The school year was almost upon the McDonald clan and that meant within a few short weeks Mia would be planning to be a Senior. There were senior photos that needed taken and aunt Cecily helped with the more annoying stuff while Ray stayed on the farm getting things ready for fall harvest. This year he had grown some pumpkins. Nothing special no large pumpkin patches but enough to sell straight off his farm instead to the stores for half the cost. This past year Ray didn’t have enough work for the Migrant workers this season. He had the kids help and since they seemed to work fast and didn’t care about the lower pay it made things even out instead being overly costly.
Ray did not want to think about the thing he had seen in his room that fateful morning, instead he concentrated on work and his daughters. He knew that Mia had been applying to local colleges and he was hoping that she would get into one that was cheaper. Being a more rebellious kid, she never excelled at school. He worried about the finances regularly with the farm but also the things his daughters needed. Having teenagers was expensive Ray thought as he took a sip of his black coffee. He had just finished adding some expenses on his laptop and closed it. He was caught up for now which was lucky for him those boys had gotten roped into basically helping him for the summer for free. The costs were not as bad as they had been the previous season when he had eight guys working his farm from sun up to sun down. He imagined that at some point he would have to sell the farm, but he wanted to wait until his kids were out of school. By then he could have enough money saved to sell off parts of his land and maybe buy a condo. Granted he also thought long and hard about what he would do if he retired.
As he sat in his lounge chair he heard footsteps coming down the stairs. It was Mia awake and looking for food. “There’s cereal in the pantry and I just bought milk yesterday. If you want anything else you better get cookin’ and no pancakes!”
“Dad I just woke up.”
“Is that your way of saying you are hungry and need me to make you breakfast?”
“Would your dear old dad do that?” he smirked.
Mia rolled her eyes and opened the fridge pulling out the milk. “Cereal it is.” She said smirking back at her father.
It wasn’t long after that Liv woke up her long wave of loose curls hung in her face. Liv sat at the kitchen table and put her head down. “I am so tired from last night.”
Mia busted out laughing “I told your butt to go to bed. The movie was like 3 hours long!”
“I had to know what would happen to Forrest!”
“Sis you are such a dork. You may be the only person in the world to have NEVER seen Forrest Gump!”
“Shut up Mia! Hand over the milk!”
The morning was long and silent and free of ghosts and other random things that had a way of peeking out. The McDonald’s bout of poverty seemed to be at an end for now. Ray was taking the girls to get some school supplies and some other stuff since the new school year was only a few weeks away. How time flies when you are busy.
After everyone had their breakfast, they got ready and out the door they went. Ray had promised they would only go to Walmart and not drag them all over the county for stuff. They stocked up on paper and pens. They bought a new box of folders and markers since Mia claimed that she went through so many of them the previous year. Mia was high maintenance that was for sure. Ray rolled his eyes as he paid for the massive amount of supplies that he was sure they only needed half anyway. They were just lucky that it was cheap and on sale. Later that day they had one last cookout of the season. In less than two months the rain would start, and the unpredictable Ohio weather would begin.
Blissful days were upon them Ray felt. The kids were older and needed less and less and Liv had been making pretty good progress with her therapist. She seemed happier and less nervous. Liv also had even been sleeping more which was odd since it appeared she had not been as sad and that maybe she wasn’t alone. Dr. Cunningham helped with most of that and Liv continued to see her on a regular basis now. Because of Ray’s lower income this past year he was able to secure insurance for the girls and they paid for the doctor visits.
Ray had seen her standing there- that creature with the pale skin standing only a few feet in front of him. There was no denying what he had seen. Ray kept trying to not to think of that ghost as much as possible, but every time he went into his shower his thoughts turned toward her. The fear did eventually fade as the days went on and he found himself busier with work and with the girls starting school.
The sunny August evening was warm, but not hot. It embraced the three of them like a blanket harboring them from the storms and the cold that would find their way into their lives. Leaves had already begun to change for the season of ice would soon be upon them all. Liv and Mia remained close that entire day and Ray even noticed that they seemed pleasant to each other. He would have been suspicious any other time, but he chose not to question it.
There was a calm in the house that had not been there in ages. If only it could be that way all the time. Unfortunately, it never seemed to last no matter how hard they all tried to forget the ghosts that lived amongst them. So, there was a great deal of time and effort put into being and acting normal. Everyone helped around the farm more and did more to forget the awkward exchanges that both Ray and Liv had had recently. None of them told aunt Cecily about the strange ghosts or the way they had all been affected. Mia didn’t recall levitating above her bed, but Ray now could see why Liv hated it there and dreaded bedtime with a fear of a man going to war. In the end, it was only the dawn that rescued them from those horrors that came in the night.
Pumpkins were soon ripe for the picking and engaging in their fall readiness. The girls often looked forward to Halloween and helping with the farm so that they could rest the entire winter. Soon the snow would melt, and spring would come with the following summer preparations. There always seemed to be something to look forward to or not look forward to in their lives. Ray and the girls had spoken often about expectations of what was to come the following school year and Mia rambled on and on about homecoming hinting at Liv she thought Henry would ask her to his college homecoming when he started in the fall. Ray was hoping she would forget it before she got her heart broken. College kids tend to break up not begin dating girls from their school once they meet other college girls. Henry had graduated and was only working to pay off his debt to Ray. That didn’t stop Mia from hoping that he would look in her direction. Every time she saw him she made sure that she primped for hours beforehand. It annoyed Liv. She didn’t see the point in paying that much attention to any guy. However, Mia got her invitation soon after the first of August came.
Mia was so excited she could barely breathe because soon she imagined that she and Henry would be dancing the night away at Homecoming. Henry had asked Mia to Homecoming after all to be sweet since he had finally taken notice of her. She had spent most of the summer making sure Henry didn’t go thirsty while working for her dad. Mia didn’t care that he was taking her to the dance to be nice, she would make him hers if it killed her.
Liv was in another world lately hanging out with her teenage friends more and more as the school year approached. The three girls hung out with their friends and boys were now included and to seem more grown up they now smoked on a regular while listening to music and sneaking a beer now and then however, Liv did not partake in smoking or drinking. Instead she steadily concentrated on her music, which she loved discussing with her friends and enjoyed the new guitar lessons her dad had paid for recently. Ray, having always been a keen musician in his heyday loved the thought that at least one of his daughters shared his passion. Liv saw less and less of Becky and Nina. They were all going to be in the 8th grade soon and sooner than they wished high school.
These august winds gave way to freedom and hope for the future. There was a silence from the ghosts. They seemed to be on a vacation of their own. They never came when you expected them to. One night Liv was left all alone while her dad and Mia had to go shopping. She sat in the living room studying her guitar music and nothing came at all. Not one single peep from them.
It was happy, sunny and void of pain and fear for once. The farm was gorgeous, and the worry seemed like yesterday’s news. Ray seemed to feel better too. He had some money in the bank and the world was peaceful and the fears were put aside, for now.
Nothing prepared the McDonald family for the arrival of September and Mia had aunt Cecily take her to the dress shop in nearby Akron to look at dresses since Seville had few shops and figure out what she was going to wear to Homecoming with Henry.
Aunt Cecily was as excited as Mia about the whole homecoming thing now that Summer was at an end and fall had arrived bringing with it pumpkins, hot cider and football on brisk Friday nights. Mia had been bragging to all her friends about Henry taking her because he was a year older and in college he had a unique way about him that made her feel special. Mia needed to feel special all the time Liv thought as she watched her sister try on various dresses.
Somehow Mia had talked Liv into going with her and aunt Cecily so that she felt included, but all Liv wanted to do was check out new running sneakers. She was officially going to be on the track team at the junior high and so she was very unenthusiastic to be sitting in the dressing room at Dillard’s watching her sister try on dress after dress.
“I’m bored.” Said Liv looking at her cell phone.
“Oh Olivia, soon it will be your turn. Just think of all the stuff you will be doing in the next few years. You should take note and get prepared because next year you will be in high school.” Aunt Cecily said winking at Liv.
“I’d rather die.” Said Liv rolling her eyes.
“Oh, shut up Liv.” Mia said looking at her sister and laughing. “I saw you checking out Henry’s younger brother, Brian.”
“Brian? As in Brian the kid with the weird lisp? Yeah, no thanks.”
“He doesn’t have a lisp!” Mia said getting annoyed.
“Yes, he does, when we were all playing scrabble he sat there trying to say “Shepard” like twenty times because we thought he was saying leopard.” Liv was now laughing hysterically.
“Okay you two! Let’s focus!” Aunty Cecily gave them a look picking up one of the dresses Mia had thrown to the ground after she had decided it didn’t fit right.
The three of them left after Mia finally decided on a blue and black metallic dress. It was short just above the knee and she was able to find matching shoes and a purse. They found some new running shoes for Liv and then found some fast food in the food court.
Grease and red sauce dripped from Liv’s chin as she gobbled up the slice of pepperoni that was now falling off the messy crust.
“You are officially one of the biggest slobs in the universe.” Said Mia looking at her younger sister.
“Liv, you are such a Tomboy why don’t you learn to be more ladylike.” Aunt Cecily said shifting in her seat as she put a napkin on her lap.
Liv hated dealing with those two when they were together because she felt so insecure. It was like something was wrong with her. She always got nervous around aunt Cecily, but she never really understood why.
Liv wiped her chin and then finished her slice of pizza. She got up and tossed her food in the garbage can and then stood looking at aunt Cecily and her sister. Why did Mia have to pretend to be so grown up around aunt Cecily? It was like she was suddenly a mean girl at the lunch table in every 80’s teen movie. Liv just wanted to go home and see if Becky was busy and maybe go hang out.
Aunt Cecily noticed Liv just standing off to the side of the garbage can looking at her phone. “Liv, we are going to head out now. Is there anything else you want to look at before we leave?” she had a kindness in her voice that had an insincerity in it. It was as though she just wanted to make Liv feel as comfy as possible, but she wasn’t wanted or something. They finally pulled into the driveway and Liv got out of the car and ran towards the house to be alone. She ran up to her bedroom and sat on her bed calling Becky.
“Want to come over?” asked Becky when she found out how bored and desperate Liv was.
“Yeah I’ll be over in a few let me just tell my dad.”
Ray was fine with whatever Liv wanted to do and it was no problem. She was a good kid and never needed a curfew, nor did he worry she was going to get into some trouble.
When Liv got to Becky’s house she was surprised to find other kids there as she had thought it would just be Becky and herself hanging out. She noticed that there were a few high school boys there with Nina’s older brother and one of them was Henry’s younger brother, Brian.
He had cool friends and it shocked Liv that he should be so cool with the fact he sounded like such a dork with the lisp. Brian was good looking, but Liv never really gave it much thought till she saw him sitting with his friends and then when he saw her he came over to her.
“Hey, what are you doing here at this little gathering?”
“I’m here because I was invited.”
“I didn’t mean it like that. You aren’t like your other friends.” He smirked watching Becky try to flirt. She was on the verge of turning 14 like Liv but you would think she was already a senior in high school. Becky wore a red blouse and short blue jean shorts with high heel sandals. Liv was wearing a pair of coveralls a t-shirt and flip-flops. She suddenly was very self-conscious.
“I am just me I guess.”
“That is cool, be who you are don’t try to act like someone you aren’t.” he smiled at her sitting down next to her on the green grass in Becky’s yard. There was a bonfire and secretly Liv wondered where all the adults were. Sitting next to Brian made her imagine what it must be like to kiss boys for the first time in her life. Would she even like it? She looked at Becky flirting with Nina’s brother and she laughed.
“Becky doesn’t have a chance in the whole universe with him.”
“You mean Jason?”
“Yes, he just turned 16 last month and drives. Why would he want to date a 14-year-old like Becky when there are plenty of gorgeous high school girls to talk to?” Liv rolled her eyes looking up at Brian.
Brian looked at Liv and shook his head. “You don’t know how guys are then do you? If she is pretty they get stupid. Becky is pretty, Liv.”
“Oh, I guess I never thought about it that much. Becky has been my best friend since I was like five or something. Our mothers knew each other before my mom-
“You mean before your mom passed away?” he asked looking at her with his big brown eyes.
“Yeah I guess.”
He nodded in understanding and then changed the subject.
“You want anything to drink?”
Liv shook her head smiling up at him and then went back to watching the circle of people around her. Becky found her sitting alone on the grass and she stood over her.
“Get up let’s go dance, Nina’s brother brought his sound system, so we are turning my garage into a mini dance floor.”
Liv smiled and reluctantly stood up. She went with Becky and when they got to the garage they found Nina dancing alone in a corner. Her long dark hair and her black framed glasses bounced to the music. Liv and Becky laughed at her and then the three of them danced the night away.
The crowd finally dispersed when a car pulled into the driveway. It was Becky’s mom and dad coming home from a date night. The kids in the neighborhood went their separate ways and Becky quickly tossed any evidence of alcohol into the garbage.
Liv took that as her reason to go home and so she hopped on her bicycle and began her trip back home. She was halfway between her house and Becky’s just a mere two-mile bike ride when her tire went flat suddenly. Liv got off and looked at it desperately trying to figure out what to do. She reached into her pocket for her phone, but it was dead. Having a flat tire at a time like this was awesome, she thought. She would have to walk it the rest of the way and it was just now nearing the time her dad would be looking for her.
The road ahead was dark and only a few street lights were on the old country road. Some homes ran along the old street and few newer, but something was isolating and strange about walking a neighborhood at night. It was like a ghost town and the small amount of light that lit the way was not enough to see ahead of you. The air was soft and slowly becoming cooler and as the wind touched Liv’s skin she got goosebumps. The short bike trip was now going to be at least 20 or 30 minutes to walk especially dragging the bike behind her. The road ahead of her was void of any sidewalks and she hoped that because she had to walk along the road any drivers would see her and not run her clear over. Granted her bike had a reflector, but Liv was growing more paranoid and more afraid as she walked along the quiet road.
What was that? There was suddenly a sound coming from one of the bushes she was afraid to stop and look. She walked on faster and faster and as she walked her pace grew but she could only go so fast with the damned bike. She thought of leaving it under one of the bushes and hiding it then coming back the next day to retrieve it.
O-L-I-V-I-A_________! There was a gentle whisper in the wind calling out to her as it caressed the back of her neck. Was that fog that was appearing behind her there before or was it from the night air turning colder after a warm day? She looked back and saw a face white as snow in the trees behind her. Was it a trick of her eyes from the fears she now experienced on this barren neighborhood street? Liv’s pace got faster as she kept looking back behind her to see if something was indeed following her. Then the inevitable happened and she found herself tripping over her stupid flip-flops. The bicycle wheels rolling over her feet causing her to lose her balance and stumble onto the concrete below her scraping up her knee. The bike came crashing above her and the peddle scraped her shin. She laid back onto the road struggling to get up and then the tears came. In a mere panic she heard someone coming up behind her.
Liv screamed as she felt the touch of the hands which were now upon her as she lay helpless on the hard ground trapped beneath her bicycle.
“Liv! It’s me Brian! Hey let me help you!”
Liv looked up with relief then wanting to hug him then and there.
Brian smiled at her his brown eyes welcoming like an angel coming to keep the demons at bay for one more day. He helped her up and then helped her back into her flip-flops.
“Looks like you messed up your knee there, are you able to walk?”
“No sweat. Why didn’t you call someone you have your phone right?”
“It is dead.” She sighed looking up at him.
As she said this her phone suddenly turned on and blinked with multiple text messages from her dad, was she losing her mind? Liv got chills then because when she last checked her phone it was completely dead and wouldn’t turn on. What was it that kept her in the dark and alone on that street? Thank God Brian showed up when he did.
“I think you better call your dad.”
Liv shook her head. “No I’ll text him, I can’t deal with the yelling.”
“I get that for sure.” Brian laughed and then helped her with her bike. Brian looked at the wheel then, and sighed. “It looks like you really broke it, I have some tools I can come by tomorrow and help you fix it if you want?” he asked.
“Wow? Thanks a lot. I am happy you showed up when you did.”
“Yeah you looked scared out of your mind.”
“I was, I think someone was following me.”
“Shit, are you serious?”
“Yes. Let’s get out of here.”
Brian tossed the thin bike over his shoulder and carried it to Liv’s house. The lights in the street ahead seemed to beam like beacons of hope but behind Liv and Brian was a growing darkness and when Liv looked back behind them to steal one last glance at the road behind them the blackness of the street seemed to block out any light as though there were no street lights on behind them. A growing uneasiness found itself in the pit of her stomach and while she wanted to run still, there was a comfort now and someone to help light the way leaving the night behind her.
To be continued…..