When I was 14

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A true story.

At age 14 I lost my father in one of those stories you hear about on the news, you know, the kind you think will never happen to you.

It was cold nearing April, my birth month. I was walking from my after school activity to meet up with my step dad to go home. The air was thick, the sky was grim, but it was still so cold it nawed at my bones. I got into the truck and said hello to my step dad, the air only got thicker.

“Hey Michelle.” He said in a low voice “How was your day?” I was surprised by this, normally he was happy and cheerful.

“Fine” I said as I put my seatbelt on. “Is everything okay?” I asked.

“We need to talk when we get home.” Is all he said as he put the truck in drive and we started our long quiet drive home. I couldn’t help but wonder if I had did something wrong. Did I not do the dishes good enough? Did the school call him? We pulled up into the drive way I could see my mom sitting on the steps, as I approached I could see she was crying.

“Go inside and sit with your brother we will be in shortly” her voice cracked a bit. I do as I’m told and sit with my brother asking if he knew anything he only said no. It seemed like ages before they came in. My mom inhaled as she began to tell me what was going on.

“There’s been an incident” she said then paused for a moment “Your dad, he, shot someone.” I could see her eyes fill with tears “The guy he shot is in the hospital, we don’t know if he’s going to make it and we don’t know where your dad is. The cops asked to keep you home until he’s found for your safty.” My brother cried but I was numb. I went to my room pulled out my phone and made a call. But no answer…

“H-hey dad.” I choked out “I don’t know what’s going on, but please pick up.” All the words in the dictionary left my brain but I was able to mumble “I love you” before I ended the message. I sat there lost in the deep waves of thought. I was finally brought back to reality when I heard my mom’s phone ring. I could hear her talk a little then it went silent till I could hear her making her way to my room. A soft nock at my door and she entered.

“The cops called to tell me that the guy didn’t make it.” My heart stopped. “Your dad is wanted for murder.”

The next day we found out my father shot himself at his favorite camping spot and he burnt his truck to nothing. Then our grieving process started. So many people calling to give us kids their condolences, the days seeming to go on for years then the day for the open casket came.

My mom pulled up to the funeral home.

“I’ll be right here for you.” She didn’t go in, but she said it was because she didn’t want to upset anyone with her being his ex wife. I didn’t blame her. I looked out the car window and seen my grandma standing at the door. My brother and I got out and started the walk to the room my father was in, the last time I’d ever see him. My goodbye note in hand clutched with a single white rose.

I went into a very crowded room full of crying family members. And there at the far end of the room, was my dad.

Holding back tears and my knees trembling I went to him. When I peered into his coffin I seen him laying there like he was sleeping. A rush of memories and emotion hit me like a stampede. I screamed and ran out of the room not caring where I went. I ran up some stepts and came to a small door under another set of steps. I went in. It was a storage room filled with dusty kids toys turning on the hanging light I could see a small chair and some books. Hearing my name being called I rushed in closing the door behind as quiet as I could. I sat down in the chair and smothered my face into my hands and cried softly so no-one would hear.

“Hi.” A small voice came from becide me. “What’s wrong?” I jumped in my seat and looked to see a smaller boy sitting next to me. I didnt see him when I came in but maybe he hid when I opened the door?

“Hello” I said back patting my face dry and started answering his question “My father passed and I’m here to see him one last time.” Then I told him what happened. He looked at me sadly.

“I’m sorry your dad did that.” He said innocently “I wish I could help.” At that point voices were frantically calling for me, my mother’s voice in the mix. “You should go to them.” He said “They seem…” Before he could finish the door opened and my mother’s face appeared.

“There you are!” The look of panic in her face. “What are you doing in here?” She asked.

“Talking to..” I say looking around to find the boy had gone. “Nothing. I just needed some time.” I get up and walk with my mom down the steps and pass an open room I had passed minutes before with people in it. I glanced in and seen a small coffin. And the boy inside. I held back a scream and hurried out to the car got in and tried to make sense of what had just happened. As we pulled out of the parking lot I looked back and to my dismay I seen the boy looking at me from a window sadly waving goodbye.

Years later I’ve grown and my life changed. However, that little boy never left me. He’s been there always. Normally in bigger crowds. Almost like a shadow. For my performances in highschool he was there, for my graduation, shopping malls,  even in the back of my dreams. And I’m sure when I pass he will be there to walk with me and comfort me. Just like he did when I was just 14.

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