Chapter Four: In Summer’s Room
Summer was sitting on the floor in the corner, her arms wrapped around her knees. She looked up as I came into the room. Her eyes were so sad; I knew she was having a hard time just being in such a personal place. It’s often this way for the dead. They walk into a room that once held pleasant memories and they lose it. Summer hadn’t lost it just yet, but I imagined at any minute she would either explode in anger or wail in anguish. I had to get her out of there. “It may not be a good thing for you to be here like this,” I said to her. “Why don’t you go wait outside?”
She didn’t argue. The features on her face were frozen as if she didn’t know what to feel. She got up, straightened her dress, and walked through the wall.
I waited a moment, and then proceeded to go around the room, trying to get a feel for who this girl had been. She wasn’t your typical college student it seemed. There were no school colors on display, no pendants from the university emblazoned with the team name. Even if she had lived on campus and hadn’t lived at home since she was a teenager, there was still no evidence of her being typical in that sense either. There were no posters of fave celebrities on her wall, no manga style doodles or photographs of her or her friends, no mementoes from school or vacation spots she may have visited in her short life. There was always a chance her parents had already gotten rid of such things, but something told me Summer wasn’t your average girl. Something was troubling me. It was as if this room had no personality at all.
I began to open up her dresser drawers. The clothes seemed to be stacked in there too neatly. They looked brand new, as if they had never been worn. I looked under the articles of clothing, trying to find anything she may have hidden there. A diary, a photo, anything to tell me she resembled a real live girl at one time. But there was nothing.
“We cleaned up a little,” Mrs. Dennings said from behind me.
“So soon?” I questioned with a raise of the eyebrow.
A sad look came over her face. “Our Summer hasn’t lived here in some time.”
“No, she dropped out of college. After three years just up and quit. Came home as if it was just spring break. Then she ran off about three months ago. Later we found out she was living with Jeff.”
“Her brother Jeff?”
“Yes. We tried to get her to come home but she wouldn’t. She turned twenty two last week, so what can a parent do? She’s an adult now.” She frowned. “Or at least she was.”
I nodded. “Do you have Jeff’s address? I think I’d like to talk to him.”
“Yes, sure. I’ll go get it for you.” She walked out without another word. She almost looked like a woman defeated by her own inner demons.
I walked to a desk in one corner of the room. Mounted on top of it was a huge vanity mirror. I ran my fingers around the back edges and they brushed something taped there. I pulled it free. It was a photo, marked with the remnants of cellophane tape, as if it had once hung on a wall or two, and then taken down repeatedly. A young brunette in tight jeans and a My Chemical Romance t-shirt smiled at the camera. Her dark eyes held a mischievous knowing look. It wasn’t Summer.
When Mrs. Dennings came back with her son’s address, I asked her about it. “Who is this?”
She nearly jumped away from me as if I held a dagger ready to stab her in the heart. “Where did you get that?” she cried.
“It was behind the mirror. Care to tell me why she would have it hidden there?”
“That’s Carla,” she nearly spat, taking the picture from me. She tore it neatly in half and tossed it in the trash.
“I think you should leave now, Mr. Winter.”
I stood there for a moment, just looking at her, hoping she would relent and tell me who this Carla was. Absently, I began to open up the drawers of the desk and peering inside. I opened the top one. It was full of pictures, some in frames and some not. They were all turned upside down so you couldn’t see what they were photographs of. I reached for one of them, but Mrs. Dennings nearly slammed the drawer on my fingers.
“I said you should go.”
“Okay,” I nodded and turned to leave. But then I stopped in the bedroom doorway. “You might as well tell me. I’m going to find out anyway.”
She didn’t say anything; just looked at me with a baleful look in her eye. I knew it was time to go; she didn’t have to tell me again. “Suit yourself,” I said.
I stood outside on the front lawn, looking back at the Denning’s house. Something told me this was one messed up family. There was some dark secret in that house somewhere. Something to do with this Carla girl. I had to find out who she was. I had to find out why Summer had dropped out and run away. I looked at the address Mrs. Dennings had given me. Jeff’s house was all the way on the other side of town and it was getting late. I didn’t want to deal with this anymore tonight. I wanted to go home and get some sleep, maybe give me some time to think.
Still looking at the house, I saw a curtain move in the front bay window. I knew someone was watching me. I looked around for any sign of Summer, but she was gone. Who knew where she’d run off to? Oh well, she knew where my office was. I’m sure she’d be back in the morning. Maybe she just needed some time to herself, too.
I walked to the curb, and looked up and down the street. Dummy me had sent the cab on, so I walked down the sidewalk preparing myself for the long walk home. I had gone about three blocks when her ghost caught up with me.
“I didn’t think it would be so hard to be in that room,” Summer said, coming up alongside me.
I glanced over at her. “Sometimes familiar places can be healing, but other times they can cause a great deal of pain.”
“I wish I knew why it was painful,” she lamented. “It’s like I have a memory but can’t quite reach it.”
“We’ll get to it eventually,” I told her. We walked a little further before I asked her what was on my mind. “Does the name Carla sound familiar to you?”
“No. Should it?”
I didn’t know how much to tell her, so I just came out with it. “I found a photo in your room, behind the mirror. Brunette, jeans, My Chemical Romance shirt. Dark eyes, your age. Ring any bells?”
She shook her head. “No, I’m afraid it doesn’t.”
“Maybe you had a sister, a favorite cousin, a best friend,” I suggested. “Perhaps someone your mom didn’t like.”
She shrugged. “Could be, but I can’t remember anyone named Carla. Would I remember a name if they were important? Even vaguely?”
“Well, maybe, maybe not. Depends upon how you died. The trauma could be so great it embeds everything in shadow.”
“So, the worse a person’s death, the more memories they lose?”
“Something like that, yeah. It really depends on the person, too. I once knew someone who died but retained every memory there was. That was a rare case. In that instance, they thrived on memories good and bad in life anyway. But if you didn’t put much stock in memories when you were alive, you most likely won’t retain them in death either.”
“It’s all strange to me, Mr. Winter. I feel like I’m trapped in someone else’s life because nothing much seems familiar. I mean, I knew those were my parents back there, but I didn’t feel anything about them, good or bad. They were like strangers I’d never seen. Is the erasing of memories so deep that I wouldn’t feel a single thing for people I knew were my family?”
“I don’t know. I would think the family tie would be so strong they’d be the last memories to go…unless…”
“Unless the family tie wasn’t strong at all. Or if all the memories in that house were bad ones. Your soul might dump the bad memories quicker than usual.”
“Do you think I had a bad home life?”
I looked over at her. “Summer, I don’t know much about your life at all. But I am leaning towards thinking your family life may not have been the happy one your parents pretend it to be. I don’t think you were your average girl.”
She nodded, as if she was just letting it all sink in. “So what do we do next?”
“Next for me is going home and getting some sleep,” I replied.
“What about me? Where I am I supposed to go?”
“Well, it would be ideal if you could have stayed at your house, but I think that would be too uncomfortable for you.”
“Can I come home with you?”
“No!” I shouted. There was no way I could let her stay there. I was a grown man. She was a college kid. Not only that, but she was dead. I didn’t want to get attached to this girl. My job was trying to find out what happened to her so I could get rid of her. Send her on her way. “You can’t stay at my house. I’m sorry.”
“Because..well..You just can’t. I like to spend my time alone. I don’t bring my work home with me.”
“Oh,” she replied, a little crestfallen it seemed. “Your work, huh?” I don’t think she liked that reference. “Okay, well I’ll find someplace to go. Maybe I’ll just wander around until morning. Meet you at your office?”
“Yeah, that would be fine. About 10 o’clock.”
“Okay. See you then.” She gave me a little flip of the hand, waving goodbye. I didn’t know where she was going to, but that wasn’t my problem. I’m here to help spirits to the next plane, not babysit them on this one.
I watched her go until she rounded a corner and was out of sight. I walked another block and managed to hail a cab home. It had been a long day; I was looking forward to the downtime. But when I got to the house I realized that wasn’t going to happen.
The door was open a crack, the main lights were on. I had a visitor…
“Advocate For The Dead ” 2017 Paul D Aronson.