Sample Chapters from Strange Occurrences by Ashlee Craft

Chapter 1: Nothing is Right in Life

There are people in the world that seem to have everything – a perfect life, a perfect family, and perfect friends. I’m not one of those people.

My shoes hit the cement of the sidewalk with aconsistent thump, thump, thump, as I try to gather my thoughts. The winter wind blowing through my straight dark brown waist-length hair is warm, as it never gets very cold in central Florida. I tightly hold onto my dog Sparkle’s green leash, hoping no one will talk to me on this wonderful Saturday afternoon.

Sparkle is a Jack Russell Terrier, is three years old, and is my best friend in the entire world. When Sparkle was only a puppy, I saw her tied up in the neighbor’s back yard without any food, water, or shelter. Her owners beat her all the time, and when I reported this to my parents, they called animal control. Animal control arrested the owners for animal abuse, and I ended up being able to adopt Sparkle. To get her to be the trusting dog she is now, I had to work with her a lot. Her physical wounds had to mend, just as she had to learn how to trust people unconditionally. I guess I trust her as much as she trusts me.

I smile down at Sparkle, who walks along through the grass, sniffing all sorts of smells. Walking is my way of getting away from my problems. When my heart gets pumping in rhythm with my legs, everything is different. I imagine that every step I take, I’m farther from that world filled with hopelessness and despair. And sadly, that terrible world is where I live. But when I run, I am free. It’s just me and Sparkle.

I look to my left to see some children playing in a yard, running and laughing. The kids all look to be around the same age, seven or eight, and seem to think there isn’t a care in the world. To most people, this would make them happy. It doesn’t work the same way with me though.

Since my best friend Jane moved away, I have not made any more friends. The whole time, I guess I was just like, Oh, Jane will write to me. She’s my best friend. I don’t need another friend when I’ve got her. But after a while of thinking that, I realized she totally dumped me. I thought we were friends! All of those long hours playing, running in the yard; those sunny days picnicking in the park and swinging. Those long nights, talking on the phone to her, telling her my greatest memories. That total trust, broken. Some people say, ‘Oh, you’ll learn lessons from everything that happens’.

True. What I learned from Jane is to NEVER trust anybody or anything, including life.

Besides, I am just so shy that I can hardly talk to anyone! I have trouble talking to most people, sometimes including my family. If they ask me an awkward question, I freeze up and get nervous, upset, or mad. Grandma, Jane, and Sparkle are the only creatures on earth that I felt completely comfortable with.

When Jane first moved away, we told each other how we would write each other every day. What a liar. Now, six months later, she still hasn’t written me. She is now officially my ex-best friend. It’s like she disappeared from the face of the earth! Now, I only have Sparkle, and she can’t even talk to me! No one listens to me and the world seems boring. There’s nothing to do! No one seems to care about me except for Sparkle.

I look ahead of me and see a different street. At the beginning of it there are some big, old oak trees and pretty red pansies. It’s the one my dad drove down once to show us a road that leads to a trail in the woods. I check my watch and see that I still have thirty minutes to check out that trail. Even though my parents don’t care about me, they still set annoyingly short time limits to my excursions.

Now, I’ve told my parents I’d just be in the neighborhood, but I need to go to the woods. Not like they’d really care about that. Not like I’d tell them. I keep walking forwards and Sparkle follows me down the street. I walk along in peace for a few minutes, when I hear the dreaded sound.

“Hi.”

I flinch and look over to see an older lady standing in front of a beautiful house, holding a hose. She is watering a big yellow sunflower in a green pot. I break into a sweat and my cheeks turn bright red. She just ruined my silence!

I hurry down the road without saying a word. Some people may consider me rude, but it’s not that! I want to change! I want to talk to people, I want to help people, but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to. It just seems like someone zips my mouth shut when I am near someone, especially someone I don’t know. I try my hardest, but my
hardest isn’t good enough. Nothing I do is good enough for anyone’s standards, including mine.

I veer to the left and head down the path and into the dark green forest. Trees, shrubbery, and fallen branches surround me like a cocoon. The only sounds I can hear are the rustling leaves, the thump-thump of my feet hitting the hard packed sand trail, and Sparkle’s collar jingling. These are the best and most assuring sounds in the whole world to me.

After walking for a few minutes, I see a clearing and decide to sit down in the green moss. I wrap my arms around my knees, wrest my chin on my knees, and look at the beauty around me. It’s so pure, unlike me. I never did anything good in my life. I have never saved anybody, did anything right, or had any true friends. I even killed my pet rabbit.

When I was younger, my neighbors gave me their pet rabbit when they moved. The rabbit’s name was Walnut, and he lived in a hutch outside. Everyone thought I took good care of it, but when it died suddenly, I blamed myself. After all, if I would have taken care of him properly, he would still be alive. And when I see a movie or read a book with a hero in it, it makes me feel even worse! I’ve never saved anyone’s life, much less done anything to help anyone.

I sigh as I think about my ruined family.

My Dad goes to work before we get up and comes home when we are about to go to bed, so I hardly see him. He always stays in his room watching TV on weekends.

My mom could keep the house clean if she wanted to, but she never tries hard enough. Our house is a complete mess! Mom home schools us and tries to make it fun for us, but my brother and my sister always ruin it.

My younger brother Jason, who is eleven, always starts arguments with my mom and does graffiti on buildings.

My sister Priscilla, who is ten, always calls me names and makes fun of me. My parents never stop her! And she always blames me for things she does!

My only relative that lives near me is my grandmother, and she is dying at her house near the woods a few miles away! All my other relatives we don’t really know and are not very close to us, literally.

I check my watch again and see I only have five minutes to get home! If I don’t make it back in time, my mom will scold me and I’ll have to face an embarrassing explanation. We will need to run at top speed to get there. Luckily, Sparkle has a ton of energy and loves to exercise.

“Run, Sparkle! Let’s go home!”

Sparkle breaks into a run and I go my fastest just to keep up with her. The smaller the dog, the faster they go! My feet pound on the sidewalk as we run as fast as we can. We race all the way to my medium sized yellow and white house, situated in a quiet cul-de-sac. The outside is yellow with white trim and it is two stories. An ancient oak tree on the left and a pink flowered bush on the right outline my driveway.

By the time I reach the top of my long driveway, Sparkle and I are panting heavily. At least we are finally home, but with only one minute to spare. I slowly walk up the pathway that leads to the front door, only to hear another argument erupting from inside my house.

“You never let me go skateboarding with my friends. Never!” Jason screams at my mom.

They sure are being loud! I’m ten feet from the door and can hear every word they are saying perfectly. I don’t really want to go inside. When they argue, it hurts my ears. I feel especially sorry for Sparkle, since she is a dog and dogs can hear way better than humans! Poor Sparkle.

“Your friends are the wrong type to be hanging around with.” My mom states exasperatedly.

I open the door and silently go inside, hoping for some peace and quiet in the refuge of my room. I bet Sparkle does too. I enter, doing my best to ignore the argument and make a beeline to my room. But someone is stopping me. And that someone is Priscilla.

“Hey Dummy, aka ‘Cathy’! You sure are cuttin’ it close, arriving just in the nick of time!” She yells, bursting in front of me. Priscilla is pretty. She has long dark brown hair with a slight wave and blue eyes that sparkle. Her personality is not so beautiful, unfortunately.

“Whatever.” I say to her as I walk past her. “I’m home!” I mumble to my mom, who looks like an older version of Priscilla but with shoulder length hair. Mom says hello before the argument with Jason.

I look more like my dad than my mom. We have the same dark brown eyes and shiny dark brown hair. But that is a resemblance that I’m not too happy about now that he hardly seems to care about us.

I slowly trudge up the stairs with Sparkle at my heels. My room is painted a beautiful shade of sky blue and has a twin sized bed and a tall oak dresser. I plop down on the yellow and white quilt on my bed. It kind of matches the sky blue in a sunset-like way. My Grandma, the one that is dying, made this for me when I was only a baby. I have loved it ever since. I look to the other corner of my room, which has a blue beanbag and a bookshelf filled with books. My room is my sanctuary, the only place in the house where I feel at home. Sparkle stretches out on my bed near my head.

I bury my face in my quilt and think back on that lady that said ‘hi’ to me earlier. Something about that lady her seems…magical. She’s someone important, and I know I need to do something with her. But what? What if I never see her again and I missed my only chance to meet her? And with that, I begin to cry my typical type of tears. I cry large, jerking sobs.

I used to be happy until my dad got this new job and everything went wrong. I keep crying, crying about everything that is going wrong in my life. I cry until I hear Mom yell from downstairs,

“Dinner’s ready!”

“I’m eating in my room!” Yells Dad from the room next to mine.

“Coming!” I hear Priscilla say.

“Not coming!” Jason says.

“I’m coming.” I say reluctantly as I leave my room, Sparkle following closely behind.

I go down the stairs into the large living room with black leather sofas and vaulted ceilings. I head into the kitchen and sit down on one of the maple kitchen chairs. In the middle of the table, I see plain pasta and green beans. Great. In other words, YUCK. That is like, all we ever have. I mean, I know my mom tries hard to make a good dinner, but she could use some help.

I used to love cooking. I made all sorts of yummy dishes like spinach casserole and lemon butter chicken. But then Dad got his new job and started working like crazy. Mom missed him and had trouble keeping up with the house. Jason really missed him and started hanging out with kids that do graffiti and other bad stuff like that. He wanted to escape his role of “Man of the House.” Priscilla and I used to play with each other, but we had to be in the middle of so many arguments, playing lost its fun. Every time we tried to have fun, it got disrupted by yelling. So, Priscilla and I stopped playing and our bond pretty much broke. I stopped cooking and helping with chores, which made mom busier, which made her grumpier. That made her more edgy when talking to us, which caused more arguments. All of those things going on at home made it so Dad worked more.

It was a vicious cycle to which there seemed no end. No one would change. I wanted to change, but when I started thinking about helping again, I just felt like the whole situation was a lost cause. I wasn’t motivated to do much anymore.

Mom serves me pasta and wilted green beans. After giving it a look of disgust, I gulp my dinner down, trying to get the gross food down as quickly to avoid the taste.

When I’m done, I leave the kitchen and head back to my room. One more argument erupts from down stairs as I flop down into my bed and pull the covers over my head. That’s just one more reason to hide in my room. My eyes drift shut and I fall asleep with Sparkle by my side.

The next day, I groggily get out of bed and put my shoes on. Great. I’m still wearing my clothes from yesterday. I look to the clock and realize that it is 10:30 a.m.! I don’t have many plans for today, but have some things I need to do.

After brushing my hair and my teeth, I go downstairs so I can take Sparkle out to go to the bathroom. After mumbling a “good morning” to my mom, I head for the door. Sparkle races out the front door ahead of me, eagerly pulling on her green leash to smell what’s new in the neighborhood. While she goes to the bathroom, I look at Jake’s house.

Jake is this boy that lives a across the street and is my age. He seems pretty nice (not to mention kind of cute), but my shy side gets in the way when I try to talk to him. I wish I could make more friends, but I don’t know how to overcome my shyness. I sigh and trudge back inside with even more problems now than before.

Later that day, we go to the grocery store. My mom takes us to come with her to buy some things we have run out of, such as pasta and green beans. I wish we could be like a normal family and eat REAL FOOD. I just wish she knew how to make something else! I unhappily trudge along beside her and reluctantly read the shopping list to myself.

Tortilla Chips
Carrots
Ice Cream
Baby Carrots
Pasta X 5
Beans X 5

“Mom? I don’t mean to sound rude, but why do we ALWAYS have to have beans and pasta for dinner? I mean, they’re fine to eat every once in a while, but every night?” I ask her, trying not to sound as annoyed as I really am.

“Cathy!” She scolds. “Be thankful for what you have. Some people have no food at all and the thought of eating beans and pasta every night would delight them.”

“Yeah. But we’re not.” Jason complains.

“Jason, what did I tell you about rude comments?” Mom scolds Jason.

“I don’t care what you think. You won’t let me go out with my friends! You won’t let me do anything that I want to! And don’t tell me about not saying rude comments ONE MORE TIME. IF YOU DO, I WILL RUN AWAY!” Jason yells right in the middle of the pasta isle.

Some of the people standing near us in the aisle back away and leave the isle. My face turns red as I wonder why Jason has to be so rude. We all head to the checkout lane, silent and embarrassed.

“I’m giving you a dollar each to buy a candy bar.” Mom says, trying to break the silence as she hands us each a dollar bill.

“Yeah!” Jason says, pumping his fist and jumping into the air.

Priscilla chooses a caramel candy with peanuts. Jason chooses a chocolate bar. I stand there, staring at the candy and thinking about which one I want. Hmm. Do I want the chocolate with caramel candy or the mint and chocolate candy? Just then, my view turns to a plastic container with a bright orange lid, which is sitting near the part of the cash register where the receipts come out. There is a piece of paper taped to the outside that says “DONATE TO THE ASPCA TODAY AND SAVE AN ANIMAL” My gaze turns to the dollar in my hand and I know what I must do. In what seems like slow motion, my hand glides over to the container and shoves the dollar into the narrow hole of the plastic jar.

“Thanks for your contribution.” Says the cashier.

“Yeah.” I mumble quickly without looking at him.

On the way home, I picture a starving, hurt dog. Hurt on the inside, just like me. In my life, everyone has been nice to me my whole life, until now. I have had a pretty easy life. It was easy, until Jane moved away. Now it seems like my whole life is just one big pain. I think back to my image of the starving dog, and my dollar helping to make it whole again and to find it a home. That makes me smile, a rare event.I am in my room, waiting for…well, really nothing. The sun is setting quickly and my room gets so dark I have to turn on the light. I sigh as I sit back down on my bed and stare out my window. The sky is bluish dark but there is only a slight pink glow in the sky left from the sunset. Life is so boring and uneventful. There’s nothing to miss out on even if you mope around all day.

Moments later, the phone rings downstairs and I hear Mom answer with a hello. I can’t make out what she us saying, but I can hear that she’s talking. A few minutes later, Mom opens the door into my room. She stands in my doorway for a second, then comes in and sits down on my bed next to me. Tears are forming in her eyes and she slowly puts her arm around me. She closes her eyes, opens them, and seems regains her composure.

“I just received a very sad phone call.” Mom says, taking a deep breath, almost like she’s preparing me for the news.

Oh no! It must have to do with Grandma! My blood goes cold as I freeze, dreading what is coming.

It was Uncle Mike. He said Grandma feels that she will be dying tonight or early tomorrow morning. All of us will be going to say good-bye to her. Be downstairs in 10 minutes.”

This can’t be happening! My mind races in all directions as I try to gather my thoughts enough to get ready. I need Grandma to talk to, and when she is gone, there won’t be a human in this world that will be able to console my worries!

As Mom leaves the room, more tears have formed in my eyes then I could have imagined and my heart feels hollow and empty. I distractedly run the hairbrush through my hair and pat Sparkle on the head before solemnly leaving my room.

I head out to the car holding my fuchsia pink purse. I had to make sure I looked extra nice for this last meeting with Grandma.

A million thoughts are crossing my mind and I feel so confused.

My grandma can’t be dying tonight! There were so many things I wanted to do with her that now I will never be able to do! I wanted to hear her voice again. I wanted to hear her tell me that she loved me. To hear her laugh her hearty and healthy laugh again would mean the world to me. To have her hold my hand and tell me everything will be okay would be like a warm blanket in a snow storm. I need to be able to talk to her about my problems and let her comfort me.

One thing that I am happy about, despite the circumstances, is Dad is coming with us. But I guess that’s expected, considering it is his mother. Dad gets into the driver’s seat and Mom gets into the passenger seat. I sit in the seat behind Mom, while Jason and Priscilla get into the seats next to me. We drive along in silence, none of us talking or showing emotion.

As we drive on through the dark streets, the normally hopeful looking street lights are hopeless looking. The feeling of impending disaster haunts us the whole trip, until we pull into grandma’s driveway next to Uncle Mike’s blue convertible. The sense of impending disaster is replaced with apprehension.

What do I say to her? How can I summarize what she means to me in such a short time? All of us silently get out of the car and head for the door without saying a word.

My grandfather, Grandma’s husband, died a few years ago. She hasn’t been the same since. She lived by herself after that, but recently Uncle Mike has been living with her to help her out. Grandma is not dying of any disease or anything, she’s just old.

Dad reaches out and knocks on the green wooden door. The door opens and the familiar face of Uncle Mike appears. My uncle nods a hello and a tear runs down his tired looking face.

We head through familiar rooms that will soon be unfamiliar without Grandma. We continue through the house and into her pink bedroom. A four-post bed with a white lace canopy cradle Grandma’s pale, thin form. The pink floor lamp lights the room nicely, but the lighting is bittersweet. I look and see Grandma just laying there, staring at the ceiling with a vacant look in her eyes.

“Grandma?” Priscilla asks tentatively, stepping forwards towards Grandma’s bed.

Grandma realizes we’re here, and weakly exclaims, “Oh Sweeties!”

“We came to be with you and to let you know just how much we love you.” Dad says softly.

I listen to his voice and cherish it. It is one of the few times he is not yelling. Our family talks for a while with Grandma, and we exchange tears and stories. We talk about memories and how much we will miss her. We talk about our love for her and how much she means to us. After a while, my grandmother appears to be tired and says,

“I’m getting tired. How about you guys leave and go get some dinner.” She then smiles contently, like she’s at peace one more time.

We now know that we will have to say our final good byes.

“Goodbye, Mom. We’ll miss you. I’ll always remember you.” Dad says with a sad smile.

“Yes. Goodbye, Mother. We’ll always love you. Thanks for everything.” Mom agrees.

What do I say? It is the last time I will ever see Grandma. How can I explain it all in a few sentences, and without bursting into tears? I choose my words carefully and then release them.

“Bye Grandma. You taught me a lot and I’ll never forget you. Thanks for listening to me all of these years. You meant so much to me and always understood me. I love you.”

I look into her eyes; blue, tired, but showing a look of contentedness.

I realize I’m not just looking at her, but into her soul.

“I love you. Bye.” Priscilla says simply. She seems quite sad about all of this.

“Bye Grandma. Thanks for always making my favorite kind of cookies.” Jason says with a sad grin.

We hug and kiss her, each of us making out last memories of her. I remember the flowery smell she always had on her. How her arms felt hugging me. That safe grasp, telling me all would be okay. But now, those qualities would only exist in our minds. This was the last time we would ever see her alive. We wouldn’t even see her dead, since after she died she wished to be cremated. There were so many things I longed to tell her that I never got a chance to do. Things like saying, ‘I love you’ more and ‘Thank you!’ And just telling her how much I appreciate her. But now, only seconds away from leaving, I had missed my chance. Dad touches Grandma’s hand once more, and then turns to leave. Mom, Priscilla, and Jason follow him close behind. I walk along in the back.

“Cathy. I want to tell you something. Privately.” A weak voice calls from the bed. Grandma has something to tell me, and me alone.

I come back to see what she wants. My family heads into the living room to wait for me. I shut the door and sit on the edge of Grandma’s bed, stroking her hand. It feels so lifeless, so frail, and so cold. Grandma stares at the ceiling and says,

“When I was about your age, Cathy, I didn’t like my life, or how I was. I found it impossible to change. I even considered ending it. Life didn’t seem worth the pain. But then, these things started happening.”

“What kinds of things happened?” I ask, very curious to see where this story is going.

“Time travel. Strange visions, clouds. Seeing the past, present, and future. Things like that. And I called them ‘Strange Occurrences’.”

“What did they do, Grandma?” I am now wondering why she is telling me this. Is she telling the truth or going nuts?

“I didn’t know at first, but as more and more of them happened, I learned something about myself. It was…Oh, I’m so sorry dear. I can’t seem to remember right now.”

“That’s okay. Why are you telling me this?”

“I am telling you because they told me. They told me they are coming to you soon.” At that, she stops and her eyes close, but she is still breathing.

Coming to do what?” I ask quietly.

As Grandma lies there, I try to etch every detail of her into my heart forever. The wrinkles on her face, the way of her white hair, the kind smile upon her lips.

“They are coming to change…” Grandma continues, her eyes still closed.

Coming to change what?’ I wonder to myself. Will I ever hear what she wants to tell me?

Your life!” Grandma’s eyes flash open then closed once more. That sudden burst of energy is gone, and she just lies there, barely alive. I remember that she said she wouldn’t die until early morning.

I kiss Grandma’s soft cheek for the last time, and leave the room. I glance at her once more, knowing it is the very last time I’ll ever see her. The finality of this moment is painful but set in stone.

Bye Grandma. I’ll never forget you. I love you.” Tears fill my eyes, as I know that those words will be the last thing I’ll ever say to her.

Chapter 2: The Strange Occurrences

That night when we get home, Sparkle has to go to the bathroom. Tears silently continue to stream down my face like raindrops falling from a cloudy sky. The ride home was silent, aside from the occasional sniffle or gasp between sobs.

As I pick up Sparkle’s leash, Mom is getting out a can of green beans and the leftover pasta that we will be eating for dinner. I glance over at the clock and see that it reads 8:05 p.m. I try to conceal my tears as I trudge over to Mom and ask,

“Can I take Sparkle for a small walk? Just around the cal-de-sac and back?”

“Sure. Just be careful.” She replies tearfully, getting a pot out of the cupboard to warm up the food.

I clip Sparkle’s leash onto her collar and head out the door, happy to have a place to fight my emotional battles. As soon as the door clicks shut behind me, I feel the weight of the pain numbing me.

Now there is no one for me to tell anything to. There’s no one to help me at all. Why does this world always have to pick me to have all the problems! Why? First, my Grandmother, the only person I could talk to will be dead tomorrow. Second, I don’t understand what she means by the Strange Occurrences! Third, I still have the same problems to deal with as before!

Hot tears of anger rush down my face. I don’t care anymore. I just don’t care. Who cares what happens in life? Who cares what happens to me? All I know is things will just get worse! How do I know this? Because things get worse and worse every day, and I doubt I’ll be able to bear them much longer. The whole world hates me, and it is entirely my fault! Obviously I did something wrong! Yeah, I believed there was hope and I WAS WRONG!

I walk along, now almost halfway to the cal-de-sac. I slow down a bit to make this walk last longer and scoff angrily as I think of Grandma’s saying about the Strange Occurrences. Even though I might not believe her, I still worry about what the Strange Occurrences are just the same.

It’s time to consider my options. What should I do? I could run away. Or become a rebel to my family. Or do other things, but nothing would mean much at all. Nothing means much at all anything. I don’t want to think about anything right now actually. My heart feels like there is nothing left in this world for me. Except Sparkle—my only reason to live.

I decide to speed up a little because Sparkle wants to go faster. Tears stream down my face as I take my anger and grief out with every step. The weight of the world is upon my shoulders as I ask aloud,

Why does anyone care? Life just gets worse and -”

I trip over a large stick and go flying face first onto the sidewalk. My left knee hits the ground hard and pain shoots through my leg.

“OW! WHAT ELSE COULD GO WRONG? WHY DID YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE ME TO BE SO MISERABLE IN LIFE?” I cry angrily, still lying on the sidewalk.

My leg has a scrape on it, and my life is messed up; messed up worse then anyone else’s life ever could be. There’s no reason to have hope. There’s no reason to even try to smile. I manage to sit up and begin to examine my knee in the light of the streetlamp. My jeans are torn, and my knee is bleeding.

That’s when I hear a swirling sound. My head jolts up to see what is making the sound. About three feet off the ground and five feet away is a small, purple, swirling cloud. I blink several times to make sure I’m not imagining this. On the third blink, I realize that there really is a cloud. There’s only one thing it could be.

“No. I don’t want you, Strange Occurrences!” I whisper.

The cloud opens bigger, until it is about ten feet around. I feel air rushing past me and towards the cloud. The gust gets stronger and stronger until it starts to push me towards the cloud. Sparkle yelps as she whooshes past me and into the cloud.

“Sparkle!” I yell, staggering to stand up.

As I scramble to my feet, the wind blows so hard that I am sucked into the purple cloud. Purple smoke whooshes around me and a spinning sensation engulfs me. I can’t see anything except the purple depths of the cloud! The smoke around me fills my lungs and I begin to cough. I feel dizzy, maybe because of the smoke or the spinning sensation. As my mind screams ‘I can’t take this any longer!,’ I abruptly fall onto a floor made of wood planks.

The whole room is spinning, but I can make out Sparkle wagging her tail at me. I have to grab the window ledge to keep from falling over as I dizzily stand up. I can’t seem to get my balance and I think the whole world is spinning. A wave of nausea washes over me, and for a minute I think I might throw up. Slowly, the room comes into focus and stops spinning. It seems that Sparkle and I have landed in an old house. I look up, still feeling woozy, and peek out this bottom-story window and see a group of kids playing.

Why did the Strange Occurrences bring me here? The children are playing in a large backyard. Some of them seem to be playing tag, while others throw a baseball to each other. This briefly reminds me of seeing the kids play a few days ago, and the same feelings of sadness wash over me for a moment.

That’s when I realize that there are two familiar faces playing in the yard. The wave of dizziness washes over me again, but this time from shock. The two faces I see are Jane’s and mine, but we’re only six years old! Oh no! This CANNOT be happening! I can’t be time traveling! My rational mind gets to work at that moment. Okay. I know what must have happened. I must have tripped on that stick and hit my head really hard on the sidewalk. I was probably knocked unconscious, and now am laying there on the sidewalk. But wait a minute. If I am lying there, what if no one finds me? What if I am lying there, bleeding to death right now? What if I have already died and this is where you go when you do die? What about Sparkle? If she’s here with me, did she die too?

I better quiet my rational mind. There’s only one was to be sure that I am not dead or dreaming! I can pinch my arm and if I feel it, then I must really be here. I reach out my hand and pinch my arm hard.

Ow!” I exclaim!

Okay. That settles it. I am alive and this is time traveling. This is what Grandma talked about. What if someone is looking for me? Will they find me? Oh, never mind about that. There are too many questions without answers. I’ll just have to wait this out and let it end.

As I look out the dirty window, I realize something. This scene going on before me is when I am meeting Jane for the first time. I realize I am in the old and vacant house across the street from where I used to live. I have to go outside and see what happens!

I am now steady on my feet and yank the old, dusty door open. The door creaks as I open it, but no one notices. I pick up Sparkle’s leash and step onto the faded wooden porch. I cross the street and see the familiar faces of kids I used to play with. I used to know a little about each of them and probably could remember now, but my focus is on one moment that was cloudy in my memory until now.

A younger version of me is sitting by the wooden fence, hugging her knees to her chest. Back then, I was a just as shy, but definitely happier. I watch as Younger Me looks over to Jane and I remember how I thought her wavy dark brown hair was prettier then my shoulder length brown hair. I go over to Younger Me and see what she is doing. Younger Me is holding a small piece of paper, one that says:

TO MAKE A FRIEND:

LOOK AT THE PERSON AND SAY HI. COMPLIMENT THEM. ASK THEM THEIR NAME AND TELL THEM YOURS. FIND OUT HOW OLD THEY ARE AND WHAT KIND OF THINGS THEY LIKE. THEN ASK THEM IF THEY WANT TO PLAY.

That was my note I had written to myself when I was six, my own instructions to make a friend. I remember desperately wanting to follow them, but couldn’t find the strength to do so. A strong gust of wind suddenly blows; it blows the paper Younger Me is holding away and whips my hair towards my face.

“No!” Younger Me exclaims, running forwards. Her eyes remain locked on the paper, until it blows up against a rose bush.

Younger Me looks ahead and sees the girl she was admiring. The girl carefully removes Younger Me’s paper and smiles broadly.

“Hi. I’m Jane. Here’s your paper.” She says, holding the paper out towards Younger Me.

Younger Me stands there speechless and takes the paper, mouth slightly agape.

“I…I…I..I’m Cathy.” Younger Me stutters. “Thanks for catching my paper.”

Younger Me and Younger Jane begin talking about things. I watch as they discover they both love animals, both are six years old, both want dogs, and both live in the same
neighborhood. The rest of this memory comes back to me so suddenly, it’s like a light has been turned on in my mind. From that moment on, Jane and Younger Me promised to always be friends. My mind drifts as I remember the times we spent together. We spent long afternoons playing outside. We went swimming almost every day at the neighborhood pool during the summer. We had what seemed like billions of sleepovers. We grew up together.

As I watch Young Me and Jane play, something stirs in my mind. It’s something like a feeling, a feeling of how when I met Jane, she just seemed…perfect. It’s impossible for me to describe the trust I felt when I met Jane, the faith I had that we would be friends forever. I watch as they run and play together, and remember the times I actually had fun. I remember how I told my family about my new friend and how proud they were.

In my mind, I have a blueprint of how a family should be – a blueprint my family used to match.

Dad was a supportive, protective hero. Mom was the person I could ask things. Priscilla and I had tons of fun talking to each other, playing dolls, and running in the yard. Jason and I used to always tease each other and tell each other jokes.

Our family used to be whole! The scene fades away before me, turning to darkness. A spark of hope of Jane’s friendship remains in me as purple clouds appear and suck me into them. I’m on my way the next destination.

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