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   Chapter 5 The Message

Instant By Anna Rae Characters: 13955

Updated: 2018-01-18 18:07


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"Inelegantly, and without my consent, time passed."

-Miranda July

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I remembered all too much about my father's death.

I remembered all too little about his existence.

He died when I was eleven. I remembered the day vividly, because you don't exactly forget the pinpoint moments that your life changes forever. I was at a piano recital, practicing in the little music room offstage. I was so scared of screwing up, even though I'd been practicing the piece for at least three months. I could have played it with my eyes closed, one hand tied behind my back. It was going to be perfect, my piano teacher had said.

And perfect it was.

My parents expected nothing less - well, my mother, at least. My father hadn't cared about the lessons when I'd started at eight years old, but the music that filled the house in the years after was what convinced him that piano was my gift.

Some time during the recital, I waited patiently for my turn to go onstage. My fellow classmates had each played their pieces effortlessly, filling the auditorium with fortes and crescendos and flats and staccatos.

I was going to play Fur Elise.

When the time came, my teacher gave me a pat and a quick shove onto the stage. Instantly, I became so nervous I stumbled over my brand new pair of pink shoes. The performance was not off to a good start, and an eleven year old version of myself blinked back tears because the moment was supposed to be perfect. I looked to the crowd - to the two seats I'd saved for my parents - hoping for a helpful "you can do this, Addie" look from my father. His seat was empty, and my heart fell to my gut. The other seat contained my mother, who was on the phone looking frantic.

As a kid, I remember thinking bitterly, "A work call is more important than me."

Little did I know.

Feeling hurt and ignored, I took a few small steps to the piano bench, pulling it out and sitting down. A single tear slid down my left cheek - the one facing away from the audience. "Smile, " I remembered my teacher saying in her pep talk before the show had started. "Look alive." So I smiled, ignored the tear and my feeling of unimportance, and played the hell out of Fur Elise.

About half way through the piece, there was the alarming screech of metal against tile as my mother shoved her chair back and fled the room. Another tear fell from my eye.

I thought it was because of work. I thought my father missed my recital because of work.

When it was over, I stood up, bowed in the direction of the audience, and fled the stage. My teacher was waiting for me backstage when I rushed off. She caught the edge of my sweater as I tried to fly past her.

"Adira, " she said in the posh and authoritative way she said everything. "Adira, there's been an accident."

That stopped me in my tracks. I turned, shrugged the woman off, and stared into her eyes - eyes so full of pity that the harsh old woman was hardly recognizable.

"Your dad--"

I was running away before I knew I wanted to leave. Racing through the door, out into the hallway, and down the stairs, only to run straight into my mother.

"Adira, " she cried. "Adira we need to go."

"Mom, what happened?" I said louder than intended. She grabbed both of my arms, forcing me to look into her face. She was strangely calm, eyes glazed with a veil of tears, mouth straight and firm. "Mom?"

She swallowed, jaw clenching. Opening her mouth, she paused, but couldn't get the words out. I shrugged her off. "Mom, where's dad?"

So many things were flying through my mind, but I couldn't grasp any of them and couldn't let go all at once. Things were going in slow motion. It was as if time itself had stopped, leaving me breathless and grasping for something to hold onto. Gravity was gone too, and I was floating away.

"Baby, " my mother finally said. "Honey, your d-dad was in an a-accident."

I didn't know which way was up or down. I was stumbling towards the stairs, tripping over the steps to run away. Blood rushed through my ears, drowning out the sound of my mother calling after me; drowning out the clatter of her heels against the stairs.

But I was quicker, and before I knew it I was back in the practice room, crawling under the piano bench and hiding behind an instrument that no longer meant anything to me.

I didn't know how long I was there - how long I'd been crying before I knocked myself out - but I woke up in a hospital bed.

I didn't know what had happened until I looked around. My mother was sprawled across an uncomfortable looking chair, permanent tear marks laid on her cheeks.

Get up, I wanted to say. Where's my father? Get up, please.

But I didn't speak. I already knew what had happened, deep down.

So I sat in the bed, wondering what'd I'd done to get put there.

When my mother woke up, she explained - between fits of tears and sobbing - that my father had been hit by a drunk driver on the way to my recital after work. And I was in the hospital because I'd had something of a panic attack, stopped breathing, and passed out. It was PTSD, they said. "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." In my own words, that meant I wasn't strong enough to handle what happened. In the doctor's words, I was "fragile."

The information didn't settle.

I'd pass out, wake up looking for my dad, and have to be told all over again that he wasn't coming back. That can be hard for an eleven-year-old to hear - that can be hard for anyone to hear.

I felt like I was taking attention away from my dad by being in the hospital, so around twenty hours after being admitted, I yanked out the tubes feeding into my arms, and walked out. And "walked" is a loose term. My legs didn't work right - the anxiety was taking a toll on my body, the doctor told me - and the nurses caught me about three steps outside the room to put me back in bed.

But I told my mom I wanted to leave, and she didn't argue.

The funeral was on a Saturday. The sky was crying, most likely in the hopes of coaxing some tears out of me too. Everyone came with large, overpowering, ink-black umbrellas, and I hopped from family member to family member because none of the umbrellas felt quite right.

Why black? I wondered. Dad always used his tropical one - the one with the palm trees, bright pink flamingos, and the tassels that dangled off the end, making it look like one of those little umbrellas in a cocktail drink. It was heinous, and I hated it, but at the funeral I longed for nothing more. Finally I just stood in the rain, letting the sky drown the loose curls my mother had done.

And then I cried, letting my tears mix in with the rain drops. Looking at a coffin containing a loved one is one of the hardest things to do in life. You know what's inside - who's inside - but you know that you can never, ever get them back. They're gone forever. A coffin is like a prison, holding your body away from the

rest of the world.

There's nothing sadder, I thought that day, than a funeral. I decided I didn't want one. I didn't want the people I loved to feel as bad as I did that day and the days after.

And the story was unfinished. My mother had, much to my knowledge anyway, mourned the loss of my father, yet moved on in the way a businesswoman, like herself, would have. I still tried to play piano, although quit lessons immediately after the accident. Sometimes when I played, however, my hands would begin to shake and I would stop breathing again, something connected to the PTSD.

After the days, months, years after, life slowly started to go back to normal. Well, as normal as life could get when there was a huge hole in the place of someone you loved.

People say "time heals, " which is true, in a sense. But it's not the time itself that heals, it's the brain's ability to forget. Forget just how important somebody was to you. The brain makes you forget some of the reasons you loved that person so much to begin with. It makes you numb.

The same numbness filled my veins the second my eyes landed on the letter stuck to my mirror. Suddenly my limbs were ice and I knew my lungs had stopped working.

There's nothing like the feeling of knowing you're going to pass out. Anticipating the moment when your brain lets you leave. Recognizing that you can finally

Let

Go.

~~~

My eyes opened slowly. The invasive light above me threatened to burst my eyes into flames. I couldn't move; my limbs were frozen just like time seemed to be.

It took me several moments to realize what had happened, but the almost unbearable weight hovering over my chest was a constant reminder.

My eyes couldn't stop looking at the mirror. The letter was crinkled, and hardly any part of the envelope was still white because the mud overtook the paper like a brown plague. Under the letter, partially morphing into the mud stains, were five streaks where a hand had dragged its muddy fingers across the glass.

My hand came up to cover my mouth as a terrified sob threatened to push through my lips.

The crushing weight of my panic attack and the skull-splitting headache clawing through my brain were enough to make me moan. The pain was so demanding that my eyes closed and I forgot about the letter momentarily.

My head throbbed and pulsated, like a hammer was pounding a nail into my skull. Tears were falling down my face before I even recognized that I was crying. Curiosity was buried in my chest and the need to know what was in the letter overtook the pain.

I crawled to my knees and wiped away the tears with the back of my hand. Nothing had changed on the mirror even though I kept feeling like it was all going to disappear at any second. It wasn't real. It felt like a joke – a prank.

The bathroom felt too small as I reached up and took hold of the sink's rim. It was cold under my hand and suddenly everything felt so much more real. The question of who had done this popped into my head.

My body seemed void of energy as I struggled to pull myself up. Knees locking, I leaned against the wall next to the sink. The light from my bedroom was pouring in through the open door, contrasting how dark my head felt at the moment. I reached over and carefully plucked the letter from the mirror, wiping away some of the mud.

Now that I was seeing it much closer, I realized that the letter had my name on it. In tiny cursive that I had to squint to see, were the letters that spelled out my name. Adira.

A fluttering feeling of something unrecognizable was flying around in my stomach. I was hit with a feeling of déjà vu that I didn't recognize.

I flipped the letter over. The flap was already torn open, meaning that whoever had sent me the letter was probably not who stuck it to my window. Whoever had done that had stopped to open the letter first.

I didn't know what scared me most – that someone had sent me a mysterious letter, or that someone had found it where it had blown away in the woods and taped it to my mirror.

Or the fact that they'd gotten in my house to do so. It had to be a prank.

I was still waiting for Rachel to call or Nate to spring out from behind something and yell "got you!" and I would laugh like it was funny even though the whole thing was scaring me in a way I couldn't explain.On the other hand, I was also waiting for the lights to start flickering on and off, and the door to open with the squeal of its hinges, revealing a creepy masked man clad in black.

The feelings were a bit conflicting.

The chilling feeling that someone was watching me flitted down my spine and I whipped around. My eyes searched the bedroom, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. My bed was unmade, clothes were scattered around the floor, and the door separating my room from the rest of the house was closed.

"What the hell is happening?" I asked myself. I would have continued to think that it was all some big joke played by one of my friends, but everything was adding up to be a huge, confusing mess. The haunting clock that ticked in my ears, the dark shape in the woods, the call – and now the letter.

It was all becoming too much.

I rubbed my tired eyes with the palms of my hands. I knew they were red from crying, and my face felt tight from trails of tears.

"Get it together, Adira, " I murmured.

A sharp clanking noise took me from my train of thought. I flinched and snapped my eyes back to the bathroom. Looking down, I realized that my phone was buzzing from where I'd dropped it on the ground.

I slowly reached down to pick up the phone. Flipping it over, I saw the text that lit up the screen. Behind a crack that sliced up the glass – damage that had no doubt happened when it crashed into the hard tile – was a number I didn't recognize, and the words "open it."

I felt slightly sick. You could fake a call but you couldn't star-sixty-seven a text. Unless my friends were using some random person's phone, this wasn't a joke.

Whoever had gotten into my house and stuck the letter to the mirror was now texting me. I began to feel lightheaded again. Grabbing the rim of the sink again for support, I clenched my eyes closed and gripping the letter tightly in one hand.

"You can do this, " I whispered. After a few deep breaths, my heart was back to normal. "Just open it."

I took a deep breath and opened the flap on the dirty envelope. I looked inside to see a single, folded sheet of plain paper. Unlike the envelope, the letter was untouched by mud and rain. I pulled it out, lungs burning. Pulling in a few staggered breaths, I unfolded the paper.

Inside was the same tiny writing in the same swirling cursive, except this time it didn't say my name.

It said, "I'm coming for you."

And, after my eyes had read the last word, my phone buzzed with another text.

From the same unknown number, was the message, "you're in danger."

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