A/N: I realize that it's been forever since I've posted anything new, so I suppose half of why I decided to upload my novel is to let people know that, yes, I still exist. The following story is going to be a bit rough, since it's my challenge for NaNoWriMo, meaning it's a very raw copy with probably several mistakes. So bear with me for right now, because it's definitely a work in progress. And please give me your opinions!
I couldn't really tell you why, or how, but tonight I found myself wandering down alone, and in the dark, no less, along a road with very few streetlights. I had no where in particular to be - in fact, I probably should have been back home, since it was no doubt past my curfew. But still, I kept walking, no destination in mind, and no thoughts in my head.
I knew this road well, that was certain. I had lived in this small Michigan town my entire life, and traveled them with my family often. But that didn't explain why I was here now, by myself. There were no cars out on the road, and the streetlights were far and few in between, making the entire atmosphere kind of eerie, almost creepy-like.
The good thing was that summer nights in Michigan were nice and warm, so my shorts and hoodie were more than enough to suffice. I was actually kind of lonely, and it would have been nice to have some company along my random journey. There was something about this road in particular though, almost like a sad memory was etched into the ground.
And then I suddenly saw two beams of light from far up ahead, growing steadily fast, and I realized soon enough that it was a car. A car speeding in my direction. Definitely not the kind of company I had been talking about, that's for sure. I picked up my pace, getting as far away from the pavement as I could, but that car was hauling towards me so fast I barely had time to think, let alone get out of the way.
The space between the car and myself was suddenly so minimal that I was able to see who was in the driver's seat, and the familiar face made me stop short - it was my older sister, Morgan.
I shot straight up in my bed, covering in a cold, damp sweat, and panting heavily. Dammit. It had happened again. It was the third time just this past week that I'd had this dream, and it was starting to get old. I ran shaky fingers through my hair, which was now a tangled mess, and took a peek at my alarm clock. 3:32 AM, around the same time I always jolted awake whenever this dream decided to haunt me.
I knew this routine well - now that I had finally woken, I would lay in bed for hours afterward, playing and replaying the scene that had unfolded in my mind. I'd lost track of the number of times this had gone on since the accident a few weeks ago. The sad expression on my sister's face once I saw her in the driver's seat was always what struck me hardest. Knowing what her fate was, knowing I couldn't save her, knowing that when I came back to reality, I wouldn't be able to creep down the hallway to Morgan's room to make sure she was safe and sound in her bed. That stupid nightmare was the entirety of my summer vacation thus far, and I couldn't escape it, no matter how hard I tried.
I finally dragged myself back out of bed several hours later, probably around one or two. And that was only because I had to pee like you wouldn't believe. I didn't get out of bed much these days, if at all. Staying cocooned between my sheets was like my shield from the world. It protected me from the endless supply of sympathy casseroles lined up in the fridge, waiting to be eaten. It concealed the vacant air that surrounded my parents, now less one child.
But for some reason, this morning I decided to venture downstairs, rather than crawl back into my hole of a bed and draw the blinds shut for the rest of the day. I wasn't surprised when I found my parents in the kitchen, my mother sitting at the table by the window, a cup of coffee sitting in front of her, probably cold and untouched, and my father sitting across from her, holding the daily newspaper in front of him. He wasn't fooling me, though; I knew he wasn't reading it, rather than just scanning over the pages, not really absorbing anything. Neither of them did these days.
"Good morning," I said hesitantly. They both looked up, but only to acknowledge me. Never to say anything back. I was lucky if they did.
And then I noticed the date on the calendar that was tacked on to the kitchen wall. There was about a two weeks, give or take, left until the beginning of my senior year. Had the summer really gone by that fast? The weeks that had passed so far were nothing but a blur, all blending in together to make one giant blob. I blinked, different scenes working their way through my head - the cops coming to the house that night, being the bearers of bad news. Endless evenings in the hospital, waiting for my sister to get better but knowing that she wouldn't wake up. Getting the final call at 4 AM to let my parents know that they had lost their first born during the night. It was all there.
And here we were now. My parents were empty shells, wandering about the house day by day with no purpose, and I was about to start what was supposed to essentially be the most important year of my teenage life. And yet, it didn't mean a damn thing to me, knowing that my sister wasn't here.
At that moment, I knew that I couldn't do what I had been doing up until this point. Sleeping my life away wasn't getting me anywhere. For weeks, I had isolated myself from both my best friend and my boyfriend, and quite frankly, I was tired of being alone. But before I started to fix that, there was somewhere I had to go.
An hour and a half later, I was freshly showered and out on my bike, headed for the cemetery about two miles from my house. It prickled under my skin a bit that my parents didn't take the time to ask where I was going before I headed out the door, but what had I really been expecting from them?
Anyway, I hadn't gone to visit my sister since the day she was buried, and the guilt from that was only beginning to set in. I figured I owed it to her, especially because my parents didn't like to leave the house if they could help it.
When I finally arrived, I set my bike against the willow tree near the front of the graveyard, and trekked through the grass with careful footsteps, leading up to where my sister was. I sat down tenderly, running my fingers over the smooth marble that labeled my where my sister's body had been laid to rest. Morgan Nicole Darnell. May 23, 1992 - July 15, 2011. Cherished Daughter, Loving Sister. God Bless.
"Loving sister?" I muttered, chuckling a bit. "Whoever engraved this must not have been there for all the hair pulling and screaming."
I saw a figure out of the corner of my eye, and I glanced upward, noticing a guy around my age on the opposite side of the cemetery, heading towards a loved one's gravestone. He was too far for me to determine whether I knew him or not. I was a bit unnerved that I wasn't the only visitor here; I was on edge about being with my sister for the first time since the burial as it was. I kind of wanted to be alone while I did it. It kind of made me wonder who he was visiting here; it also gave me a sense of comfort, knowing that I wasn't the only person who had lost someone close to me.
I stayed with my sister for a while more, at least an hour or two, rambling on about senseless junk. I felt awkward at first, feeling like I was talking to the air or even to myself. But a part of me knew better. That part knew that Morgan was right there with me, sitting next to me even though I may not have been able to see her, listening to every word I whispered to her.
That first awkward visit with my sister turned into a daily routine for me. The next couple of mornings after that, I was able to pick myself up out of bed without feeling like I wanted to dive straight back into it. I actually felt like I had a purpose, something to do. I tried to go around the same time each day, almost as if my sister and I had a prearranged appointment that I couldn't miss. And every time I went there, I saw the same boy from before, perhaps just as lonely as I was.
I got back home one particularly sunny and warm day after visiting my sister and decided that being productive with my day shouldn't end with my time spent with Morgan. I had isolated myself from the world far long enough, and it was time to let them know that, yes, I was still alive.
I wanted to start with Spencer first - after almost two years of dating, he had become one of the most important people in my life. He had been the first person I called all those weeks ago when my parents and I had gotten the news about my sister, and despite it being the middle of the night, he had picked up the phone without hesitation, ready to be at my side if needed. And so he was, dutifully holding my hand during the memorial service that was held for her, and being my main support system at the burial, when I couldn't take it anymore and everything had finally hit me and I just completely broke down crying, even though I had sworn to myself that I wouldn't let it get to me, not while everyone else was still there.
But the weeks following the funeral, I had gradually shut myself off from everyone else. I stayed off Facebook, where my page had been littered with various sympathy posts, from both friends and strangers alike, and ignored the endless phone calls from both Spencer and my best friend, Laura, who both made it their mission to try and get me out of my house to "have some fun and get my mind off things". It hadn't been what I wanted at the time, but now I wanted the company more than ever.
I turned on my phone and sat on my bed while I waited for it to load up. I couldn't remember the last time I had touched that thing, honestly. I felt a smile prick its way across my mouth when I noticed that my lock screen was a picture of Spencer and I from the end of June. We were at the river down the road from his neighborhood, and the sun had just been starting to set. He was kissing my cheek, and it looked like my face was about to split because I was smiling so hard. Unbelievable how the old me, the one frozen in time in that photograph, had no idea that her whole life was about to be flipped upside down, and there was nothing she could do about it.
I wasn't surprised when an array of notifications started to pop up. There were various text messages, missed phone calls, a few voicemails. All of them asking how I was holding up since my sister died, and if my parents or I needed anything to please, don't hesitate and give them a call. I scrolled through my contacts until I found Spencer's name, adorned with a cheesy heart at the end of it, and pressed the button to call him. By the time it got to the fourth ring, I felt a wave of disappointment fall over me. I mean, I hadn't been expecting him to be sitting at home day after day waiting for me to call, but it would have been nice to hear his voice.
"Spence, it's me," I said timidly once an automated voice instructed me to leave a message after the tone. "I know we haven't talked in a while, but, uhm… I miss you. And I really want to see you. Call me back when you get this, okay? I, uhm. I love you. Bye."
I smacked myself in the forehead once I hung up the phone. How much more awkward could I be? This was Spencer, the guy I had spent almost two years with. There was no reason I should be feeling any type of nervous just to leave him a voicemail.
Maybe he was in the shower and just missed my call or something. Maybe he was listening to the voicemail I had left him, relieved to finally hear my voice and that I was okay. Maybe he was about to call me back right now, and we'd talk, and everything would be fine.
But he didn't.
After wasting an hour and a half sitting next to my phone and not doing a thing, I decided to call him back again. There was no way he hadn't gotten my call by now. What could he be doing? Wasn't he worried about me at all? His phone went to voicemail again when I called him back, and once more when I tried a third time. What the hell was going on? I sent four text messages after that, on the verge of practically pleading for him to get in touch with me.
Once evening hit, I was starting to get more angry than upset. He had been so worried about me when everything had initially happened, trying to constantly check up on me to see how I was feeling and if I needed anything. Now he couldn't even spare the time to answer a damn phone call? In a split second decision, I grabbed my car keys and stormed downstairs and out the front door. He obviously wasn't going to come to me, and if that was the case, then I'd just go to him. He couldn't ignore me if I was right outside his front door, right?
No less than ten minutes later, my car was parked in front of Spencer's house, but I couldn't bring myself to get out. Was there some reason for him to be avoiding me? My mind was spinning off in all sorts of different directions, conjuring up scenarios that could explain why he hadn't bothered to return my phone calls or texts. But I wasn't going to get any answers by just sitting here, so I gathered my thoughts and pushed myself out the car, taking timid footsteps up to his door.
I rang the doorbell before I could psyche myself out of it, and then played the waiting game for a few minutes, until his mother answered. She was usually always more than happy to see me, but it was understandable to see the wave of sympathy across her features as she enveloped me into a hug.
"Oh, hello, sweetie," she said softly, holding me back gently by the shoulders to get a good look at me. I felt almost awkward, like I was being examined. "How have you been, dear? We haven't heard from you in a while. Come in, come in."
"I've been…better," I answered honestly as she led me to the living room. "I've definitely been better. Thanks for asking."
We sat across from each other on opposite couches, and I wrung my hands together. Where was Spencer?
"Mr. Atwood and I just finished dinner not too long ago," his mother said, trying to make polite conversation. "Did you want me to get you anything to drink?"
I shook my head. "No, I'm fine. Thank you though."
"I'm going to get myself a glass of tea. I'll be back in a minute." She smiled at me, though it seemed kind of forced, and stood up to go to the kitchen.
Something was wrong. The conversation thus far had seemed almost rehearsed, almost as if she felt like she had to distract me from something. She and I both knew why I had come here tonight, but it was a matter she didn't want to bring up.
When she sat back down, resting a glass of iced tea on the coffee table in front of her, I didn't hesitate to speak.
"Mrs. Atwood, where's Spencer?"
She fidgeted, her mouth opening a few times, as if she was struggling to find the right words. Was she afraid about upsetting me over something?
"We meant to tell you about this sooner, but given everything that has happened this past summer, we held off," she said slowly.
"Held off on what?" I asked, panicking more and more by the second. Had something happened to him? No, no. I couldn't lose him, too. Spencer had to be fine, he just had to be.
"Spencer moved out a few weeks ago," she admitted at last. I was shocked that my jaw hadn't hit the floor. "I know it was sudden, but he told us that he missed his grandparents a lot, and they were more than willing to take him in. He'll be taking care of his senior year out there."
I was absolutely numb by now. The one person I needed now more than ever had just picked up and left without a second thought. Without telling me goodbye, without explaining himself in person. What the hell was with the vanishing act?
"He did leave us something to give you," Mrs. Atwood said, standing back up. "I'll go get it."
She ventured upstairs, leaving me alone with thousands of thoughts. I didn't know whether to feel angry or upset. I mostly felt betrayed. Had our relationship meant anything at all to him? Did we even have a relationship anymore, now that he decided he could just up and leave without bothering to say anything?
Mrs. Atwood was suddenly in front of me again, holding an envelope towards me that had my name scribbled on it. I recognized the handwriting at once to be Spencer's.
"He didn't really tell us much when he said he wanted to leave, but he wanted to make sure we gave you this," she said, sadness surrounding her words. "He said it would explain everything he wouldn't be able to tell you in person. He knew his leaving would be tough on you, especially given the circumstances."
I nodded, pretending to understand. That was all I could do. I stood up, my legs shaky.
"I think I'm going to head home, now. Thanks for your time, Mrs. Atwood. I'll see you later." I gave her a half hearted hug and rushed out to my car, breaking down in tears as soon as I was safe in the driver's seat.