Despite everything currently happening to me, I kept dwelling on how I ended up in my current predicament and floating mentally back to my somewhat troubled past. I'd been popping in and out of places easily without any troubles for so long that I'd never thought that could change. I assured myself with the fact that I'd found myself in such a convoluted mess had naturally taken me back to my chaotic past and how things had so dramatically unfolded for me. I didn't want to sound like I was whining but it really wasn't good. During my formative years I'd had some totally majorly nasty life-altering changes that happened while I was only in high school. Mentally I kept going back again and again to my past since I hadn't still figured out how to get out of my current little problem.
I knew in my heart that I pretty much could trace it all back to the night I'd buried my adoptive parents as the beginning of my soon-to-be ever changing life. I mean who was I kidding? After they'd died suddenly in a horrible auto accident a few days prior -- the engine block of the family Buick crushing through them, I'd been horrified but not seriously injured. A drunk driver had plowed into us and caused a major chain reaction hurting and killing folks. The night of the burial, I remembered how I was still sore from tumbling around with my folks as their car was careening around the highway crashing and smashing into others. It was a massive interstate pile up and driver who'd caused it had survived with nary a scratch from what I'd seen. After the impromptu wake held at my home I'd cleaned up and flipped on the TV to relax. What I'd seen on the news hadn't let me relax but instead began the chain of events that pretty much helped me end up in my current mishap. Sighing, I let my thoughts drift back to that night from my childhood.
The arrival of the local news crews was what followed immediately after the house phone started ringing off the hook. The answering machine filtered the calls with tensely worded exclusive offers, said in hushed and somewhat pleading tones, for me to sob about my life for the voyeurs in the world to trash-talk about me and my parents while they were comfortably ensconced in their recliners while munching on whatever snack food was currently on sale at the store. The pleas were for me to call them immediately and share how my life had changed so tragically with the news of Mr. Fletcher's release and claims of innocence. Add in that quickly the front of my home was being lit up like Christmas with all the bright strong lights from the various news stations filming.
That the various men and women in their pretty suits and ties were standing unasked on my front lawn or using the doorstep to pose the against the closed door, jabbering towards the lens of their stations' camera, was making me more and more nervous. I felt like someone was going to try to break inside to get an exclusive interview despite the locks. I let the answering machine catch the calls that had been coming in unasked for the past twenty or thirty minutes. Just thinking about it seemed to summon up another phone call. I heard the trilling of the phone and I ignored it again, letting the answering machine tape the call. I wasn't sure how many more calls could be recorded on the machine and didn't much care.
"Hello? Is this the home of Miss Esmeralda Meredith? Hello, you there, sweetie? Pick up the phone. We really need to talk." I felt a chill run up my spine. I had no clue who was the whispering voice that was on the other side of the phone. The voice was pitched low and hissing. It wasn't normal. I was pretty sure it was a man but then there was that one teacher at school that sounded like a man and was a rather lumpy woman who insisted that we all call her 'Miz Grayson.' Heavy on the 'miz' part and she taught physical education with a lot of screaming. Shrugging off the visual I tuned back into the voice on the other end of the line.
"What a pretty, pretty girl you turned out to be. Now just pick up the phone." There was a strong impulse oddly running through me to go over and pick up the trilling phone. I watched yet another set of lights illuminate my living room through the blinds and shook my head at the notion. Why would I want to talk to some newscaster? But my thoughts twisted around with the weird idea that the owner of the voice wasn't some TV personality, but a person who somehow knew me.
A heavy sigh came through the phone then I heard the voice say, "Fine, you just be that way, precious. I'll get hold of you later. That I can promise." With that the call ended. Now the chills were running up and down my body without stopping. A fissure of fear kept tearing through me. I wanted my parents to be near by in a way I hadn't in all my remembered years. What kept chasing though my mind was that tomorrow was my sixteenth birthday and I was alone -- utterly alone. I rubbed my arms and tried to ignore the edgy feelings running through me.
The lawyer-cop show that had been on the television ended and I didn't notice at first because I was vapidly staring with unseeing eyes at the flickering colors dancing across the screen. I truly didn't know what to do. It wasn't like I was going to go outside any time soon -- that was obvious from the still bright lights shining into the family room -- and once I thought about it I knew that I didn't really have anyone to call to come pick me up. My various school friends were fine for the eight am to three pm shift but I didn't actually connect with any of them beyond the basic high school drama and trauma stuff that came with the teenage territory. My folks had owned a rather large home further away than where the rest of my classmates had grown up, and there weren't many people with kids my age in the older, somewhat sedate community. During the holidays the neighborhood filled with families and grandkids. As it was most of the kids wandering around the neighborhood were well under the age of five at best. Great for my babysitting jobs but lousy for finding friends. I didn't have some best friend living the next street over to commiserate with me or much less console me.
I was depressing myself with my own wasted thoughts. I turned the television off in the living room and headed for the corridor that went to my bedroom without turning on any of the lights. It wasn't like I was going to get lost in my own home and I didn't want some cameraman tapping on the pane of my bedroom window asking to be let inside to get a take on my 'feelings'. I was feeling raw and broken, but not stupid. The one living room light I'd left on by the entryway could stay on all night and keep the reporters busy filming the front of the house. As I passed the kitchen I stopped and disconnected the line to the phone in there. I did the same for the phone at the end of the hallway near my bedroom. The phone rang in the living room but it was far enough away that I couldn't hear it with my door shut.
I wasn't like most of my classmates. I knew perfectly well that the average set of teenage parents didn't give their children their own cable-hooked televisions for their bedrooms. My folks had said that because I'd always had good grades they couldn't see any reason that I should be stuck in the living room watching their shows when they knew that there were far more entertaining shows that were aired for my age group. I also didn't tell my friends at school because it wasn't like they ever wanted to come visit, and I wasn't much for bragging. I bit a sob back at the consideration my parents had shown me. All of that was suddenly gone.
I wondered what would have happened the night of my parents' funeral if I'd gone back with Father Mike to some foster home instead of returning to my home after the horrific double funeral, which I later found out, had been filmed for the news. What would have happened to me? Would my life have gone down the path I'd traveled or would I never have had the life I lived? I couldn't help but ponder about that long ago night from inside the earthen hole in which I was currently seemingly stuck. As if the only thing I had to do was puzzle out my life and the choices I made. One tempting thought was what exactly would happen if I popped out and nothing went wrong? But in my heart I doubted it would be my normal popping in and out from the damn dirty hole deep inside the womb of the world -- I knew it instinctively and I didn't truly have a way of explaining how I knew. It was the first time in my life I was frozen in place. Nothing about the past few weeks had been normal in any way. I kept returning to the night my life had changed.
Once I was back in my bedroom I carefully wedged my fingertips in between the slats of the mini-blinds and slowly peaked through them from the safety of my still dark room. I didn't see anyone in the backyard with a camera much less a reporter fluffing their hair and checking their makeup. To my surprise I'd seen both women and men touching up their makeup outside earlier when I had peeked out from the front door. I hadn't considered that the men on TV wore makeup before then, but after thinking about it I felt stupid for not knowing that. The news crews hadn't set up shop in the backyard from what I could see. There wasn't much moonlight so I watched for a few minutes until my eyes adjusted to the little bits of light coming from nearby homes and the stars and as best I could I carefully studied the shadows.
Our neighbor's cat, Miss Petunia, chased something small and quick from over in their backyard and halfway into ours right below me as I was looking to see if any reporters had ventured into the yard. The tall grass reminded me of yet another task I was going to have to deal with very soon, how exactly to mow the front and back lawns or if I needed to find a gardener. My father had always taken care of the gardening and the mowing every week or so depending on the rain. My stomach dropped at the idea of interviewing strange men about how they cut grass for a living. I shook my head and watched the drama playing out beneath me. Petunia just then pounced on the tiny furry something with feline quickness directly under my window. The cat raised her head and I saw a small mouse squirming from the tightly clenched jaws of the fluffy Petunia. The dark mouse was twitching and probably squeaking. She then tossed the rodent up once more and then crunched down on the little body as it passed in front of her whiskered face.
I could see by then that the mouse was dead and dark spatters covered my neighbor's tan and white cat's mouth and chest rather thoroughly. Petunia tossed the now lifeless body up and down catching it with her sharp teeth while shaking her head furiously trying to get life to return to the corpse quite unsuccessfully. Then finally she flung the mouse up into the air once more and walked off ignoring the mouse's limp body as it thumped back to the matted grass -- Petunia was no longer entertained with the task. The predator didn't even look back at the prey's body that was rather thoughtlessly abandoned. Watching the slice of my backyard nightlife unleashed something inside me I didn't have the words to explain.