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Monster Under My Bed
By Jessica Schmitt
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Jessica Schmitt
All right reserved.
Chapter One"All set, Dad."
On the bed of Dad's tan extended cab pick-up, I woke from a trance to see my father's hazel eyes. His emotions had always been locked away, except for one unforgettable moment when he allowed a tear to glimmer in his eye.
"You know, I'm really only going to be 370 miles away. This is an opportunity of a lifetime. And I'm ready to conquer it."
As we embraced, I sensed his feelings of pride and true happiness about his daughter spreading her wings to the promising world ahead of her. It was my time to shine. Time to pack up my things.
Who needs moving vans when you've got the big old pick-up? Besides, moving vans are overburdened by an intense smell of must, wet mud, and a hint of old cheese. Maybe even a tad amount of mold growing on the cheese. Gross.
The pickup included my entire life, anything I deemed valuable enough to remain with me on my trek from the small town of AuTrain, Michigan, to a new life in Chi-town. Somewhat depressing I imagine; after twenty-four years, the vast majority of the contents consisted of designer apparel (and non-designer, of course. This is Michigan, remember?), accompanied by three overflowing bins of cheap shoes. As long as they're cute, who cares about comfort?
Pops and I were fifty miles outside of the Big C when my most prized possession notified me of an incoming text message with a Rihanna ringtone. Nate was one of my few friends from the overly expensive liberal arts school where I had earned my bachelor's degree.
"Superior Sizzle this weekend. Best be seeing your ass there."
He could bet his student loans that I would be there. The 370 miles was not near far enough to allow me to abandon my friends for the remainder of the weekend—740 miles over a twenty-four-hour period was nothing. Okay, that's not entirely true considering I had previously planned to return for the weekend anyway for the going away extravaganza my parents had spent hours preparing for.
I was acquainted with absolutely no one—not one living soul—in Chicago. I'd be starting my new job in twenty-one days, which allowed me the gracious right to spend my precious time basking in the freedom of doing whatever the hell I wanted. I had earned the pleasure of welcoming myself to my new city.
We arrived just as the IKEA delivery truck was pulling into the driveway.
"All right, Dad. Get at it. Constructing the furniture is a man's job," I said with a laugh.
I would perform the most important task of making the space my own.
Five tedious hours later, my new home was more than perfect. That was followed by a large deep-dish Chicago style pepperoni-and-mushroom stuffed pizza. Oh yes, life was good.
Prior to locking the front door and heading back to AuTrain, my father and I shared another unforgettable moment. Reality settled in—hard, cold, beautiful reality. My promising new life had only just begun.
Chapter Two"Damn, I just got back. Keep your shorts on, will you?" I hollered into my cell phone.
The next day, I was finally able to prepare to spend a beautiful sunny day on the Great Superior with my closest college friends. I had been dealing with Nate's nagging pleas to "hurry and get my ass over here." Here was the famous dock that held the annual Superior Sizzle Festival, a large celebration and an excuse for the residents of AuTrain to come together for a day and night of pure drunkenness.
Neon green halter bikini: check. Sheer, but not too slutty cover-up: check. Lake Superior, here I come!
"Cheers to the beautiful and so far most successful of us bunch of grads, Ali Sable! May she always remember where she came from and never forget the great bunch of bitches she is leaving behind. Love you, babe," Abby said as she handed me a Jager-bomb shot.
"How could I forget you when I will be persistently coercing you guys into spending many weekends partying it up with me in the city? Yes, you crazies better all be down there ... a lot!"
Nate's look said, "I'm ridiculously depressed, but overwhelmingly proud, and how the heck were you lucky enough to pull this new adventure off when all your friends are stuck at home still searching for jobs?"
Damn, I'm going to miss these guys.
Two shots later, seven of us were gathered in Nate's Baja on the dock of the Bay Mud Bar, rapidly pursuing our paths to a night of drunken oblivion.
"I got my toes in the water, ass on the boat," I sang with a slur.
As Abby and I slammed another beer, I saw Nate performing the one act that could help rid him of his misery of losing a dear friend to a large city of strangers. He was making out—with our friend Angie. It was awkward—for them at least. Abby and I burst into a fit of laughter. Leaving the two one-night lovebirds to their bliss (although I was positive that this had happened between them before), we took a seat on the splintery wooden dock.
"Girl, seriously, what am I going to do at Prizm on Thirsty Thursdays? And what about our late night adventures to the casino, getting hit on by the hot bartender that pretty much works just to see us? And who am I going to go off bargain shopping with on Sunday Funday? Is it too late for you to move back?" Abby smiled to cover the pain in her bright green eyes.
"I'm sorry, Al. I truly am happy for you. I cannot even express how proud I am of you being offered your dream job in the corporate world and starting a whole new life in the big city. You had the drive and audacity to get out of this town, and you're going to go far. I know it. I honestly just envy you. Think—a whole new life with no one to answer to, and nothing holding you back. You're one of the most intelligent girls I have ever met. Oh, but make sure when you fall in love with a rich, dreamy man that he treats you right. 'Cause if he doesn't, I'm only 370 miles from kicking that jerk's ass!"
The fading sadness was replaced by a wide smile. That's my girl, Abby. Best friend anyone could ask for.
"Hey, Michigan Avenue, chica! That's all I have to say. The 370 miles is nothing. We can shop, go out, and take the city of Chicago in our fingertips. Plus, you know you'll always have a free place to stay!"
"Heck yeah! I'm coming down for sure the first weekend in September, so you best be ready!"
Nate's sudden yell startled us.
"Hey girls, no crying. Get your pretty butts over here and shotgun a beer with me."
Three incredible hours later, we were cruising in the speedboat to Nate's secluded cabin. Rihanna blared from the speakers, likely waking every individual along the lakefront trying to sleep in the expensive cabins.
Nate tied up the boat to the dock while the rest of us staggered out in our drunken stupors, attempting to stay awake for another couple hours of partying. I, on the other hand, was ready to pass out on the couch under one of Nate's warm down comforters so I could sleep off the alcohol and exhaustion. In the morning, we'd venture to a cheap restaurant with some delicious hangover breakfast food—it couldn't arrive fast enough. I finally fell asleep amidst the loud music blaring from Nate's speakers and the drunken fools rushing around the cabin.
Squinting at the early morning sunrise, I awakened to a familiar scene. The cabin floor was filled with blankets, empty beer bottles, and sleeping friends stretched out on the hard floor.
Abby sat up and said, "Who's ready for breakfast?"
"Hell yeah. I've been ready," I said.
Greasy food and overly caffeinated coffee—I was determined to cure my hangover quickly. Apparently everyone else was too exhausted or sick, but Abby and I headed to a local café for some delicious food.
After placing our orders, Abby and I slowly maneuvered our legs up on each side of the booth, cradling our black coffees.
"What time is everyone arriving at your parents' house for the good-bye party?" Abby didn't even glance at me. "I give your mom five minutes into the damn party before she's bawling her brown eyes out."
"Ha! She will be lucky if she even lasts that long!" I said. "Family is probably arriving a little past four, so swing by anytime after that."
"Oh, I will be there at four on the dot. Nothing is going to stop me from participating in the sending off festivities of Miss Lovely Ali. I just cannot fathom missing your mom's ridiculously delicious homemade food."
We laughed as we leisurely sipped our steaming hot coffee.
"Seriously, how are you not overly devastated just knowing you're going to be missing out on the meals she makes for you nearly every night of the week?"
"That will be a difficult issue to become accustomed to—I'm sure of that."
"Your mom is amazing. Your entire family is too. I could only dream of my family being as close as yours. I ran into your Aunt Darlene and her daughter at the convenience store yesterday. All I heard was Ali this and Ali that. And from the sounds of it, I'm fairly certain you will never even get a chance to forget where you came from—so that's a plus."
"Not everyone who moves from a ridiculously small town to a glamorous city loses themselves, Abby. Plus, that's the least of my worries at the moment."
The arrival of our pancakes and eggs sunny side is enough to silence us. We stuffed our mouths with the maple-covered sweetness.
Speeding over to my parents' house, I loudly sang along with Lady Gaga. When I finally arrived, I stretched my body as I stepped out of the car. I was in desperate need of a hot shower to rid the stench of alcohol and smoke from my clothes.
"Al, can you help me carry the roast pork up to the shed?" my mom demanded. "Everyone should start trickling in here within the next few minutes."
"Isn't this supposed to be my party? Why can't Dad do it?"
Lowering her head, she gave me a familiar smirk. Aggressively handing me the large roast, she said, "Of course. This is your party, dear; that is why you should feel greatly honored to carry this up for me so you can show everyone what a helpful daughter you are."
"Right," I smiled and agreed. She could be smart when she felt like it. That was certainly a trait I inherited from her.
To be perfectly blunt, I may have been born with the gift of amazing drive and productivity, but I had enough respect for myself to carry the capacity to be a lazy ass when I felt it was my due. As a kind daughter, I hurriedly carried the roast to the shed for her, and then I hopped into the shower. When I finally walked out of the bathroom, all freshened up, I noticed the multiple vehicles in the driveway and made my way up to the shed.
"Will you find someone famous to marry when you're down there so I can say I'm related to them?" My eleven-year-old cousin Andrew asked in a serious tone. Oh, the joys and imagination of a young child!
"Andy Man, I will do my best to attempt to meet those needs of yours. Don't worry." I was fully aware of the fact that this request was beyond any realistic expectation of mine. But why crush the little guy's dreams?
About forty family members had arrived; their ages ranged from six months to eighty-two years. Of my eleven younger cousins, the oldest was set to become a big-shot freshman in high school. Holding the honorable title of role model to them, I made it a priority to set the best example possible. That was why they were not let on to my crazy adventures such as last night! Melanie was wearing a new T-shirt with "Chicago" written in bold white letters across the chest. Gotta love these kids!
Abby and Nate sauntered into the shed, and I made my way over to them. Abby headed straight toward the food table.
"Hey guys, thanks for showing up."
"Wouldn't miss this for the world, Al. Oh and uh, sorry we didn't bring a gift," Nate said as he gazed toward the tall stack of most likely housewarming gifts in the corner of the shed.
"Unfortunately for me, you are off the hook. Friends are never really required to bring gifts to a mainly family function; it's an unwritten rule in my book. On the contrary, family members are not excused from this." I smiled and gave him a hug.
"Dude, this pork is out of this world," Abby yelled. Her cheeks were puffed out and stuffed with a mouthful of food. Nate and I rolled our eyes.
"She never gets old," I said. "So how are you feeling today? Too hungover to join Abby and me for breakfast this morning I noticed. Is someone getting old? Can't handle the alcohol like you used to, huh?"
"Nope, just can't keep up with the party girl anymore. Good thing you're leaving!"
I flipped him the finger. "Don't even start pretending you're not going to miss me. I see right through you. Tears are about to pour out." I smiled and winked at him.
"Hey Al, come open your gifts," Aunt Darlene said.
To be honest, I'll admit that I was precisely that twenty-four-year-old who surprisingly has never gotten tired of feeling ridiculously excited opening gifts. In my younger Santa Claus existence days, I snooped every Christmas until my parents realized they absolutely could not store any gifts in the house, regardless of how sneaky a hiding place they could muster. Yep, I'm that girl.
I was secretly giddy and anxious to tear open the wrapping paper on those gifts in the corner because I anticipated that they would include the household necessities that I had carelessly forgotten to purchase. I was calm and cool on the outside, but I would bet (not money because I don't have any) that I'm not the only crazy female in this world who secretly gets that way in the presence of a gift.
The majority of the gifts included necessities and cozy decorative items that would potentially complete my home furnishings. One particular gift caught my attention in an unusual but heartfelt manner. My three aunts bought fluffy bath towels, Tupperware, and a set of eloquent stationery.
"It's mainly for the kids," said my mom's oldest sister. "We know how much they will appreciate it if you find time to send them letters every once in awhile."
Hot tears rushed to my eyes as I gathered my strength to keep from bursting into a mess.
"Thank you," I said.
Abby and Nate had taken off prior to the gift-opening experience, and I was more than grateful to spend the entirety of this beautiful eighty-degree day with my loving family members. Two volleyball games and three intensely competitive beanbag competitions later, I was exhausted beyond belief. Dusk was beginning to settle in, and all the partygoers were wrapping up and giving me their last (and first) good-bye hugs. Surprisingly enough, Mom refrained from requesting my help in cleaning up the shed. And unsurprisingly enough, I made no attempt at an offer to help. I think she could see the exhaustion in my eyes and was well aware that I was planning on leaving before noon the following day so I could spend that Sunday night anxiously settling into my new home, mentally prepping for the upcoming week in which I would begin my new corporate adventure.
Nestling into my parent's new leather couch, I flipped through the excessive number of channels they chose to pay an insanely large amount for from their cable company. I certainly wouldn't dream of partaking in that at my new apartment. I could hardly afford hot water, much less hundreds of channels that had no chance of capturing my limited attention span.
The party leftovers must have been cleared up because Mom and Dad finally made their way downstairs. Mom plopped down on an overstuffed chair, and we chatted about my promising yet unpredictable future. We fell asleep sometime around midnight. I awoke to glaring sunshine beating in through the windows, and Mom was not in the chair she had fallen asleep in the previous night.
I sleepily walked up to the kitchen to the delicious aroma of eggs, bacon, hash browns, and pancakes. Perfect start to the morning. However, my mom's pancakes had never really been to my liking. In fact, they had secretly never been to anyone's liking. Anyone who has been unfortunate enough to eat them had secretly scarfed them down and pretended they were the most amazing pancakes ever. I appreciated her efforts she has always put into making them but my goodness, when we give the leftovers to the Chihuahua, she stalks over to the secret hole she has dug in the neatly kept lawn that stores every pancake she has even been given. No use in crushing her pancake-making skills this late in life!
Excerpted from Monster Under My Bed by Jessica Schmitt Copyright © 2012 by Jessica Schmitt. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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