*Not much commentary today. Just writing 😉 So, anyway the following chapter wasn’t part of my original outline or idea, but I felt like the relationship between Lori and her sister needed to be explored at least a little. So here we go. As always this chapter is unedited or corrected, and exists here exactly as I wrote it. Hope you enjoy 🙂
Time Of Our Death
By Paul D Aronson
Murray Valley Middle School was just a few miles down the road. The town fathers had thought it out and put all three schools on the same stretch in an effort to ensure all the kids were at the other side of town while mothers and fathers cheated on each other at the library and other public places. This of course is not the truth, but it’s the way Lori put it as we made our way to find her little sister.
We didn’t take the road but instead went through the woods that ran behind the schools. On the high school end, this was where students went when they were skipping class. It wasn’t unusual to come across empty beer cans, discarded cigarette butts, and the odd article of clothing. The only students we saw however were two boys smoking a joint and laughing at a tree that they thought was shaped like a penis. Thankfully I didn’t know them, but we all laughed when we passed by them. Lori was tempted to take the joint right out of their hands, but she fought it and let them have their goofy brand of fun. Brian however was still in his prankster mood and he grabbed the tree they were discussing and shook it hard. Leaves rustled and branches swayed. A bird nest fell out of it. The two stoners looked at it dumbfounded. “Oh wow man. Did you see that?” We laughed even harder.
After that though, our merry band calmed down a little. Going into the Middle School would be different. “Please, no food fights,” I said. “We’re just coming to check on Dawn, ok?” The way I looked at it, the high school had been our peers, kids our own age. At the Middle School they were younger and not ready for our kind of antics. That would come soon enough when they moved up. Until then, school was their safe haven. Here nothing bad could touch them. I’m sure they had their own bullies and stuff, but thankfully none of these kids had to deal with the sharper edge of growing up. When I was in middle school, it was smooth sailing, but when I moved up to high school it was nothing but rough waters.
We entered through the back. It was a completely different atmosphere. No one was in the halls, and as we passed by the principal’s office no one was waiting to be seen. In some of the classes, there were disruptions and loud talking, but nothing like being in high school. I asked Lori if she knew where her sister’s classes were, and she just nodded. After taking a peek through several windows however, she declared, “I don’t think she’s here.”
“Maybe she’s at lunch or the library,” I suggested.
A quick scan of the cafeteria didn’t reveal her, and much to Brian’s disappointment, we headed on to the library. The Middle School version of the library wasn’t that quiet. Just a few kids seemed to be there, but they were talking amongst themselves, and their voices carried. I couldn’t help but overhear part of their conversation. The father of one of them was on the rescue squad and they were trying to drag the river for bodies today.
“That is so cool, “ said one boy.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to see no dead bodies,“ confessed another. “What if you saw your brother or sister or something?”
“Aw man, yeah that would be gross.”
We moved on through the library. There wasn’t a quiet room like there had been at the public branch, but there was a small corner with several tables and chairs, over which hung a sign that read: QUIET. STUDY AREA.
At one of these tables sat Dawn O’Donnell. If I thought she was going to be a miniature version of Lori, I was wrong. Unless you thought of Lori as a baptist missionary from the 1950’s. The twelve year old wore a long pleated skirt that covered most of her legs, a white blouse, and blue blazer jacket. She looked like she had missed the bus to Catholic School. My mom would have looked at her and said, “now there’s a young lady who dresses properly.”
She had dark hair like Lori, but it was very long and tied back in a pony tail. Her dark eyes were half hidden by silver framed eyeglasses, and though she didn’t wear Lori’s goth eyeliner, she did have on light makeup, just enough to cover up the bare beginnings of acne. If she were at the senior high, she would probably be lumped in with the nerd girls, that group who always had the best grades and their noses stuck in books. These were generally pretty girls, just more intent on school work than boys. Seeing the choice of boys at Murray High, I couldn’t quite blame them though.
Dawn was hunched over the table by herself, scribbling in a ruled notebook. No other books were open before her, so we knew right away she wasn’t studying. A closer look at the paper revealed perhaps she wasn’t the dutiful student I had first imagined. No, she was distracted, distraught, and very troubled. Across the paper, she had written a letter to someone, maybe God, perhaps herself, or another friend or teacher she trusted with her thoughts.
“I don’t know if I can live without Lori,” she had scrawled. “I just can’t do this.” We all saw it, but the rest of us stepped back and tried to look elsewhere. This wasn’t meant for us. It wasn’t even meant for her big sister to see, but here she was, standing over her. “We fight all the time, but I love her more than anything. She is my rope.” I glanced down at the paper. I couldn’t help it. The last line was a chiller. “I think I’ll hang myself.”
I looked up, trying to determine where the librarian was at. I didn’t want her to see this. They’d lock up Dawn really fast. I walked across the room, far away enough that it would keep the librarian out of sight, and knocked some books off the shelf. The noise brought the woman over, and satisfied that she was occupied, I returned to Lori and Dawn. The others saw what I had done and proceeded to go to other points in the library to do the same.
Lori was crying. “I’m okay, Dawn. You please be okay, too. I’m sorry we didn’t get along all the time. It’s not that I didn’t love you, I was just …I don’t know. Please, I’m sorry. You have to live, okay? Live for me, please.”
The little girl didn’t hear her, of course. She would never hear her sister again, and this nearly made me cry myself. I never had siblings. I didn’t know what it was like. But it was tearing me up just the same. Part of me wanted to drag Lori away from this scene. First her mother’s infidelity, and now here was her sister talking suicide. “Lori,” I whispered.
“Leave me alone, “ she replied, and a tear fell from her cheek and hit the page in front of her sister. I didn’t think anything of it at first, but then I realized Dawn had seen it. She slid her chair back and looked up. I guess she thought moisture had fallen from the ceiling above her head.
Lori looked at me. “Chris, my tear…” she began.
“Lori?” Dawn was now standing looking around. I couldn’t tell if she had heard her sister, but she definitely felt the presence of something. Maybe some siblings were like this, both so in tune with each other they knew when the other was around. “Lori, are you here? You can’t be here.”
“Yes I can, “ Lori replied, her voice choking under her sorrow. “I’m right here. I’m with you. Beside you.”
She stepped up close to the girl, reaching out to touch her. I braced myself for the screaming, but it never came. Lori touched her, not passing through her, but making real physical contact. I could see the indention of her fingers as they lightly touched the Dawn’s shoulder. It didn’t spook her, but instead she collapsed back into the chair crying.
“It’s not you, “ she sobbed. “I know it’s not you..” She lay her head down on the desk and let her tears run onto the notebook. “I’m crazy.”
I turned to the voice. I guess I should have known you can’t distract people forever. The librarian had seen Dawn and was coming over.
“Could you come over here a moment and help me?” She asked. It was apparent she knew something was wrong. The tears on Dawn’s face gave it away.
“Sure,“ she said, and got up to walk over. The lady put her arm around the girl. “I could use some help putting some books up?”
Dawn nodded her assent and followed her. Lori looked down at the notebook and picked up her sister’s pen. She scrawled something across the page in a shaky script, and set the pen back down. “Get me out of here, “ she said, as she brushed through me. I looked down at the page. NOT CRAZY. LOVED.
We all reconvened outside the library. Lori was doing her best to compose herself. I felt so bad for her. It seemed she had been hit the hardest emotionally through all this. I looked at the others. Donald had experienced grief over seeing his mom all tore up, but for Brian, Kelly, and myself, we were virtually unscathed. Of course, my parents hadn’t been home, and we hadn’t gone to check on the other families, but Lori’s experience must have struck a chord.
“I need to go home,” Brian said. We all looked at him. He had painted a picture earlier that his dad didn’t really care, or even matter. “I need to tell him something, too.”
“Okay. You want company?” I couldn’t believe I even offered, but maybe I felt that some things are best shared in the presence of others. Still, in true form, when he answered, it was the same old Brian.
“What for? I ain’t no baby. You ain’t got to hold my hand.”
“I was just asking.”
“I don’t need you guys. I never did before. I’m tired of all this weepy weep crap. I’m going home, then I’m going to the arcade and playing Galaga all night long.”
I didn’t know what had happened, but Brian was clearly affected by Lori and her sister, and their not so perfect relationship. Maybe Dawn’s admission of their fighting made him think of his dad, I don’t know. Either way, he and Kelly left us again. We watched as they walked down the road. When a car passed by they hopped on the back bumper and were soon out of sight. We were back down to three with no idea of what to do next. Thunder rumbled overhead, and the rain came down again , heavy and hard. I thought of the rescuers down at the river. I hoped they hadn’t found the bus yet, but looking at Lori, something on her face said she wished they had.
“I got to get out of this rain before I catch a cold,” Donald said.
We both looked at him and laughed. I could almost imagine a ghost walking around sneezing his head off and looking for a tissue. The three of us headed in the opposite direction Brian and Kelly had taken.
“Hey, you guys want to catch a movie?” Don asked.