Returning home from camp was a big, fat mistake. The days dragged on and on without anything to do. It was like going from a roller coaster to the merry-go-round in two minutes. I was bored out of my skull, brain, body, house, and everything else in between. I wanted out of myself and fast.
I watched the local news every night with my mother and brother, while we ate dinner at the table. Mom had dragged a TV in to the kitchen, so we could get updates on the murder, and what parents were doing to make sure their kids remained safe. When they said safe, I always , drawing looks from both Mom and Kent. I was dying. I even because that was all there was to do. So I sat and watched the updates on my jail sentence as I forked the veggies around on my plate.
When Grace’s story came on, Mom made a noise with her fork as she set it down and I hung onto every word. Itdidn’t feel real. They had buried her the day before and I thought maybe I would go to the cemetery just to… I don’t know. Say hi, maybe? People talked to gravestones. I saw it on television. It was so sad on those shows, so I tried to think of other ways I could tell her that I was sorry she had to die.
The days went by in true prison fashion.Breakfast, shower, dress, television, lunch, play games, snack, look out the window, dinner, television, and bed.
During the play games portion of the day, I acted as teacher with my stuffed toys. Momhad put a huge chalkboard on one wall of my bedroom so I lined all of my dolls and animals just as I gave them their math pop quiz. The groaning answer I got from my students was so annoying to me, the teacher.
I hung out in our basement a lot. It was cool and damp and far away from the woman who was set out to ruin my life for the unforeseeable future. Momwouldn’t let me do anything outdoors. I couldn’t even go to the supermarketunless she was within eyesight of me.
I exhausted all of our old Atari games over and over. Pac Man, Asteroids, and Centipede weren’t as visually stimulating but they were hard to beat nonetheless. While everyone else had the newestPlayStation, Mom insisted Kent scarcely used the game console to begin with,therefore, constituting that it needed more wear. I rolled my eyes at her butcovertly had a serious obsession with Kaboom. I treasured that game until I had beaten it so many times that I disconnected the whole system and put it in a box for our next garage sale.
Momowed us that upgrade since the system was thoroughly played. As I added thelast of the wires to the box in the garage, I made a note to mention that atdinner that night so she knew that I couldn’t handle solitary confinement muchlonger. Not one to back down on what I thought was right for world peace, everyday I begged Mom incessantly for Emmy or Angie to play. What was her repetitiveresponse?
“We’llsee,” she proposed with a frown. Why not just yell no to my face? That would besome excitement for the day. I watched Kent mosey in and out of the house withKrysta or one of the Jason’s. I begged them to go for ice cream. I begged themto take me for a five minute drive. I begged them until my sobbing, reddenedface, and their pathetic apologies made me hate them forever.
Momcaved in on the fourth day. I could play with chalk on the walkway leading upto the front door. I had to report anything suspicious because according to theevening news every night, Grace’s murderer still hadn’t been caught. They had afew people that they were looking into but no arrests had been made. My defenseto my mother went something like this:
“Mom,I didn’t even know the girl. She lives a town away. Grace was alone when shewas taken. If I go to Emmy or Angie’s house, I won’t be alone. I will be safethere. I will watch out for any strangers who stalk the house. I will dowhatever you want me to, but if I don’t get out of this house, I am going tohate you forever.” I confidently blasted into her face.
Herreply was not to have a reply. TypicalMom. Stone cold until she probably got behind the closed door to sigh androll her eyes. Ignoring me and walking away to prove that my argument wasn’t upfor discussion was more annoying than a fly that wouldn’t stop circling my head.I would smack at it only to miss. My mother was officially that annoying fly. Iwas too keyed up to take pleasure in soaking in the sun. I took the stupidplastic tub of chalk out to the driveway, not the walkway (thank you verymuch), and colored all of them down to the nub so that she could never suggestsuch a juvenile activity.
Thatnight, I snuck phone calls to both girls after I knew their parents would be inbed for work. Sometimes I hated that my mother was a secretary librarian atschool, allowing her the late nights and sleeping in. Their parents weren’tallowing them to do much either but Emmy did get to go to Wild World for a daywith a cousin who was visiting. I secretly disliked her very much for that. Ithad been four days with minimal communication with my best friends. It was thelongest, most agonizing time I had ever suffered. I felt like I was beingstarved. It was child abuse. I threatened “red rum” regularly, hoping my dramawould force my mother to give me my life back. She told me I was watching toomany horror movies and to knock it off.
Onemorning, Mom called out to me while I was beginning the boxes of Hopscotch withthe leftover nubs of chalk.
“BothEmily and Angela are on their way over. I will sit outside with you girls with lemonade and a book. All the parents have discussed it and every day you girlscan have two hours at each other’s houses. Tomorrow, you can go to Angela’s,”she declared.
Isprinted to her and hugged her so tight that I knew she was flinching. Shehooted at me and I pulled away. I kissed her cheek, ran inside for a couple ofboard games, and headed out to the warm green grass to wait for their cars. Istarted to notice dandelions and butterflies. Nature had color once again and Icouldn’t be more enthralled with life that day.
Angiewas first to arrive and we squeezed one another like we hadn’t seen each otherin years. Emmy showed up in the middle of the hug and we had a five minutegroup hug as we jumped up and down. I noticed we had all dressed in therequisite best friend attire. Solid colored tank top from Old Navy, khaki shortshorts, and the Tevas we had all grown to love. They were all the same design,of course. We were the triplets and everyone knew it. We made sure thateveryone knew it just by the way we coordinated our outfits. We no longerneeded the phone call the night before. We just managed to do it somehow. Ilaughed at the familiarity of our friendship and was instantly content. Ipointed to the blanket Mom had put out and where the board games lay.
“Payday?Or do you guys wanna play Hopscotch” I asked with excitement in my voice. Myfriends were actually here. It was glorious.
“Hopscotch,”they answered in unison and it made me giggle. My friends. I was so happy. Wesearched the front yard for stones as we talked about camp and how we allwished we were still there hanging out in our cabin.
“Franksent me a postcard the day before yesterday. It has his number on it but I don’tthink I will call,” I twisted my lip into a frown.
“Whynot?” Emmy asked. She threw her rock and started to hop.
“Idon’t know. When am I really going to see him? I only get two hour supervisedvisits with you.” I made a groaning angry sound that I had been using quite abit. I was learning the art of being angry.
“True,”Angie said with a shrug. “I don’t care much about seeing or talking to Kevineither.”
Weall let out an exhale and moved on to the topic of starting Junior High in thefall. That conversation took up the rest of the two hours and as I wavedgoodbye to both of my friends, I thought about how much I wished Grace’smurderer would get arrested already. He was ruining the lives of all childrenin the area.
Thatsame night there was a small knock on my door. I muted a rerun of “The WonderYears” and called for whomever to come in. Krysta hesitantly stepped throughthe room with a board game in her hands. I looked at her puzzled.
“What’sup? Are you here to pity the little sister?” I was finished with niceties. Shesmirked at me and shook her head.
“Thiswas mine,” she addressed a game box as she handed it over to me. The box read OUIJAin big bold letters. “I thought maybe you and the girls could play it when… youknow, things are over. I played it with my friends when I was twelve and we hada pretty entertaining time with it.”
“OW-EH-JA?” I asked looking up to her with a perplexed expression. I had neverheard of it before.
“WEE-GEE,” she laughingly answered.
“Thatis not proper English. Who comes up with these words?” I asked as I slid myhand over the worn box top.
“Noidea. But try it out, it’s fun. It’s a board and you basically call in ghosts,”she smiled with a tinge of sarcasm as she air quoted ghosts.
Iwas instantly interested. I sat up and forward with my eyes wide.
“Really,like what do you do?” I asked. I opened the box and saw a sun and a moon, yesand no, the alphabet, and the words GOOD BYE in big font.
“Youand someone else or whoever can fit their fingers on this thing,” she saidpulling out a triangular pointed plastic piece. “You ask it questions and youtry not to move your fingers but somehow, probably like how trees sway orsomething, it moves to different places on the board.”
Ilooked at it with rapt fascination. “Can we try?” I asked looking up to her,begging with my eyes. She shrugged her shoulders and we got on the floor andpositioned the board and the pointer. Krysta asked it what year Kent and shewould get married. I rolled my eyes but kept my fingers very still. It didn’tdo anything. It just sat there. And so did we, for like twenty minutes. Sheasked the same question over and over, increasingly irritated each time.Finally I popped my fingers off and got up. With my butt now asleep and myinterest totally lost, I frowned.
“Iguess it doesn’t work with me,” I lied, kind of thinking that they would neverget married. Krysta let out a breath and popped the game and pointer back intothe box.
“Well,it’s yours now, Jules. Have fun with it, if it even works for you,” she said,flinging her blond hair behind her back. I watched her walk out of the room,quietly closing the door. I felt bad for her in that moment and yelled out athank you.
I pressed the mute button and laid back to watch Kevin and Winnie walking down the street, hand in hand.