Drip. Splat. I count another drop. So far I’ve counted three drops in as many seconds. Sweat drips onto the page of my book. I let out a deep sigh. I can’t concentrate. The only thing I can think about is how hot and sweaty I am. The damn air-conditioner in the minivan is busted. It stopped working about a hundred miles back, it just went kaput. When Papa rolled down the window it was as if the air blew in straight from hell. Zero relief. We’re all practically baking in here. Papa says he’ll get it fixed tomorrow. That’s not soon enough.
I gaze up from my book the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to peer out the window. No use in trying to read.
“Look girls, this is it. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it,” Papa chuckles. The town is just coming into view. It looks like a scene from an old western movie. My God, the roads aren’t even paved. I thought Papa was taking a shortcut down this dirt road. The main street of the town is very, no, extremely old fashioned. There are wooden walkways instead of sidewalks and yes, those are hitching posts for horses. Main Street is pretty small; it consists of one block on either side of a four way stop sign. It includes a few family owned restaurants, an ice cream parlor, laundry mat, gas station/grocery store, coffee shop, city hall, and post office. The block on the other side has a small library the size of a double wide mobile home, a diner, another gas station on the opposite side of the street, and a couple of antique shops. I’ve counted four churches on the way into town, all belonging to different denominations.
Papa stops the minivan in front of the lone stop sign and says, “Believe it or not there are no stoplights in the whole town.”
“You’re kidding.” Oh God. Kill me now.
“It won’t be long now until we’re at our new home.” Home. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is tied to our old home in Oregon. No, this’ll be our new house.
Our new house is much larger than the last one we owned in Corvallis, Oregon. I guess it’s a lot cheaper in Sam Valentin, Texas. I wonder why? Another drop of sweat splashes onto the page of my still opened book. Oh, yeah, that’s why. A lot of people can’t stand this sort of heat and I’m one of them.
The house was built in the late eighteen-hundreds. Originally the house had a barn that used to be an old blacksmith shop, but it was burnt down over a century ago. We had to move because Papa lost his job when the country went into “The Great Recession” and was unable to find anything besides part time and temporary work. So evidently, we moved here because my Papa found a good paying full time job. Everything about the house is great, as long as you don’t mind the heat, the humidity, or the fact that there aren’t any neighbors unless you count the local businesses. Our house is on the edge of town with a large field separating it from the nearest building.
Why did we have to move? It’s not fair. I’m not used to this. I like the cold and watching the rain from my bedroom window. I dab the sweat away from my forehead with my shirt. My whole body seems to be covered in sweat, drenched. I don’t even have a lot of clothes on. I’m wearing a tank-top, sandals, and a pair of shorts — as short as I’m allowed anyways, Papa’s all about “not showing skin”. I had styled my curly hair into a messy bun, but after over an hour with the windows down I get to drive through my new town donning a frizzy mess. Papa and Mama say our bodies will adapt to the weather, but I highly doubt it.
“Oohhhhh,” I groan quietly in frustration. I feel so gross. More sweat forms on my forehead. I give up on wiping it away. More will just form. The salt stings my eyes. Don’t I look attractive? Good thing I’m not wearing any makeup or my face would look like it’s melting off, kind of like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz.… At least nobody will see me, nobody I know anyways. As soon as I get to our new house I’m taking a nice cold shower. Cold. Hmm.
I turn my eyes away from the window. For the moment appeased. My eyes rest on the spot next to me where our six-month-old pup is sitting between my five-year-old little sister and me. He’s been using me and Marisol as his own personal salt lick. Eww. He gives my arm another long lick. Great. I’m hot, sweaty, and I smell like dog drool. Can this day get any worse?
“Trevor, stop!” I say as I push his head away in frustration. He decides to lick Marisol instead.
“Yuck, Tweevow,” she says giggling; unable to fend him off properly since she’s strapped into her booster seat. Marisol has a lisp, what she meant to say was Triever. She’s the reason that he got his name in the first place. He’s a golden retriever and since she kept calling him Tweevow, we named him Trevor instead. It was supposed to be a joke — personally I don’t get it. It wasn’t my idea in naming him that. Papa insisted on Trevor so Mama and I just went along with it. Trevor was given to us as a parting gift by a neighbor. Papa and Mama agreed to let us keep him because they thought that by having him he might help us transition to our new home.
Marisol eventually grew into her name, being named after the sun and the sea. She has long golden hair that puts the sun to shame and eyes as green and majestic as the sea. She looks like a cherub out of one of Raphael’s paintings, except for the fact that she’s missing both her front teeth. She looks like my Papa, although most of his hair has turned to salt and pepper on the top and steel gray around the sides. When he was a kid he had blonde hair like hers, but it had darkened with age — we expect hers to do the same.
Marisol’s middle name is Catalina, but her nickname is supposed to be Sunny. I prefer the nickname Sunshine, it’s cuter. Marisol means the world to me, she’s my other half. I’d risk my neck for her any day. Sunshine has a bubbly disposition. That’s the difference between her and I, she’s bubbly and I’m what Mama calls, “surly” and “antisocial”. Along with the bubbly disposition she also has a vivid imagination, which is why she is currently chatting with her imaginary friend, Gabriella. Or as she calls her, Gabby, with whom she seems to be in a very profound conversation with at the moment. How serious can a five-year-olds conversation be? After a moment of trying to decipher what-ever-the-hell she is talking about I give up on listening.
I turn my attention to the front of the van where I take in the scene of my parents: Papa fiddling with the radio and Mama gazing lovingly at him. My Mama is very petite with dark curly hair, light copper eyes, and olive skin. Her name is Alena which means light. It was an appropriate name since she seems to radiate it. Papa calls her Ana. She is as lovely as the night and is as sweet and fiery as any Guatemalan. My dark features resemble hers so they decided to name me Marimar; meaning lady of the sea. Original, right. Unique. Papa always teases my mama and I that he wishes he had a perpetual beachcomber’s tan like us, because he always complains that he can get a sunburn just walking to our car. Filomena is my middle name; my mom named me that in honor of my great-grandmother. Everyone calls me Mar, which is fine with me since only Latin people pronounce my name correctly. My Papa is Caucasian with a little bit of Cherokee blood in him, but nobody would be able to tell. His name is Walter which means warrior. Mama calls him Wally. His name suits him well because he’s built like Superman, his stature being five-eleven, but he appears taller. Papa looks like Superman — what with his strong chin and large build, and chest that is much bigger than his waist — except for the fact that he has green eyes instead of blue and most of his black hair has turned to gray, but when he’s mad I unofficially nicknamed him the Hulk. Together they look like Lois Lane and Superman.
At my previous school papa either intentionally or unintentionally used to frighten/intimidate all the guys. Either way, none of them were brave enough to ever ask me out. Pansies. What they needed was a shot of testosterone. But … that was then and this is now. Hopefully here the guys are different. This is the home of cowboys, right? They all carry around pistols and ride them’ horses. Blonde, blue-eyed, American boys. Manly men. At least that’s what they show on TV.
Screeeeeeeeech. I’m snapped sharply out of my reverie by the sound of tires skidding. I quickly whip my eyes towards the direction of the windshield to see some dumbass in an old truck swerve into our lane. Moron. In a split second I instinctively throw my arm out to keep Marisol from lurching forward. I throw my free arm around Trevor preventing him from flying.
“BRACE YOURSELVES!” Papa yells, while swiftly maneuvering us out of the way of the oncoming collision and into a shallow ditch. Good thing I wasn’t driving or we’d all be road kill right now. The minivan comes to a sharp stop and Papa turns to look at us and asks, “Is everybody all right?”
“Yes, we’re fine,” we all answer in unison. I reach over and I plant a kiss on Marisol and then on Trevor’s head grateful that they’re all right. My family means everything to me and when some idiot comes along and puts them in danger, it really pisses me off. A list of swear words come to mind, along the lines of jackass.
Papa’s holding on to the wheel — his teeth are clenched as he takes deep breaths, combat breathing he calls it, while cursing out the guy under his breath. Mama’s trying to calm him down. Good thing we’re all in the van or I’m afraid Papa would chase him down, pull him over, and beat the crap out of him. Of course he would land himself in jail, but … he probably wouldn’t think about that until the aftermath.
Marisol suddenly turns to look at me with an inquisitive expression. What’s wrong? she mouths. I guess she is a lot more aware of the situation than I thought, she knows enough not to ask the question out loud. Thank God.
Nothing, I mouth back.
I hope he gets pulled over. Shit! Did I just say that aloud? I focus my attention on Papa, hoping he didn’t hear me. His muscles are still tightened and he hasn’t loosened his grip on the wheel. Whew. That was close. Just on cue we see a police cruiser race up behind the guy, pulling him over. Papa produces a chuckle that quickly becomes deafening.
“Justice is served,” I snicker. I’d pay good money to see that guy’s face right now.
“See girls, it’s like I’ve always told you. What goes around comes around,” Mama says. In other words, karma’s a bitch.
“Life’s tough, it’s even tougher if you’re stupid,” replies Papa after he reposed from laughter. That remark produces a good laugh.
After his moment of triumph he starts the minivan back up again and we head towards the house.
“What an idiot,” I breathe. That’s the kinder word for what I’m thinking, if Mama could hear my thoughts she’d probably wash my mouth out with soap. What the hell was he doing? Reading a text?
Less than a minute later we pull up to our new house. As soon as we stop I hastily unbuckle my seatbelt to escape. I don’t want to be in this oven a minute longer. As I’m about to exit I hear Marisol struggling with her seatbelt, so I help her unbuckle out of her booster before I open the door for both of us and we break free. Trevor leaps out behind me, followed by Marisol who skips over to the house. I shut the door for her. I go over to the back of the minivan and I grab a few boxes. I carefully balance them in my arms and I proceed slowly towards the front door while taking in the place.
The exterior of the house was repainted by the former owners to match the original colors that faded a while back; French rose, chestnut brown, indigo, gold and ivory green. We were told that there weren’t many changes to the interior besides touch-ups, repairs, and a few modern additions. It’s probably the prettiest thing to see in this whole stupid town. Our house is a very large three-story late eighteen-hundred Victorian styled house that was fully updated by the previous owners. It has four bedrooms upstairs, three bathrooms — two upstairs one downstairs —, and three staircases — one leading upstairs, one to the attic, and one leading down into the cellar/basement.
There’s also a living room, a dining room, a breakfast room, a great room, and a new laundry room; an old servant’s quarter lies in the backyard which has been converted into a shed. The house has all the old furniture, some dating back to the late eighteen-hundreds, some from the previous owners. This would be the first time that I have actually seen the place in person, or any of us for that matter, well, except for Papa. Seeing it in person is a lot different than seeing a digital tour of the house or pictures. Papa says that he had gotten the place for a steal. We’ll be the third family to hail this place home. The couple before us left in a hurry leaving all the furniture and most of their belongings behind.
As I walk on the stone steps leading up to the porch I notice that the house has a deserted air to it. I mean the house looks great and all. It’s not falling apart or anything like that, it’s just the yard. Dried vines and weeds surround the wilted roses — which obviously couldn’t stand the heat either. Dead vines still latch themselves partially up the sides and front of the house; weaving to and fro along the porch railings/pillars — they blanket the wooden carport built to match the house. They must have given a cool pastoral appearance to the place, but now it gives the place an even more forsaken look. Creepy. The grass is brown with some missing patches here and there. Dispersed around the yard are semi-naked trees. I expected as much — Texas is supposed to be in a drought. Great! On top of that it’s just the beginning of summer and summers here are apparently sweltering. I’m surprised the birds haven’t dropped dead of heat stroke. The landscapers tried their hardest to keep the yard green, but Papa told me how there are restrictions of water usage going on and in this heat practically nothing will survive.
I walk up the porch steps. Clumsy me, I trip on the last step, almost toppling over all the boxes in my hands. Then I over compensate, stepping back off the porch, and start to fall backwards. Just in the nick of time, Papa catches me with his free hand before I fall. He adjusts me upright.
“Watch that last step,” he smirks. I give him a mock smile as I mumble out a thank you. Papa releases my arm and goes over to the door where Mama and Marisol are waiting eagerly. Papa unlocks the massive wooden door while Marisol tries to peek through the long and narrow glass window smack dab in the center of the door. He holds the door open for us and we step through.
Immediately, we are embraced by a wintry breeze. Ahh. I am so happy that Papa had everything turned on — the utilities and the cable. As I glance about the enormous dwelling I am totally amazed. I knew that this place was going to be big, but wow. Stepping inside truly shows the size of the place; everything is of a grandeur antiquish quality. The outside only reflects a taste of the splendor of what is within. There are beautiful glass windows and mahogany floorboards that match the large doors. All of the rooms are covered in either wallpaper or are white-washed with pastel detailing. The previous owners moved out only a couple of months ago so the Realtors hired people to keep up the house. Conveniently for us the house looks amazing and we don’t have to worry about cleaning, for now anyways.
“Well, that’s the last box,” Mama says, cheerfully crossing the large front door’s threshold. We stacked up the few boxes we brought against the wall. The rest of our stuff will be arriving in a few days. I place the boxes in my arms down beside hers.
“Girls, why don’t you guys go pick your bedroom out. Except for the master bedroom of course, your mother and I have dibs.”
“Kay, it’s too spacious for our taste. Right, Sunshine?”
“Wight,” she says, nodding her head in agreement and flashing me a wide smile before dashing out of the room.
As I step into the upstairs hall I suddenly hear Sunshine’s voice shrill out, “I found it, I found it, Mawimaw!”
“Found what?” I reply a little bit confused. Oh, yeah. Duh.
“I found ouw woom!”
I follow the sound of her voice which leads me to the second room on my left. The room is large, with wallpaper dating from the nineteen-hundreds depicting the tale of Mark Twain’s, The Adventure of Tom Sawyer. The room is furnished with a large dresser, a desk, a rocking chair, rocking horse, a large window with light green heavy curtains, a night stand beside the bed, an armoire that predates the built in closet, and a large bed with a bunch of stuffed animals and toys surrounding it. The second I step into the room my stomach drops and the floor feels as if it’s going to break from under my feet. I feel nauseous and for some strange reason I feel like I’m being watched.
“Isn’t there any other room you might want? Maybe you might want to look at the bedroom across the hall?” I say trying to fight the hysteria in my voice.
“Nope, this is the one,” she says decidedly to my dismay.
Just my luck, she picks the room I hate. How am I going to sleep at night if I feel like I’m being watched? I guess I could try to sleep with the lights on … wait … what am I saying? Get a grip, Marimar. You can’t have the room lit up like midday. What will Sunshine think? Yeah, I am being ridiculous. I give a dry laugh. Still … the place does give me the creeps, which has to account for something? Right? Unless … yeah that’s it, the faces on the walls must be creeping me out.
“Aaahhh!” I exclaim, spooked by Marisol. Apparently, while my inner Jekyll and Hyde were bickering, I hadn’t noticed Marisol standing in front of me. The last I checked, she was standing by the bed.
“Sunshine, I didn’t see you standing there. You scared me,” I utter a little sheepishly, answering the question behind her eyes. She replies by giggling.
“I’m going to draw you your bath,” I say changing the conversation. I lead her by the hand to the bathroom in the hall. I draw the bath with lukewarm water and start pumping in the suds. I put in a rubber ducky for good measure. She gets in. I then strip and step into the separate shower. I shiver under the ice-cold water but begin to unwind.
The rest of the day passes by in a blur. Our trip cross country has really taken its toll on us. By the time we finished the pizza we had delivered the four of us were already worn out and ready for bed.
Muddled by the state of being in between sleep and consciousness, I am slightly aware of the sensation of the bed spinning. The sweeping sensation of the bed is strange, yet I don’t question it. The movement is so relaxing that the next thing I know …
I’m digging. I can hear myself humming to a strange tune — the clink of the shovel hitting rocks. The sun is warm, but it doesn’t bother me. Dust and dirt cover every inch of me. I have this strange feeling that I’m being watched. I tilt my head slightly towards the house. I see Mama and Papa from the corner of my eye watching me from the upstairs window. I turn and face them. The second they notice me looking they quickly close the curtain. I turn back and continue digging. The hole is wide and deep, but for some reason I have the feeling that I’m not done yet. I begin to sing a morbid and unfamiliar nursery rhyme:
“Don't you ever laugh as the hearse goes by,
For you may be the next one to die.
They wrap you up in a big white sheet
From your head down to your feet.
They put you in a big black box
And cover you up with dirt and rocks.
All goes well for about a week,
Then your coffin begins to leak.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The worms play pinochle in your snout,
They eat your eyes, they eat your nose,
They eat the jelly between your toes.
A big green worm with rolling eyes
Crawls in your stomach and out your eyes.
Your stomach turns a slimy green,
And pus pours out like whipping cream.
You'll spread it on a slice of bread,
And this is what you eat in your final bed.”