Excerpt for Layered by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


LAYERED

LYNETTE FERREIRA



Chapter Links


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six



Smashwords Edition

First published in e-Book as Believe on March 02, 2013

Copyright © Lynette Ferreira

Interior Formatting & Design: BellaTrix Books

Cover Design: Marshmellow_Pillow

All rights reserved



“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” -Desmond Tutu


CHAPTER ONE

Caitlyn

Welcome. You are now signed in.

The black on white letters appear in front of me on my screen. I have just signed on for the latest in a long list of popular on-line games. Sophia, my friend, has been playing it since last weekend and she is totally hooked on it. This is one of the reasons I decided to sign up as well.

The most important reason though is that the summer holidays are looming ahead of me. Five long, long weeks of absolutely nothing to do. There will be no summer camps for me this year. Early every weekday morning, while I am still curled up in my bed, with Salem, my big, fat, black cat huddled too close in the curl of my legs, I will hear my mum and dad leave for work. Then an utter silence will fill the house and long, lonely hours will stretch ahead of me until I hear my mum’s key turn in the lock again.

As I roll over, Salem makes an unhappy sound. “Move then, silly cat. Give me some space.”

He nuzzles closer to me.

I click on the button on my screen. The one that says: Create your virtual self.

A million different choices load onto my screen.

First, I have to choose my skin colour—white, then my eye colour—brown, my hair colour—brown, the curve of my eyebrows, the shape of my eyes and the roundness of my chin.

Then the choices move to the rest of my body. The length of my legs, the shape of my feet, dainty or knobbly fingers, and lastly whether I want to be really skinny, skinny, cuddly or really cuddly. Obviously, I choose skinny.

The screen asks me: Would you like to review your image?

I click: Yes.

The virtual me appears in front of a floor to ceiling mirror and then starts to rotate in a slow clockwise circle.

I decide I do not like my hair that mousy shade of muddy brown, so I click in to the options again and change it to long, blonde flowing locks. I save my choice and then do another critical review of myself in the mirror before I decide I am happy with what I see on the screen in front of me. I look perfect.

Then comes the fun part. Shopping for clothes. The choices are daunting, but eventually I find the perfect outfit.

After I approve the way I want to look, I have to choose my personality. There are twelve choices and they are all linked to the different astrological birth signs. I choose one which is the complete opposite of me. I am an Aries, but sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be a Pisces.

Then I have to choose my goals and aspirations. I click: Surprise me. Sadly, I do not have any goals and aspirations. Not right now. Not today. I choose my family and social structure. I decide to keep this simple and only choose a mum and a dad. The way things are.

Lastly, I get to choose where I want to live and seeing as I am stuck at home with no beach holidays in my foreseeable future, I decide a casual lifestyle in a trailer sounds like an exciting choice.

I have worked through all my options and I press the button: Start Game. The screen warns me: Are you sure? Options cannot be changed.

I click: I am sure. Take me to my new life.


CHAPTER TWO

Hannah

There was nothing special about the night Hannah was born. It was a normal night, maybe a little windier than usual, and it was one out of three hundred and sixty-five days that year.

The alignment of the stars on that star-studded evening determined her destiny and her future. The configuration of the planets in relation to each other decided her fortune and her fate. It was already decided what her life pursuits and her secret desires would be.

When Hannah was a little girl, she believed people could get what they wished for if they wished hard enough and long enough and were good enough, and although she was fifteen now and she had long ago stopped believing in fairy tales, she never stopped believing there was something magical in the world around her. Somewhere, there was somebody or something watching over her, keeping her safe, considering her wishes, her dreams, her ambitions and her hopes, and sometimes, only sometimes, if she was deserving, her prayers would be answered.

Her dad taught her this. Her dad told her when she was still a little girl and they went for their long walks together, without her mum, there were angels and angels would do anything and everything to get people to believe. He said although people stopped hoping as they got older, sometimes they still made a wish when they blew out their birthday candles or made a wish on a shooting star, and sometimes they really believed the wish would come true.

Hannah had a lot of wishes. Firstly, she wished they did not live in the trailer, but that they lived in a real house. Not a house on wheels, but a house built with bricks and a solid foundation, with a garden and a huge oak tree in the back garden, with a swing hanging from one of its branches. A house that would be solid and stand firm in any storm, even the strongest winds which sometimes rocked their trailer and made her feel scared when she was trying to fall asleep alone in her bed.

Secondly, she wished her mum was happier and would spend more time with her. Hannah had a back-of-the-mind suspicion her mum never really wanted children and that is why Hannah was sometimes, most of the times, referred to as the ‘surprise’ baby by her mother, when Hannah overheard her speaking to her friends.

Her mum worked as a waitress and she complained every day how unhappy she was. Hannah thought her mum was very pretty and sometimes, when her mum was in a good mood, she would tell Hannah, she looked just like her when she was a little girl. Hannah had the same small facial features, her hair was blonde, and she had eyes the colour of melted milk chocolate.

Her dad was six feet tall and weighed nearly two hundred pounds, all muscle from working at construction sites for so many years. Although some days, Hannah would see him grimace when he moved after he came home from work, or she would see him stretch his sore muscles, he never uttered a word of complaint.

She used to sit for hours, staring out of the dust streaked window waiting to see him walking up the rutted, overgrown pathway to their trailer. Hannah would then start running toward him and when she reached him he would drop his lunch bucket to the ground as he scooped her up with his tired strong arms, and he would lift her with ease up into the air so she looked down onto his happy smiling face. Now that she was older, she still ran to him, but he no longer lifted her into the air, now he twirled her around.

Most of the times when her dad got home from work, her mum would not be home yet, and sometimes her mum would only stumble up the steps into the trailer long after dinner.

Her dad did most of the cooking and early in the mornings he would pack lunch for himself and Hannah, because her mum would still be fast asleep, but he never complained when her mum was not at home or still sleeping, and sometimes he would tell Hannah sympathetically that he and her mum got married too young. He never said what Hannah always suspected about her mum not wanting children, but he did not have to, because Hannah knew. Her mum was not like other mothers. Her mum did not care about her at all and sometimes Hannah thought if she had to disappear one day, her mum would not even notice or she would be so relieved, she would not even bother to come looking for her.

Hannah always asked, “Even if you were young, you must have been in love?”

Her dad would always smile the same smile when he replied, “We were, but we didn’t listen to our parents and we just ran off and eloped without thinking about the future. Your mum soon felt as if she had missed out on things and working long hours at the diner does not really help to make her feel better.” He would then always nudge Hannah playfully on the shoulder, before he continued, “And that is why we should let her have her freedom so she does not feel trapped by all of our love for her.”

Hannah frowned. “How can love trap someone?”

His soft green eyes would get a faraway glint and he would say, “When you love someone as much as we love her, you want that person around all the time, but having that person around all the time might make them feel as if they are in a cage. Sometimes you are afraid to let something you love go, even though you know letting them go will make them happier.”

“Why does she not love us as much as we love her?”

“She does, in her own way. Now eat your dinner before it gets completely cold.”

They would then change the subject and talk mostly about what she had done at school that day.


CHAPTER THREE

Caitlyn

The blue circle on my screen twirls and twirls. The game is taking an awfully long time to load. Although I am starting to feel a little frustrated, wondering if my tablet’s operating system will be too slow to handle running the game, I wait patiently as I watch the dots swirl around continuously.

The land-line phone downstairs starts its shrill ringing and I jump with fright. The sound is loud in the otherwise silent house.

Quickly I throw the blankets off me and cover Salem in the process.

Sidestepping the corner of my bed and running down the stairs, I reach the phone in the kitchen just as it stops ringing.

I decide to get something to eat, before I go back upstairs and just as I open the fridge, the phone starts to ring again.

Picking up the phone, I say, “Hello.”

My mum asks, “Are you up yet?”

Obviously. “I am.”

“Please do me a favour. I left in a hurry this morning, and I forgot to take meat out of the freezer.”

“What must I get out?”

“I don’t know. What do you feel like having for dinner?”

If it was up to me, I would definitely want Pizza for dinner, but having takeaways are reserved for Friday nights only. “Maybe Spaghetti?”

My mum sounds unsure. “I don’t know.”

I lean against the kitchen counter as I wait for her to decide.

She says, “Okay. Take out the mince, will you please?”

“Sure.”

“What are you going to do today?” She sounds uneasy.

I sigh. “I don’t know. Maybe watch some TV.”

“When is Sophia coming back from Spain?”

“Only next week, Friday.”

“Not that long. You can use this time to recharge your batteries.”

I can hear the worry in her voice, but she is too scared to mention the unmistakable truth of my situation. She thinks saying the words might remind me, but she does not realise I do not need reminding. I remember. I remember everything. Every memory flashes in my mind, all the time. My every thought plays out the history of my life. There is no future. Everyone says it will get easier, but how can it when time is forever frozen in my head.

“Okay. Gotta go. I’ll see you tonight,” she says when I hear someone ask her something in the background of her office.

“Okay, Mum.” I try to put a smile in my voice.

I hear her sigh sadly as she ends the call.

After getting the meat from the freezer, I put it in a container on the counter, before I open the second from the bottom kitchen drawer, where my mum stashes all the crisps, biscuits and sweets. Looking down at my choices, I decide to take a sleeve of Chocolate Crisp biscuits. Considering the ingredients, it is almost the same as a bowl of cereal, minus the milk. To make me believe my choice for breakfast is indeed as healthy as I try to convince myself, I pour myself a glass of milk.

With the plate in my one hand and the glass in my other hand, I walk back up the stairs to my bedroom.

Salem has moved out from under the blankets and is now curled into a ball right in the middle of the only space he allows me to have.

I put the plate and glass on my bedside table, and lift him. His eyes do not even open when I put him down at the foot-end of the bed. He only lets out a loud purr.

After fluffing up my pillows, I let them lean against the wall behind my bed before I sit down again and pull the blankets across my legs. I balance my tablet against my pulled up legs and reach for a biscuit.

I notice the game has eventually loaded, and there is a girl, similar in appearance to me on the screen.

CHAPTER FOUR

Hannah

One day as Hannah was sitting in her room studying for her weekly History test she heard car doors being slammed and someone was crying loudly.

Hannah rushed to her bedroom window and saw Sheila, her mum’s friend, get out of Charles Andrews’ car. Charles Andrews was her mum’s boss at the diner. The back door of the car was opened and she saw Charles help her mum out of the car. Her mum was crying uncontrollably and being supported by Sheila on one side of her and Charles on the other side. They helped her mum walk to the door of the trailer.

Her mum suddenly lets out a piercing scream, and Hannah felt her heart speed up. Her legs turned to lead and her feet felt as if they were nailed to the floor. For some inexplicable reason, tears overflowed from Hannah’s eyes as panic filled her heart.

Hannah managed to walk to the front of the trailer and she reached the living area just as the door opened.

When her mum saw her, she cried, “Oh, Hannah.”

Hannah asked urgently, “Mum! What’s the matter?”

“There has been a terrible accident. Your dad and two other men at the site… are dead.” A long sigh escaped from her throat. She swayed and would have fallen if Sheila had not been holding onto her.

Hannah shook her head vehemently. It could not be true, yet there they were all standing in front of her with horrible, tragic expressions on their faces. “No!” She screamed and pushed through the three bodies standing in the doorway. She pressed her hands over her ears as she ran, unaware of the direction she had taken and she ran until she was not sure whether she was gasping for air or if it was the sobs tearing through her body.

When she stopped running, she stood there crying until she heard Sheila call her name.

Sheila walked toward her and tried to hug and comfort her, but Hannah pushed her away roughly, screaming hysterically, “They are lying! Tell me they are lying!”

Sheila shook her head as she bit her lower lip and waited for Hannah to stop sobbing.

The sun set and crickets started singing in harmony with the toads croaking.

Sheila asked, “Aren’t you cold?”

“What difference does it make?” Hannah snapped angrily. “What difference does anything make?”

Sheila shivered.

After a while, Hannah said, with a voice which sounded dead, “Let’s go back.”

Silently they walked next to each other, and Hannah did not know how she got her legs to take those steps, but eventually they got back to the trailer park and then to the trailer. Charles, who had brought her mum home, was gone.

Sheila followed Hannah into the trailer.

Her mum was sitting on the sofa with a wet wash cloth on her forehead.

When Hannah walked into the trailer, her mum reached up to take her hand. Hannah fell down on the floor in front of the sofa, between her mum’s legs and she pushed her head against her mum’s stomach. Hannah felt nauseous and she thought the pain will never, ever go away. Inside, she was still crying and screaming.

A few moments later, when Hannah looked up at her mum, her mum was fast asleep.

Sheila said quietly, “Let me make you a cup of tea.”

Hannah did not reply. She sat there on the floor, next to the sofa, still holding onto her mum’s hand. She lowered her head and cried quietly until Sheila touched her softly on the arm, and said, “Come sit with me. Let your mum sleep.”

Hannah stood up from the floor and followed her meekly to the table. She sat down at the table, across from Sheila and watched her pour two cups of tea.

Sheila said, “Go on, and drink it.”

Hannah blew on the hot, milky liquid and then she took a sip. She looked across the table and smiled. “He will be coming home soon. It’s all just a big mistake.”

“Hannah,” Sheila said sympathetically.

“No, you don’t understand. My dad has someone looking over him, protecting him and they will never let such a terrible thing happen. It’s all a mistake, you’ll see.”

Sheila reached across the table to take Hannah’s hand. “You have got to be brave for your mum now, Hannah. She is not a very strong person, you know. There is going to be a lot of suffering to endure over the next few days.”

Hannah drank some more tea and then she got up. She glanced across the small living area toward her mum asleep on the sofa and then she slipped on her coat.

Without saying a word, she walked out of the trailer and then she stood in front of it, looking down the rutted path where she will soon see her dad coming home.

As she stood there, she closed her eyes. “Please,” she prayed, “I don’t care if You do not answer any other wish but this one.”

She took a deep breath and opened her eyes, looking at the pathway expectantly. The road was empty. She waited and waited.

In the morning, when the sun rose in an angry grey sky and the wind howled among the trees and made the long grass around her ankles sway in a hundred different directions, she realised as she looked at the road one more time, her dad was not coming home. He was gone forever.

Slowly Hannah turned around and walked back to the trailer.


CHAPTER FIVE

Caitlyn

They say darkness finds a hopeless soul, and I have to admit it has been a very, very long time since there has been any hope in my heart. Darkness creeps in little by little, like long shadows at the end of a warm summer’s day. Doctor Browne says people with depression cannot imagine a future, and in a way I suppose this is true. Since Shayne left, I cannot imagine my future. Sometimes I cannot see beyond the wall of night, which separates one day from the other.

In the past months, I have stayed hidden in my room, and now Salem is my best friend in the whole, entire world, even more important than Sophia. Like my parents, Sophia imagines I can just scrub my brain clean. Take an eraser rubber and wipe away the memories, but I cannot. Maybe there is something wrong with me. There must be, if everyone seems to think I am staying stuck in my memories on purpose. I am tired of people saying, life is what you make of it, because, for me, it is not.

For months, I denied it even happened, so how could I even have tried to imagine anything would get better, if I could not even face the truth. Every night, as I curled up with Salem, I would tell him how awful Shayne was being, just disappearing from my life. How he broke my heart so badly, it was too painful to even take deep breaths. For months, it felt as if he was still around, somewhere, but just not with me. For brief moments, I would consider sending him a text, but then my mind would just go blank and think of something else. It was as if my entire being lived in denial. My mind could not handle the intense pain of even contemplating the very idea of the truth, and my mind buffered the shock, by blocking out words and hiding me from the facts.

Then I got angry. Mostly, I was angry at Shayne. Resenting him caused me such immense pain, and then I felt guilty, which made me even angrier with him. I got angry for waiting for answers, I knew I would never get. I could feel the rage burning in my stomach as I sat alone in my room, in my bed, taking my anger out on Salem. Refusing to let him get up onto my bed. Then, I got angry with me because I should have known, I could have done more, I should have seen it happening. How did I not see it coming?

But, then after a day or so, I would go back to denial, and apologise to Salem, letting him back onto my bed, and hugging him close as if I could transfer my pain to him. The pain was just too much to bear on my own. His purring would fill my mind with a sense of peace, and those were the only times I could fall asleep. His calm presence deflected my intense emotions away from my vulnerable heart.

Then, the darkness found me, and that is when I met Doctor Browne.

My chest shudders as I take a deep breath.

I look down at my tablet’s screen and realise it is inevitable for Hannah’s dad to die because equally I could not play a game where someone is happy. Inadvertently, I wanted the girl in my game to also feel that same constant pain in her chest, to see the images in her head of things and memories. Things that could have been. Only remembering things from yesterday, while never being able to see tomorrow.

Shayne gave me a glimpse of the life I could have had. With Shayne, I could see every day for the rest of my life, but he erased them all the day he left.

Besides, it is only a game. Sophia often tells me how she sets some people in her game on fire when they irritate her.


CHAPTER SIX

Hannah

At her dad’s funeral, Hannah heard a lot of sobbing and noses being blown. Somewhere at the back a baby was crying incessantly, but it seemed fitting and did not bother Hannah in the least bit.

After the ceremony, outside the church, her mum kept releasing a long sigh after each long sigh, mumbling to herself. “I wish this was over.”

Sheila, who was standing next to her mum, kept encouraging her by saying, “There, there Charmaine. You need to be strong.”

Although her mum was dressed in black and she was not wearing any make-up, Hannah still thought she looked beautiful. Sadness made her look more fragile and brittle.

At the graveyard, Hannah gazed at her dad’s coffin one final time as it was lowered into the cold dark ground, finding it hard to believe he was really inside of it.

Hannah softly mumbled, “Goodbye.” As the word whispered over her lips and drifted off on the cold wind, she knew that one word is the saddest word she will ever know. Never again will her dad hold her close or smile at her lovingly. He was forever gone.

At the end of the funeral, the mourners walked past Hannah and her mum. Some stopped to hug her mum and others touched her hand, murmuring their condolences. Most of them seemed to only linger briefly, as if tragedy were a contagious disease.

When everybody was gone, her mum rushed to the car. It was as if she could not get away from the sadness fast enough.

Once they were back at the trailer, her mum stripped the black dress off and threw it in the dustbin.

Hannah looked at her baffled, and her mum said offhandedly, “I do not intend to mourn for weeks. Sadness does not bring back the dead.” She walked past Hannah to her room at the back of the trailer. “I am off to bed. I have an early shift at the diner tomorrow.”

“Are you going back to work tomorrow already?” Hannah asked surprised. Hannah thought the world had stopped turning when her dad died. How could their lives ever go on?

Her mum said, “I don’t have much choice. We need the money.”

Hannah supposed this meant she would be going right back to school as well, although it just did not feel right, carrying on as if her dad had not just died.

After her mum closed her bedroom door, Hannah went to her room and threw herself down onto her bed. She buried her face in her pillow to smother her anger, which she felt building up in her chest, pushing aside the sadness. Hannah kept thinking if she prayed hard enough she will see her dad come walking up the rutted pathway, a brilliant smile on his lips when he sees her waiting for him, but she knew nothing will bring him back. She wondered why she was even born if the one person who really loved her was taken away from her. She decided she will never pray again, make a wish, or even go to church, ever again. Where was this person or entity who was supposed to look over her, to make sure she was happy, who decided what happened to her in between being born and dying. This entity did not care about her in the least bit and she did not care any more either.

When Hannah went back to school, she wondered how long it would take for her friends to stop looking at her strangely. It would be hard to go back to school, with all those pitying, sorrowful eyes aimed at her and everybody speaking to her in softer, sadder tones. Maybe it would be better to pretend nothing had happened and then people would not be so uncomfortable around her. Somehow, she would have to find a way to keep her sorrow concealed and to go on with her life.

At first, everybody treated her differently, but then as the weeks passed, her friends stayed talking to her longer than usual, talking more and even laughing. Soon her teachers were back to treating her the way they always did before her dad died.

In the days and weeks which followed Hannah realised the power of time because the ache in her heart turned into a lack of feeling.

Things which used to be important to Hannah now seemed small and petty.

Her mum became more distant than ever. She never asked about Hannah’s school work and she never cooked one single meal. She seldom even came home to eat dinner with Hannah. Dinner, which Hannah quickly had to learn to cook, otherwise she would never have had a decent meal. Hannah had to start taking care of the bills, do the grocery shopping, and look after the trailer. It was as if suddenly Hannah was the mother and her mum was the rebellious teenager, staying out late and coming home drunk.


CHAPTER SEVEN

Caitlyn

I am lost in the life of the girl on my screen, when my tablet makes a quacking duck noise and I know it is a text message from Sophia. I minimise the game and open my messages folder.


Sophia: OMG! Wish you were here. It is so hot!!


I let my fingers fly across the screen as I type a reply: The weather here is awful.


Sophia: What’s new? The weather there is always crap.


Caitlyn: What are you doing besides being hot?


Sophia: Hot? Or Hot??


Caitlyn: :o) Hot. As in sun = hot.


Sophia: Tanning and swimming mostly.


Caitlyn: I started playing that new on-line game.


Sophia: OMG! At last!!


Caitlyn: I have been playing all morning and am getting into the virtual me’s world.


Sophia: The only thing I hate about that game, is when you are not playing, the game carries on playing. Stupid! If you ask me. I logged onto my game last night and there was total anarchy. My ‘love-interest’ killed my brother (by accident), and now my family wants to kill him. I don’t know yet how I’m going to fix the mess they made.


Caitlyn: Speaking of ‘love-interests’ - Any hot guys there?


Sophia: Hot? Or Hot??


Caitlyn: Hot??


Sophia: Oops. Speaking of Hot?? guys, I’ll give you an update tonight. Speak soon.


Caitlyn: I want every detail.


It sounds as if she does not remember. It sounds as if Sophia does not know this week it will be one year since Shayne left.

Although, it sounds as if she has forgotten, I know she has not. She is dealing with her emotions differently than I am. It is just that darkness found my weary soul. It was an easy find.


CHAPTER EIGHT

Hannah

A couple of months later, as Hannah was walking home despondently, her feet dragging on the ground and automatically taking one step after another, she looked up at the white blotches of clouds up in the sky and she realised they no longer looked like a horse or a flower or a bear, now they were just what they were—clouds.

She still missed her dad’s voice and his laughter with every passing day. People were wrong because time did not heal the wounds of loss, and even if it became no longer painful, the wound grew larger and wider. There was a big gaping, fathomless pit of loss, despair and emptiness in her heart. She felt like a shadow of the person she used to be, no longer interested in activities after school, or visiting her friends, or listening to music. Her smiles were few and far between, she could not recall the sound of her own laughter.

She was plodding along and her satchel was hanging heavy from her shoulder because she had two tests to study for and her bag was full of books.

She was replaying her mum’s hateful words in her head. Her mum had said earlier that morning, “He is happier where he is now and he doesn’t have to worry about money. Not like us.”

Hannah told her it was a horrible thing to say, but her mum just walked away laughing.

When Hannah reached the trailer, she saw suitcases spread open on the floor in the living area. Her mum was rushing around folding clothes and dropping them into the cases.

“Why are you packing?” Hannah asked as she looked at her mum confused.

“We’re leaving.” She smiled at Hannah. She pointed to a small suitcase laying to the side. “That one is yours. I am sorry that is all you can take, but we won’t have room in the car for a lot of things, so go to your room and pick your most important things and pack them.”

Hannah stood staring at her as if in a dream. She asked softly, “Leaving? Where are we going?”

“I do not have a lot of time to explain, Hannah.” She folded her hands together as if in prayer and then smiled up at the filthy ceiling of the trailer, in a gesture of appreciation. “This opportunity has come for me, and we are taking it. Hurry. Get your best things packed, and remember we do not have space for a lot of unimportant things.”

“But why are we leaving?”

She laughed and swept her hand across the small inside of the trailer. “Why? Why would we want to leave this place, this town full of gossips, a place where there is no place for dreams, a two-by-four trailer? Why?” She laughed, and then she lost her smile. “You are supposed to be so smart, doing so well at school, and you are asking me, why?”

“Where will we go?” Hannah asked panicked.

“Any place other than here. We are going to go on an adventure to look for a nice place where I can have the opportunity to do more with my life. Now that your dad is dead, we can go anywhere we want to go.” She said with determination, “Get busy packing.”

“What about school and everything?”

“You’ll go to a better school.” She laughed with glee. “This is so exciting! What could be wrong with trying to find a better place to live? Anyway, I can see you aren’t happy here any more.”

“That is because my dad died!”

“Exactly and nothing is going to ever change that, so we are leaving to make a new beginning. A fresh start is what we both need.”

Hannah stared dumbly around her, at the suitcases scattered across the room, the mess of clothes thrown everywhere.

Her mum added, “I have a surprise for you as well. I was going to wait until we are on the road before I told you.”

“Nothing can be a bigger surprise than this.”

“Our first stop is going to be at your dad’s family. Finally, you will meet them.” When Hannah did not reply, she asked, “Well, aren’t you excited?”

Her mum was right. This news was a great surprise to Hannah. Hannah took a deep breath. Her heart was pounding fast, because everything was happening too quickly. She could not think straight. Something did not feel right. “Shouldn’t we plan this better? We should talk about it first and get ourselves better organized.”

“No, because then we will end up not doing it.” She sat down on the sofa and motioned for Hannah to join her.

Unsure Hannah sat down.

Her mum pulled her into her arms for the first time probably in her life. She held Hannah tightly. “This move is just what we need. Once we get going, you will soon realise I am right.” Softly she stroked Hannah’s hair, and Hannah did not want her to stop. Softly her mum insisted, “Now, I want you to go and pack, and remember only one suitcase.”

“But I’ll have to leave so much behind,” Hannah sulked.

“After we are settled in our new house, we will have the rest of the stuff shipped to us. Imagine we could eventually live in a real house, with a real garden.”

Maybe a new start is all they needed? Perhaps her mum would be happier when they lived somewhere else, and she had a better job and more money.

“Shouldn’t we tell my school we are moving?”

“Hannah, will you stop all these questions and get packed. Everything will work out just fine.” She laughed nervously. “We are not the first people to ever move.” She smiled again, stood up abruptly and rushed to her bedroom.

Hannah sat there, gazing around the room, still finding it difficult to believe they were moving. She had library books which needed to be handed back, she would still have to go to her dad’s grave to say goodbye to him. There was too much to do.

She walked to her mum’s room. “We should wait and do this right.”

“Why aren’t you packing yet?” She turned to Hannah angrily. “When I am done packing my things, I am out of that door and you will leave with what you have packed by then. Understand?”

Hannah swallowed down the lump in her throat.

“Hannah! Get your things into that suitcase.” Then her voice softened. “Don’t make things more difficult than it has to be. I am also a little frightened and everybody is afraid when they start a new life. I really need your support now, Hannah.”

Hannah lowered her head and turned around.

When she stepped into her cubicle sized room, she looked around at her belongings, and she was faced with hopelessness. She had so many precious things, especially things her dad had bought for her. That one little suitcase was barely big enough to hold anything.

“Fifteen minutes.” Her mum called as she walked past her room toward the living area.

Hannah had fifteen minutes to decide what she would leave behind and what she would be taking. Slowly she opened her dresser drawers and took out what she knew was necessities. Underwear, socks, shoes. She chose blouses and shirts, two pairs of jeans and a few jumpers.

The suitcase filled up quickly, but she gathered as many photographs as she could. She took the panda bear plush toy her dad bought for her.

She could hardly close the suitcase and when her mum came into the room, she said, “You cannot take all of that.”

“Can’t I have another suitcase?”

“No. I need all my good clothes so I can look nice when I go for job interviews. I told you we will send for the rest.”

“I don’t need much more.”

“If you cannot decide what to leave, I will decide for you.” She plucked the panda bear from the suitcase.

“No!” Hannah cried. “That was the last thing dad gave me.”

“Decide. You are a big girl now and you do not need toys any more.” She threw the panda down onto the open suitcase.

Hannah pressed the stuffed bear down onto her clothes and then she sat on the suitcase so she could pull the zip across. The bag was heavy and the sides bulged, but she got it closed.

When her mum had finished loading her battered Audi, she slammed the boot closed and got in behind the wheel. She called to Hannah, “Hurry. We want to be on the road, we have a lot of distance to cover.”

Hannah stood gazing around the tiny trailer. Although she had wished and wished for a real house, this had been her home from when she could remember. She and her dad had eaten thousands of meals at the small little table. Often she had curled up next to him on the worn sofa when they watched a movie on the television together. She bit down on her lower lip and pressed her palm tightly to her chest, holding back the ache.

Her mum honked the car’s horn and Hannah surrendered to her fate. She rushed out the door and when she slid into the front passenger seat, her mum asked, irritated, “What took you so long?”

Hannah said nothing. She pressed her face to the window and tears blurred her vision and some of them transferred to the window and ran down the glass like rain.

When her mum turned onto the asphalt road and their trailer disappeared from view, Hannah turned in her seat and stared out the windscreen blankly. Softly she asked, “We are stopping at the cemetery?”

“What for?”

“To say goodbye.”

“Oh, Hannah. Can’t we just move on with the rest of our lives? Let’s start this trip on a happy note.”

Hannah pleaded desperately, “Please. I have to say goodbye.”

Her mum sighed long and exaggerated. “I am not going in with you, and you better be quick about it. I will only wait five minutes and then I will leave without you.”

When they stopped in front of the cemetery, Hannah turned to her mum. “Are you sure you don’t want to come in with me?”

She shook her head. “Five minutes.”

Hannah jumped out of the car and ran up the pathway past all the other graves until she reached her dad. She knelt down in front of the gravestone and pressed her cheek against the cold stone. “We are leaving. Mum wants to leave and I know you will tell me I must go with her, but I cannot help the way I feel. I really think we should rather stay here.”

In the distance, Hannah heard her mum honking the car horn.

Hannah stood up slowly and leant forward to touch her lips to the tombstone. Her tears dropped onto the brittle, cold stone and were sucked into it.

She turned and ran back to the car. Wordlessly she climbed back into the front passenger seat and then her mum pulled away from the cemetery.

When they drove out of the only town Hannah had ever lived in, her mum let go of a long, heavy sigh. “At last, I am free.”

Hannah wondered silently what she meant with those words.

As the tyres on the car rolled them further and further into their new future, her mum turned on the car stereo and started singing to the songs on the radio. With a happy glint in her eye, she glanced at Hannah. “Be happy, if not for yourself, then for me.”

“I’ll try,” Hannah said in a voice barely above a whisper.

The scenery whisked past, mile after fleeting mile.

With frightened trepidation, Hannah felt herself being shoved forcefully into her future and into the unknown.


CHAPTER NINE

Caitlyn

I hear the front door open, and I look up from the screen in front of me in shock when I hear my mum’s voice calling, “Caitlyn?”

“Coming,” I call as I jump up from my bed and pull my comforter neatly across the bed, making Salem open his one eye to look at me unappreciative. I cannot believe how quickly the day flew past.

When I get downstairs, and as I walk into the kitchen, my mum asks, “Why are you still in your pyjamas, Caitlyn?”

I shrug my shoulders. “Don’t know. The day got away from me.”

Her curly blonde hair falls forward and covers her face, as she bends down into the cupboard to get a pot. Although she is turned away from me, I can see the tension in her body, by the way her shoulders pull up a little.

I try to sound cheery. “I found this movie, we can watch tonight.”

She turns to look at me while her hands continue chopping an onion on the chopping board. “Yeah? What’s it about?” I see the worry in her blue eyes.

“It’s about this other earth they find and how it is a mirror image of us, but people there have made different choices.”

She looks away from me, back to the onion in front of her. “Sounds interesting.”

“Do you want me to set the table?”

“Please.” She scrapes the chopped onion into a pot and it sizzles in the hot oil.


CHAPTER TEN

Hannah

In the car, Hannah closed her eyes and leant back into the seat. Hours later they stopped at a roadside diner and although Hannah was not hungry, her mum insisted she eat something.

When the food came, Hannah ate sullenly while her mum jabbered on about the things they were going to see and the things they were going to do.

Later, as they drove away from the diner, the darkness in the surrounding sky grew thicker and they drove into a shower which turned into a downpour. The wind-shield wipers could not keep up and was worn out anyway. The window became lined with streaks.

“Looks like we won’t make up as much time and distance as I hoped we would,” her mum remarked. “It would be best to find a motel and to pull in for the night.”

“Whatever you think.” Hannah stared sullenly out of the front window into the darkness, interrupted now and again by oncoming car headlights.

About twenty minutes later, her mum turned the car into the parking lot of a motel. Hannah stayed in the car, as her mum ran through the sheets of rain to the office door.

Her mum came running back a while later and hopped into the car, slamming the door shut. She brushed the rain off her face. “We are in luck. They have a room for us.”

She started the car and drove around the building to stop in front of a door numbered 302. She asked, “What do you need for the night?”

Considering she only had one suitcase and everything she owned was in one bag, she supposed she would need the whole bag. She opened the car door, and the wind raged like a hurricane. With her hands held over her head, she rushed to the back of the car. When her mum opened the boot, Hannah was drenched through to the skin. Hurriedly she pulled her bag from the side and ran through the rain to the door.

She stood in front of the door, while she waited for her mum to get a bag, shut the boot and to run toward the door. With water running in rivulets down her face, her mum unlocked the door. They charged into the room.

Hannah looked around and noticed there was no television, and sadly remembered she had to leave all her books behind. She took off her wet clothes, kicked off her shoes and then after pulling her pyjamas over her head, she slipped into the double bed. The sheets smelled stale.

She hoped to fall asleep quickly and miraculously, because she was so exhausted, she did.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Caitlyn

After dinner, I wash the dishes and then I settle down onto the couch in the lounge, next to my mum. My dad is sitting on a chair in the corner of the room, and he has the footrest pulled out. He sips slowly from the glass of wine in his hand.

We decide to watch the movie I found. It is about a high school student, who is accepted to an Institute of Technology. The night before leaving to go live on campus, she celebrates with friends and then drives home while under the influence of alcohol. She crashes into another car and the father in the car survives, but his son and wife dies. Instead of going to study, the girl goes to jail. The girl is plagued with feelings of guilt and remorse, and she wishes she could reverse time. Then another planet is found, which is like Earth, but scientists suspect it could be like a mirror image of Earth and on this other Earth people make different choices and decisions.

When the credits start flashing on the screen, my mum says, “Nice choice, Caitlyn. I enjoyed that.”

“It was quite nice, wasn’t it?” I get up from the couch and stretch. “I’m going to go to bed, I’m feeling a little tired.” I should not be feeling tired, but these days I always feel tired, and I prefer spending time in my room anyway. It saves me from having to pretend all the time I am happy. Bending down to my mum, I kiss her on the cheek, “Good night, mother dearest.”

“Going to bed already?”

“I think I’ll read a little.”

“Kay. Sleep tight.”

“You too.” I smile down at her. Moving to my dad, I give him a quick peck on his cheek. “Good night, Dad.”

He startles awake. “What’s the time?” He asks, as if he has been awake all this time.

My mum answers, “Late. Bedtime.”

He smiles up at me. “Good night, Caitlyn. See you in the morning.”

I laugh amused. “I don’t think so. By the time you leave, I’ll still be fast asleep. Mum says I need to recharge my batteries.”

My dad glances at my mum and they must think I am stupid not to see the look passing between them.

“Love both of you,” I say as I leave the room.

They reply in unison, “Love you too, Caitlyn.”

I go upstairs and get into bed, making sure I pull the comforter tightly around me so when Salem gets back from his nightly escapades, he does not hem me in as usual.

The blinds in front of my window are still open and as I look up, I wish I could pull the stars down from the sky and wrap them around me. I wonder if Shayne is amongst them. Is he looking down on me? Does he remember me? If I had a superpower, I would want it to be to change the world, and that nobody will ever die.

I start to drift off to sleep, contemplating another Earth and if so, did the other Shayne make different choices. They say love is magic. The only magic we need, because it has the ability to make us happy and I thought loving Shayne would be the only magic he needed, but it turned out I was wrong. If I could do it all over again, I would hold him tighter, so he would be unable to leave.


CHAPTER TWELVE

Hannah

They left the motel the next morning as soon as they were washed and dressed, then stopped for breakfast before they continued on their journey. They did not stop in any of the cities they passed along the main road and soon Hannah started to think about the family she would soon meet. She did not know any of them. She knew after her mum and dad got married, her dad never saw his family again, which meant in her fifteen years, she had never met them either. With all this family mystery looming ahead of her, Hannah could not help feeling nervous. Hannah wondered why they would now suddenly be going to see her dad’s family. It could be because her dad died and now his family was feeling sad and regretted never speaking to him, so now they wanted to meet her. When she asked her mum, she replied dismissively, “It’s what your dad would want.”

Hannah tried to sleep, but no matter how hard she squeezed her eyelids shut, she could not close out the fears. As they got closer and closer to their destination, Hannah started to see glimpses of the ocean every now and again. The road signs started counting off the miles.

When they reached the seaside village, her mum drove through the narrow streets, past souvenir shops, boutiques, restaurants, hardware shops, and fast-food restaurants. Then they turned into an even narrower road with small houses on both sides.

Her mum mumbled, “It seems like we left a hundred years ago, but nothing has changed.”

“Why did you leave?”

“That’s not important right now, Hannah.”

After a while, Hannah saw a double storey house separated from the others.

Her mum slowed down and said, “There it is.”

There were no houses across from this house and Hannah had a clear view of the ocean.

Her mum stopped the car in the driveway, and then with a deep sigh, she said, “Okay, Hannah. It’s time to meet your family.”

Her mum guided her to the front door. She tapped gently on the door and then after a while, she tapped again, a little harder.


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