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When sorry doesn't change things.....
What happened to do-overs?
by Begin Again
| Category: || General Fiction |
Posted:|| April 24, 2010 Views: 299|
Family night - again! I pretended not to hear my Mom calling me.
"Michael, the movie's about to start." Mom's "let's-pretend-to-be-a-happy-family" voice called my name for the third time. "You don't want to miss the beginning."
Lying on my bed, I grabbed a pillow, burying my head. It was my little sister's turn to choose the movie. Visions of a hundred Dalmatians filled my head until all I saw was spots. With the sudden realization that I was suffocating, I jerked to a sitting position, gulping for air. A series of coughing and choking followed close behind.
"Everything okay in there?" A quick tap on the door, and Dad's six-foot-two frame loomed in my doorway, my private domain. His steel-blue eyes surveyed the unkempt room. I watched his nostrils flare slightly as he sniffed the air.
"I'm not stupid, Dad." Rolling my eyes toward the ceiling, I shook my head in disgust.
Why do parents always think a teenager, alone in their room, spells trouble?
"Oh wait, I bet I've got a spare joint under the mattress. Care to relive your youth?"
"When I was your age --" Anger flashed across his face. I waited for the usual tirade, wondering which lecture he'd choose to educate me on the dangers of growing up. Instead, he stopped mid-sentence, shook his head, and shifted back into his "tonight-we-don't-upset-your-Mom" mode, "Your Mom's been calling you. Let's go!"
"Sure, be right there."
"Listen, Michael. I know you hate Friday nights, but it makes your mother happy." Mom's scare with breast cancer last year spurred her into making sure we spent quality time together; thus, family night.
"Yeah ... just let me change my shirt." Dad continued to stare at me for another few seconds. I offered one of my "What? I said I was coming" looks and he left.
From my bathroom window, I heard sounds of squealing tires. Jason, my best friend and next door neighbor, was headed for the lake. Some college kids were home on spring break and a few in-the-know seniors had been invited to their keg party; me included. Of course, it was the hottest thing going, hot babes, cool brew, and a moonlit night by the lake. A dream come true, but I was destined to spend the evening with Cruella De Vil and my family.
The smell of fresh popped popcorn greeted me as I descended the stairs. Katie's five-year-old, high-pitched squeal vibrated against the walls, grating my nerves. Dad must have started a cartoon for her while they waited for me. I could see the three of them snuggled together on the sofa, laughing. Alone, in the corner, the overstuffed chair waited for me.
Nausea swept through my body. I bumped against the small table and a new jingle assaulted my ears. A set of keys fell to the floor; my car keys, the ones Dad had taken away from me last week because I missed curfew. In an instant, my decision was made. Grabbing the keys, I slipped out the door and headed to my car.
*** * ** * * * *** * * * * *
Standing in the middle of the room, I peered around the unlit space. Something wasn't right, matter of fact, something was very wrong. Mom always left a small lamp lit so I could see when I came home, but tonight it was pitch black. It was late, but I still expected to see Dad pacing the floor, ready to deliver another of his famous speeches. The air was unusually cool and crisp. I rubbed my hand on my arm, expecting goose bumps from the chill. Nothing!
At that moment, I swore off drinking. I'd tipped quite a few at the keg party, enough to accept some college kid's challenge to race around the lake.
Come on, did he really think his weenie Challenger was going to beat my Mustang? I knew what was under my hood, a high performance 351 Cleveland.
I still remember Mom's look of horror the day Dad and I pulled into the driveway with the twisted metal shell on the trailer behind us. It had been my sixteenth birthday. At first I'd worked side by side, hour on hour, with Dad, rebuilding it. Later, after discovering the project was going to take months and months, I stopped by occasionally to help, always rushing off with the guys after an hour or two while Dad labored away.
Enough of memory lane ... Something doesn't feel right.
Dead Man's Curve flashed in front of me. A flash of orange was suddenly spinning wildly toward the lake. A burst of "take that, sucker" laughter filled my Mustang as I rounded the last hairpin curve. Everything went black.
Maybe it was those Jell-O shots? I can't remember anything else.
Wait! You're really losing it, Michael. Look, Mom's left a light on in the other room. Come on, might as well face the music. Surprised Dad didn't hear me come in. Maybe he fell asleep and I can slip upstairs.
As I approached the doorway, the scent of fresh flowers drifted my way. I didn't remember any bouquet before I left tonight.
Wonder what the occasion was? Oh man, I sure hope I didn't miss their anniversary or something. Mom will really go off the deep end. I'll be grounded and doing extra chores for weeks.
Tiptoeing through the door, I stopped, stunned. This wasn't my house.
Spinning around, I came face to face with Mom's look-alike, just older. "Grandma?"
""My sweet boy, I never expected to see you so soon." She made a clucking noise with her tongue and extended her arms toward me.
I took a step backwards. "It's nice to see you too, but ..."
A warm, comforting smile, the ones reserved for her ever-in-trouble grandson, filled her face. "But I'm dead."
"Right!" I gulped.
"I'm sorry, sweetheart, but ..."
"No-no-no-no-no-no, Grandma. I've had way too much to drink tonight and I must be hallucinating. You aren't real." I moved further away while furtively looking for something real. "Dear God, I'll never drink again. I'll never skip another one of Mom's family nights. Just let me go to sleep and forget all this. Pleeeease!"
"Michael, it's too late." Grandma wrapped her arm around my shoulder, but I pulled away, moving deeper into the room. "Let me help you understand."
In my eagerness to escape, I stumbled against an easel holding a collage of pictures, mostly of me. Mesmerized, I studied each one.
"Wow, I remember that bike. It was my very first one. Mom kept yelling at me to stay out of the street, but of course, I didn't listen. Finally, Dad took the bike away and hung it from one of the rafters in the garage. Boy, was I mad at him. I hammered a nail into his car tire that night. Dad never did figure out where he'd picked up that nail, but he sure used a lot of cuss words when he found the flat tire.
"Oh, there's a picture of me teasing Katie and Satan. That ole black cat adored her, but he sure didn't like me. Hissed every time I came near him. She rescued it from the drainage ditch, clinging to a broken tree branch. Only minutes earlier, Jason and I had tossed the cat off the bridge, our sides splitting as we watched it claw furiously at the raging water." Staring at the picture, I shook my head, "It was a stupid thing to do."
"Look at this one, Gram. Dad let me hold the big bass he caught while we took a picture together. Now that I think about it, I sure was a jerk that weekend. Dad rented a cottage on Lake Creton and the whole family went fishing. I was furious. Jason and I had planned for weeks to see the new horror movie. I'd mowed Old Lady Maxwell's yard and hauled Mr. Johnsons tree branches to the dump to earn enough money. When Mom sprang the fishing trip on me, I went ballistic. Dad tried to play the father-son role, letting me use his new fishing rod. I threw out the line and accidentally-on-purpose let go of the rod. It sailed out into the lake. Dad must have spent an hour searching the lake bottom for that rod while I sat sulking on a nearby log. Dad thought I was sad because I'd lost his new rod, but I was really still pissed off because I wasn't at the movies. He kept telling me it was okay, he could buy another one. No wonder they're always mad at me ... guess I can be a real jerk now that I think about it."
For the next few minutes, I stood oooing and ahhing over vacation pictures; our vacation at Disneyworld, our camping trip in the mountains, and the numerous ones at the shore. I'd forgotten so many great times, taken them for granted, I suppose.
The last picture was Sandy and me. Our families had met at the campgrounds and hit it off right away. At fifteen, I was definitely interested in Sandy and her tight fitting jeans. Mom was really cool that vacation. She let Sandy and me sit alone by our own campfire, roasting marshmallows until late at night. We'd shared our first kiss under the stars, without one single reprimand from any of the adults."
I hadn't realized how long I'd been standing in front of the easel of pictures, reminiscing. The sun filtered through the windows, spreading across the floor. I could hear voices in the other room. I recognized Mom and Dad talking. I stood there waiting, knowing I deserved every harsh word either one of them said.
Hey, Dad's wearing a suit. Something big must be going on, because the last time he wore that suit Grandma died ...
The whites of my eyes must have looked like saucers as I spun around and around looking for Grandma. First, I saw Mom, wearing a new black suit. She was sitting on a chair, crying. Grandma was standing by her side. Dad squatted down, holding Mom's hand with his other arm wrapped around Katie.
What have I done?
I moved closer to my family. "Dad, Mom, what's wrong?"
"They can't hear you, Michael." Grandma stood by my side. "I'm sorry, son."
"Am ... am ... am I de--e--ad?" Grandma only nodded her head while she continued to watch her daughter.
The next second I was screaming at the top of my lungs, but no one seemed to notice. Because of my foolish, reckless ways, my family was devastated.
Dabbing at her eyes with a lace handkerchief, Mom sobbed, "Where did we go wrong, John? What should we have done different?"
"Stop, Kathryn. It's no ones fault. He was just a kid, feeling his oats. Unfortunately, it got out of hand." Dad swiped the back of his hand across his eyes and looked away.
"Grandma, do something." I hadn't ever imagined my parents would ever suffer this way and I knew I was responsible for it. "Can't we change it? Make it all a horrible nightmare?"
"I'm afraid not, sweetheart. What is done is done. Over time, their hearts will slowly heal, but they'll never forget."
My little sister had never appeared so vulnerable to me. I wanted to hug her and kiss her, tell her that everything would be all right, but that would have been a lie. I watched as she slowly edged her way closer to the coffin. Bouquets of flowers flanked both sides.
When she knelt before my cold, lifeless shell, my eyes were glued to the tears streaming down her cheeks.
"Dear God, what have I done? Please take her pain away. She's too young and innocent to be living through this."
Katie's small voice began to pray, "Dear Jesus, please take care of my brother. Don't send him to that bad place. I heard Mr. Johnson talking to Dad about how kids now days are wild and don't understand. He said they all belonged to the devil." She stopped and blew her nose on a tiny lace handkerchief. Her cherub fingers stretched out and touched Michael's sleeve. "Mikey, I know you hate that name but you'll always be my Mikey. I miss you so much already. Satan does too."
Dad knelt beside Katie. He was openly crying, unable to stem his tears.
Why can't there be do-overs? I'd promise to do everything right.
"Daddy, Mikey wasn't bad. I know he loved us."
"Yes, honey, I do too. He just wanted to grow up too fast."
"We had good times together. I've still got the picture he painted at the lake; the one with us sitting on the dock."
"Hmmm... I don't remember Michael painting a picture, sweetheart. Are you sure it was Michael's picture?"
"Oh yes, he got an A+ from his art teacher. When he threw it in the trash can, I got it out and saved it."
I thought my heart would burst with pride. Grandma was beaming at Katie and so was I.
"Come on, Katie, we better go sit with Mommy. She needs us now." Dad stood and waited for her.
Her little voice spoke once again, "Mikey, you're an angel now and I know you'll be watching us. Maybe every now and then God will let you say hello. I love you." She stood and took Dad's hand and they both moved toward Mom.
I stood staring at all of them, unable to move. Grandma touched my arm. "It's time to go now."
"Why can't I tell them how much I love them?" I'd never wanted anything more than one last chance to say I love you.
"They know, honey." Taking one last look, we slipped away.
Gray storm clouds covered the sky. It had been four weeks since the funeral. Katie stood at the gravesite with Mom and Dad. Tears streamed down their faces.
With the help of my new friends in Heaven, we parted the clouds, letting the sun smile down on the trio. Katie put a bouquet of daisies in the vase. A tiny blue butterfly flitted around the flowers.
Once again, I was filled with joy as Katie squealed, "Look, Mommy, it's Mikey. He knows we are here." I fluttered my wings one more time.
Dad hugged Mom close as they raised their heads to the sky. My love filled their hearts as I whispered, "Goodbye."
Initially, I started writing this story for the contest "My Life as a Ghost", but as usual it gained a life of it's own and became longer than the allowed word count...I couldn't bring myself to delete anything so I hope you enjoy it as it is. Smiles, Carol
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