I can only vaguely remember the events of the day I was discharged from the hospital. None of it really matter though, I'm nearly positive of that. What did matter, though, was that I was not being discharged to my home – or at least not the home I had come to know for all these years. Somewhere along my stay at the hospital, my rightful father gained temporary custody of me and so I was being piled into a car alongside my brother. My sister decided that it would be best for her to stay with our step father in order to help him pick up the pieces, but as my back touched the leather seats of my father's car, I couldn't help but want for her presence. I looked to my right and grabbed the handle but as I began to pull upon it, the visage of my father appeared behind it.
"Justin," he said as he brought his hand up to take hold of the door, "I want you to know that we love you," he gestured toward Luis before continuing, "and we'll always be here for you no matter what."
I smiled up at him and said, "I know Dad."
My father smiled back at me and closed the door and by the time I has turned away from it, Luis had put his hand on my shoulder. He was smiling at me, it was the same smile as our father, and I imagined that was the same way I looked when I smiled. I chuckled to myself slightly and smiled back at him. I could feel a subtle change in Luis' emotions; it was as if my smile had reassured him of our family ties. I brushed the thought away, fastened my seatbelt, and burrowed myself into the warm seat. Before I knew it, I had fallen asleep.
I awoke to the uneven swaying of the car and the crunching of rocks. The pungent smell of pine trees permeated the air and as I looked out the window, I now knew why. As far as the eye could see stood the tall frames of lusciously green trees. The car stopped and I fumbled with the door as I continued to look up in amazement. I had only ever lived in the city before and was not used to seeing so many trees. My brother chuckled at me as he watched me turn around in circles.
"Don't worry, you get used to it. I was the same way when we first moved here." Luis said as he grabbed my things out of the trunk of the car.
I stopped and turned toward him, "If our Dad works for the FBI doesn't he need to live in the city?" I asked as I walked toward the trunk in order to help him.
"They occasionally provide him with an apartment in the city whenever he's on a case," he said as he took the suitcase I had just picked up put of my hand, "and I'll get these for you." He smiled and disappeared along with my bags into the house.
I could tell that he was happy to do it for me, but I didn't want to be treated like an invalid just because I had been in the hospital for a few days. I closed the trunk and trudged my way up the pathway that led to the house.
Before I stepped foot inside I already had a preconceived notion of just how big it was and this notion was qualified as I passed the threshold. The high ceilings instantly greeted me; it seemed just as spacious inside as it was outside. The hardwood floors made a delightful sound as I made my way into the living room where the hardwood was replaced with carpet. As I got to the middle of the room, my father came from the other side of a wall.
He smiled at me and said, "The kitchen is behind there," he pointed in the direction he had just come from, "which leads into the dining room and all of the bedrooms are up stairs. There's a bathroom underneath the stairs but the other two are up the steps as well." He looked me deep in my eyes before continuing, "Everywhere I moved to, I always made sure that I had enough rooms for you and your sister."
I could feel his happiness fade slightly as his eyes moved down toward the floor. I moved closer to him and embraced him and said, "Well I'm here now, my sister will be here eventually, and we can be a family – even if Mom is gone." I moved away from him and he ruffled my hair while smiling. My words failed to completely cheer him up but they had mended the most recent break in the dam.
"Come on, let me show you your room," Luis' voice called out to me and by the time I had turned around to look at him, he had grabbed my hand and was pulling me back into the foyer and up the stairs.
He let go of my hand as we entered a room, "So this is your room," he said with his hands eagle spread, "I was going to buy stuff for you to put on the walls but I didn't know what you liked and I didn't want to ask you while you were in the hospital… so this is it."
"It's perfect," I said as I looked around the room.
It was indeed perfect too, from the bed to the size of the room to the carpeting to the furniture to the blank walls, it was perfect just the way it was.
"So… um, I'm going to leave you alone until dinner time but after that we're definitely doing something fun together," Luis said in a way that made me unable to dispute.
I chuckled and smiled at him as he left the room. After I heard the click of the door closing, I collapsed onto my bed and closed my eyes. A huge sigh escaped my lips as I rolled over. Tears began to stain my cheeks as my legs moved up to my abdomen and I began rocking myself back and forth with my silent sobs only being heard by the pillow that lay next to me. The loss of my mother was caving in on me now more than ever. I missed her dearly; I missed her scent, her warm hugs, her cooking, her smile, her eyes, her hair, the way she smiled at me when I did something stupid – I missed it all.
I stifled my cries, dried my tears, and sat up in the bed as I heard a knock at the door, "Come in." I said.
My father opened the door and slinked into the room. He sat down next to me on the bed before reaching into his shirt pocket and taking out what looked to be a key.
"This was your mother's," he said as he handed the key over to me, "she wanted me to give this to you whenever we finally met."
The key was cold like it had not been touched in years; I looked up at him, "What does it open?"
He shrugged and said, "I honestly don't know but whatever it opens must have been important to her," He rose from the bed and headed toward the door; he suddenly stopped and turned around, "Dinner is ready." With that, he was gone.
I stared at the key for a moment – taking in the little details of it. It was an intricately designed skeleton key that seemed to have rusted slightly. I carefully wrapped the leather necklace the body of the key and put it on my nightstand. I wiped my eyes another time before heading down to dinner.
After dinner I headed back to my room. I laid back down across my bed and stared at my suitcases. I had no strength nor desire to unpack them now so I just continued to stare at them until I heard the gentle buzz of my phone. I reached up to my night stand and grabbed it. I had received a text message from my sister telling me to call her so I did.
"Hey kid, did you get that book I sent with you?" Her voice rang clearly through the earpiece which was a surprise since I hadn't seen any cell towers in the area.
"What book?" I asked her.
She replied, "The book I slipped into your luggage before I left."
I looked back at my luggage, "No. I haven't unpacked yet." I lowered myself off the bed and onto the floor before turning on the speakerphone.
"Ha ha, maybe you should check it right now."
"Duh, that's what I'm doing now," I replied with a chuckle.
"Don't 'duh' me!" She said in a playful tone, "Hurry up and check it!"
I opened both of my suitcases and began to rummage through them. At the bottom of the second one was a tattered leather bound book.
"Why did you give this to me?" I asked.
"It was Mom's. Our step dad gave it to me while you were in the hospital and I was helping him clean out Mom's stuff."
I stared at the book and traced the letterings on the cover.
"I think it's a journal but I really don't have a clue if it's hers or somebody else's. I'm not sure what the kanji on the front says either." She said.
"It says 'Journal'," I responded almost immediately, "I'm going to guess that this is hers." As I spoke my hands found their way to the lock on the right side of it.
"Well then, I guess the mystery is solved," she giggled softly before continuing, "I have to go now so I'll talk to you later. Love you kid."
"I love you too," I called to her, "Goodnight."
The phone beeped to signal the end of the call. I continued to trace the opening of the lock. It seemed familiar somehow. My eyes grew wide as I set the book down and retrieved the key from my nightstand. I slowly unwrapped it and sat back down on the floor. I stared at the key for a moment and then at the journal. It looked like it would fit. I placed the key in the hole and turned it and then removed it and almost instantly, the leather flap that housed the keyhole fell to the side. I was almost afraid to open it but nonetheless, I began to do so anyway.
"Ready to play a game?" My brother's voice, accompanied by a knock, sounded from the other side of the door.
I quickly closed the flap on the journal and bounded over to the door; I opened it slightly. "Not right now but maybe later."
"Why," he looked concerned, "are you feeling sick?"
""Uh – um… no I'm just trying to unpack and stuff," I lied.
"Oh, okay." Luis turned his gaze to the floor as he said this before looking back up, "I guess we'll play later." He said it with a smile but I could feel his emotions change from happiness to sadness. It wasn't normal sadness either, it was more of a defeated type of sadness. It was as if he was trying his hardest to make up for all those years apart but I had just come along and shot him down. It made me feel bad – really bad – terrible even.
"Actually Luis," I called out to him. He turned back around swiftly. "Can I talk to you for a second?" He quickly nodded and I opened the door wide enough for him to enter.
I closed the door and walked back to the bed, I picked up the journal, and then I handed it to him. He did as I expected he would, he looked it over in confusion.
"This is our mother's journal," I said while looking up at him.
"Okay…" His voice trailed off as he looked over the book and at me. "What am I supposed to do with it?"
"Read it – with me – please."
He looked at the cover of the journal suspiciously before sitting down next to me. He felt the same way that I did – he was unsure about reading the journal.
"I don't think we should read Mom's journal Justin," He said the very thing I was thinking.
"I know," I said, "but maybe –"
"– there's something about her in here that we need to know." Luis had finished my sentence but neither of us were looking at each other – we only looked at the book.
Luis and I took a deep breath, he opened it, and we began reading.