Hey, chapter, uh, what chapter was this? Eighteen? I don't know, maybe? I've been absorbed in finishing it, I forgot what chapter it was suppose to be. *shrug* Well, it's here, that's important.
So, in this chapter, there's not a lot of action, just more of what happens after Ava and Janie meet Jeremiah. And we see Natasha's parents again. I don't even know what's going to happen next, but I know something will come up.
I bet you guys can't wait to see the next chapter, but until then, enjoy this one. ^_^
Janie clicks the play button again.
"...in junior year, I found out that Natasha was sleeping with the professor..."
We've been listening to that recording over and over. Ava explains that we need to listen to every detail in order to find a hidden clue. After what happened to me yesterday, Ava's been considering that Jeremiah may in fact be my murderer.
I don't want to believe that it's him. Ava told Janie and thinks she might be right.
Janie pauses the tape recorder again. The laptop is laid out on the bed, opened to Jeremiah's Facebook page. They've been look he through his page, but they don't comment on his photos. Most of his photos are of him and his friends. There's one with him standing between two friends, a black man and another man with blond hair and brown eyes. It says that this was their trip to Florida from two years ago. The three of them look happy. But of course, Jeremiah could be feigning it.
There's no mention of a girlfriend. No mention. There's pictures of him with his female cousins, but that's just that.
"You don't think he's her killer, right?," says Janie. "I mean, he doesn't look like a serial killer. He looks like he could use six months of sleep, but..."
"Either way," reiterates Ava, "he's a possible suspect."
"And what about the professor?," asks Janie.
"I already looked him up," answered Ava. "He lives in Massachusetts."
"I'm guessing going over to ask him questions is not in our sights," chimes Janie.
Massachusetts. Too far away to see if he's a suspect. He's probably forgotten everything already.
"Have you heard from the Carters?," inquires Janie.
"No," replies Ava, shifting to her right side.
"Maybe they're out of town?," suggests Janie.
"I guess," mutters Ava. She glances up at me. "Do you think they are?"
Janie looks up, too.
"I don't know," I say uncertain, "they might be."
"Do you want to see them?," she asks me.
My eyes shift from left to right. I already know the answer before I can even say it.
"No." I close my eyes. I glide over to the window.
"What'd she say?," asks Janie.
"She doesn't want to see her parents," says Ava.
I turn and see Janie raise a brow. Her look tells me that she's surprised.
"I don't understand," she says, furrowing her brow. "Why doesn't she want to see her parents?"
Ava looks me in the eye. I feel like I'm under a microscope.
"I," I exhale, "I just don't want to make it harder for them."
"What do you mean 'harder for them'?" Ava raises an eyebrow.
"I mean," I say firmer, "they're changing things around. They gave away my stuff, and..." I try to come up with something else.
"What's she saying?," asks Janie, looking at her and at the window. She can't see me, but she's looking in the right spot.
"She's telling me how her parents are changing things and giving her stuff away," explains Ava, her eyes locked on me as she speaks.
"So," mutters Janie, "she's mad at them?"
Ava bites her lip. "I think she's saying that to not face the fact that her ex might've been her murderer."
I curl up into a ball and just float there. I can feel Janie's eyes gazing at my spot. I wished a million times she'd be able to see me, but it's useless.
"For your information," I speak up, "I am using that as an excuse to not accept reality. But the other reason is because I want to leave my parents alone."
"Well, that's understandable," says Ava, sitting up.
"What's understandable?," quips Janie.
"Natasha wants to give her parents some space," she tells Janie.
It's not a complete lie, but I'm also worried about what's going to happen after everything's been solved. Once we figure out who murdered me, what happens next? Will I go back to the forest? Or will I move on to the afterlife? I really should've given this more thought.
"In any case," retorts Ava, "I think it's too soon to see them."
"But what if they know something about Jeremiah?," suggests Janie.
All of a sudden I perk up. I blink my eyes curiously.
"You think they know something about Jeremiah?," reiterates Ava.
"Yeah," utters Janie, "why else would she tell you not to look for him?"
"You might be right."
"I know I'm right."
I glide on over to Ava.
"You should probably consider this idea, Ava," I say.
"You really think so?," remarks Ava, snapping her head at me, eyebrow raised.
"What?," mutters Janie.
"Natasha wants us to," says Ava, turning away, "to go to her parents and ask them about Jeremiah."
"She means it?" Janie arches a brow.
"Absolutely!" I hoot. I can't help but answer her.
"Yeah," replies Ava, "she wants to."
"Right now?," mutters Janie.
"Yes!" I chirp again.
"She wants to." Ava looks at me in a deadpan manner. She gets out of bed. "Come on, we might as well see if they remember him better." She goes to her desk and grabs her purse from the back of the chair.
"I wonder if they have anything to eat," muses Janie as she gets out of bed.
"You and your stomach" Ava shakes her head.
Ava closes her laptop and puts it back on her desk, plugging it back in its charger. As soon as Janie grabs her purse, she and Ava are ready to go. I follow behind them.
"What are we going to say?," queries Janie.
"We're just going to ask what they remember about Jeremiah," explains Ava.
"But what if they ask you why?"
"I'll just say that Natasha needs to remember him more."
"Yeah." Janie's glimpse at up the ground briefly. She scratched the left side of her head. "What if they ask you...if you went to see Jeremiah?"
Oh no, I didn't think about that. What is Ava going to tell my parents?
"We won't tell them," replies Ava. "What they don't know won't kill them."
I don't know if not telling them is the right way to go, but I hope Ava knows what she's doing.
I spend the walk in silence. There's nothing I can think of. What happened yesterday left me with my head swimming. I don't want to accept that Jeremiah might be my killer, but all those things I saw makes me think the opposite. He was controlling all throughout my junior year of college. What caused it? What made him be that way? Was it my fault? No, no, it couldn't have been my fault.
I hope my parents remember him better than me. God, I hope they remember him. It'll make this all the better. While I'm thinking about this, I might as well ponder whether I had a best friend in high school. Did they know about Jeremiah when he started getting this way? I would've confused in them. That's what all best friends do. Unless he forbid me from seeing them. I wish I could remember them more.
So far all I remember is my cousin Emily, my parents, my English teacher, my college professor, and Jeremiah. All of them are connected to my past, and yet, I can't find a profound bond. I don't know what it is. I wish I could just have my memories back in an instant. I wonder if there's such a thing as an amnesia cure in the form of a pill. There's so much that needs to be filled.
I think back to the manager of Azalea Fashion. The co-manager said she was out of town. I wonder if she'll come back early. She said two weeks. Then I remember Ava gave my parents her phone number. I know she did it so her parents don't get involved, but now I think she should tell them the truth. Ava did tell them that her parents thought she was mentally ill. My parents sympathize. I just think lying to them like that is unfair.
"Do you think they're home?," queries Janie.
I look up. I didn't realize I was this caught in my thoughts. I glance down at her and Ava.
"I guess," answers Ava, "unless they went out."
"There's only one way to find out," utters Janie.
"I hope you're right," I say.
Ava glances up at me, squinting from the glare of the sun.
We're coming into my neighborhood. Everything's familiar, and I feel like I can remember it better.
"What's the game plan?," asks Janie.
"Well, we'll just say we're here to see them," answers Ava, "which is in fact true."
"But are we going to have to do housework?," quips Janie.
"You want to?"
Ava snorts. Janie looks on at the sidewalk. I look down at them curiously. Their dynamic is compatible. I wonder if I had a friend with whom I acted that way with.
We take a turn and keep going straight. I keep thinking over the questions I have to say. I'm hoping my mother will remember anything about Jeremiah. Or dad, if he remembers telling him to treat me right. I know all fathers are like that with their daughters' boyfriends. Do they keep in touch with Jeremiah's parents? I doubt it.
"Looks like they're coming out," pipes Ava.
I look up. I see them coming outside. There's my mother with a purse. They see Ava and Janie once they're approaching the car.
"Hi, Mrs. Carter," says Janie, waving.
"Hi, Janie, Ava," greets my mother.
"Hey," says my father.
"Going somewhere?," asks Ava.
"Yeah," replies my mother, "we're on our way to an outing downtown."
I can see, and they look like they're in a hurry.
"Did you need anything?," inquires Mother.
"Yeah," says Ava, "we're here to ask about Jeremiah."
My parents' expressions are hard to place, but I know they're surprised. They didn't expect to hear those kinds of questions from me.
"What do you want to know?," queries Father.
"Well," pipes Janie, "we need to know more for Natasha."
"See," begins Ava, "Natasha started to remember more about him. But she needs to hear from you about how he was."
The two stand there, feeling like they're being probed psychologically. I understand how hard this is, and if Jeremiah was indeed that way, it'll make it all better to process.
"Jeremiah," says Mother, "was captain of the football team. He was really popular. He had a lot of friends, god grades...though he did have trouble with geometry. Natasha brought him over one night. We had dinner, we talked. He told us all about his dream of being a pro football player...
"Though, after Natasha's disappearance, he gave up his football dream and decided to change his major."
Ava looks at me. She's tying to see if I have a memory erupt in my mind. I'm seeing a few glimpses of long-forgotten memories. I can see myself sitting at the table with my parents and Jeremiah. I can see the food layered on the table: breaded pork chops; string beans; mashed potatoes. I can hear the laughter, though I don't know what we were laughing at.
"Is she remembering?," asks Father.
Ava faces me.
"I'm remembering," I say, "the dinner, but only a little bit. Tell them."
"She's remembering the dinner where she brought Jeremiah," she says to them. Then she looks at them. "It's a slow process."
"It's true," I utter, like my parents can actually hear me. Boy, do I wish they could.
"She just confirmed it," adds Natasha nonchalantly.
Janie looks at the spot where I am and looks away after a second. Well, at least she's looking in the right direction.
I need to know more from a different angle. I turn to Ava, wordlessly asking her to ask more personal questions. She gets the point.
"What was Jeremiah like personality-wise?," she asks. The firmness in her voice let's them know that she wants to get to the bottom. "When he was dating Natasha?," she adds to be more specific.
"He was like any teenage boy his age," replies Father. "He was always goofing off, trying to get everyone to laugh..."
"So he was a bit of a class clown?," quips Janie, lifting an eyebrow.
"You could say that," says Mother, "but he liked school and focused on the work and he loved football."
"So, he was just your all-around typical teenager?," quips Ava.
"Yes," retorts Mother, hands wrung.
"Did anyone say Jeremiah was a bad guy?," queries Janie. "That he was trouble?"
"No," replies my father, "nothing like that was ever brought up."
"Not even once?," mutters Ava.
"No," says Mother, shaking her head.
I hover above them, feeling time literally stretch on.
I lean close to Ava and whisper in her ear.
"Ask her about my best friend," then I add, "if I had any." I don't want to get my hopes up too high, but I want to be sure.
"Uh," utters Ava, "Natasha wants to know about any best friends she might have had."
"Her best friend?," mutters Mother, brow furrowed.
"It's important," confirms Ava. Janie nods to make it look convincing.
"Well," says Mother, scratching her chin, "there was Rebecca Harper. And, um, there was Lucinda Torres." She pauses to remember other names, but I can see traces of long-repressed memories erupt.
I can see Rebecca: straw-blond hair, brown eyes, peach skin, oblong face. She has a smile that warms my heart, if I still had one. And then I see Lucinda: tall, dark brown hair, skin the color of cinnamon, oval face. With a last name like Torres, she must be Hispanic. It's a small clue, but it helps nonetheless.
"What about that Sierra Phillips?," interjects Father.
"Sierra?," retorts Mother, like she doesn't recall someone like that.
"Yeah," says Father, convincingly. "You remember? She was short, redheaded, brown eyes, braces..."
"Oh, right," says my Mother, nodding, "Sierra. I remember her. She wanted to be a biologist."
"And did she get to?," asks Ava, trying to keep the conversation going.
"I'm not sure," says Mother. "After what happened, we all kind of lost touch."
"Oh." Janie mumbled.
"Does that help?," queries Father.
"Yeah," says Ava. Though I think she wants me to tell her that I remember.
"I remember," I say, "though...not completely."
"She remembers," repeats Ava. "But not completely."
"How long," interrupts Father, "is the amnesia going to last?"
That's what I still want to know.
"She's remembering more," explains Ava, "but...it still takes an effort to remember other things."
It's true after all.
"I have a question," says Mother.
"Yeah?," quips Ava.
"When she gets a memory," she says, "how does it...happen?"
"How...?" Ava furrows her brow. Then, after a second, she understands what she's trying to say, and replies, "Natasha explained it like a slideshow spreading before her."
Mother doesn't say anything. My guess is she doesn't know how to say it. To her, it's something she can't think of a word to describe. When those memories flood in, you can't take the time to describe the experience.
"Well," quips Ava, "I think we've taken enough of your time." She tugs at her purse strap. "We'll just be going."
"Do you have anything to—"
"Come on," chirps Ava, grabbing her by the arm. "Bye."
"Goodbye," says Mother.
I watch my parents get in the car and Father starts it, engine roaring. I glide alongside Ava and Janie. I still don't have a clear view of how Jeremiah was in the past. My parents' car drives past us.
"So what do you think?," asks Janie.
"I think they remember him," replies Ava, "but I don't know if they knew Jeremiah was...well, controlling."
"I barely remember," I quip, "but I know that he was like controlling." I wouldn't say he was manipulative, but the memories I saw make it seem surreal. Like I'm not in them, but someone else. Something inside is keeping me from seeing the truth. Is it me? Am I doing this to myself? Am I keeping myself from accepting reality?
"Maybe we should've told them about the fake number you gave them," says Janie. For once, I think I can agree with Janie.
"Yeah?," remarks Ava. "What gave you that idea?"
"I just think they shouldn't be lied to," replies Janie.
I know she's right, but the reason Ava did this was to keep her parents from getting involved.
"Do you think they've tried to call that number?," asks Ava, seemingly nervous.
I glance at Ava and Janie and back.
"If they did, then maybe it went to voicemail," said Janie.
I shrug. It'd be a relief if that happened. I only understand voicemail as being a built-in answering machine.
"You don't think they know, do you?," queries Ava. She starting to act scared. Like she'll be caught any day. And if Delilah Palmer comes back soon, we're sitting ducks.
"What are we gonna do if they find out we lied?," asks Janie.
Ava shrugs. "Come clean. What else are we suppose to do?" She sounds like she's giving up all other options. I know that if she were older, she wouldn't have to bide her time and wait when we have a free minute every time her parents leave for work.
"I guess," says Janie, "if there's nothing else we can do." She turns her head and looks past me, or what I think is the spot where I am. She's getting better at this that I think she can actually see me.
We walk past the street we were on and take the route back home. Janie speaks up on a forgotten subject.
"Ooh well," she says, "let's drown our sorrows in nachos."
"You should probably go on a diet," quips Ava.
"Hey!," exclaims Janie. "I'm not fat."
"You will be," retorts Ava.
Janie shakes her head. "Let's just head for the Taco Bell."
"Is that a Mexican restaurant?," I ask Ava.
"Well, there's tacos, and burritos," she answers.
"You talking to Natasha?," remarks Janie.
We go off the usual way and make a right turn. I'm still wondering what'll happen when we find out who murdered me. Until that happens, I'm going to pace myself and then get ready to accept the reality.
I hover beside Ava on the bed, laptop laid in front of her.
She's watching this movie, Kiki's Delivery Service. It's another Miyazaki movie like Spirited Away. It's about a thirteen-year-old witch named Kiki who leaves home to begin her training and takes up a delivery service to make ends meet. It's an interesting movie. I like the animation, and how realistic the background looks. Not to mention Jiji, Kiki's black cat.
My favorite character would have to be Ursula, the painter who lives in the forest. She was nice enough to fix the cat for Kiki and she has some great advice. My favorite quote would have to be the the one about inspiration. That everyone needs to find her own inspiration. Ursula's a great older sister figure.
I've been watching it to see what the theme is. So far, watching Kiki trying to fly her broomstick and eventually snapping it in half, I've come to realize the theme might have something to do with being burned out. Whether you're an artist or a witch, oh have to take the time to get re-inspired. I can't wait to tell Ava that once the movie's finished.
Now we're at the part where the dirigible flies away with Tombo holding on to the rope. Kiki acts fast and searches for a broom. She takes one from a janitor and mounts it. She concentrates, and the crowd watches. Then, it happens; Kiki flies. She flies towards the dirigible. Tombo is slipping away from the rope. Oh god, please save him. There she is! She grabs him, and they both land on the trampoline that was laid out. They land and everyone is cheering them. Then the scenes show the old lady and her assistant watching her on their old-fashioned TV. And then there's Osono and her husband watching, and Osono's going into labor. Everybody's happy. Even Jiji and the white cat had a litter of kittens.
Ava pauses the movie and turns to look at me.
"So," she says, "what do you think?"
"I loved it," I answer automatically. "It was amazing." Then I know she wants me to tell her the other thing. And I know what it is. "Tombo was Kiki's inspiration."
Ava's eyebrows rise.
"Wow," she mutters, "that's a great observation. You got it on your first try."
"I know," I chuckle.
"But I like the theme of it," says Ava, sitting up, stretching her arms, "about inspiration and how to deal with burnouts."
"That's so spot-on."
Ava exits the site and closes the laptop.
"I gotta get a game plan for when we find out who murdered you," she says, getting out of bed. Hearing it from her, it sounds cryptic.
"And that would be...?," I mutter.
"Well," she says, "if it comes to taking things physically, I'm going to need you to use your ghost powers."
"Oh, that." The more I don't think about that, the more I have to think about it. I have to remember that it's late July and we're almost nowhere close to cracking the case. I guess we've been dawdling too much. "What do you have in mind?"
"I was just thinking lifting a few tables and chairs," replies Ava, "maybe turn the lights on and off."
"That's taking it to the next level," I quip.
"Well you're the ghost, you're the only one who can do that."
She's not wrong.
"You still think it wasn't Jeremiah?," questions Ava, hand on her hip.
I lift my head up, eyes wide.
"You," I say, "you think it's him?"
"Why not?" Ava puts her hands to her sides. "It's not uncommon." She slumps her shoulders. "It happens all the time. It's not something out of the ordinary. Even you know that."
"What if there was a third party?," I say, trying to sound convincing.
Ava raises a brow. She didn't expect me to bring that up. I didn't expect to either.
"Well," I pace myself, "what if there was?"
"Natasha." I know that tone. It's that tone that tells me she's trying to change my mind.
"Hear me out," I blurt out, throwing my hands in the air. "What is there was a third suspect? But they never found him?"
"What makes you think it was a he?," quips Ava. "What if it was a she?"
I'm dumbfounded. That did not cross my mind. But who could it have been? It couldn't have been any of my old friends. What about the professor's wife? I can't remember if he had a wife. If he did, then maybe it could've been her, and that's why they needed to move.
"I'm just trying to rule out Jeremiah being the target," I answer.
Ava doesn't respond. I think I might have undermined her. It's not that I want to convince Ava it's not him. It's that I want to continue seeing him as a imagined him to be. Like the boys in the teen movies Ava and Janie watched. When I saw him again in the diner...it was like looking at a stranger. It's the same feeling with my parents. They raised me, fed me, clothed me, and yet, they are strangers to me. Why can't I get past this? Is it that a I'm secretly making myself not see the real picture?
"I can't be sure if there's a third suspect," says Ava. "Do you remember any of Jeremiah's friends? They're names?"
I think about it for a moment. I've seen photos of his friends on Facebook, but I don't know if they were his high school friends or his new, current friends. I wish I could remember his friends when I remembered Jeremiah. I should've remembered that.
"No," I answer. "I don't remember his friends from high school. Those friends you showed me. They could be anyone for all I know."
She doesn't answer right away.
"Well, you're not wrong about that," she says after a minute. She seems convinced. I just wish I could convince her on my idea of a possible third party.
"But you don't think there was a third party?," I utter.
Ava looks flummoxed.
"About that," she says, "I only said that to get you focused on the case."
"So you didn't mean it?," I say.
Ava takes her time responding.
"I see," I mutter.
"Natasha," says Ava as I turn away. "Look, I just don't think an unknown suspect could've been responsible. If there was, this case would've been solved years ago."
I don't answer. I know what she's trying to say, but a side of me tells me the opposite.
"What is it that you're really afraid of?," questions Ava. Hearing her say that, it's kind of an oxymoron.
It takes me half my courage to answer.
"I," I say. "I'm afraid of losing the image I dreamt up of him."
"And that is?," she quips.
"The way I imagined him to be," I say, turning around, "a jock with a large circle of friends who's really popular and everyone loves him."
"Sounds like all the guys you see in teen movies," she replies with a chuckle.
"That's where I based my image of him," I answer defensively. It may sound foolish, but it's what I cling to.
"I understand," she says, "you want to hold on to something you dream up to have some kind of comfort. But that's why it's called a fantasy. A fantasy can be a good outlet, but it can also do damage."
My mind is going numb, but I listen in the hopes that she'll wrap it up.
"We cling so hard to our fantasies," continues Ava, " that we start believe it's our reality. You're never going to move on if you don't let go of the fantasy you made up of Jeremiah. That Jeremiah is just an illusion. He's not real."
"That's what makes him better," I interrupt.
"But that's not who is he," retorts Ava. "The Jeremiah you dreamt up is not who you think. You saw him. He's a ghost of who he used to be."
I raise a brow at her. Poor use of words. Even she thinks it's lame.
"Sorry," she says, "but I'm right that he's not who he used to be. After you disappeared, his life took a different turn. He's no longer the aspiring young boy with dreams, he's a grown adult with little to no happiness in his life. It's obvious that he's never had a girlfriend after you disappeared."
"What are you saying?" I want to flip her bed over.
"I'm saying that he must've been the one who killed you," replies Ava, "and that he's spent his years repressing the guilt."
I hear what she says, but I don't listen. I only listen to half of what she says.
"Don't you think it's him?," repeats Ava.
I want to talk, but I hold my tongue. I don't want any part in this conversation, and yet I'm already in it.
"There were only two suspects," speaks Ava. "One of them moved away, the other is here and probably still full of guilt. Who do you think is the culprit?"
I'm in the middle. I can't make up my mind. I want to say it was Professor Jameson, but Ava will tell me that it was Jeremiah. I can't even use my third party excuse to back up my case. There is no other third suspect. The delusion I'm clinging to is shattering like glass. There's nothing to hold on to. Ava's right in more ways than none. I wish I could call her a liar, but she's the only friend I've had in so many years. I may be out of touch with everything, but I know what it feels like to seek justice.
"I don't want to believe it's him," I say, "but you create a pretty good case. If he really did do this, then my only other option is to accept the facts."
Ava doesn't look like she's satisfied to hear me agree with her, but she doesn't look upset either.
"And if he," she says, "against all odds is not the one who murdered you?"
I only think about one possible motive.
"Then he's lying," I reply.
"And if we crack the case?"
"Then," I close my eyes, "I don't know."
"I think you and I both know what needs to be done." Ava sits on the bed. "Call the police. Then have your body found and then buried."
That's the trigger.
"But," I reply, "if my body were to be found...that means that all of my body parts have to be buried." I look intently at my finger bone around her neck. Ava touches it out of habit.
"Right," she says, looking at it.
"I don't want to leave you," I say, "I don't know what's waiting for me. And that's what scares me the most."
"I understand that," retorts Ava, "I think about that all the time. Even when I see ghosts."
This shouldn't be making me feel better, but it is.
"Do you think I could stay on earth instead?"
Silence sweeps through us.
"I'd like for they to be possible," Ava answers, "but everything I know about ghosts is that they have to find closure in order to move on. And I now that deep down you know this too."
It's like I'm being x-rayed. Maybe I am afraid of moving on to Heaven. But I know that my parents have to know the exact location of my body in order to give me a proper funeral.
"So," says Ava, "you still think it's not Jeremiah?"
"I'm not sure," I answer, "but I'll try my best to make sure he faces the consequences."
I hover above her bed, looking over at the window. I may not know what happened that led to my murder. If Jeremiah is indeed the one who killed me, then I'm going to do what I already planned: make him sorry.
And that was the new chapter. I wish I remembered which chapter this was. I guess my memory's really deteriorating.
That part where Ava and Natasha watch Kiki's Delivery Service, that was part of the plot. And that's exactly what I think about the movie. Well, it's sort of a given.
The conversation between Ava and Natasha is just a good one. And I like how Ava has her doubts about the afterlife even though she can see ghosts.
I can't wait to see how this story ends. *jumps up and down* XD