This was not how life was supposed to go. Kids are supposed to outlive their parents but not by so many years. End of sophomore year of high school and I found myself planning a funeral. Well, Charlie is taking care of everything. My parents have been separated so long that I'll have to get used to calling him Dad again. Renee and Phillis have been married four years and their marriage lasted longer than Charlie's. Had been married.
And now my mom and step-mom are both gone. Died stopped at a traffic light when a drunk driver hit them full on. The funeral was full of people I barely met. All wanting to tell me how sorry they are and some intimate story or what a terrible loss it is to lose both of them so suddenly. All my friends and classmates don't know how to talk to me anymore. Not like I had many friends to begin with. I feel numb. The center of attention for all the wrong reasons.
It took a month to close down the house and for Charlie to get things out or in storage. I feel grateful that he gave me so much space to cry things out. I didn't want to talk through it yet. We both just did the work to get us moved out. Me, moved out.
The road trip from Arizona to Washington state was awkward to say the least. Seeing him on vacations and holidays is not the same as suddenly being thrown in together. Neither of us was what anyone would call verbose and I didn’t exactly know how to describe my feelings. I do believe I got that from Charlie. But the silence became companionable after about a state. Another whole state where I silently cried with my head pressed against them glass, staring out the window. The rest stop where we bought every single item in the vending machine and bonded over road trip junk food that I don't normally eat but secretly love.
"I had some friends eat the food that I left in the fridge so we wouldn't come home to a smell. We'll have to go shopping tomorrow. Hopefully they left us with enough for breakfast." Charlie said over the last couple of miles.
I had been staring at and judging my reflection in the side mirror for the last ten miles. My curly dark brown hair, now in tangles from the road trip, blurred into the trees as they whirled by. I looked too pale, a ghost in the dim light of the street lamps. The circles around my eyes are too dark, still puffy from crying and lack of sleep. When dad spoke, I refocused my eyes to actually notice the landmarks we were passing by.
"It's weird coming into town from this direction. I usually come in from the airport."
Charlie took in a deep breath and let out a sigh. "...yeah." He sounded tired. I should have been talking to him more on the drive to help him stay awake.
"It feels like any other summer when I come to visit. I haven't wrapped my head around it yet. Coming here knowing that I won't be leaving at the end of the summer.”
"I know, sweetie... It's going to be a lot to get used to. It's never going to be the same but we just have to keep... going,” Charlie said with lots of long pauses.
Charlie’s buddy must have left the porch light on for us. As we pulled into the drive near midnight, it lit the short walkway to the house. I had always thought it was weird that the front door was actually useful. Mom’s house has a side door off of the kitchen and the front door was only used for Halloween trick-or-treaters. Charlie’s house, my childhood house and now my new home was a two story, three bed, two bath, two acre that he bought with mom in the early days of their marriage. The outside was a pale yellow that mom said was a good luck charm for sunny days. But the sun only existed for a few months in the summer in this region. The town of Forks is situated right in between the ocean and a mountain on a peninsula that is classified as rain forest.
“Let's take the plants in and the essentials and leave the rest for the morning. I’ll need to take the trailer to the rental place in the afternoon,” said Charlie as we got out of the truck.
I grabbed a bag from the back and my favorite cactus plant and went up to my room. The walls were the same baby blue from when this was a nursery. Wooden floors with a homemade, braided rug by the side of the bed. Garish yellow curtains covered the two north facing windows currently showing utter darkness of the backyard. No more city lights or city noise.
I went back down to the kitchen to say goodnight to Charlie. He was standing in front of the fridge reading a note.
Charlie looked up as I went to the sink and got a cup of water. “Bill and Jaclyn Black restocked our fridge for us. And they left you a bouquet of flowers.”
Examining the vase on the small kitchen table, “These ones are not from the car? That’s too sweet. They didn’t have to do that.” I’m not used to people going so out of their way to take care of me.
“I think they want to make sure you feel welcome and settle in okay. They invited us to go fishing next weekend up near their farmhouse,” said Charlie as he examined the fridge.
“You missed the big reunion fishing trip, didn’t you?” I said, feeling guilty. Not a new feeling this past month.
“I guess everyone pitched in for the shopping trip. There’s a fish frozen in the freezer. I know fishing is not your thing but do you want to tag along anyway and see Jaclyn?” He said, looking hopeful. For the last two summer vacations, Charlie visited me in Phoenix and I lost touch with my old childhood friends here. Long distance doesn’t work out well when you’re in high school.
“Yeah why not. I can read on the dock or something. Go swimming and scare all the fish towards your boat. In the meantime, I am heading to bed. Goodnight dad,” I said with a big yawn.
“Good night Bella.”