Authors: Josh Vasquez
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead (or undead), is coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by Josh Vasquez
All rights reserved.
To the real CJ and Hailey, you guys are awesome.
I could tell Mom and Dad were arguing about something. They always went into their room and closed the door to argue. It was a rare occurrence; they hardly ever argued. My sister, Hailey, who is eight, hadn’t quite caught on to this yet. She continued to obliviously play with her toys. But I’m thirteen, I know what’s going on in there. There was only one other reason they closed their door like that, and well, that happened mostly late at night when I was
to be asleep. Gross.
I guess I have it good though. I know a lot of kids, some of my friends, that aren’t so lucky to have both parents together. And not only together, but parents who were still madly in love with each other. Again, gross.
Hailey put in the headphones of the cheap mp3 player I bought her last Christmas. I could hear the music blaring from where I’m sitting near the wall of my bedroom. Most likely one of the countless “teen” musicals she liked. Dad told me to take her upstairs and play in my room. This was strange to me, because even when they did go into their room to “discuss” things, they never told me to take Hailey upstairs and play.
With Hailey off in her own little world, I leaned in close to the wall and placed my ear against it. My room was situated on the second floor directly above my parent’s room. Most of the time the conversations were too muffled to make any words out, but I was really curious this time. I held my breath as I listened.
It was hard to understand what they were talking about; I kept hearing just a few words and phrases. It sounded like my mother was crying. The sound of muffled sobs traveled through the vibrations in the wall.
Why is she crying?
The only words that made any sense were spoken by my father.
“Leaving… Not safe… Cabin…”
Leaving? Where are we going?
What’s not safe? And why would we go to the cabin now? We still have school tomorrow.
The cabin was an old farmhouse that my family restored on some land my grandfather inherited out past Statesboro, Georgia. It was our own little vacation
spot. We’d go up there a lot during the summer months. There was a small lake nearby where we’d fish, kayak, and swim. In the cooler seasons, we’d go to hunt; we had several stands throughout the woods.
But now was not the time to go to the cabin, it was the middle of the semester. Hailey and I were still in school, and Mom and G-Mom were both teachers. Thanksgiving break wasn’t for another week. Why would we be going now?
I went to press my ear back against the wall, but I felt a nagging presence to the side of me.
It was Hailey.
“What are you doing?” she asked, her little eyebrows furrowed.
“Nothing,” I answered, as I pulled myself back from the wall.
“Ooh… Are you trying to listen in on Mom and Dad?”
I shrugged her off and walked towards my dresser. I could feel her little, icy-blue eyes follow me. I picked up a model car off the dresser, inspected it nonchalantly, and then placed it back down in its spot. I turned back to face her. She was still intently staring me down.
“What?” I asked.
She placed a hand on her hip, which was now slightly cocked out to the side. This stance was a result of spending much time with our Aunt Laura when Hailey was younger. I couldn’t help but crack a smile briefly. It was funny.
Hailey was the spitting image of our mother. Especially since she just got her haircut short, right at the shoulders; the same hairstyle my mother sported. Blonde hair, blue eyes, same facial features, the only genetic trait she seemed to inherit from my father’s side of the family was height. Hailey was short.
Physical appearance is where the similarities between her and Mom ended, because Hailey may have
like Mom, but she
just like Aunt Laura. The same facial expressions, the same mannerisms,
the same witty comebacks
; the girl was the essence of our aunt. Hailey was a combination of both my Mother and Aunt. This is something that my Dad, Uncle and myself have often wondered was a good thing.
After Aunt Laura graduated high school, she stayed home with Hailey during the day and picked me up after school in the afternoons. Maybe all that
time was where she gets it from. I’m told Hailey’s potty-training days were quite the
Hailey’s voice interrupted my thoughts.
“Telling? On what?” I asked.
‘That you were listening,” she said, adding a certain younger sister emphasis to the word
“I couldn’t really hear anything,” I answered honestly.
She seemed skeptical.
“What did you hear?” she asked.
“If I tell you, you can’t go tattle on me. Deal?”
“They were talking about the cabin. I’m not sure why. I couldn’t really hear them through the wall,” I told her.
I decided to leave out the part about leaving and it not being safe. And Mom’s crying. No sense in sending my sister into a panic. The women of our family were notorious for jumping to conclusions. Not just any conclusions either, but the worst possible scenario conclusions.
“That’s it?” she asked, disappointed with the information I gave her.
“That’s dumb,” she said with frustration in her voice.
She turned back to her toys and music, shoving the ear buds back into her ears. I watched as she plopped down and began to play again.
I heard a door open downstairs.
Leaving Hailey, I ran out into the hall to the edge of the stairs. I leaned over the banister, listening. I heard footsteps and the sniffling of what I assumed was still my mother. I waited a minute before calling out.
“Can we come down?”
There was a Moment’s pause before I received any response.
“Yes, CJ,” my Dad said. “I need your help.”
I made my way down the stairs quickly, but slowed myself as I reached the bottom, to avoid seeming eager. Most of all, I just wanted to know what was going on. I hated being in the dark.
My father stood near the bottom of the steps waiting for me. Like I said earlier, Hailey received her height from his side of the family. I, on the other hand, somehow received my maternal grandfather’s stature. I wasn’t taller than Dad yet, but it wouldn’t be too long. Maybe next year I’ll finally inch him over him.
But now, even as I stood on the bottom step, my Dad seemed to tower over me. The look on his face was one of concern, a look he reserved mostly for serious situations. He had his arms folded across his chest. Before I was born and shortly after, he was an Army Ranger. His appearance hasn’t changed much since then, with the exception of letting his “high and tight” grow out and putting on a little extra weight from not being as active as he was. I guess when you stop running and jumping out of helicopters, your body tends to slow down a little.
He smiled at me when I reached the ground level, but it seemed forced through his set jaw line. It was as if he was trying to smile for my sake. I rarely saw my father worry, so his stance really began to work a number on my imagination.
What would have Dad so worried?
His Ranger days were now well behind him, and Dad found himself in a slightly different line of work.
He was a pastor.
, if you want to be technical, but from what I overheard, they share the work load pretty evenly. It was more of just a title, than anything; they were both full-fledged pastors.
During his service, my father became a believer and surrendered to the call of ministry. He attended seminary, once finished with the Rangers, and began working on a degree in pastoral ministry. Not too long after graduating, we moved to Florida where he worked as a youth pastor, but after a few years, we moved back home to Savannah. He helped plant a small church in Pooler, a small town outside of Savannah, where he currently works.
My father was one of the strongest Christians I knew. He was always teaching me about God and His characteristics. To be honest, it sometimes got a little annoying on how my Dad always had a way pointing things to Jesus, but at the same time, I knew he was right.
Dad was always talking to me about God’s supremacy over all things. How no matter how bad things got, God was in control. There was never a thing that was outside of His reach and power. This was the reason why Dad never worried. This was the reason why when crap went down, Dad played it cool and kept everything together.
And that was the reason why I was so scared that he was worried.
“What is it Dad? What’s going on?” I asked.
“Come with me,” he replied, ignoring my questions.
He led me into their bedroom, where Mom was sitting on the bed. She had her back turned to me, but she was talking on her phone. I could hear her nose sniffle from the crying. I also noticed my Dad’s pistol sitting on his nightstand.
As we passed the bed going towards the bathroom, I overheard my Mom talking to my grandparents. They were on their way here and they had Aunt Laura with them. This information was strange, because they hardly ever came out to our house, especially on a weeknight. They lived about 45 minutes away, clear on the other side of Savannah.
My Dad walked into the bathroom and into their adjoining walk-in closet. Clothes had been pulled out and piled on the floor. While my parents weren’t known for keeping their closet clean, I knew this was messier than usual. Aunt Laura might have a cow because she just helped my Mom reorganize this a month ago. Dad stopped right past the door and turned to his left.
Now I was really worried.
He had taken me to the gun safe.
He opened it after punching in the four-digit passcode and began pulling out our guns. I watched as he pulled the two hunting rifles, a Savage .308 heavy
barrel and the Ruger .45 carbine. Next was my late great-grandfather’s 12 ga. double barrel shotgun, which had seen better days but was still fun to shoot. Then came some of our “heavier artillery.” Dad set out the Romanian AK-47 and his DMPS 5.56 AR-15 from the gun safe. Lastly, he pulled out my .22 rimfire rifle and handed it to me. The look on his face was solemn and focused. He knelt down to my level and looked me in the eyes. He always did that when he was about to say something important.
“CJ,” he started. “Something is going on, and we’re going to have to leave the house. We are going to head out to the cabin and hang out there for a few days. I want you to take your .22, go upstairs, and get you and your sister packed for at least three weeks. Clothes, toothbrushes, shoes, and belts, anything you have to have. Son, leave the toys. Your sister can bring a few, but I’m going to need you to leave your’s. Go and get this done. Quick.”
I nodded slowly, processing my father’s requests, then threw the .22’s strap over my shoulder and turned to walk back upstairs. As I got to the bathroom’s door, I heard my Dad say my name one more time. I turned to look back at him.
“Son, I love you.”
I nodded again, told him ‘I love you too’ and turned to leave. Now I knew something was wrong. My Dad wasn’t one of those Dads who hid their emotions or feelings from his children. He was always telling us how much he loved us and how much he loved our mother. I had it good. I knew a lot of kids whose families weren’t like ours. But it wasn’t the fact that he told me he loved me. It was the tone in his voice. I had never heard that tone of voice in my Dad before, and hearing it, sent shivers racing down my spine. The tone I heard was fear.
“Why are we leaving? Why do I have to pack? I don’t want to leave. Are Opie and Millie coming with us?”
My sister was asking a thousand questions, questions I didn’t know the answers to.
Why were we leaving? Why did I have to keep my gun close by? Why was Mom crying?
“I don’t know, Hay. Just pack your stuff like Dad said. We’re going out to the cabin,” was all I could offer.
It seemed to do the trick, because she continued to pack and babble on about something. Her voice became cloudy though, and very quickly, my brain toned her out. I went into my room and began to empty out my drawers and closet into my Florida Gators suitcase. I didn’t pay much attention to what I packed, but rather just stuffed equal amounts of shirts, pants, underwear, and shoes. We had some clothes at the cabin, so I wasn’t too concerned with outfits.
I glanced over at Hailey, who is laying out individual outfits across her bed. I yelled for her to hurry up. She huffed something and picked up her pace only slightly. My alarm clock said it was a quarter after four. I finished packing in fifteen minutes. My football grabbed my attention, but I remembered my Dad saying, “No toys,” and that I have another football at the cabin.
I walked back into Hay’s room, and she was still pulling out her outfits. She looked at me and gave me another “Aunt Laura” look that asked, “Well, are you going to help me or not?” It made me smile.