I can remember my mother, walking into my room to kiss me goodnight and turning on the night light next to my bed. She would sing a lullaby as she was tucking me in, leaving with a "goodnight my baby girl".
She stopped doing all the childish bedtime things when I turned seven, by then she would expect me to walk downstairs and say goodnight. I was expected to be in bed by a certain time, to have the lights off by a certain time and to wake up at a certain time. There were never alarm clocks involved in waking up, but there were loud siblings. I guess they were always enough, but I would have rather woken up by a simple beeping or radio station.
No. It had to be Grace to wake me up every morning by first pounding on my bedroom door, second jumping repeatedly on my bed, and third (if I am not yet awake) to slap me on my back. She was also in charge of timing how much time I had in the bathroom, in the morning, so that she could brush her teeth (2 minutes) and use the bathroom. She didn’t care that I had to take a shower, blow-dry my hair, or brush my teeth (and no, I do not wear makeup; Jacob says makeup is stupid and a waste of time). All along in my life, I always thought that Grace was just and ‘it’, an alarm clock, or a timer. I never thought I would be caring for her the rest of my life, not as just my sister, but my daughter.
I pulled into a small diner off the highway for some breakfast. Grace sounded as if she hadn’t eaten in days and was about to die of lack of food, while Jake climbed in the back to talk with her, so she wouldn’t distract me. For the first time in the drive to somewhere, I was thankful for stopping to rest, I couldn’t bear to drive another couple miles. All through driving isn’t hard, it is exhausting, staring at a road for hours on end and listening to a girl in the back screaming for food while my boyfriend is asleep in the front.
I quickly jumped out of the car to smell fresh air, and to stretch my cramped legs. By the time I was out, I realize how warm it had gotten, even though we were only in South Carolina. I began to think that we were heading in the direction of Florida, and maybe living there for a few years wouldn’t be bad. It’s near the water, it’s warm most of the time, and Disney is right around the corner. I know Grace would appreciate the beach area, as it felt like we were in Maine again except for the cold weather replaced by hot weather. Maybe Florida would be a nice place, we would be close to Jake’s family (unlikely to visit), but the only downside was the cost. Living in Florida would be expensive, especially if we lived in the beach side area, or even near Disney. I remember flying to Florida once to visit my Aunt Clara and her house was very expensive for monthly payments; yet she died only a few months before my parents. Personally I would love to live in Tampa, close to the water, warm weather, except for the expenses, it wouldn’t be too, too busy. Unless we go with Jacob’s wanting with living in Jacksonville, FL. But, whatever the place we decide to live in, we might have to ask for a loan from whatever my parents left me with.
"Kate, you okay?" I hear Jake asks me from afar, his voice echoing through my mind and transferring responses to my mouth. I begin to walk faster to where Grace and Jake are standing, clearing my mind of everything to spend time with my two favorite people, or the two I have left.
"Yea, I am fine just thinking is all. So where to?" I ask, but I know where Grace will want to go: Dunkin' Donuts. She adores donuts, but what kid doesn’t. It’s also a place where we can stack up on food and drinks before another couple hours in the car.
"Donut Place!" Grace screams.
"Grace! Stop your yelling! This is a public place, we do not need to be drawing attention to ourselves." I scold her, while she begins to sob quietly, sitting down on the sidewalk.
"Kate, don’t yell at her, she is just being a kid." Jacob tells me, scooping a crying Grace up from the sidewalk and walking inside. I just stand there, staring into the parking lot and dog park in the distance. I begin to think about parenting, I know I did the wrong thing but it was what my mother always told us when we were kids and did something wrong.
Instead of walking inside and joining my family with breakfast and some earned coffee, I walk. I don’t know where I am walking to but I do know... I need to clear my mind; I am overthinking things and too overtired. I walk past families with the mother holding the child’s hand and the children with smiles on their faces. A perfect family in my opinion, where the mother doesn’t always make the child cry, even with the situation is needed. I guess I haven’t perfected that yet.
The walk guided me to the dog park next to the highway where cars and trucks flew by, heading to somewhere clear. I sat myself down on a bench near the fence where the dogs played and received some air and a much-needed stretch from the car. I watched as they scurried around smelling each other’s butts or sniffing the ground. It amazed me how dogs could get along so well when humans can’t get along for even a year without going into war or a divorce or even fighting with siblings.
I had always wanted a puppy; you know driving to a shelter and picking one out. Then getting home and playing with it all day long until mom said it was time for bed. The next morning comes and I run downstairs to see the new puppy, or as mom would say, "the new accidents to clean up". I know Grace would have loved to have a dog when she and I were little but, under dad’s rule, it never happened. I guess now that they are gone, we can own a dog, if we ever get enough money.
After sitting on the bench for about a half-hour, I started to recede back to the car with a text from Jake saying they were ready to get going. He said that he had bought my well-deserved cup of coffee with some donuts, snacks, and drinks for the rest of the drive to nowhere.
"Hey," I call to Jake and Grace who are standing on the corner of the sidewalk waving to me, whilst eating their Munchkins.
"Hey, Kate, please I-" I interrupt him before he has a chance to finish the rest of this apology.
"Just stop, come on let’s go. I found a hotel alongside of the border into Florida that we are staying at for a few nights. So let’s get going, I am ready to drive again. Jake, you can sit in the back with Grace to keep her preoccupied." I reportedly say to both of them.
I step into the driver’s seat as Jacob and Grace climb in the back, confused. I pull out of the parking lot and begin the drive to the hotel, with traffic heavier than this car. I turn my head to the rear-view mirror and see Jake staring at me. Then I notice Grace who is already out cold, after feeding her appetite.
"I am not going to sit back here the rest of the drive, so can’t you accept my apology and move on?" Jake asks me, his attitude shifting.
"No. No, I am not because she deserved to be yelled at, it’s exactly what my mother would have said to her. Then you just barge in, thinking that my scolding was too much for her to handle when I know her better than anyone! Can’t we just drive to the hotel in peace and quiet?" I speak, proudly.
"Fine." He says, falling asleep against the windowsill, uncomfortably.
Reaching Florida was probably the biggest relief I have had in three days. Finally being able to sleep elsewhere, besides this car and actually talking to people other than Jacob and Grace. Being able to walk elsewhere besides the bathroom at rest stops or the dog area at rest stops is a plus as well. I guess just the fact to get out of this vehicle is the best relief.
I pulled into the hotel, I miraculously found during the few hours we were stuck in traffic for, and saw the amount of excitement light-up in Grace’s eyes. She stared at the hotel as if it were a paradise, but I guess after driving for three days, who wouldn’t? Jacob on the other hand was still angry at me for what I said after leaving the rest stop. Better be safe than sorry and put Grace to bed before a fight breaks out between us.
"Nice hotel choice." I hear him mutter, while Grace leaps out of the car with joy in her eyes.
"This is AWESOME!" Grace yells, catching the attention of many adults nearby. Yet they just smile and carry on with their jobs and luggage.
"Glad you love it!" I spark up, walking into the main lobby to check-in.
"Hello, how may I help you?" The lady at the front desk asks us, typing away at her computer.
"Hi, I called a few hours ago to make reservations under Hearts." I speak up, as the lady still types away at her computer before looking up and handing us the key.
"Got it, okay you will be spending three nights here and your room number is 112. Have a great rest of the evening!" The lady says, smiling at us and giving Grace a lollipop with Disney etched into it.
"Thank you so much! Grace, what do you say?" I ask her, as she begins to unwrap her new candy until Jake grabs the candy from her.
"Thank you." She says before running over to the elevator.
"Mommy! Are we going up?" She yells at me, the crowd around us already staring at us.
"No, Grace. Now come on, please don’t yell like that again." I say walking past each room until we stopped at room 112.
"Jake! Give me my candy!" Grace screams at him, who has the candy in his jeans pocket until after supper.
"Grace! Stop yelling and get in the room!!" Jacob scolds her, while she runs into the room, flopping on the bed.
"Now who’s the nice one?" I sarcastically ask Jake who gives me the death stare.
"I am going to the lobby." He says, storming out of the room, slamming the door behind him. Grace gets up and runs to the door, about to leave when I grab her.
"Where are you going?" I scold her.
"Jake left though, with MY candy." She says, emphasizing ‘my’ specifically for her candy needs.
"He will be back later, in the meantime, why don’t you get undressed and take a nice hot bath?" I ask, opening the bathroom door to reveal a stunning washroom.
"Ok." She sighs before undressing herself, throwing her clothes in all directions across the room. She marches herself into the bathroom and into the warm water, showing a huge smile.
"Can I have my Barbies?" She asks, already splashing around like old times.
"Yes, you can, but please don’t allow any of the water to leave this tub, okay?" I ask, walking out of the bathroom to retrieve her colored dolls.
"Deal. Now close the door, and let me play spa with my dollies." I nod my head in response, leaving the door open ajar in case of an emergency.
I walk back into the room and flop myself onto the bed, sighing in relief to finally be somewhere outside the car. I check my phone for any messages and find one from Jacob asking about supper.
From Jake, Sent at 5:45, Received at 5:50
Hey, what do you want to do for supper? There is a buffet down here and the lady said it’s free, every morning for breakfast and every evening for supper.
Okay, come back to the room first, we need to talk.
No thanks, I think we should talk when Grace is taking a bath.
She is in the bath now.
Oh. Fine, be down in 30 seconds.
After receiving his message, I began to clean up the room, starting with Grace’s dirty clothes spewed everywhere. Her clothes smelled awful, and needed to be washed tomorrow morning, pronto. Then I walked to the bathroom and checked on Gracie who seemed to be quite content in playing ‘Spa’ with her dolls.
I heard the door creak open and Jake walk in, holding a beer in one hand and a glass of white wine in the other. He closed the door and gently placed both alcoholic beverages down on the TV table.
"I’m sorry." He said, opening his arms for a hug but soon realizing I rejected it.
"No. I am her sister, Jake! I know more about her than you ever will! I also know how my mom used to treat us when we got into trouble or drew unnecessary attention to ourselves! She would scold us like what I did to her earlier and what you said to her a few minutes ago. Can’t you understand that if she is going to live with us for years to come that when she gets in trouble she must be scolded and punished? If you don’t want that then we can just put her up for adoption. But-"
He kissed me on the lips, hoping for my rant to stop.
"Stop, I am sorry babe, I truly am. I want Grace to stay with us but I also want you to finish off our teen lives together. Please, chill for a little bit, we are all tired and need to sleep. Baby, I am sorry, very sorry." He told me, kissing me more, adding passion each time. Then without warning, Grace screamed, scaring both of us.
"GRACE!? What’s wrong?!" I screamed, running into the bathroom to find her standing there, naked, and horrified. She was sobbing and sniffling, while trying to work out how to say what she needed to say.
"I saw a man in the mirror, he told me to stay quiet, and when I screamed he left." Her horrific words left me speechless, and I looked over at Jacob who knew what had occurred.
Someone was hunting us down.