Chapter Three

Chapter Three

A Chapter by Krystle Lewallen
"

An unexpected and unwanted guest arrives.

"

 

Chapter Three

 

When I return home, I find Aunt Rita in the study sitting at Grandma's desk with a drawer open. She has a stack of papers sitting on her lap and three more stacks sitting in front of her on the desk. Looking deep in thought, she studies a paper in the stack on her lap. Deciding its fate she places it in the middle pile.

"Aunt Rita," I say, my voice wavering. She glances up at me and then back down at the papers, continuing her perusal.

"Yes Katy, what is it?" Walking in, I sit in the chair next to the desk. I remember coming in here watching Grandma type something out on her old typewriter. I would laugh, because no one used those anymore. She didn't want to get rid of it, though, and she always said, "We do not always have to do what everyone else is doing. Sometimes we just need to be our own unique selves. Besides, there is nothing wrong with my typewriter." Being in here again was strange. I had never seen anyone sit at that desk but Grandma.

Aunt Rita continues to push through the stack of papers. I take a deep breath. "I'm so sorry for the way I treated you this morning. You didn't deserve that." She stops fingering through the papers and looks up at me expectantly. "And I am especially sorry for scaring you. I was being selfish and inconsiderate." She studies me with a hard look on her face. I could see the moment she had forgiveness in her eyes. Her look turned from hard stone to a soft sign of resignation.

"Katy, you're going through a lot right now. Although, it does not give you the right to act the way you did, I accept your apology." Sitting the stack of papers on the desk, she roles her chair in front of mine. "Losing my mother has been extremely difficult. She was also my best friend. She may not have been taking care of me anymore, but I still loved her very much; she was a big part of my life."

A tear slips down my cheek uninvited, and Aunt Rita reaches forward and wraps her arms around my shoulders. I can feel her shaking from her quiet sobs. "She's gone Aunt Rita. She's really gone. What are we going to do without her? I don't know what to do," I plead. Letting the tears flow freely now, I wrap my arms around her and cry into her shoulder. Making soothing noises, she tries to calm me down�"but it only makes me cry harder until I am gasping for breaths. This is the second time someone has tried to sooth me like a child. I really need to grow up.

"Katy, we have to find a way to accept what has happened and adjust to life accordingly. My mother was a strong lady emotionally and physically. She would not want you to be crying like this. I know she loved you and Collin like you were her own children," she says. Pulling away, Aunt Rita grabs a tissue from the pocket in her jeans and begins wiping her tears away. Opening the top drawer in Grandma's desk, she pulls out an envelope and hands it to me. "I found this yesterday. I didn't open it because it was addressed to you�"it's a birthday card."

Taking the card from her, I read the front. Scrawled in Grandma's handwriting is my name. Tears are still sliding down my cheeks, landing in puddles on the envelope. I hug Aunt Rita one last time as she tells me that the lawyer will be here to talk to us tomorrow.

Not wanting to go back to my bedroom, I head out back towards the garden, taking the envelope with me. This was always my favorite place to be. I would sit under the gazebo with the smell of lavender and jasmine drifting on the breeze; the wind wrapping around me like a blanket, whipping my hair away from my face. I spent most of my time here reading or doing homework. Grandma would sit out here by herself a lot, basking in its beauty. Sometimes I would join her. Laying my head in her lap, she would soothingly brush my hair away from my face and we would talk. Usually I fell asleep because of the peace that it brought me. Would I ever know peace like that again?

When I first came to live with her, this garden was a blip of an existence with only a red rose bush on each side of the entrance to the gazebo. Collin would always brush up against it and scratch his arm to shreds. I fell into it a couple of times just from being clumsy. One day when I came out to play under the gazebo with my Barbie dolls. I noticed the rose bushes were gone. There was a big hole in the dirt. I had always admired those roses that were so beautiful but could hurt so badly.

Grandma came out to bring me a snack and a glass of water. Noticing my puzzled look she leaned down and whispered to me, "I took them out."

I looked at her and asked the one thing that most six year olds ask, "Why?"

"Because dear," she walked into the gazebo setting the plate and glass down, "some flowers may look pretty but that doesn't mean they are worth keeping. There are four other senses�"you cannot simply rely on looks alone when it comes to gardening," she explained.

I crawled up on the bench sitting my Barbie beside me like she was going to eat with us. Grandma handed me the glass of water, and I sipped it slowly. She sat down next to me. "I think we should create a new garden," she sang, putting her arm across my shoulders.

That sounded magical to my six-year-old ears. "Can we put a waterfall in?" I asked, my voice rising high with excitement.

"Absolutely. We can pick the flowers together. Will you help me?" I nodded my head yes and plastered a broad smile across my face.

She did most of the planting when I was little. I would hand her tools and plants and water everything under her supervision. She started to show me how to plant flowers, shrubs, and bushes and how to take care of them. By the time I was twelve, I was able to work in the garden alone and knew more than any twelve-year-old did about gardening as well as most adults. Our garden was a massive beauty with the most vibrant colors.

Red geraniums ran the length of the walkway from the backdoor to the gazebo entrance. Purple lavender surrounded the garden that circled the gazebo, and the sweet floral scent of jasmine drifted from the pedestals at the entrance. Sunflowers grew wildly, curving in a half circle around the gazebo. Tall Emerald Green Arborvitaes stood behind them. And the waterfall�"it sat just to the left filled with grey and marble colored stones. In complete silence you could hear the water running over the stones, dropping into a pool of itself in finality. Red, yellow, purple; so many different flowers were surrounding it. My favorite was the Chantilly lace flower. It was simply beautiful the way it resembled actual lace.

Oddly we never planted yellow calla lilies. We did plant every other flower I could think of. Then it hit me, the garden was for me. My selfless grandma, she planted this garden, labored in it for hours; for me. It was something that we could work on together. I would have to work on it by myself now.

Sitting under the gazebo I pull my legs up to my chin while holding the birthday card in front of me. Taking one deep breath, I stick my finger under the seal and slide to break it. The cover of the card only bares two words, 'Bon Voyage'. I know exactly what this card contains. As I open it, the plane ticket to New York falls into my lap, along with a check for enough money to last on my trip. I inhale sharply. She already rented a flat for me, which I knew cost too much money.

We had looked at this particular flat, and it was stunning. It was small, but every flat that was within our price range was small�"that was just New York. This one had been a few hundred dollars over our price range. She rented it for me for two months. I was supposed to leave in three weeks, but I didn't know if I wanted to go anymore. It had always been a dream of mine. With everything going on it just seemed wrong to go.

On the inside of the card it says, 'Adventure Awaits,' followed by a note from her that reads:

Katy,

I am so very proud of the mature adult you have become. You deserve this trip and many, many more. There is so much for you to see in life, so much to be lived. Go enjoy it!

Love,

Grandma

Warm hands on my shoulders pull me away from the emotion the card brings out of me, just in time. When I turn, Collin is standing there looking as if he hasn't slept in weeks. His golden blonde hair is in disarray as if he was running his hands through it obsessively. I jump up and throw my arms around him. I can't help the feeling of happiness at seeing my brother. Guilt washes over me for feeling happy two days after Grandma passed.

With him living in California we didn't get to see much of him. He was up for Christmas, but that was six months ago. This sighting is precious, and although it is under the worst of circumstances, I am happy to see him and glad he is home.

We just stand there for several moments hugging each other. I can hear his quiet cries that break my heart. I have never seen or heard him cry. He has been through so much already that he developed a tough exterior and interior. Very little could get him all choked up. I am not surprised that losing our grandma would do just that. When our cries quiet down and we take back control he whispers, "I'm so sorry Katy. I wish I could have been here sooner."

Pulling away I look him in the eyes. "It's not your fault your flight was canceled and rescheduled. I'm just glad you got here in one piece."

Sitting down on the bench he takes the card from my grasp. A ghost of a smile tugs at his lips but fades just as quickly as it arrives. "Grandma," he says, shaking his head. "It's always about doing for others with her." He looks at me with red, sleep-deprived eyes. "New York, Katy? That's huge. I actually tried to talk Grandma out of it. It's too dangerous there."

"I already discussed this with Grandma. Apparently she does not have the same thought process as you." I cross my arms over my chest defiantly.

"Why do you even want to go to New York? Out of all the places you could have chosen, why there?"

"You wouldn't understand. It doesn't matter, I'm not going."

That seems to satisfy him, so he sets the card on the table. "I heard you were out of it for a couple of days?"

Oh no, he must have talked to Aunt Rita. "Maybe," I say stubbornly.

We sit there silently for a few minutes, not needing words, letting the smell of jasmine and lavender wrap around us and listen to the wind whistle. He breaks the silence, "Grandma's gone Katy."

I look down trying to stop the tears from coming. I have cried so much, and I need to be strong. It helps, but  I end up with little puddles sitting atop my bottom lid instead. Glancing up, I see that Collin is looking down at me. He places his arm across my shoulder and pulls me close. Leaning my head on his shoulder, we sit there until night falls; and say nothing at all.

Aunt Rita comes out to check on us but doesn't say anything. We eventually go in for the night. I pull out a sleeping bag and lay it out on Collin's floor. His bedroom the same as it was when he left for California five years ago. I don't want to sleep in my room tonight or possibly ever again, because I'm afraid that I will sink back into that depression from the last two days. Soon my thoughts are incoherent as I drift off to sleep.

I wake several times throughout the night; thoughts of Grandma's absence and my grief wake me. I try to muffle my cries by putting my arm over my mouth or burying my face in my pillow, but Collin reaches down and places his hand on my arm. It is reassurance that he is there and he feels the same way. I know it will take time to let memories of Grandma be for good and not for grief.

Sleep eventually consumes me, but it seems more like seconds than hours since I last fell asleep. Blinking my eyes open, the sunlight is practically blinding me. Aunt Rita has a habit of opening the curtains so that we have to wake up at the crack of dawn.

Collin, still fast asleep, is lying with the comforter pulled up to his chin, mouth ajar. When he was still living here, Grandma used to joke that anything could crawl in if you slept with your mouth open. Of course, I couldn't resist. When he fell asleep in the living room I would put cookies in his mouth. As soon as the cookie would touch his lips, he would wake up and chase me around the house. I would giggle as he shouted, "Paybacks Katy. You have to fall asleep at some point."

I love my big brother. We are closer than any other siblings I knew, partly because of our seven-year age difference, but also because he was so mature for his age. But now, as he slept, he looked young and peaceful. I knew once he woke that look would turn worrisome and strained. Careful not to wake him, I slide out of my sleeping bag and tiptoe out of the door. Walking down the hallway making my way to the living room, I glance out the front window.

Aunt Rita's car is gone. Does she always get up this early, and where could she have gone? There could only be so many places open at seven in the morning. I had not asked too many questions about anything, so I didn't know if she was staying here with us or if she had gone back to her place last night and come back this morning.

I walk over to the table with our keys and grab my cell phone. Making my way to the kitchen, I head to the fridge and pour a glass of orange juice. I take a sip and set it on the counter. I know Collin will want some coffee when he wakes, so I go through the task of making some. Trying to be quiet, I opt out of using the stove. Instead I go for a bowl of cereal, taking it and my juice out to the small sunroom off the kitchen. The glass walls in here let the sun in everywhere. Taking a seat at the small table in the center of the room, I rest my feet on the opposite chair and eat my cereal examining my phone in the process.

I have three missed calls and five text messages. Collin called me twice, and there is one missed call from unknown. I open my text messages and start to read. The first three are from Faye;

Faye: We missed you at school today. Love you.

Faye: Everyone at school is so sad. They loved your

grandma so much.

And then this morning;

Faye: I hope you're not still in bed Katy. I will come

over there and pour a bucket of ice on you. Grandma

would be upset with your behavior.

She's right, Grandma would be upset with my behavior.

I quickly type out a message letting her know that I am as okay as I can be.

The next two messages are from Josh. He was my boyfriend sophomore and junior year, but I broke it off with him at the end of last year because everything always seemed so tense and uncertain between us.

Josh: Sorry about Grandma, I'm here for you.

Josh: Call me, I'm worried about you.

I type out a quick message to him.

Me: I'm alright for now.

Setting the phone down, I finish my cereal and enjoy the view of the garden from in here. Thinking about Caleb I reach in my back pocket and take out the card he gave me yesterday. It's very simple, three lines on the entire card: Caleb Mathews, Self-Defense Instructor, 555-726-5624.

I couldn't believe that Caleb told me something so personal about his life. Talking about it didn't seem to bother him though. He had shown up with his story at just the right moment. It's funny how things happened that way. I was sitting there feeling sorry for myself, letting the sadness overtake me and he shows up inviting himself to have a seat at my table. Not seeming to understand I didn't want to be bothered, he pushed on. I didn't mind so much after we started the conversation because he was nice to talk to, and he took my mind off the hurt that was coursing through my body.

My phone beeps once alerting my to a text message, it's Josh.

Josh: Ok, let me know if you need something.

"Hey." Collin walks in with a hand over his mouth yawning, the other one is carrying a coffee mug. Removing my feet from the chair in front of me he pulls it out and sits down. "How long have you been up?"

I shake my head. "Not too long, an hour and a half maybe." Sitting Caleb's card down, I reach for my orange juice and take a sip. "Aunt Rita's gone. I thought maybe she would be staying here with us," I say.

Sitting the glass down I look at Collin, he is looking at the card on the table. "No, she went home late last night," he mumbles. Picking up the card he examines it slowly and asks, "What's this?"

"Oh, I'm thinking of taking some self-defense classes," I say, shrugging non-committal. "I met Caleb at a diner yesterday morning. He gave me his card."

Collin takes a sip of his coffee and sets it down on the table along with Caleb's card. "Caleb Mathews, huh?"

"What? Do you know him?"  

"No. I knew a Dillon Mathews in High School. We never really hung out or anything; he was sort of an outsider. I'm not sure what happened to him. But I don't really stay connected with anyone from high school either." Leaning back in his chair he runs his fingers through his hair. "I mean I heard a few rumors but I never put much stock in rumors." He takes a sip of his coffee and sets it down.

"Huh. What did you hear?" I ask, leaning in and perking up.

"You know, the usual stuff; he was in jail, got someone pregnant, moved out of state�"like I said rumors."

I briefly entertain the possibility that Caleb is related to this Dillon. But this is a big city with six different high schools. It's more likely that they are not.

"Aunt Rita said the lawyer was going to come over today," I sigh. Collin looks troubled by that, but the look disappears quickly.

"Yeah, she told me when I came in last night. The whole family is supposed to gather here at about three." He glances at his watch then back at me. "It's nine thirty now, we have awhile. Is there something you want to do?"

Shaking my head no, I quickly reconsider. "Actually, can you help me in the garden today? I need to pull some weeds and trim the Evergreens."

Smiling sadly at me he says, "No problem little sis."

We head off to change into more comfortable clothes for working outside on a hot day. The clothes I had on yesterday weren't going to cut it. I also felt sort of scummy, but a shower would be pointless since I was going to get sweaty and filthy again.

Working in the garden will clear my mind and prepare it for the upheaval that is to come when the family gets here. I briefly saw Aunt Nora after the funeral. She hugged me, but I was so numb I didn't feel it. I just walked into my bedroom, collapsed on my bed, and sank into the dark.

Grandma always said that Aunt Nora was the most like my mom. I didn't know what that meant because I didn't even know my mom. I hadn't seen her in eleven years. But Aunt Nora did drink a lot. She was that relative at Christmas parties who drank way too much, made a fool of herself, and passed out early. Maybe that's what she meant by their comparison.

John and Henry, my grandma's brothers, will probably be here. I loved Uncle John and Uncle Henry. Ever since my grandma's husband, Richard, had passed away, they would make weekly visits to our house. That was right before Grandma got custody of Collin and me.

When I was younger they would always bring me the most outlandish gifts. Uncle John brought me a sword one year. I was fifteen, he had just come over to visit Grandma and, smiling mischievously, he placed it in my hands. I looked at it, then at him quizzically.

"It's called an Epee sword it's used in fencing. It was mine when I was a teenager," he had said.

I looked at the sword again; it was silver plated with a very intricate design cut into the grip. The guard looked like a complicated weave of hardened silver yarn. The blade had the same design as the grip did, venturing all the way down to a groove on the tip. If I were to stab a marshmallow with it there would be a heart indent left in the marshmallow.

It was stunning the way the light hit the blade sending a beam of light across the room, but I didn't know what to do with a sword. Uncle John talked plenty about them, and I could tell that he was excited about passing this down to me, not having any kids of his own, so I gave him a big hug and thanked him, telling him I would put it up in a safe place.

Both of my uncles had taken fencing classes when they were young. My grandma had even learned some self-defense in quiet. It wasn't lady-like back then to do that but she had two older brothers, they had taught her very well. I always thought that was why she had encouraged me to learn Krav Maga. It kept me in shape, but I had yet to use it. I hope that I never have to. I hadn't been to my class since I lost Grandma and wondered just how "in shape" I would be if I decided to go back.

Walking out to the garden I go to the little shed on the side of the house. Grabbing the garden fork and trowel off of the wall I put them in a bucket that is used to put the pulled weeds in. Grabbing two pairs of work gloves off of the shelf, I walk out and close the door. Collin is already standing in the garden wearing a pair of jogging pants and a white t-shirt. When he sees me he slaps his hands together and rubs them back and forth. "I'm ready."

Grinning at him I hand over his gloves. "We'll start over by the waterfall." We both turn and head that way.

We spend the next three hours pulling weeds and trimming the Evergreens. By the time we came in from the heat it was almost two o'clock and we were starving. We both went to take a shower and change quickly, so we could eat lunch before people started to arrive.

I made grilled cheese sandwiches with ham for us, and we sat at the kitchen island to eat. I was just finishing my sandwich when Aunt Rita walks through the front door. She is carrying two small suitcases. Thinking they are hers, and she had changed her mind about moving in, I started to get up and help her.

But a woman trailed behind her. She had enormous sunglasses on that covered half of her face and a bright orange top that was cut entirely too low to be considered decent. Her white Capri's practically blinded me, illuminated by the sunlight outside.

This couldn't be. There was no way, but then again this would be perfect timing for her. I just stood there with my mouth hanging open unable to speak. I realized in that moment that I would never forget her face. Collin, breaking the silence, stood and without any hesitation walked over to Aunt Rita�"who was standing between him and our mother.


 

 



© 2013 Krystle Lewallen


Author's Note

Krystle Lewallen
Thanks for reading! If you are interested in reading the whole book, please send me a message. I would be happy to give you a copy in return for an honest review.

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Added on July 23, 2013
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Author

Krystle Lewallen
Krystle Lewallen

Fernandina Beach , FL



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Author of Fractured Heart, book one in The Redemption Series. Available now at Amazon and Smashwords. more..

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