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Falling Upa novel
By MELODY CARLSON
Multnomah PublishersCopyright © 2006 by Carlson Management Co., Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSaturday, May 4
I woke up crying last night. Sobbing so hard that my chest hurt. I thought it was a nightmare, although I couldn't recall anything specific, only this heaviness pressing down on me like a bag of rocks, like my world had come to a horrible end.
I tried to shake it off, the way I used to do as a child after a frightening dream. Or else I'd sneak off to my parents' room, crawling into bed with them, always on my mom's side, snuggling up to her and sometimes even warming my cold feet on her. She never once complained.
And then I remembered ... Mom is gone. Like a slap in the face I remembered that she had died on Saturday night, prom night, and that her funeral service had been just yesterday. Full realization hit me ... my mom is gone, and she isn't coming back. That's when I started crying all over again. Only harder now.
How long would it take for this to really sink in? And how long until that dull ache deep down inside of me goes away? I got out of bed and started to leave my room, but then I remembered that Maya and Aunt Shannon are still here and that Maya was sleeping in the family room, and I might wake her up if I went tiptoeing around. And after hearing the way she so easily rips into hermom, well, I wasn't eager to disturb this girl or to set myself up for an unnecessary imbroglio (my word for the day; it means a big mess).
So I sat at my computer and caught up my diary. Or so I thought. Mostly I've been sitting here, staring at the blank screen and wishing that this ache would go away. I so miss my mom.
"At least you had a good mom," Maya told me yesterday afternoon, after I'd accidentally stumbled upon her sitting in a chaise lounge on the back deck. I went out there to get away from Shannon, who sat like a hypnotized stone in front of the blaring TV, watching some ridiculous soap opera. Maya explained earlier that Shannon's addicted to that show since she actually had a small role on it back in the early eighties.
"Huh?" I said to Maya as I tried to figure out a graceful exit from the backyard. I considered pretending that I came out here to get something, but what?
"Or so it seems," she added with a dramatic roll of her dark brown eyes. Maya is astonishingly beautiful, the kind of girl people actually stop and stare at. I first noticed that after Mom's funeral. At first I thought it was because she was a stranger, but then I realized it was simply her looks. In a way she reminds me of Halle Berry. Only where Halle's expression is sweet and pretty, Maya's is intense and almost hard looking, even a little frightening if she's really mad about something, which is usually the case.
Realizing that there was no polite way to escape my cranky cousin and remembering my resolution to honor my mother by being kind to her relatives, I decided to just bite the bullet. So preparing myself for whatever, I sat down in the lounge chair next to Maya. At least it was quieter out here. I leaned back and sighed. But I still didn't respond to her comment about our moms. I knew better than to engage by now.
"It's true," she continued, as if looking for an argument, which wasn't surprising. "I can hardly believe that your mom and my mom were actually sisters. It's like your mom was some sort of saint, and my mom-" she laughed now, an evil sort of laugh-"is the devil."
"Your mom's not the devil," I said, instantly regretting involving myself in what would surely prove a futile conversation.
"Like you'd even know."
"Maybe not." But now I felt slightly defensive for Shannon. "Still, I'm guessing that this whole thing is pretty upsetting to her. I mean, making the trip out here after all these years, and then she finds out she's too late to see her only sister. Well, she's got to be feeling pretty bummed, don't you think?"
Maya turned around and stared at me, her expression that of an experienced grown-up looking down on a sadly misinformed child. "See, that's just how much you don't get it, Kim. You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. This is the story of Shannon's life-a day late and a dollar short. It's just the way that woman operates. Ask anyone who knows her, and they'll agree. My mom's got the lousiest timing imaginable. And that's not even her worst problem. Don't get me going."
Well, I had no idea how to respond to that. So I changed the subject. "You know ..." I said, suddenly remembering something. "My mom told me that Shannon had been married to someone famous, but with all that's been going on, I totally forgot to ask who it was."
"Don't bother." "Why?" I persisted, honestly curious as to whether this was even true or not. By now I knew enough about Shannon to realize that her connection to reality is a bit shaky at best.
"Because it's inconsequential."
"Inconsequential to whom?"
"To you or me or anyone."
I considered this. "So, is this inconsequential person your dad?"
She rolled her eyes again, then picked up an old magazine on the table between us. She pretended to be interested as she flipped through its slightly curled pages, but I seriously doubted that my mom's old "Good Housekeeping" magazine was that engaging to someone like her.
Then she abruptly dropped the magazine back down. "Yes, if you really must know, this inconsequential person is my dad." She stared at me with those incredible eyes, her perfectly arched brows pulled together in a fierce frown. "Satisfied now?"
"Not completely. I'm still curious as to whether or not he's famous. Like is he someone I would know?"
She just pressed her lips together, shaking her head as an exasperated sigh escaped. So dramatic. Sometimes I find it hard to believe this girl is only fifteen. Then she let loose with some bad language that, although I'm not fond of it, was starting to sound familiar, especially coming from her. "Oh, if you must know ..."
"Have you ever heard of Nick Stark?"
"You mean the singer Nick Stark?"
"Yeah, the old Nick Stark has-been performer from the swinging seventies, I've-seen-better-days pop singer."
"I know who that is. But he's not exactly a has-been, Maya." I felt slightly embarrassed to hear the excitement in my voice growing, like I was some kind of Nick Stark groupie, which I am not. "I thought Nick Stark was making a comeback. I mean, he did the soundtrack for that hit movie last year-what was it called? The one with Denzel Washington and what's her name?"
"Yeah, yeah," Maya said with a bored expression. "His supposedly big comeback. One movie. Big deal."
"But aren't you proud of him?"
She just shrugged.
Then it occurred to me that since Shannon and Nick were divorced, perhaps Maya wasn't too involved in her dad's life. "Do you see much of him?"
She laughed, but with no sincere humor. "Yeah, right."
"So he's not around much?" I tried to inject some sympathy into my voice.
"Not if Shannon has anything to say about it. Other than sending his monthly check, Nick keeps a pretty low profile in our neighborhood. She makes sure of that."
"They don't get along?"
"Like oil and water, cats and dogs, whatever cliché you can think of. No, they do not get along, Kim. They are a restraining order or prison sentence waiting to happen. My mom actually keeps a gun under her pillow."
"Is she really afraid of him?"
"Afraid?" Maya looked as if she was going to laugh again. "No, she's not afraid. She keeps the gun just hoping that he'll show up some night, and she can pretend like he's a prowler and blow his head off. That's how much she hates him."
"Yes, that must seem very strange and foreign to someone as protected as you." Maya looked thoroughly disgusted now. "You live out here in middle America with your happy little family in your happy little neighborhood just like some freaking family sitcom." She stood up. "So totally unreal!" Then she stormed away.
And I know it was stupid for me to even react. I mean, why should I care about what someone like Maya thinks? Talk about needing a reality check! But her words just got to me. "Happy little family?" We just lost Mom, for Pete's sake!
But instead of saying anything, I just sat out there and stewed. I really wish that Maya and Shannon would go home. I'm tempted to take money out of my own savings to help them change their tickets so they can be out of our hair and our home for good. But then I had to consider ... what would Mom do? What would she want?
So after I cooled off, I reconsidered the news that Nick Stark is like my uncle, or sort of, and found it kind of interesting. But it's not like I can talk about it with Shannon who, according to Maya, hates his guts. And I'm not sure I want to get Maya going on it again, since she pretty much leaps off the deep end without much encouragement. So instead, I did a little investigating of Nick Stark online. And it turned out I was right, he is making a serious comeback in his singing career.
But here's what makes me sort of sad ... Mom would've gotten such a big kick out of this news. It's just the kind of thing she would've called up a good friend and enjoyed a good chat over. I wouldn't even be surprised if my parents have some old Nick Stark vinyl records stashed away someplace. I can just imagine Mom dragging them out and making us all listen to them. But then she's not here to have fun with it. She never even had the chance to find out about her famous "relative."
On second thought, she might not have liked all the family feuding that came with getting to know our "extended" family. And she'd probably feel sad to learn that Shannon is so bitter about her ex and that she and Maya are always at such odds.
Still, I think she would've gotten a kick out of a famous brother-in-law. Even if he is an ex. But maybe she's well aware of all this by now. I mean, wouldn't God let her in on all these sorts of interesting developments up in heaven? Or maybe no one cares about stuff like that up there. Who knows? It's too much for my little brain to think about. Especially at 3:14 AM.
But before I make another attempt to go to sleep, I think I'll write a letter about my relatives to Jamie-the answer girl. See what she has to say.
Dear Jamie, My mom recently died, and her sister and niece are staying with my family for several more days. The problem, besides the fact that I desperately miss my mom, is that these two relatives are making me totally crazy with their constant bickering and fighting and general nastiness. To the point that I'd use my own money to change their return tickets, just to get rid of them. Would this be rude? Unhappy Host Dear Unhappy, I'm sorry for your loss. That must be really hard. And having cantankerous relatives can't make it any easier. But instead of wasting your own money, why don't you make sure you give yourself time and space away from these rude relatives? It's not like you have to take care of them 24-7, right? And don't feel responsible for them or their personal problems. I'm sure that's not what your mother would want you to do. Remember, you can't fix everyone. Just Jamie
Wow, I'm thinking after I finish that, Jamie is right. Okay, I realize that I am Jamie-well, sort of. Sometimes it feels like she's a totally different person, and I get worried that I could possibly develop a personality disorder as a result of taking her too seriously, which I'm determined not to do. However, I do think I'll try to keep her advice in mind for the rest of Shannon and Maya's visit. Besides, it's less than a week. How bad can it get?
Excerpted from Falling Up by MELODY CARLSON Copyright © 2006 by by Carlson Management Co., Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
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