It’s been a week and nothing out of the ordinary has happened, yet I don’t feel any safer. Some part of me believes that the ghost is just lying in wait for the right moment to catch me off guard. Another part of me believes that I’m just losing my mind.
It’s very hot outside. Right now it’s three o’clock and it is ninety-nine degrees out there. With the heat index, it feels like a hundred and eleven. Being outside is like a torture all in itself. Even Trevor doesn’t want to be out there. He does his business and then runs right back inside, panting, to lap water out of his dog bowl. I’m glad that we don’t have to go outside like Trevor. I can’t imagine having to use an outhouse. That would suck! How did the first settlers do it? The air-conditioners are on full blast. We have two separate units, one for upstairs and one for downstairs, to battle the heat. It’s like an icebox in here. I readjust my sweater over my shoulder.
I peer outside the window. I can see heat waves. Not a single breeze blows through the tree branches. Mama wouldn’t let Marisol play outside, so Marisol is having a tea party inside with Gabriella and George in our room with some tea and cookies Mama made for her. I heard on the news about an hour ago that three people have already keeled over in the heat. Two of the victims were elderly, the third was a homeless man.
Mama and I are in the kitchen taking out the dishes from the dishwasher and are putting them away. I’m standing on a chair and she’s handing me plates to place in the cupboard. Papa is at work.
Mama hands me a plate the color of Sage’s green eyes. My initial fury towards him has gone and went, leaving me with this longing to see him. Sage … I wonder why he hasn’t called? It’s been a week since he last came over. Did I do something? He was in a good mood when he left. Maybe he moved on or something. Well, see if I care! It’s not like I was officially his girlfriend. We had one date and hung out. He’s free to see other people. Could it be that he’s dating some dumb bimbo? The thought makes my face burn with anger and hatred towards whoever my competition may be. I feel a slight pang in my chest. Huh, jealousy. That’s a new feeling.
Stay strong Mar. It doesn’t matter. Who cares! You can do better. Wait! Maybe he will call me. Maybe he’s doing that dumb guy thing where they think that they should wait a week before seeing a girl again to keep her interested. Stirrings of hope rise in my chest. He’s just dumb enough to try it. One of his friends probably gave him such wise advice. In that case, I’ll act like I couldn’t care less. I can feel a grin spread across my face in self-satisfaction. He can be so provoking.
Crossing the threshold of our bedroom door, I see Marisol pouring tea into tiny tea cups placed in front of four chairs, two of which are empty. In one of the chairs is seated her favorite stuffed monkey. Marisol is seated in front of a small round table. On the table is a plate full of cookies. I walk over and grab a cookie. The sweet smell of chocolate floods my nose. Mmm. I’m just about to take a bite when Marisol says, “You can’t have one unless you play with me.” All I want is one. I should have shoved it in my mouth when I had the chance. Now I’m probably going to have to play fairy princess; for the second time today.
“Okay,” I say as I try to sit into an empty seat. I try to keep my reluctance out of my tone. Marisol let’s out a cry of giddiness. Woo-hoo, lucky me.
“You can't sit thewe! Geowge is sitting thewe!” Marisol cries out. I let out a sigh and place the chair back.
“Where can I sit then?”
“In that chaiw.” She points to the empty chair next to the imaginary George.
“Isn’t Gabriella sitting there?” I ask confused. There are only four chairs.
“Geowge doesn’t want me to play with hew anymowe.”
“He says that he doesn’t want to shawe me.”
“George isn’t real, he’s make believe, you can play with whoever you want,” I respond astonished. She’s been playing with Gabriella since she was four. Why would she stop playing with her now?
“Don’t say that! He’s getting mad!” she says earnestly. She almost sounds like she’s trying to warn me. Sunshine has a little more active imagination than I had thought.
I lay off the subject not wanting to start a disagreement. Disagreements with her leave me worn out. No matter how much I try to talk sense to her she won’t get it. It’s like I’m talking to a wall.
After a while the cookies are finished and I’m getting bored with this baby game — correction, I was bored to begin with.
“Sunshine, why don’t we play a different game now, huh?”
“Okey-dokey, what awe we going to play?”
“A fun game.”
“I know that.”
“Okay, umm how about … Oh, I know, battleship.”
“Yay!” Marisol races gracefully out of her chair over to the bed; she flattens herself down onto her belly and slides the box out from underneath it. I walk over and sit down on the bed and start setting up the game.
“You can go first,” I say.
“Miss,” I bet I know what she’s doing, “A-6.”
“Oh, deaw Hit.” I smile at her reaction. I figured I was going to hit her ship. I keep explaining to her not to ask me the same coordinates of where her ships are located. If she keeps this up this is going to be a short game.
“Sunshine, you’re doing it again.”
“Oops, sowwy. My tuwn, F-7 .”
“Miss —” Thump! “— what was that?” That sounded like it came from the attic. “Did you hear that?”
That sounded like footsteps, I think to myself.
“No. What did you heaw?” I hope to God Mama heard that. With my luck I highly doubt it, but who knows? Sometimes luck can change.
“I heard a noise. It sounded like it was coming from the attic. Hey, why don’t we go downstairs and ask Mama if she heard it?” I say, my eyes glued to the ceiling.
“Ready? Set. Go!”
We peel off the bed and down the hall. I let Marisol get a head start so that I can keep my eyes on her. Can’t she go any faster? My heart is racing. The entity can get me at any second with her pace. It takes all my self-control to keep my legs from going into a dead sprint. I’d probably break my neck going down the stairs if I did. I’m already tripping down the stairs — the only thing keeping me from taking a fall is the rail that I’m desperately clutching. Moreover I can’t leave Marisol.
Down the stairs we dash towards the kitchen. We pass through the entrance of the kitchen at break neck speed.
“I win!” Marisol declares triumphantly, hopping up and down with her fists up in the air. “Yay!”
“Mama, did you hear —”
“Girls!” Mama exclaims. We slow down as we head towards Mama. “How many times do I have to tell you not to run in the kitchen?” That’s more of a rhetorical question than an actual question. All the same she’s waiting for an answer. How many times has she told us not to interrupt someone when they’re talking? Obviously she doesn’t remember telling us that.
“I apologize, Mama. But I have a good reason. I — shh.”
Thump, thump, thump.
“There it is again. Mama, please tell me you heard that!”
“I heard a loud noise like footsteps up in the attic.”
“I didn’t hear anything girls,” she says. “Although, there could be some mice up there. There better not be,” she says talking more to herself than to me. “I’m going to go check it out.” She puts the pot of food on simmer and starts walking past us.
“Mama, it’s dangerous!” I catch her hand as she passes me and cling to it.
“You wanted me to go upstairs didn’t you? That’s why you got me.”
“No,” I plead. “I just wanted to see if you heard it. Mama, I don’t think there’s any mice up there. I think it was the ghost that attempted” — and almost succeeded— “to kill me.”
“Mamí, there is nothing up in the attic and there is nothing in this house. A ghost did not try to kill you and I’m going to prove it to you.” She makes her way out of the kitchen. I follow reluctantly behind her. There’s no way in hell I’m going to let her go alone. Marisol skips ahead of us.
We head up the stairs and down the hall towards Mama and Papa’s bedroom. We go along the hallway past their bedroom to the attic steps. My feet feel like lead weights as I approach the steps. If going up the first flight of stairs was a hurdle than climbing this staircase will feel like Mt. Everest.
I slowly drag my sorry ass up the stairs. I stop at the door.
“Aren’t you going to open it?” Mama asks me. When I make no sign of movement she reaches for the doorknob all the while muttering something along the lines of, “If you want something done you have to do it yourself.” The door opens with a heave. A wave of heat hits us. Mama cants her head, gesturing for me to enter. Why do I have to be the first one? I take a deep breath before entering.
Entering the room, I have the feeling that I’m being watched. I turn and study the face of my tormenter and Marisol. If they share the same feelings, I’m unable to read it on their expressions. Mama looks annoyed and Marisol looks like her happy-go-lucky self.
Mama and Marisol walk around silently looking around and listening for any sign of movement. I’m making sure I stick to the door in case things get F.U.B.A.R. or “F**ked UP Beyond All Repair” as Papa would say. I’d try to put something in front of the door to keep it from closing, but if something can close the door then it sure as hell can move the box. There’s no use in trying. Wait. That means that even if I’m standing by the door I’m no safer than if I was exploring the room.… No, I’ll just stick by the door, just in case.
I scan the room as a safety precaution even though deep down inside of me I know that it’s not going to make me any safer. The room is dark, dusty, stuffy, and has spider webs clinging to every nook and cranny. It is mostly cluttered with wooden boxes, cardboard boxes, and crates; basically stuff that can hold other stuff in it. Scattered around the room are chairs covered by moving blankets.
The room is silent as Mama and Marisol search for the “mice”. The silence doesn’t fool me. I can feel something lurking in the background, eyes trained on me. Mama attempts to persuade me into helping them, but quits after I tell her that she’s not going to find any mice and that it’s a waste of time. After a few minutes of searching, Mama is beginning to complain about the heat. I take a step towards them to ask if we can go now. For some reason my attention is directed towards the ground and I see a small spider heading towards my feet. Automatically I take a step backwards. I stomp my foot down on it, crushing it. Yuck, now my slipper has spider guts on it.
It takes me a moment for my brain to register the degree drop. A moment ago I was burning up but now I’m cold. My body naturally goes through the whole routine; hair standing on end, goose bumps rising on my skin, body frozen in place, mouth wide open to call out for help. A knot forms in the back of my throat rendering me speechless, my vision tunnels; I feel breathing on the back of my neck followed by my nostrils burning and that sick to my stomach feeling.
“Make ‘em scram girl or I’ll hurt ‘em too,” a little boy’s disembodied voice threatens.
“Tell ‘em!” he hisses. I swallow hard the saliva pooling in my mouth. My tongue forms the syllables and I am inexplicably able to speak without my voice wavering.
“Mama, Marisol, you two look hot, why don’t you guys go downstairs and I’ll finish the job.”
“What happened to you thinking there’s a ghost in here?”
“I’m a teenager; I change my mind all the time.” Mama analyzes my face in suspicion, as she wipes away the beads of sweat on her forehead with the back of her hand.
“Have it your way.” Mama grabs Marisol’s hand and they pass me as they descend the stairs.
I feel the ghost’s hand clench my ponytail as he snaps my head backwards so that my neck is extended. My back is forced into an arch and I’m on my toes.
“That’s a good little missy.”
“Who are you?” I struggle to ask.
“Nobody, least not anymore.”
“What do you want?”
“Yer scared, ain’t ya?” he asks as his finger slides down my neck, ignoring my question. “I said, are ya scared?”
“No!” I manage to spit out.
“Ya sure?” The buttons start popping off of my blouse. I feel his cold little hand slide into my shirt, his clammy hand making contact with my skin. It slithers down just a little lower. He rests it over my heart. “I don’t believe ya. Yer lying.”
“No,” I struggle to say.
“Good. I don’t much like liars.”
I feel his cheek press against my hair as he whispers in my ear, “Ya sure are pretty.” I feel his hand move off of my chest. My shirt is suddenly being lifted. His cold hand grazes my skin.
“Too bad I’m gonna have to make ya worm food.”
In a split second I am in the air. The last thing my brain registers is the attic door slamming to a close, before my head nails the staircase. I’m tumbling down the stairs. My chin is tucked into my chest; the only thing stopping my neck from breaking. I am well aware of the vibrating sensation of my body as it slams into each step, but I can’t feel anything. Before I know it, I’m sprawled out on the floor.
My ears are ringing and the room feels like it is spinning. My body feels limp. Warm sticky blood flows down my face, blurring my vision. I feel very tired. I lay like this until Mama discovers me a few moments later, lying in a pool of my own blood.
“Stay awake, Marimar!” Mama’s voice seems distant even though I’m aware that she is sitting next to me.
“Marisol, go get me the phone.” Suddenly, I’m aware of my hand being stroked. I feel my hair being brushed away from my face. I focus in on her voice — the more I try to focus the better I can hear.
“Mama … ghost.” I croak the words out almost above a whisper.
“Hush. Don’t talk, Mamí.”
“Ghost … pushed —”
“It’s all right baby, you’re fine.” Why can’t she ever listen? She’s not hearing me. Frustration.
I try to move my head to see if I can get up, bad idea. I have a splitting headache. Pain surges through my whole body. I moan. Remarkably I don’t feel any breakages — none that I’m aware of anyways. I don’t dare flex any of my other muscles.
Marisol’s whimpers turn into sobs. I can feel my lips move. I try to speak words of comfort, but my attempt to converse fails.
“Marimar stay with me. Marisol, hand me the phone and then get me a towel from the bathroom.” I hear the light running of feet. I’m aware of pressure on my head. Mama must be trying to stop the bleeding. “Stay awake,” she tells me. She dials 911.
“911 Dispatcher, what’s your emergency?”
Mama, “Hello, my daughter just fell down the stairs. She’s really badly hurt. Blood is gushing from her head. I need an ambulance,” she says, her words running together. I doubt if she sounds sober to the dispatcher.
Dispatcher, “Ma’am, I can’t understand you. Please calm down and repeat to me calmly what happened.”
Mama, “My daughter fell down the stairs and hit her head. She’s is losing a lot of blood. I need an ambulance.”
Dispatcher, “Okay, please confirm your address.”
Mama, “145 Solórzano Street, Sam Valentin, TX.”
Dispatcher, “The ambulance is on its way.” Now I can go to sleep.
“Stay awake!” Mama urges.
Minutes pass in agony. All the adrenaline has left my body, leaving me sore and extremely exhausted. Mama and Marisol’s voices become faint whispers until they completely fade away. I’m tired. I’m only faintly aware of their presence. I feel my body become more and more relaxed. My breathing is becoming labored. I pass out.
I see a bright tunnel. I go into it. My eyelids flutter open. The light keeps flashing in my eyes. I can see a man stretched over me. He’s dressed in scrubs. I can see his lips moving, but I can’t hear him. I focus in on his voice. Finally, I can hear.
“Can you hear me?” the man asks. I mumble out a response. “What is your name?”
“When were you born?” I was — um … I think it’s on …
“When were you born?” My speech is slurred.
“She — a — concussion.” What? Concussion. What was …?
“It’s — all right — in — hospital.” That voice sounded like … Mama.
“It’s — maybe.” Papa? What are they … Who? What was I …?
My mind goes blank and I lose consciousness. I come to just long enough to see a nurse hovering over me before going out like a light. I don’t fully regain consciousness until the next day.
My eyes sting from the bright light as I struggle to open them. My head is propped up with a pillow and blankets cover my body. I hear a string of voices whirling around me.
“How are you, Mamí?”
“Hey, sleepy head.”
My eyes adjust and I can see that I’m lying in a hospital bed. I try to turn my head, but excruciating pain occurs. Ouch. I scan the area with just my eyes. My left arm is attached to an IV. My left pinkie has some kind of splint and my index finger has a heart monitor attached to it. On the left of me I can’t see anything due to the privacy curtain. On the right all I can see is the door leading out into the hallway where presumably nurses are bustling about holding clipboards. My family is hovering over me, their faces filled with concern. Papa is still in his work clothes; his suit is all wrinkled and his tie is crooked. He must have been sleeping in them. How long have I been here?
“Hi,” I eventually answer back to the eager faces that are waiting for my response. “How long have I been asleep?” I ask, after they each gave me a kiss.
“Almost a day,” Papa says. His features relax a bit and he goes back to sitting on the chair placed next to my bed. He’s holding my hand.
After a minute I try to sit up, but the room starts to spin and a severe pain starts to rise where I hit my head. “Ouch,” I wince; while putting my hand to my head. I rest my head back down on the pillow.
“I’ll go get the doctor,” Papa says getting up. He kisses my forehead and gives my hand a light squeeze before taking his exit.
Moments later, Papa comes back with the doctor. The doctor looks around his mid-sixties, but it’s hard to tell. His face looks worn, he has only a clump of white hair lying along the sides of his head, but even that seems to be thinning. Purple bags hang under his light green eyes. There is nothing attractive about him. When he gets to the side of my bed a friendly smile appears on his face.
“My name is Doctor Fisher. I’m here to see how you’re feeling,” he says, pulling my chart from the end of my bed.
“I have a splitting headache and I feel like I was run over by a bulldozer.”
“I’ll fix that,” he lightly laughs as he heads over to my IV bag and attaches a syringe, pushing the clear liquid into the tube. “That should help with the pain.”
“Thank you,” I tell him appreciatively.
“It should kick in, in less than a minute,” he says. “We’re going to have to keep her for another night and run a few more tests,” he says, turning to my parents.
They keep talking to each other but it’s getting harder to hear. What did he put in my IV? It gets to the point that the only reason I know they are talking is by their mouths moving. My eyelids feel heavier and heavier. They slowly close and I drift off into a peaceful stupor.