In Between Lives: Epilogue

5th August, 1987.

“And you? What are you?”

Her grin diminishes into that sarcastic half-smile and she shrugs.

“I’m nobody.”

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I have always been in between things. Between names, identities, lives.

I just wasn’t always aware of it.

The tempestuous waves beneath splash on my feet again, the railing is getting too slippery to hold on.

I stand clutching onto the railing of The Blackburn Bridge, clutching onto my life, gazing at the monstrous river beckoning to me—unfriendly but with the promise of oblivion.

I ran away from the hospital, leaving a sleeping Kevin at my bedside.

Kevin. My heart aches.

Which one of us did he like?

Which one of us is me?

I’ve always inhabited the gray area between black and white. Splitting my soul, splitting my mind, splitting my life.

Just Marjorie apologized profusely in the hospital. Kevin told me I was now safe.

They don’t understand. It was never about blame or safety.

The only person who came close to understanding was Emily Dickinson.

I think she knew what it was like to not be afraid of death because you’d already had the life sucked out of you. She knew what it was like to be dead and stuck in the world of living.

I’m like the decaying flower you preserve in notebooks. You can delay my disintegration, but with time, I will wither away, for I truly died long ago.

I tilt my head towards the sky and try to remember my mother. All I can recall is that she was always crying and that she wore the scent of lavender.

Today, I tell myself, today I will fly.

Beatrice Ella Jones was alone.

Beatrice Ella Jones was broken.

Beatrice Ella Jones was me.

I jump.

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In Between Lives: Chapter Nine

3rd August, 1987.

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Things are going well. Too well. Kevin and I spend most of our time together. And whatever’s left of my day is spent with Beatrice.

She doesn’t like the amount of time I spend with Kevin. He is disappointed whenever I leave to meet her even though he tries to hide it. But Beatrice doesn’t wish to meet him so there is nothing I can do to remedy the situation. Kevin doesn’t know she exists.

This feels like the blissful silence before the storm.

People say you never know which day will be your last. But I believe you sense the end as you near it, the way you do in a book.

I have just returned from a perfect afternoon spent with Kevin when I realize that there is an intruder in the house.

The front door is ajar and Just Marjorie has left a note stuck on it saying that she is shopping for groceries.

I stand there for a few moments and debate calling nine-one-one. I decide to keep my finger hovering over the dial button as I enter the house.

I don’t announce myself, maybe I should have.

The house seems empty and perfectly silent, the wooden floors creaking under my feet.

I get to the kitchen and stop in my tracks.

I don’t think I will ever be able to describe the absolute, white-hot terror that chills my bones in that moment.

My head feels fuzzy with vivid images that rush to me and the pounding of my heart is almost deafening.

There is a man standing in the kitchen with his back to me, wearing a brown suit with a plaid blazer, his salt and pepper hair thinning at the top.

The man is my father.

My throat makes a choking sound and he turns around.

Any opportunity I had to run is now lost.

“Beatrice.” He exhales, his steely eyes giving me a once over.

My skin crawls.

He begins talking but my brain won’t register any of it.

I cannot decipher between the images my mind is conjuring and the reality before me.

“Shh, little girl.” She hears the sound of something unzipping. His breath smells of clove cigarettes and scotch. “The pain will be over soon. You know I love you, Beatrice.”

 

“Texas has been kind to you, Beatrice.” He walks towards me. I’m fourteen once again. “The tan suits you. I wonder how far it spreads.”

Please, please don’t hurt me. She prays. She knows nobody is listening. He’s holding a belt now. She knows what happens next. She lives this same story every day.

“You’re just like your mother! She never loved me either!”

“I love you, daddy, I swear!”

“Liar!” He strikes.

“What are you doing here?” My voice is trembling. I am trembling all over. My head is throbbing, it feels hot and heavy. It’s going to explode.

“I’m here to take you home, Beatrice.” He gazes at me serenely. He is standing right in front of me now. I want to cower back, but my body is immobilized by fear.

“Why are you calling me that? Stop calling me that.” The walls in my mind are collapsing. I have no control over it anymore, “I don’t want to go anywhere with you.”

His expression turns cold.

“I have tolerated your tantrums for two months!” He thunders, stepping so close that I can smell the clove cigarettes in his breath. My head spins. “No more of this nonsense. We are going home.”

He reaches out to grab my arm and my body unfreezes.

No!” I scream and scramble backward, my back hitting the kitchen counter.

I would die before I let him touch me, I think as I feel myself fall apart inside. Everything I knew to be true crumbling into pieces.

His face tightens with white-hot rage and he strikes me with the back of his hand.

My head whips to the side and the breath is knocked out of me.

“This is what happens when you don’t listen to me!”

“Daddy, please! I promise I’ll be good!” It feels like someone is ripping her soul out. She creams. He doesn’t stop. He never stops.

I hear the door bang open. He stops.

It is Just Marjorie, her face is horror-stricken. He shuffles away from me hastily. I hear him making excuses. But I’m already lost. My mind has overpowered my senses and some conscious part of my brain acknowledges that I’m probably dying. I sigh in relief.

 

They say that it is very unusual for two alters of a patient suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder to interact with each other without revealing the true nature of either. I was quite the talk of the town and will be for a while, I believe.

I woke up at the hospital after collapsing in the kitchen. They told me my father was in police custody. They asked me if I remembered anything. I remember everything.

I remember stealing His money and flying to Texas, to my only other living relative. I remember Just Marjorie asking why I hadn’t called before coming. I remember him playing along to save face. Always to save face.

I remember the deviant nightmare. I remember cutting myself, the blood staining the bathroom floor.

I remember the acid washed jacket that belonged to my mother, the pot junkie who sold me concert tickets, the trip to Houston on the Vespa, Just Marjorie’s face when I claimed to be going to Houston with an empty space in the air, the boy who flirted with me on the way back. The conversations with myself.

Yes, I told them, I remembered everything.

In Between Lives: Chapter Eight

27th July, 1987.

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Just Marjorie was not pleased with me.

I got home relatively late the evening Beatrice took me to the concert and I think it’s safe to say that Just Marjorie was upset.

I tried to do the quietly-sneaking-into-your-bedroom-and-hope-the-stairs-don’t-creak thing the cool kids who have lives do, but she was up and waiting for me in the living room, wearing her bathrobe, looking haggard and weary.

I felt guilty but the guilt was overruled by the suffocating sensation that she was breathing down my neck.

She sat me down and “tried to talk some sense into me”. She didn’t know what was going on with me; I had been acting so strange lately. She said that I knew I could tell her anything.

I told her that nothing was going on and that I just needed to be a normal teenager sometimes.

She argued that normal teenagers didn’t ride motorcycles and come home in the middle of the night reeking of stale cigarettes. She said she’d seen my bathroom last week.

I said I didn’t know what she was talking about and pointed out that she smelled of stale cigarettes all the time and regretted it instantly because her face turned bright red and she dismissed me to my room in clipped tones.

Truthfully, Aunt Marjorie had been exceedingly kind to me since my arrival in Texas and even before.

I apologized the next morning. She nodded curtly and asked if I’d like to have brunch with her and her Good Friend Molly.

I said I’d love to.

Kevin is standing at my front door, holding a vinyl record.

It’s Doolittle by The Pixies.

”Why,” I ask warily, “do you have that?”

He bites his lip, concealing a smile. I swear that boy must sleep with a hanger in his mouth.

“I bought it.” He lets the grin free, “for you.”

“No.” I say. I think I’m in shock.

I can’t remember the last time someone got me a present.

“Absolutely.” He holds it out to me, “I remembered that my friend’s brother owned it. He’s at university now, and left it behind. So I bought it from my friend. I know how much you love them.”

I take it and examine it with glee.

“I’ve wanted this record since… forever.” I look up into his smiling eyes and on an impulse, throw my arms around him.

“Thank you.” I whisper, my breath ruffling the hair near his ear.

“It’s my pleasure, kid.” He puts his arms around me, his voice soft.

I pull back, my cheeks hot.

“Walk with me.” He says it like a question. His hands are stuffed into his pockets—something he does when he is nervous—and he is wearing his patent too-small leather jacket with a t-shirt that says “Math Is Fun”. This is Kevin. It sounds preposterous, but I feel like I know him. And we have barely known each other for a few weeks.

I nod and shut the front door behind me.

We walk to Just Marjorie’s frivolous backyard and Kevin begins walking backward so I see the full-fledged grin on his face.

“Do you ever stop smiling?” I ask with a serious expression.

His green eyes twinkle, “No. I believe the world is devastatingly beautiful—not unlike you—when I walk through it with a smile, as it happens.”

“Are you on something?” I mock scowl. Primarily to hide the embarrassing blush coloring my cheeks.

He throws his head back and laughs. The sound engulfs me.

“I’m high on life!” he spreads his arms wide.

“Quit walking backwards, you will fall.” I roll my eyes, trying not to grin.

Kevin looks down at me then, still smiling but with a keen sincerity in his eyes, “I already have.”

My breath falters. I can’t look away from his eyes.

“I can’t believe that you just used that line on me.” I manage to mumble.

“I have plenty more where that came from.” He murmur, his eyes flickering to my lips.

“Kevin…” I whisper, my heart racing, but it’s too late.

He’s leaning into me and then his lips are on mine. I can stop him, this very moment, but I don’t.

I have no idea what I’m doing and I am terrified. But I don’t want to stop him.

When he pulls back, we are both breathing unevenly. I can feel the warmth emanating from his body, so close to mine, the vinyl record pressed between us.

“I’m crazy about you.” Kevin whispers, his breath fanning against my cheek.

“Kevin—“

“No, listen to me.” He pulls back so I can see his face as he tilts my head up gently with his fingertips, “I know we don’t know each other very well and all, and even though you think The Pretenders are only okay and clearly have something against abbreviating words like “I am” to “I’m” and are sort of out of my league,” he takes a deep breath, “I love every moment spent with you and really hope what happened ten seconds ago will happen again. Several times.”

I am positively speechless. I want to kiss him and I want to hide, all at once.

I want to cry at the idea of this wonderful person thinking I am wonderful.

Before I can make a dork out of myself, I say, “Alright.”

Kevin’s eyebrows quirk up, “Alright?”

“Alright.”

He shakes his head. He is grinning. “I give you a speech worthy of a Nobel Prize and all you say is ‘alright’?”

I let the long overdue grin out and nod.

I am smiling. I am alive.

Kevin kisses me. Again. Several times.

In Between Lives: Chapter Seven

18th July, 1987.

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There is a painting in Just Marjorie’s house that reminds me of Beatrice. It’s the picture of a broken vase. The vase is beautiful, and the cracks in it somehow enhance its beauty.

I haven’t heard from her in six days. After we met, we started meeting every day. So her silence is unusual.

Maybe she regrets sharing her most intimate secret, her pain, with me. I hope not.

I’ve been spending time with Kevin in her absence. He makes me laugh and doesn’t ask too many questions; I like him. Maybe a little more than I’m ready to admit just yet.

Just Marjorie has been acting weird lately. Since the morning after Beatrice’s confession, she has been hovering. Wanting to spend more time together and asking where I’m going every time I leave the house. It’s stifling.

It is Sunday afternoon and too hot to go outside.

I sit dressed anyway, because Kevin loves surprise site-seeing trips (which basically means sitting in his car near Blackburn Bridge) and surprise lunch non-dates. I call it that because I refuse to acknowledge it as anything else. This always makes Kevin smirk.

I hear the doorbell and get up to answer it. Just Marjorie is in the shower.

I open the door to an expectant looking Beatrice, rocking back and forth on her heels, her eyes bright.

“We’re going to a concert.”

I stare at her.

She is wearing an oversized, acid washed denim jacket with matching, very short shorts and a black tank top that barely covers her stomach underneath the jacket.

“Hello, to you, too.” I finally say, crossing my arms against my chest.

Beatrice rolls her eyes, “You can be all kinds of snarky to me on the way there, but we really need to get going.”

I stare at her in amazement. Is she for real?

“Beatrice,” I say, “you have not spoken to me in a week and now you just show up and—“

“Look,” she cuts me off, “I know you ought to be pissed off at me. And I accept that—”

“I am not pissed off. I was worried.” I interrupt.

Beatrice blinks, like the idea of someone worrying about her is absurd, “Worried?” she looks at her leather clad feet uncomfortably, “I’m sorry for making you worry, I guess.” Then she clasps her hands together dramatically and looks at me pleadingly, “But we have to leave! Sonic Youth is playing in Houston! I have tickets and it’s only like, an hour from here. You can thank me later.”

I stand there speechless for several moments.

Then I do what I knew I would do the moment she started speaking.

“Let me go fetch my wallet.” I mumble.

I relent.

Beatrice grins so bright that I almost smile.

I roll my eyes instead.

Friendship is fifty percent trust and fifty percent terrible decisions.

Beatrice lied. It took us an hour and forty minutes to get to Houston.  It was an extremely unpleasant journey on the Vespa, with the uncomfortable seat and the blazing sun on my back.

Just Marjorie had come to the door as I was leaving. She asked me where I was going, suspiciously. I jerked my head towards Beatrice and said I was going for a concert. She looked between us incredulously (I can bet it was Beatrice’s less than modest clothing) and then her eyes fell upon the Vespa in the driveway.

Just Marjorie is an old-fashioned person. I fled before she could say anything.

The concert was in a very exclusive bar, I don’t know how Beatrice managed to get the tickets. She wouldn’t tell me when I asked.

The concert itself, is very intimate, and one of the most exquisite musical experiences of my life. I don’t listen to Sonic Youth very much. But their live performance of Superstar completely converts me. Beatrice tells me she has a couple of their albums at home and promises to lend them to me.

After the concert, Beatrice asks a stranger on the sidewalk for a “light” and starts smoking. I watch as she piques a conversation with the stranger (who is about our age and very obviously attracted to her).

She asks him where he lives. He lives two towns from here.

Our town is on his way, would he mind giving her a ride?

It would be his pleasure.

We ride back home with Beatrice’s Vespa at the back of a stranger’s pickup truck, with her in the front seat and me in the back.

They flirt all the way home.

Attraction is fifty percent real and fifty percent superficial.

In Between Lives: Chapter Six

12th July, 1987.

“The permanent temptation of life is to confuse dreams with reality. The permanent defeat of life comes when dreams are surrendered to reality.”

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There are times when I cannot remember if something happened in a dream or reality. I still don’t know how we would be conscious of the difference between dreaming and waking if we had no eyelids. Perhaps we would simply keep dreaming on.

It is three am and I’m wide awake.

There is a shuffling sound near my bedroom window and I instantly know I’m not alone.

I’m sitting up in bed, heart racing, breathing labored and senses heightened. Wide awake and hyper aware of my surroundings.

There is some more shuffling as though someone is blindly maneuvering their way around my useless study desk and with a trembling hand, I reach out and switch the bedside lamp on.

With some illumination in the room, I now see the silhouette of the imposter, thin and slight, like an eerie shadow in the dark, it steps forward.

“I need your help.”

It’s Beatrice.

Her cheeks are tear stained, eyes swollen and red and she is trembling from head to toe. But none of this is what turns the blood in my veins to ice.

There is a trail of blood running from her forearm to her fingertips, the scarlet color striking against her unusual pallor.

I sit stunned for a moment and then leap out of bed and run to my suitcase. I never bothered unpacking. I rummage for my travelling first aid kit and then lead Beatrice to the bed. She is semi-hysterical. Her chest heaving uneven breaths and her eyes wild. She looks lost.

The source of all the blood is a long but shallow cut on her forearm. I sigh in relief as I clean it. Neither of us speaks.

After it’s done, I dare to look into the hypnotic depth of her blue eyes. The naked fear in them makes me flinch.

Finally, I gather the courage to speak.

“What happened?” I whisper hesitantly.

Beatrice shakes her head, “I don’t—I was just—I swear—“ her voice catches and more tears spill down her cheeks, “I don’t want to live like this anymore. I can’t. He’s always there. I can’t escape him.”

The pain in her voice sends an ominous chill down my spine.

“Beatrice, who is always there?” I feel guilty for questioning her when she is clearly in shock.

She looks into my eyes, her lips trembling. For a long time to come, her face in this moment will haunt my dreams.

“My Father.” She whispers, almost inaudibly.

My heart drops into my stomach.

“Your father?” I try to recollect all the information she’s revealed about her father since we met. I come up with nothing. “What—what did he do to you?”

Beatrice’s expression hardens; I’m taken aback by the stark hatred in her eyes.

“My mother died three years ago, I told you that,” Her voice is monotonic, barely a whisper, “what I didn’t say, is the fact that she killed herself. Because of him. He broke her. She was beautiful before she met him. Even when I was a child, I remember how he would treat her, punishing her with bruises, murdering her spirit. And one day she was gone. There was nobody he could punish anymore,” Her breath falters, “but me.”

I stay silent, processing her words.

Beatrice starts sobbing, ”You don’t know—what he did to me—the things—“ she pauses to collect her breath, “now I’m here, away from him, but he’s still here—in my head. He won’t let me sleep! You have to help me!”

“Hey, hey—you’re safe here, I promise.” I say in a hopefully soothing voice as I reach out and gather her trembling form in my arms.

I gently lay her down on the bed beside me as she continues to sob quietly.

When her sobbing dissipates into hiccups and sniffling, she takes a deep breath.

“I will never be safe.” Her voice is so soft that I wonder if I imagined it.

Beatrice doses off after a few moments and so do I, eventually, strange faces and words dominating my dreams.

She is gone when I wake up.

In Between Lives: Chapter Five

12th July, 1987.

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Beatrice Ella Jones needed the pain to go away.

It was the same nightmare that woke her up in the middle of the night. She had dreamed of Him again. The vile things he would whisper in her ear, the names he would call her. The dream had seemed so tangible, and the next thing she knew, she was holding a razor blade, ready to end her miserable existence.

Who would miss me anyway?

But she couldn’t do it. There was one person she knew would miss her. All she managed to do, in the end, was make a shallow cut on her forearm.

Just to make the memories go away for a while.

She stared at her translucent reflection in the windowpane as she felt the blood trickle down her arm. The pallor of her skin made her reflection look like a ghost. She stared as her reflection started to cry.

Beatrice Ella Jones was unhappy.

Beatrice Ella Jones was empty.

Beatrice Ella Jones was fading.

In Between Lives: Chapter Four

9th July, 1987.

“They say there are rattle snakes here.”

I look up from the book I’m reading—Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut—and squint up at a silhouette shading me from the scorching Texas sun. I’m lying on my back on the grass in Just Marjorie’s redundant backyard and sit up ungracefully when the intruder speaks.

I can see better now. It’s Kevin.

“Who’s they?” I ask.

He waves his hand around, gesturing vaguely, “You know, the people—“He pauses, “That’s not the point.”

“What is, then?”

“Waffles.”

“Waffles?”

“Waffles.”

Kevin grins at me. He looks good when he grins. Less squirrel and more Devil may care.

I stare back impassively.

“There’s a great place I know that serves phenomenal waffles. Betty’s. Ten minutes from here.” He raises his eyebrows in question.

“And you are telling me this why?” I know why, I just like watching him squirm.

He sighs and pushes his hands deep into the pockets of his leather jacket, which, by the way, is two sizes too small for him. He’s wearing a t-shirt that says Rock n Roll Lives On.

“Okay. Have earth shatteringly delicious breakfast with me, neighbor?” He asks; hope coating each word like sugar on donuts. Wow, Texas is getting to me.

I want to smile. I almost do, before I catch myself.

After a moment of thought, I get up.

“Alright, lead the way.” I decide I will have breakfast—just breakfast—with Kevin, solely because he warned me about rattle snakes. And because I like his t-shirts.

This is a onetime thing, I promise myself.

Promises are fifty percent hope and fifty percent lies.

As it turns out, the waffles were, in fact, phenomenal.

“So you’re from New York?” Kevin asks as he finishes his waffles, bacon and eggs.

I nod and nibble on my breakfast.

“What brought you to Texas?”

I shrug, “Just wanted to spend some time with my Aunt. She has been insisting I visit since I was fourteen and wearing braces.”

His face lights up, “I would really like to see a picture of that.”

“I’m sure you would.” I mumble.

Kevin proceeds to tell me that he, too, is turning eighteen and is considering NYU for college (along with UDub and UCLA, there’s no pattern there, I know). He loves to travel and ride horses and is a massive fan of The Pretenders. I tell him I think they’re only okay and he looks at me like I told him I eat babies for desert.

We have now been sitting at this diner for God knows how long and sometime from The Pretenders to now, I’ve started enjoying myself—laughing at Kevin’s jokes and whipping out witty retorts I didn’t know I had. It’s almost like the last few gloomy years of my life never happened. Almost.

I also started noticing how green Kevin’s eyes are behind his faux-stylish glasses and how his expression always settles back to vague amusement and something else as I talk.

We leave from the diner and listen to—no, not The Pretenders, thankfully—David Bowie on the car stereo.

We’re sitting in his car, parked outside Just Marjorie’s house now.

“This might seem forward,” Kevin begins, his green eyes happy, “but I think you may be the coolest person in this entire town. Granted, our population is only 2,900 people, but still.”

“I’m flattered you think I’m more interesting than 2,899 old Texans.” I say.

He grins, “I’m charming, that way.”

After a moment where both of us are quiet, as though waiting for something to happen, I figure it’s probably my vacancy of his car seat, so I get out.

Kevin calls out to me as I’m halfway to the porch. I turn around.

He’s wearing a mischievous grin on his face.

“You have grass in your hair. Did you know?”

I touch my hair reflexively and sure enough, come in contact with a clump of grass from Just Marjorie’s backyard.

Kevin drives off, his laughter trailing behind him, evaporating into the hot afternoon.

In Between Lives: Chapter Three

2nd July, 1987.

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Beatrice Ella Jones. That’s her name. Beatrice Ella Jones is the kind of girl musicians write acoustic songs about. She’s a Jolene, or an Angie.

With dark hair and blue eyes and lips quirked up sardonically like she might smile at any moment, she exudes confidence and seems like the kind of person who would hang out with Penny Chase, the “cool” girl from my old high school. So you can imagine my surprise when she came knocking at Just Marjorie’s door two days ago with her Sony Walkman and yellow Vespa and asked if I wanted to hang out. Of course I said yes. When push comes to shove, I’d choose enigmatic potential friend over Kurt Vonnegut any day.

So here she sits with me, wearing a simple tank top and denim shorts, looking stunning. We’re sitting on the grass by the riverbank, staring at the Blackburn Bridge, the only sight worth seeing in these godforsaken couple of streets they call a town.

Beatrice leans back on her elbows and stares up at the sky.

“What kind of music do you listen to?” she asks in her charmingly bored voice.

“I dunno.” I shrug and hug my knees.

She snorts, “Please. You barely interact with humans. I can totally picture you holed up in that room at Just Marjorie’s, listening to songs and thinking about death.”

I bark out a short laugh. This. This is why I like Beatrice Ella Jones. She doesn’t bother to filter her thoughts before voicing them. She lives in Wonderland, where there are no consequences.

“Tell me.” She looks directly into my eyes; hers are a burning deep blue. Can blue even be described as burning?

“Okay.” I say finally, “I like The Smiths, I guess. And Simon & Garfunkel. Have you heard of them?”

Beatrice blows a bubble and it pops. She’s chewing gum. She shakes her head.

“What are they like?”

I mull her question over in my head, “They are like summer. Their songs can be scorching and intense, even melancholy, but most of the time they’re warm and pleasant.”

This makes her grin.

She tips her head back and stares at the sky again, “You, my little friend, are a poet.”

I smile at the word ‘friend’ (it’s pathetic, I know), “And you? What are you?”

Her grin diminishes into that sarcastic half-smile and she shrugs.

“I’m nobody.”

In Between Lives: Chapter Two

28th June, 1987.

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Aunt Marjorie insists I call her Just Marjorie. I tell her I am not comfortable with this. Then she insists I call her Margo. This is, somehow, far worse.

“Baby, you know how I want you and me to be? I want us to be like this!” she crosses her fingers and gives me her patent toothy smile.

Just Marjorie looks like a coked-up version of Dolly Parton. With a smaller bosom and less hair. And a cigarette between her fingers perpetually, like an extension of her hand.

“Of course, Aunt. It’s just weird, is all.” I mumble. I do that a lot. My father used to hate it.

“Pfft!” she huffs, waving her cigarette at me dismissively, “All kids your age here call me Margo!”

I decide not to point out that the only kid my age within five miles of her house is Kevin, our comely neighbor. (Who, by the way, was fixing a shaky floorboard in my New Room on Just Marjorie’s request the other day and now gives me a peculiar look every time we cross paths.)

“Call me Just Marjorie then! Whadya say, doll?” she flashes me an indulgent grin and turns back to the road. I should probably mention we’re in a car (she’s driving) and we’re headed to her Good Friend Molly’s dinner party, “Honestly, baby… when I was your age…”

I tune her rusty, loud voice out and focus on the bleak scenery of what will be my New Home for the next two months.

Conversations are fifty percent mutual and fifty percent delusion.

As it turns out, Just Marjorie’s Good Friend Molly has a pretty decent house. With three stories and warm, rich, wooden décor, it feels strange and homely at the same time. It also smells oddly of cinnamon.

There are already about twenty people there. I thought dinner party meant a bunch of old Texans sitting around a table talking about farm mortgage and increased horse prices (I have no idea if those are real things) but this is quite different. People are standing around the gigantic dining room in small groups, laughing and flitting about chattering with each other. There are people of all ages, all dressed very nicely.

A short, somewhat corpulent woman comes up to us and Just Marjorie and she greet each other.

Then Just Marjorie gestures to me, “Molly, this is my niece. Agatha’s daughter.”

After polite and requisite small talk on my part, I excuse myself to the bathroom. Crowded spaces make me extraordinarily uncomfortable.

On my way to the aforementioned bathroom though, I spot a set of doors and an excluded balcony beyond. The prospect of fresh air away from this suffocating room beckons to me.

I step through the doors and then notice I’m not alone. A girl, with her back angled towards me, stands there in a shimmering black dress.

She’s quite a vision. With wispy dark hair floating in the breeze.

I tell myself I ought to leave, interaction—of any sort—is something I normally avoid. But this stranger has a peculiar magnetic pull, keeping my feet rooted to the spot.

The girl turns around, as though sensing my dilemma and narrows her eyes. She’s pretty. But I knew that before I saw her face.

“You wouldn’t happen to have a cigarette on you, would you?” she asks after a moment of silence.

More silence.

I shake my head no.

She sighs and turns back to the unimpressive scenery from the balcony, “Just as well, Father would kill me if he were here. It was a slim chance, anyway.”

I walk forward and stand beside her, wondering who she is.

A few seconds pass in comfortable silence and then she looks at me, “You’re not from here, are you?”

I shake my head again.

She raises an eyebrow. I die out of the utter coolness of it.

“Can you talk?” she asks, boredom lacing her voice.

I nod and then stammer, “Yes. I mean, yes, of course I can talk.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I’ve come with Just Ma—I mean, Aunt Marjorie. I’m her niece.” I mentally kick myself for not being cool.

“What were you going to call her before? Just Marjorie? Why?” She tilts her head and looks at me.

I shy from her gaze, “That’s what she keeps saying. ‘Call me just Marjorie’”

She grins, “You have a sense of humor. A rare quality up here. You will soon discover that the only people living in this town are people who are dead and people who wish they were. All this,” she gestures to the party behind us, “is just a lame attempt to make things colorful. But you can’t fix something that was killed long before it was broken.”

The air turns colder. I don’t know how to respond. So I turn around and gaze through the doors, at the party going on inside uninterrupted by the icy chill out on the balcony. It feels as though I’ve stepped out of time and on to the balcony with this strange, melancholy girl and if I go back inside, the clock will resume ticking and the spell will be broken and I won’t see her again.

“Your aunt isn’t that bad, she’s one of the better Rusty’s. You know, old folk.” She says when I shoot her a puzzled glance, “My mum used to play cards with her every Sunday. Then she died. Now it’s just me and Father. Oh, wipe that stupid pity off your face and replace it with horse dung, it’ll suit me better. I’m over it, you ought to be too.”

I blink and attempt to compose my features. Well, isn’t she a joy.

She glances apprehensively back at the party and sighs, “Well, I better get back in there. I don’t want my folks to come here looking for me, they’ve embarrassed me in front of enough people already for the effects to last a lifetime.” She looks at me and cracks a smile, “It was cool meeting you. I’ll find you at your aunt’s place soon.”

She heads inside but pauses at the door and looks back at me with a faint glimmer in her eyes, “Also, I’m glad you’re here now. This summer won’t suck so much, after all.”

In Between Lives: Chapter One

21st June, 1987.

boy-wearing-nerdy-glasses

There is a boy in my new room.

There is a boy with a hammer in my new room.

I have no idea what to do with this information.

I ought to be afraid, I suppose. But he doesn’t look very frightening. Wearing a Pretenders t-shirt and large, askew spectacles, he is stepping back and forth on the floorboard, as though making sure it won’t give away under his weight.

It takes him a couple of seconds to notice my presence. When he does, he stands straight and grins at me.

I notice two things; the boy is very very tall—even for a boy—and that his friendly, perfectly amiable smile is what actually scares the bejeezus out of me.

I haven’t spoken to a boy since last Christmas. Unless you count Kenny, our mailman. The only thing more terrifying than the male species are the male species that are about my age.

I stand there stunned and blinking as he begins talking. It takes me a moment to step out of my head and listen.

“… It should hold just fine unless you decide to throw a hoedown up here.” He says (I don’t have a clue as to what a hoedown is supposed to be) and continues grinning.

I continue staring.

`“I’m Kevin.” He says after an awkward pause, eyebrows raised, like he can’t decide if I’m mute or simply rude.

“I’m tired.” I say as my arms give away and I drop my luggage on the (apparently) now steady wooden floor.

He flushes; brows furrowed, and stammers, “Oh. Of course. I imagine it’s been a long journey. I’ll just leave you to your thoughts then.” He walks around me and lingers by the doorway, “Good night.”

The door shuts behind him.

First impressions are fifty percent real and fifty percent perception.