Early mornings on Samsara Isles had turned bitter cold, forcing me to stay snuggled in my sleeping bag well past my usual waking hours. Eventually, I begrudgingly crawled from my warm space in search of a washroom and something to eat for breakfast…err brunch, actually.
By lunch, the sun had dried the morning frost, warming the air just enough, yet it was still cool to remind us Fall had finally arrived.
Fall. Had it really been that long since Jilly died? My grief no longer sat on my chest like the weight of an elephant, but sorrow still plagued my heart. Alex had kindly told me to some degree it always would, but to give it time. How much time? He couldn’t say, for everyone grieved on their own clock and only I would know when that time had finally come. My biggest fear was that in healing my broken heart, I would forget her and that was something I never wanted to happen.
One afternoon, I was painting at the top of the lighthouse when I saw Sun walking up the hill. I made my way down the circular stairs to meet her on the grass.
“Brrr, it sure has gotten cold out and look at you, standing here in your summer pyjamas none the less.”
“Yeah, well I’ve gotten used to the cold I guess. I only ever notice it first thing in the morning.”
“Did you have any thoughts of coming back home before it gets too cold? How are you feeling these days?” she asked.
“I’ve thought about it,” I admitted. “It is starting to get pretty cold for sleeping in a sleeping bag. But to be honest I don’t know if I can handle it all just yet.”
“It’s just that….the babies are having their birthday in a few days and we would really like you to be there. Think how you would feel later on if you missed their transition,” Sun replied.
I sighed, “I know. Can I say I will try to come and maybe leave it at that for now?”
Sun nodded. “Maybe is good. It’s not a no at least. Please really think about coming. We miss you.” Then she gave me a hug and left to head back to the house, rubbing her arms as she walked.
I spent the rest of the afternoon feeling slightly guilty, for I had to admit I had given little thought to the monsters since I had left. The more I thought about them, the more I missed them and wanted to see them. Did that mean I was ready to go home?
Sleeping in my warm comfortable bed instead of the cold lighthouse floor certainly was appealing. I was starting to wake up sore all over from the morning dampness. However, that wasn’t really the issue as much as whether or not I could be in the same household with all that chaos. Or be in the same household, with him. It was pathetic the issue always came back to him, no matter what had happened since I was a young child. That brother of mine, who loved me I was sure, but drove me to such extreme levels of anger or tears depending on the situation. Was I ready to go back to that? Ready to forgive him once again?
In the end I decided jumping into my decision was not a good idea. For it would be harder to leave a second time than to just stay and cope with the cold. I would go back for the party and test things out.
The morning of the quads birthday arrived and I had mentally prepared myself to test the waters to see how I felt, how Jin reacted to my being back in the house. I showed up just after lunch, expecting to see a flurry of preparations going on for the party. I also envisioned happy faces with open arms exclaiming how pleased they were to see me. It didn’t happen that way at all. Margot was watching football, cheering her favourite team and noticed me as I came to the middle of the room.
“Hey, nice to see you,” was all I got, before her eyes turned back to the t.v. in and she was yelling in French at the coach for doing something wrong.
Jin was working out to the radio in the kitchen, but nodded in between motions when he saw me.Sun was no where to be found and I figured the babies must have been in their cribs.
It felt odd being back, like I was slightly out of place. I checked out my room which looked exactly as I had left it; my bed so inviting I almost climbed in. I emerged from my room to see Sun coming from hers.
“Jade! Oh I am so happy to see you!”
Well at least someone is, I thought.
“Thank you for being here.”
“I didn’t know when you wanted me to come, so I thought I would show up early to see if you needed any help.” (Could this whole thing be any more awkward?)
“No, I am all done. The babies are taking their nap. As soon as they wake up, we will feed them, then bring out the cake! Isn’t it all so exciting!” she exclaimed.
Excitement was not what I was feeling, but I put on a happy face to please Sun anyway.
“Oh and speak of the babies! I think they are waking up. You know how it goes; if one cries they all wake up and cry.” She rolled her eyes at me and happily marched into the nursery with myself and Margot following behind her. Jin came in shortly after, once he had changed from his work out clothes. Feeding took no time at all with four of us in the room and with one baby in hand for each of us, we went in search of the cake already set up in the kitchen.
With Bella in my arms, Alex in Jin’s, Sun holding Bonnie and Margot holding Anna, we helped the uninterested babies blow out their birthday candles. In a flash of light, our little monsters were now bigger monsters with more defined faces looking almost exactly like one another. There was no doubt they were siblings. With the slight exception of Bonnie and her lighter skin, much like Maya but also blond hair. She had been born with a blondish fuzz, yet Sun and Jin never believed she would actually stay blond. Where oh where had that come from?
“Must be you Sun,” Jin had said. “Since you really don’t know your full heritage.”
“I guess, but then there is also Anna’s green eyes as well.” Sun looked at the girls for a moment. “It’s terrible to say as a mom, but their differences help to minimize my fears of one day mixing them up.”
I watched them closely as Margot tried to get all of them to look at the camera at the same time. In that moment, I envied them, for they would never feel that sense of loneliness I had growing up as a child. Yet would they resent having three other faces looking identical to their own?
So lost in my thoughts, I didn’t see Bella reaching up to me until Sun pointed it out.
“Jade. Jade! I think someone wants a hug.”
I spent the rest of the afternoon playing with the todds until it was time for them to go to bed. Sun had just come to take Bella away from where I was playing piano with her, when Jin approached me.
“It’s gotten fairly cold outside. Perhaps you want to stay the night…sleep in your own bed?” Those were the first words Jin had spoken to me since I entered the house that day, and hoping not to ruin it, I nodded then made my way to my room. It had been a good day.
Until the middle of the night…..when we had a burglar break in. Sun called the police – why I don’t know and they actually laughed at her before hanging up! We found the robber in our living room, jumping up and down in a side to side rocking motion while pointing at the security box on the wall. He seemed completely oblivious to anything or anyone other than the screeching alarm and Jin had no idea what to do. What kind of sane person does that, he said later and because of that, he was too afraid to approach the guy. So the guy just continued to dance around scream at the alarm. Eventually, Jin reached over to tap the guy on the shoulder, which must have brought him out of whatever trance he was in. He turned, looked at all of us, then yelled “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”, before running out of the house. Jin followed after him to make sure he did indeed leave the island, then returned to have a family chat.
“We’ve been living here how long?” he asked. “Not once has anyone ever tried to break in before. This is either a one time thing, or we will need to be keep a much closer eye on the island. Now everyone go to bed,” he said. He plunked himself down on the couch with a book to keep an eye on things till morning.
I slept in, quite understandably but woke feeling very cold even though I was snuggled underneath my very thick quilt. As I laid there, I began to worry about the todds and wondered if Jin had forgotten to light the fire downstairs. The longer I laid there, the more annoyed I became with the cold, so I figured I had better go and check it out. The house was silent and I assumed everyone was also catching up on sleep. Goodness knows I didn’t sleep well, worrying about some bad guy coming in through the glass doors into my bedroom.
Down in the basement I found the fire lit and blazing away as it always did, which led me to believe we would either need a bigger fireplace, or a second one on the main floor. I gave the fire some pokes anyway, then warmed myself till the chill left my body.
As I was swinging my butt back and forth in front of the fire, I noticed things had changed in the basement. I walked across the room to look at the new painting hanging on the wall. I stared at it for quite some time before I noticed the signature in the bottom corner, and realized it was one of my father’s!
It was so beautiful! The painting was so incredibly detailed, it made me believe it must have had some significance to him. According to the date it was one of his earlier works, and later I would ask Jin if this particular farm meant anything to him. Question was, how on earth did the painting get here?
There was a new bookshelf as well, full of books and I was excited for some new reading material. I had already read my way through all the books we had purchased in Moonlight Falls and I was so desperate for something new. As I stood in front of the shelf perusing the titles, I heard strange “wooshing” sounds coming from behind them. I put my ear against the wall in hopes of determining what it was and it was then, I also felt a draft. I stood back, staring at the wall and shelf when suddenly it hit me. Remembering something I had once read in a mystery book, I began pulling on the books one by one……
and was rewarded! The shelf slid open, revealing a room behind. I stepped inside excited at what I would find, then stopped instantly. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing!
Sun was inside a large wooden bucket, stamping her feet up and down almost dancing in a circle.Her feet were purple, which indicated to me she had filled the bucket with grapes and as I smelled the strong scent, I could identify a few different types of the fruit.
She was laughing, in an almost giddy manner and it was then I realized what she was doing. I gasped, which interrupted her “fun”.
I attempted to swallow before speaking, to wet my mouth that had become so dry at the shock of what I was witnessing.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING? ARE YOU FRICKIN OUT OF YOUR MIND?”
Sun stepped out of the wooden barrel. “Jade, what’s wrong?”
“You’re making juice. Juice Sun! How could you?”
“Jade, you know I make juice. I’ve been making it all your life.”
“That was before Jilly. Juice killed Jilly! How could you continue to make something that is responsible for taking her away from me!” I screamed.
“Jade, you need to listen to me. What happened to Jilly was a very tragic and terrible thing. But it wasn’t juice that killed her sweetie-“
“AHHHHHH! Yes it was! Yes it was! How could you even say that? Why don’t you understand?”
“I do understand. I understand you are hurting and I am so sorry sweetie. But juice did not kill Jilly. One man did. One man and His bad choices are and always will be the reason Jilly can’t be with us anymore.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and raised my hands to ward off all she was saying to me.
“No. No. No. Please stop! I thought you of all people in this house would understand how much this would hurt me. I would expect something like this from Jin, but not you! Doesn’t anyone in this house care about me at all?” I choked back a sob and pointed at the barrel, “Apparently not! It’s fine Sun! Whatever.” Then I ran up to my room.
“I didn’t even think Mama,” I said in between sobs. “I never thought. I mean, she seemed so much better, and I’ve always made Juice. It’s my brand, how I contribute to the family.” I continued to cry.
Margot cleared her throat before she began to speak. “With Jilly’s death, Jade has had a true eye opener into the real world and how things work. If she hadn’t been so sheltered-”
“We keep her sheltered for her own safety!” Jin said sternly. “Am I the only one to remember Moonlight Falls? The life my mother lived before she returned to the island? Jade stays here. This isn’t up for debate.”
“You can’t protect her forever Jin!” Margot’s voice began to rise.
“I might also point out that we wouldn’t be in this position, if she hadn’t been sent to Camp I Can. She never would have met Jilly in the first place!”
“So she just stays a prisoner on this island for the rest of her life? Is that how you are going to raise my grand babies as well?”
“How I raise MY children is none of your business Margot and further more-“
“Don’t fight!” I yelled as I wiped away the tears. “No matter what decisions we have made, Mama is also right Jin. As the parents in her life, it’s our job to make sure we are doing right by her; not just for her safety, but for her own emotional and mental health as well. So for now, I will stop making my juice and give her more time. But we have to consider she may need more than we can give her. If she had been living in the real world all this time, things like juice and death would be something she knew about. Since they are not, this whole experience has been a bigger shock to her system than it would have been.”
“Fine. I will agree to that,” Jin conceeded.
“But, we will give it more time, because I truly believe this is all she really needs right now. Losing mom the way I did was really rough on me, but I eventually learned to live with the loss. She will too.”
“You had the Alula family Jin, and a whole other life to keep you going in the right direction. What does she have?”
“She has us and in time she will see that. Oh and by the way, I had you too. The thought of coming home to you was a constant comfort to me. I know you will be able to help her through this, like you did for me.”
I had a lot of things to think about in the two days I basically stayed sequestered in my room. I was sure to the “parents”, it looked as I was sulking like a baby. Perhaps to some degree I was, but quiet time alone was how I worked out my problems best. I spent quite a bit of time talking to Alex as well, for he always knew how to make me feel better.
I would be upset too! They are your parents and as such, should have
thought how that would make you feel.
It’s completely maddening how they don’t understand! How they
think I should have gotten over it by now! How does one “get over” this?
Did you give any more thought to contacting Jilly’s brother? It may help you
get the closure you are looking for.
Yes. And no. Do you really think it is a good idea?
I think you will worry about it until you at least try. He may be wondering about you too, you know.
I guess. Part of me is worried I will find out he didn’t make it either. I don’t know if I can handle any more bad news.
But don’t you think your parents would have heard if that was the case?
Yes but would they have told me? That is the real question here.
You would have found it on the Internet. You’re stalling, coming up with excuses so you don’t have to deal with it. Just call.
Quietly I tip-toed out of the house in search of a bit of privacy to make this call. The phone rang five times before I finally heard the click of someone picking up.
“Hello!” Leo answered in quite a snarky statement.
“Hello. Is that Leo?”
“YOU called ME, so I’m figuring you already know. Who the hell are you?” Then he let out a short frustrated breath.
Silence followed my name and I waited, before saying “Jade Bell? I’m Jilly’s ……………. I was Jilly’s friend?”
I heard what I thought was Leo gasp, then he let the breath out quickly in a huff.
“Jillys…why would you be calling me? She’s f’ing dead! Why would I want to talk to you?”
Tears came to my eyes and my heart jumped into my throat. I was so shocked at his response I didn’t know what to say. But I remembered Alex’s words to me and carried on.
“I wanted to see if you were all right? How you were doing?” I asked timidly.
Leo paused then took what sounded like an angry breath. “Gee, I wonder how I’m doing after my twin F’ING LEFT ME FOREVER! How would you be doing, Jade?”
My throat began to tighten while I worked to hold back the tears. “I miss her everyday. My whole life has changed now that she is gone. That is how I am doing.”
“YOUR whole life changed?” he spewed out in broken angry speech. Wow! I can’t believe you even said that to me. Who are you anyway? You’re the reason we were late getting home! If we hadn’t stopped for your damn snacks, Jilly would still be here! I hate you, Jade! Next time you get the urge to call me, dial someone who cares, or better yet, smash your damn phone instead!”
The click of his phone disconnecting our call, washed over me like a paralyzing cloak of cold ice. I stood there frozen, unable to hold even my phone and it slid from my hand, hitting the sand with a thud that vibrated in my ears. Slowly, the strength drained from my my legs turning them to jelly, and finally dropping me to my knees. I tried to crawl back to the house, but I had become too weak to support my own body. I collapsed to the sand.
I must have passed out. For it was dark when I woke up, shivering to the dampness that had covered the ground and soaked into my clothes.
Somehow I managed to make it back to the house, where I crawled into the bath tub shivering, till the hot water pouring down onto my bare back finally began to take the chill out of my bones.
I was so confused. Was it really my fault Jilly was gone? Was juice to blame, or some stupid man? Was it selfishness; mine for wanting off this island even for a little while, or the man who chose to drink? Or did it really simply boil down to fate? But most importantly; if Jilly were here right now, would she blame me too?
The only thing I did know, was that I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t change what happened, no matter how desperately I wanted to. But I refused to go down that road of despair again. One step forward- must not include two steps back.
I crawled into bed and opened my computer hoping Alex would be on, but he he logged off hours before. But not before he had left me a list of messages, pleading for a response:
“Jade, are you there?”
“It’s been five hours and I haven’t heard from you.”
“Jade, I’m getting worried! Please respond!”
“Jade, where are you?”
“I’m so worried. Are you okay?”
“Please talk to me!”
“I have to log off soon because my father will be home.”
“I hope you know that you can always talk to me no matter what. If something bad happened, I want to know. I care about you so much.”
“My father just walked in the door. I will be so worried about you till I hear from you again. I have to log off but I will be back first thing in the morning when he leaves. Love you. Nite.”
I stared at those words with such simple elation! He loved me? But what did he mean? Love me like a friend? Or like a guy loves a girl? I knew how I felt about him, but never once had he honestly shown me any reciprocation of those feelings. Just my own teenage girl’s fantasy…. or so I believed.
He loved me!
I stared into his gorgeous green eyes on the screen, till my own eyes became heavy and I could no longer stay awake. His face filled my dreams, until the morning sunlight dragged me unwillingly from him.
*Surprise! Rosemary and I aren’t done collaborating yet! Leo’s responses written by her and Wow what a good job she did too! Thank you RosemaryMarie! To see her story, where you will read about Leo, 2nd gen at http://www.booomcha.com.
*The painting featured – Rustic Autumn by Marcorse at TSR
*Many of the poses seen here belong to me and can be found on my pose site
-feel free to ask for any particular pose