I was born in March. And I was two years old when my parents finally began to notice that whenever I cut myself or stepped on a rock or fell down on the pavement, I never cried or acted like I was wounded. I was also never startled or scared of people holding me or leaving me with a babysitter. It was when my older brother Kimble accidentally backed over my finger on his bike and I didn’t do anything but make angry noises at him for running over my Barbie; that they took me in to get my finger, as well as my mental state looked over.
That’s when the doctor announced I couldn’t register physical pain or fear in my brain. It wouldn’t affect my learning or development, but it was dangerous. Like with the example of my broken leg. Had I not ever mentioned it to my parents, it could have gotten very bad and possibly lead to an amputation. Or if I were to walk up to a stranger as a kid, or wander off at the store, I wouldn’t feel the panic that a child should feel to find their parents again.
So they had to keep an eye on me all the time. It was annoying really. I never understood why I felt numb when I would skin my knee or burn my hand on the stove. But I guess in some ways it was a blessing.
Such as now.
“She’s dead?” I asked. Both my brothers looked pale and weak along with my mother. It must have been horrifying to thing someone who lived in your same town had just died as a teenager. But I only felt pity and concern for the reasoning. No fear. “How? Did it have to do with her running away?”
“No, well, they don’t know.” My dad sighed. “But all signs point to a murder.”
“Murder?” I blinked in surprise, sitting down at the table. “Why do they think that?”
“They found her in a river. It would appear like she simply slipped and fell in while wandering around after dark. But…” My dad drifted off, glancing over at my mother. She took a deep breath.
“Tyler’s father called us. He said this information is unclear, but she looked to have been strangled. A night in the cold water erased most evidence, but it’s very clear that whoever, or whatever did this. They took her eyes.”
I felt my stomach lurch in disgust. Still, no fear, but disgust.
“No eyes? Like, gouged out?”
“They believe so. They were taken very cleanly. Like on purpose. Please don’t tell this to anyone all right? It’s confidential, we weren’t even supposed to tell you.”
“All right….” I agreed. Tyler’s father was a cop, so he often shared his information with our family, seeing that his son and I were friends since childhood. So I was sure Tyler knew about this.
“Did you know her well?” Cooper asked. I shook my head, my wet hair falling in front of my face.
“No, but just thinking of the possibility of a murderer in our neighborhood would freak anyone out.” I sighed.
“Except you.” Kimble pointed out.
“That’s what we need to talk about.” My mother breathed, gripping my shoulder. “I know you’re not scared. And the doctor said this could lead you to do irrational things without thinking of the consequences.”
“That’s why I need you to promise to me-” she continued as if she hadn’t heard me. “That you won’t wander off or go out exploring in the woods any more. Don’t go anywhere alone and don’t venture anywhere dangerous.”
“Mom!” I sighed. “I’m not stupid. Why would I do that?”
“You just don’t think the way other kids your age do.” My father explained softly. “You would run out in the woods after dark to get firewood when everyone else would be too afraid.”
“I know that.”
“So please just be extra cautious until we get whoever was behind this okay?” My mom sighed. “I would feel better if you got a ride home. And if Tyler accompanied you from place to place.”
“I don’t need an escort, I’ll be fine.” I huffed, standing to go. “This will be over by next week, you’ll see. It’s just one girl. It was probably some drunk who got her or something.”
“Hey now, little missy. I know you’re not scared but do show some respect.” My father warned me. I exhaled shortly out of my nose, then turned to go back to my room. I heard my brothers whispering something to my parents behind me, but didn’t bother to stop and listen.
At about noon, my French homework was interrupted as my phone went off with loud vibrations on my desk. I stretched, putting down my book and leaned over to answer it.
“Hey Addie, it’s Avrie.”
“Are we still going to the mall?” she asked. I paused.
“I don’t know.” I answered. “I don’t think my parents will let me.”
Avrie made a noise of agreement on the other end of the line. “They told you too?” she said.
“My mom just said that they cancelled school over a bomb threat or something. But she looked so scared I texted Tyler for more details…”
I huffed. Avrie could always see when something was worse than it was supposed to seem. And she always knew either Tyler and I knew what was going on.
“It’s so scary isn’t it?” she breathed. “That Tessa’s dead.”
“Yeah.” I agreed a little too mono-tone. “what did Tyler say to you?”
“That they found her in the river down my the golf course. He said the cops suspect she fell in while drunk. That’s so sad.”
I swallowed, so they were even covering up the story from Avrie. “Yeah.” I said. “I hope her family and friends will be alright.”
“Me too. My mom tried to call Tessa’s mom when she heard the news but there was no answer. Figured right? I wonder if they’ll hold a funeral.”
“I’m sure they will.” I sighed. “But I’ll get my parents to let me come pick you up. Let’s say in about half an hour?”
“All right.” Avrie agreed, glad to be off the subject. “I’ll be waiting.”
“All right, see you later.”
I pressed the “end call” button on the screen and tossed my phone into a pile of dirty clothes on my floor then flopped across the bed. Strangled with her eyes gouged out? They wouldn’t be able to hide that for long. If it really had been a murder I wondered how long it would be before it got out in public. And how the students would react. Would they shut down school? Surely not. After all, it was just one girl right? No reason for mass evacuation or anything.
Another buzz from my phone pulled me from my heavy thoughts. I glanced over to see I had a new message from Tyler.
Like a beached whale, I crawled over to where I had tossed the phone and flipped it open. It read;
Parents tell you about Tessa?
I answered ; Yeah.
No less than a minute later he replied; The truth?
Yeah. I sent back. Boy this was getting nowhere…. As I was waiting for his answer, my mom walked into the room and sighed.
“Addie, you put your dirty clothes in the hamper not on the floor.”
“Can I take Avrie to the mall?” I asked. She seemed a little appalled at my sudden, random question. Then concerned.
“The mall? Oh, Addie I don’t really want you going anywhere today…”
“I’ll be with Avrie. And lots of people will be there. We’ll just go shopping in the big stores.” I begged, then as my phone vibrated I looked down again. “Tyler can come.” I said. That got her. My mom always thought Tyler was like, my guardian angel or something. Because he was the only one who knew about my condition and took my safety very seriously.
“Okay, all right fine.” She gave in. “But be home by six.”
“Deal, thanks mom.” I grinned. She waved me away and continued down the hall and I flipped open my phone again.
Tyler had wrote; They think it was a guy she reported followed her home a few months ago. They’re looking into it now.
And I said; Avrie and I are going to the mall in about 20 minutes. Care to join?
Then I sighed and leaned back on my arms. This would be over by Monday. This was a quiet town where nothing happened. What could possibly go wrong?