Slumber eludes me as I toss and turn all night. I can’t seem to get comfortable. The air is still in our room. I’m trying hard to fall asleep. Maybe if I think about something boring I’ll fall asleep — I choose the most boring subject I can think of, biology. I think about what’s inside the air, air molecules slowly bumping into each other.…
Bang. What was that? I rub my eyes. I look around the room — everything seems to be in order. I lay back down with a sigh. That biology thing was working. Biology: the quickest way to knock a person out cold.
I turn and look at the clock. It reads three o’ clock. “What a surprise,” I whisper under my breath. Ugh, my throat is dry. I swallow saliva in a pathetic attempt to relieve my thirst. I try to ignore it. I think about the air molecules to get my mind off of my thirst. Air molecules — oxygen molecules are also in water. The molecules that form water are two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen. Water. My throat is parched!
I look at the clock. Only three minutes have past. I’m too tired to get up. Three more minutes pass. I’m starting to think I repel slumber. More time passes and the ache in my throat starts to become even more profound. That’s it. I can’t take it anymore! I’ll just go and get a drink of water.
I get out of bed, careful not to disturb my sister from her blissful coma. She has her arms around our hibernating puppy that lies in between us. His legs are twitching as if he’s chasing something.
Maybe, I should just drink tap from the faucet, it’s a long trip to the kitchen … no, since I’m up, I might as well drink filtered water.
Tippy-toeing into the hall, I turn on the light after I close our bedroom door. The light in the hall won’t bother Mama or Papa since their door is closed. I reach the stairs. Once down them I turn on the light and I walk past the bathroom, then the laundry room, past the great room, and I enter into the breakfast room. I think of the strange occurrences that happened there, so I run as quickly as I can through the door leading into the kitchen. I turn on the light. The room is lit up artificially like dawn has just arrived.
If I had realized it would take this long to get a glass of water I would have just cupped my hands under the bathroom faucet and drank tap. That was a moronic mistake on my part. But since I’m here I might as well get what I came for. I grab a chair and drag it over to the cupboard so I can reach a glass. This is one of those moments where I really wish I had grown just a few more inches. Being short sucks! Why can’t there be cupboards closer to the ground to accommodate short people? How hard would that be?
I leap down from the chair and go to the fridge. I put my glass under the dispenser. I turn and lean against the fridge, sipping my water. Ahh, just what I needed. I drink enough until my thirst is quenched. I finish the water and I put the glass onto the kitchen island. I go back into the breakfast room and through to the lit hallway.
I leave all the lights on as I walk through the hall. Hopefully Papa won’t get mad. Weird, the house seems to get colder by the minute. Maybe the thermostat has a glitch. Or maybe it’s the ice water making me feel cold. No, that doesn’t seem to be it. It might have played a small factor but the icy chill seems to be following me — certain areas of the hall vary in temperature. Even stranger are the goose bumps that are starting to rise all over my body, along with my hair standing up. I get a nauseous feeling each time I walk past a cold spot. Bizarre.
My slow walk becomes brisk. I start to notice the lights flickering on and off, like it does in horror movies just before bad things happen to the teenage girl running around half naked. I hope they don’t turn off. I should have brought a flashlight. I’m such an airhead. I’m starting to get very unnerved. As I’m walking past the dining room I see a shadow dart past me into the living room.
As I walk by I pop my head in, but I see nothing. So I keep walking. Not even a second later I catch movement out of the corner of my eye. I smell a familiar odor — it’s the same stench from before; the pungency that I had smelt in my dream. I feel like I’m going to hurl. I breathe through my mouth. It’s so repugnant that I can almost taste it. Now I’m really going to puke.
A light behind me turns off. I start to run. The darkness chases after me — the lights are all turning off in succession towards me. I run as fast as I can in an attempt to beat the darkness. I run up the stairs as fast as my legs can carry me. As I top the last step into the upstairs hall the darkness overpowers me. It envelops me like a heavy, nebulous blanket.
I come to an abrupt stop, paralyzed by fear. There is no point in running. I can’t out run it. Behind me I hear heavy footsteps approaching.… Closer.… Closer…. I shut my eyes and I cover them with my hands. If I see it I know that my heart is going to stop. My heart seems to be pounding out of my chest. The footsteps come to an abrupt stop. The only thought that gives me hope is that I’m not seeing my life flash by. Surely that counts for something; like I’m not going to die tonight.
I wait. Time stops. All I can hear is my shallow breath and the steady animal like panting of the ghost somewhere behind me. As I anticipate its next move all the thoughts I’m able to form revolve around Sage. I wish he was here to save me. Then I realize that even he wouldn’t be able to rescue me from this evil apparition. He would have beaten me up the stairs. Now anger swells inside me as I imagine cursing him out. Damn you, Sage! Screw you for provoking this spirit, you Stupid Son of a …!
Whoosh. A gust of Antarctic air shrouds me. I feel icy cold huffs of breath on the back of my neck. Then I feel a cold, clammy touch on my shoulder. I let out a deafening scream. The lights blaze back on. I’m alone.
I hear thunderous footsteps behind me along with the comfort and security of Papa’s voice.
“What’s wrong?” Papa says as he reaches me. He looks around — shotgun in hand. Papa always comes prepared. Mama runs past us to my bedroom and comes back carrying Marisol.
I force my mouth to open. My tongue is unable to form syllables. I just stand there for a second shaking; basically all of my appendages have turned to Jell-O. Tears flood down my face. Without thinking, I speak.
“I-I-I came down to get a drink of water and when I was coming back to bed the lights went out and I felt somebody touch my shoulder,” I spit out in a rush through my state of hysteria.
“Calm down, you’re speaking gibberish.” I take a few deep breaths as Papa taught us to do to calm ourselves during an emergency. I calm down enough to tell him what happened.
“Wait here,” Papa says, pointing at all of us. He leaves the room, probably to go check the house for intruders. Papa, like most men, only hears what he wants to and goes on a search and destroy mission. I didn’t get a chance to tell him his shotgun won’t do him any good.
I’m still shaking violently. A strangled sob manages to erupt from inside of me. Why am I crying? I’m such a baby. I start to cry harder, furious at myself. Mama is trying to console me. It’s not working. She’s only making me feel even more ashamed of myself; stupid teenage hormones. Poor Sunshine stirs in her arms — half-unconscious. I cup my hand over my mouth to muffle the sobs so that I don’t wake her up. It works. After a few minutes I’m able to compose myself enough to stop crying. Shaking is another matter. Papa comes back into the room.
“There are no signs of intruders,” Papa says, putting his arm around me.
“There has to be. I heard footsteps and somebody or something freaking touched me!” The words come out shaky.
“Mamí, there was nobody here, now calm down. We’ll go in the kitchen and I’ll make you a cup of tea,” Mama says, soothingly. She passes Marisol to Papa.
“Well, since we are up and I know I’m too jittery to fall back asleep we might as well make breakfast,” Papa says, shifting Marisol’s weight onto his other arm. He’s still carrying the shotgun, just in case. “Boy is she getting heavy. What have you been feeding her?” He winks at me. He’s trying to cheer me up. I’m not in the mood.
“You’re just getting old, Walter.” Mama puts her hand on his shoulder and one hand on mine. “Are you okay, Mamí?”
Yeah, I’m fine. I just had some ghost put its hand on my shoulder, but other than that I’m fine. “Mmm-hmm,” I lie, nodding my head.
“Don’t worry, none of what happened is real. It was just your imagination.” Papa’s words make me rethink the situation. Maybe it was all in my head. I’ve been listening too much to Sage. I can still hear what he had told me the first day that I had met him. He was telling me about the stuff the previous owners had experienced.…
“Well, they said they would hear footsteps, breathing, and shadows in the corner of their eyes — accompanied by an awful odor that smelt of death.”
I guess my imagination did get the best of me. It was all in my head; all because of him.
“You should go lay Marisol down on the couch in the living room. And lock that shotgun back up,” Mama instructs.
We watch him leave.
Mama then turns to me and whispers, “I’m sorry, Mamí. I shouldn’t have let you and Sage go ghost hunting. I knew that it was a bad idea.”
“It’s okay, Mama,” I say hugging her. It wasn’t her fault, it was his.
Mama leads me to a stool in the kitchen. There’s no way in hell that I’m going to be in any room alone. I watch her as she puts the kettle on the stove. She grabs the box of chamomile off the counter and she puts a tea bag into the empty cup that I had left on the island. Papa comes back into the room. Poor Papa has to go to work later. Maybe he’ll call in sick. Doubt it. He just started working. I can really kick myself for this.
I catch movement in the corner of my eye. I jump. It was only Papa. Damn it! What is he trying to do? Give me a heart attack. I take in deep breaths to try to slow my breathing down, thanks to Papa. He plants a kiss on my head as he strokes my hair.
“Feeling better, baby?” I nod. “I’m glad.”
I watch as he walks past me and heads towards Mama, embracing her from behind. I notice he has his .38 revolver in his robe pocket; chicken. He then moves towards the refrigerator and he pulls out a carton of eggs. The kettle whistles. Mama turns the flames off causing the whistling to die down. She slips on kitchen gloves and pours the steaming hot water into the glass of chamomile. I let it stew a few minutes before drinking.
The light beaming through the open drapes hurts my eyes as I turn over in bed. I rub the sleepiness out of my eyes. By the way my room’s lit up, my guess it’s around ten. The clock confirms my assumption. It reads ten-ten — I’ve slept for two hours. Mama and Papa must still be sleeping. Mama especially, since I had asked her to stay with me until I fell back to sleep. I wish I hadn’t. I feel like a coward.
I reach my hand out to feel if Marisol is still in bed. I can feel her long silky hair. She nuzzles my hand with her head — she gives my hand one long lick. That gives me a start. I turn over to see it’s Trevor. Marisol isn’t in bed. I should have known she wouldn’t be. We didn’t wake her up to eat our early breakfast. We left her food in the oven. I’ll warm it up for her. She must be watching some cartoons. Tom and Jerry should be on by now.
I pull the sheets off of me. The warmth of my body escapes. Cool air rushes at me, removing from my body whatever warmth it once held. Papa has kept the thermostat down to sixty-five. Thank God he’s still not used to the heat. I pick up my sweater off of the ground. It must have fallen off when I stirred in my sleep. I put it on, slipping my hand through each sleeve. The sweater seems to be as cold as the floor. It will radiate back my body heat in a couple of minutes. I slip on my slippers that lie on the side of my bed. I stumble my way to the bathroom. I feel like a zombie.
After my morning routine I descend the stairs. I hold onto the rail to keep from tumbling over, as I’m still groggy from the long night. I make my way to the living room where I find Marisol sitting in the middle of the couch watching Tom and Jerry.
“Hi Maw.” She turns her head slightly. I walk over and I give her a kiss.
“Hi Sunshine, are you hungry? Mama and Papa made eggs and cheesy potatoes,” I say as I stroke her long golden hair back away from her face. Her hair is in dire need of a comb.
“Okay, go wash your hands and I’ll get you your breakfast.”
“Can I eat in hewe, please?”
“If you promise not to leave any migas.”
“I pwomise I won’t leave any cwumbs.”
“Okay, don’t tell Mama.”
I go into the kitchen and pull the warm food out of the oven, pour her a glass of orange juice, and bring it to her on a tray. “Here you go,” I say. I then pretend to hand her invisible friends each their own imaginary trays.
“No Maw, Geowge is sitting wight hewe.” Marisol pats the seat next to her where the remote is lying on the right side of the couches’ armrest.
“Oh, I’m sorry George. Here you go. Where’s Gabby sitting?” She pats to the only other empty spot. “Here you go, Gabby. I put one ice cube in your juice, just like you like it.” This is getting ridiculous. Next, Marisol’s going to get me to reheat Gabriella’s and George’s plates. But I can’t complain, Mama says that I had an imaginary friend when I was little and that I used to do the same thing. Only her name was Helen and she was a fairy princess.
“Thank you. Geowge and Gabby say thank you too.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll be back to keep you company.”
I go back into the kitchen and I refill Trevor’s food and water bowl. His acute hearing must have caught the clang of the dog food hitting the metal bowl because he races towards me almost knocking me off my feet; mangy mutt.
As I right myself I notice the mountain of dishes in the sink and the grease splattered stove top calling my name. So after washing the dishes and wiping down the stove I head back into the living room and sit down on the couch by the remote. Bam! I’m on the ground. My hands smack the rough rug. I sit back on my legs. What the hell just happened?
“Marisol, why did you just push me?” The words seem foreign. I can’t wrap my head around what just happened. Sunshine has never pushed me before. I mean not recently, the last time she had was when she was in her terrible two’s but Mama put an end to that.
“You wewe sitting on Geowge.”
What? “So you pushed me?”
“I didn’t push you.”
“Then who did?” Why is she lying?
“George couldn’t have done it. He isn’t real.”
“Yes, he is!”
“No, he’s not.”
“No, he’s not. Marisol, are you playing a trick? It’s not really nice, you hurt my feelings.”
“I didn’t do it!” Her bottom lip is trembling, tears are starting to form and she starts to sniffle. That’s cheating. I look her straight in the eye and she stares right back into mine. “I didn’t do it,” she cries.
Marisol seems to be telling the truth. I scoop her up, placing the tray on the coffee table before I put her onto my lap. I smooth her hair back. She looks like a crying cherub.
“It’s okay, I believe you,” I murmur as I cradle her in my arms. Today is not my day. Strangely, I do believe her about her not doing it. Am I going insane? Her resolve questions my sanity. It’s not like I haven’t been having a problem discerning reality lately. I must have imagined being pushed off the couch. I probably just slipped or something, which isn’t out of the norm for me, and my mind just played it back that way. Like how I imagined that I was being chased. Besides, she’s only five. She probably just freaked out and said that George did it. Just like how she says that Gabriella wants an ice-cube in her beverage.
The tears dry up just as fast as they came. She furrows her face into my shoulder; her face veiled by her knotted hair. Her hands are clasped around her monkey.
“Do you want to finish eating?” I ask, my eyes sweeping over her plate. She only has about a forkful left of her eggs. “Marisol?”
Slowly her hands loosen their grip until her monkey falls onto my lap as she drifts into slumber. I reach over and grab the remote. I flip the channels. Nothing appeals to me. I end up watching The Notebook again.
“Hi girls,” Mama yawns. What time is it? The clock on the wall says its noon. I must have lost track of time. I pause the movie. I’m suddenly aware of the rumbling feeling in my stomach. I haven’t eaten for nine hours. I could have eaten Marisol’s leftovers, but I already gave them to Trevor.
“Buenas tardes, Mama, is Papa still sleeping?”
“No, he refused to call in sick, having just started his new job.” Now I really feel bad. “Have you eaten anything?” Mama asks.
“I wasn’t hungry earlier,” my stomach growls in protest, “but now I am.”
“I can hear. Did you feed your sister?” I’m offended. All right, I admit it. I occasionally forget to feed Trevor, but Marisol is my little sister. Have I ever forgotten to feed Marisol?
“Yep, she ate the leftovers.” If I say anything else I won’t be able to conceal my irritation.
“Good. What are you watching?”
“Hmm. Okay, I’m going to make some lunch.”
“Need any help?”
“Yeah, you can boil the eggs.”
The hours passed by like a normal day — excluding my episode last night and the couch incident; although, I have been a little jumpy. Well, I’ll admit it. Any little noise I hear makes me jump. I keep looking over my shoulder just to check to see that nothing’s behind me.