In elementary school, Allie, Raven, and Cassi didn’t think gold was very hard to find.
Gold, thought Allie, was being the smartest in class for yet another year and holding a hot cup of cocoa in mittened hands. It was your best friends catching you when you fell, and being taken with your twin sister to see your favorite band perform. Allie could always find gold with her friends, so she laughed.
Gold, thought Raven, was winning a soccer tournament and unwrapping the birthday present you always wanted. It was the feeling of sunlight on your bare skin, wading through cool, shallow water, and being pushed into the ocean by your older brother. Raven could always find gold with her friends, so she shone.
Gold, thought Cassi, was taking pictures of the dew as it collected on a single leaf and the pastries your grandmother made on cold December evenings. It was the determined beating of your heart as you looked straight at the impossible. Cassi could always find gold with her friends, so she smiled.
In middle school, gold was a little harder to find. But you can’t blame the three friends for using up their gold. You can’t blame them for not knowing they would always have gold.
Allie thought she’d always have gold. She kept laughing as she got into a magnet program and was placed in all of the advanced classes. She invited her friends to the concerts she went to and volunteered at the local library. She didn’t even notice when her laughter grew a little forced.
Raven thought she’d always have gold. She kept shining as she tried out for the school soccer team and actually got in. Her parents brought her to California on her birthday, where she enjoyed a November birthday under the sun. She didn’t even notice when her light began to dim.
Cassi thought she’d always have gold. She kept smiling when her grandmother bought her a professional camera. She shared her pictures on social media, and people seemed to love them. She lived for the joy she got from proving people wrong, proving she could do what they told her she couldn’t. And she didn’t even notice when her smiles stopped reaching her eyes.
High school was when they began running out of gold. High school was when their worlds ceased to be golden and instead became black.
Black, thought Allie, was being too tired to study because you’re never going to be on top again. It was visiting your sleeping sister in the hospital and hoping she would wake up. It was skipping school and grades dropping until you could finally force a laugh that sounded real. Allie’s true laugh, her contagious, happy giggle, had faded with her gold.
Black, thought Raven, was being kicked off the team because you weren’t playing well enough. It was learning that your older brother had been arrested for drunk driving, and being too tired to drag yourself out of bed every morning to put on your sparkle. Raven’s real light, her blinding silver glow, had faded with her gold.
Black, thought Cassi, was putting your camera away because your pictures, like you, had been cleansed of all emotion. It was attending your grandmother’s funeral, and the cold emptiness always accompanied by the certainty that you would never be happy again. It was crying yourself to sleep every night after an day of plastering a wide grin across your face. Cassi’s real smile, a smile that could light up the world, had faded with her gold.
But in college, people began to notice. And to their surprise, people began to care. People were sympathetic and helpful, and eventually, the world ceased to be black. Allie, Raven and Cassi had found something else. It wasn’t quite golden, but it wasn’t black, either. It was silver.
Allie liked living in a silver world. It wasn’t quite as good as living in a golden one, but it was much, much better than living in a black one. Her grades improved, and she found that college wasn't quite as bad as high school had been. She made new friends, got an internship, and spent time in the local coffee shop when she was especially stressed. She didn’t get her gold back; not yet. But Allie started laughing again.
Raven didn’t really know what she thought of silver. If anything, she was simply relieved that she had escaped the murky black she’d been living in four the past four years. She played recreational soccer with her new friends and liked to sit on the beach to calm herself down. She even thought she could see a little bit of gold beyond the blinding stretch of silver. She didn’t get her gold back; not yet. But Raven started shining again.
Cassi was shocked by the sudden silver. After so many years of being surrounded by black, you come to expect nothing more than the darkness. But here she was: a girl without gold in a world without black. It was certainly an improvement. She found her old camera and started taking pictures again. She started baking the pastries that her grandmother made. She didn't get her gold back; not yet. But Cassi started smiling again.
Allie, Raven and Cassi won’t forget the blackness they saw. They won’t forget the gold they had, either. Silver would never replace gold, but they were happy not to live in such a dark world. Maybe they could live in a silver world. Maybe they could live in a world without gold.
Silver life wasn’t quite normal for the trio.
Because maybe, just maybe, they’d be able to move back to their happy, golden world. They’d be able to go back to a time when the world wasn’t black, but their lives weren’t silver.
And everything was golden.
I sighed and looked up at the setting sun. It had been a year since Dad left. Life had become more stable, but something was missing. Something I didn't need from the start. I was glad it was gone. Except my mom had started to take initiative. She had become cold toward me. But at least I still had Taj.
Dark green eyes stared from around the corner. I quickly turned around.
“You're on the balcony again?” Its calm voice rang through my ears.
“Yeah, it's like the only place I can get away.”
“From mom's wrath?”
We both laughed, and its mouth closed into a soft smile.
“Taj . . . ”
“You don't need to say how you feel, I understand.”
“Sometimes I think it's my fault . . .”
“It never was.”
She pulled me against her chest. I could feel the waves of her teal dress against my ankles. Sometimes I wondered why she even wore dresses, she wasn't a girly girl. Maybe it was Mom who made her dress professionally. But the dress suited Taj. Just like the suit I wore matched me well. Even though she was shorter, I could tell she was a motherly figure. My older sister, to be exact. And I loved her with all my heart. Her dyed black and turquoise hair brushed my face.
“Nicholas, you carry a heavy burden. Why don't you get rid of it?”
“Cause’ you walk like a feather while I sit and mope. You forget about the past while I hold onto it.”
Taj sighed. And looked at me.
“How can you --?”
Someone was calling for her. Her head whipped toward the balcony entrance. A maid was calling for her to study.
“Oh, I have to go. And Nicky?”
“If you want to get into a better school, work harder, and don't let the past drag you down.”
She winked and gracefully floated down the stairs to the where the maid stood.
I pushed my new report card into my desk drawer. Hopefully my mom would forget about my grades. Even though Taj told me to work harder, I always lost focus. I still didn't know who I was or who I was supposed to be. Then the door to my room slammed open. A tall woman with a face full of rage stood there. I gulped.
“You thought you could just get away without showing me your grades?!” my mom yelled. Her pale blonde ponytail was like a spike.
“No. I said no.”
“That's what I thought, now hand me your grades.”
She put out her hand. My nervousness and confusion made it waver for a while. She then gave me her death glare. I panicked and pulled the report card out of my desk. She grabbed it back and looked at it. I waited for her to get furious.
“Not too bad. I guess Taj gave you some advice. But you need to work harder, get your head out of the clouds,” she said.
She swiftly walked out of the room and slammed the door behind her.
“I know I'm a disappointment to you, Mom. I always am,” I muttered to myself, knowing it was the truth. I sighed and flopped on the bed. My head hung, eyes pinned on the floor. The door opened again. It wasn't Taj, or Mom. It was a maid.
“Your algebra tutor is here,” the tall maid said.
I looked at her in complete shock. Not only had my mother been disgusted with my work, but she had even called for a tutor. I was about to punch a wall.
“Sir, she's waiting for you.”
I jumped up and walked toward the door. My head turned and I glared at the woman. She shrunk back in fear but I was already down the hall. My stupid anger issues. Everyone knew about them. Mom wanted to get me so much help, but it was too late. Dad's work had already been done. But now I had to go and meet my tutor, not live in the past but face the future. It was just what Taj had been telling me for the past year.
An hour later, I walked down the hall, black shoes tapping against the marble floor. My body made a swift turn and walked into the dining hall. I was going to dinner after seeing my algebra tutor. The tutor had been cold and judgmental, but that was how most people in my life acted. Now my mother, standing beside the gleaming wood table set with white china, was expecting me.
“You're late,” she said.
“I'm sorry, mother.”
“Just sit down.”
Taj gave me a sad smile as I took a seat as far from my mother as possible. She was trying to cheer me up, but her smile didn't seem to reach me. My mother's eyes glared right through me. She was obviously disappointed in my actions.
“How was your tutoring session?” my mother asked, taking a seat across from me.
“Is that it? ‘Fine’?”
“Yes, it was fine,” my voice got a bit louder.
“Don't raise your voice at me,” she said, teeth closed. Then she took a bite of kale salad. Taj sat at the end of the table, nervously chewing on bits of carrot from the stew. She smiled again, trying to comfort me.
After dinner I went to the balcony again. This time planning to meet up with Taj. Surprisingly, she got there before me.
“Hey. . . ” I quietly called to her.
“Don’t let Mom get to you. She just wants the best.”
“I know, she just seems so angry all the time.”
“Well, what can you do? Can’t really avoid her anymore.”
I breathed deeply, looking out onto the sun. Almost completely gone. The sky in different colors. Purples, dark blues, oranges and pinks. Taj always loved the colors of the sky in the morning and afternoon.
“Yes?” I nervously replied.
“No matter what happens, you’re my brother. And no matter what I won’t ever leave you. Understand?”
“Of course, I know. And I won’t ever leave you.”
“Thank you,” her soft voice almost fading into the sun. The busy world finally going to sleep. The future was among us, and soon I would say goodbye. Goodbye to the world, goodbye to Taj.
The Statue was made of thick vines, all connected and intertwined with amazing precision. As the years had gone by, the vines had shriveled and browned, but the Statue remained intact. At a different time every year, the vines would become green once again, and the Statue would seem to glow with different hues. It was a popular sight for all Beings.
Some lived in the forest that surrounded the Statue, and it was these people who cared for and nourished her. They kept her forest lush and beautiful, even when she could not. Some came from the faraway oceans, traveling in large groups by the great rivers. These were the ones who entertained the Statue with stories of distant lands and deep sea adventures. And some, though they were very rare, came from the sweltering heat of the desert, seeking shelter beneath her caring arms. They were the ones that she loved the most, for they did not want anything but her protection and care, which she offered in great amounts.
There were many days when the Statue would be lonely; the days when her lush skin became dry and brittle. She often did not see another face but an animal’s in those times. No one would come to see the Statue if she did not look beautiful in every way. It was this that saddened her the most. There was beauty in every Being, the Statue thought, no matter how they appeared on the outside.
It had been a long time since she had met a Being quite like her in that regard. That was, until the day someone came.
It was a gloomy day. The sky had been cloudy since dawn, and the birds had stayed quiet in their treetop nests. Hardly any sunlight reached the Statue through the now gold and red leaves of the forest. The Statue was lonely, thinking about all of the Beings that refused to talk with her during her time of what they called “Rest”. She was far from restful. Her mind would open up to all possibilities when she heard even the slightest rustle of leaves, or the quiet noises of owls flying during the night.
This was why she nearly uprooted herself when she heard footsteps. Real, live, Being footsteps. It had been so long. . . She found that the footsteps were getting louder with every second, and every second she anticipated seeing a Being’s face. It took only mere seconds for her to be discouraged.
This Being was unlike any she had ever seen. Its legs seemed to be a darker shade than the rest of its skin. Upon closer inspection, the Statue could see that really, the skin slowly turned to spiky scales. It was the same with its arms. There was a thick white fabric wrapped carefully around the Being’s chest and shoulders, and a slightly darker fabric adorned the lower body and feet. This, the Statue guessed, was the cause for the loudness of the footsteps.
And its face! Large brown, almond-shaped eyes with thick lashes that drew out the golden flecks on its skin were the most stunning part. It had thin lips, and its hair was short and golden to match its freckles. The Statue had never seen such a beautiful, and yet imperfect Being.
The Being looked up at the Statue and smiled, showing a bit of its shiny white teeth. Then its smile fell into a frown. The Statue was surprised to find herself wishing the Being would not frown in such a way. Making Beings smile was so precious to her, and this Being clearly was not happy.
It took a large bag off of its back and sat beneath the Statue’s open arms, and began to cry. The Statue could not do anything but stare. No Being had ever done this before. She could feel the sorrow and pain radiating out of the Being, but she could not reach the root of the pain. The Being continued to cry, and its tears dropped in between the Statue’s vines.
Through the tears, the Statue could see what had caused this Being to cry. She could see the memories, despite that they were slightly faded from age. Other Beings similar to the one sitting beneath the Statue were glancing backwards, then laughing grotesquely. At first, they had seemed beautiful too, but as they laughed, their features began to morph into ugly flesh and bone. Their hair seemed to become thick layers of mold and their skin turned ashy and gray. The memory slowly faded away.
The Statue was filled with so much compassion for this Being beneath her. It was unlike anything she had ever experienced. She slowly came to the realization that the Being must be from the desert. Though she hadn’t seen these Beings in what seemed to be centuries, she knew that they all had one similar feature: golden flecks on their skin. It seemed that they had evolved since she had last seen them. She decided she would call the Being “Waona”, because it was the Beings' native word for desert-dweller.
It began to rain, lightly at first, and then a downpour. Waona cowered even further beneath the Statue, who desperately wanted to comfort the small creature. Swelling with both rain and compassion, the Statue felt her body move. It was a slow, unsteady movement, but movement all the same. The vines curled and uncurled like muscles contracting. Soon the Statue protected the Waona from the rain with her body, and brought the small Being into an embrace.
Waona looked up into the Statue’s face and smiled a light smile.
I don’t know when the murder happened. I just found them stone dead. Their features were frozen in an expression of pure terror. Hmm . . . terror . . . What terrifies a person? Scary movies? Standing on the edge of a cliff? A serial killer with a bloody knife? Deciding to focus on my last idea, I started to walk toward the City’s most dangerous district, LowTown.
LowTown was so named because it was filled to the brim with scum and villainy. It was the first place any decent cop should go looking for a murderer, but with the Police so corrupt nowadays, it was all up to me. Anyway, I was walking down the LowTown streets when out of the shadows a gang of thugs showed up. One had a handgun, the other two were unarmed, but they looked like they knew how to punch. “Hey you,” the thug with the gun said. “Give us your cash." From the way the thug held his gun, I knew it wasn’t loaded. I kept walking. Then I heard a thunderclap, something whiz past me, and a bullet casing hit the pavement. Looks like I wasn’t so right about the gun.
“I won’t miss next time,” the thug said, holding a smoking gun. I stopped. One of the unarmed thugs was walking toward me, presumably to take everything of value I had on me. I smiled. This was going to feel good. I swung around and punched the thug right in the face. The thug fell to the ground, unconscious. Wow, I hadn’t meant to hit him that hard. I kicked the other unarmed thug, and threw a rock from the street at the last one. He grunted, dropped his gun, and started to sprint toward me. I didn’t see the blade until it was too late. I felt the cold steel slide into my chest, then I collapsed. There were no hospitals in LowTown, and the wound was fatal. I would die a slow, painful death. Good thing I had one last trick up my sleeve. With a grunt I reached toward the dial on the side of my watch, knowing the clock was ticking. I touched the dial, and time stopped.
I breathed a sigh of relief. I was safe. I turned back the dial on my watch, and time started rewinding. Suddenly I was no longer hurt, and I was back at the point in time when the thug started to sprint at me, and this time I saw his hand reach for his knife. I wasted no time. Moments later the last thug was down.
I now found myself at my destination. The sign said Jacob’s Fresh Meats. I chuckled. There was nothing fresh in LowTown. The place looked cheap, but it was my only lead. I stepped through the door, and eyed the man behind the counter. “Where is he?” I said, demanding. The man looked deep into my eyes. “He told me you would come,” the man said, trembling. “Follow me.” He led me to a door at the back of the building. I opened it, and before me lay a gloomy staircase that led down into darkness. I stepped through the doorway, and looked back at the man. He started to reach for the doorknob to close the door, but the door slammed shut on its own, trapping me in darkness. I knew then that I was up against a fellow Paranormal.
I walked down the staircase, eyes adjusting to the darkness, fear beginning to creep into my heart. At the bottom of the staircase was a red door. I reached for the handle, but suddenly heard a voice that froze me in my tracks. It was Their voice. “One man will enter, one man will leave,” the voices said in the back of my mind. I couldn't let Them scare me. I opened the door.
The door closed behind me on its own, just like before. The room before me was empty except for a man sitting on a stool, hunched over a table. The man wore butcher’s clothing, and appeared to be chopping meat with a butcher knife. “I am called The Butcher,” the man said simply. “They told me I have to kill you.” I was silent. He stopped chopping. “My master’s wish is my command,” The Butcher said, and with one fluid motion twisted around and threw his butcher knife. I leaned to the left, and the knife missed. The Butcher laughed, reached out his hand, and the knife came flying back to him. Now that he had turned around, I got a good look at his face. His teeth were as sharp as knives, his face was riddled with scars, and his eyes . . . his eyes were dead.
I knew what I had to do. “Your soul has been captive far too long,” I said. The amulet I always wore around my neck began to glow as I began the incantation. “They offered you power, and you accepted,” I said as The Butcher slashed at me, each blow barely missing me. “They made you strong, but it came with a cost,” I chanted. The Butcher roared and threw his knife straight at me. I didn’t move fast enough. I collapsed -- the pain was unbearable -- but I couldn’t break concentration. “You became a slave to Their will, consumed by your own power. I command you to break free from your master’s control. Go now. Be free,” I panted. The butcher grabbed the knife from my chest, and raised the knife above his head ready to strike the killing blow. The amulet around my neck began to glow intensely, and suddenly broke from the cord it was hanging on. There was a brilliant flash of light as The Butcher swung his knife, and then everything went white.
Was I dead? Nah, being killed hurts. Slowly I regained consciousness. The amulet was back around my neck, The Butcher was gone, gone was the wound in my chest, and the red door was open. I got up and dusted myself off. I still had more work to do, more souls to free.
I didn’t know when the murders happened. All I remembered were the papers reporting it a week later, and saying that five more towns had achieved their goal. I vaguely remember seeing the sign at the train stations going by one by one. I was on the train looking out the small hole that they called a window. Around me stood a bunch of other people in the same situation as me. But inside I felt alone. My parents were among the many murdered. My uncle had told me that right before he left. He gave me a hug and a kiss and was gone. He wasn’t like me. He was safe. I was finally taken out of my thoughts, because the lush green hills of what I thought was my country were replaced by bland gray and brown buildings. We are here. The camp.
“Sorry, folks. We’re just hitting a rough patch of air here. We’ll be out and about in no time.” The pilot’s voice confused me. Was it a forced calm? You’re just being paranoid, I told myself. But still, I wondered.
So far, my second plane ride ever wasn’t going so well. When I was brought a steaming cup of coffee to ease my nerves (yes, I know, but for some reason, it helps), the flight attendant spilled the entire cup all over me. She was really nice about it though, and offered me some napkins and a towel. It was a good thing that the seat next to me was open. Then- if you can believe it- they were out of peanuts. I was starting to regret not eating at the airport, or at the very least not bringing a bag of chips to munch on during my two-hour-long flight to New Hampshire.
So here I sat. I had taken off my coffee-soaked jacket a few minutes ago, and was now reading an article about a famous duo’s breakup. I couldn’t care less about their daily calorie intake, but at least it gave me something to do. And now the plane was hitting turbulence.
I glanced sickeningly at the barf-bag in the seat pocket, thinking that it might contain something other than air soon enough. I took a deep breath and looked out the window. We were up in the air so high now that I could only see clouds. I forced myself to keep looking. Katie, if you look away now, you’ll get sick, I told myself. My inner self was not being very helpful. I looked away.
I did not get sick. But the plane did shake for a while. It was annoying trying to not-read the article as my laptop bounced up and down on my lap. Until then, I had thought that these irritations would be all my flight consisted of. Then I heard the pilot’s voice over the intercom.
“Sorry for the interruption again, folks.” I noticed he said ‘folks’ a lot. “We have a slight change in our schedule today. We will be making an emer-” He paused for a moment, clearly keen on not letting anyone hear their pilot say ‘emergency’. “Ahem… we will be making a quick landing in Burlington Airport to fill up on fuel. There is nothing to worry about.”
I worried. I really, really worried. Thinking about everything I had read online about pilots not telling their passengers when the plane was crashing did not help at all. Shut up, brain!
We were making a shaky descent upon Vermont. I pressed the call button above my head, hoping for some good news from the flight attendant. She must have known that I was feeling anxious (was it the curling up into a ball on my seat, or draining my second coffee in one gulp that did it?), so she came over and talked to me. I asked if there were any parachutes on the plane. She looked at me sympathetically and said no. This did not help.
The pilot called his ‘folks’ again. The flight attendant was now standing next to me, and informed me that the pilot’s name was Frank. When Frank addressed us again, saying that we were going to be fine, I decided that I did not want to be on this plane at all. Was this worth visiting my sister’s college?
I soon figured out that thinking of my sister kept me sane during the descent. I focused on her and on my other sister. Lillie and Mary Anne were a few years younger than me, and they were doing okay. Lillie was going to a college in New Hampshire. I could never remember the name of it. She had brown eyes like me, but that was the only similarity. I had black hair, but she had dyed hers bright blue. I guess she liked it that way, because she could be told apart from her twin, Mary Anne, more easily that way. Mary Anne (we called her Annie), was supposed to be with me on this flight, but she got sick right before we left. Sick . . .
I glanced halfheartedly at the throw-up bag. The flight attendant must have seen me do so, because she made a hasty excuse about how she had to “get back to work.” She reminded me again that everything was going to be fine, but I had heard that phrase enough on this flight already.
Frank must have really been getting worried, because he called a fourth time.
Frank told us to 'brace for impact'.
I didn’t know what that meant until it was too late.
I was falling. Why was I falling? Did the plane have ejection seats? Probably not. As I thought about the cost of ejection seats on a commercial flight, I realized again that I was falling.
Oh, no. Was I falling out of the plane? For the first time since Frank’s warning, I opened my eyes. I was roughly a hundred feet from the ground.
I was hysterical. I had no idea where I was falling, or how I had gotten out of the plane. The only thing I did know was that there was a well right below me. Couldn’t hurt to try, right?
Of course, now had to come the time where I regretted not going with Annie on her skydiving lessons. As a person afraid of heights, this was an absolute nightmare for me. But I didn’t have much time to worry, because I was a second away from hitting the well. I aimed my feet and hoped for the best.
If you really think about it, a hundred feet is nothing. Compared to the thirty-five thousand foot height of the airplane I was just in, it should have taken just a few seconds for me to hit the ground. But that’s the funny part. It wasn’t taking just a few seconds. In fact, it was taking longer. What was happening?
I didn’t get an answer. Just to contribute to my bad day, I’m sure. If I survived this, I would have quite a story to tell. It was at that moment that I hit the well straight on.
I ran a mental check to make sure I wasn’t dead. I wasn’t dead. But I was close. I was deep in the water now, and I couldn’t tell how deep. But there were three things I knew.
One - I needed oxygen.
Two - my leg was broken.
Three - if I wasn’t dead now, I would be soon.
I grabbed for anything to hold on to, but there was nothing within grasp. I needed to pull myself up. I needed to. I couldn’t just stay here. I screamed internally. Help! Somebody! Help! Nobody heard.
My clothes weighed me down. I tried to take off my shoes, but nearly collapsed at the pain of my broken leg. I gasped, taking a huge gulp of water. Water filled my lungs. I panicked.
But not for long. A feeling of calm built over me, washing away my fear. I moved slower. My eyes stayed closed.
I don’t know what happened next. Loud noises, I suppose. Water splashing. Shouting. I couldn’t make out the words. I wanted to open my eyes, to witness what was happening. But I didn’t seem to be the one witnessing. I was the one being looked upon. More noise. Coughing. Sirens. “Shhh . . . ” A voice. “You’re gonna be all right. You’ll be fine.” Now a whisper. “Please be fine.” I was going to tell them that I was going to be fine. But loud noises interrupted me. More coughing. I realized that the coughing was coming from me. My chest hurt. Was I alive? I couldn’t be. But I was.
If I were in any other position, I could have avoided throwing up all over myself. But there was nothing I could do to stop it, and it was very uncomfortable. After that, I faded away again. The shouting grew dim.
Next thing I knew, I was in a very bright room. When they tell you that hospital rooms are bright white, they are correct. There was a lot of talking. I couldn’t catch any of the words, but I managed to open my eyes. A doctor stood over me, but he wasn’t looking at me. He was looking at the one other person in the room besides me: a girl about nineteen with bright blue hair and a sad expression.
The doctor was speaking solemnly. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a case like this before. The plane - well, I’m not an engineer, but the plane had a malfunction in two of its engines. It almost entirely blew up.”
The girl covered her mouth and gasped. “How on earth did she survive the fall? Don’t planes fly at like, thirty-five thousand feet?”
“The plane was already descending at that time. She was only about two hundred feet in the air when she fell out. Although it must have seemed like much lower to her. Shock, you know.”
The girl began to cry. Her face was still covered by her hands, but I distinctly remembered her features. A face like my face. My sister!
I opened my mouth and suddenly the doctor whipped his head around. “Lil-” was all I could manage with the pain in my chest. Her face lit up. Her brown eyes made contact with mine. They were a hazy, uncertain beige color, but they were definitely hers.
I learned later that I was one of three people who survived that plane crash. I never recovered from the incident, but the memory of my sister’s embrace after I regained consciousness helped counter my grief. Lillie told me then that she never wanted me to visit her ever again.
I told her I would make the trip anyway, just as long as I traveled by car.