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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Teens
- Theme: Adventure stories
- Subject: Friends / Friendship
- Published: 02/19/2020
The New GirlBorn 1968, M, from Stone Mountain, United States
Waves of heat rose off the blacktop as far as the roads could carry you. Jade and Caron were in a hurry to nowhere. Eventually, they’d run into the river. Summer officially had arrived less than a week ago. It hadn’t rained for almost six. The grandparents were worried at the fact. “Drought is the worst,” grandma replied hearing the weather woman forecast the extreme dry conditions. “Water levels at the lakes and rivers are down two feet. Besides killing the crops and making the prices jump on my fruits and vegetables, the trees fall over when the storms come.”
Jade on the floor unties then removes the right shoe from the left foot; Caron standing halfway up the stairs seeks the space in his shirt his head should fit⎯ they both simultaneously eavesdrop on the exchange. “I wasn’t expecting to spend $1300 so soon to take trees down, but the rain will likely come heavy and bring strong winds and lightning with it,” grandpa spoke looking through the kitchen window finishing off a smoothie with chunks of strawberry, kiwi and green apple. Even the aroma of the coffee he craved stirred his ulcer pain. But a few drops of the cannabis oil grandma saw on Shark Tank mixed in with the smoothie caused the pain to slowly subside.
Like, two Tasmanian devils, Jade and Caron tear through the kitchen. “Bye grandma, Bye grandpa.” Before grandma could snap off a syllable about them whirling through the house, they had cleared the back stairs, made a mad dash across the property and all that was seen were head and shoulders fading into the horizon. Not until talk of river levels dropping did Jade give the lack of rain a second thought. And that is all it would receive⎯a second. The river was flowing strong so it wasn’t an issue as far as they were concerned. And as far as they were concerned there was too much river for it to go dry.
While skipping rocks, chasing ravens and swinging from the large oak tree that borders the property, Caron notices more dirt and tree roots at the bank of the river than usual. Jade meanwhile is startled and freezes at the sight of a girl watching them make the most of the river with their best amateur diving...mostly cannonballs. “Seems you have a secret admirer,” Jade says as they stand on the bank of the river.
“Behind you,” Jade states.
Caron spins around. Jade pushes him in the water. The girl is their age. Ten, eleven. Jade waves. She waves back. They had never seen her here or around town. “What’s your name?” Jade asks. The girl waves again, mouths something. Caron makes his way back to the bank, uses the newly exposed roots of the oak tree and climbs back up the bank.
“She said her name is Orchid,” states Caron reaching to pull Jade in and missing as she jumps away from his grasp.
“Orchid, Orchid,” he says chasing her.
She sprints along the bank away from him to shallower water where the rocks protrude a couple of inches above the surface of the river. He quickly follows tiptoeing over ten to twelve rocks crossing to the other side.
“Hey. I’m Jade,” she says as she arrives in front of her. Jade’s eyes reflect her name and sparkle in the midday sun.
“I’m Caron,” he says leading with his shoulder into his sister’s back.
“Orchid,” she replied, “Twins?”
“She’s a stray.”
“Yes. We’re twins.”
“Are you visiting for the summer?” asks Caron.
“No. I just moved here.”
“Where do you live?” asks Jade.
Orchid points to the trail that leads between the pine trees. “Right through there.”
“When did you move here?” asks Caron.
“About a month ago.”
“A month.” the siblings say in surprise.
“Yeah,” she replies laughing. “I’ve seen you playing in the woods across the river plenty of times.”
“We didn’t see you,”
“I was running on the trails over here. You were having so much fun I decided not to bother you.”
“You wouldn’t have⎯been bothering us. You should have come to the river.”
“Jade. It’s not like she needs our permission.”
“I didn’t say she needs our permission. And I wasn’t talking to you,” Jade says facing Orchid pointing at her brother.
“And get your finger out my face.”
“My finger’s not in your face,” Jade retorts.
“Too close,” replies Caron swiping at it.
“Orchid,” a voice calls.
“I have to go,” replies Orchid. “Why don’t you come meet my mom.”
Jade and Caron ponder the invitation. “Nothin’ better to do,” says Caron.
“Me neither,” replies Jade as Orchid disappears beyond the trees.
Jade pushes him. “Race?” And sprints to the trail.
“Cheater, you’ll lose,” replies Caron in hot pursuit.”.
Pine straw drifts down around them. A breeze sways the trees and pine cones crunch under their feet. They could see Orchid round the corner in front of them. “Okay,” adds Jade. “She’s a runner.”
“When her mom says move I guess she means in a hurry,” replies Caron.
“I bet you can’t catch her,” challenges Jade.
“I bet I can,”
“Not before I do,” Jade states. They leave a trail of dust and a startled dog retreating quickly in their wake. Predator or not it wanted nothing to do with what just blazed through the bushes⎯a shortcut⎯ to close on Orchid.
When they come to a clearing Orchid is halfway across and the house is seen in the distance. She cleared the woods so quickly she missed her mother just at the opening of the forest. She looked behind her, smiled and picked up the pace; her shoulder-length light brown hair glistened in the sunlight. Orchid’s mother was collecting mushrooms and blackberries.
“Quint,” Orchid’s mother called into the woods. A loud piercing whistle emanated from her lips quickly after. A lizard scurried and a group of crows was startled once again seconds after Orchid, Jade, and Caron had blazed through the woods disturbing the peace. Orchid’s mother called again. The family dog ambled from between the bushes. “Quint. Time to go home.”
Orchid takes the steps to the log home two at a time and enters the house.
“So much for catching her,” says Jade. “But I can still beat you.” Jade and Caron give it one final push to the finish line. They reach the stairs of the log home taking the wide set of six stairs by two the same as Orchid. “And Jade in another photo-finish at the tape.”
“You didn’t win. It was a tie if anything.”
“Who won?” Jade asks Orchid as Orchid is walking through the door holding it open for them to come in.
“Well she did hit that top step a hair in front of you,” states Orchid holding her thumb and forefinger so close you could barely drop a strand of her hair between them.
“She’s just trying to make you feel better.”
“Bring it right here little brother,” Jade replies and chest bumps Caron as he walks to the door. Maybe I’ll let you win one day. Jade turns to Orchid. “Neither one of us could catch you though. You run all the time?”
“Not all the time. Here and there. I like to get up in the morning and jog with my mom and our dog, Quint.”
“Yeah, I think we might’ve run across him near the edge of the trail,” said Caron smiling.
“Oh did you. I never saw him,” replies Orchid.
“Yeah. He was just off the trail to the left,” says Jade. When we went off-trail through the bushes trying to catch you. He must’ve thought we were timberwolves.”
“Got somewhere pretty good for an older dog.”
“Yeah. Quint’s never been too confrontational. A handful of times he did flare up when someone threatened mom,” said Orchid smiling. “He’s still in pretty good condition, but he doesn’t bite.”
The trio entered the kitchen where two turkey with swiss, lettuce, pickle, and tomato toasted sub sandwiches had been placed on the table. “Mom made sandwiches. You two can have ours. I’ll make some more,” she said walking the plates to the island sitting in the middle of the kitchen. I finished the juice earlier,” she says turning up the carton. Is bottled water fine?”
“Fine by me,” said Jade and Caron.
Caron takes a swig as Jade taps the bottom of his bottle causing water to waste in his lap. Jade says, “Don’t get excited she doesn’t want you.”
“Shut up,” he says whisking the water from his lap and reaching for her face. He looks up. “I like that,” he says referencing the skylight.
“Yeah. It’s one of my favorite things about the house too,” says Orchid’s mother striding into the kitchen placing a basket of mushrooms and blackberries on the kitchen counter before washing her hands. “Hello,” she says shaking Caron and Jade’s hand.
“Where’s Quint, mom? They said they saw him at the edge of the woods.”
“He’s outside, For some reason when we got to the house he stopped at the edge of the stairs and won’t come any further.”
“Why?” asks Orchid.
“I don’t know. I stopped, looked around, went to the back of the house, looked for predators. There were no coyotes, no bears, no wolves. So I guess we’ll have to feed him outside for now. Maybe later he’ll come inside.”
For the next three months Caron, Jade, and Orchid would spend the remaining summer exploring the woods, canoeing, fishing, and cooking out with Orchid and her mom. Quint would be at home in the morning, but minutes before Caron and Jade showed up with Orchid he would disappear.
On the first day of school, Orchid looked for Caron and Jade. There was no sign of them. Orchid knew the transition to a new school would be easier if she had well-known friends to show her the way of things beyond simply going to class.
Jade and Caron were nowhere to be seen, before school, during school or after. The next day, Orchid walked through the cafeteria searching for Caron, searching for Jade. Nothing. Other students, when asked, had no idea who they were. She went to her homeroom. Her teacher was typing on his laptop, preparing a quiz.
“Hello,” Orchid said.
“Hello, come in,” he said. “Not hungry?”
“Yes, and no,” she replied. “I brought snacks. I’m good. I have a question.”
He looked over at her, looked back at his screen and nodded.
“I’m looking for two people I met this summer. Their my age, or close to it Jade and Caron Charles.”
He begins typing on his computer. “Let’s see,” he replies. “We don’t have a Jade and Caron Charles that attend Maple Grove but we do have a teacher, Lincoln Charles. He teaches second grade. You could check to see if he’s any relation. You’re in luck. He’s just down the hall on the left. And he doesn’t have a class this hour. Hurry before he heads to the university.”
“Okay,” says Orchid as she runs from the room. Orchid zips down the hall and finds the name tag next to the door that reads, Charles. She reaches for the handle just as the door opens and practically runs into a buff black guy with round rimless glasses and a goatee.
“Yes, Ms. Morris. Or may I call you, Orchid?
I’ve been informed you’re searching for my brother and sister. How did you hear about them?”
“I didn’t hear of them. I spent the summer with them. I met them by the river behind my house. They came to visit. We had lunch on several occasions. We walked through the woods, raced through the woods, they met my mom and my dog, Quint. We went canoeing, We cooked out. But I haven’t seen them in school.”
“They’re about ten aren’t they?”
“That’s about right. We’re all the same age,”
“Yup. That would’ve been about the time they were lost to us.”
“Yes. Caron and Jade were killed in a car accident when they were your age. My mother, my father, Jade and Caron. The driver that hit them wasn’t hurt in the accident but later died of alcohol poison. I was on a field trip to the museum and state park. When our bus pulled in front of the school I looked for our car. I thought no one was there to pick me up. I was about to walk home when I heard my grandparents call me. Everything was in a frenzy. And then the funeral. A blur.”
“So who was I spending time with this summer?” asks Orchid.
“I don’t know what to tell you, Orchid. Are these the ten-year-olds you’re talking about?” Asks Mr. Charles lifting his phone and showing the picture of Caron and Jade.
“Yes,” she replies.
“Again. I don’t know what to tell you. I can’t deny who or what you saw. But I would like to talk further with you and your parents. I do believe you saw Caron and Jade. I would like to talk to your family about a possible history of mediums or seers in your ancestry.”
“People, who are familiar with the spirit world?” Orchid asks rhetorically.
“Would your parents be interested in exploring this past summer. I’d really like to hear more about your time spent with my brother and sister.”
Later that day⎯Mr. Charles visits Orchid’s home.
“Hello, Mrs. Morris. I’m Lincoln Charles, a teacher at Orchid’s school.”
“Hello, Mr. Charles. Orchid informed me of your conversation. I know it’s decades late but sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you. It was...I won’t rehash the details; and my apologies for rehashing them with Orchid.”
“No need to apologize. We’ve discussed the loss of loved ones on several occasions, Mr. Charles. And forgive me for not attending the school’s open house.”
“Please, Lincoln. We understand families sometimes have more important things to handle.”
“On the topic of Jade and Caron⎯I knew they were temporarily manifesting in the physical realm as soon as I saw them. What surprised me was that Orchid could see them.”
“So she told you what I asked her.”
“Yes. We do have a history of mediums in our family. I wasn’t ready to introduce that part of our ancestry to Orchid. Truthfully I don’t think it will last. I had accepted as fact that being sensitive to the spirit world had passed her by.”
“I could understand a moment here and there Mrs. Morris…”
“Ms. My husband’s not with us anymore. Orchid loved him, yet she’s never spoken about seeing his spirit, hearing his voice...nothing.”
“Surely a whole summer communing with spirits changes things. You’re not going to open up a shop in town and charge for readings... I’m sorry Ms. Morris I hope that didn’t come off as me disparaging anybody’s profession. Are you a professional reader? I mean do you own a shop or contact the dead in your home?”
“No, Lincoln,” she says smiling and taking another sip of tea. “It didn’t come off as disparaging anyone’s profession. I moved here from out of state. I have done some seances in my home. Two weeks ago the contractors and remodelers finished work on an old suite. Now my handful of customers won’t have to drive an hour from town to see me. I’m between downtown and the suburbs. A happy medium...pardon the pun.”
“So you saw Jade and Caron’s arrival in Orchid’s life?
“Usually I can never get a reading on what’s next with Orchid when it comes to the spirit world⎯until this past summer. Ours was a regular mother-daughter relationship.” Orchid sits near the top of the stairs with Jade and Caron watching through the banister, listening to her mother and Lincoln’s conversation.
“So this past summer...or last few months is, or was, something new for you?”
“The first time I laid eyes on Jade and Caron was quickly after Orchid had come sprinting out of the woods.” Ms. Morris nods to the den window where they spy the orange beams of sunlight streaking through the trees. “There’s a trail that leads to the river. I was half afraid that something or someone had got after her.”
“Orchid told me you called her.”
“I did, Lincoln. She was running so fast. I thought: Hey, I’m right here. A moment later she looked behind her smiling. But not at me. That’s when these two figures blazed by the honeysuckles and leapt the briars.” Jade threw her arms in the air⎯the victory pose.
“You lost,” Caron whispers pulling at her arm. Orchid laughs then looks to see if Lincoln or her mom heard her. Jade and Caron follow looking through what little space is left between the banisters at the top of the stairs.
Lincoln smiles and shakes his head. “If we’d dug a moat, set it afire and put an army around it they would have found a way out.”
“I knew the moment I saw them: Ghosts. I froze on the initial reaction. Why? I don’t know. They were connected to Orchid. She had no fear of them. Why should I? And I guess that’s the answer. The gift has taken its time and chosen her. Who am I to stand in its way. The best I can do is cultivate the gift so it’s used to help not harm.”
“Harm,” I figured you either have the gift or not. You either can commune with the spirits or not.”
“True. There are some in my family I specifically speak. My brother doesn’t have the gift. He desperately desires it. But for all the wrong reasons.”
“How do you mean?” asks Lincoln.
“Greed. Even now he claims to be a medium, a psychic and have tarot skills.”
“It was believed my great uncle was the last of our family to be strong in necromancy since none of my uncles, aunts, cousins nor my father showed any signs of the skill; not to mention the warlock skills of a Moorish ancestor. But when mom and dad told my grandparents that I was still conversating with imaginary friends at nine and ten they told them I had likely inherited the abilities of an ancestor named Najih.”
“And like Orchid you never desired the gift yet, it chose you?”
“And your family is good with this?”
‘“Yes, mostly. There’s no more or no less envy in my family than in any other.”
“Good. I see Orchid will continue to have much support at home. And students with support at home tend to do well in school.”
“But my brother’s envy runs a little deeper⎯he’s still angry. Motivated by greed there’s no telling what he’ll do. That’s why I moved to Stone Mountain, to start over with peace of mind and to make a stand. I’m done running. Now that others beside you know that Orchid might be like our ancestor Najih you can guarantee he’ll find us. And when he finds us he will work hard to use her and get rid of me altogether.”
Lincoln spies the pictures over the fireplace. “Start over? It’s understandable you lost Orchid’s stepfather. But from what I can tell from the pictures of you and your husband at the beach. And the family at Universal Studios and Stone Mountain Park it was good times a few years back.”
“Lincoln, it was good times. I was good at what I do. Everyone knew it. My brother and I had a great clientele list. I was the talent and he managed the money. We could have built on that. Instead, we double-billed customer’s credit cards. Didn’t pay car note or insurance. Left hotel bills unpaid. Charged trips with customers’ credit numbers. We burned through Arizona, California, Oregon, and Nevada. Hawaii was our playground. We did no readings there. Then I met a guy. Fell in love. Seminary student of all things.”
“And things changed.”
“The joyride with my brother was over.”