Chapter One - Reunion
"Thank God!" I exclaimed, as I dragged the heavy luggage behind me.
"Quit complaining!" my brother, Dean, who was a couple of feet ahead of me, yelled back while dragging his own set of bulky baggage. "Andy will be here any minute."
Dean and I were on that infernal plane for hours - flying from New York to California. As much as Mom and Grandma really did not want us to leave New York, they were happy about our decision to move to another state.
"Is that him?" My index finger pointed out at a tall and tanned young man in his early twenties at the far left - standing nearby the airport's baggage claim exit doors and waving at us.
"Yep, that's him!" Dean grinned and waved back at the young man, prompting the latter to approach us.
Impatiently looking at me, he then commented, "Come on, slowpoke. Let us go!"
Dean and I, with luggage in tow, walked towards the young man.
My eyes misted, overwhelmed with the thought that we were finally reuniting. The very first time I saw Andy was ten years ago, and we only got to know each other for two months.
Ten years was too long for three siblings to be apart from each other.
Irreconcilable differences and Dad's volatile temper were the reasons why Mom - after three children and years of being married to Dad - filed for a divorce when I was barely six months old. Mom and Grandma, whose respective intuitiveness baffled and scared us at the same time, ended up with Dean and me. Dad, a hardnosed pragmatist, got custody of Andy - much to our Mom's lament.
I had apprehensions about our move to California, but risking everything for a reunion with Andy outweighed the repercussions of being uprooted from where I grew up.
After Dean repeatedly shared his optimistic vision of a bright future in a new state, my worries slightly alleviated. However, my cold feet about leaving New York unexplainably came back with a fiery vengeance during our plane trip. What if history repeats itself? What if Andy and I do not get along? What if Dean and Andy end up constantly arguing? What if we wind up separating in the end due to irreconcilable differences, just like Mom and Dad?
I could not help but ask this very question: did Dean and I just make the biggest mistake in our lives by moving to California?
Andy interrupted my trip down to worry lane with a welcome and affectionate hug. "Hi, Sis! I missed you!"
Doing my best to place my concerns at the furthest part of my mind, and with tears streaming down my cheeks, I reciprocated his embrace. "I missed you, too."
"Come on, let us get out of here!" Andy proposed, as he helped me with my heavy luggage.
Eventually, the three of us were in Andy's car - a blue BMW convertible with its top currently down to catch some mid-afternoon sun. As my two brothers merrily continued their chat, I groggily lay down at the back seat - closing my eyes and trying to sleep off the nausea and headache from the grueling trip.
"This is really cool! We're living the independent life, here in sunny California!" Dean said. I heard him recline his seat, as he customarily does whenever riding with someone else.
I then heard Andy's voice. "The university's nearby our apartment, Lynn. It's just fifteen minutes away."
"It is? That's good..." I replied, while keeping my eyes closed.
"Are you okay?" Dean asked. "You sound sick."
"I don't know. I just felt nauseous when our plane landed..."
"Well, do you want the top back up so you can sleep better?" Andy offered.
Opening my eyes, I looked at Andy. "No, I'm fine. May I borrow your hat?"
"Here," Andy said, as he took off his baseball cap and gave it to me.
I then closed my eyes once more, knowing that I would get more nauseous if I sat up and looked outside. Using Andy's hat to cover my face - I hoped that it would provide some shade while taking a nap. In spite of the noise created as Andy's car zoomed past other cars on the freeway, along with my two brother's chatter, I was slowly drifting towards a quiet sleep - until Dean excitedly asked a question that piqued my curiosity.
"So what's the scoop about about this apartment of ours?"
"Well, it's a two bedroom apartment nearby University Town. The bedrooms are huge, the kitchen is huge. Everything is huge!" Andy said with his eyes widening in enthusiasm.
"The place sounds expensive. Are you sure the three of us can afford the rent?" Dean inquired with a slight hint of worry.
"That's the best part!" Andy beamed. "Do you want to know how much is our rent?"
"It's an easy thousand a month," Dean replied without hesitation.
"Nope. Try again."
"It's four hundred fifty!" Andy exclaimed, his voice reflecting his excitement.
"No shit! Four hundred fifty?" Dean then snorted, "It's too good to be true. There must be a catch."
"No catch, dear brother. See for yourself, because here we are!"
During the entire drive, I felt more sick and nauseous. Even though I was lying down with my eyes and my face was covered with Andy's baseball cap, I was not able to sleep.
When I heard that we are finally home, I slowly got up. With my hand, I brushed the dark hair away from my eyes.
We just passed a concrete bridge, and along a semi-circuitous pathway was a huge multi-unit apartment complex. We passed by the neatly-landscaped garden, a large swimming pool, a spacious jacuzzi, and a posh-looking clubhouse by the pool area.
Both Dean and I could not believe that our first home of independence would be in such a grand place, nor could we believe that the apartment would only cost us four hundred fifty dollars a month. From what I heard earlier from Andy, our apartment was conveniently located in the heart of town, yet secluded enough to enjoy privacy and nature.
As much as I was impressed with what I saw, part of me was apprehensive. Why would someone rent out an apartment in a fine-looking neighborhood at a prime location for such an inexpensive price?
"So, what do you think?" Andy asked Dean while driving at fifteen miles an hour.
"Amazing!" Dean responded with such excitement. "I can't believe that we actually live here!"
"Believe it, bro!" Andy said, as he parked the car. "Come on. Here's our new pad!"
The three of us got off the car. I almost lost my balance and fell.
"Easy. Have you been sick during the trip?" Andy concernedly asked, as he firmly held me from behind. "You don't look well."
Dean approached me and felt my forehead. With concern reflected in his voice, he commented, "You're cold. You weren't like this earlier."
"I know..." I weakly replied. "Don't know why, though."
"Well, let us go inside. Then you can rest." Andy escorted me on the concrete steps, and then gave Dean the apartment key.
"Damn, Andy! You did a good job picking the place!" Dean exclaimed.
"Well, I furnished the place already. So I hope you guys don't mind the colors and stuff," Andy semi-apologetically comments.
"No, I like it," Dean assured Andy.
I wanted to desperately see the interior of our new home, but the woozy sensation prevented me from doing so.
Andy then slowly escorted me to a bedroom, with each step I was taking becoming wobblier than the one before. As he helped me to the bed, he advised, "Just lie down and sleep, Lynn. Let Dean and I take care of everything else."
Weakly and apologetically grinning, I replied, "Thanks. I'm sorry for being a pain right now."
"It's not your fault that you're sick. I'm just glad we're together again, Sis," Andy warmly smiled back, as he gently closed the bedroom door - leaving me alone to rest in the comfort of my new bed.
I closed my eyes, hoping that the swooning and spinning sensation I felt since we got to the airport would stop. The minutes passed, and the nauseous feeling I had earlier began to subside. I did not realize, however, that the relief I felt would only be temporary.
When I was about to doze off, a veil-like object brushed against my face. Immediately thereafter, I opened my eyes and bolted out of bed.
What a stupid move, for the world relentlessly spun for me - much worse than it did earlier. My head and my ears began to mercilessly throb. I woozily sat down on my bed, hoping that the nausea and migraine would disappear.
I suddenly felt colder and clammier than I did earlier. Worse, the temperature in my room drastically dropped. As I breathed through my mouth, condensation formed. My eyes frantically scanned every corner of the room, searching for anything unusual. My heart loudly pounded as every second passed by - feeling as if it was about to come out of my chest.
As my sights were focused in front of me, that mysterious veil-like object brushed against my hair and back - striking more terror within me. Instinctively, I spun around - which was another bad mistake. The throbbing of my head and ears worsened. While closing my eyes and taking a series of deep breaths to stop me from gagging, the room became colder for each passing second.
More terror stuck within me, as I heard the floorboards creak - each audible sound coming closer and closer to my bed. I just confirmed my worst fear just now: someone, or something, that I could not see was with me at this very moment.
End Chapter One
No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the author.
Copyright 2003 by Zatken. All rights reserved.