18
Jul
08

Searchable Whereabouts, a mystery novel

Chapter 1

Sluggishly, I pulled myself up and sat on the side of the bed, remaining motionless for a minute, almost certain it was not going to be a good day. It was my son’s birthday. Matthew died three years ago. Every year, around this time, I would feel depressed. I hated when I did this to myself. Sometimes, I really believed my depression was self-imposed. Thirty-three years old, no life, no Matthew and, dare I mention, no sex with a man in damn near two years. Not even a real relationship since my ex. I’m not a bad looking woman. At least, that’s what I’d assured myself.
Slipping my chilled feet into my furry slippers, I moved toward the window and drew open the blinds. Peering out the window, the sky wasn’t looking very promising for the sun to shine much today. A cloud, in the shape of a long-stemmed rose, emerged with a faint image of Uncle Leon’s face beside it. If I see another image in the sky, I don’t know what I’d do.

Sighing heavily, I stretched my fingers across my hips and exhaled. “At least today, it’s a decent one, considering the occasion,” I mumbled to myself.

Contemplating taking off from work, keeping as preoccupied as possible, was something I needed to do. Grabbing my pack of cigarettes off the dresser, I ambled into the bathroom. Standing in the mirror, I lit the cigarette that dangled from my lips, drew in deep and blew the smoke at the mirror, forming a hovering cloud. My hair looked wild, coming very close to looking like a frizzy afro, sticking out every which way, and my ends needed to be trimmed.

Normally, my hazel eyes would be my best feature, big and bright, but instead they were red, droopy and tired. Inhaling another puff of smoke, I grabbed my plump cheeks, and blew it out right away. I squeezed my cheeks, took my other fingers and pulled the skin under my eyes down. Damn, that was a pathetic sight. What I was trying to accomplish, I had no idea. I pulled off my white and red heart pajamas and jumped into the shower.

Dressing in blue scrubs and brushing my hair back into a ponytail, I headed downstairs. Opening the front door, I stepped onto the porch and picked up the newspaper, before waving to Mrs. Jenkins across the street, pulling weeds out of her yard. I always thought she was a little weird, an older Irish woman, maybe in her late sixties. In the summer, she wore boots and pretended to shovel snow in her yard. During the winter months, she would turn on the sprinkler and water the front yard, at times watering snow. For ten years I’ve lived in this house, I don’t believe I’d ever seen any family visit her. During the holidays, I’d made it a point to bake a tray of cookies, or some kind of desert, and take it to her, with a card. She would never say thank you, but I knew she appreciated it. If it got too late in the day, on a holiday, she would knock on my door and ask if I was coming over.

Opening the paper, I turned directly to my favorite section: Your Daily Horoscope, which I usually read everyday. There was a time when I was hooked on psychic readings. It fascinated me so, but Mama always said I should leave that stuff alone or else something bad could happen. Mama had tendencies of putting fear in me, so I hadn’t been up on the psychic thing as I used to be.
Moving my eyes through the paper, I scrolled down to the sign of Aries. It said: When searching for what you want, the answer lies in front of you, directly in front of you, and comes to light when you least expect it. I pondered for several minutes, trying to tie the horoscope into my life, but I didn’t really know.

Tucking the paper under my arm, I stepped inside the house and into the kitchen, to fix a bowl of cereal. Dropping the paper on the kitchen counter, I turned on the television and looked over at the green digital clock on the stove: 8:10 a.m. Good, I still had time. I was in no rush to get to the nursing home, where I worked, anyway. In general, I liked my job, but some of those old people just plain got on my nerves.

I knew I shouldn’t have come to work. Not really feeling being here, and after working for six hours, I left the nursing home early. I wasn’t feeling well anyway, and I couldn’t work a complete day. Besides, time was ticking away and what I dreaded was getting close. I felt anxious, nervous and sad all at once. Thinking of Uncle Leon, I realized I never called him back yesterday. I thought about calling him, but I didn’t want him to hear the sadness in my voice. That would be all I’d need.
At times, it was so hard hiding my emotions, even when I tried to. Uncle Leon was more of a father to me, than my own father had been. When I was little, he always told me that I was his daughter in a prior life. He’d given me a necklace, with a black marble at the end of the chain. As a child, I wore it a lot, but now I kept it in my jewelry box for sentimental reasons.

It was the end of July and, in a couple of months, summer would be over. I met up with Janetta for a late lunch. I knew I could count on her to make me feel better. But, honestly, I think I wanted to feel miserable. I didn’t want to be happy today—that self-imposed depression—I guess.
Janetta was a cool friend. She and I go way back. She was my best friend and really one of my only friends to be exact. I lost a lot of friends over the last few years. This was mostly because my dealings with my ex, who was shot, the death of Matthew in a car accident, and my drug and alcohol addiction.
Janetta didn’t take a lot of mess from anyone and she told you like it was. She could be as ghetto as she wanted to be or an angel with a little bit of an attitude. She was overweight, but beautiful. That girl could dress her ass off, with her hair hooked up in one of her many unique styles. Janetta had two obsessions in life: food and men.

I pulled into the garage and entered the house through the side entrance. I tossed my purse on the kitchen table and went upstairs to change out of my scrubs. After slipping into a pair of jeans, and a T-shirt, I grabbed my purse and cigarettes, sat on the front porch and waited for Janetta. Lighting a cigarette, I tried to think good thoughts like flowers, trees, the water sprinkler in the back yard, kids playing, and summer. Summer made my spirits feel good. With closed eyes, I rocked back and forth in the rocking chair, with tightly clenched fists. Then the horn blew. In an instant, I snapped back to reality. I stood, with a smile on my face, when I saw Janetta pulling up in her Land Rover. Seeing Janetta, bouncing her head back and forth to an old school jam, briefly took me back down memory lane.

It was 1986, our senior year in high school and it was graduation time at Northwest High School. With plaid green pants and a silver blouse, you couldn’t tell me anything, with my hair mushroom-shaped with the shag in the back. My eyes wide as can be with my thin lips painted with a light purple lipstick. Our school colors were green and silver, so I did my best to coordinate. Janetta wore a black skirt with a silver blouse as well.

We both planned to wear a skirt, but I chickened out at the last minute. I told her my legs were too big.
“Well, mine are, too,” she debated, “you think I care?”

I wasn’t sure if I was going to graduate or not, because I missed a lot of days hanging out with the wrong crowd. I always wanted to fit in and never quite thought I did. I always managed to date the creepy guys who wanted nothing but sex. Janetta was smart and never cared about what anybody thought of her. That was what I always admired the most about her. We have been friends since the ninth grade and, I must admit, she was always there for me.

Although Janetta was a big girl, that never stopped her from enjoying life. She would call herself F.A.T, Fabulous and Thick. That was her way of putting a positive spin on something others may look at as negative. In high school, we were the same size, but different height. I was five-seven and dark-skinned, while she was light-skinned and five-foot-three. That was until I lost weight from all the stress, and drug and alcohol abuse. It’s strange though; looking back, it seemed like I was happier at a size twenty, than I was at my present size eight.

Calling out to me, Janetta snapped me back to reality. “Hey girl, I know what day it is, but we are going to get through this day, okay? I’m taking you to your favorite restaurant.”
I leaned back, looked at her and smiled, with a raised brow. “What, the Fondue Palace?”
Janetta nodded and licked her lips.

I slid into the passenger seat. “That place is expensive; you don’t have to do that, Janetta.”
“Don’t tell me what I don’t have to do. I know I don’t have to do anything but be proud, black and die. But, today is a special day, maybe a hard one to deal with, but a special day. Let me see a smile on your face, right now,” she demanded. Then she looked at me and placed her finger under my chin, and turned my face toward her.

I stuck my tongue out at her.

“Okay, that’s what I’m talking about,” she chuckled. “That’s much better.”

“How’s Steven?” Janetta dated a lot, and if I was sure of anything, it was to hear all of her men stories.
“Girl, Steven is history. He’s a cheapskate. Do you know he wanted me to give him gas money at the end of our date? And, on top of that, I couldn’t even order my own meal. He ordered for me. And, ordered like the cheapest thing on the menu. What am I supposed to do with a big piece of broccoli and chicken staring back at me? I ain’t on no damn diet.”

I laughed. I thought that was too funny.

There was a long silence.

“So,” Janetta said, breaking the silence, “when are you going to the gravesite today?”
I knew I was going, but I didn’t want to think about it. Not yet, anyway, even though I had to.

“Probably around six. Mama and Sierra are going with me.”

“Well, I have a teddy bear I bought for Matthew, if you can take it with you.” Janetta reached in the back seat and pulled out a small, baby blue bear. It was so cute. I tried to hold back the tears, and surprisingly, I was successful.

“Thank you, Janetta, it’s beautiful.” I was happy Mama and my youngest sister, Sierra, was going with me. Last year, they were out of town for Sierra’s seventeenth birthday, so I went alone. That was a big emotional mistake.

After lunch with Janetta, I felt better. However, as soon as I inserted the key into my front door, I suddenly felt bad again—out of control as each second passed—so I paced the living room and chain-smoked one cigarette after another. I thought about calling Sarah, an old friend. I guess not a friend; you really wouldn’t call someone a friend if all you did was snort up white crap together.
Before I changed my mind, I grabbed the phone and dialed. Someone answered, but my words lodged in my throat. I hung up and visualized my therapist asking me if I really wanted to make that call. It’s been a little over a year since I have been totally clean. I can’t, I thought to myself, and smoked another cigarette instead. After a few minutes, I put it out, as I eyed the bottle of gin on the top cabinet in the kitchen. Finally, and as much as I tried to restrain myself, I opened it. I took a long swallow, and then another, and then, one last swallow.

Standing in the middle of the kitchen floor, I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and imagined Matthew in the living room, playing with his Legos. I ran to him, he looked up at me. He was so happy, and as I reached out to him, his image disappeared. Then instantly, I saw another image of Uncle Leon and it scared me. I looked down at the bottle of gin and hurled it across the room. Chips of glass scattered everywhere. I dropped to my knees, wrapped my arms around myself and cried profusely.

Unable to stop the downpour of tears, one would’ve thought I had just buried my son, but it was three long, pain-staking years ago. Matthew would be eight if he were alive. So many thoughts ran through my head. I missed him so much. On my hands and knees, I crawled up the stairs to the top. Standing, I reached out and wrapped my trembling hand around the doorknob. Inhaling deeply, and exhaling slowly, I opened the door to his room, which I rarely went into. Nothing had changed. The room remained the same way for the last three years. I didn’t touch much of anything when I went in. I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply, wanting to smell him once again.
On his bed was a picture of him I placed there three years ago, that I looked at whenever I mustered the nerve to visit his room. That’s what I thought of my infrequent pop-ins to his room, a visit. But this was the last picture I took of Matthew riding his new bike I bought him. Standing in the middle of his room, I embraced the photo and looked around.

So vividly, I remembered the day my precious son died. I suppose it’s a day I will always remember, well into eternity. I was driving. Nevilla, Uncle Leon and Matthew were in the back seat. I’d bought a new television for Matthew’s room, which was in the front passenger’s seat. We were on our way home from McDonald’s. It was raining so hard that day. We’d stopped at the gas station. I thought Matthew had on his seatbelt, but I learned later, that he hadn’t. The car flipped several times as I swerved to avoid a semi-trailer that I thought was coming toward us. When the fire truck, ambulance and police arrived on the scene, Nevilla, Uncle Leon and I were still in the car, buckled in. I was unconscious. The day after the accident, I learned that Matthew was thrown several feet into a field, where he died on impact. From that day forward, my life had been one complete mess after another, and the feeling of guilt grew from a molehill into a mountain. Had I strapped my baby in, he would still be alive.
In the middle of Matthew’s room, I sat down on the floor and rocked myself to sleep to later awake by the ringing telephone. I knew it was Mama. She was probably crying too. I looked up at the Mickey Mouse clock on his wall. After three years, it’s still running like the first day I bought it. It was almost time to go to the gravesite.

Closing Matthew’s bedroom door behind me, I noticed the newspaper on the table in the hallway. I picked it up and read my horoscope, again, aloud: When searching for what you want, the answer lies in front of you, directly in front of you, and comes to light when you least expect it.
I still wasn’t sure what that meant, so I tossed it on the bed in my room. My head was pounding, so I went into the bathroom, drank some water and took two aspirins.
END_______________________

Thank you, I hope you enjoyed. CLICK HERE to purchase your copy of Searchable Whereabouts. You can also visit the author at her website: http://www.tinishanicolejohnson.com/


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