Alright guys... here is Chapter 1. Let me know what you think.
“Just one more leg up, honey. Look to the rock right above your left leg.”
I listened to my dad’s instructions as I frantically searched for the rock that would hopefully lead me to the top of our treacherous climb. I held on to the jagged stones with all the strength in my body being exerted into the muscles and tendons in my hands and arms.
I looked down, afraid to see how far we had climbed, searching for the rock that my dad was telling me about. There, almost a foot above where my left leg wobbled, was the little landing that my dad was talking about.
I gripped the rocks in my hand tighter, and slowly but surely lifted my leg up to the top of the smooth rock, my foot finding the surface. I stepped up, let out a sigh of relief, and pushed myself onto the rock-strewn landing that my dad was shouting at me from above.
He found my hand, pulling me up with what seemed like was little effort for him. He was so strong that it made me jealous.
“Awesome job Jules!” A welcoming grin stretched across his face and into his eyes. He pulled me into a bear hug, and right then I knew that I was safe.
“Dad, that was the hardest climb we have ever done… I feel dead!” I gasped for air as I tried to catch my breath, we had been climbing for almost an hour.
“I know Julia, but I told you we could do it! All if takes is a little determination and a helping hand.” He squeezed me tighter and looked down to kiss me on my sweat stained forehead.
“Yeah, thanks for that, Dad. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
I watched him as he took his small backpack off of his muscular back. He unzipped it, pulling out a quilt and a couple of ziplock bags. I walked towards him and helped him lay the blanket on the sturdy ground.
I was surprised when my dad sat down on the quilt, and handed me one of the ziplock bags. I looked at what was in it and was immediately ravenous. I guess I should have known my dad would bring food. He knew me the better than anyone of my friends, so of course he knew I would be hungry after our climb. He was always looking after me.
I took the sandwich out of the bag and hastily bit into the bread, tasting the creamy peanut butter on my tongue. It wasn’t the best thing to eat after a climb with my mouth already sticky and hot, but I could already feel the protein and energy rushing through my veins.
I looked at my dad who was now finished with his sandwich. He glanced at me and handed me his water bottle. Of course, I would be thirsty. I squirted the water into my mouth and then over my face. The ice water felt so good on my skin, I could feel my pores opening up with pleasure and relief. I finished my sandwich and laid back on both of my elbows, my arms acting as a prop for my body.
It felt so nice stretching my legs out in front of me on the quilt, overlooking the beautiful scenery around me. The mountains that stretched across the horizon in front of us were breathtaking. The sky was an endless sea of blue, without a cloud to interrupt it. The trees surrounding the mountains contrasted with the cerulean blue sky, making it even more interestingly unique.
I loved living in Colorado. It felt like whenever I needed to escape reality, all I had to do was step in my backyard. Not one inch of the outdoors here wasn’t aesthetically pleasing. I looked over at my dad who was taking in the scenery just like me; watching him as his chocolate brown hair rustled in the wind, his hazel eyes and freckled face roaming over the mountains.
Rock climbing was a favorite pastime of ours, mostly because of the prize waiting for us at the end; the view. We liked to go on our rock climbing adventures as much as possible, but with my dad’s job at Fort Carson army base, we rarely got to go. Rock climbing was by far my favorite thing I got to do with my dad. It was one of the only times we got to catch up on our lives, and I was grateful for having that time with him. It was just me, him, and the great outdoors.
I looked over at him again, seeing an enigmatic look on his face.
“You okay, dad? You look kinda deep in thought.”
He turned his head, locking his eyes with mine. I could tell something was bothering him, and whatever it was it was sure to bother me as well. He scooted closer to me, resting his bulky arm around my shoulder.
“Julia, you know how much I love you, right?” He glanced down at me, a hesitant smile on his face. He had the same look on his face he did when I was nine and he brought me here to tell me something important… something that I didn’t know at the time to be life changing.
“Of course, Dad. I love you too. You’re my best friend.” Most girls my age weren’t that close to their parents, taking them for granted and not realizing that they would be nothing without them. Teenage girls were typically caught up in more of the social aspects of high school, hardly paying attention to their family. I was the complete opposite.
“Good, I just wanted to make sure you knew that.” I looked into his eyes, seeing a hint of sadness in them. Something didn’t seem right.
“Dad, are you sure everything’s okay? You seem upset about something.”
He swiftly shook his head. “No, no honey I’m fine. Just thinking about life, that’s all.” He looked down at me and smiled. His smile didn’t reach his eyes, and I felt the unease wash through me at the sight of this.
“You ready to head back?” I could tell he was trying to sound a little more optimistic.
“Sure, why not,” I moaned. I wasn’t ready to go back yet. My body still felt flimsy like a jellyfish. All this climbing was really tough work.
After what seemed like days of walking and climbing, I could finally see my dad’s shiny blue 1975 mustang convertible through the shrubbery. He had a thing for old cars, and fixing them up was another of our favorite pastimes.
I raced towards it, ready to feel the smooth leather of the seat beneath me. I looked up and my dad was already in the car. Of course, he beat me there. His legs were a lot longer than mine seeing as how he was all of six feet five inches tall.
I hopped in the car as I watched the convertible top let down. It was perfect weather for his car, not too hot and not too cold. I loved summers in Colorado because summers were when I felt the happiest. We raced home, ready to smell the sweet aroma of my moms cooking when we walked through the door. She was the best cook ever, one of the many attributes that apparently didn’t pass over into my genes.
We pulled in our curvy driveway, seeing the trees surround our dull, brown wooden house. My dad pulled into his usual parking spot, and I noticed my brother’s impossibly shiny Infiniti G35. I guess they didn’t want to miss out on mom’s cooking either.
“Thanks for taking me today, Dad. I had a great time.” I walked over to my dad and hugged his waist. He pulled me into an even bigger hug, engrossing me in his muscles.
“Anytime, Jules. You know I love spending time with you.” He looked down at me, his arms still wrapped around my beanpole figure. He flashed all of his pearly whites, looking at the front door and then back at me.
“First one to the kitchen gets seconds for desert.”
I shrugged out of his arms and darted for the front door, aware that if I didn’t get a head start that he would definitely beat me. I turned around to shout “it’s on!” but he was already darting past me into the front door. When I reached the kitchen he was sitting at the head of the table, his head rested in his hands.
“Geez, Dad. Can’t you let me win just once?” I rolled my eyes and pulled out my chair. He laughed his boisterous laugh and got up from the table. I watched him walk into the kitchen where my mom was busy mashing my favorite red potatoes.
“Welcome home, honey.” She turned around as my dad wrapped his arms around her tiny frame, kissing him on his cheek. Most kids probably got grossed out seeing their parents all lovey-dovey, but I was happy to see it. It was very rare these days when two people were still crazy about each other after 27 years, and I was thankful that my parents fell into this category.
Just then, my brothers walked in the kitchen ducking their heads through the arched doorway. They were just as freakishly tall as my dad.
“Hey Jules! Hey Dad!” My brother Travis beamed. He was always so warm, and happy. It was no wonder everyone loved him.
“Hello Julia. Hello Dad.” My other brother Paul was very different from Travis. They were business partners. Paul took care of most of the business aspects of the company while Travis was more involved in making deals and the social aspect. All in all, they were a perfect team.
We all sat down as my mom placed the mashed potatoes, steak, and vegetables on the table. It all smelled so delicious, and I was suddenly starving from my peanut butter sandwich. I piled my plate full, knowing that my eyes were far bigger than my stomach.
“So, Julia. Are you ready to start your senior year tomorrow?” Paul asked me. I was surprised he was the first to ask me a question, seeing as how he was the most anti-social. I guess he was just as excited as me.
“Of course! I can’t wait. I love school… but I am so ready for college it’s not even funny.”
“Certainly, dear. Especially since Kalina is already in college, this year is going to be a lot different for you.” My mom smiled at me, and I was upset that she had to bring up Kalina. She was my best friend, but was a year older and had just left for college two days ago.
“Now, honey. Let’s not dampen the mood,” my dad said with a smile. He always knew when I wouldn’t want to talk about something, so I was glad when he cut my mom off from this subject.
Dinner was the best we had in a long time. I was in such a good mood. I didn’t know if it was from the endorphins racing through my body from the climb earlier, or just the fact that my family was all together. I loved being with them, and this was a rare occasion. It was usually just my mom and I. With my brothers living in Denver and my dad always at the base, we rarely all got to eat together. I knew I would sleep well that night.
I was eager to get to school the next morning. I woke up early and spent almost an hour getting ready for my big day. I always liked to look nice, and I made sure my hair and make-up were perfect before I flicked the light off in the bathroom. I walked into the kitchen to grab a bagel to go, and tell my parents bye.
My mom and dad were sitting at the table, coffee in their hands and newspapers spread across the table. They were the picture perfect couple.
“Good morning, Julia. I knew you wouldn’t have time to sit down for breakfast so I went ahead and made you an egg sandwich to go. Your lunch is in the fridge, too.”
My mom was always on top of things. Just like my dad, she always made sure that I was looked after. She was an angel. I guess you could say that I was the typical baby of the family: spoiled. I didn’t think of myself as being too spoiled, I knew I had it good, but I never begged for anything. I was pretty content with what I had in life.
I grabbed my breakfast and lunch, and walked over to the table to hug my parents goodbye. I leaned down to hug my mom, saying “thanks mom, you’re the best.”
My dad stood up, which was really unusual for him, and walked over to me. He pulled me into a big bear hug.
“Good luck today, Juju-bug. I love you with all my heart.” He squeezed me a little tighter and let me go. I wondered why he was being so vocal about how much he loved me these past two days. Usually, we just knew how much we cared about each other and it was never really spoken, just understood.
“Love you too, Dad.” I smiled at them both and headed out the door.
“Hey Julia!” I heard the familiar voice shout from behind me as I walked down the crowded hallway towards my first period calculus class. I turned around, expecting to see the bouncy, black curls of one of my friends Kathleen. I was greeted with several smiling faces, all of which I had to look down to see. I was taller than all of my friends.
“Hey girls! Good to see you this morning! How was your summer?” I was excited to hear about their summers. They had all gone to teach at some summer camp in Denver, and I hadn’t seen them in two months. I watched as Kathleen beamed, Jean the redhead rolled her eyes, and Anne the bleach blonde beauty grunted.
“It was great,” Jean said sarcastically. “Kathleen got to work with the hottest counselor all summer while Anne and I got stuck with the biggest losers in the state of Colorado.”
We walked to class, all exchanging stories of our summer adventures. When we reached our Calculus class, we all sat down at our individual desks as our teacher handed out a morning announcement. It was something that we got every morning in our school. Instead of announcements over the intercom, we got them on paper.
I read over the typing, and two things caught my eye. I saw an advertisement for tryouts for our varsity soccer team. I loved soccer, and had been the team captain for the past two years and the lead scorer. The other announcement apparently caught Anne’s eye as well because she turned to me and said something about it before I could.
“Look Jules, they are already talking about the homecoming game. You think you’ll make it on the homecoming court again this year?” She smiled at me, but I could see the green envy burning behind her brown irises. She always wished she could be on the court along with me. If I was elected again this year, it would be my fourth year on the court. I hated to sound conceited, but I was one of the more popular girls in the school. As much as I wanted to deny it , my popularity was pretty evident after being nominated three years in a row.
“Um, I’m not sure. I hope so though. I’ll vote for you though, Anne.” I smiled at her and turned as I heard the teacher begin to call role.
The class period seemed to drone on. I hated math, and although I was very much a morning person, I became very sleepy as the slow seconds passed. About halfway through the class I was beginning to drift off to sleep as I had everyday in math the previous years. It could never catch my attention as English class had. I loved getting caught up in stories, whereas numbers simply lulled my mind into a thoughtless stupor.
There was a knock on the classroom door, and then a middle-aged woman peeked her mousy head in.
“Julia Jiles is needed in the principal’s office,” she squeeked.
A hush of whispers and sounds erupted throughout the classroom. I looked warily around the room, meeting the gaze of all of my friends. It looked like they were just as surprised and curious as I was.
I reluctantly got out of my desk following after the woman. Why did they need me? What had I done? The questions were overwhelming. I tried to think over the things I had done in the past days, weeks, and months of my time in high school. I couldn’t think of anything that was remotely horrible enough for me to have to go to the principal’s office. I decided that the principal just needed to talk to me about the soccer tryouts. I guess she wanted to see what I had planned for the team this upcoming season.
I looked up from the ground realizing too soon that I was already standing at the double doors that led to the principal’s office. After knocking on the door, Dr. Gallante asked me to come in. I shuffled in the office keeping my eyes firmly planted on the ground, a little unsure as to whether I was about to be in trouble, or was just here for a little soccer meeting.
She spoke quietly, almost as if the words that were coming out of her mouth were causing her pain; like she knew they would cause me pain as well.
“Your mother just called, and she needs you to check out of school early and go to the hospital. There’s been an accident, Julia,” she whispered.
My mind was spinning. “An accident?” I asked; the thoughts weren’t comprehendible in my mind.
“I don’t know what has happened, only that you need to get there as soon as possible. Your mother said that you would be fine to drive there yourself.”
“Okay. I can do that,” I reassured myself. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know if I wanted to think. I got to my feet and hurried out of the office. As I left the school, I ran as fast as I could to my car. I raced towards the hospital, not really knowing exactly where I was going. I had never been to the hospital before. I had never gotten any broken bones as a kid, and never gotten deathly ill or anything. My life, thus far, had been a walk in the park.
My fingers clenched the steering wheel as I started to think about what I was going to be driving in to. I tried to prepare my mind for what I was about to see, and what I was about to hear. My thoughts ran through all of the different possibilities as to why I would be needing to head to the hospital. At least I knew my mom was okay. That was a good thing considering I needed to be fed. I didn’t want to have to eat burnt food for the rest of my life.
As I rounded the turn to the hospital, I found myself trying hard to fight back the tears. I didn’t know why they were forming in my eyes. For all I knew, an “accident” could entail my dog peeing on the carpet and my mom getting carpal tunnel from having to clean it up. It didn’t have to be anything huge. Nobody I loved could be hurt. It was all just a precaution for something. Maybe my grandma had broken her hip again while trying to do the Macarena in her nursing home. Or my little cousin Spencer and blown off his thumb with a firecracker like the year before. I was overreacting. Things were going to be fine.
As I caught sight of the hospital, I searched for the emergency room entrance, not bothering to park my car. I left my car in front of the entrance, and helplessly walked towards the front desk. The woman at the desk greeted me, and I told her I was looking for my mom, Mrs. Jiles. She looked at me jadedly. As she got up out of her chair, she motioned for me to follow her. I wondered if this was the same precautionary steps she was supposed to take whenever a visitor came into the hospital.
As I followed her into the winding, whitewashed halls, my thoughts and my body were numb. I didn’t know what to feel, or how to act. When we reached the end of what seemed like a deserted hallway, she pointed to a door on the right for me to go in. I put my hand on the knob, not knowing if I wanted to see what was waiting for me behind the door.
Reluctantly, I turned the knob. As the door swung open, I was immediately searching the faces in the room.
I saw my mom first, her face stained with salt water tears… grief in her eyes. My brothers were next; their faces remote and stoic. My grandparents, my uncles, my aunts, even my parent’s best friends were there. But I couldn’t find the face I was subconsciously looking for.
I heard the door behind me open, and I turned around to look and see who came in, hoping with all of the life I had left in me that it was the face I wanted so badly to see. Instead of seeing someone walk through the door, I saw straight into the room across the hall. I saw straight into the room where, lying on the bed was a body. A body with no color to it. A body whose mouth was left hanging open in a last attempt to gasp for breath. A body that no longer had life to it.
I fell to my knees, not hearing the screams that were wrenching themselves from the depths of my throat.