“My friend Eleanor is coming to visit me next weekend.” The once-brunette commented. Her hair now platinum blonde from many years of dye was pulled back into a bun, showing off her well earned wrinkles. The crochet work in her lap, blue as the very morning sky, matched to her orbs which received the world’s wonderous images. She was older. Much older than the children sat before her.
“That sounds like fun.” The girl threw back, stealthily crushing her friend’s foot with her own. “Will you two be going to Maine together?” He wasn’t paying attention. Too busy texting his girlfriend, the two girls he was cheating on her with, and the boy he actually wanted.
“Yes, it should be. And no Maine, she’s bringing the fun of it with her. What do you think, Harland?” Miss Celia looked over just as Jamie, the girl, dug her fingernails into the aforementioned boy’s hidden thigh. His sharp mosaic eyes flashed up, meeting her steady gaze.
“I think Jamie’s right.” He replied smoothly, putting a charming smile onto his face. Miss Celia gave Jamie a knowing look, not actually knowing a thing, and continued on with her crochet work.
Jamie turned her head to Harland. Her eyes blazed with the wrath of a social justice debate, scorching any chance Harland had at playing the encounter off. They were to spend the day with Miss Celia, which was fine of course for they loved her undoubtedly. Though, if Jamie was expected to carry both their ends of the conversation again, then it didn’t matter who Harland liked- he wouldn’t be having any conventional biological children.
“What?” Harland awoke groggy, blearily looking over at his bedside time teller. “James, it’s one in the morning, I know I’m a desirable guy but dead of night calls for-”
“Shut up!” Jamie hissed down the line. She was frantic, breathing heavy into the mouthpiece. Harland sat up, rubbing his face with one hand.
“James? Jamie? What’s happening?” Harland threw questions to her, and got a deep breath in response. “Is it...you’re not…”
“No, it’s not. It’s just,” There was a dramatic pause, one which would have been heart stopping if she didn’t do it all the time. “Miss Celia is gardening.”
“The fa…” Harland began a colourful expression, but pulled the phone away and groaned instead. Why was he friends with her? Why?
“Don’t you get it? It’s one in the morning and she’s gardening. Gardening! She’s tending her freaken carrots at one in the morning!” Harland could hear her pacing around her own room through the phone as he lifted the device back up.
“Stop spying on the elderly, Jamie.” Harland was in no condition to have any sort of communication.
“She’s not elderly, she’s only sixty-two!” Was hissed in response.
“Oh my god. Are you serious? You called me at one am to tell me our neighbor is gardening in the early hours of the morning, but then still try and be polite in
regards to her age?”
“Yes! She’s emptying trash bags!”
“For the love of god, Jamie! It’s carrot food!”
“Carrot food? What are you talking about?”
“Go to sleep, Jamie.”
“But Harland, wait-”
The small beep after he hit end seemed eerie in the night. But Harland stuck the device back on its charger and laid back. Sleep came to him.
“Harland, Harland, Harland!” The thrice said name, as fast as it was, beckoned the boy away from the clinging girl he had been with. The female, whose actions resembled that of a forest burl, glared furiously at the caller, but gave up with a defeated sigh.
Harland reached Jamie, who had of course been calling, and gave her a smile. “You yelled? Just like-”
“Harland, grow up this is serious!” Her rushed tone caused the boy to stand a little straighter.
“What is it? Are you okay?” He leant forward and looked into her face.
“I’m fine!” Jamie seemed frustrated. Whether Harland figured out her emotion from her tone or the manilla folder thrust into his chest is a mystery. “But they aren’t. These are all the people gone missing in New England that have made newspapers and haven’t been found in the last year and a half.”
“James, I get that your mom is a cop and all, but don’t you think our police should be doing other-”
“Just look at them!” She insisted. With a sigh, the blonde opened the folder. He flipped through, looking at a few pictures, seeing a couple names he recognised.
“Yeah, I don’t get it.” Harland admitted, holding the folder out to rolling eyes.
“They’ve all gone missing on the weekends! And none have gone missing since Miss Celia’s friend Eleanor showed up! What if-”
“You can’t honestly be saying you think Celia’s friend is a serial killer, are you?” His english may have been poor in that moment, but her judgement was poor on it’s own. She huffed and tore the folder from his hands.
“What if she’s in danger? What if she gets killed? Harland! We’ve grown up on stories of child heroes! We must act like Sirius and Merlin and Watson! We can’t just sit back!” Jamie started to wave her hands around wildly, getting more worked up by the second.
“Are you even listening to yourself? What even brought this on?” As Harland spoke he grabbed her arm and tugged her down the hallway. They reached a custodial closet and Harland pushed her in before him. The exchange took seconds, but by the time Harland began turning back, arms were viced around him. Looking down at the stock still frame latched onto him, Harland returned the hug with a sense of certainty. Whatever Jamie thought was going on, Harland would ease her mind. “James, what happened?” He questioned softly.
“Miss Celia’s friend sent her a ring a few weeks back.” Came a reply in the form of a small child’s tone.
“So?” He attempted to see reason but found none. The arms tightened.
“She took it off to go pick carrots one day, and,” There was a break, “The ring had ‘Amy and Steven’ engraved on the inside.” Next a hurried breath as she shook her head. “There was a couple with the same name who went missing. The woman’s a murderer.” Lastly, Jamie pulled away with horror on her face. “Harland, what’re we going to do?”
Looking into the watery eyes of his best friend, Harland only had one answer. An answer which was simple yet would require complex movements to carry out. Jamie would feel safe again. He’d make damn sure of it.
“Jamie! Harland! Come on over and meet Eleanor!” Miss Celia beckoned the two towards her yard. A hesitant glance was shared between the youths before migrating over. The sound of shoes hitting pavement drove Jamie mad.
Thud. Pat. Thud. Pat.
Down Jamie’s driveway they went. It wasn’t long before thoughts formed in the young girl’s mind. What if they gave something away? What if “Eleanor” hurts
Miss Celia for it?
Thud pat. Thud pat.
Jamie started to realize that the shoes weren’t the only sound she heard. Her heart raced with every step and she began to count those beats instead.
Thud, pat, thud, pat.
The reached the end of the driveway.
Thud pat, thud pat.
Harland grabbed her hand.
Thud pat thud pat.
Oh, god. Eleanor has the new hedge trimmers.
Eleanor’s walking closer to Miss Celia. She’s right behind her.
Only a few steps left after the line.
“Hi! I’m Eleanor! I’ve heard so much about you!” The clippers were dropped as the athletic sixty year old pulled both children into a hug. “You’ve grown so much since the last picture I saw of you.” Eleanor let go to look at their faces. “Why, you two are getting right famished! Come in, I’ve made carrot cake.”
Harland and Jamie’s interlocked hands were pulled forward by one wrist in a leading way. Carrot cake? What…
“Now you’re going to have to excuse the blandness. Celi here wouldn’t let me use enough of ‘em and she leaves that back piece of the garden to rot. If-”
Jamie effectively tuned the chattering woman out when she met Miss Celia’s worried gaze to the back garden. It was no secret she didn’t care for the plot. It was graying, blackened plants long pass wilted bending in a morose manner over rusted lattice. Compared to the other gardens the back one was a disgrace. But Miss Celia would not touch it nor would she allow others to make any improvements.
Jamie felt fingernails press into the skin of her hand. She smiled over at Eleanor.
“I think Harland’s right.”
It was a few years later, well after the children accepted Eleanor into their family, that tragedy struck. Jamie was eighteen, Harland just a year older. When the phone rang that night, age didn’t matter. Because any one person, no matter how long they’ve witnessed pain, could not have stayed together with the wounded scream Jamie let out when the police called.
After arrangements had been made, a will came to surface. Jamie and Harland were to receive the home the elderly lovers once shared. They moved into the home, still teaming with memories of two long lives, and made the best of their days.
Harland and Jamie had survived many things during their friendship. The hardest always remembered as Miss Celia and Eleanor’s funeral. One large ern. The two’s ashes mingling for the rest of eternity. Just how they wanted.
It was months before the two young adults ventured to explore the house further than the first floor. The first thing Jamie noted was the basement was entirely creepy and could be boarded up for all she cared. An unknown hoard of knives, trashbags, and strange recipes littered the damp concrete.
Jamie spent days picking all the papers and soggy plastic off the floor. All the items were placed in the corner and she soon chose to push the memories from that basement into the far reaches of her mind. Harland only ventured to the basement after it was organized. He proceeded to point out different ways in which she could have set up and cleaned the room. He earned a smack for that.
Days later ,Jamie came down from her room to see Harland making lunch. The boy chopped and diced various vegetables, throwing them into a bowl of green.
"Hey James, can you go get some carrots?" Harland nodded to the girl. No response was given except to proceed outdoors.
Jamie knelt in the fertile dirt, slowly pulling out the brightly coloured sustenance and tossing them into the large pockets of her sundress.
"Harland!" Jamie called as her eyesight landed upon the back garden.
"What?" Traveled through the window. Unintelligible curses followed suit as Jamie once again gave him no answer. The girl was too busy creeping into the dead patch of earth. "James..." Harland fumbled over the words, slowly walking towards her before his pace picked up into a jog. He stopped at the edge. "James, what're you doing?" The boy was cautious.
Jamie was lowering herself to her knees in the middle of the garden. Her pink dress and red hair gave incredible contrast to the death around her. "Something happened here." There was a paranoid quality to her voice.
"Two elderly lovers let go of a garden they weren't using." Harland tried to reason. She shook her head.
"No. It's different than that. Remember what I thought about Eleanor at first?" The
girl's hands shook as she reached for the decomposing mesh of vegetation. Harland surged forward, crouching beside her and grasping her wrist. Water filled eyes turned up to the boy, not really seeing nor believing her reality. “There has to be something.” So, so desperate.
“There’s not. Jamie, Sweetheart, I wish there was something left. There’s not.” Tears sprung to Harland’s eyes. “It would be amazing if they left us a little mystery, but they didn’t. Just let them rest in peace.”
Jamie ripped her hand away, standing up violently. “Fine. You want to give up on their memory? On the very way they were? They wouldn’t have just left us. They wouldn’t have gone like that!” She all but yelled at his crouched form. When he didn’t look up, she let out a frustrated scream and ran back in doors, carrots whacking her leg until she threw them to the ground.
Harland didn’t stand up for a while. He stayed crouched on the ground until his legs burned, then fell back to sit in the weeded ground. They were supposed to have a happy life as roommates. They were going to get a little place and live together until Harland found someone and moved out. They’d discussed it. But now the plans seemed like shattered pieces of a window. Always they were transparent, solid in its tangibility, but as fragile as sanity. A Shakespearian friendship. Everybody dies.
The sky blackened with an inky comfort, chilling the still Earth into frigidness. Harland was still in the garden surrounded by death and lost memories. The ground felt wet, even though it was dryer than the rest of the neighborhood’s land. Everything went to Hell in a matter of moments, it seemed. Well, it had built over a period of time, but the gates were broken in a matter of seconds. Harland couldn’t blame Jamie for breaking-
“JAMIE!” Harland answered the piercing screech from indoors. He scrambled to his feet, cursing himself as his legs were slow to react. Another scream rang out into the night and Harland all but sailed across the lawn. He burst through the side door and followed the vociferous horror coming from the basement. As he started down the stairs, the screaming ceased and silence reigned. Harland paused. He crept down the remaining wooden steps, taking the corner slowly to find the girl. She stood, staring into a leather green book. “Jamie?” The boy questioned quietly.
“I was right.” She whispered. “I was right.” Jamie turned sharply and shoved the book into his chest, reminding him of years ago, and began breathing heavy. Harland looked down. It was a picture. Miss Celia and a woman? The photo was white washed in black and white, the dim lighting of the basement making it hard to see. Jamie took the dusty flashlight in her hand and shined it upon the photo.
“Oh my,” Harland dropped the photo, letting it land with a faint scraping sound. “How…” He could barely breathe.
“I was right!” There was a feralness in her eyes. Harland backed up. This wasn’t happening, not to him, not to Jamie. It couldn’t be.
“Jamie, please.” He began trying to plead her back to him. It was too late. She stepped forward, her foot covering the black and white photo of two women kissing over a severed head, blood leaking from the rolled back eyes.
“You know, I never really felt all that bad about what I’d discovered. I figured this out when we were just kids. Saw it happening from the start. I’ve seen this picture when I was little. I just forgot and put it off until tonight. All I wanted was to remember them…I got to remember everything.” She smiled then, big and lopsided, cutting her face into a grotesque version of its former beauty. “Do you remember, Harland? Do you remember the soups and steaks on Tuesday nights? Took her that long to get all of the meat ready. They took pride in the kill.” She stepped towards Harland, backing him up with every word until his back hit the wall. “Tell me. Do you take pride in trying to forget them?” She went quiet, watching his eyes scan her face in terror. She leaned up on her toes, lips brushing against his ear for the last whisper. “I do.”
Jamie hit the boy in the gut, bringing him to his knees before kissing his head with the flashlight over and over until he was gone. With blood crisscrossing her face in morbid art, Jamie turned delicately and walked over to the shelves. A pink cookbook found itself in her hands as she turned around, stepping back to Harland’s body. She crouched beside him. One manicured finger traced his cheek. “Now you’ll never leave.”
“Neighbors reported a smell coming from the house. They said an elderly female by the name of Jamie Khent lives her, fifty-nine.” Officer Gregory McShaw informs his partner as they walk the pathway.
“She probably fell. You’ll get to call that pretty ambulance friend of yours.” Officer Natalia Grace teased blandly as they come to the door, an old fifties tune flowing through the open windows. “Jeesus its rancid.” Her face scrunches up in disgust. After minutes of knocking and calling to the woman, the two police officers break into the house.
“God, it’s even worse inside.” McShaw gags.
“Keep your head up kid. The music’s coming from the basement.” Grace marches over to the white door in the kitchen, opening it when
they’d gone through clearing procedures. This time, McShaw vomited immediately. “Try not to get it on your shoes.” Grace didn’t look over. She began walking down the stairs. “Miss Khent? Miss Khent, it’s the police. We’re here to help.” The redhead called into the putrid air, McShaw following close behind. Grace rounded the corner and put her hand out behind her, effectively stopping the boy from looking.
“What is it?” He questioned, queasy but impatient. It may have been his first week, but he didn;t need to be babied.
“What? Just let me-”
“Call back up now r so help me god I’ll get you kicked off the force before you can apologise, is that clear?” Grace snapped, her eyes never leaving the sight ahead of her.
ma’am.” McShaw begrudgingly agreed. He began calling in their location as Grace stepped into the room, pass the polished, yellow, teeth scared skull, and right next to the main focus. The blue, still, hanging corpse of a middle-aged woman. “Hey, what am I telling them- oh my god.” Grace heard the radio his his shoulder and rub against his uniform. “She...is that Jamie Khent?” McShaw’s voice shook as he came up beside his fellow officer.
“I sure do hope.” Grace commented, leaning over and picking up a pink leather journal opened to the last page bearing ink.
“Imagine an absence of light. Complete, velvet blankness. But suddenly streaks of colour come on to view. At first you're not entirely sure what they are. Then you take another look and really see them. They're very essence craves to be unnamed. But they begin to dance. Swirling and crossing each other until they resemble a twisting case of lies and triumph. The colours change as they continue their steady hum towards above. But then you realize them for what they really are. And they begin leaving ghosts behind as they speed their ascent. They go faster and faster and faster until they completely shatter. A million pieces lost in space. The moment leaves with the first roar of sound and all of the pieces vacuum in, sealing and solidifying until they become a solid celestial being within your mind. Then, you let it all explode. The vibrant chasing lights become powdering dust and the empty blackness is filled to the brim. It swarms and swirls and ducks around invisible corners, never quite reaching where it needs to go. The dust just dissipates before reaching the little black box where I keep reason. The colours, the very subject of my torturing imagination, we're never real. They were never meant to last. The colours couldn't shatter the strongest point in my mind. They fought a losing battle , but still continue building roads leading to nowhere. That clean line which frantically morphed and crumbled did me no good. The left over powder turned to muddy rivers following the patterns my brain is encased in. Con artists at work.
That's how bad it gets.”