Chapter 1 - Departures
"Jon, the cab will be here in 15 minutes so make sure you're ready, OK?" Came Dad's shout from the foot of the stairs.
I didn't answer him. I stood in the middle of my bedroom and glanced about. My room looked different since all of my stuff had been boxed up and shipped out a few days ago. I pictured how it had been, the sports and movie posters on the walls, my bookshelves packed with paperbacks and topped with the trophies I'd won when I used to swim. My desk, now missing my computer and the clutter of school books, sketch-pads, pens and pencils, looked lonely in the corner under the window.
I raised my hand and looked again at the last item I had to pack into my backpack. The 6"x4" silver-plate picture frame felt especially heavy today. The photo of me and Mom, taken just over 8 months ago, was very familiar and at the same time strange. Mom had her arm around my shoulders and my head was leaning on her shoulder and we were both grinning at Dad as he took the snap. We were having so much fun that day. It feels like it was years ago.
I sighed and placed the frame inside a padded envelope and slotted it into the middle compartment of my backpack where it would be safe. Shouldering the backpack I walked out of what had been my bedroom and more lately my refuge and went downstairs. I could hear my Dad in the kitchen so I went into the lounge to wait.
Instead of sitting down I walked over to the large ornately framed mirror on the lounge wall and studied the boy who stood staring back at me. God I hated him so much! His mid-length straight jet black hair slightly covered his deep brown, almost black eyes which appeared dark rimmed and devoid of emotion. Together with his high cheekbones, straight nose and pale complexion, it was a striking combination that lent him a sculpted although melancholy appearance. With the black T-shirt, black jeans and black shoes he looked like a 13 year old corpse. Especially after the 20 pounds or so that he had lost over the last five months.
A man who looked like my Dad walked into view behind the boy and approached to stand behind him. At around 6'2", the man seemed to tower over the boy's 5'4" frame. As the man placed his hand on the boy's shoulder I turned and looked up into my Dad's face.
"All set Jon?" He asked me.
I shrugged and turned back to stare at the boy in the mirror again.
A horn sounded from outside and my Dad walked to the window and looked out into the street.
"Ok, the cab's here, let's go." He said, picking up a suitcase placed near the front door and turning to me.
I looked around the lounge once more and, with a last glance at the boy in the mirror, I walked over to my Dad and followed him out of the house to the cab waiting for us at the end of the drive. After our bags were stowed in the trunk my Dad got into the front seat next to the driver and I got into the back. As we drove away I turned and watched as our home for the last six years receded from view. I tried to memorize as much as I could of the scene as I knew I'd never see this place again. As we turned a corner at the end of the street the last thing I could see was my bedroom window before that too disappeared. I imagined myself standing in the window watching the cab drive away knowing that I'd be alone in the now empty house, and I felt the weight of sadness press down upon me once more. I turned around and just stared out the side window as we drove to the airport and thought back to that time six years ago when we were making the same journey, only in reverse.
Everything was so exciting back then. Moving to the US from the UK was a huge adventure for a seven year old boy, I was so hyper that I must had driven Mom and Dad mad. I did quieten down for the last quarter of the seven hour flight from Heathrow to Newark and slept a little bit. Although changing flights to the smaller and much noisier turbo-prop for the last hour-long flight from Newark to Providence, Rhode Island served to wind me right back up to 'Bouncing off the Walls' mode.
I remember staring out the cab window and trying to take in as much as possible en route to our new home. I'm surprised I wasn't made hoarse from my constant chatter and exclamations as I pointed out landmarks to my parents. Finally we arrived at the house and I couldn't wait to get inside and see my room and unpack all of my things that had been shipped over the week before. The rest of that day was pretty much a blur, as I raced around at top speed exploring the house inside and out and 'unpacking', which was more like tipping out the contents of each box onto my bedroom floor and randomly placing things around the room to get the job done as soon as I could. It would take me nearly a week to get things properly arranged to my satisfaction.
The following few weeks were all about settling in, registering me with my new school, Mom organising her studio and Dad preparing to take up his new College teaching job. School was due to start in a week's time and I couldn't wait to make lots of new American friends. Yes, everything was so exciting back then.
I wiped a stray tear from my eye and continued to stare blankly out of the cab's window.
"You OK Jon?" my Dad asked, turning slightly in the front seat.
"Yeah, I'm alright Dad. Just thinking about stuff." I replied, with a bit of a tremor in my voice.
"Well, we'll be at the airport in a few minutes and once we've made the connecting flight at Newark maybe you could sleep for a while. You're looking tired son." Dad observed with a gentle smile.
"Yeah, maybe I will." I responded, forcing a weak smile for his benefit.
I knew my Dad was worried about me, he'd been worried about me for months now, but I wish he wouldn't. I don't want anybody feeling sorry for me, I didn't deserve that, not from anybody and especially not my Dad. Not after what I'd done.
Upon arrival at the airport, I followed Dad through the check-in process and it wasn't too long before we were boarding the shuttle flight to Newark. The 40 seater turbo-prop was half empty and I took a window seat over the right wing and flicked through the safety information that was in the pocket in back of the seat in front of me. Whilst Dad stowed his carry-on bag into the overhead compartment then took the seat next to me. He patted my leg to get my attention.
"Best you fasten your seatbelt now Jon. Better safe than sorry, eh?" He suggested.
I did as instructed, cinching the belt tight once I'd figured out how the buckles fitted together. I did wonder what the point was though, I mean in the event of a crash a seatbelt is hardly gonna offer much protection as you slam into the ground at 200 miles an hour!
It seamed like no sooner had we taken off and climbed to a decent height than we were descending again and landing at Newark. The landing was a bit bumpy so maybe there was a use for the seatbelt after-all? After an hour or so waiting in the transit lounge, our flight was announced and we set off for the Boarding Gate number displayed on the departures board. When we got there Dad handed over our passports and tickets for inspection and we were once again boarding a plane. A much bigger plane this time for the transatlantic flight to the UK and it looked like this flight was going to be full, judging by the number of people in the line to board.
I had an aisle seat this time and Dad was sat next to me again in the middle seat of three. He didn't have to remind me about the seatbelt this time which I fastened once our group of seats was full. There was a middle aged man sat in the window seat and it wasn't long before Dad had struck up a casual conversation with him. I tuned them out and glanced around the cabin as people settled in ready for take off.
It looked to me as if they were a fair mix of business types and people on vacation, some couples and families with kids in tow. I hoped that there were no babies nearby, as the thought of having to put up with a screeching infant for the next seven hours or so did not appeal to me one bit. At least I had my iPod with me which I hoped would help in that scenario. I did notice a boy of about my age sitting in the adjacent aisle seat a few rows down from me. He was chatting excitedly to his mother and glancing all around him. "Looks like his first time on a plane." I thought to myself.
Although I couldn't see his face clearly, I could see that he had short blond hair and a nice tan. He was wearing a red polo shirt and tan cargo shorts and his visible arm and leg were the same uniform tan color as his face and neck. The red polo shirt really set off his blond hair and tan. It was then that I realized I had been staring and I looked around quickly to see if my Dad had noticed but luckily he was still chatting to the man by the window.
I glanced back towards the boy and was shocked to find him looking back straight at me. As our eyes locked briefly he smiled at me and didn't look away. I breathed in sharply and tore my eyes away from his, looking down quickly and pretending to be fiddling with my iPod. He was really cute and had really piercing blue eyes. After a few seconds I chanced another glance at him and he was still looking at me! I felt myself blush furiously and again looked away from him. Out of the corner of my eye I could see him turn back to face front and could have sworn I heard him giggle to himself.
"Damn it!" I thought to myself. "What the hell are you doing!? Don't look at him! Just pretend he doesn't exist." So I took out the airline magazine from the seat pocket and busied myself scanning various articles and advertisements until the plane started to taxi toward the runway. As the plane readied itself at the edge of the runway for take-off I put the magazine away and leaned my head back against the headrest and closed my eyes. This was the best part of the flight for me. The sudden pressure pushing me back into the seat as the plane throttled forward down the runway. The roar of the engines and vibrations from the wheels then the sudden change in the plane's attitude as the nose lifted and we shot into the air. How such a huge chunk of metal can seemingly defy the laws of physics and raise itself of the ground is beyond me. All I know is I enjoy how it makes me feel. Oh, except for the ear popping part, I don't enjoy that at all!
Finally, after what seemed like an age, we stopped climbing and the plane levelled out. I could see the cabin crew preparing their carts for the distribution of drinks and food and people were starting to undo their seatbelts and move around the cabin. Some just stretching their legs whilst some no doubt answering the call of nature and seeking out one of the bathrooms. I left my seatbelt fastened for the time being and tried to relax. I put my earbuds in and select a play-list on my iPod and closed my eyes.
It didn't take long, I must have been more tired than I thought I was. Soon enough my breathing had deepened and I slipped into that place that I feared the most. Where I could no longer hide from myself and memories were played out in vivid detail behind my eyelids where I couldn't shut them out. So I dreamed. I dreamed of that day five months ago. The same dream I've had every day since it happened.
I dreamed of the day I killed my mother.
To be continued...
This is my first attempt at writing a story. Any feedback would be gratefully received.