Authors: Laura Langston
Tags: #JUV000000, #book
M.C. shuffled over, her uni-boob heaving under her flowing purple top.
“I'm glad I caught you.” She took my elbow with a firmness that surprised me. “I came in to leave an envelope, but now you can take it with you. Let's go outside.”
Kitty dog bounced out the door ahead of us. She was sprouting hair on her bald spots. I narrowed my eyes. Did Kitty have a twin? Was this some kind of joke? But then I almost stepped on Kitty dog's tail. She bared what was left of her teeth, and I caught the reek and knew it was the same dog.
M.C. bent down and picked her up.
“She's like a teenager again.” Kitty squirmed so much she had to put her back down. “You gave her her life back.”
My heart was doing hip-hop in my chest. If I had done that to Kitty, it meant I had done something to Alan, which meant my normal-as-cheddar life wasn't so normal anymore.
“I didn't do anything.”
“You did. I told you in the hospital. You have the power now.”
M.C. was padded-walls crazy. Kitty dog barked at a crack in the sidewalk. So was her dog. “People don't change from a bee sting,” I said. “The world doesn't work that way.”
M.C. retrieved a beige envelope from the basket on her walker. “And you know this how?”
I didn't answer.
“Here.” She thrust the envelope into my hand. “This is stuff I've been saving from magazines and newspapers. I even went online and printed a few things out.” I must have looked surprised, because M.C. added, “Not everybody over seventy is useless where the Internet is concerned.” She gestured. “Have a look.”
The envelope was crammed with bits and pieces: articles on faith healing and something called Reiki. Information
on a group of healers in the mountains of Peru. A
magazine feature on physics.
“That one explains everything.”
M.C. pointed to the physics article. “It's really interesting.”
I doubted it. Physics was about as interesting as my left toenail, only way more confusing.
“Thanks,” I said as I turned to go.
“My phone number's there too,” she called after me. “In case you want to call me.”
No way did I want to call her, I thought as I headed across the parking lot. There was enough weirdness in my life already. I didn't need more.
I didn't go back to school. Instead I went to the library and searched the shelves for something that might help me understand what was going on.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Spiritual
was fairly detailed. I spent the next couple of hours reading about everything from massage and magnets to crystals, voodoo, positive thinking and prayer.
All of a sudden I was thinking positively and praying to a God I'd never really thought much about before:
Please, God, make me normal. I am
normal, right, God? I am. My life is not a
comic book, it is cheddar-cheese normal
and please, God, keep it that way.
By the time I got home that afternoon, Alan was the star of Facebook. Ten friends had updated their status and were talking about him. There was even a picture. He'd put it up himself, with the tagline, “Look, Ma, no stitches.”
I updated my note about Logan's missing medallion and went back to reading about Alan.
The more I read, the more I felt the dry heaves coming on. My friends had no idea what had happened, only that something strange and wonderful had. Strange, maybe. Wonderful, no.
A bloodfest might not have done Alan any good, but it would have made me feel better.
Bounce wandered into the bedroom and meowed for attention. I picked her up to give her a cuddle. As I turned back to the computer, the chat icon popped up. It was Tom.
Sinclair, I need ur help with the car
wash. U promised.
My breath caught. I'd promised to help
with a pile of things, including the car wash that kicked off this year's fundraising. Logan, not Tom.
I typed back, stalling for time.
We're doing the signs Thursday
, Tom added.
Car wash is this
Just before he died, Logan had talked about chairing the fundraising committee for senior year. He'd been stoked. Determined to raise enough money to get us a kick-ass year-end camping trip. He was pretty much guaranteed the chair spot. Tom got it instead and vowed to do the job in Logan's memory.
Was this what Logan wanted me to do? Help Tom with the car wash? I'd pretty much decided to skip it, since Tom would be in charge.
I thought of what Logan had said when I'd gotten stung:
Go do it
. And he'd mentioned Tom too. I remembered that much.
, my fingers typed before I could stop them.
A car wash was simple stuff. If that's all Logan wanted, I could deal.
Obviously I was lying to myself. Because that night I had the worst nightmare ever.
It woke my parents. And when they came in to see why I was screaming, I apparently grabbed Dad around the neck and practically choked him as I yelled, “Put out the fire!”
I don't remember that part; I was still asleep. But Dad told me in the kitchen the next morning, right before he said I needed to go see Dr. Bad Teeth.
“It's almost a year since Logan died.” He was pouring coffee into his stainless-steel travel mug. “And you're still struggling. You need to see her again.”
What I needed was some of that coffee. My eyes were barely open. Half the cat food I'd poured into Bounce's dish had ended up on the floor, and she was making slow, delicate work of cleaning up my mess.
“Especially considering the added stress of the last few days,” Dad added.
He had no idea. I hadn't told them any of it: not about M.C. or Alan's thumb. Not even much about my dream. M.C. was in it. So was Logan. I was wearing his St. Christopher medallion, except it was choking me. I kept trying to get it off, only the presence was there telling me to be strong. I was gasping and gasping for breath, and then I burst into flames and floated away. It was a total creepfest.
“I'll have Janice make the appointment.” Janice was Dad's secretary. He grabbed his keys from the counter and dropped a kiss on top of my head. “She'll call you.”
I grabbed a muffin from the fridge and listened to his footsteps echo down the back steps. Great. Like I needed Dr. Bad Teeth making me feel worse.
Bounce meowed. I opened the back door to let her out. She'd been on my chest when I'd woken up this morning. Mom must have put her there after my nightmare. The cat was so old she couldn't jump anymore.
Bounce wasn't limping.
A chunk of muffin caught in my throat. No way. I peered down the stairs, watched her walk to the pond for a drink. Bounce had limped since getting hit by that car three years ago.
She had to be limping. I stared harder. She
limping. At least not much.
A chill snaked its way down my back. There had to be a logical explanation. For everything. Maybe my imagination was working overtime. Maybe I was going crazy. Either way, I was going back to Dr. Bad Teeth.
That afternoon, I sat across from Dr. Fernandez while she read my file, wiggling in her oversized leather chair, trying to get comfortable. I hoped this visit would help me figure things out.
“Your parents told me a little of what's happening,” Dr. Fernandez said when she looked up. “But I'd like to hear it from you.”
Focusing on the mole beside her eye instead of those ugly yellow horse teeth, I told her about Logan's missing medallion. “It's like losing him all over again,” I admitted.
“That must be difficult.”
Uh, yeah. “I guess I should have checked the clasp before I started wearing it. It was probably loose.”
Her square black glasses slid down her nose. She pushed them back up. “You feel guilty.”
It was a statement, not a question. I nodded.
“And would you call that real guilt or fake guilt?”
According to Dr. Bad Teeth, real guilt came from deliberately doing something wrong. Fake guilt was beating yourself up for something you had nothing to do with.
I shrugged. “Fake, I guess.” Fake or real, it didn't bring Logan's medallion back.
“And what about Logan's accident?” she asked. “Do you still feel guilty about that?”
Of course I did. But Dr. Bad Teeth thought that was totally fake guilt. “Like you said, I didn't give him the key and put him behind the wheel.” I was repeating what she wanted to hear. “He did that himself.”
She studied me from behind her thick glasses. “Have you truly accepted that, Hannah?”
I hadn't. I'd watched that race. I was there. That made me responsible. They'd told us since preschool that the bystander was as responsible for the bullying as the bully. This was the same thing.
The corners of her mouth turned down. My silence told her everything she needed to know. “You did the best you could,” she reminded me. I wondered if she was sad about my feelings or sad that her therapy hadn't worked. “You asked him not to race.”
I did, at the party. Except I hadn't been forceful enough. I could have pitched a fit. But I didn't want to make a scene. I didn't want to spoil everyone's fun. And now Logan was gone.
“You need to let the guilt go,” she said.
Letting go was hard for me.
“Guilt can do terrible things to a person.”
It was the opening I needed. “I've been having nightmares andâ¦” I hesitated. If I told her about the presence and the power and Bounce, she'd fill me full of pills and lock me up with the crazies. I didn't belong there. On the other hand, I needed to figure out what was happening. “Dizzy spells and stuff.” It was as far as I would go.
“I'm not surprised. Unresolved guilt causes stress, and stress causes many reactions.”
“Absolutely. And the one-year anniversary just adds to it.”
Relief turned my bones liquid. M.C. was wrong. I wasn't a healer. I was stressed. Big time. Thank you, God.
“I understand you think Logan is telling you something?” she said.
“Yeah. When I was stung, it was like I heard his voice.” I waited for alarm to flash across her face, but it stayed blank. “It's like there's something he wants me to do.”
Now she'll pick up the phone, I thought
And the men in those white coats will come and take me away. But she just looked at me and said, “I think if Logan wants you to do anything at all, Hannah, he wants you to let go. Let go of your guilt, let go of him and move on.”
The visit with Fernandez made me feel a little better, although when I got home that afternoon, the worry returned. Bounce had caught a mouse. She'd left it in the hall. She hadn't done that in years. Something was definitely up with her. At dinner, I asked my parents if they'd noticed Bounce was more active.
“It's the glorious fall weather,” Mom said. “Everybody's feeling better. Even cats.”
That was it, I decided. Mom was right.
Thursday morning, when I walked into the tech-ed room at eight o'clock ready to make the signs for the car wash, I was feeling normal. No more nightmares, no more weird happenings. It was all stress. Already I felt better.
The group was assembling spray paint and cardboard at the back of the room. “Where's Tom?”
“Late,” Brad said. “Mornings are rough for him. It takes him a while to get moving.”
It took me a while to get moving some mornings too. But I didn't bail on people when they were counting on me.
We laid the cardboard out on the work tables. “When his ankle broke, they fixed it with a steel plate and a pile of pins,” Brad added as we began stenciling in words. “But his body keeps trying to reject them.”
Something close to sympathy curled around my heart. I tamped it down. Tom had wanted to race. So what if he had a sore leg? He was still alive. I'd take a sore leg for the rest of my life if I could have Logan back.
By foods class, Tom was back.
“So whatcha think, Thumbs?” he said to Alan as I slid onto a stool beside Marie. “Wanna try juggling three knives today?”
“No way,” Alan said with a grin. “One more accident and I'm out. My dad will kill me if that happens.”
Before I could stop myself, I was gazing at the spot where I'd held that towel on Alan's thumb. The area was clean, blood-free. No sign of what had happened. Yet I felt uneasy just glancing in that direction.
To cover my confusion, I pulled Mom's Mexican cookbook from my binder. “I thought we could use this to plan our menu.” I opened it; Marie peered over my shoulder.
“We don't need a book,” Alan said. “All we need are corn chips, salsa and tequila!”
“Good plan, my man!” The two guys high-fived.
“You guys do the appetizers and beverages then.” As soon as Drummond caught a whiff of the booze, they'd be booted. And I wouldn't have to work with Tom after all. “We'll do the entrÃ©e and dessert.”
We settled on guacamole and fresh salsa with chips, chicken enchiladas and a simple flan for dessert. While the guys goofed off, Marie and I drew up the grocery list.
“And who is doing what?” Ms. Drummond asked when she stopped by our table.
“Hannah and I are doing the entrÃ©e and dessert,” Marie said as Drummond scanned our list. “The guys are doing the appetizer and beverage.”
Ms. Drummond frowned. “I don't think so.”
She didn't want the guys working together. No doubt because of Alan's accident.
“Alan and Marie will do the beverage and dessert,” she said. “Tom and Hannah can do the entrÃ©e and appetizer.” The muffin I'd choked down at breakfast almost came back up. Before I could open my mouth to argue, she was gone.