I was told every person experiences three deaths.
The first is when the body stops working.
The second is when you’re sent to your grave.
The third is in the future, when the last person who remembers you dies, and speaks your name no more.
My father has died twice but still lives on in my heart. But this doesn’t comfort me.
I pressed my forehead against the cold glass as I stared out the car window. Trees and buildings whizzed by sending a wave of nausea through my body. I inhaled deeply pushing it back along with a deep ache of loss. No more late night movies. No more corny jokes about how I’m not allowed to date. No more childhood home as the car pulled onward to our new lives in Missouri with my aunt and uncle.
A furry black blur dashed out from behind a billboard sign. “Mom, watch out!”
The car lurched as Mom and Rose jumped from my outburst. “Lila, what is it?”
I waited for the thump but instead only heard the steady rhythm of tires on pavement. I whirled around to find a flattened animal out the back window but nothing. “Didn’t you see it?”
“See what?” Rose asked, peeking out the back.
“I think it was a cat or dog?”
“I don’t see anything.” Rose turned back around. Her head was shaking as she nestled her earbuds into her ears. She thinks I’m making things up, again. I know she thinks I’m being the dramatic, unreliable older sister. The sister who she can’t count on, stirs up trouble, and starts fires. But I didn’t start the fire. No one believes me that I didn’t do it. It was me at the wrong place at the wrong time. I tried to explain that to Mom and Rose but they didn't believe me. But it’s been that way ever since they diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. When people know they treat you differently, even your family.
“Whatever it was, I missed it,” Mom said. Her eyes met mine in the rearview mirror. “Lila, Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” She thought I made it up too.
“Mom. I’m fine,” I said.
Mom held up her hands. “Okay, okay.”
The car went silent.
Rose turned up her music, blocking me out. Mom gripped the steering wheel so tight her knuckles were white as sun-bleached driftwood. She mumbled to herself, sighed and clicked on the car’s blinker. It ticked loudly announcing our descent into the Parkville exit.
The car turned down Main Street lined with old western-style brick buildings. Ancient homes perched on the bluffs and cliffs above the town. On the other side was a muddy, choppy river flowing a few hundred feet away from the road.
“This place hasn’t changed much,” Mom said.
Rose squirmed in the front seat as she stared wide-eyed out her window, her phone held up as always, recording a video. “I can’t wait to do my documentary. I found out that this town has a ghost!”
“Well, there’s a lot of history in this town. That’s for sure.” Mom drove the car slowly up Main Street. “Too much history,” she mumbled. Mom caught her reflection in the rearview mirror and fixed her hair frantically. She had the same blond hair as I did, but her eyes were a brighter green.
Aunt Theresa and Uncle John are nice but a little different. They’re complete opposites of one another, my aunt a true Midwest lady who hugs, kisses everyone and makes the best baked goods ever, while my uncle is a rough tattooed, bald biker who tells long stories about his good old days. We only see them once a year, which is enough for me. Now I have to figure out how to live with them.
We drove through the downtown part of Parkville and entered a subdivision of Colonial-type homes sitting high on steep hills above the road. Tall oaks and maple trees shaded the street and sidewalk where families in shorts and t-shirts walked their dogs, rode bikes, and pushed baby strollers. Eventually, the houses became fewer and Mom turned on a small gravel road with a sign that read, “Cooper’s Inn”. The road wound up and our small car groaned as it climbed the steep hillside. The trees closed in around the driveway but soon opened up to a grand three-story Victorian home with a broad wrap-around porch and four spiraling pillars much like Juliet’s tower.
“Wow!” Rose was gazing out of her window. The house rested on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, rolling hills, bluffs, and some of the town. “I always love the view here.”
My aunt waited at the back door with a warm smile and waved as we pulled up. Her long dark hair sprinkled with gray blew into her face when she stepped outside. She wiped her hands on her apron dotted with flour and dough before tucking her hair behind her ears. Mom and Rose went to greet her but I walked to the back of the car to get my bags to avoid the hugs and pinched cheeks. A flash of bright light appeared out of the corner of my eye. Near the forest small globes of lights floating around the trees. I squinted to get a closer look.
“Yoohoo, Liiilaaa!” My aunt walked toward me, arms wide open. My heart dropped and my chest tightened, bubbling up against the urge to scream or cry uncontrollably but I knew I had to get this part over. So I closed my eyes and let my aunt drown me in her arms.
It will be fine Lila.
Kim is a young adult writer of paranormal mysteries and thrillers. She is fond of ghost stories and has experienced many hauntings during several paranormal investigations. She has contributed many articles regarding travel, hauntings, and more on various sites. Kim has been on several ghost hunts across the U.S. with her sister. She photographed a ghost at the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
As an advocate for Autism and Bipolar Disorder, Kim offers her support to many charities and programs, such as Joshua Center and Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA). Kim feels there aren’t enough programs for mental disabilities. Her goal is to give as much help to set up these organizations for success so individuals, such as her autistic son and bipolar sister, will have the support they need.
Kim is an avid member of the Society of Children Book Writers & illustrators (SCBWI.org) contributing her time to many events and conferences.