into the vanity.
What had she meant?
For the last few days, Pop had been hassling me about my hair. Grandma kept coming to my defense. So it was a little odd for her to suddenly do a complete 180 on me.
Looking in the mirror, I grasped the end of my hair.
I blinked a few times to be sure but there was no doubt about it, it looked longer.
What the hell?
Ok so it wasn’t down my back or anything silly like that of course. I knew how hair grew after all. I also knew that it definitely didn’t grow a couple of inches in only a few days. I knew a lot about my hair because well it was the thing that most people commented on. It was also the thing that my mother loved most about me. She used to comment about it all the time, how soft and thick it was. She used to love running her fingers through it and combing it. I used to keep it a lot longer when I was younger too. Well past my shoulders at least. It was that way until middle school. One day, Freddie Griggs cornered me in the boy’s bathroom and confronted me. He seemed pretty pissed about something.
Things were made worse when he tried to kiss me. When I recoiled from the gesture, he got angry and punched me in the face. He split my lip with that punch and bloodied my nose. He probably would have done more if not for the untimely arrival of Mr. Frost, our English teacher. He had to pull Freddie off of me apparently. It was then that Dad decided that I need to get my hair cut. Mom usually took me to her hair salon to get a trim but Dad took me to his barber to get it cut properly. Thankfully he didn’t let the man shave my head but I was given a hairstyle more fitting a boy my age.
That was two years ago.
It took that long to grow it back to where I had it now.
So I knew how long it took for hair to grow.
“Did I just not notice?” I said to myself, turning my head left and right.
Well, maybe that explained why people were getting so confused?
I stared at it in the mirror for a long time. Long enough for grandma to come into the room with my soup on a tray.
“Is something wrong, sweetie?” she asked, setting the tray on the little bedside table where I kept the photo.
“It is longer,” I said, still confused as hell.
Grandma’s reflection in the mirror smiled at me.
“No longer than before,” she said, stroking my head. “I just think I finally began to notice that’s all. Maybe its because its all messed up now. If you want, as soon as you’re better I can have your grandfather take you to his barber?”
I shook my head. After that first and last visit to the barber with Dad, I was traumatized. I used to love my hair. I promised myself I wasn’t going to let some “butcher” touch it again. Besides, it was Mom’s favorite thing about me. How could I get rid of something that my mother loved so much?
“Mom liked my hair,” I said, turning away from the mirror. “It broke her heart when Dad had it cut before.”
Grandma nodded. “You did look darling with it like that,” she said with a smile. “Though whenever a guest saw your pictures, they always told us we had a very beautiful granddaughter.”
I could only imagine how that made Pop feel.
“What bothers him so much about my hair?”
She put her hands on my shoulders. “Honey, your grandfather loves you very much. Sometimes I think it's difficult for him to understand things. He’s an old fashion man. Even in the 60s when the boys were growing their hair long in rebellion of the war, your grandfather grumbled. Though of course being a Marine probably didn’t help. He’s set in his ways. It takes time for a man like that to change.”
“I’m his grandson though?”
“I know and he loves you,” she said, kissing me on the forehead. “Now then, how about we eat this soup.”
Grandma changing the subject was enough to tell me to not dwell on it. As much as I loved Pop and I did, I knew he wasn’t going to change. He wouldn’t outright hate me for being different bedside but he would never truly embrace it either. The fact that I loved my hair the way it was and he didn’t, well we’d have to live with that. I’d deal with it if things got out of control.
Like my mother did all those years ago when she finally left.
Trying not to think about that, I followed Grandma back over to my bed.
She handed me the tray with the soup. It was still hot, the steam rising off of it. I took my first spoonful. Gods, it was so good. I couldn’t help but smile. She smiled too then excused herself, apparently, there was work to be done around the house. I sat and ate the soup, Argos watching every spoonful with envious anticipation. I knew better than to give him any because it would be a dangerous slope of no return from there. So I ate it all myself. When I finished I set the tray on the bedside again. Then I retrieved one of my comics. It was a new one.
Something grandma was nice enough to pick up for me from Edgerton. That and some new school clothes. The van was still delayed.
I rolled onto my stomach to read it, putting my feet in the air as I did so.
I smiled as I flipped the pages, absently pushing some hair behind my ear as I did so.
I must have dozed off because the next thing I knew I waking up.
I was under the covers too.
Sitting up slowly, I looked around. My comic was on my bedside table, the tray was gone and Argos as sleeping on the floor near the door. Turning to look at the clock on the wall, I saw it was three forty-five. Not only did I doze off but I’d been asleep for at least four hours. Which meant Sara would probably be home any minute. I looked over to her side of the room and groaned. She and Aunt Grace were a lot alike. When we arrived here, that side of the room looked like a bomb had gone off. There were clothes all over the place, boxes still sitting ready to be packed. Her dresser and vanity were cluttered with crap too.
Much like how my sister did things.
I noticed that Sara only tossed the boxes into the corner.
Nothing else had been touched.
Crawling out of bed, Argos perked up. He watched me, probably making sure I wasn’t going to get sick again. He’d been a real trooper through the last few days. When I came home from school Wednesday afternoon, he never left my side. All through that first night, he sat with me, making sure I was ok. The last couple of days had been the same. When I started to feel the urge to puke, he went with me to bathroom. He sat outside the door and waited for me too. It was almost as if someone had trained him to do these type of things. It made him more special than I already thought he was.
It also made me realize that I was a fool for forgetting him.
Ok so maybe not a fool because I was five after all.
Argos followed me as I walked across the room, grabbing a towel from the floor as I made my way out the door. At one time the towel was probably on my dresser. Grandma had been setting them there the last few mornings for me. This morning I’d been too sick to take a shower. I was feeling a little better now. This was the first time I’d woken up without the urge to puke for instance. Something told me that the last of this virus had finally passed from my system. Which was fantastic because I really wanted to get back to school.
I know what you’re thinking.
A kid actually wants to go to school?
The truth of the matter was simple, I was bored out of my mind. I’d been too sick to play games, too sick to browse the internet and definitely too sick to read my comics. Plus I really didn’t want to puke all over my cool stuff. So I’d pretty much been bed ridden for the last couple of days. This morning was the first time I’d picked up one of my comics in a few days. Well since that first night in the Delightful Bovine.
Something about it though felt off. I’m not sure but I’d never before fallen asleep while reading one for instance. Comics were meant to be light reading, full of action and adventure. Well, at least the ones I read anyway.
I made my way down the hall slowly until I finally reached the bathroom.
Downstairs I could hear Sara, talking with Grandma.
The conversation was too far away for me to make out words but I think my name was mentioned once or twice.
A second later, Sara was pounding up the stairs.
In her hand was a rolled up bunch of papers.
“Your dweeb friend got your homework,” she said, waving the paper roll in my face.
“Just put it in the room. I’ll look at it as soon as I’m done with my shower.”
“Whatever,” she said then turned her attention to Argos. “C’mon boy.”
She slapped her legs, trying to get him to follow her.
Argos didn’t even look at her.
“Stupid dog” she mumbled as she headed into our room.
So far Sara had been unsuccessful to get his attention. It was starting to annoy her too. On more than one occasion I heard her mumble, “What’s the point of having a dog if it only likes one person”. I couldn’t help but smile whenever I heard her say it. Sara wasn’t used to people ignoring her or downright rejecting her. Back home she was a star on the volleyball court. All of her peers loved her. She was also pretty popular outside of her stupid sport too. I think Argos completely ignoring her really pissed her off. For me, it was kind of nice actually. It meant for once there was something that my sister had no part in, no matter how much she tried.
“You keep on ignoring her, boy,” I said, rubbing his head before stepping into the bathroom.
Argos waited outside like usual.
I wasted no time getting into the shower after a quick pee.
As soon as the water hit me though, something felt off. I can’t really describe it with words though. It was almost as if my skin was more sensitive or the water was more...I don’t know. As it cascaded off my body, I felt almost euphoric. I’d never felt that way, especially with water. Most of the time, I tried to take the quickest shower possible. It was the only way I could do so with my mild aquaphobia. The nagging anxiety was still there of course---I don’t think I’d ever get over that---but it was overwhelmed by this new sensation. I tried to push both away as I tried to enjoy the shower but it was hard.
In the end, I just got out.
Toweling off, I stopped to look in the mirror again. I didn’t look as disheveled. The shower had done its purpose. Taking a step closer to the mirror, though, I noticed that the area around my nose was slightly bruised and swollen. That was a given, seeing as I was hit there a few days ago with a basketball. It was actually a miracle that he didn’t break it. It also looked a lot better than it had. When it first happened, my nose was all red and puffy. My father wanted to rush me to the hospital even. After Dr. Riley arrived though he checked it out and told him everything was fine. The bruising I realized must have gone up to under my eyes a bit too because the dark circles were now gone.
It was strange.
At least for me.
I didn’t really know much about this stuff, to be honest.
Trying not to think more about it, I turned away from the mirror and continued to towel off. I ended up using two towels, something I’d been doing lately because of my hair. One went around my waist, of course, the other I was currently using on said hair. Walking out into the hall, Argos was waiting as usually. He stood and followed me back to the room.
“Your crap is on the bed,” said Sara as I entered.
She was on her bed, reading one of her teen magazines.
She didn’t even bother to look up at me.
Sitting on the corner of the bed, I picked up the “crap”. Unrolling my homework, I took a look at what I had. A list of chapters to read for English, several Math work sheets, a list of chapters to read for Earth Science. Most of it pretty easy and straightforward. Mr. Greene put in some chapters too and a note that told me to get better soon except written in Greek. Thankful my rudimentary understanding of my father’s language was enough to help me understand what he wrote.
The last bit of “crap” was a note.
I almost missed it actually.
I was carrying the sheets over to my desk when it actually fell out onto the floor.
Picking it up, I noticed a quickly scrawled message:
Beneath that was a number.
“You got this from Rex?”
Sara looked up from her magazine. “I don’t know his name. Glasses, looked like a younger, nerdier version of Lucas.”
I nodded, holding up the note. “You know where this came from?”
It wasn’t Rex’s number.
“How the hell should I know.”
I took a look at the note. I didn’t recognize the handwriting. Not that I really would have. I’d only been in this town for a few days now. I’d only had one day of school too. It wasn’t really a long time to get to know someone enough to know their handwriting. Though I could rule out some people from the evidence I currently had. Mainly Rex and Mr. Greene. The handwriting in Mr. Greene’s note didn’t match the one on this one. Even if he did write it, why would he put it on a separate note and give me his number? That was kind of creepy.
It wasn’t Rex’s handwriting either.
One I already had his number.
Two, I knew what his handwriting actually looked like.
When he’d given me my homework from yesterday,there was a post it on there, with him explaining some things to me. Specifically that he was asked to give me my assignments. After which he even signed his name. So whoever wrote this note to me was someone I didn’t know.
Or didn’t know well enough.
I heard Sara groan.
“You’re so annoying.”
A second later, she was standing next to me with phone in hand.
She took the note from me and quickly dialed the number then handed me her phone.
She stomped back to her bed. I only had a second or two before it started ringing. Cursing my sister, I put the phone to my ear. It rang a few times before ultimately going into voice mail.
The voice that spoke surprised me.
“This is Clara. I’m not here. Sucks to be you.”
There was a beep for me to leave my message but I was too stunned to leave one.
I clicked off instead.
Clara, the number belonged to Clara?
I almost dropped Sara’s cell from the shock of it. Instead, I tossed it back to her. She barely saw and caught it in time, shooting me a nasty glare. I ignored it though. I was still flabbergasted. A note and a cell number from a girl who told me to leave her alone. What were her exact words again? Oh yeah, “Go away, I’m poisonous”. How does that suddenly turn into Are You Ok, and here’s my cell just in case you want to talk? It made no sense. Did this girl want to be my friend after all? Or was it just concern for my well being? And why the cell number?
“Hey you even listening to me,” said Sara, a little louder.
“Sorry did you say something?”
Had she been talking?
“Yeah, dip shit. Next time you throw my phone like that...”
Sara stopped, giving me a startled look. She liked to sling out the idle threats, “do this or I’ll...” or something similar. She never did carry through with any of it. I knew she had the means to do so. She was pretty tough for an eleven-year-old. I think I mentioned before how she could probably kick my ass. The point is though, she never actually did anything. She was all talk and no action. She usually got away with it too, especially with Dad. I was frankly getting tired of it.
I rolled my eyes. “Just fuck off then.”
Sara’s mouth had been hanging open but slowly closed.
She slid off her bed and slowly made her way to the door, stopping a second to look at me. She looked like she was about to say something else but apparently thought better of it. Shaking her head again, she quickly left the room.
Now that she was gone, I could finally think straight. Of course, that didn’t help at all. I couldn’t help but think about Clara for the next several minutes. It was a repeated loop of thoughts too. Did she like me or did she hate me? I finally couldn’t stand it anymore so I decided to start my homework. Maybe if I could get my mind off of her and the note, I could think straight.
It worked too. It usually did.
I got lost in my work. Thank the Gods for that.
Author’s note: As I’m sure all of you know, comments are life blood to an author. I’m not begging or demanding, but I certainly would appreciate anything you have to say (or ask). It doesn’t have to be long and involved, just give me your reaction to the story. Thanks in advance...EOF
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.