Authors: Leia Madison
Copyright © 2013 Leia Madison
First published 2013
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“Mom, Mom, MOM!!” Autum yelled.
“YES!?” I said, as I gave her my best who-the-hell- do- you- think- you-are- yelling- at
Autum rolls her eyes and continues, “So, yeah, as I was saying before you tuned me out, Kirk and I are going to the movies tonight and I would like to drive your car?”
“Hmmmmm,” I say thoughtfully after a minute, “Well, let’s see, Autum, last time you ‘took my car’ you brought it back out of gas. And there was something stuck in the back crack of the front seat, so when I got in it stuck to my work pants.”
She gives me a po
inted look before she replied, “Okay true, but I did pay for a new pair of pants for you and did the laundry for a week AND filled both dads and your vehicles with gas, so I think we can let that one go. Yes?”
,” I say playfully, “But make wonder boy Kirk fill my tank and no eating in my car!”
“Addy? Addison?” I can hear my husband calling me but I couldn’t move; just stand and stare into space, since my mind left my body four days ago. “We need to make the final arrangements today,” Curt said flatly, looking out the window of the kitchen.
“I know,” my voice sou
nding cold and crackly like an eighty year old woman who had smoked most of her life.
“Please don’t make me do this on my own, Addy” he begged me. “I need you there with me.
I am trying hard to not lose my mind. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. You’re saying nothing. Have you lost your voice?”
Another tear rolled down my face, like the millions that have fallen over the past four days - when the doctor told us she was gone.
As I sit in the lobby of the funeral home with Curt and our families, the smell makes me nauseous; the reaction I get at a dentist’s office. My 5-foot, 3-inch frame felt heavy, like cement, unmoving, dead. My baby blue eyes are swollen and red with the black circles that enclose them. I hear people talking and crying and feel their eyes on me but I have nothing to say. I can’t even feel at this point.
“Addy, sweetie, Michael needs to speak with us now,” Curt says.
Michael Crestmoore is the funeral director in our small Midwestern town of Prairie View, Wisconsin. He moved here from Surrey, England, with his dad when I was a freshman and he was a junior in high school. We became friends instantly and have stayed that way for over twenty years.
smiles apologetically and tears are shining in his hazel eyes as he walks toward me and embraces me in his 6-foot frame. He whispers in my ear, “I am sooo sorry sweetie. I wish I could take this pain away from you.”
I look up at him and say “I don’t think I can do this.”
He rubs my back and looks at me and says, “That’s why I am here, to take care of you and Curt. We will get through this, I promise.”
As we walk down the hallway and I turn to go into Michael’s office, I stop dead in my tracks, my throat tightens and I start shaking at the picture that is staring back at me.
It was of Autum and her best friend Clarissa, Michael’s daughter, on the beach two years earlier. Her blonde hair wet from the sea; the sand on her cheek; the hot pink bikini her dad threw a fit over because, according to him, she was “too young to be wearing it”. A sob escaped my mouth and I drop to my knees. Curt and Michael are there in an instant, kneeling by my side, holding onto me so I don’t fall flat on my face.
“I’m sorry,” was all I can say over and over.
I take several long deep breaths in and out… in and out…Finally, I take Curt’s hand and he helps me stand up next to him. He leads me to the chair so I can sit down. Michael hands us each a tissue and clears his throat as we all wipe our eyes.
“I need to say something before we get into the
really hard stuff,” Michael says. “I loved Autum like she was my own.” His voice cracks and he clears his throat again. “Even though I am here to help you make plans for your daughter, Clarissa is not handling this well at all. She asked me this morning if she could help you with the plans. I told her I would ask.” A look of sorrow and helplessness was on his face, and for the first time in four days, I found my voice.
“Yes” I say point blank.
Curt doesn’t say anything, just nods a couple of times and looks at Michael. “I know Autum would want Clarissa here, and she would be pissed if we didn’t include her with the planning.” Michael nods once at us and a look of relief was evident on his face.
As we drive away from the funeral home, I watch as the kids on the sidewalk ride their bikes without a care in the world. Dogs are barking and walkers are out in abundance. It was the end of March and the first warm day we’ve had since winter broke.
“You talk when a question is brought up about Clarissa, but I ask you questions and you stay silent,” Curt says with disdain in his voice as he interrupts my wandering thoughts.
I look at my feet and then at my hands, which are balled up in my lap before I respond. “Clarissa was her best friend since kindergarten. She practically lived at our house; she doesn’t deserve to be excluded since she is suffering too.”
“Yes, Addy, we all are suffering, but you being on autopilot doesn’t help any of us.”
“Really, Curt? Well, tell me mister- know -it –all, how am I supposed to feel? Tell me and I will do it!”
He grinds his teeth. “I am just trying to get your opinion on everything and you don’t say a goddamn thing!”
“Well shoot me, because I don’t want to talk about having a coffin lined with pink for our sixteen year-old daughter!!!” I yell. I want to cry but mostly I want to punch something really hard.
Curt is staring at the road and then says with finality in his voice, “I get that, Addy. I don’t want to do this either,
need to make choices together, I’m not going to make all the decisions.”
As we pull into the driveway of our house, I see that the normally quiet street is lined with cars.
I take in a deep breath and pull my sandy blonde hair into my signature ponytail before I exit the car. My best friend Jessalyn Rumley runs out to greet us, her auburn hair shining in the sun. “Hey, babe,” she says as she gives me a hug and kisses my cheek.
“Hey” is all I can
“Susan is inside and has made enough food to feed an army.
I am going to put some in the freezer for you guys, because there is no way in hell you are going to eat all of it.” Jess states.
I look at her. “Just take it home to your hubby. He will eat it, I’m not hungry and Curt doesn’t eat leftovers.”
She looks at me and says “Okay. I will take some food home, but I am putting some in the freezer in case you or pansy ass over there gets hungry.”
Curt rolls his green eyes. “Wow, never a dull moment with your mouth, huh, Jess?”
She glares at him and says, “Don’t! Don’t even start with me and your shit today, because I swear to God above I will rip your balls off!” I look at her, slightly shake my head and give her the “not now” look. She gives me a tight smile before we turn and retreat into the house.
As soon as I enter the house, I smell the food my Mom, Susan, has made and it fills my eyes with tears. She has made Autum’s favorite meal, fried chicken - or as she called it “frisky chicken”. Mom rushes over to me and engulfs me in a warm, loving bear hug and kisses the top of my head. “Thanks, Mom this is very thoughtful of you.”
She looks right into my eyes. “You are my daughter, and this is what we do when there is a crisis
.” Ever since the accident my Mom has called it a crisis, which in all honesty I guess is probably right.
Her face, like mine, is red and blotchy from crying, black surrounds the skin of her baby blue eyes
; evidence of not sleeping well. Her blonde hair streaked with grey, is in a tight bun upon her head with several loose strands circling her face “Where is Dad?” I ask.
“He is out on the deck with Uncle Jon.”
As I turn around to walk to the sliding glass doors, Jess stops me. “We need to talk,” she says with a serious look.
kay, let me go and say hi to my Dad, and then meet me in my office.” She nods her head once and I head out to the deck.
, Arwin Alcott, and his brother, Jon, are twins, both financial advisors, both 6’ 2, both with brown wavy hair. The only difference is my Dad has hazel eyes and Jon has blue and Jon’s hair is shoulder length, where my Dad’s is cut short and peppered with grey. They are sitting at the patio table as I walk onto the deck. They both stand as I walk over to them. “Addybell,” my father says as he kisses my forehead and hugs me. A kiss and a hug follow from Jon.
Dad says, “Listen, I am not going to even ask how you are. Bein
g my daughter I already know.” I hug him harder and my tears fall. “Sweetie” his voice cracks. “We are here, and if you need to come home for a while, then so be it!”
I look at him and give him a sad smile. “Thanks, Dad, but I have to fix some shit here before I can go home.”
My uncle Jon clears his voice and says “Addybell, if I may ask darling, did you have life insurance on Autum?”
I nod my head.
“Yes, we do actually, and I need to go and talk with the insurance man in a couple weeks about it.”
My dad pats my hand and says, “We will go with you.” It wasn’t a question, as he tilts his head to my uncle and he nods once.
“I need to go inside and talk with Jess.” I say
kay sweetie, if you need us, we will be out here.” My dad says and hugs me again.
I walk back through the house and see many people I haven’t seen in years.
Short hugs here and small talk there. I make my way through the crowd and turn down the hallway that leads to the bedrooms and the loft where my office is. As I walk past Autum’s door I stop and notice the door is cracked open. I had shut it two days ago after I grabbed her favorite outfit and shoes for the viewing. I step forward to grab the handle and hear sobbing; I open the door to find Clarissa and Kirk. Clarissa’s body is being wracked by the sobs leaving her body. Kirk is sitting up against the headboard holding her head in his lap as the tears are streaming down his cheeks. I rush over to them and Clarissa practically jumps in my lap. I rock her back and forth and kiss her hair as her tears fall. There are no words spoke between us for what seemed like eternity and then Kirk asks “Is it Okay that we are in here?” I nod and give him a tight smile.