Last week we announced that Marjorie Weismantel’s A Girl Between is our Kids Corner Book of the Week and the sponsor of our student reviews and of thousands of great bargains in the Kids Book category:
Here’s the set-up:
This is a story of Tess, a 16 year old girl who finds herself an unwitting participant in a series of disturbing events. Tess’s life changes drastically when her abusive step-uncle dies under mysterious circumstances. She is forced to pick up and move across the country with her aunt and cousins to her grandmother’s house in Woodley, Connecticut. Upon arriving, she experiences a strange feeling of familiarity, as if she’s lived there before; but that would be impossible, wouldn’t it?
As Tess settles into her new life in Woodley, she manages to make a few friends, while also discovering she has many enemies. An unusual influx of strange people arriving in town on a daily basis only adds to her sense of unease. She finds herself at the confluence of forces she is at a loss to explain. Unfortunately, the chaos starts to impact the safety of her family and friends.
Tess knows it’s time to seek the truth about herself. She undergoes regression hypnosis which reveals that she lived as a witch in her many past lives. Tess’s present reluctance to embrace her identity as a witch stems from the horrific persecution she suffered throughout the centuries.
Tess pays a visit to The Between, the place between lives, where the souls of the dead undergo spiritual rejuvenation. She communicates with her fellow soul mates who provide her with the information that is essential to halting the events that are escalating toward a disaster of epic proportions. Tess also learns of evil powers practiced by others, and how her own past foreshadows her crucial role in an apocalyptic battle of good against evil.
And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
Cousins Annie and Eve kept an eye out while I crept out the back door. I used a small flashlight to see my way to the garage, which was located behind the house. Frank, my uncle, always locked the garage door, so I fished the key out of my pocket and fumbled with the lock until I managed to get it open.
Frank was always concerned that someone would steal one of his precious antique cars, so the door was always locked. He owned five vintage cars, all in various stages of restoration. I had to peer through the dark to find the right one, which wasn’t that tough to do. It was Frank’s baby; the shiny red ’79 Chevy Corvette. It’s the one he drives to work every single day. I have a theory about why Frank drives that shiny show-off car everywhere. It’s because it makes him feel like he’s big and important.
I felt around under the car for the wrench. Eve had placed it there earlier for me to find. It was really tough trying to fit the wrench over the tire lug using only a thin pencil of light, but it finally slipped on. I stood over the tire and readjusted my stance to get optimum leverage. It’s never easy getting leverage when you’re on the short side like me. As I leaned in, I realized that something was different. There was a new background noise. What was that? I started to feel panicky so I took a few deep breaths. I told myself to just quiet down and listen.
As I waited, I could feel some doubts creeping in. What if Frank woke up? What if something went wrong? Did he really deserve this? Tonight certainly does present a good opportunity, and it may not come around again. I have to keep that in mind. I also remember how badly Frank treats us. For example, today he installed the two front tires on his precious car with poor Annie’s help. Whenever he needed our assistance he would call one of us down from our bedroom hideout to help him. He’d make us stand around for hours, waiting for his impetuous commands. Then he’d scream at us for not holding the wrench properly, or sanding some car part too little or too much, or whatever. He loved yelling so it didn’t matter how hard you tried or what you did. It was his daily reminder that this was his domain. In his eyes, you were no better than a bug on his Chevy windshield. If he was really feeling on top of things, he might reward you with a back hand across the face or a kick in the pants before you escaped from his custody.
Frank has always been insane with us, but something happened recently that pushed us into this act of desperation. He came home from work the other day and was actually whistling! My cousins were hoping he was in a good mood because work went well. But I knew better. Something was up and it wasn’t going to be good. I just had a feeling. Unfortunately, I was on the mark. He lowered the boom right after dinner.
“I have some good news for you girls and for ‘Lardass’” (what he calls my Aunt Amy when no one else is around). “Someone at work is selling a beautiful piece of land way up in the mountains. I’ve been looking for a way to move out of this congested area and away from all of the bad influences on you girls. I can’t stand all the people living around here. I figured that if we move up there I don’t have to worry about the crazy stuff going on at your school. Your mother can home-school you. It’ll give her something to do other than sitting around on her lardass all day like she does. Then I don’t have to worry about you going out with boys and getting into trouble.” The whole time Frank was telling us this news, he had a smug grin on his face.
My aunt said, “But Frank, we don’t want to move away from here. The girls like going to the high school and all of their friends live around here.”
Frank’s face started turning bright red. He’s not used to being disputed. “Shut up, Lardass. I already gave the guy a deposit to hold the property. I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to get this place. I figured we can move by September. It’ll be more of a drive for me, but I don’t mind sacrificing for my girls.” He said ‘my girls’ like he was saying the phrase ‘dog crap’.
Our fear about leaving was what really got the ball rolling with our plan. Even though living with Frank was a nightmare, we had great friends and neighbors. They all knew about Frank and compensated in little ways to help us cope. If we had to leave our friends, what would we do? We would be stuck under Frank’s reign of terror 24/7. As it was, we were becoming scared little rabbits. When our life does start someday, will we be able to actually live it? Aunt Amy was the one who would pay the most, though. Any spark of life in her had been worn down to a tiny nub. Her primary role as the buffer zone had turned her into a yelping, skittering dog.
Despite that, my aunt had taken on a big risk recently by helping Annie secretly leave the house in the evening. Frank hardly ever let us go out at night because boys may be around, and BOYS WERE OFF LIMITS. Frank’s mantra was that boys were up to no good and they had only one thing on their mind. Since Annie was almost 18 years old, Aunt Amy wanted her to do some normal teenage things. So, when Uncle Frank started snoring in front of the TV, Annie would slip out and meet her friends in front of the house next door. They’d go to the movies or a high school dance or something. When Annie came home, she’d slip in through an unlocked basement window and sneak upstairs. We were all glad for Annie, but while she was gone, we lived in a state of perpetual terror. What if Frank woke up? What if Frank found out? What if our house got struck by lightning? What if the aliens landed?
So there I was, still standing with the lug wrench in my hand. I finally heard the noise again. It was a scrabbling noise, like mice in the walls. That’s all it was. It was nothing to worry about. I had to do this! I put my weight down on the lug wrench. The lug nut on the tire wouldn’t budge. Then the wrench slipped and clanged onto the cement floor. That was so loud! I anxiously peeked through the garage window at the house. Did Frank hear that? I waited. No light came on.
My cousins must be going crazy by now, wondering what’s going on out here. Our plan was for me to loosen the lug nuts on one of the front tires he changed on his car today. On his way to work tomorrow, he’d be driving down a couple of long steep hills. There was a good chance the tire would pop right off and he’d lose control of his car. There was nowhere to go but off the road and down the cliff. He tends to be a speedy driver because he’s an impatient man, and of course he doesn’t wear his seat belt. After all, he’s ‘The Man’ driving a shiny red corvette. There’re no airbags because the car is too old. It’s not like a tire shop would be blamed. Frank changed his own tires.
I volunteered to carry out this part of the plan because of my age. After all, I’m 15 years old, turning 16 next month. We figured that if something happened and it was discovered that Frank’s tire was deliberately loosened, I could step forward and take the heat. There’s only so much that can be done because of my age (at least according to the TV shows). I’d probably go to juvie for a few years. It would be worth it.
I bend over for the third time and try again. The lug is really on tight. I should use a longer wrench. I just need more leverage. I go to Frank’s bench to find one. I’m sweating like a pig now. My heart is thumping, thumping. I’m breathing in and out, in and out. The wrench slipped again out of my hands. It CLANGED onto the cement. I bend over to pick it up, and stop. What am I thinking? The reason I’m messing around in here so much is because I’m putting this deed off. Deep down, I know I just can’t do it. I don’t have it in me. I wish I could. Frank is an evil man and he deserves to die. Why can’t I bring peace to this family? I can’t kill another human being, even if it’s a vacant evil soul like Frank. I wish I could. I stole out of the garage and go back inside. I am a coward.
When I got back into the house and saw my cousins, I just shook my head in defeat. I went upstairs and crawled into bed. Adrenalin was alive and well in my body so there was no way I could fall asleep. As I lay there, I started thinking about my early life with this family. I didn’t always live with Aunt Amy, Frank and Cousins Annie and Eve. I lived with my own mom and dad. At one point my dad up and left us, so I was just with my mom. She was sweet and kind to me, but my strongest memories of her were of her eyes. Even when my mom would laugh and tickle me, I could see sadness inside her eyes. She died of cancer when I was six, but I remember the sadness from way before then.
After my mother’s death, my Aunt Amy came and got me. She was my mother’s younger sister. She was the greatest; very kind and sweet like my mom. My cousins Annie and Eve were a little older than me, but we got along well. They mothered me, too, which I just soaked up.
There was something that I remembered about my aunt at that time that made me nervous. I knew even then that she had a little needy hole inside of her. Frank wasn’t with Aunt Amy back then, but he was starting to hang around at the edges. He could see the hole, too. The first time I saw him, he came by with some tools to fix Aunt Amy’s hanging mailbox. I remember the second time I saw him. He took all of us out for ice cream. My cousins and I were sitting in the back seat of a giant car. I think it was called a Desoto. It was a beautiful thing, green and sparkling in the sun. The back seat was like a big round living room couch. I was licking my cone when some of it spilled on the seat. Frank laughed it off like it was OK, but I knew better. Deep in his eyes was a big fury. He tried to hide it, but I saw. He acted all nice until he married Aunt Amy. I wanted to tell her that he was bad inside, but I knew she wouldn’t listen. I was only eight years old.
Our life with Aunt Amy changed quickly after she married Frank, like I figured it would. Frank was a physically intimidating man. Even though he was small, he did manual labor all day so he was quick and muscular. I always thought he looked kind of like Popeye; the cartoon character who ate spinach and grew big arm muscles.
The scariest thing about Frank was his propensity to blow up for any reason at all. The first time his madness leaked out was when he banged his head on the door of an upper cabinet that was left open. We were all sitting at the kitchen table, so we had a real close up view. Frank’s face turned red and I could see pulsing veins in his forehead. His eyes were bulging and intense when he turned to us and screamed something about the cabinet door being left open. He proceeded to put on a great show with his gesturing and emoting. He got just what he wanted because we were all scared to death. The minute he stopped yelling we all ran out of the room, except for my poor aunt. She always stayed to try to fix everything. That first temper tantrum of Frank’s happened when he was married to my aunt for only just a few weeks. Needless to say, things got much worst.
His tantrums increased in duration and frequency after that. After a while, one blowup ran into another. Some of his frenzies were more memorable than others. One of Aunt Amy’s jobs was to make up his lunch and then leave it right by the back door. Aunt Amy was then supposed to remind Frank to pick up his lunch on the way out the door. One day, when she didn’t remind him, he went crazy on her and started calling her “Lardass”. From that day on, he only called her Amy when other people were around. At home, she was just Lardass.
I was finally drifting off to sleep when one last memory zaps me out of nowhere. I hadn’t thought about this in years. It happened before Aunt Amy and Frank were married, so I was around seven years old. As I recall, he was still putting on the virtuosity show with Aunt Amy and the girls, but for some reason he dropped all pretense with me. In fact, I think he was playing a game with me. He was daring me to go to Aunt Amy. He wanted to stir things up. He was having us clean out the basement window wells of leaves and stuff. I was nearby when Frank called me over to look in one of the window wells. I went over and saw a mother rabbit and her bunnies curled up together. They were so beautiful, all silky and smooth. I loved animals, especially baby animals. I bent over to stroke a baby rabbit with my index finger when suddenly I felt a hard WACK on my chest. I flew back a few feet and my head snapped back. My chest felt stung by the hard slap. Frank then screamed at me that rabbits were dirty. They were full of germs. He was going to throw the baby rabbits in a bucket of water and drown them because who knows what disease they might carry. The entire time he was telling me, I knew he was enjoying himself. I could see it in his smiling eyes.
2. School Shockwave
Thinking about our failed plan half the night resulted in a severe lack of sleep. Of course, life still goes on so I had to drag myself out of bed and quickly get ready for school. Today will be one of my allotted comfort days. I save them for times like this. I’m wearing a t-shirt, sweatpants and flip flops. I spaced the comfort days to maybe one or two a week at the most. I classify myself as a casual dresser and don’t want to slip over into total slob territory. Total slob can easily morph into ugly. Believe it or not, I have more pride than that.
I wish I could stop my mind spin. I felt bad about not carrying out our plan yesterday. Of course, if I had carried it out, I’d be more of a wreck than I already am. I was also still worrying about moving out to the sticks with Frank. What would happen to us? How about Aunt Amy?
For today, I just had to get through school. The worrying won’t cease, but I’m good at turning it into a background buzz. At breakfast, Annie, Eve and I didn’t say a word to each other. We just gulped down a drink and ran out the door before Frank made his appearance. Seeing Frank before school is like mentally putting on the dim switch for the day. I preferred to start the school day with the mental lights on. I knew that lots of kids thought of school as boring, but for me, school was an oasis of calmness.
This was my second week of school as a sophomore at Minnetauk Regional High School. There’s a little over 500 students here. Since it’s such a small place, everyone is familiar with everyone else’s business. That’s good and bad. People here are nosey, but once they figure things out, they tend to leave you alone. For example, many of the students here know why we don’t go out much. They recognize that it’s not due to religious or anti-social reasons. They know that it’s only because we live with crazy Frank. I used to have girlfriends over on occasion, but Frank got way too grumpy and weird for them, so I stopped inviting them over. Since then, I’ve just settled for school-type friendships. It’s easier, but it’s lonely. Consequently, I’ve felt left out of high school life.
My first period class today was Spanish. After I walked in and sat down, I noticed how noisy the class was. It’s always like that in here. The teacher was perched up at her desk as usual. She always seemed busy up there, talking on the phone, looking at the computer, typing, etc. I’ve never seen her actually teach the class. She handed out the work for us to do, and then sat up there in her little private zone. Students knew not to bother her because she didn’t offer any help. She expected all of us to help each other, if we had any questions. Well, she’s the teacher, isn’t she? What was she there for? Anyway, we all just called her ‘Zoneout’. Just as the school nurse came in the door, a paper airplane flew right by her. She walked over to Zoneout and said something to her.
Zoneout tore her eyes away from her computer and looked at me. “Tessie, can you please go with Mrs. Dyer?”
“OK,” I mumbled, thinking why didn’t the nurse just have me called down?
We walked to the principal’s office without saying a word. Mrs. Dyer glanced at me with a concerned look on her face. That made me anxious. What’s going on? When I got there, the vice principal and my guidance counselor were seated at a conference table. The principal, Mr. Kowalski, and a police officer were in the corner talking. As soon as I walked in, Mr. Kowalski cleared his throat and became quiet. Since I hadn’t participated much in the way of extracurricular school stuff and hadn’t gotten into trouble, I’m not that familiar to any of these people. I wonder if they even recognize me. The guidance woman, I forgot her name, motioned for me to sit down next to her. Suddenly, Annie and Eve appeared, eyes open wide, looking at me. They were being escorted by the school security officer. I was feeling more freaked out now. Then, I heard Mr. Kowalski asking the school secretary when my aunt would be showing up.
Annie finally spoke up, “What’s going on? Why are we here?”
At that moment, my aunt came rushing in, “I’m so sorry, girls. I got here as soon as I could.” She looked over at Mr. Kowalski. “Have they been told?”
Eve responded, “We haven’t been told anything, Mom. What’s going on?”
Aunt Amy took a deep breath and then replied, “There’s been an accident.”
“Mom, who’s had an accident?” Annie asked, looking alarmed.
Aunt Amy solemnly answered, “It was Frank. He was driving to work down the mountain. It appeared that one of his tires was loose and it came off his car while he was taking a sharp turn. He lost control and then he went over a cliff. He hit a tree.”
“Well, how is he?” asked Eve.
Aunt Amy’s hand went to her lips and she shook her head. It took a moment for her to speak. “I’m afraid he died immediately from the impact.”
Whaaaaaat??? I was shocked beyond belief. How could this be? Annie and Eve looked over at me with a bewildered look in their eyes. On the way to school I had told them that I did NOT loosen any bolts on Frank’s tires. I explained to them that I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. They were looking at me suspiciously now. I glanced back at them and slightly shook my head no. Everyone else at the table was looking at us with concern. They were afraid that we were going to break down and lose it in front of them. One thing I have to say about living with Frank; you learn to keep your emotions in check. All of us were stunned beyond words, and not just because he was dead. How did Frank happen to die in that particular way, especially today? Could it possibly be that coincidental?
3. The Appearance
After we got home, Annie, Eve and I went upstairs to talk about everything. We just couldn’t reconcile the strange timing between our recent plan and what happened today. I even felt a little guilty. Was it somehow my fault? I had to reassure my sisters, again, that I did NOT loosen the bolt. Frank died in a real accident. I think I was also trying to convince myself.
The next few days passed in a blur. There was a police investigation of the incident, but it was quickly resolved as an unfortunate accident. The Corvette was an older car with older parts that Frank worked on exclusively. He was not considered an expert mechanic, so repair mistakes would not be out of the question.
My aunt planned a simple funeral. A few distant relatives came from out of the area and stayed with us, but most of the family lived within a drivable distance. The three of us tried to support Aunt Amy with all that she had to do. At the same time, my cousins and I felt kind of numb. Death wasn’t something teenagers bothered to contemplate. It’s a phenomenon we don’t believe in until it stabs us in the heart. Not that Frank’s death affected me that way. His dying just made me think about the possibility of other people dying. There’s a little corner of my brain that I usually manage to keep shuttered. Hearing of a death, any death, always shoves it open, and it’s not comfortable. It tilts my world so that everything is a little off. It’s all the Mom thoughts, Mom impressions, Mom feelings, where is Mom, does Mom see me, I miss my Mom, will I see Mom again, Mommy I love you, Mommy . . . Mom, Mom. It always takes me a while to lock it up again.
I wondered how my aunt felt about Frank’s passing. Even though Frank treated her badly much of the time, she showed some loyalty to him. She was the kind of woman who was torn between her role as a good mother and a dutiful wife.
The weirdest time for me was at the graveyard. The last time I was at a funeral was when my mother died. I remember freaking out when they lowered the casket and threw some dirt on it. I thought she would suffocate. I didn’t understand the finality of it all.
Friends of the family and relatives were invited over to our house afterward for refreshments. I stayed downstairs with them for as long as I felt I should, and then I crept up to my room. I was so tired. They wouldn’t miss me if I just lay down on my bed for a few minutes. I just needed to take a break.
I was startled awake when I felt someone sit on my bed. I looked over. Why is Frank sitting there, staring at me? Is this another Frank nightmare? Am I still sleeping? He’s scaring me. Isn’t he dead? I put out my hand to see if I could touch him, but I only felt air. He’s still there, though. I can see him. He had a really horrible look in his eye, like he wanted to hurt me, so I finally spoke to him. ”Frank, what are you doing here? What do you want?”
“Why did you want me to die?” Frank growled.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“The reason I’m here is because of you.” Frank moved in close to frighten me. It was working.
“That makes no sense, Frank. I didn’t do anything to you.”
He moved to within an inch of my face and stared at me. He didn’t look right. He frequently got mad, but this was very different. His eyes had a wild look about them, like he was angry and petrified at the same time. ”You started things up. Once you got things rolling, my time came.”
“What are you talking about? You died in a car accident. That had nothing to do with me.”
“It had everything to do with you!” He screamed hoarsely at me.
“You’re crazy. You’re just in my dream anyway,” I pushed back, trying to convince myself.
He pointed to my eyes and glared at me, “You have the ‘Sight’, because you’re one of them. I knew it the first time I saw you. It was strong then. I kept you close, so you wouldn’t use it, but it’s in you. You used it against me. I didn’t see this coming.” Frank’s face started to look blurry.
“What sight are you talking about Frank? Don’t go away. Please tell me,” I pleaded.
He was shrinking and fading before my eyes, but he croaked, “They’re watching you now. I’m warning you!”
Frank looked terrified. “Please, NOOOO. I must go now. They want me now. Ohhh, no, NO, Please, please. . . . ,” Frank’s voice ended in a whispery shriek.
Suddenly, I could hear a knocking sound. I looked around. Was I sleeping? Was that a dream? It was my aunt knocking on the door, “Tessie, your Great Aunt Sandy and Uncle Jimmy are leaving. Can you come out and say goodbye to them?”
After everyone left our house, I finally had a chance to think about the dream. It wasn’t like dreams usually are, kind of fuzzy and distant. With dreams, you forget most of the details after a short period of time. This dream was so real, however. I could recall every detail. I also experienced the same feeling I always got when around Frank; a combination of panic and loathing. I could even detect Frank’s scent in the dream. He always smelled of lava soap and car grease. Then I noticed something that really creeped me out. I had ironed a silk blouse and left it on the edge of my bed. I decided not to wear it to the funeral. It was still there, nice and smooth, when I lay down to take my nap. After I got up, it wasn’t flat anymore. It looked like someone had sat there, right on top of it.
Things were really quiet around here, for the first week or so after Frank’s funeral. We were all shaken up for different reasons, so we coped by returning to our daily routine of school, homework and chores. However, it was only a matter of time before that changed. It began to dawn on me and my cousins that we were no longer banned from the world of high school. Aunt Amy set up some rules, but they were nothing like the house arrest that Frank had imposed on us. So, we jumped right in, joining different sports and activities, and having some friends over to the house. Annie also got herself a job in a local real estate office. By that time, I had put the Frank hallucination out of my mind. I told myself that it was just a crazy dream. It wasn’t tough to release Frank from my thoughts. For the present moment, life was golden.
One morning before school, Aunt Amy asked us to sit at the kitchen table. She sat herself down across from us. I’d been so busy in my own life, I hadn’t thought too much about how Aunt Amy was doing. She looked so worn out. She even looked like she lost some weight. She finally cleared her throat and said, “Tess, Annie and Eve, I’m giving you guys notice that there’ll be a family meeting tomorrow night at 7 o’clock. It’s very important that all of you can make it, so don’t schedule anything else during that time or have anyone over, seeing as it’s a ‘family’ meeting.”
We all glanced at each other, and then Eve asked in an exasperated tone, “Mom, can’t you tell us something about this now, or if there’s not enough time, how about tonight?”
My aunt frowned at us, “No, I need some time to explain things. I want to make sure that all of you are here and we have enough time. Lately, getting the three of you together is like trying to put the birds back in the cage.”
“Auntie, you’re scaring us. Are we really going to be left hanging until tomorrow night?” I inquired sweetly. I didn’t want to sound too pushy.
She got up and sighed, “I’m afraid so.”
We got up and left for school. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ll be putting this out of my head. No sense in ruining my day. It might be the last good one for a while.
The next day, we all congregated in the living room after dinner. Aunt Amy looks so serious. That doesn’t leave me with a good feeling.
She starts out by saying, “You girls may have noticed that I haven’t been wearing my typical jeans and t-shirt outfit, lately. I’ve been dressing up.”
“I know Mom, and by the way, you’ve got to update your stuff. When was the last time you bought something nice to wear? I think I remember you wearing that blue top about ten years ago,” asserted Annie.
My aunt was taken aback. “It’s not as bad as that, is it?”
“I’m sorry, Auntie, it is bad. In fact, I was thinking that the outfit you wore yesterday might have been from your high school days,” I said, half joking, but it did resemble clothes from Grease.
“That blouse is a classic!” retorted Aunt Amy.
“Oh, my God, that IS from your high school days. I was deliberately exaggerating!” I exhorted.
Eve jumped in, “Mom, that’s terrible! I mean it’s great that you can still fit in those clothes, but really, that’s like things Grandma would wear to a tea party.”
Aunt Amy chimed in, “Girls, girls, I hear your point, but we’re getting off topic. We’re here to talk about our future. I brought up my clothing situation because I’d been dressing up to look for a job.”
Annie looked surprised before asking, “So, how’s it going?”
“Not so good. This is a rural area and there aren’t a lot of jobs, plus the economy isn’t the greatest right now. However, even if I got a job, I know that we can’t afford this mortgage on my salary.” My aunt looked a little defeated when she told us this, but then she sat up and straightened her shoulders and added, “Anyway, I might as well get to the point. I’ve decided that the best thing to do would be to move back East, to Grandma Edwina’s house in Connecticut.”
“Mom, are you kidding? Eve yelled. I can’t believe you’d want to move back there. We don’t even know Grandma Edwina. We haven’t seen her for years. We don’t know anyone there. That’s a terrible idea!”
I added, “Don’t move because of money. We can help make money by doing jobs around here. I can babysit and Annie has her job to help out. Eve is 16 and soon I will be, too. We’ll be able to get regular jobs, too. We can make it here.”
Annie was sitting there, as if in shock. She finally jumped in, “It would be just awful to move right now, Mom. I’m a senior. I’m finally able to hang around with my friends here. You don’t know what it’s like for a teenager in this situation. You were able to do stuff that normal teens can do. I want to have a happy life with my friends now. That will all change if we move away. We’ll have to start all over and be new kids in a school back East. It will take forever to make new friends. By the time that happens, I’ll be going away to college. Mom, what are you thinking?”
I had to hand it to Aunt Amy. She seemed prepared for the onslaught. She calmly responded, “I’m really sorry girls, but my mind is set on this. I’ve already spoken to your grandma, and she’s waiting for us to show up. She has a nice big house and plenty of room. Since Grampa Myron died, she really needs help in the greenhouse, too. She’s getting older, after all. I used to work there when I was a kid, so I can jump right in. It’s the perfect job for me right now. It’s also a way for you to get to know my family that lives back East.” Then, she turned to Annie, “Dear, there’re also plenty of good colleges in that area of the country.”
We all sat there dumbstruck. My aunt cleverly took advantage of our stupor to hammer home one last point, “Most important of all, it’s what is best for our family right now.” Oh boy, once my aunt uses the ‘family’ word in the argument, we’re sunk. And, she had that stubborn look on her face. I’ve seen that face on two other occasions. There’s no fighting it. Even Frank backed down when he saw that look.
“But Mom….,” Eve started.
“No buts!” Aunt Amy admonished. She knew she was ahead, and she wasn’t taking chances with any other debating points. Talking was over.
My cousins also realized it. Their shoulders were slumped over and I couldn’t see their eyes. We’re going east.
5. The Train
So here it is, two weeks later and we’re on our way to the train station. We were originally going to fly to Connecticut, but it’s just too expensive, especially considering all the stuff we have to bring. It’s cheaper for us to haul everything on the train. We could also take our Siamese cat, Beauty Queen, on the train with us. We just had to keep her in a cat carrier.
My cousins were still wearing the ‘mopey woe is me’ façade, but it was getting old. I could see signs of it cracking. I knew Aunt Amy was noticing the cracks, too. I had a feeling that once we were on the train viewing the scenery, they’d let down their guard. I think they’re a little pissed at me for not keeping up the hostility, but I just couldn’t do it after a while. I’m still anxious about the move, but I’m also looking forward to a new adventure.
We boarded the train at the station, located right in the center of our town. I must have passed this building hundreds of times, although I never noticed it before. It’s one of those places you never really see because it’s so plain that it blends right in. I’ve never even been on a train before. When we boarded, I wanted to see everything, so I kept on walking through all of the cars until the last one. My aunt and cousins didn’t say a word, but they followed me all the way. They were curious, too, I guess. We’d be on this train for a few days so we might as well see where we go to eat and where to buy stuff. We finally sat down in seats that were in the end car (is that the caboose?) and got out books, iPods, iPhones, and other paraphernalia, and settled in. The rhythm of the moving train was very soothing. After a while, I could feel myself drift off.
What’s that, off in the distance around the bend? Is that another train? I could see it through the window, and I could even see people inside. It must be a passenger train like this one. Something was wrong. I couldn’t figure out what it was, but it just doesn’t seem right. My heart was beating and I was breathing hard. I could see smoke rising from the train. It was hit by a car; no, it’s a white pickup truck. The truck seemed to go through the crossing stop light. It hit the last car on the train. It stinks of fire and smoke. People are screaming and trying to get out. It was so hot. I couldn’t see anything, but I could smell the smoke. I could feel pain. I felt the wet blood on my face.
“Tess, Tess, what are you doing? You were moaning and touching your forehead. Are you all right, dear?” Aunt Amy was leaning in and peering at me with concern on her face. She was shaking my arm.
I hastily looked around. What was happening? I saw a horrific train crash and people getting injured. It was awful. But everything is fine here. The train is rolling along. Eve and Annie are asleep. I had a bad nightmare. That’s all it was. I have to calm myself. My hand is trembling, so I grab hold of it. I looked over at my aunt and smiled feebly before answering, “I’m OK, Auntie, it was just a crazy train dream. You know that I have a rather vivid imagination.”
“OK dear, if you’re sure. Here, have some chocolate. I brought your favorite.” My aunt pulled a Caramello bar out of her purse with a little grin and handed it to me.
“Yummm…, a Caramello bar. It IS my favorite! Thank you, Auntie,” I answered while unwrapping the chocolate caramel combo and popping pieces into my mouth. I felt the deliciously smooth chocolate/caramel melt on my tongue. It made me feel better. It always does.
I sat there staring at the trees, buildings, and houses whiz by. It was mesmerizing. My worried mind started shooting off in all directions. What will it be like in Connecticut? I heard that people are snootier in Connecticut than in Colorado. Isn’t Connecticut a rich state? Are all the kids there rich snobs? Will we fit in? What will the high school be like? I know it’s much bigger than our old one. Will kids there like me? I wondered what Grandma was like. I knew that Aunt Amy had some trouble with Grandma Edwina a long time ago. I think Grandma hated Frank. I agreed with her there. Maybe she was OK. I heard that Grandma’s house was really cool. Each of us could still have our own bedrooms. I couldn’t wait to see it.
I smelled that stinky smoke smell again. It pulled me out of my trance. I looked around. Everything was OK here. Passengers were just reading or sleeping. My heartbeat picked up and I started feeling breathless. I still smelled smoke. I could feel a storm of panic seep from the center of my body right through to ends of my toes. Something was very wrong here. I had to go and do something, RIGHT NOW.
“Something isn’t right. We have to get out of here! Don’t you smell something?” I cried out to my aunt.
Annie and Eve both opened their eyes and stared at me, like I was an alien from Mars. My aunt looked at me and said, “What are you talking about, Tess? I don’t smell anything. Are you still upset?” She pulled her glasses down to look at me, closely.
Then, I thought about how I sounded. And really, I didn’t understand why I had an urge to leave, so how would I expect them to understand? I paused for a second and told myself to get a grip. I turned to my aunt and cousins and said, with a slightly shaky voice, “Actually, I’m just really hungry right now. I feel like I could faint. Could we go and get some food before it gets too crowded in the dining car? We should leave now because it will get crowded soon since it’s near breakfast time.” I smiled, as pleasantly as I could manage.
“OK, we can go. Give me a minute to gather my purse and things,” Aunt Amy answered, still looking at me like I was a little crazy. I wanted to get them all moving quickly, so I hurriedly grabbed purses and backpacks and started down the aisle. They had no choice but to follow me out of the car. The dining car was closer to the front of the train. It took us a little while to get there. I walked all of the way to the end of the dining car and took the last table. I dumped everything in the seat and sat down. I took a couple of deep breaths and started feeling better. I told myself that everything would be all right, now.
“There’s room for Beauty Queen’s carrier over here,” I pointed under the table.
Eve answered blithely, “I didn’t bring Beauty Queen. She was sleeping and I figured, why should we disturb her? She’s freaking out enough as it is.”
I totally lost it. I stood up and screamed at Eve, “What’s wrong with you? You were supposed to be responsible for Beauty. Don’t you know what’s going to happen?”
Eve just sat there with her mouth open. She was stunned. I pointed at her and shouted, “Now, I have to go back and get her. There’s no way I’m gonna leave her back there!”
As I ran through the dining car, I noticed that no one was talking. They were all staring at me. I guess I caused a scene. Well, it couldn’t be helped. I had to get Beauty Queen away from there. Maybe I should tell the other people in that car to leave. But why would they listen? I wouldn’t know what to say to them. I can’t explain it to myself. I might just be a crazy lunatic. Maybe nothing will happen anyway. But, deep down I don’t believe that. I KNOW something will happen. I don’t know what or how, but I know it’s most likely bad. That smoke stink was still in my head. It was getting stronger.
I kept tearing through the cars, trying to get there as fast as possible. As soon as I got to our seats, I grabbed the cat carrier. Beauty Queen was awake and howling like a screaming banshee. We got to the end of our car and I pushed the button that slams the door open between the cars. The last thing I heard was a huge BANG. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I don’t think that was the door opening’. I felt a sharp stab of pain in my forehead and saw colors whirling around, and then I entered the great void.