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Broken - Book One of the Through My Eyes Series

 

Broken

Through My Eyes Series

Book One

A Short Story by

Katrina Stephens

Published by Katrina Stephens, 2014.

[* *]

Broken

Through My Eyes Series

Book One

By

Katrina Stephens

Copyright © Katrina Stephens 2014.

All Rights Reserved.

Version 2014.09.30

No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, or distributed in any form by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, without the express written permission of the author. This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

This book is a work of fiction any resemblance to any person, living or dead, or any events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story line are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademark status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

Cover Design by: Blazing Covers

A catalogue record for this book is available from the National Library of New Zealand.

ISBN 978 1 63443 361 7

Website: katrinaauthor.weebly.com

Follow me on Twitter: @KatrinaAuthor

 

To my sister Bianca who inspired me to seriously write.

“Side by side, or miles apart…We are sisters, connected by the heart”.

.

 

Preface

When life doesn’t go to plan and everything feels as if it’s all falling apart, do you give up and go home, or do you find the smallest hint of drive in you to get up and keep going?

The past can have a flow on effect on your future, but it doesn’t necessarily have to define or stop you from finding happiness again or from pursuing your dreams.

I dedicate this book to anyone that has ever lost a loved one, or ever felt like giving up. Keep pushing on, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Katrina

Chapter One

So much has happened over the past few years. I just don’t think I can take anymore. My Dad suffered a heart attack which we later found out was caused by a blood clot. My Dad was my rock in my life; he always believed in me and encouraged me. That I was as good as anyone else, and if I worked hard enough I could achieve my goals.

Our family had a good life; Dad was working at the local Sunbury Horse Stables as a horse riding instructor and groom. Mom worked part-time at the local Sunbury grocery store, and my home life was great. Our house wasn’t too far from Dad’s work on a huge section just ten minutes out of town. It was beautiful out in the country, and there was lots of space to get lost in nature.

Dad and I had a close bond ever since I was born. He taught me how to play baseball and basketball; he also let me ride the ponies at his work at the end of each week, and taught me how to drive so I could get my license. I would also help Dad to do mechanics on his work Ute and helped Mom out in the garden. He was a great Dad and it was going to be so different not having him around.

***

I knew how much we were all going to miss him, including my brother Jack who was only three years old. Jack would say goodbye to Dad every morning before work and couldn’t wait for him to return. How was I going to explain to him he was never coming back home again. Why did this have to happen to my family?

Everything was going so well. I made my Dad an early promise when I was a child that I would try my very best in everything I committed myself to. I had made the Sunbury High School ‘A’ grade girl’s baseball and basketball teams and also took part in the social volleyball tournaments the school had just started.

I told my parents my ambitions to leave Sunbury, get my Business Degree and land a well paying job so that I could give back what they had given me. I knew how hard both my parents had to work in order to raise a family, and that’s why I had total respect for every person out there working to get by.

***

I was raised from a young age to treat and respect everyone around me fairly; to appreciate each and every reward and gesture that came by. The day of my high school graduation is a memory I will cherish forever. The smiles on my parents and Jack’s face as I received my high school diploma and a full paying scholarship to Pennsylvania Community College was one of the happiest moments of my life.

My dreams were on the right path to becoming a reality, but destiny had to intervene and now Jack and I were left fatherless and our Mom now a widow. I had only just begun college in Johnstown – Pennsylvania and was three weeks into the semester when I received a phone call from home. My Mom’s voice over the phone sounded as if her soul had been ripped from her.

She had received a phone call from Dad’s work to say that Dad had collapsed and could not be resuscitated by his co-worker or the medics. They told my mother the dreadful news and gave their condolences for our loss, agreeing to continue Dad’s paycheque for the next month as Dad had been an employee with them for so long.

***

The mortuary had told Mom that an autopsy concluded that Dad had suffered a heart attack caused by a blood clot. I left college that same day after I told the head of the business faculty about my father’s passing. He told me to take the next two weeks off; that he would get my lecturers to email me the notes from my classes and when I returned I could complete my first tests of the semester.

This was not a good start to the New Year. As I sat there on the bus heading home to Sunbury via Johnstown, I felt as though I was in a dream state. Just hoping that the next morning I would awaken to find it was all just a terrible dream.

But this was not a dream I would ever awake from, this was actually happening. The bus trip was to take approximately three hours with a short stop half way, but it seemed to drag on for far longer. My best friend Melissa had given me her old, no longer needed ipod for Christmas, even though it looked practically new to listen to on my bus trips to and from Sunbury and Johnstown.

But right at this moment I couldn’t even press the play button on the ipod, no music would distract me or wash away the pain or the tears pooling up in my eyes right at this moment. I had to let it sink in, had to let reality take its toll.

Chapter Two

When the bus pulled up on the main street of Sunbury it was just going dark. There was Mom and Jack standing there waiting for me. Mom’s eyes were red from crying and Jack looked confused.

How were we going to explain to Jack that Dad would never be coming home again? , let alone why we would probably have to move to a smaller and cheaper place to rent in town. As I stepped off the bus with my bag Jack was super excited to see me.

He looked so innocent and calm right at that moment. Mom was silent, so I took this as a que to be silent too. As we drove home Mom and I stared straight ahead into the darkness. That’s when I could see the shock and unknowingness on my Mom’s face.

***

I knew at that moment that I would have to help Mom and Jack out someway; I also had a gut feeling that I couldn’t give up the opportunity to graduate college as well. Dad wouldn’t want me to give it all up now, but things had changed.

Right at that moment I didn’t know what I should do. We pulled up in our driveway, and for the first time this house didn’t feel like home without Dad here. As we walked in and hanged our coats on the coat hooks in the corridor Mom asked if she could talk to me in the kitchen while Jack headed to the lounge to watch one of his favourite TV shows, ‘The Best Places to go on a Family Holiday in the USA’.

Our family had sat down only a couple months ago to watch the show on holidaying in Los Angeles – California. We all sat there in awe as they showed us highlights of Disneyland and the movie studio tours. It was going to be our dream family holiday getaway, but now without Dad here that dream seemed so distant.

***

As I headed towards the kitchen to talk with Mom, I couldn’t help but to notice the seriousness of this situation. Mom would usually talk openly to all of us. But I clearly understood her reasons for not discussing this situation in front of Jack. Mom hadn’t yet told Jack why Dad hadn’t come home yet, but I was guessing she would tell him after our conversation.

Mom began to speak, stuttering at first as she tried to hold her emotions together. She explained how she and Dad had made a Will three months ago, and that she wanted me to know what to do if anything should ever happen to her. She spoke of how proud she was of me and that if for any reason she were to pass away, I would be Jack’s legal guardian once I turned 18.

I just stood there in a bit of shock as I absorbed everything my Mom said. Mom told me not to worry; she had no plans on leaving me or Jack anytime soon but that it was a good thing I knew about their Will if anything were to happen. Mom told me that Dad’s body was now at the funeral home and that a small service had been arranged tomorrow afternoon at 1 PM at the Sunbury Chapel. Dad’s work friends, boss, a couple of Mom’s friends and some of Dad’s high school mates would be attending.

***

Mom explained to me how we were to tell Jack how Dad was not coming home. Jack was to be told that we wouldn’t be able to see Dad in person anymore because it was time for him reign with the angels, where he could still watch over Jack and I. And even though we wouldn’t be able to see him, he would always be with us in our hearts.

My Mom was so strong. Dad would’ve been so proud of her. When our grandpa passed away a year ago from terminal cancer, Jack asked Mom and Dad what happened to people like grandpa who never wake up again. Mom and Dad’s explanations about the angels comforted both Jack and I during that emotionally tough time.

Chapter Three

After Mom’s conversation with me I headed to my room to get dressed into my Pajamas before heading back downstairs. Jack was already on the sofa in his Pajamas and you could tell Mom had just told him the news about Dad. On his small innocent face, one which was once just happy was now saddened.

Jack turned towards me and asked if it was true, that Dad would never wake up again and the he was with the angels. All I could do was nod as my throat tightened. I cuddled next to Jack on the sofa as we watched the TV.

Jack turned and looked up at me as faint words came from his mouth, “Anna will I get to say goodbye?” All I could do for a few seconds was to stare into Jack’s green eyes. Jack was a spitting image of our father, and those faint words had sent a chill down my spine as I looked into his eyes. I hugged Jack and told him we could say our goodbyes tomorrow. Jack nodded and turned his attention back to the TV.

***

Even though the atmosphere at Dad’s funeral was bleak, the service was simple yet beautiful, with the few guests attending bringing flowers in shades of yellow, red, white and pink. The weather did not disappoint either, even though I was feeling sad and depressed it was as though Dad was watching over us and trying to lighten the mood.

Me, Jack and Mom said our last goodbyes to Dad, as one by one we placed a red rose on the coffin as it was lowered down into the ground. Tears began to stream down my face freely. I tried to stay strong, to hold in my emotions for Jack’s sake, but they would just not hold up.

As I looked down at Jack, I could also see that he now had tears pooling in his eyes and Mom was beginning to cry too. Mom wrapped her shivering hands around both me and Jack into a hugging embrace. We remained there at Dad’s grave crying and hugging one another until all the guests had left and we couldn’t cry anymore.

***

The next days and weeks ahead were going to be hard both emotionally and financially on the family. The last days of the week disappeared into a blur. Mom made the hard decision to move into town and to downsize. We could no longer afford to rent our house in the country on its large section anymore without Dad here.

Mom would also need to work long hours now to care for Jack and her and I told Mom that I would get a job in Johnstown to help her and Jack out. Anything extra would go towards my savings account.

Mom told me I was making her and Dad proud by going to college and she insisted she would be fine here in Sunbury. I was back in Mr. Clergy’s Business Communication lecture, the two weeks back home had flown past quickly.

Mom and Jack had moved into a small two-bed apartment in town, and we had sold most of our furniture and donated anything else we couldn’t fit into the apartment to charity. Mom was fortunate to secure a full-time position at the Sunbury Grocer and I think her manager knew how important it was for Mum to provide for her family.

***

There wasn’t much work available in Sunbury, and you could tell Mom was genuinely thankful to her boss for giving her the extra hours. The months to follow were emotionally draining, and exhausting from lectures, assignments, tests and my part-time job working at the Dollar Store.

However I was beginning to slowly settle into a regular routine and the heart-retch and nightmares since my Dad’s passing were becoming less. I did also make the effort to keep in close contact with Mom and Jack. I had saved enough money to buy myself a Cellphone and insisted on buying one for my Mom, but Mom was hesitant, she said she couldn’t bother with technology and insisted she would use the telephone booth a couple apartments down the sidewalk.

It ended up being cheaper for her to call me on the communal dorm phone, and I was always there around 4 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays to answer it. Except the time Melissa answered it in her flirty voice thinking it was James, her new boyfriend on the other side of the campus in the all guys dorm calling to ask her out that Friday.

***

I think she was so embarrassed when she realised it was my Mom. But she played it really cool, before apologizing for the mix-up and telling Mrs. Belford she would go and get Anna for her. I was heading in Melissa’s direction when she told me that she thought it was James calling her, but it was actually my Mom.

I couldn’t help but to laugh. That small moment of laughter made me realise how long it had been since I’d been myself, laughing and joking freely, but lately I had become a real life walking zombie. I don’t know how my friends had put up with me.

I had closed myself off from literally everyone including my best friend Melissa. Melissa had been my best friend since I was five years old, we just clicked. I knew right then how grateful I was for a friend like Melissa, she just got me and I think she knew deep down I needed a friend to get me through the loss of my Dad.

***

I told Mom I would be staying on at college, studying right through the year so I could make the best use of my time here and complete my double major degree quicker. I promised her I would come home at least three times a year in-between intakes to spend time with them.

Sometimes I thought I wouldn’t be able to manage my study load. Completing a double major degree in Business Management and Administration, and many times I feared what I’d got myself into. At times I just wanted to chuck in the towel and run back home to Sunbury, but my Mom’s and Dad’s voices resonated into my mind telling me how proud they were and that I could do it, that I would achieve my dreams. They had so much belief in me; I just needed to find that belief in myself again.

 

Chapter Four

Eventually I had built up a momentum and began to relish the opportunity to challenge myself. By the end of the second semester I had really begun to enjoy college life and also learning to balance my priorities around my job.

I had upgraded from working at the Dollar Store to a women’s clothing store in the city centre. My life was beginning to pick up again. The only thing that really annoyed me was the fact Melissa had it in her mindset that I needed a guy in my life right now.

Maybe she thought that if she had a boyfriend I needed one too, or maybe she thought it would be a distraction from everything happening in my life. Whenever she had the chance Melissa would arrange a blind double date for me and for her and James.

***

The first two guys were total douche bags, self confessed and full of themselves. I don’t even know if they could be taken seriously, they just seemed to care about themselves. The next guy I was almost optimistic he might be an ordinary, down to earth guy.

But I was totally wrong. The four of us ended up at one of the college frat parties and all he wanted was to get wasted. But what could I expect at college. This was the rebel phase of most guys and I wasn’t much of a drinker.

Next thing I knew college life was almost coming to an end. Melissa had given up on being my matchmaker. I told her the right guy would come along someday, that somewhere out there he’d find me…or maybe destiny would find him for me.

***

I couldn’t believe how quickly the past three years had passed. Melissa was no longer with James, he had dumped her for some other chick, and now she was dating a more conservative type with thick rimmed black glasses.

For once I actually agreed with Melissa’s choice and thought he was handsome and cute. I wish I was as lucky as Melissa to find a guy like Tom, handsome…cute…funny…and genuinely down to earth.

Melissa and I had lately been talking about the future and where we’d like to be, and jobs we’d like to apply for since we only had half a year until we would be graduating from college. Melissa had sprung through my bedroom door one Friday afternoon to tell me some great news. She had been accepted as a part-time intern at a Veterinarian Clinic in Johnstown while she completed her degree in Veterinarian Science.

***

She also spoke of how optimistic she was of the future, work and her boyfriend Tom who was also a budding Veterinarian. She also mentioned that there were a lot of gradate job openings in New York City that I should apply for. She told me about her Aunt Karen, and how she lived right in the middle of downtown New York. “Hay Anna if you want I could get my Aunt Karen to look out for suitable jobs for you that come by. I think she won’t mind flicking me an email from time to time for you”.

I guess it couldn’t hurt, so I told Melissa I wouldn’t mind…and thanks! Melissa spoke of how amazing New York was, as she had gone to stay at her Aunt’s place quite a few times over the years, especially around New Years time. She talked about how busy it was in New York, people were always in a hurry, and how it was the place to be, or go if you had a big dream!

Never the less she was hinting to me that I could do it, that I could land a great job in the big apple. New York did sound amazing! Bizz…Bizz…Bizz…I had just finished Wednesday’s final class in Computer Technology and was heading towards the library when my Cellphone started buzzing frantically in my jean pocket. As I pulled the phone from my pocket I noticed it was a private number, I didn’t have a clue who could be calling me.

***

That’s strange I never get phone calls from unknown private numbers. Bizz…Bizz…Bizz, I probably should answer that! “Hello, Anna here”. The other end of the phone was silent for a few seconds before a deep voice came from the other end. “Is this Anna Belford, Caroline Belford’s daughter?” “Yes that’s me, is my Mom ok?”

Another silence and then the voice at the other end continued. “Miss Belford this is Sheriff O’Connell here at the Sunbury Police Station. There’s been an accident”. “What kind of accident? Is my Mom; is Jack…my brother ok?”

“Your brother is fine Miss Belford; he’s here at the station”. “And where’s my Mom, is she ok?” “Miss Belford where are you right now?” “Um, at college sir, standing just outside the library, why?”“You might want to find a seat before I say anything further”. “Ok there’s a park bench over there I’ll go sit there”.

***

“Ok Miss Belford there was an accident this afternoon; your mother I believe had just dropped off a friend at their home just outside of town and was heading back towards town to collect your brother from school. There was a freight truck travelling out of town and their vehicle veered over the centre line and…” Oh no, this can’t be happening.

“Miss Belford are you still there?” “Yes Sheriff I’m here”. “Miss Belford your mother made no error in her driving; the driver of the truck also confirmed this. The driver of the freight truck has confessed to negligent driving. He has told us that he had glimpsed down for a moment and that’s when he’d realised he had crossed over into the path of your mother’s car.

It was too late for him to respond. I’m sorry Miss Belford your mother did not survive the accident”. This time it was my end of the phone that was silent. “Miss Belford I know that you’re probably in a lot of shock right now, but you might want to make arrangements to head on back home to Sunbury”.

***

I took a deep breath, I had to ask anyway, “Sheriff are you sure it’s my Mom?” “Miss Belford we can confirm that this is Caroline Belford, the only Caroline Belford in Sunbury. Her ID was on her at the time of the crash and we managed to find a piece of paper in her wallet with your name and Cellphone number on it, next to a family photo, and that’s how I was able to contact you”.

“Oh no”. “I think it’s best if I also bring up something with you first…we found a card in your mother’s wallet addressed from her lawyer regarding Will Documentation processing. Is it ok with you if we inform them of your mother’s accident so that they can assist you with your mother’s final wishes?”.

Another silence, my right arm was beginning to tremble and my hands were shaking. “Yes Sheriff, that’s fine…thank you”. “Oh, and Miss Belford…”. “Please call me Anna”. “Ok, Anna is there anyone I can contact, relatives…is there someone who can care for your brother until you get back?”.

“Oh my god Jack! Um, Sheriff do you think you could watch Jack until I get back? I know there’s a bus leaving for Sunbury in half an hour, I should be there around 7:30 PM, and Sheriff…I don’t have anyone else I can contact. Can you watch over my brother for me please?” “Um sure, your brother seems fine. I’ll get a few of my co-workers to take shifts watching over him. Don’t worry we’ll make sure he gets fed. Anna would you like me to pick you up when you arrive? I can bring your brother down too”. “Yes please, that would be great. Thank you, bye”.

 

Chapter Five

I pressed the end call button. My right arm and hand were trembling unbearably, my left hand clasping my Cellphone from my right hand as I put it in the front zipper of my backpack. My head dropped down and sobs turned into tears streaming down my face. Why? Why my Mom? As I sat there I could sense the stares of students on me and the whispers, “what’s wrong with her?”, “why is she crying” as they walked on by.

Then I noticed that one person had stopped right in front of me, I couldn’t quite tell who it was. All I noticed were their shoes, and that it was probably those of a girl. “Anna, are you ok?”. I noticed the voice; it was Stacey from my Computer Technology class, she sat a few seats away from me.

“Um…I don’t know. Can you do me a favor?” “Yeah, ok what can I do?” “Can you please tell the head of the faculty I won’t be at school for the next week?” “Um…ok but why, are you feeling sick?” “My Mom’s been killed in a car accident …I really have to go, I’ve got a bus to catch”. “I’m so sorry Anna. I’ll go and tell Mr. Roberts now for you”.

***

I nodded to Stacey, blowing my nose and whispering ‘thank you’ as I hurried off to my dorm to pack my bag. I hope there’d be a seat left on the bus. I phoned for a taxi from the dorm phone before heading upstairs to pack.

The bus would be leaving soon. Tossing and stuffing things into my bag, I hurried out of my room turning to close the door. I would seriously need to tidy my room when I got back.

Brain drain…would I ever come back? ‘Don’t ponder right now’ I told myself, I have a bus to catch. I hurried downstairs and out towards the front of the college to wait for the taxi. The taxi was on time, and arrived within the next minute. Thank god, now I was hoping that there was a seat left on the bus.

***

I told the taxi driver I urgently needed to get to the bus station as quickly as possible. The next thing I knew the taxi was pulling up behind the bus. I thanked the driver and paid my fare before hurrying off to the ticket booth.

When I got to the counter I was relieved to find the bus was only half full as it was Wednesday, and grateful it wasn’t Friday. Otherwise I’d probably be hitchhiking home in the dark. I thanked the ticket booth lady and boarded the bus and managed to get on board five minutes before departure.

As I took my seat I remembered Melissa. We were going to meet up in the library to do some quiet study together. I pulled my Cellphone from my bag and began texting. ‘Melissa sorry I couldn’t make it to the library; something’s come up back home, on the bus now’.

***

The bus was on its way, there was no turning back now. A minute passed. A message popped up on my screen. ‘Don’t worry about it. Everything ok?’ Deep breath Anna, deep breath. ‘Mom has been in a car accident…she’s gone’. I scurried around in my bag until I found my ipod. Picked up the ear buds and one by one put them in my ears.

No reply back from Melissa. Great I had scared off my best friend. My phone vibrated, a message popped up ‘I’m sorry Anna; if there is anything I can do just let me know ok”. I should text back, so I typed in ‘Thanks Melissa’, and pressed sent. That’s all I could say. I was kind of lost for words. I tucked my phone back into my bag, turned the ipod up and stared blankly out the window.

The bus pulled up on the main street of Sunbury; the bus was actually running on time. I could see the Sheriff’s police car parked a couple car parks in front of the bus stop and a shadow outline of an adult’s and a child’s silhouette. I pulled the ear buds from my ears, turning my ipod off; pulling the straps of my bag over my shoulders.

***

By the time I reached the front of the bus, there standing in front of me was Jack and Sheriff O’Connell. This time around, standing before me Jack looked so terrified and deep down I was too. But I had to be the brave one this time for both of us. I had to be strong for me and Jack; we’d only have each other now to rely on.

I bent down and cradled Jack in my arms. “Sheriff, thank you for coming down here to collect me” “It’s been my pleasure Anna; your brother is a very well behaved six year old” he said smiling down at Jack. “I need you to come to the police station with me Anna, we need you to complete some paper work and your parent’s lawyer wants to finalize a few things”. “Yeah, ok”.

I turned to look at Jack and assured him I would tell him what was happening after our visit at the police station. Jack nodded before we headed towards the Sheriff’s car and buckled ourselves in.

***

As we pulled up into the parking lot of the police station Mom’s words three years ago about how I would be Jack’s legal guardian if anything were to happen to her came flooding back into my mind. Poor Jack, he would grow up without a mom and a dad, something I appreciated I had the opportunity to experience before heading off to college.

I would now have to be Jack’s guardian and sister. Entering the police station I could see the other officers were welcoming and sympathetic as they nodded and smiled towards me and Jack, his small hand in mine as we walked on by towards the Sheriff’s office.

 

Chapter Six

I leant down to tell Jack I had to go and talk with the Sheriff and the lawyer lady waiting in the office. Jack nodded and said he’d be playing in the kid’s area. As I walked into the office my Mom’s and Dad’s lawyer introduced herself.

She seemed like a really nice person, I smiled back and took a seat. Sheriff O’Connell had me complete some paper work for my Mom and then Tracey, Mom’s lawyer asked to go over a few things with me.

She advised me that Mom had left a detailed plan for what she wanted when she passed. Tracey confirmed that she had already gone ahead and advised the funeral directors of my Mom’s wishes.

***

She then passed me a letter addressed to me. I could tell it had been hand written by my Mom, she had an angelic, almost calligraphy style to her writing. I took a deep breath and began to read in silence.

Anna.

If you are reading this letter I am so sorry that I had to leave you and Jack. Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. Keep your head held high Anna. I know it might not seem the right thing to say at a time like this, but I don’t want this to bring you down forever. Just know me and your father love you and whatever you choose to aspire towards, or wherever you choose to go, just know we will be with you forever. Tell Jack we love him and to be a brave boy. I know you will take wonderful care of him.

Promise me you will take Jack to Disneyland for us all. And Anna, don’t give up on your dreams, you only live once.

Lots of love, from your Mom

Caroline Belford xxoo

Tears began to pool in my eyes and I could feel my throat choking up. Tracey passed me the box of tissues that were on the side counter. “Anna I can’t imagine the loss and the daunting feeling of this situation.

***

I need you to read through this document and sign and date at the bottom of the form. This will confirm you as Jack’s legal guardian. Your Mom has also put aside the funds for her funeral costs and service, so that has been taken care of.

She has requested her ceremony to be a celebration of memories and if you are up to it, a few words at the church service from you”. I read through the legal guardian document before signing off, passing the form back to Tracey. I also confirmed to her it would be an honor to speak at my Mom’s service.

She smiled back, filing the form in her briefcase. “Anna your mother left me instructions on what to do with her possessions. She has left a sum of $5,000 which I have been advised to deposit into your bank account for you and Jack. She also advised that you can sell off any bulky furniture items etc and donate anything else to charity.

***

And one last thing your mother has written down here that both her and John, your father highly support you wherever you choose to go in the future. Anna I believe your parents see bigger dreams for you, outside of Sunbury possibly?” I nodded in agreement.

I could see Mom and Dad together in my memories again. I felt sad, but deep down I knew Mom and Dad would want Jack and I to go on and experience the things in life we hadn’t gotten around to doing.

Tracey confirmed that there would be a small service at the Sunbury Chapel tomorrow at 2 PM. I asked if she would like to come, since I knew there were probably not going to be many people present. Tracey agreed, before she rose to say goodnight for the evening.

***

Sheriff O’Connell re-entered. “Anna I forgot to ask you, you probably haven’t eaten yet. Have you?”. “No sir”. “Ok let’s go grab something at the burger bar down the road. I think your brother’s already eaten, but I guess he wouldn’t mind coming along for dessert”. “Yip that sounds great, thanks Sheriff”.

We pulled up to the burger bar and headed inside. I told Jack to check out the desserts menu, while I decided on which burger deal I was going to order. My appetite had now come back and I was starving, fish…chicken or beef.

I think I’ll go with the fish burger and fish basket combo. Ok that would be it then, let’s hope Jack had made his mind up. I turned around and at that moment Sheriff O’Connell asked if he could quickly talk to me over to the side. So I nodded as we headed to a couple of stools.

***

“Anna I just got a call from the funeral directors, and they have asked if you would like to see your mother, she’s in the chapel. They also advised that it would be best that the service tomorrow be a closed casket”. “Um…sure. Can we go there next?” “Yip that can be arranged”. “And sir, thank you for everything”.

I headed back towards Jack. After contemplating between the bubblegum swirl ice cream on a cone and the caramel delight with white chocolate drops served in a cup, Jack decided to go with the bubblegum swirl.

We all ate in silence, and before long we were back in the car heading to the Sunbury Chapel where Mom’s body was. Jack asked where we were going, since we had passed the police station. It was getting late and the clock has just ticked past 9 PM. “We’re going to the chapel Jack. I’ll tell you everything when we get there”.

 

Chapter Seven

We pulled into the parking lot and were walking to the entry of the chapel where the funeral director was waiting for us. Sheriff O’Connell told us he’d wait in the car.

I knelt down to eye level with Jack and told him the devastating news no child should ever hear. I remembered how Mom had explained how Dad was with the angels, so I did my best to explain to Jack that Mom had been in a car accident and that her body couldn’t be healed, so the angels had taken her to heaven.

I told Jack that Mom and Dad loved us and wanted us both to be brave. I then explained that we were here at the chapel as Mom was here waiting, and that we could say our goodbyes to her before tomorrow’s service.

***

Jack put his arms around my neck, “Anna does that mean it’s only you and me now?” Hearing those few words made me swell up with tears; my throat tightening. “Yes, but don’t forget Mom and Dad are watching over us, so we’ve got to make them proud ok.” Jack looked down and then lifted his green eyes to mine, “ok”.

I took Jack’s hand in mine, “I don’t want you to be frightened, but because of the accident Mom might look a little different”. Jack nodded. The funeral director directed us inside the small chapel where Mom was. Mom was in her favorite dress, the dress she wore on the night of the carnival when I was 12 years old.

I remember the music of the Ferris wheel, the flashing lights and the sounds of the other carnival rides and games. The carnival finished with a dance competition, the very night Mom and Dad had swing, jived, and ballroom danced their way to first place.

***

They looked so beautiful and elegant together, they outshone the competition and I remember being so mesmerized by their effortless dance moves. Lying there before us Mom’s petite frame radiated her beauty.

They had done a wonderful job at making Mom look beautiful. The only things out of place were the grazes on her arms and face, and faint bruising on the left side of her jaw that they had concealed the best they could. Still Mom’s beauty radiated through her injuries she had sustained.

Jack stood in disbelief while I held my right arm around his small frame. “I wish you didn’t have to go Mom…I wish you could’ve stayed here with us. I promise Mom I’ll be a brave boy and do my best”, Jack exhaled a deep breath.

***

“Me too Mom, I promise I will never give up, I promise I’ll make you and Dad proud…I promise”, I wiped the tears beginning to pool in my eyes. It was surreal looking down at Mom’s lifeless body; I wish I could just shake and awake her.

I turned towards Jack, “Hay Jack, I have some paper and pens in my backpack, would you like to write Mom a note to give her”. “Yip…can I draw a picture too”. “Yeah she’d love that”. I reached into my bag; I hadn’t even noticed I hadn’t taken it off since I got off the bus, not even while we had eaten. But now I was thanking myself for keeping it on.

This would be a great way for Jack and I to say goodbye without having to hold all our emotions in. Plus I think it would mean a lot to Jack. Sometimes it was a lot easier to express what you wanted to say in a letter than in person.

***

We sat in the front row of the chapel for the next ten minutes, writing our letters and Jack’s picture for Mom. Jack tapped me on the arm to show me his picture. There were stick figures resembling our family holding hands with big smiles. I clasped Jack’s small hand and smiled, “its beautiful Jack”.

I folded my letter, and Jack began to do the same, folding up his letter and drawing. “Come on Jack lets go give Mom our letters”. I told Jack to place his letter and drawing under Mom’s hand as I had just done.

With my hand on Mom’s I said goodbye. Jack asked if I could hold him up so he could see her better, and as I did he said his goodbye and kissed Mom on the cheek. I leaned over and kissed Mom on the forehead, “bye Mom, I love you”. Jack was admirable and so strong for a boy his age.

***

He had been through a lot in the past couple of years. I lifted Jack down and asked if he was ready to go too. I turned to the funeral director and thanked him. By the time we were back in the Sheriff’s car I noticed it was now a few minutes past 10 PM.

Sheriff asked if we had left anything at the station, and if we wanted to go home or if we’d like to come and stay with his family. All his children had gone off to college and had moved elsewhere, so his town house had a lot of guest bedrooms and it was only him and his wife Suzanne now.

I looked down at Jack. I had to make the decisions now. “Um, Sheriff I think we’ll go home. It’s familiar for Jack, and I think it will allow us to absorb what’s happened, and all our things are there. Thank you…Sheriff will you be able to attend tomorrows service?”. “Yes I should be able to”.

***

“That’s great, if you can’t we understand”. Moments later we pulled up outside Mom’s apartment, grabbing Jack’s school bag and my backpack and waving as the Sheriff’s car drove off. “Ok Jack lets go hit the sack”.

I pulled out my spare key and inserted the key in the front door. The apartment was spotless; Mom was always a tidy, organised person. “Hay Jack, do you want to sleep out here in the lounge tonight? We can have a sofa each”. Jack nodded.

“Ok them, you go get your pajamas on and bring your blankets out here and I’ll go and get the spare blankets for me”. Jack nodded again. Twenty minutes later and the both of us were snuggled up under our covers, and a few more minutes we were out. Today had been a long day.

 

Chapter Eight

Bizz…Bizz…Bizz. “Hello, Anna Belford”. “Hi Anna its Sheriff O’Connell, Tracey your parents lawyer just wanted me to pass a message onto you. Your mother advised Tracey to assist with any property matters with the landlord. So if you do decide to move, she is happy to sort any tenancy termination and funds owing on the apartment.

Your mother has left miscellaneous funds for these sorts of things in her Will Document”. “Thanks Sheriff, please tell Tracey thank you too”. “Yip will do, see you guys later this afternoon then for the service”.

“Ok then, thanks again, bye”. My phone was almost flat, I better charge it. Ok, time to get breakfast sorted. Jack turned over looking in my direction, “Anna who was that on the phone?”.

“Oh that was Sheriff O’Connell he said he’d see us at the service today at the chapel, it’s at two”. “Oooh…it wasn’t a dream then…Mom is gone”, Jack said irately.

***

“Come on over here when you’re ready. Would you like toast and crumpets? We have raspberry jelly, peanut butter and chocolate spread! Or would you like cereal?”.

“Toast and crumpets please”. “Ok then, they won’t take long”. The morning had gone quickly and here was me and Jack trying to decide what to wear to the service, I had left a couple of my nicer dresses hanged up in the corner of Jack’s closet and a pair of ballet flats.

I agreed to have a quick shower while Jack watched cartoons and quickly got dressed into the blue and white color blocked dress. I usually only wore jeans and a t-shirt, so this was definitely a big change for me.

***

Next I got Jack to have a bubble bath, helping him to wash his hair. By the time Jack was dressed in his black trousers, white shirt and a blue bowtie, and I had tidied up my hair and combed Jack’s.

Done the dishes and tidied up the lounge, the bathroom and Jack’s room. There was to be a light brunch and hot tea, coffee and juice 30 minutes before the service to meet and greet guests. It was part of Mom’s plans to celebrate her life memories with the people she had shared it with.

The chapel wasn’t too far from our apartment, so I thought if we left now we could be there in just over five minutes’ walk and in time to greet the guests in the small town hall adjacent to the chapel.

***

I was lucky I wasn’t wearing heals; otherwise I probably wouldn’t make it to the brunch on time. Jack and I walked speedily down the sidewalk heading in the direction of the hall.

When we arrived the pastor was awaiting us and asked if we could greet guests at the entry. “Excuse me pastor is there another service today too? Who are all of these people?”.

“Miss Belford they are all here for your mother’s service, some have taken time off work to be here, and some have travelled a great distance”.

“Oh wow, I never knew my Mom knew so many people”. As I looked around I noticed a couple of familiar faces, a couple of Mom’s work friends, her boss and others I had met maybe ten years ago that my Mom and Dad had introduced as high school friends.

***

There were also guests that I noticed had been at the carnival years ago had come back to Sunbury to attend the service. Most of my parent’s friends and work colleagues had moved away from Sunbury right across the US, and here today a large majority of them had returned to pay their respects and say their farewells.

I wonder if Tracey had helped to make this possible, a part of Mom’s plan to celebrate her life, it made me smile. If this hadn’t been so sudden I would’ve invited Melissa to Mom’s funeral, but I knew she had a test today that she was studying hard for.

I had no tests at school until next week. How was I suppose to return to school with Jack to care for, I couldn’t have him sleep in my dorm room. I only had six months of college left until I graduated.

***

Ok, one thing at a time. Jack and I stood at the door of the main entrance to the hall, they had opened the hall doors now and I could see various photographs of Mom and her parents when she was a child, her school photos right up to high school graduation, wedding photos and family photos which had Jack and I in them.

Mom must have got copies enlarged that she gave to Tracey. There were also vases of fresh yellow daises, Mom’s favorite flower at the entry and on all the tables full of food.

I also noticed that the majority of the guests outside were carrying a plate with various types of biscuits, cakes, sweet savories and sandwiches. The Pastor raised a hand to quiet the soft murmurs of the guests waiting and welcomed everyone to the service, a celebration of the life of Caroline Belford. He also introduced Jack and I as Mr. and Mrs. Belford’s children and asked guests to pass their food to the kitchen staff inside to serve out.

 

Chapter Nine

One by one the guests began to form a line into the hall. Jack and I greeted each guest with a firm handshake. There were so many people, and so many names, plus many of them had brought their young children with them who were around Jack’s age and younger.

I think Jack really enjoyed shaking all the kids’ hands the most, he really rose to the occasion. I was really surprised; I was expecting Jack to turn timid and shy at the thought of greeting all these people.

I knew the faces of Mom’s work colleagues and boss, and there was Sheriff O’Connell and his wife Suzanne, and Tracey our parent’s lawyer, so it did feel reassuring to have some familiar faces in the crowd.

***

All in all it was really interesting to put a few faces to names Mom had mentioned when she had talked of as friends in high school, and those who had become friends over the years. Originally I thought there might be a max of 15 guests, but now looking around there were close to 120 guests.

The small hall was bustling with people as Jack and I walked around grabbing a couple slices and biscuits here and there listening to stories of how they met Mom and Dad, what Mom was like, dance competitions, themed dress ups and how kind hearted and caring she was.

Mom had made friends with so many different people from school, work and local clubs over the years and they were all very kind. I had an idea; I needed to tell Pastor Ryan A.S.A.P. “Sheriff can you please watch Jack for me, I have to go see the Pastor”. “Yeah sure”.

***

I headed towards Pastor Ryan, who was in the kitchen helping the kitchen staff to pass out drinks and plates to the guests. “Excuse me Pastor, can I please talk to you?” “Of course Miss Belford”.

We walked a few feet from the bustle of people, “Pastor Ryan can I ask a favor please?” “Depends on the favor Miss Belford, but I could surely help”.

“After bumping into some of the guests and hearing their stories, I began thinking. If it’s possible and a few of them wish to, would it be fine to have a few of them say some words for Mom at the service?”. “Yes I think that would be a very great idea”.

***

“Ok then, Pastor Ryan would you ask the guests on my behalf if there is anyone interested in saying a few words at the service to come forth to put their name down”. “Oh sure…will you also be saying a few words too Miss Belford at the service?”.

“Yip, is it ok if I go up last? I was going to write something down but I want to say it from the heart”. “That’s sounds good. Leave it up to me Miss Belford; I’ll announce this to the crowd now”.

I thanked Pastor Ryan before heading back in Jack’s direction. Pastor Ryan raised his hand and lifted his voice over the sounds of people eating and talking, “can I have all of your attention please”.

***

The crowd all hushed down and turned towards Pastor Ryan. Pastor Ryan continued, “Miss Belford will be saying a few words at the end of today’s service on behalf of her mother. If there are any guests here who would also like to say a few words on behalf of Caroline Belford can you please come and see me now so I can sort out an order and we can discuss when the speeches will take place. Thank you”.

Was I expecting too much, were any guests going to brave public speaking to say a few words for our Mom? I looked towards Pastor Ryan who now had a group of approximately 11-15 people around him putting their names forward to say a few words at the service.

I was so happy. Mom would’ve been emotionally moved to see who had turned out and the speeches planned for the service. I hope Mom and Dad were watching.

 

Chapter Ten

The service was beautiful with fresh yellow daises also decorating the aisle of the chapel, and lit candles in various sizes at the far back wall of the chapel under the stained glass window behind the Pastor’s preaching stand. One by one, twelve guests in total walked to the stand to give their condolences and to talk about the women they knew as Caroline Belford.

How she had one of the warmest personalities, how kind and caring she was, and how she had a beautiful soul. It made me swell up with tears, tears of happiness and sadness. Mom was a truly beautiful person, inside and out and she had touched the lives of so many people.

It was my turn to say a few words in front of the packed crowd. I began by thanking everyone for coming, and then began “I have been so touched by the overwhelming kindness, love and compassion by everyone today. I didn’t realise our Mom and Dad had known so many people. Mom would’ve been emotionally moved by the turnout and your kind gestures. We knew our Mom as a kind, caring person putting others before herself and making everyone feel welcomed. She had such a kind soul, and was the best Mom anyone could’ve asked for. I for one will remember for the rest of my life the affection and love our parents Caroline and John Belford showered Jack and I with. They taught us to never give up, to be brave, work hard and to treat others with the respect that one desired. Mom and Dad you can never be replaced. We will miss you so much, but know you won’t be too far away. And as Mom would say, ‘don’t give up your dreams…you can do it!’ And from Jack and me, we love you Mom and Dad”.

***

Before Jack and I knew, it was time for both of us to head home. Mom’s plans to celebrate her life in a joyous way had actually gone surprisingly well. With Jack’s hand in mine walking home, our heads were held high, and instead of sorrow I felt a sense of pride from the day’s events. Mom had been able to bring so many people together, and the memories shared between each other would be remembered by Jack and me forever.

Assurance and positive gestures and motivation from guests after the ceremony lifted my self-esteem, and a sense of self belief now as Jack and I continued to walk home. I was going to make this work, somehow I would find a way to finish college and graduate, and land a reasonable job.

Sounded a lot easier said than done, especially now that I had to look after myself and my six year old brother, juggle part-time work, attend college and complete assignments and exams and save up along the way so that I’d be financially prepared when it came to the time, to up and go in search of full-time work.

***

The next morning as I looked at Jack still sound asleep. I knew it was a school day and the last day of the week but Jack really needed the day off. He looked totally exhausted.

I began thinking to myself, now with Jack with me I would seriously need to prioritize my time better, I would need to arrange a child minder when I was at work…and to mention it I needed to be back at college in just a week to catch up on what I’d missed and tests. As I sat there I began making a list in my head.

First thing I would have to contact Mom’s Lawyer Tracey to assist with sorting the termination of the tenancy of Mom’s apartment; I needed to post an advert on the local town board outside the grocery store to sell the furniture and any household goods in the next three to four days; anything left I could call the local charity store to come and collect.

Jack and I would be able to pack one reasonable size bag of possessions, and anything else that was small enough to squeeze into a backpack each to take on the bus to Johnstown – Pennsylvania.

Chapter Eleven

I made a mental note in my head; we were defiantly taking the photos which had been on display at the service yesterday. Clothes could be replaced, but memories and photos couldn’t.

Pastor Ryan said he would have one of his friends drop off the photos today. Oh gosh, almost forgot one of the most important things to do. We needed to find a place to live in Johnstown when I returned to college, I couldn’t have Jack crammed into my small dorm bedroom, I don’t think it would be aloud either.

I would also need to contact the College Scholarship Board to advise them that I would no longer be boarding due to the change in circumstances. Oh yeah, one more important thing I need to get Jack’s school enrolment sorted, I knew that Johnstown Elementary School was not too far from the college.

***

With my list in my head I raced to write it all down. Pulling my Cellphone from my backpack I noted that I would have enough money on my phone to make all the calls I needed before running out of credit. If I did I would just have to scurry the house for loose coins and use the payphone down the road.

Throwing on a pair of jeans and t-shirt only good enough for around the house I stepped outside, I didn’t want to wake Jack. I had a phone book and my to-do list in one hand, and my Cellphone in the other.

The street outside was relatively quiet; I think everyone must’ve been in school by now or at work, only a couple cars had driven past. I sat down on the steps before the door, ok first call I have to make…Sunbury Elementary School. I had to let them know of our plans to move to Johnstown… done.

***

Next, call Johnstown Elementary School to request an enrolment for Jack to commence school in one week’s time… done. The school administrator sounded ecstatic about Jack joining them and said she’d contact Sunbury Elementary School to transfer his transcripts over straight away.

Ok next, somewhere to live when we get back to Johnstown. Should I look in newspapers or online for rentals? I’d heard of a lot of scams on the internet pretending to offer legitimate rentals requesting deposits to be paid before seeing the place in person. Turning out to be scammers, advertising flops that never showed.

Ok think Anna. I picked up my Cellphone and called Melissa. “Hay Melissa, good news I’m definitely coming back to college. Bad news, Jack and I have nowhere to live. Do you think you could do me a favor?”. “Yeah sure, I’d love to help you guys out. You know I’m here for you Anna”.

***

“Ok. Are you free this weekend, could you go check out some furnished apartments? I’m going to contact a few advertisers and some real-estate agents soon. Hopefully they can show you around this weekend on my behalf, you can take Tom with you if he’s free…I don’t mind”. “Yeah I’ve got nothing on this weekend, that sounds fun…it’ll be like shopping for a house!”.

“We don’t need anything too fancy, I’ll only request apartments close by to the college, so its close for me to walk Jack to school and vice versa. If there’s any reasonable two-bed apartments you know of go ahead and check them out for us; anything that’s warm and livable and has nice neighbors”. “Yeah ok, just flick me a text or email with the deets”.

“Ok then, thanks Melissa. I’ll forward you the details by this evening, and I’ll give the agent your first name so they know they have the right person. If all goes to plan Jack and I could be on a bus as early as Tuesday or Wednesday morning to sign off on a rental. Thanks Melissa, call or email me after the inspections”.

“Ok Anna…let me know if I can do anything else too and say hi to Jack from me, I can’t wait to see you guys”. “Thanks again Melissa, I owe you…maybe dinner in our new place one day?” “Yeah, defiantly!” “Ok, bye” and with that done I called Tracey, Mom’s Lawyer.

***

She was pleased to know I had begun making plans, small steps towards getting our lives back on track. Tracey agreed she’d be happy to sort the termination of Mom’s rental contract and wished us the best.

I dialed the number of the chairman of the College Scholarship Board to inform him of my change in situation, and that I would no longer need to board on campus. He gave his condolences and wished me all the best for my future endeavors.

I headed back inside where Jack was now awake watching infomercials on TV. “Hay Jack, turn the telly off…do you wanna come and make pancakes for breakfast with me?” ”Ok…I’m coming”. After breakfast and a quick face wash and both of us had brushed our teeth, threw on some clothes worthy of walking around town in, I told Jack my plans to move to Johnstown.

***

At first he seemed a bit iffy, but after sometime I think he started coming around with the idea. He seemed excited to live and see a larger city and was really looking forward to the bus trip to Johnstown.

We threw on our coats and headed down to the grocery store for a few essentials for the next few days. The trip was a double hit in one. We were able to get groceries and post an advert on the community board advising the locals to give me a call to drop by, and make an offer on household goods and furniture over the next four days.

Jack helped to pack away the groceries, and then I prepared a platter of snacks for morning tea. Crackers, cheese, sliced fruit and a pot of yoghurt each. A knock came from the door and upon opening it I saw a man probably in his 40s. “You must be Miss Belford. Pastor Ryan asked me to drop off some framed photographs I believe are yours…I’m Michael Collins”. “Thank you Mr. Collins I really appreciate it”. “No worries, I’ll go grab them from the car”.

 

Chapter Twelve

By the afternoon I had received four calls from interested buyers, they had dropped by and before we’d known the furniture in both bedrooms were almost all sold.

The apartment looked like a mess; I had boxes out everywhere and had started packing Mom’s clothing into them to donate to charity. I placed her jewelry into a jewelry box and placed it into my suitcase with the framed photographs which were all now bubble wrapped up.

I didn’t have that much clothing here at Mom’s place so I told Jack he could pack any extra clothes in my suitcase. Then I realised most of my belongings were still in my dorm room on campus. I sent Melissa a text asking her if she could pack up a few of my things in the boxes that were in my wardrobe.

***

Melissa quickly replied to say she’d do it tonight. I was thankful I had a friend like Melissa. She was like a sister to me; we had been there for each other to pick each other up when we fell down or needed to ask a favor. I was there when she had boyfriend problems, and she was there when I needed her. I really owed Melissa big time!

The weather forecast for the next week predicted warm sunny weather here in Sunbury and Johnstown. Jack and I had managed to sift through our belongings and had selected Jack’s best things into his suitcase; a backpack and my suitcase which we managed to squeeze in a blanket each.

I would collect the things from my dorm room when we got back. I had plenty of blankets and sheets in my dorm room we could use, and we could carry our pillows on the bus. I’d also been in contact with three real-estate agents in Johnstown who had confirmed they could show Melissa around the furnished and semi-furnished two-bed apartments close to Pennsylvania College on Saturday.

***

I went with my gut feeling and decided to go straight to legitimate real-estate agents, rather than having to sift out classifieds in the newspaper. The agent had informed me that they had posted photos of the outside of the properties online which I hoped to check out at the internet café in town today.

I texted Melissa the details and where to meet the agents, they had been able to compile a reasonable sized list of apartments to view which had been scheduled from 9:30 AM to 1 PM.

I could tell Melissa was excited just from her response. I texted her back to make sure she took a pen and note pad, so she could write down the addresses of the best properties and to be thorough during the inspection. We didn’t want to live in anything that was a health hazard.

***

Bizz…Bizz…Bizz. My Cellphone started vibrating frantically on the kitchen counter. I’d placed a moving sale sign outside this morning and both Jack and I had been on our feet most of the day.

The message on my Cellphone was from Melissa, “Hi Anna, my day was exciting. Three places really stood out for me, but one house stood out by far. It’s a multi-storey semi-furnished two bed house with a small backyard, and best of all it has a built in ventilation and heating system throughout the home.

Plus the owners have included lawn maintenance in the rent. I’ve attached photos of the inside and backyard, there’s beds, a fridge, washer, two small sofas and three stools at the breakfast bar. I also bumped into the neighbors next door; they are a young family and seem really friendly”.

***

The house sounded perfect and it looked really cozy and inviting in the photos. I began typing in my reply to Melissa, “Melissa it sounds perfect. Is there a catch? How much is the rent?”. “Ok the cheapest place we looked at was $375 per month, but was really dark and had a cold feeling. And it also didn’t include lawn maintenance which you’d have to pay someone else to do or get your own mower”.

“Melissa, just tell me please”. “The agent confirmed this house is $400 per month. What do you think?” “That sounds really reasonable, it does look and sounds like the best option for us. I trust you Melissa, you know what I like”.

“Phew, I knew you would like it too. It’s also a block from the Elementary School and about three blocks from College. So I can always pop by for dinner maybe?”.

“Yeah of course, I do owe you a few cooked dinners don’t I?”. “Anna I also had a great thought today. If you ever need a child minder you can always call me, and Jack knows me already so I think we’d have lots of fun”.

***

“Thank you Melissa that means a lot, I don’t know if I’d be able to pay you per hour though”. “Don’t worry about it; you can supply the snacks when I watch Jack, how’s that?”. “Sounds great! Thank you”.

“Hay it’s a win-win situation, free food for me and I bet Jack and I could get a lot of homework done too when I’m over…can’t wait”. “I bet you guys would! Thank you so much for everything Melissa”.

“No problem that’s what BFFs are for, so when do you guys think you’ll be back?”. “Well I’ll give the agent a call first thing Monday morning to confirm the property, and book the bus tickets for Tuesday morning to arrive in Johnstown by noon”.

“Ok then, I’ll give you a text on Tuesday evening Anna”. “Look forward to it, see you soon then”. “See you on Tuesday Anna, bye”.

 

Chapter Thirteen

Mom’s apartment was basically empty. All the furniture, TV and household items had now all been sold. But now Jack was looking bored, especially without a TV. However I managed to keep three of his favorite story books and his favorite game. The one where you have to place your feet and hands on specific coloured circles without falling down, until only one person is left.

It seemed like a game that would involve a lot of laughter, so I called out to Jack to come over and teach me how to play. We ended up having a lot of fun and it sure made us laugh.

Since we had no cooking utensils remaining and only had cereal, a carton of milk and two bowls and a few plastic spoons I told Jack we would be eating out for the next few nights until we set up house in Johnstown. Saturday we ordered in pizza, Sunday was burgers and fries, and Monday night we planned on trying the chicken fried steak down at the diner.

***

I had called the real-estate Agent at 9 AM Monday morning, and they were happy to process the paperwork, all we had to do now was turn up on Tuesday to pay the deposit and the first month’s rent in advance to collect the keys to our new home. I’d also been in contact with the local charity store to collect the remaining items of clothing and the bric-a-brac items.

The last four days had passed considerably quickly and seemed slightly surreal. Not only was Mom gone, but I had made the decision to pack Jack’s and my life up, leaving the life we knew behind for a new life in a city Jack didn’t yet know.

The transition was going to be a big change. With all our furnishings gone I made the choice to spend the last night in Sunbury in a B&B close by. That way I knew we would rest well and Jack would be comfortable, instead of having to sleep on the floor with the last of our blankets.

***

I’d given the apartment a quick clean and Mom’s lawyer has dropped by to collect the keys of the apartment, and to give her best wishes for the future. Rising early the next morning, we’d planned on stopping by the cemetery to say goodbye to Mom and Dad.

Deep down I felt guilt. Not only was I taking Jack away from the life he knew, but I was taking him far away from where Mom and Dad now rest. Saying goodbye was hard, it really was. I promised Jack we would come back one day, and I was going to keep that promise.

Jack led the way onto the bus; he wanted to sit up the front and was able to secure the two seats opposite the bus driver. Jack was super excited for his first trip out of Sunbury and insisted he have the window seat. Pulling out the ipod Melissa had given me I popped the ear buds into my ears and reclined my seat back slightly.

***

A loud voice brought me back to the present. “We will be pulling up to the Johnstown Bus Station in approximately five minutes. I hope you have all enjoyed your trip” the bus driver’s voice sounded over the speakers onboard the bus. I hadn’t even noticed I’d drifted off to sleep half way through the bus trip.

A yawn left me as I stretched my arms and turned to face Jack who was staring with astonishment out the window watching the cars and people passing by and the tall buildings towering above central Johnstown.

With our backpacks on I pulled the two luggage bags from the luggage trolley, while Jack held on tightly to his pillow he had carried onboard. “Come on Jack we’ve got to catch a taxi to the real-estate agent’s office, they’ll gonna show us our new house”.

***

It was now ten minutes past noon and I’d planned on meeting with the agent at 12:30 PM. The taxi driver sure knew which streets to cut down to avoid the midday traffic in central Johnstown. The drive would take 20-30 minutes heading east with the speed of the current traffic.

The taxi pulled up into the customer parking lot outside the agent’s office. We had managed to make it smack on time, paying the driver before he sped off down the road.

Pulling two luggage bags with a backpack on my back and a small child, also with a backpack carrying his pillow sure attracted some attention by passer biers. I guess we did look estranged to those walking by on the café lined street, against the contrast of well dressed office workers. I could almost imagine what they were thinking as their eyes dissected us from head to toe.

***

“Here we are!”. Pushing the front door of the office, the admin lady at the front desk smiled up at us.”Hi there I’m Anna Belford; I have an appointment with Mr. Williams to sign off on a property to rent”.

A quick tap-tap on her keyboard and then she nodded and smiled “His office is straight down the hallway, second on the left, he’ll be expecting you”. “Thank you…um can I get you to watch Jack… my brother? He’s really well behaved, I shouldn’t be too long”.

“Oh of course, do you want me to watch over your bags too?” “Yes please, thank you”. I unzipped my backpack where I’d put my wallet and cash we’d made over the past few days. That would be my next priority, bank this cash. No way did I want it stolen anytime soon, every dollar really counted now. Or I could use it to pay the deposit and first month’s worth of rent. That should work out.

 

Chapter Fourteen

As I knocked on the door of Mr. Williams’ office, a friendly voice to come in sounded out clearly. Opening the door I could instantly tell Mr. Williams seemed like a welcoming character, big belly and a grin from ear to ear.

“Hello Mr. Williams, I’m Anna Belford” I said with a firm handshake. “I’m here to sign off and pay for a rental property”. “Oh yes, I had the pleasure of showing your friends around on Saturday. Such a charming young couple…it’s a two-bed home close by to the Elementary School and Pennsylvania Community College. … Yip I know just the one”.

A quick search of the database on his computer and a thumb up from Mr. Williams “This house is a great one; the previous tenants were really tidy so it’s in great condition!”

Then he swiveled his chair around and plucked a file from his filing cabinet. “Looks like Marie, our administrator had processed most of your details that your friend passed onto us on Saturday. Can you please read over this and ensure you understand the terms of the tenancy, keeping the home tidy, contacting us about general repairs if they need attending to etc. Then you can sign here” as he pointed to the bottom of the form with his pen “And then Marie can sort out the deposit and rent payments at the front desk, ok”.

***

I sat there reading through the forms while Mr. Williams took a copy of my driver’s license. I knew I’d respect the home as if it were actually my own. I considered myself to be mature and that I could be trusted to look after the house. I signed off the form and handed it back to Mr. Williams. He made a quick copy which he passed back to me, and told me all I needed to do was to see Marie at the front desk to finalize the rental property.

Before exiting Mr. William’s office I turned to thank him with a smile now stretched across my face. Mom always said to be pleasant and to treat others how I’d like to be treated. I was making the future happen, one more step towards getting back on track with my dreams. I’d hope Mom and Dad would be proud.

Marie was really friendly and considerate; she didn’t seem to mind my flustered state as I pulled the cash from my backpack which resembled piles of scrunched up bills to pay the $800 fee for the month’s rent and deposit.

***

Handing the keys to me, I became really excited. “Excuse me Miss Belford; do you have transport to your new place?” “Um…no. We arrived by taxi”.

“Hay you know what, Lisa will be here in a few minutes to take over. I’m only working half a day today. Would you like a lift? I actually live in the same area”. “Really…oh thank you”.

“Here she is now. Hay Lisa, see you tomorrow then. I’m about to head off now”. “Ok see you tomorrow Marie, lunch is on me”. “Thanks Hun”. And like that next thing we knew Jack and I had our bags in the trunk of Marie’s car, and five minutes later we pulled up outside our new place.

It was really picture square and cute with a small garden out the front and four flower baskets hanging above the covered porch. Jack was eager to go and check out his new room, so I let him run ahead to wait at the front door while I thanked Marie and waved goodbye.

***

Jack was now shouting at the top of his lungs “Anna come on, we can’t stay out here all day”. “Wait up Mr. Impatient I’m coming”. I pushed the key and twisted it until a click confirmed it was unlocked.

The first step into the house and I knew it was perfect for us. It wasn’t too big and dreary and it wasn’t too small and poky either. I pulled out my phone and text Melissa, “Melissa we’re at our new place. It’s perfect, thanks! I’m gonna drop by the dorm to collect my things soon”.

Bizz…Bizz…Bizz “I knew you’d like it. Working on an assignment, but will drop by later. Does six sound fine?” “Yip six sounds good, see you then. Bye”.

After we’d taken our bags upstairs to our rooms, we headed to my dorm. I knew there was a diner close by where we could grab a late lunch at. I hope nobody minded me bringing my brother up to my dorm room while I packed up loose ends.

***

The majority of the students should be out at school still or down town. I opened my room door to see Melissa had pretty much packed up everything into boxes for me, and had nicely folded my blankets and sheets too.

I really owed Melissa; I knew Melissa loved fried fish burgers and fries with lemon served on the side. That sounded delicious. I called a taxi from the dorm phone and ten minutes later the cab pulled up.

I had managed to pile up everything from my room on the ground floor before the taxi pulled up. “Good timing” I said with a smile as the diver sprang from the driver’s door to help load the four boxes of possessions, books, blankets and sheets into the trunk of the car.

***

It was now 6 PM and today had been frantic to say the least. After dropping off my things from my dorm back at our new place, Jack and I walked four blocks down the road to the local grocer, the main shopping spot for us college students.

I let Jack choose what he would eat if he were at home, and things he enjoyed for snacks. I made sure we included plenty of fruit and veges in our shopping cart, however popping in a chocolately treat to the cart that we could all share together later with Melissa.

Knowing I wouldn’t be able to carry all of our food supplies alone I waved down a taxi that was outside the grocer, who promptly pulled up to give us a lift home.

Once home I’d phoned the local restaurant to order our dinner. They offered free delivery locally on orders over $20. I knew it was a small thing, but I was relieved when the order totaled $21 for the three of us. I didn’t want to walk anymore today. I think the bus lag had finally hit us, walking here and there and unpacking and setting up our rooms.

 

Chapter Fifteen

Now Jack and I were stretched out on the two sofas looking drained and tired. Tonight would be an extra early night. Jack would be attending a new school and my first lecture of the day was at 9:30 AM.

A knock on the door at five to six prompted that Melissa had arrived. Our takeaways had arrived ten minutes earlier and were awaiting Melissa’s arrival in the warmer draw of the oven.

“Hay stranger”, Melissa smirked teasingly. “Hay Melissa, how’s your day been?” “Good…very productive actually, I’ve almost completed my research paper”. “That’s great, are you hungry? I’ve got plenty of food for dinner tonight”. “Sure am. Oh hay Jack”. “Hi”. “He’s really tired; we’ve had a really long day”. “I bet you have”.

***

We chewed our food down in utter silence, taking second servings each of fries and ketchup. It was delicious! “Best burger I’ve ever had…and I’ve had my fair share of burgers”, Melissa raved.

Jack prompted me, pointing to the cardboard. Oh that’s right…the block of chocolate. I could tell Jack really enjoyed having Melissa over for dinner, the two joked and Melissa listened to his stories of his favorite cartoon shows and movies he’d seen on TV.

We’d managed to eat over half of the block and agreed to save the rest for another day. Plus Jack had school tomorrow, and it would probably be for the best if we didn’t eat the whole block of chocolate in one sitting.

Before long Melissa was off and had wished Jack all the best for his first day of school. She’d also told him that one of her Mom’s friends was a teacher at Johnstown Elementary School and if anyone gave him any grief she could help him out. I thanked Melissa and hugged her goodbye, telling her I’d meet up with her at school tomorrow for lunch.

***

A week later Jack had settled into school and had already been invited to a birthday party which he was super excited to attend. I could see him growing in confidence every day.

Each day was a juggling act from looking after Jack, to college and my part-time job at a clothing store in central Johnstown. But I wouldn’t change it, Jack was family and I loved my younger brother to bits. Plus it made me realize the important things in life.

I think being put in this situation made we want more, to aspire to achieve a better life for both Jack and me. I felt more mature for it and knew if I persevered I could make that happen.

***

June had rolled around and graduation was insight. The last of the examination of the semester were in progress and my mind was operating on overdrive. The unknowingness of job hunting and where we’d end up daunted me.

Melissa’s aunt in New York had contacted Melissa to let me know that there were a lot of companies in New York looking to hire graduate admin and personal assistants.

My best chance at securing one of those jobs however would be if we relocated. Then they’d be more likely to interview and hire me knowing I could start the job straight away.

So that was it! Three weeks before graduation, I began looking into rental properties in New York. New York City rentals were way out of my budget. We’d have to live outside of downtown New York on the outskirts of the city if we were to afford just the basics.

***

I’d emailed my cover letter and CV off to several firms looking to hire P.A.s and had received a call back from one of them so far. They said they were looking for drive and ambition, a change up from the previous P.A they had hired in the past.

They credited my grades and my ambition and team work qualities from my employment, and team sports I’d been involved in at high school. They also informed me that they’d be conducting all interviews in just over a week’s time to decide the successful candidate for their firm, Arthurs & Barker Architectural Design Ltd.

With one week until the graduation ceremony and all exams complete, I’d found a small multi-storey two bed plus a small room suitable for an office online on a real-estate agent’s website.

They’d agree to email through more photos of the property and within days I’d completed the paperwork after begging the agent that I needed to secure the home before travelling to New York as I lived a considerable way away, and that I’d pay for the property upfront when we arrived in New York on the 30th of June.

Chapter Sixteen

I’d contacted Jack’s school, and our current real-estate agent three weeks ago to advise them that we were probably moving soon. I’d also contacted the downtown Elementary School in New York to process Jack’s enrolment and have his transcripts transferred over from Johnstown Elementary.

Melissa’s Aunt Karen had helped out a lot with the enrolment process and was really encouraging. Not only was she a teacher at the school; she also provides learning support and afterschool homework programs as I’d discovered when she had called to confirm Jack’s enrolment.

She seemed really excited to finally be able to meet us, since Melissa had mentioned me to her aunt a few times as her BFF. Over the phone I could tell she was very similar to Melissa.

Melissa’s aunt seemed like she had a bubbly and sparky personality, but was really genuinely nice and caring like Melissa was too. She praised me for being so strong and said if I ever needed someone to talk to, or if I needed the phone number of a doctor, or a child minder for Jack after school I could call her.

***

Not only was I optimistic about moving to New York, but I could see our move as the next stepping stone towards something greater. I just hoped that I could stand out from the other candidates for the job interview.

I really needed the job. We couldn’t survive on the savings I’d been able to save over the last three and a half years forever, and I didn’t want to dip into the money Mom and Dad had left us.

I’d planned on adding more savings to that money for Jack’s education, and intended on not sucking every last penny of it on surviving while I searched for a job. If I don’t get this job, I guess I’d have to apply for any job. You have to start somewhere.

I knew Jack would hesitate moving, but hopefully this time it would be more permanent. Graduation festivities were now upon us. Saturday had turned out a stunner for the weather even though the breeze was fresh.

***

Jack was all smiles as he laughed at the tassel on my graduation cap swinging back and forward. The day was filled with moving speeches of the future, the memories we’d shared together and lots of streamers and balloons, it made me tear up knowing this was the last day I’d be at college.

Jack and I ended up having photos with all of my follow graduates and friends, and Melissa promised that she’d email me copies. I was really going to miss Melissa when we left. I wish she could come with us to New York, but she was happy here with her boyfriend Tom, and had been offered a full-time position at the Veterinarian clinic she had been interning with these past six months.

I guess this was our time to shine; to showcase our talents and skills we’d learned at college wherever we intended to pursue our careers. Melissa’s in Johnstown and mine in New York City…I hope!

***

Fare welling Melissa late that Sunday evening at the train station was gut retching. My nerves and emotions were being tumbled altogether and we hadn’t even started the eight hour journey east to New York yet.

I didn’t have a clue what to expect when I arrived, or whether they’d like me at the interview or whether I’d make any friends. And what about Jack? Was I about to make the worst decision of my life pulling him along with me to a city that could either love us or hate us?

Not literally, but in a figurative sense. What if I didn’t get the job and struggled to find any work. What if Jack is overwhelmed by the move, and I end up pushing him into a downward spiraling track where he doesn’t feel confident, or comfortable being himself anymore?

***

Melissa reassured me in her convincing tone, “You’re going to be fine Anna. If there’s anyone I know who can make it in the big apple, it’s you. I believe in you Anna. Show them what I see…drive, ambition and your infectious kindness and down to earth nature. You’ve got everything going for you; you’re so talented, even though you might not see it. They’re gonna love you Anna”.

“I really hope so Melissa, this super plan of mine relies on me to get that job. Thanks for everything Melissa. If you’re ever in New York please come and drop by”. “I will…promise. I’ll be free on New Years!”.

“Look forward to it already…well we better get going then, the train isn’t going to wait for us”. And with that I hugged Melissa goodbye, and Jack and I ran quickly to board the train, taking our seats while we waved hysterically back at Melissa pulling funny faces at one another until we couldn’t see each other anymore. The next phase of my journey had begun.

Anna’s journey continues in New York City in the second book of the ‘Through My Eyes’ series…

Stay in touch with the author via:

Twitter: @KatrinaAuthor

If you liked Broken, please post a review, and let your friends know about the

Through My Eyes’ series

About the Author

If you are reading this section, you’re probably wondering why you haven’t heard of me before. That’s because this is my first book I’ve worked on and published. I can tell it’s the start of something great and hope to improve along the way.

So you’re probably wondering who I am…

I am a recent graduate, completed an undergraduate business degree, a degree in marketing, digital photography and information systems and technology. Born and raised in New Zealand. I enjoy the outdoors, reading books and novels, movies, attending concerts, particularly International Music Artists and I also have my own blog website where I write about music, films, style inspiration, fitness and recipes.

This is my first novel, and the first book in the – [*“Through My Eyes” *]series. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did creating and writing it.

The next book in this series shouldn’t be too far away!

I am also currently working on an entirely new eBook called “World’s Apart” which is a chick-lit book based on a Kiwi Girl adventuring overseas for the first time.

To stay updated when my next books will be available, check out my website and follow me on Twitter:

Website: katrinaauthor.weebly.com

Follow me on Twitter: @KatrinaAuthor

And one last note to my readers… Thank you!


Broken - Book One of the Through My Eyes Series

Broken Through My Eyes Series Book One A Short Story by KATRINA STEPHENS eBook first published - 30th September 2014. DOWNLOAD NOW FOR *FREE* When life doesn’t go to plan and everything feels as if it’s all falling apart, do you give up and go home, or do you find the smallest hint of drive in you to get up and keep going? The past can have a flow on effect on your future, but it doesn’t necessarily have to define or stop you from finding happiness again or from pursuing your dreams. I dedicate this book to anyone that has ever lost a loved one, or ever felt like giving up. Keep pushing on, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The first book depicts Anna's past, and her struggles to deal with loss and grief. Anna's future is uncertain, she must now make her own choices for the life she wants to live. A story that many can relate to, and a story of growing up alot quicker that everybody else. Anna's life is pretty perfect, until her life is turned upside down by events that will change her life forever. Left to pick up the remaining pieces of her life, and tormented and overwhelmed about moving forward. Will Anna give up on her dreams? Consoled by her best friend Melissa, Anna begins to patch her life back together. However a second blow threatens to derail Anna's future. Will Anna have what it takes to persevere on? Katrina's much anticipated follow up book to this series will venture into Anna's present day. *This book is a work of fiction any resemblance to any person, living or dead, or any events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story line are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

  • Author: Katrina Stephens
  • Published: 2015-10-31 01:05:13
  • Words: 15648
Broken - Book One of the Through My Eyes Series Broken - Book One of the Through My Eyes Series