Welcome to Whisper Pines
Author's Note So it occurred to me that I had 2 more chapters of this story that I wrote but never got around to publishing. The plan I think was to hold onto them until I could write a couple more, help me build up a buffer. The problem is, I never did get around to writing anymore chapters after these two. I have them planned out but I got side tracked as I often do. Someone the other day PMed about these two chapters though, telling me they realize I'm not finished with the story but were wondering if I could post the chapters anyway. So I said sure.
Dr. Riley stuck one of those large wooden popsicle stick things in my mouth. He went a little too far back with it though because I nearly choked. So instead of “ahhhing”, I ended up coughing and gagging. He took his merry time with it though, waiting a full ten seconds before pulling it out. I could have punched him. Instead, I shot him a glare that he either ignored or completely misinterpreted as something else.
“See, now that wasn’t so bad, right?”
I so wanted to curse at him. A look from my grandmother told me that that might not be such a good idea.
Instead, I nodded, grandma smiled.
Dr. Riley turned to throw out the tongue depressor---yeah I know what its called.
While his back was to me, I took another moment to look around his office. It was quite a bit different than Nurse Bright’s office back at school. For one thing, this place looked more like a room in a house than an examination room. I guess that’s what happens when your office is a house. Or maybe was a house. When grandma brought me here I was a bit confused. I’d never seen a doctor’s office in an actual house before. The only thing that told people it was his office was the large sign out front. As we pulled into the little parking lot around back, I couldn’t help but wonder if the doctor lived here too.
Inside though, there was nothing really house like about it.
What had clearly once been a living room was now the waiting room, the small kitchen area was now the reception area. It still had a little sink and stove though, situated behind the receptionist’s desk. She was a nurse too I noticed. A middle-aged woman wearing a white outfit, her salt, and pepper hair bundled up under one of those old fashion nurse hats. The bedrooms in the house had been converted into examining rooms. When we entered, Dr. Riley came down the stairs to our right, so if I had to guess I’d say his office was probably up there. Or maybe his bedroom too?
Back in this room though.
The walls were covered with aging wallpaper. Some floral pattern that was definitely dated. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d actually seen wallpaper. Most people in those home improvement shows always tore it down. The hideousness of the walls seemed to pass onto the rest of the décor as well. The doctor either didn’t have any taste or he really needed someone to come in and update it. Not that he seemed to mind or notice for that matter.
“Are you still feeling sick?” he asked as he turned back around, holding a stethoscope.
He put those little things in his ear and the flat metal part on my chest.
I flinched because it was cold.
Why was that thing always cold?
Grandma put a hand gently on my shoulder, giving it a squeeze. I think she thought I was scared or something. I wasn't but it was a nice gesture.
Though to be fair I didn’t want to be here.
I didn’t like Doctor’s offices. I didn’t like hospitals either. Every time I went to one I got this queasy, I want to puke feeling. It was no different now. I think the only reason I didn’t was that my body was getting sick and tired of throwing up. The funny thing about this was that I never felt this way with Nurse Bright. There was something warm and reassuring about her. When she spoke, I felt at ease and when she touched me, my whole body seemed to tingle with excitement. Some people might say that was sexual attraction. Sure I’d be a liar if I didn’t say she was pretty but it was more than that.
That feeling was not here though.
Dr. Riley gave off a completely different vibe altogether.
Whereas Nurse Bright fit her namesake, Dr. Riley should have been called Dr. Gloom and Boring. Ok so that wasn’t entirely fair but the man had the bedside manner of a pet rock and the demeanor of pocket lint. When I thought about small-town doctors they always seemed so warm and welcoming, with nice smiles and a lollipop to ease your pain. There were no smiles here and the only lollipops I saw were in the painting in his waiting room. This place and this man were dismal. It was kind of strange for this town actually. Even the outside of this building had a bright cheery disposition and to step inside was like walking into the beginning of Wizard of Oz.
There really is No Place Like Home.
“How’s that head of yours?” he asked.
I shrugged. “No more headaches.”
“Good as in I can go back to school on Monday?”
I was anxious to get back. I hated being out for this long.
“Too early to say,” he said, taking the little disc from my chest.
He then proceeded to check my eyes and my blood pressure. He didn’t say much for a bit then returned to his dresser. When he came back with a needle, I flinched. Not that I was afraid of needles but I was a bit surprised. I wasn’t expecting it.
“What’s that for?”
“I want to get a little blood for precautions.”
“Is that necessary?”
“Your development alarms me,” he said, preparing the needle.
As he stuck the needle into my arm, he asked a few questions. I’d heard them before. He wanted to know about puberty and if I’d seen any signs. My doctor back home had similar questions last time I went to visit him. Like Dr. Xavier, Dr. Riley didn’t seem overly concerned. With each answer I gave him, he nodded and told me it wasn’t uncommon. I already knew all that. What I didn’t know and what no one seemed to be willing to share was when things would start. Not that I was really concerned but it did bother me a bit. Back home, I was already one of the youngest kids in ninth grade, not to mention the shortest. I hated that I was born in April and that most of my friends were a few months older than me. Fiona even joked about how she was “robbing the cradle” by dating me. Her birthday was in December. So being fourteen and not starting puberty was a concern. It was a whole new ball game if I didn’t start to develop this year though. It didn’t scare me though. If by this time next year I was still me then I would be scared.
“I’ll make sure this sample gets to the university for testing,” he said, placing my blood filled syringe into a styrofoam cooler off to the right.
“So does this mean I can go back to school then?”
He nodded. “I don’t see any reason why not. I want you to avoid gym class for a few days though.”
He took out a small pad of paper, writing a quick note.
“For the school,” he said, handing the note to Grandma.
Grandma started to ask questions, mainly about my health. I half paid attention then excused myself. I walked out of the room and into an empty waiting room, even the receptionist was nowhere to be found. Shrugging it off, I made my way toward the door. I honestly just wanted to get out of there. The place was too depressing to stand in for a long period of time. Unfortunately stepping outside wasn’t much better for me. The pastel colors of Main Street seemed to be everywhere in this town. It was once again one of those blasts from the past. Even with the various piles of melting snow and the chill in the air, everything still seemed all happy and Pleasantville crazy.
Standing there was giving me a headache.
A bark interrupted me.
Turning, I found Argos sitting by the truck.
I wasn’t the least bit surprised.
Well, maybe a little. We did after all leave him at home. For some reason though, he just seemed to have this knack for showing up. If I had to guess, he probably jumped into the bed of the pickup without either Grandma or I noticing. If Argos was human, he’d definitely be the stealthy Ninja type. I suppose that’s what made him such a good guard dog. Out of boredom the other night, I decided to check online for his breed. I knew he was a German shepherd but he was unlike other Shepherds I’d seen. Apparently, I was right. He was actually a Belgian Malinois, a breed of Shepherd bred for security. I guess that made sense considering how guarded of me he was. What I did find interesting though was his fur color. Apparently, black Malinois weren’t very common.
So I guess that made me lucky.
Argos came wandering over, allowing me to scratch under his chin. The whole time though, his eyes were elsewhere. He was always alert, always watching. I looked too. The street was deserted though. I was starting to get a feel for this town. What I once thought was weird was just the way small towns like this functioned. Sure there were still plenty of weird things---the cows for instance---but you could find crazy stuff like that in any town.
“Well that was certainly interesting,” said Grandma as she came up behind me.
Grandma didn’t say anything at first. She kept staring at me though. She even squinted her eyes for a bit but finally, she let out a little shake of her head and a chuckle. It was followed by a gentle hand on my shoulder. It kind of freaked me out a bit. Like there was something wrong with me.
“Is there something wrong?”
“What did you and the doctor talk about after I left?”
For some reason, I didn’t believe her.
She laughed again.
That wasn’t very promising.
She quickly apologized. “It's not what we talked about, well it is but not how you think. He was concerned about you not developing properly. We discussed it for a few minutes then he suggested you might need to see someone in Edgerton about it.”
I nodded, interrupting. “My doctor back home mentioned it too, last year.”
Grandma gave me another strange look.
“Honey, maybe we should take you to the hospital?”
“Did he say anything else?”
She shook her head. “Nothing physical but as we were leaving he told me I had a very healthy granddaughter.”
I groaned. So Dr. Riley was not only dull but senile too.
I mean the man had me with my shirt off for a few minutes.
“A lot of people say that Grandma. It's because of my late puberty and my hair.”
As if to demonstrate, I pushed some of it behind my ear.
Grandma reached out to touch my hair but pulled her hand back at the last minute.
“Perhaps we should get it cut, maybe trimmed a bit.”
I nodded. Ok, so I was finally ready to admit it was a bit long. It was one thing to be mistaken for a girl every once in a while but it was another for everyone to think I was one. The “not caring” was fading and the annoyance was beginning to rear its ugly head. Not that I had anything against girls---they were great---I just didn’t want to be one. Nor did I want to be mistaken for one anymore. After puberty kicked in, maybe I’d revisit the whole longish hair thing again. Of course, after I got some of my father’s height and muscles. I mean there were still some pretty macho guys out there that had long hair. Of course, I couldn’t think of any at the moment but they were out there.
Grandma pulled out her smartphone. “I think I might be able to make an appointment for you at Sally’s.”
It was strange to see her with one. It just never occurred to me that someone her age would have something like that. I’m not sure why it was so odd though. I mean sure she would have one. She was human after all and most people had a cell phone. I guess it was just weird to think of my grandmother being like most people.
“Well, Sally can fit you in sometime next week at the earliest.”
“There’s no barber?” I asked, weary to go to a hair salon.
“There is,” she said, looking down the road. “Mel is a little old-fashioned though. He wouldn’t trim it, he’d shave it down completely. He served with your grandfather...”
Ah yeah, enough said.
I looked toward the direction grandma was pointing nonetheless. I hadn’t even noticed a barber shop when we drove through town earlier this week. In fact, besides the few places, I hadn’t really noticed anything. It made me sorta regret not insisting on an actual town tour. It also made me very curious to see what the town had to offer. I mean so far the only places I’d actually gone to were Connie’s place, the doctor’s office, and the school. Not much of a Whisper Pines’ experience if you ask me. If I was going to be living here, I really needed to get to know my new home.
“Grandma,” I said as we made our way to the truck. “You think I could stay here for a bit, walk about the town?”
“Are you feeling up to it?”
I knew what she meant.
“I’m good, I haven’t thrown up since last night and the nausea is all gone. I really want to look about the town. If I feel even the littlest bit sick I’ll stop and call you.”
I gave her a pleading look. I wasn’t really the master of it like Sara but I kinda knew grandma was a bit of a softy. She proved that to me in the last few days.
She sighed. “Well, I need to do some things around the house. You know the house number?” I nodded, she smiled. “Call me when you’re ready to come home. Don’t make it too late though.”
She called for Argos but he made no attempt to follow. Not that either of us was surprised. Instead, she shook her head and climbed into the truck. I watched and waited until she was pulling away from the curb before I started my “adventure”.
I think I might have been off in my earlier assessment of the town.
Sure it was still pastel colored and a blast from the past but not in the way I thought. It wasn’t like the people wanted it this way. It was more like one of those towns that clearly tried to change with the times without losing itself to it. Like my grandmother with her smartphone for instance. Even though everything looked old and outdated, it was still a pretty normal place. Kinda like the town from Gilmore Girls or Eureka from that SyFy show. Slightly quirky and idyllic but still just like any other town you might come across. Ok so maybe Eureka was a bad example but they looked pretty similar.
I started my tour going left down Main Street.
I found myself passing the various shops that Sara and I saw from the car when we first arrived. Our assessment of them was a little off too. I spent about an hour going into and out of a few of them. The one with the Cassette sign in the window was actually a little electronics store. The sign was outdated and they actually sold modern electronics. The owner of the shop told me it was something that he never bothered to remove. Next door to that was a little bookstore that I spent some time in. They had a small comic section in the back which was kind of cool. It didn’t have the largest selection but the owner promised he could order anything I wanted. I couldn’t help but smile at that.
The rest of the shops I passed didn’t really interest me.
There was a hardware store, some kind of hobby shop, a few locally owned clothing stores. On the corner was a diner called Marty’s. Across the street from that was a pizza place, Mario’s. Passing by that I saw a lot of teenagers inside. Around the corner was a movie theater. Not one of those large cineplexes like back home though. It was one of those old-time theaters with a marque and an actual ticket booth. Walking by I saw a bored teenager in said booth. So clearly they didn’t get a lot of business this time of the day. Looking at some of the movie posters I could see why most of those movies were outdated and on Bluray months ago.
Down from the theater were more little Mom and Pop shops.
Then the B&B of course.
I was actually surprised I’d already walked this far.
I knew the Bovine Delights was at the end of road. Turning around, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d been walking for only a short while. Turning back to the B&B, I couldn’t help but smile a bit. I did notice it was pretty empty today though. Besides Beth’s SUV, there didn’t seem to be any other cars in the parking lot. So it looked like the Newlyweds had moved on too.
I groaned as I turned around, putting on a false smile for Connie.
She came running up to me, throwing her arms around me in a big hug. She wasn’t a bad person but her attention bothered me. I wouldn’t mind having her for a friend but she was a bit smothering. It was hard to go somewhere with her being there. Like at school the other day, I just wanted to find my own friends, not have her force me into friendships with hers. I know she was trying to be nice and I appreciated it but niceness can only go so far before its overwhelming.
“You’re feeling better?” she asked as she let me go.
Though it felt more like a statement than a question.
“No more headaches and vomiting,” I said, trying not to sound too gross about it.
She smiled. “Good. You going back to school then?”
“That’s the plan.”
It was too. It was one of the first things I wanted to discuss with Dr. Riley. It was the first thing that I said to him when I walked into his office earlier. I didn’t care what his diagnosis was, I told him I was going back to school. I hated not being there, I hated laying around doing nothing, neglecting my education.
“Good, the girls have been asking about you.”
I couldn’t help but wonder if she was added into that as well.
Connie was pretty forward with what she wanted. Attaching herself to me now made it clear that she wanted me. Not that I was denying it. I just wasn’t sure I felt the same. Sure I was still longing for Fiona but Connie was nice too. I’m not sure she was what I wanted though. She was pretty enough sure and she was nice but she was simple too. She knew what she wanted and she went for it. There was no mystery to her though, no complicated obstacles either. Connie was that kind of girl, the normal one who was around the corner that anyone could get.
Not like Clara.
Not that I wanted her either.
I just liked the idea of her.
I nodded. “Sorry just thinking.”
“Yeah actually,” I said, trying to steer my thoughts away from girls though. “Where did the couple go?”
I pointed to the parking lot. “You know the gold digger and her older husband?”
Connie followed to where I was pointed then shrugged.
“They left I guess. I don’t know. I never really noticed them.”
“How could you not?”
And what did she mean by that? She noticed them. She made a comment about how artificial the wife was.
“People come and go all the time” she shrugged again.
I wanted to press her on it but I decided it wasn’t important.
“So what brings you out and about today?” I asked, trying unsuccessfully to pry my arm from her grip.
“I was shopping of course!”
“Not at the mall?”
“I can’t drive yet and Beth is off, had to work.”
Connie laughed. “Yeah at Marty’s. Its a little diner on the corner. She’s a waitress”
I was about to mention I saw her SUV but I realized Marty’s wasn’t actually that far. Beth probably walked. I was a little floored though. I would have never taken her for a waitress. She was this carefree and wild girl. I half expected her to ride bucking broncos or something. Working as a waitress just seemed kind of mundane and simple for her. Then again I suppose Sky Divers had to have day jobs too. Like Aunt Grace for instance. Even though she was this crazy jet-setter, she still had to pay the bills. She did that with pen and paper. She was technically a Travel Journalist for some magazine. Like Mom, she went into journalism too, unlike Mom though she didn’t end up settling for a simpler life.
I thought about pursuing journalism too.
I wasn’t great with a camera like Mom but I noticed the details. It was something Mom said was a rare talent. It was also something she told me to never stop honing. She seemed to think I had the making to be a great investigative journalist because of it. I never really thought about it much before the accident. Afterward, though it was all I could think of. Well besides her being gone of course. So I made a vow to myself and to her to never stop paying attention. Its why I was so transfixed by certain things.
Like the cow and now this yuppie couple. There was just something about them that didn’t fit right. Like this town too. A giant jigsaw puzzle with one or two pieces not cut right.
“You’re doing it again,” said Connie, giving my arm a gentle squeeze.
She shook her head. “No its kinda cute. I like the pensive look. You get this little line on your forehead” She touched my forehead with her finger. “Right there. It's really cute!”
Ok so that’s twice she’s called me “cute” in so many seconds.
She was definitely kicking her game up a notch or two.
Sadly flattery would get her nowhere with me.
I needed to distract her from it.
“Hey, so I was wondering,” I said quickly. “If you wouldn’t mind giving me the rest of the tour of this town. I mean I’ve walked Main Street already but I was wondering if maybe you could show me the rest?”
Connie smiled at that.
“I’d love too, kind sir,” she said “though I have to warn you, Beth wasn’t lying the other day. There really isn’t much to this place.”
I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t that far off.
I think I mentioned before how there were two roads that branched off from Main Street, going in two different directions. Well, it turns out central Whisper Pines was actually one giant circle. The two roads leading away from the town actually wrapped in around and back into Main Street. The one leading toward my grandparents’ farm was also the same that the school and a few other of the town’s larger structures was situated on. The other road was the one that led to Edgerton. It was also on this road where most of the people of the town actually lived. The development where we were going to live was actually outside of the town. Well still considered Whisper Pines, it was pretty much on the outskirts of things.
Connie didn’t bother taking me that far out.
She did take me down that road though. It took us about an hour to walk it.
It eventually led us back into Main Street of course.
In fact, we came back into town the very same way I entered it at the beginning of the week.
“And that is sadly all this boring little town has to offer,” she said, bringing me back to where we started.
Argos had been our constant companion the whole time. It actually surprised me that a dog his age could walk as much as he was actually. Then again he was a dog full of surprises.
“So do you like pizza?”
I gave her a look.
“I’m an American teenager,” I said with a laugh. “Of course I like pizza!”
She pointed across the street.
I looked to where she was pointing. It was the same place I saw from earlier---Mario’s. A typical small pizza parlor. I’d seen something similar in movies. In fact, there were quite a few of them in Portland too. There probably weren’t many American towns out there that didn’t have some kind of pizza place. This one wasn’t as fancy as some of the ones back home though. It looked nice enough, there was an outside eatery and large windows that showed inside. It looked pretty packed for a Saturday afternoon too. Most of the people inside were teenagers, my age or older.
Connie took my hand and led me across the street, Argos closely following.
When we got to the restaurant, I made him sit outside.
It sucked but I knew there was no way they were going to allow a dog inside.
He sat like a statue.
Just like usual.
When we got inside, I quickly let my hand slip from hers. Not that I didn’t like the attention, I just didn’t want her to have the stigma of it. Most of the school thought I was a girl after all and it probably looked pretty bad her walking in hand and hand with me. She tried to grab my hand again but honestly, I didn’t want her too. Like I said Connie was great, just not dating material. There was a hurt look on her face for a second but it passed quickly. It melted completely when Britney called out from a corner booth.
Connie waved and tried to drag me over.
I wasn’t really in the mood for another go with the Heart Club though.
Besides, it didn’t look like there was any room at the table.
This place was after all standing room only it seemed.
I politely waved her off. Connie gave me a frown but once she looked at her table, I think she realized there was no room for me either.
I looked around the place, wondering if there was another table I might drop myself into too. It only took a few seconds to spot someone I didn’t want to see: my chief tormentor, Hunter. He was sitting with a bunch of his basketball teammates, they were laughing about something. All of them but Hunter. He looked absolutely miserable. I’m not sure if it was because of the multiple detentions that Miss Willis said she was going to rain down on his head or the crutches.
“Now that’s karma.”
Clara slipped up beside me, snarky as usual.
“Mr. Big Shot thought he was untouchable. Apparently, he’s not.”
She shrugged and sauntered off to a table that had a couple of blonde cheerleader types sitting at it. She glared at them and the girls bolted, giving her the table. I couldn’t help but smile at that. I also found myself following her. I dropped into the booth opposite her. She raised an eyebrow but didn’t seem to care otherwise.
“There’s no other place to sit.”
“No spot with your buddy Connie?”
I groaned. “We’re not friends.”
“Could have fooled me.”
“I ran into her during my tour of your town.”
“Their town” she quickly clarified. “I refuse to call this place home.”
“Me either to be honest.”
She smirked at that.
For someone who didn’t want to be my friend, she was sure being friendly.
“So don’t take this the wrong way or anything but I thought you wanted me to leave you alone.”
“I do,” she said, taking a bit of some odd veggie pizza concoction.
“Then why give me your cell number?”
The look on her face was one of genuine surprise.
“I don’t give my cell number to anyone.”
I rattled off the phone for her.
“Hey I was just as surprised as you but I called it, it was your voice mail.”
“I didn’t give you my number.”
I shrugged. “It was on a slip of paper with my homework assignments.”
I happened to have the slip with me actually. I stuck it in my back pocket last night, not bothering to change these jeans from the day before. I passed it over to her. Her eyes bulged out of her head when she looked at it.
“That’s my handwriting,” she said, looking pissed. “But I didn’t write this?”
“Well someone did.”
She narrowed her eyes into slits. She stood up, crumbled the piece of paper and threw it in my face. Then she picked up her pizza and walked away. Poof just like that. I watched her go, she dumped the pizza in the trash on the way out. Maybe that girl was poisonous. Then again what poisonous person would also stop to pet my dog on the head too? I’m not sure why she fascinated me so much but she did. Even after she left I couldn’t help but stare at the door. There was just something about that girl that drew me to her. There was also something or someone trying to push me toward her as well.
I mean if she didn’t write the note then who did?
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.