Chapter 3

Jake nearly fell to the floor as his knees buckled beneath him. His breath came in choked rasps. His chest felt tight. He could barely breathe.
“That’s” he choked out, “not funny, Chris.”
Regaining composure, he stood to his full height, glaring down at his sister.
“Seriously, sis,” he scolded, still shaken. “That’s not my idea of a joke.”
“It’s not a joke,” she replied, slightly angry at his disbelief. She understood though, who would believe something like that? “I thought it was one of your stupid games, at first. But it was Dad. He was in the mirror looking at me. He said he didn’t have much time, told me to listen. Then he was gone. I don’t know what’s going on Jake, but I’m scared, and now I want him back again. You didn’t see him? Of course you didn’t. I must be losing my mind, but I’m not crazy. It was so real Jake.”
“I believe you,” Jake comforted her. “I believe you. Did he say anything else?”
“No he’s just gone. We have to get him back, Jake. It was important, whatever he was trying to tell me. I know it was. And look at this.” She handed him the letter. “I thought maybe you wrote it as part of your game, but I don’t think so anymore. I think Dad wanted me to find that. Whoever this Carlos guy is, Dad wanted us to know about him.”
“This all sounds crazy, Christy,” Jake tried to believe her, but it was too much.
“You’ll see,” she assured him. “You just wait.”
“Okay,” he consoled. “Why don’t we get out of here? Go do something else for the day?”
“Not a chance,” Christy asserted. “We haven’t got time to lollygag. This place needs to be ready in three days. Let’s get it done.”
An uneasy feeling overcame Jake. His sister actually wanted to finish cleaning this place. Christy hated everything with the word ‘cleaning’ in it. She even refused to touch the vacuum once for a month until he took a knife and scraped the word ‘cleaner’ off of it.
“What gives?” he asked. “You hate cleaning.”
“But, it’s for Mom, remember,” she acted coy. Then, realizing her brother knew her better than that, added, “Okay, fine. I want to see him again. That means I have to be here. So let’s just get this place clean. Okay?”
“Okay,” Jake reassured, still worried about her.
“Anyone in there?” a voice called from somewhere in the building. “Jeez, this place is like a maze. Jake? Christy? Anyone?”
“In here, Denz,” Jake called out, “the dressing room.” He looked at his sister, who gave him that ‘keep your mouth shut’ look.
The silhouette of a slim figure appeared in the doorway, outlined by the sunlight coming in from the lobby.
“You guys should seriously make one of those mall kiosks for this place.” Denz joked with them. Then, noticing the seriously severe looks on each of their faces, said “Jeez, you two look like you’ve just seen a ghost. What’s up?”
The siblings exchanged a glance, followed by a slight smile.
“Nothing, this place is just,” Jake began, searching his mind for a subject change, “overwhelming. I don’t think we’ll ever get it finished in time.”
“You’ll get it,” Denz assured him, standing on tip-toe to reach up to him for a kiss. She was barely taller than Christy, so either she had to reach, or Jake had to kneel so they could exchange a kiss.
Denz. Her parents named her Destiny Lindsay, and she’d hated it ever since she realized what hate was for, so she just shortened the two together into Denz. It made her feel better anyway. She was small, even for a seventeen year old girl. Barely breaking five feet, and almost a hundred pounds, but she was Denz, and that’s all Jake really cared about.
He knelt slightly to meet her kiss.
“I thought you had to work,” Jake questioned.
“I did,” she told him, “but when I got there, my manager said something about an insurance audit, or something, and that all non-essential personnel had the day off, so I didn’t ask twice. Now, here I am. Aren’t you happy to see me? You don’t look happy. Oh, man, you smell. What did you do?”
Jake let out a smile, “Got into a fight with a mop bucket. I’m always happy to see you.” He kissed her again. “You know me, though. I don’t show happy all that well.”
“Point,” Denz agreed.
“Yeah,” Christy chimed into the conversation. “He shows happy about as well as a crocodile in a bad mood.”
The girls laughed. Jake cocked his head to the side. “I try so hard to be as much like my big sister as I can,” he joked back.
“Oh, ha-ha,” was Christy’s retort, then to Denz, “It’s so nice to see you. I swear it feels like I haven’t been home in forever.
“Uh, duh,” Denz gave her best ditzy-blond impression, “That’s like, because you so, like, you know, are always at, like, college, and stuff. And you’ve like, been gone since, like, I don’t know, like, forever ago. You know, it’s like, you were here, and then, like, you were gone or something.”
“You play that act a little too well, honey,” Christy joked.
“I’m just trying to get ready for my college days,” Denz knelt in a slight curtsy at the compliment. “So, you know, I’ve got to, like, get into the lingo, you know?”
“Ok, word of advice,” Christy couldn’t help following suit, “You know, like, if you’re ever, like, you know, talking to like, anyone who like, matters, you know, like, don’t ever use words like lingo, unless you’re like, watching the game show. You know?”
“Wow,” Denz chuckled, “Looks like I’ve got some competition, but you’ll already be graduated before I get there. It sucks.”
“I’m going back for my grad program after I graduate, so you’ll be pretty much stuck with me.”
“Awesome,” to Christy, and then to Jake, “So, I just talked to Benji and Blair, and they are totally psyched to do the play this weekend.”
Jake shot her a look that meant ‘you said too much.”
“Oh,” she replied, blushing, “was I not supposed to...”
“No,” he told her, unable to be mad, “it was supposed to be a surprise to Christy too.”
“Uh,” she lifted her arms up and shrugged, “Oops. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”
“It’s cool,” he told her, smiling at her blushing.
“Wait,” Christy caught up with the conversation. “What are you talking about? What play?”
“Well,” Jake turned to face his sister. “You remember that I wanted to give Mom the best gift on Mother’s Day. Well, the guys and I, with a little insistence from Denz, decided to show the play “Phantom of the Opera” for her and the town Sunday night. Tickets are going on sale on Saturday, though, to keep the surprise, or try to anyway, a surprise.”
“I’m sorry, Jake,” Denz pleaded. “I thought you would’ve told her by now.”
“No,” Jake said. “Christy doesn’t have a mouth-filter, and it was her job to keep Mom out of town all day Saturday so she wouldn’t find out.” He turned to look at his sister again. “I really need you to keep this a secret, sis. I don’t want Mom to know until you bring her home Sunday night to the theatre.”
“Oh, thanks,” she acted upset. “Don’t worry, Jakey, I’ll keep your secret. I want to surprise Mom too.”
“Promise, you won’t say a word?” Jake pleaded with his sister.
“Promise,” she swore, “now, let’s get back to getting this place ready.” To her brother, quietly, she said, “any more secrets I need to know about?”
“Yeah,” he told her, “I’m pregnant. It’s a miracle. Now you know. Can we get on with it? If anything happens, I’ll be mopping the stage, after I clean this crap off of me.”
“Oh, Jake,” Christy embellished, “I’m so happy. I always wanted to be an auntie.”
“Yeah, I bet.”
With that, the three went off in separate directions; Christy back into the dressing room, Jake and Denz to the stage to collect the mop bucket.
After walking down the corridor to the backstage area, and once out of Christy’s earshot, Denz confronted Jake.
“Okay, spill it,” she ordered.
“Spill what?” He asked. “I already spilled the mop bucket all over me.”
“Exactly, you can explain that too.”
“What am I explaining, exactly?
“Look,” she told him, her sapphire eyes dancing across the lines in his brow. “I know that I walked in on something between you and Christy, and I want to know what it was.”
“What are you talking about?” Jake asked.
“Do not lie to me Jake Swain,” she asserted. “You are no good at it. I know something happened, and from the looks of things, it was just before I got here. Now, what did I walk in on?”
“Seriously, Denz,” Jake tried to push it off, “I don’t know what you’re…”
She cut him off, “Jake, I love you, but if you sit here and lie to me, then I don’t think there’s any reason for me to stay.”
“I’m not,” he stated.
“Then tell me.”
“Look, Christy has something going on, and it’s not my place to tell you anything about it. So, just drop it okay. I’m not spilling my sister’s secrets. End of discussion.”
“Christy’s secrets?” she asked. “Something going on?”
“Yeah, now please, just leave it alone.”
“You got it. I’m out of here. Bye, Jake. Call me when you’re ready to tell me the truth.”
“Denz,” he put his hand on her shoulder. She brushed it off. “Don’t be like that. If Christy wanted you to know she would tell you.”
She turned around to face him. “I’m not an idiot, Jake. I know I walked in on something, and obviously you don’t think I deserve to know what it is. So, obviously, I just don’t need to be here.”
“Damn it, Denz. Why can’t you just drop it?”
“Because, my boyfriend just lied to me about it. Which means he doesn’t trust me to know about it. Which means he doesn’t trust me. Which means I just need to leave.”
“Fine,” he folded. “Be that way then. Something happened to Christy in that room, and it’s honestly, none of your business. If you want to get mad at me, you go right ahead, but I am not telling you something my sister asked me to keep to myself. If you don’t like it, you know how you came in.”
He turned around and continued to the stairs, picked up the mop bucket, and carried it back into the corridor. Anger had taken over, and he wasn’t about to take it out on Denz, even though she’d caused it.
Denz was still standing there, jaw dropped. Fire raged in her eyes. Jake looked at her, tried to give her a smile, but she continued glaring at him, so he, with his mop bucket in hand, walked passed her to the maintenance closet. She stared a hole into him with every step he took.
Finally, she yelled, “You did not just talk to me like that. You come back here, Jake. We’re not finished.”
“Oh,” he said; frustration in his voice, “I thought you were leaving. Sorry. I have work to do, and I don’t have time to be yelled at right now. Too much going on.”
“Then talk to me about it,” her voice calmed, turned from anger to sadness.
“I can’t. Either drop it, or leave. Your choice.”
“Fine.” She wouldn’t say another word to Jake about it. Instead, she stalked off toward the dressing room. “I’ll just ask Christy, then.”
“You do that.”
Jake didn’t have the patience to deal with that. He only had three more days to finish, and with Christy going crazy in here, he just couldn’t take Denz’ attitude on top of it all. So, he let her leave. He filled his mop bucket with fresh water, poured soap into it, and stirred it around with a rag he’d found lying in the closet. Content that the mop solution was ready, he tucked the rag into his back pocket and pulled the mop bucket back toward the stage. He carried it up the stairs to where he’d left the mop. Welcoming the distraction from earlier events, he vigorously scrubbed the stage floor. Everything had to be perfect Sunday night. It just had to be. Carlos, whoever he was, didn’t matter. Dad was gone. Christy would be okay, and Denz would get over it, or not. Jake set his mind to the theatre restoration and pushed everything else out. For what seemed like hours, he scrubbed, and scrubbed the stage floor until he could see his reflection. He took a long satisfied look at his accomplishment, and then shivered. The temperature seemed to drop a few dozen degrees. He wrapped his arms and rubbed his shoulders.
Cold, he thought. Strange. I was sweating a minute ago.
A cold breeze passed through his hair, brushing it from his face.
He shivered again and rubbed some warmth back into his cheeks.
“I better dress warmer next time,” he said to no one in particular.
“Jake,” a whisper formed in the air.
“What do you want now, Denz,” he asked without looking away from the stage. “Not finished yelling at me?”
“Jake,” another whisper.
“What!?” he exclaimed, turning to face his girlfriend, if she was still his girlfriend after that.
Nothing. No one was there.
“Jake,” the whisper grew louder as the temperature continued dropping.
“Oh, really funny. Christy, is that you? I’m sorry I didn’t believe you, but come on. Is this really necessary?”
“Jake,” the whisper seemed so close, like it was coming through the floor.
Jake looked down. His reflection looked back at him.
Wow, I must’ve aged some.
His reflection had a distinguished look, older, more refined; with wrinkles and furrows he didn’t remember having. The eyes in his reflection looked back at him. He looked away.
“Jake,” the reflection whispered.
“What the…” he managed to choke.
He looked down at his reflection. No, it wasn’t his reflection. It was his father’s face, staring at him from the floor.
“D…” Jake stuttered. “Dad?”
The reflection nodded. “You have to help, Jake.”
“Help with what?”
“No time, just listen. I have to tell you…”
The statement was cut short. A glow emanated from the stage, as if a dimmed stage light hung over him.
“Tell me what?” Jake pled with the floor. “Dad? Tell me what?”
His knees finally gave. He fell to the floor, rubbing the spot his father looked at him from. Tears fell from his cheeks, landing where his dad’s eyes just stared at him. Letting his elbows land on the floor, he cupped his head and rocked for a few moments, begging, pleading, crying for his dad to come back. Now he understood why Christy refused to look away from the mirror.
“Dad,” he cried into the wood. “Come back. What do you have to tell me?”
The temperature returned to normal. Jake sat up, still staring at the floor. Using all of his energy trying to will his father back to him.
A sudden warmth fell over him, two arms wrapping him, breath on the back of his neck, almost constricting, but not too much. He sat there, enjoying the sensation. He just wanted to cry into the stage forever.
“I’m sorry, Jake,” Denz whispered into his ear. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
“D…Denz?” he asked.
“Yeah, Jake,” she choked through her own tears, “It’s me. I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I love you, Jake. I’m sorry.”
“Denz?” Jake asked again. “Why?”
“For yelling at you.” She cried into his shoulder. “I didn’t mean it.
“It…” he started, “It’s okay.”
She squeezed him, pressing every feeling she had into his back, never wanting to let go.
Jake reached up and wrapped his arms around hers, content to stay there with her. Her warmth was more than welcome after the cold, and after…
He shuddered again, thinking of his dad looking at him, talking to him.
“I love you too, Denz. I’m sorry I…”
“No,” she fell to the floor in front of him, refusing to let him go. “You don’t apologize. It was my fault.” She pressed her lips to his forehead, his nose, then his lips, pushing everything she was into her kiss. “Don’t say anything. I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere.” She kissed him again.
“Denz?” Jake began to ask her.
“Yes?” she replied. “What is it?”
“Can I tell you a secret?”
“Of course you can. You can tell me anything.”
“I think I just saw my dad. He was asking me for help. Then he was gone.” Tears fell again, this time caught by Denz’ cheeks.
“I know,” she comforted him. “Christy told me all about it. I’m here to help too, if you’ll let me. Oh, Jake, please let me help.”
“I’d like that.” He told her.
She smiled, more than she’d ever smiled, and planted her lips to his again.
“Where do we start?” she asked, a little more enthusiasm than she’d intended.
“Well,” he told her, not really having an answer. “So far, it’s only happened in the theatre, so I guess we should just keep doing what we’ve been doing. Let’s finish getting it ready.”
“I’m in. You did an awesome job on the stage. I can see myself in it.”
That’s it, Jake thought, then “That’s it!” he exclaimed.
“What’s it,” Christy asked climbing the steps to the stage.
“The mirror, the stage, Dad.”
“Wait, you saw Dad?” Christy questioned.
“Yeah,” he’d regained some of his composure. A puzzle was in his mind now, and he’d already found the first piece.
“Well, what happened?”
“Said he needed help, and then vanished.”
“That’s what happened to you too, isn’t it Christy?” Denz asked her.
“Almost exactly.”
“But I figured it out. The stage, the mirror, they both…”
“Reflect,” Christy finished. “He can only come to us through mirrors. Jake, that’s just brilliant. So, what do we do now? We can’t just leave. Not now, knowing he’s here.”
“We’re not leaving. We’re finished. Let’s scrub this place until we can see our faces in everything we look at. If the mirror is Dad’s conduit to us, then let’s make this entire building a mirror.”
* * *
Christopher Swain admired his children with pride. He’d gotten through to them. They were on the right track to solving his murder. Everyone said it was just a random act of violence in a violent city, but everyone was wrong. His death was not at the hands of some street criminal. It was at the hands of someone who wanted him out of the way.
“Good work, Jake,” he said to the wind. “You’re one step closer to solving this.”
The man who murdered him would pay. He would make sure of it. Stuck in this theatre for seven years, and finally someone is here to see him, to hear him, and what favorable fortune to have it be his own children.
“I’ll see you again children, and I’ll give you the answers you need; the answers I need.”

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SSmoothie's picture

Still love it! Hugss

Still love it! Hugss


Don't let any one shake your dream stars from your eyes, lest your soul Come away with them! -SS    

"Well, it's life SIMS, but not as we know it" - ¡$&am

RoC's picture

More

to come. Promise.


"Music is a universal language and needs not be translated. With it, soul speaks to soul" - Songsterr