Authors: Naomi Canale
He trails off slashing his tail in circles with ears tucked back like he’s irritated. Maybe he won’t be as moody if I give him his real breakfast.
I step into the barn, grab a pitch fork, and heave out a pile of hay into his stall. “Bastian, come on, breakfast.” He stands far out in the corral facing me and doesn’t budge. Well this is a first. Did Amy feed him already? Maybe her mom did? But that would be a miracle. I wait a minute. Sebastian digs a front hoof into the frozen ground barely denting it and hollers out as if he’s telling me to leave. “Okay, fine. Your loss though.” I take the apple out of my pocket, wave it in the air, and tease him with its shiny red coating. Juice drips over my bottom lip as I sink my teeth into it. “See, it’s delicious.”
Amy startles me. “Damn, you’re early.”
Her hair’s still wet. The ends are crystallized—nearly frozen from the cold.
“Yeah, I had a hard time sleeping.”
Deep down I get the urge to tell her everything about Daniel, but a hint of jealousy sets in. What if I told her and she tried to visit him? She’s into freaky shit and might try to send him away with one of her spells or worse yet, steal him. Amy waves her hand in front of my face. “You all right?”
“Yeah. What’s up with Sebastian? Did you feed him already?”
“No, I just got done feeding the other horses” she pauses and hollers out, “Sebastian.” He doesn’t budge. “That’s weird. Well he is getting pretty fat. Maybe I’ve just been feeding him too much?” She gives me a second glance. “You sure you okay?”
“I know the feeling. Come in a sec? I need to get Mom situated for the day before we head out.”
“You need help?”
Amy’s wearing the stress of losing her dad with hunched shoulders and weighty eyes. “Probably.”
The smell of dirtied laundry overtakes my senses when we walk in. Her mom’s antidepressants and other pills that have been making her numb to life line the fireplace mantle like I’ve entered aisle fifteen at the drug store. Amy moves some of her Mom’s laundry out of the way to make a clearing in the hallway. “Sorry. I can’t go to the store and get more laundry soap till the mechanic’s done with our car.”
“I would have brought you some. Damn, you’re stubborn.”
She’s turns to me with a half grin, “I know, but you’ve already been giving me rides.”
It’s been a few days since I’ve been here and things have quickly fallen apart. As we walk past the master bedroom I see Mary buried in blankets breathing heavy. Amy whispers to me as we head toward her room. “Oh thank God, she finally went to sleep. She woke up last night having a panic attack. I swear, Savanna, they’re getting worse.”
“Are you going to let her doctor know?”
“Are you kidding me? Mom would be committed. I’d end up living in Reno with white trash Uncle Vinnie.”
I take a seat on top of her bed piled with clothes and remember meeting Uncle Vinnie a couple years ago. “Ha! I think I remember him at some shindig you guys had. Didn’t he carry some big ass Glock down the front of his pants?”
Her eyes grow wide and she nods yes.
“Yeah, that would suck. So how did she get a hold of all those pills? Those can’t be helping.”
Amy finishes caking on her usual amount of black eyeliner, rolls her eyes, and starts braiding her hair. “Denise, the hypochondriac. You are what you hang around I guess.” Now her focus is on me from the other side of the vanity mirror. “Right, Savanna?”
“What? Like now you’re a goody-two-shoes pastor’s kid?”
She twists her tongue ring around the outside of her upper lip and laughs. “You know what I mean, S-s-s-a-v-a-n-n-a.”
Under my breath I say, “G-g-g.” It’s the strangest thing, and I need to find someone who will believe me about not being able to say God’s name because the girls just think I’m being ridiculous—disobedient. If I tell Dad it will only hurt his feelings that I’m on such a monumental rebellion. Plus, I doubt they have scans for the religiously disabled.
I spot a black lace dress barely on its hanger in the closet and mumble, “So, are you trying to say you’re a worse influence than me?” The only dress I own is the one Mom sent recently. Besides that I can’t remember the last time I dressed up. But this dress forces Daniel back into my mind—heart, I want to put something on that will make it hard for him to take his eyes off me if I see him again. Amy’s saying something, and I interrupt while pulling the dress off the hanger. “Can I borrow this?”
“You want to wear that?”
All I’ve ever cared about was science, what my two eyes can see and coming up with crazy things to do with the girls. But this, this is foreign to me—wanting to dress up to look good for a boy, or worse still a ghost. I really have gone mad. Maybe if I take some of Mary’s pills on the way out, it’ll help cure my insanity.
Amy’s trying to get my attention by waving at her reflection in the mirror. “Hello? Woohoo? Are you in there?”
“Yes, you can borrow it, you weirdo. You ready?”
She grabs her bag and glances at me. “You’re welcome. Just be nice to it, it’s vintage.”
As we crawl down the dirt drive way because of my car’s wimpy engine, I notice Sebastian still standing in the same spot in the rearview mirror. I’ve never been scared of an animal, but he could be the first if he keeps acting this way. I shiver involuntarily and it seems all too familiar, like the ones I had when that thing dragged me across the floor. “Dude, your horse looks possessed.”
Amy turns around. “What? He does seem spooked.” Brown eyes are back on me. “He’s just been hanging around us too long.”
I’ve known Sebastian since he was a colt who would follow me around trying to tuck his head in between my arms because he wanted to be hugged. A tinge of sadness tugs on my heart at the thought he may be getting old, cranky—different, or whatever.
Amy stares out wearing a blank expression. Death’s haunting her even though she’s alive. Her once gleeful family existence has transformed into a morbid hellhole. She turns toward me as she chews a barely there nail, a habit she only succumbs to when she’s upset.
“After Saturday, all I can think about is Dad and how he’s some entity lost in Afghanistan. Like maybe he can’t even find us to haunt us and that’s why this sucks so hard to deal with.”
I’m pretty sure this is the strangest statement I’ve ever heard, but when I think about Daniel and how he’s haunting me in a way, I kind of get what she’s saying. “We could try a séance this weekend. I’m sure His Dark Ways has a spell for helping lost souls find their place of longing, rest.”
Her posture straightens. “If I weren’t into getting high off our crazy adventures, I would tell you to get lost after the other night. But I would actually like that, a lot.”
I laugh and bite onto my lip. “Crazy adventures, indeed.”
We pull into one of the many free parking spaces in the school parking lot. Ever since the mines died down with work, people have been leaving town. It’s weird to see so many empty spaces.
I bump her shoulder with mine as I grab my backpack. “Come on.”
“Joy,” she says with a less than thrilled face.
Before we part ways into a sea of a hundred and fifty kids I give her a wink. “I’ll pick you up at two?”
She shoots me back a half-wink from her opened locker that’s just as messy as her room. “Thanks, sexy.”
My senior year schedule is sweet, with only two AP classes—astronomy and physics. Both classes include the only handful of nerds we have in this school and as I step in through the door they take their voices down. It’s like they can’t handle the fact that I’m not the typical nerd. In fact, I know they hate me even though they barely know me. Krystal, the greasy haired red head of the group walks past and glares at my boots. It’s annoying how much she wants me to notice her. I’ve stopped giving her the time of day after she thought it would be funny to ask if I was into S&M shit because of my wardrobe. It was rude, lame, and she’s the exact opposite of what I would ever want to be.
Mr. Stevens greets me as I walk in. “Hey, just the girl I wanted to see.”
My essay is in his hands. He removes the glasses that sit on the edge of his nose. “This is one of the best essays I’ve ever read, Savanna. I’m serious, it’s genius.”
I’ve never really liked his beard, but now it’s growing on me which seems vain. His words just lit me up like a glowworm. It’s always been difficult for me to accept compliments—I try. “Thanks.”
“I’m not being nice, Savanna. I’m serious.” He tosses a folder across his desk with my name on it, “I put this together for you. You meet all the requirements and I think you have a good shot at winning.”
I peek open the folder and take a quick scan. My eyes catch a couple words before Mr. Stevens starts up class.
Grant for two years paid at the University of Florida.
In the pit of my stomach, I sense a golden ticket to leave this town.
There’s a craving for Daniel growing within me, causing me to grind my teeth, and it’s cutting my focus short.
All I can hear is the tap-tap of my pencil eraser on top of a piece of college ruled paper as I attempt to collect my thoughts by reading over the words I’ve written.
Time Dilation: Looking into the Past
“Come on, Savanna, all you’ve written is the title.”
It’s dusk. I lift an arm toward the sun and watch as my flesh changes to shades of yellow from rays of light bursting over peeks of snow-dusted mountains. As I bring my arm down, I tilt my chair back and gaze out into the field. This is stupid. Now I understand why there are so many people stuck in this town. They end up falling in love. Dad says family and love are the two most important things below God, but I’ve overheard his counseling sessions one too many times. They always come down to a cycle. Person is frustrated because their boss takes advantage of them for not being educated—> can’t make ends meet to put shoes on their kids—> spouse gets resentful—> person ends up becoming a lifelong alcoholic. It’s sad and I feel like a weirdo for thinking of Daniel as a real person, like we’re going to fall in love and play out a family life scenario, but in a better way—a way that beats all statistics even if we stay. I scoff at myself while gliding all ten of my fingers through my hair. “You don’t even know this guy and he’s a freaking ghost.”
I compose my thoughts and the same tap-tap continues as I finally jot down some ideas.
Time is relative, or different, depending on how fast we travel.
Astronauts have to adjust their clocks when they get home, putting clocks forward, because they are traveling at such great speeds, relative to us, that they age less than we do for that short span of "our" time. – Gravity dilation.
Even though I’m intrigued by the thought of college, NASA, and expanding on a theory to help me get out of this town by summer, Daniel has me more enthralled. Amy’s dress lies on my bed and I decide to try it on. Before I slip it over my head, I glance into the mirror hanging on the wall next to the dresser and then pull it on all the way. I bunch my hair near the top and start braiding my black auburn locks the way Amy taught me.
When I’m done, I peer back into the mirror and put on a serious face as I talk to myself. “Can someone say sexy vintage picture?”
Night fills the sky and my nerves are taught with anticipation as I search for Daniel’s silhouette. There’s nothing but lumpy sage brush shadows making patterns in the ground. I realize how foolish I am for thinking some knight of a ghost would really pop out of a field wanting my company.
I turn around to face reality and notice my Bible sitting on my night stand. Dad always puts it there. I don’t even know how he found it the last time I hid it from him.
There’s a knock on the door. “Savanna, can I come in?”
Dad lets out his notorious cave man yawn and I welcome him in. “Sure, Dad.”
He’s taken back. “Well, you look nice.”
When I glance down I’m even shocked at the sight of my new found girly self. “Thanks.” His eyes are bloodshot, probably from trying to prepare for the approaching holidays. “Do you need help with anything over at the church?”
“You know, Erica does need more volunteers in the nursery.”
“Okay, I’ll check out the schedule and sign up.”
Ever since I started exhibiting “problems” Dad has been distant, almost squeamish to talk to me about anything. He reaches in and gives me a kiss on the forehead. “That would be great, I would really appreciate it. And if you need me, I’ll be in my room reading.”
He leaves the door open and returns with Red’s bed. “Why is his bed out in the living room?”
I’m just as confused about Red’s behavior as he is. “I don’t know.”
“Red, come here boy.” Paws scuffle down the hallway and Dad puts his big pillow back in the same place it’s always been since we picked him up from the pound—next to my desk. Dad scratches his fluffy ears. “There you go big guy.”
Red lies down with a big huff as if he just inhaled his entire stash of dog food. “Geez Dad, what did you feed him?”
“Some chicken out of one of Ms. Bullard’s casseroles.”
His eyes dart up to the left as he shakes his head. “Okay, maybe a lot.”
“Did she bring you another one today?”
With a quick stretch he holds back a smile while heading to his room. “Yep, and she’s going to continue until your mom gets back.”
A giggle erupts from the bottom of my throat and I look at Red. “I’m glad you still like it.”
I reach for the Bible and flip through its thin pages, trying to find anything that could help me understand what might have happened to Daniel. “Thou, ye, shalt, yadda, yadda. This thing is such a pain to read.”
I open it to a random page. “Ecclesiastes. What do you have to share with me tonight?” I run my finger down the page and stop on 10:8. “He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.”
“This doesn’t even make sense, it rarely does. Lame.”