Memories Long Forgotten

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Memories Long Forgotten

Monday June 9th, day 9

And Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times.

—Numbers 25:10

“Um, Blair? What are you doing?”

Blair looked up at me from his spot kneeling on the rocks. The bruises on his back were gone. “Praying,” he said.

I sat down beside him. “About what?”

“My mother.”

“Oh. did you tell her you’re still here?”

He shook his head. “She doesn’t care.”

I ruffled his hair. Hadn’t everybody thought that as kids? “Of course she does, Blair. She’s your mother.”

“I’m not kidding. She doesn’t care. I went home last night and she didn’t notice.”

I didn’t answer him. I knew exactly how he felt. My mother didn’t seem to care either. I was stuck here and she was in Jamaica. “What’s your mother like, Blair?” I asked mildly.

He shrugged. “Like a mother, I guess. She washes my clothes and stuff.”

I laughed out loud. His eyes widened, and his nose scrunched up. The expression made me laugh even harder.

I was beginning to think Blair lived here. What a strange place for a boy of his age to want to be all the time. The morning was fine and sort of crisp, and it was almost seven in the morning. Blair said he liked to watch the sun rise over the ocean. When I had come back today, he asked me why I had been gone so long. Honestly I had told him that I had been out with friends, and I just couldn’t get away. Blair thought I had been mad at him, but I assured him that I was just as happy to see him as ever. That seemed to please him.

Blair was different than most kids his age. He wasn’t loud or whiny and wasn’t constantly leaking some sort of goo. He was the most amazing little boy I had ever met. The constant sadness around him, which didn’t make sense because he was so young, made it more worth it to make him smile.

“You know what, Blair? You’re a pretty great kid.” I brushed a lock of hair out of his eyes. He needed a haircut.

“Is that why you’re laughing at me?” he tilted his head to the side.

I smiled fondly. “No, Blair. I’m laughing because I’m in a good mood, and you just make it that much better.”

Pushing open the doors, into the wide, open hallway of Virginia’s School of Fine Arts, I wondered why my feet had taken me here.

The place was packed. Teenagers and adults alike lounged in front of lockers or rushed from place to place carrying covered paintings, notebooks or sports bags. Some were sitting, laughing with friends, or having discussions with adults who were obviously teachers. It was like an actual school. A peek through the big front window told me Jada wasn’t there.

The ceilings of the school were high, and some had skylights that I hadn’t noticed before. Since it was late morning, sun light filtered through the windows to illuminate the red walls. A student walked by me, towing a sports bag. She moved so gracefully. A dancer, maybe? I turned around and followed her.

She was about nineteen or twenty. The way she moved, I could almost guarantee she was a dancer of some sort. She led me through multiple corridors, and the students thinned out as we went. We passed through a damp, earthy greenhouse, which smelled like different types of flowers. A flower that I bent to look at was purple and pink and smelled like strawberries.

The girl turned into a huge gym, where dancers were gathered. Most of them were lounging or stretching with friends, chatting loudly, preparing to begin the day. They all stood up and went silent when the woman walked in.

“Good morning, my students,” the woman said, with a big smile. She was the teacher?

“Good morning, Madame Montclair.

Madame Montclair set her bag in a corner. “Let us pray.”

As they said a popcorn prayer, I spotted a door to my left. OBSERVATION was painted across it in bold letters. It led to a closed off space way above the gym, with red theatre seats. Through a glass window, I could see Madame Montclair’s class. There had to be at least a hundred of them. I could hear every word of the popcorn prayer. Every student had something to contribute. They finished with the Lord’s Prayer, and when they all said Amen, everybody started chattering again. They got into ten lines fifteen deep, Madame Montclair at the front. She cleared her throat, a sound that carried to the back of the room. It was quiet instantly.

“Okay, class.” She walked the lines of students, looking each one that she passed in the eye. “I’m assuming by now, you all know the choreography to the dance?” There was a collective murmur of agreement. “Remember that if you don’t, Elizabeth Reed will work with you in room 481. If you don’t quite understand yet, please go now.” She waited while about ten students filed out. “As for the rest of you, when those students come back, it is your duty to make sure they get this. Got that? so now that that’s settled, lets get to it.”

Madame Montclair signalled in the direction of the Observation room. Or it looked like she did, anyway. A pop song came over some surround-sound speakers, and she counted in after the intro. Exactly on a loud staccato beat, alternate students flipped themselves upside down, narrowly avoiding the other bodies, to stand on their heads.  As one, the students on their heads spun clockwise and the students standing up spun counter clockwise. Even Madame Montclair was upside down. they alternated a couple times, narrowly avoiding smacking the person beside them in the face, and then they were all flipped upright. They did a series of handwork with their partners, while moving in a spiral formation. With no warning, they split in half. It was like watching images in a mirror; half the class copied the other half. Most of the students even looked the same, down the mirror line. The students along the mirror line leaned back until there heads were touching the ground, and flipped themselves backward, one limb at a time. then they flipped faster, each time landing on the beat of the music. They moved back a row, and then the next students did the same thing.

“You could be a part of that, you know,” said a voice.

My heart dropped to my feet. Lee was sitting in the seat behind me, looking as relaxed as a lazy jungle cat. He grinned at my startled look. “What are you doing here?” I accused, my voice coming out a squeak.

“My private class with Sophia and Gray starts in ten minutes.”

“Shouldn’t you be getting ready then, or something?” I folded my arms.

He offered a mocking grin, and let his Spanish accent leak in. “Shouldn’t you be out there dancing, chica?”

I huffed. “I’m almost as tall as you.” Bozo, I wanted to add.

He tilted his head arrogantly. “Six-six,” he said. “And you?”

“Six-three.” I slumped back in my seat. “But I just don’t dance. I’m not going to start, now or ever. Why can’t you guys seem to get that?”

He shrugged diplomatically. “Si, we don’t get it because we don’t think you’re being fair to yourself. Or at least I don’t. Gray says I should leave you alone.” He shook his head. “But I think something happened to you, perhaps connected with the death of your brother? I think you are scarred, chica.” He offered a sympathetic smile.

My fist curled. I was just shy of hitting him, really hard. but instead I rolled my eyes and pulled myself rigidly up from the theatre seat. “Look, I gotta go, okay?” I was about to leave when he called out to me, all trace of humour gone:

“Why did you come back, Hanuara?”

His voice stopped me in my tracks. Conflicted, I stood there. With a sigh, I faced him straight on. “Because it’s peaceful, okay? I have a lot going on in my life right now and its just nice to have a break.” Satisfied with my answer, he went back to watching the class. I strutted out the door.

Straight into the cold eyes of Sophia Bendi.

She crossed her arms. “Not so easy being famous, is it?”

I blinked. “What?”

She took a folded newspaper out of her bag and handed it to me. the headlines on the front page read “Professor In Law No Longer Desires Contact With Acclaimed Law Student”. Below was the picture of Monica Lila Benzik hijacked from Cody’s phone. As I read that Professor Malt, one of Monica’s teachers and the principal of Crimson University, had had enough of Monica’s unhealthy drinking habits and portrayal of pagan attitudes and was expelling her, I got number and number. I knew this was going to happen. That girl had it coming to her.

“Poor little rich girl,” Sophia crooned. “Brother dead, sister alcoholic. Not so easy being famous is it?” she said again. “But you know the real reason darling Lee wants you to start dancing here is so that he can have something else to show the naughty media.” She made a sweeping gesture with her hands. “This place is going down, haven’t you noticed? He can’t stand to see it go. but can’t you just see the headlines now? Ex-Supermodel-On-The-Rise Hanuara Fei-Ling Drops Everything To Become A Dancer. And where did you get this ridiculous idea, Hanuara?” Her voice rose in a terrible imitation of me. “At Virginia’s School of Fine Arts. Call this number now to enrol.” She shook her head.

I knew I shouldn’t buy it. you saw this in every dramatic soap opera, movie, and book. Jealous girlfriend manipulates new girl to hate boyfriend. I don’t know why Sophia considered me competition. But she probably considered all celebrities competition.  Poor her.

Boldly, I ruffled her hair. Her eyes flamed, more like the blue of welding fire than ice. “Whatever, Sapphire. But FYI? Dancing is so not my thing.”

Walking away, hips swaying, from an open mouthed Sophia Bendi, I tossed my hair over my shoulder. Maybe soap operas aren’t so cheesy after all.

Eight o’clock drew closer. I emailed the gate guard Julius’s name so that he would be granted access. My glee was over shadowed by my terror of the Poet. I hated him more than ever as I realized this: he was ruining the one thing I had been looking forward to since I had met him. But I also wondered what he was planning to do with me. I had never been so brave in my life. I should have called in the police or something, but I was determined to do this alone. Surely if I saw his face he wouldn’t let me leave there alive. But maybe I could stab him or something before he could kill me. The Poet was cunning; he had murdered my brother without leaving a single clue but that poem, and Helen Mere’s picture.

So what better person than I to nail him down? He could evade the police and follow us to Dan Cae without much trouble; he had gotten past Monica’s security system to plant the note in my room. But Monica and I were his prey; we could go right up to him because he wanted us. I swallowed my fear. This was the way. Monica was too dimwitted most of the time so she would most definitely get herself killed. Really, though, I could imagine her doing something like this a lot less than I could imagine myself doing it. When she wasn’t stone-drunk, she was delicate as a flower, and certainly fragile. And he said he would be waiting for me, not her. I was the chosen one tonight.

When Julius pulled up in a gold-coloured Mazda, my makeup was perfect; my hair was swept back in the way that my stylist Faith had taught me. For a model, my stylizing techniques made her cringe. I was sure she would applaud me this time. it had taken me a whole hour-and-a-half to do.

Even I had to admit that I looked hot tonight.

If Monica had opened the door when he rang the bell so I could make a grand entrance. But that was obviously out, since she wasn’t around anyway. Sighing, I opened the door.

His eyes were soft when he looked at me. A hesitant smile played his lips as he leaned down to kiss my cheek. he kept his arm around my waist. His tuxedo made him look like the brooding detective that always solved every crime and then was bored. That tall-dark-and-handsome thing really worked for him. his hair was fluffy, and his aftershave was spicy. He really cleaned up good.

“Its good to see you again. You look pretty tonight,” he said formally. “I brought you flowers.”

“Mmmm, they smell lovely. Let me get a vase for them.”

He brought me flowers? Mo never brought me flowers. I don’t think he even knew what a flower was. my heart was beating double-time.

Could Julius really be the one?

The Mazda was small, almost cramped for my long body, but I had so much on my mind I could ignore it. I tested the weight of my pocket knife. Remembering my plan, I set my phone to Track and Find. When we got to the restaurant, I would keep the screen on the send button. If I died, all I would have to do was press enter. If I had enough time.

I swallowed, hard. there was no denying I was scared out of my wits.

All through supper I was rigid, ready to flee. Julius kept asking me if I was alright. We chatted, I trying to stay cool, he trying not to stare at me for too long at a time. If I hadn’t been about to pass out at any second, I would have found him funny.

“So what do you do?” I asked after swallowing my pasta.

“I’m studying to be a Voice of the Earth activist at the U.”

I nodded. That seemed like something he was cut out for.

“So are you just planning to model for the rest of your life?”

“Pretty much, yeah. Retire early, buy a house boat in Australia, and die an old woman. I have it all planned out.”

I felt a on my shoulder. “Excuse me.”

Breathing a sigh of utmost relief, I turned around. She was blond, wearing a pink Cavelletti dress and heel. It wasn’t him. “Yes?” I squeaked.

She glanced at Julius. “Um, could I talk to you privately, please?”

Still trying to calm down, I excused myself and followed her to the ladies room.

“Okay, here’s the thing.” she turned to me. the lady’s restroom was  pink with plush sofas. “My name is Henrietta St George, a reporter for CKR News. I have been following you since you started your career as a model, but I never had the time to call you. I know you probably get this all the time, but I just had to ask. I was wondering if I could have an interview.”

“You want an interview.” I asked in disbelief. I crossed my arms. “So why did you bring me here?”

“I wasn’t sure if your date knew who you were. He looked extremely relaxed in the vicinity of a celebrity. I know he’s not famous. I didn’t want to cause a scene.”

The Poet was still waiting for me. Possibly watching me dine with Julius. I agreed to Henrietta’s interview and walked back to the table.

The rest of the night passed uneventfully.

I looked over my shoulder as Julius walked me up the steps to the house. “I had a really good time, Julius,” I lied. “Maybe we could do this again sometime.”

“I had fun too. You look awesome by the way.” he hesitated, and then kissed me lightly on the cheek. I felt like pouting. I had to go through all that and I don’t even get a real kiss from my Prince Charming? I didn’t know whether to be relieved or apprehensive. I peered into the night. The street was well illuminated, and I could see nobody lurking around. Especially no one with flaming bright hair. The door to Monica’s house creaked open when I pushed on it.

There was a disaster waiting for me inside.

Bottles, cans, flasks. Gin, beer, vodka, whine. The kitchen was strewn all over with them. I stood in the hallway, stunned into absolute immobility. The tap was running hot water, steam filling the kitchen. On the sofa, Monica was fast asleep, still clutching a bottle of champagne in her left hand. He hair was stringy, and spittle ran down her cheeks. Zac growled at me when I approached. I took a deep breath.

“MONICA!”

She startled awake. Her eyes were completely out of focus. “Ummmm.”

I bounced an empty bottle of Baja Rosa off the far wall, face red with rage. “I am getting sick and tired of this!” I shrieked at the top of my voice. “You are an alcoholic, Monica, and you can’t stop yourself from drinking for five days!” The Smirnoff was followed by a beer can. “I leave the house for one evening, and I come back to this. You are lucky you live alone, because you’d drive anybody who dared stay here out! I’ve been trying to leave the minute I got here, but of course I’m not eighteen. Believe me if I was, I would be as far away from here as I could get!” I shrieked. Glass fell around her like rain, form the wine bottle I chucked above her head. “Your teacher’s can’t even stand to have you in their school.”

She slowly picked a piece of glass off her head. Staring at it, she began to cry. “You are disgusting,” I snarled as I went to the kitchen for a garbage bag.

It was midnight by the time I was done picking up everything. I hauled the bag to the curb and then sat at the kitchen table with my head between my hands. An attempt to kick my feet up onto the opposite chair caused them to bump something under the table. A red four-inch binder.

The only title was MEMORIES on a piece of white tape. I flipped it open, gasping at what I saw.

It was the picture of Adam, Monica and I that I had on my headboard at home. Beside it was the picture of Adam smiling form the top of the tree house by the river, and the next of him blowing out candles on a birthday cake. I flipped through the pages. Him riding his first horse, us dancing in the living room, Monica teaching him how to ride a bike, him and mom baking brownies. Adam smelling a rose in the garden, Adam kissing his date Rachel’s cheek before the head off to the Spring Fling at her school. The last photo in the album was of Adam and I before our last dance, our hands wrapped around the bouquet of roses Christopher had brought.

“I ‘ever ‘ould’ve kep’ thaaaaat un ’f’I known it’d be the ‘ast,” Monica slurred from behind me. I looked, and she was swaying horribly, but staying on her feet with an expression of pure will. “Was cleaning ‘round ‘ouse t’night, found that album.” Her face crumpled, and she cried out.

“Monica, I know it hurts. Man, it hurts bad, doesn’t it? but drinking till you pass out won’t make it go away.”

“I know!” she wailed. “Still hurts! It’s never gonna leave me. oh, ‘Nuara, why’d ‘e af to leave us?”

I led Monica up the stairs to her room. Zac was sprawled across the bed, and his tail thumped when I came in with her. he moved away and lay on the floor for her to collapse on the bed.  Whining, he looked at me pleadingly.

“I know she stinks, boy.” I gingerly patted him on the head. “But she needs you right now, so come on.” I patted the bed until he reluctantly jumped up. The door closed behind me with a soft click that wanted to be a hard, definite slam.

I knew Monica drank to dull the pain. My mom had told me that once, but it seemed inconsequential now. I guessed it made sense. Alcohol was supposed to kill your brain cells, wasn’t it? the picture of Adam and I and our final dance pressed itself to my eyes. A sound like I was choking came up my throat. I fell to the ground, gasping for air that I didn’t want to breathe, ever.

Why, why, why? Why did my sweet brother have to die? Why must I go on alone in my life? Why do I even try? I half crawled back to the kitchen, and opened the cabinet door. There was only one bottle left, a tall bottle of Famous Grouse scotch whiskey. My fingers closed around the neck. This day had been to long, too stressful. I wanted to scream, pound my hands on the table. Instead I unscrewed the cap and took a long swallow.

The shock of the alcohol hit my stomach like a punch. And then came the most amazing feeling of…calmness. like the world didn’t really exist, and I was actually living in Dreamland. I blinked a couple times, and my eyes focused on the open photo album.

One swig turned into another, than another.  The one-and-fourteen-hundredths litre bottle was soon empty. I was floating on a cloud. Staggering violently, I walked to the window and threw it open. “You can’t get me now, Adam!” I screamed to the world below. “Let memories long forgotten go back where they belong!” With blurry vision. I stumbled around the living room, cursing and singing loudly. No wonder Monica liked this so much. and she had drunk a whole garbage bag worth of empty bottles and things. Why hadn’t I tried this before? Laughter bubbled deep in my chest. Maybe I could find a bottle of Bailey’s. Or vodka. My foot caught on something on my way to the kitchen, causing me to crash violently to the floor,  and I knew no more.

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13

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