Chapter 23-Confronting Ghosts

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“It’s time to let go,” I said.

The wind caressed my cheeks, like a gentle stoke of a ghost. Such a breezy evening,their ashes were sure to fly far away from Rivertown. At last, my mother’s wishes were coming true: getting out of this hell-hole.

I stood at the top of the hill in Frink Park and combined my parents together. I yelped when  I spilled some of “mom” on the grass.

Oh well, I thought.

Dillon reached down to assist me and a shook my head ‘no’ so fast, that my head probably looked like a blur. I heard Trina say ‘uh-u, look at him’ under her breath. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Leah shush her.I bit my lip.

Trina had a hard time pretending to like someone. That was an admirable quality, in my opinion. It’s much worse to fake-like someone, like I did all of the time. My mind bounced to Charlene and Krissy back at Baylor U. Maybe I didn’t give them enough credit. They made their feelings about me loud and clear.

I grunted when I lift up Dad’s gold urn.. I opened the top and sandy pebbles rushed into the plastic container that mom-dust was in. It made a roaring sound as it fell, like the distant sound of rain splattering on the sidewalk. A plume of dust rose up and met my face. I breathed in my dad. I cringed and felt my stomach twist.

Nevertheless I was happy he was out of the fake-gold jar. He wouldn’t have wanted his remains in that.

I glanced at Nash and the greyish hue of mom-dust and dad-dust and his concerned face reminded me of something.

I remembered when Nash and I snuck down to the Rivertown’s quarry one fourth of July. We were 12, no, maybe 14. Anyway, everyone else was with their families. I wanted to get away from my dad and his gross buddies. They were all over drinking. Nash and I escaped our families and fled to watch the town fireworks over the water. No one else was in that spot, so we brought a gallon of chocolate chip ice cream and two spoons, for our own private party.

There was patches of rocks and sand by the quarry, which at that time, I had no idea looked like cremated human remains. Looking at Nash, as I hovered over my dead parents, switched on the film and that night played on the blank, white screen of my imagination.

I shouldn’t have worn my pink, glitter, plastic jelly shoes because I slipped on the rocks and busted open my knee. I still have a half-dollar sized scar. Nash washed the gravel off with his water bottle and then wrapped it up with his white tshirt. He encouraged me to go home, but I didn’t want him to miss the fireworks. So I pretended it didn’t hurt as much as it did, just so I didn’t spoil his night. I remembered when the gargantuan explosions of light turned night into day, I saw his expression. He sat there with a forehead crinkled, as he twiddled his thumbs. When he caught my stare, he gave me a car-salesman smile.

That night summarized Nash and me. I sat there with blood seeping through white cotton blend fabric and he didn’t voice his worry. Both sacrificing self for one another.

My memory faded  as I lugged the container of remains to the peek of the hill. I huffed when I peered at the group of people fifty yards away from me. I wished it were just Nash and me. But no. I had to have a little audience. My grandma, Leah, Trina, Nash, and Dillon. I wasn’t sure where Lauren went, but I didn’t give a shit. If I were a wizard, I’d snap my fingers and have them all disappear.

When a gust of wind roared over the hill, I dug both of my hands into the cold, lifeless, soot, and threw a huge handful in the air. Most of it came crashing down, but some caught in the air stream, like I desired.

I didn’t know what I expected when I threw the ashes in the wind. But it wasn’t that.

An hour later and I was back in my private hotel room. It looked like housecleaning didn’t live up to their job-title. I didn’t care.  I kicked off my sweaty flats and let my body thump down on the bed. The adrenaline that fueled me through the wake, funeral, luncheon, and ash tossing was gone, leaving me without a drop of energy and full of pain.

I massaged my temples and heard a knock on the door. I knew it was Dillon. He thought it was cute to do a rhythm with his knocks. I ignored it and allowed my breaths to become as heavy as my heart.

Confused, I awoke hours later. I wasn’t sure where I was, or what year it even was. When I remembered, I looked at my clock. 10pm. Dillon was probably thrilled with the fact I didn’t make travel plans with him for the next day, like he bugged me to do after I threw my ashes.

I staggered over to my little box of horrors. Now, with only five things. My share of my mom’s ashes were gone, the rest my grandparents would forever hold onto next to a professional head shot on the mantle. Of course, I still had my heart necklace.

Do I need my necklace anymore? I wondered. Without much thought, I ripped it off of my neck, breaking the chain. It was the first time since I was eleven that I had it off. I didn’t want it anymore. In that moment I knew that the time had come.

I secretly arranged with Trina and Nash to return to Frink Park, but this time, just the three of us, and this time, I was really going to let go.

Trina picked me up and we met Nash at the top, who had brought the shovel that I requested. He was already digging a hole.

“I hope you don’t think I’m digging, Brie,” Trina said curling her lip. “I love you, boo, but…”

“It’s fine, I just wanted you to be here for support,” I said, as we reached Nash. “You won’t have to dig.”

“Guess not!” Trina said looking Nash up and down. “Didn’t know you hired a professional.”

Nash was wearing work pants and gloves and had a LED lantern sitting next his hole. Nash stabbed the earth with the shovel and leaned on it.

“When I was a kid, my dad used to make me dig holes when I was in trouble,” Nash said, reaching down to retrieve his water bottle. He took a swig.

“No!” Trina said with bulging eyes. “Did you see what hole digging did to Shia LeBeaouf? Mothafucka went cray-cray!”

“What?” Nash said, giving me puzzled eyes.

“Trina, that was a movie and he was just an actor,” I said, putting my hand on her shoulder and tucking my cardboard box under my armpit. .

“Girl, what?” Trina put her hands on her hips. “You think I didn’t…oh please, let’s just get the show on the road before you chicken out. Stop stalling. Bury the box.”

“I’m not burring the box,” I said, gliding towards Nash, with my best Mascot Girl smile.

My Lauren education has to be for something, right? I said as I morphed into bedroom eyes.

I set the box down and slid my arms, like two snakes, around Nash’s neck. It was still weird to greet him in that way. I wondered when it would feel normal.

He placed his large, gloved hands on my waist. My eyes closed by themselves as we leaned into each other. I wasn’t sure who started it, but I didn’t want to be the first to end it. Nash got distracted and looked up. He laughed and I followed his stare. Trina was doing some ridiculous combination of a touchdown dance and the Carlton from Fresh Prince.

Nash laughed and my heart quickened as I watched his handsome face in the crispy yellow light of the lantern.

“What’s funny, Romeo?” Trina asked while doing the wave with her arms. “Everything is normal over here.” She started to breathe heavily when she flapped her arms like chicken wings, and I saw a bead of sweat trickle down her forehead. She was committed.

“Okay, okay, let’s go. The hole is deep enough,” I said.

Trina stopped and put her hands on her knees as she caught her breath.

I picked up the box and opened the lid. I sucked in a breath and let my lungs deflate like a balloon. Expecting a barage of emotions, I braced myself. My eyes scanned the items. Nothing.

I didn’t know which item I hated the most. But I had a guess.

“Bye razor,” I said as I plucked up the silver handle and dropped it into the hole. It made a sound like a baseball into a mit. It was right where it was meant to be.

“Necklace, you were more like a collar,” I said. “I don’t have to be reminded of death each time I look in the mirror. I choose life.” The chain slipped through my fingers, and fell into it’s grave.

Next, I opened a folded, piece of paper. The edges were worn from being folded and refolded and handled for so long. There were few circles of brown blood on the back.  I opened it up. I was going to feel something with this one. I always did.

“Dear Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Nash, Thomas, and the rest of the world. I’m sorry. Goodbye.”

I held up the paper and ripped it in half. Then by fours then again and again, until it was confetti. “For someone who loves poetry, I wasn’t very creative with that one.”

Trina shifted her weight and Nash scratched the back of his neck.

“Oh lighten up,” I said, as the confetti-suicide note floated down like snow into the hole. “This actually isn’t as sad as I expected. It feels good. Like when you were really sick and you don’t want to throw up. But then you do, and you feel better than ever. Even better than before you were sick.”

“A miracle,” Trina said, with lips curving into a smile.

“I’m ready to move on,” I said nodding my head.

I chucked the broken sunglasses, and then…

“What is that?” Trina asked taking a two steps forward.

“Her empty bottle of pills,” I said. I tossed it in, and the plastic made a ‘dink’ noise against the razor.

“Oh Heavens,” Trina said balling her fist and placing it by her lips. Her eyes gleamed with tears.

“Just like Marilyn Monroe,” I said leering at the orangey-brown pill container in the hole. “Accident or intentional. No one knows.”

“You are okay to talk about this?” Nash asked in gentle tone. “You never talk about this.”

“Never,” Trina agreed, wiping away an run-away tear.

“I’m fine,” I said with a nod. “That’s what happened. Someone once told me that if you are afraid of ghosts, you are supposed to come out from hiding from under the blankets. Once you do, and tell them to go away, they leave. The topic of my mother’s death has always been my number one ghost.”

Trina’s shoulders began to bop up and down as she sobbed. She threw her large arms around me and Nash followed suit on the other side. I heard a sniffle from Nash. I half expected for that moment to be my crying break-through. I blinked dry eyes.

“Okay, here we go,” I said shaking off my best friends and reaching back down towards the box.

I held up the blue rattle for the last time and gave it a shake. On an exhale, I uncurled my fingers and let it go.

“Last thing guys,” I said. I felt my chest tighten. I hadn’t looked at this piece for quite sometime. It was always too much.

Nash and Trina peeked at each other out of the corners of eyes. Trina slid her arm around my back and caressed the back of my shoulder.

I unfolded it. There we were. My mom, my dad, and cheesy smiles Brie. I pointing to my shirt that said “Big Sister”.

“That’s how they told me, you know,” I explained as two headed peeked over my shoulder. “It was one of my mom’s old plain shirts, that’s why it’s so big. Nothing fancy, I think they used pink permanent marker or something. Later on, my grandma came over to celebrate with us. She was the one who took this picture. I think that’s the happiest that we ever were, simultaneously.”

“Maybe you should hang on to it,” Nash suggested.

“Later that night, my parents got into, yet another, epic fight. I hid in my closet. I took my baby doll and wrapped her head to toe with this baby blue blanket I had. I had to cover the baby’s face because it only had one eye. It ruined my visualization. Anyway. I figured I’d need practice for my brother, so I rocked that bundle and sang it a song. I read my baby a book. That was first of many times I had sister practice in the closet.”

“Oh sweet Jesus,” Trina said squeezing my shoulder.

“I loved him before I even met him. I just knew that I would take care of him and protect him from our parents when it got bad. And selfishly, I looked forward to not being alone. To having a closet mate, or sorts”

I closed my eyes. When I opened them, the picture was already on it’s way down into the hole.

“Are you sure?” Trina said in a quivering voice.

I dropped down to my knees and pushed dirt into the hole with my hands.

“It’s over,” I said as I scooped more soil. “Maybe it was moving away, joining Theta, Dad dying, and finally telling you, Nash, how I feel. Whatever it is, I feel different.”

I stood up and wiped my dirty hands on my jeans.

“What now? Are you going back to school?”

“Of course,” I said rolling my eyes. “I got so mixed up in Mascot Girl and my social life, I forgot the reason I went to Baylor in the first place. Education! Free education.”

“But,” Trina said scratching her chin, “what about the whole Dillon mess. When you dump his ass, it’s not going to be pretty.”

“I know. And I had to go and piss Lauren off on top of everything else.Who knows what Theta will do to me. Maybe take away my title or even kick me out of sisterhood. That would be horrible to be kicked out. I love it there.”

“When will you be dismissing dildo?” Nash asked taking off his work gloves and stuffing them into his back pocket. Trina snickered.

“I don’t know, I want to let him down with ease. In his warped mind, we are close to sending out wedding invitations. My goal will be over this next month.”

“Merritt, you are fuckin’ with me,” Nash said, studying my face.

“What?”

“A month!”

“You said you would give me time,” I said cocking my head. “I want to minimalise backlash against my sisters, if at all possible. Not to mention, that this is going to really hurt him, I want him to at least guess that it’s coming before I tear the rug out from him.”

Nash blew a puff of air out of his mouth. “This has been a difficult day for you, I wouldn’t dare make it worse on you, Merritt. But you have to understand, until you are no longer with Dillon, there is no ‘we’. Keep that in mind.”

“Nash!” I said feeling the temperature of my blood spike. “You said you would give me time!”

“Yeah, I was thinking a few days. Maybe a week. Now you will be expected to kiss him and be in his arms, ugh,” Nash cringed. “Who knows what else.”

I watched as Nash grab his shovel and light and charged down the hill.

“Nash, come on!”

I met Trina’s eyes. She didn’t have to say anything. I already knew what she was thinking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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