There was a note from Emma on the kitchen table to say she would be out for the evening and that Dad was going to be out with friends as well. Ha! If they expect either Jason or I to believe that hogwash they really are naïve. It’s Friday. We know they go to the movies on Friday night. They just go to the cinema three towns over to be less conspicuous. I so wish they’d come out of the closet and just fess up. It’d make their lives easier, but then again, maybe the sneaking around is part of the charm of their relationship.
I have the house to myself. Jason would take a shower after practice and then go meet up with his latest girlfriend. He’d be out for hours. A grin spreads over face and I bolt upstairs to change into my penguin pajamas and pull my hair into ponytail. I am going to veg out and relax. My mom had left her collection of old Dorris Day movies and I have a fondness for them, especially Pillow Talk. It’s my all time favorite movie. Rock Hudson and Dorris Day are not the typical teen movie, I know, but it’s the one thing I have left of my mom and I watched them incessantly growing up.
I wonder if I can wheedle someone into delivering a pizza to me. Pop’s Diner makes great pizza’s, but I’m in my jammies and don’t want to change clothes or drive back into town. My stomach is craving pizza though. Maybe Emma has one in the freezer I can pop into the oven. The fridge yields no pizza, but I do grab a can of Coke and snag a bag of chips from the pantry to tide me over. Dad has a home theater couch in the media room and I take full advantage of the reclining end after I push play on the DVD player. I just need to spend a little me time after the trauma of the last two days.
The doorbell rings.
So much for me time. Maybe I can ignore it. I’m in my favorite pj’s and answering the door dressed like this could be a bit embarrassing. Could be my new neighbor too. Oh, God, definitely embarrassing and so not gonna happen.
Answer the door, the voice in my head laughs.
Crap, not again. The panic starts to creep back in. Why did I have to start hearing voices now, after all this time? It’s not fair.
The doorbell rings again followed by a loud knock.
No way am I answering the door. It could be something I’m hearing in response to the voices. I’ve read about this. I’m not giving into the delusions. I refuse to be crazy.
“Bess, you home?”
Morgan? I jump up and when I get to the door, I look through the peephole and sure enough, Morgan is standing on my porch holding a pizza box.
I unlock the door and crack it open just a bit.
“Hey,” he grins at me, that perpetual laugh in his eyes. “I wanted to apologize for earlier and figured I’d bring pizza and some pop to make it up to you.”
I frown at him and listen hard for any sign of voices in my head, but they are silent. It’s only me and Morgan and…pizza. I can smell the divine aroma wafting from the box. My stomach growls and he laughs.
“So, can I come in or not?”
The pizza made up my mind for me. I stepped back and let him in. “Shoe’s off. You track up Emma’s floors and she’ll hide you.”
He put the box on the coffee table and set the two liter of Coke in the floor. “Plates?”
“I’ll get them.”
I snag two plates and two of Emma’s plastic oversized glasses we use on pizza nights and then went back to find Morgan propped in the middle section of the couch. He’s actually grinning at the phone conversation taking place on the screen.
“Here,” I hand him a plate and a glass before diving into the box. It has all my favorite toppings and my stomach growls again. Morgan is pouring drinks so I dump two slices on the plate he’s got balanced on his lap.
“What is this?” he nods towards the screen.
“Pillow Talk,” I say and then bite into the cheesy mess and sigh out loud.
“It’s funny,” he says around a mouthful of pizza.
I laugh at the obvious surprise in his voice. Most kids our age have never even heard of these old movies from the sixties. “It’s pretty old.”
“This is a nice place.” His eyes are transfixed to the PS3 and the mountain of games beside it. Dad, Jason, and I are all video game junkies. We have everything from Call of Duty to Rock Band.
“So you like old movies?”
“Not all of them. This one is from my mom’s collection. I grew up watching a lot of the old Dorris Day movies. Weird, I know.”
“Nah, not weird, just different. Your parents not home?”
“Dad’s out for the night.”
“And your mom?”
I sigh. I hate it when people ask me about my mother. It’s a touchy subject.
“My mom left us a long time ago.”
“No worries, I got over it.”
“You don’t sound over it, Bess.” His eyes are full of concern and questions. “What happened?”
My eyes close and I try to find the words to tell him to bugger off. He did bring me pizza and I don’t want to be a jerk, but I don’t really know him well enough to tell him about my mom.
“My mom and dad died when I was six,” he tells me suddenly. My eyes snap open and turn back to him. “They were in a plane crash. My grandpa raised me.”
“No worries,” he winked at me. “I’m okay. My granddad made sure I was loved and it’s not so bad anymore. I still miss them, though. I was only six when they died, but I remember them. It helps to talk about it. Promise.”
“That’s what everyone always said, just talk about it, it’ll get better.” Even to me, I sound bitter. It isn’t as simple as telling him about my mom. My mom leaving is what screwed me up. It broke something inside that I’m not sure can ever be fixed. I hate her.
Morgan tucked his feet under him and waited.
Honeysuckle surrounds me. The faint scent of dirt, leaves, and the musty smell of the forest invade my senses and I relax. Morgan has such a calming effect on me. It’s bizarre, bur I find myself curling up on the couch and nodding. I want to tell him about my mom, about me, about everything. I need to.
“I call it The Event, but to be honest I don’t remember much about it.” My eyes drift close and I let myself go back there, to that day and I start to tell him about it. “I’d just turned seven a few days before. I had on my brand new blue sundress and my white sandals. Mama had just taken me to get my hair cut. I remember hating long hair back then. We’d stopped in the park and I was playing on the swing. The sun was bright, but it wasn’t hot. It wasn’t even noon yet, so it felt really nice out. The birds were singing and I could hear the wind in the trees. My favorite thing about the park was the swings. I loved them and I made Mama push me. She laughed every time I squealed when I went too high, but I loved to go higher and higher. It never scared me, I could fly. One minute I was up in the air and the next is just a jumbled mess of images and sounds.”
I shudder at the memory, but I’m not terrified like I normally am. Something’s different this time. “Dad said a bunch of wild dogs attacked us and that I fell and hit my head when Mom and I were running, but I’m not sure I believe him. I didn’t see what attacked us, or at least I don’t think I did, but somehow, I just get the impression they were bigger than dogs, maybe not even dogs at all. I can still see images of snapping, snarling teeth and I can almost hear something, but I don’t know what.”
“You hit your head?”
I nodded. I’d had a goose egg the size of a baseball. It’d hurt like the devil. “Yeah, I did.”
“And your mom left the next day?”
“I hate her.” The words pop out, but they are true.
Again, Morgan just waited patiently for me to continue. He didn’t push or prod, just sat there, sipping his pop and waiting.
“I remember the day she left. It’s a little odd I can remember that, but not what happened in the park,” I sigh with old frustration. “She put her bags in the car and kissed us all good-bye like she was going on a trip. Jason stood stone-faced and Dad worked hard to keep a smile plastered on his face for us. I cried and begged my mom to take me with her, not to leave me. I remember running after the car as it pulled away until I fell down so hard I bloodied both knees, all the while screaming for her to come back. It was my brother who picked me up and brushed the dirt off my clothes. He told me not to cry anymore, that he loved me and would never leave me. I’d always have him and no one could ever take that away from us.”
Morgan’s hand found mine as a tear slipped free. I haven’t cried over my mom in ten years. I’m more than a little shocked.
“I never really recovered,” I told him. “Something broke inside that day and it’s been broken since. I guess I just shut down. I stopped talking and my friends left when I wouldn’t play with them anymore. I’ve had nightmares since then too. Really awful nightmares. The doctors diagnosed me with Night Terrors. I started to feel afraid all the time, even when I knew there was nothing to be afraid of. I couldn’t sleep and by the time I hit junior high, you could say I was a real basket case.”
“I’ll bet Janna didn’t help.”
I laugh bitterly. “She’s the reason I was in Compton Academy.”
“The private school you went to?”
His blue eyes are so warm, so kind. They sucker me into confessing it all.
“The mental institute rumors aren’t too far off base,” I sigh. “Janna found out I was seeing a shrink and I walked up on her telling everyone just that and I snapped. I wanted to hurt her, Morgan. Physically hurt her. The images from the park flooded back to me and I could feel myself reaching out to grab her. I scared myself and ran to keep from putting my hands around her neck. My nightmares were all I could see. Next thing I remember, I woke up in the hospital. Compton Academy was my shrink’s idea. It was a school that helped the mentally unstable.”
“So you were in the loony bin.”
“It was a real school,” I sigh. “We had all the normal classes a regular school would have, but we also had therapy and we spent every moment there being watched, poked, and prodded. I hated it, but I stayed because I knew I needed help.”
“So, you’re better now?”
“God, I hope so,” I mutter. The voices in my head has me doubting that.
He smiles at me. “You are better, Bess, you’re just worrying too much. It’s time to loosen up a bit and have some fun.”
“It doesn’t bother you I really have been in a mental institute or that I could still be just as crazy as I was then?”
“Nope,” he grins. “Speaking of fun, think we can turn off the movie and power up that PS3?”
“Sure.” He flew to the cabinet housing the games and is drooling by the time I turn the TV to the right input channel. He’s pulled out all the shooter games, my personal favorites. He’s like a kid on Christmas. I’m awed by the fact that I’ve told him most of my secrets and he’s still here. He’s not running away. He throws me a handle and before I know it, we are laughing. He didn’t mention my mom again.
Maybe I do have a shot at normal.