Friday, April 23, 2010

Prologue: The Night It All Began…

The unusual thing about life is how effortlessly it can be altered in simply a blink of an eye. You can live the same way for your whole life without stepping outside of the ideal, flawless, little trivial box you’ve worked so hard to place yourself within. You can wake up every morning and perform the same routine, never varying from the most insignificant of details, and then one day destiny, karma, or some other unknown force can alter life as you know it. That’s what happened to me and my once average, comfortable life; destiny altered my course. That and a shadowy hidden previous lifetime which came back to haunt me …

A thin sheet of ice spread across the glass, the various cracks which it had formed were starting to tear the frost apart. I placed my warm palm upon the windowpane, a chill rising off the solid and icy glass forcing me to pull away. I’ve always loved the winter and the beauty that it brings to the world. Winter was the ultimate rebirth. All the plants sacrificed themselves for the new that will arrive come spring, replacing them but keeping their memory alive. There was something so poetic about it, something so beautifully tragic.

I sighed, sitting with my legs crossed in the middle of my bed as my mom, Helen Cohn, strode into my room. She sat across from me, feeling my forehead for a fever I did not have, all set to lecture for the next hour or so.

“Lulu-Pop, are you sure you don’t feel well?” she asked, using her pet name, not yet convinced.

“This is your sisters’ last high school performance since Mrs. Henderson had to be…admitted so there won’t be any spring musical.” Helen said. Well whose fault is that? Mrs. Henderson should have told someone about her irrational fear of clowns, maybe then Aaron would have known not to wear that black It shirt as stage crew, and she wouldn’t have had a mental breakdown.

“It won’t be the same without you there; you’ve been going to their performances since you were in a stroller! But it’s already seven and we are supposed to arrive by seven thirty, so if you’re coming you’re going to have to decide now.”

“Mom, I don’t feel well, please? Just this one time?” I begged.

“I know, I know, you feel sick so just please stay in bed and rest. Take a nap! The Lord and your pre-school through kindergarten teachers know you never did when you were little, why not start now? If you get hungry order pizza or something instead of trying to cook for yourself because I don’t want to come home to a burnt down house, no offense. I know you getting better at cooking but please wait to cook with your father or me here first, will you? Oh and I’ll leave the food money on the fridge, and-” Helen nervously rambled as we sat on my bed debating. Helen started talking so fast –reducing a paragraph of words into a sentence – that I tuned her out over the lack of comprehension. Helen always speed talked when she was on edge.

Suddenly Helen stopped in mid-sentence and interlocked my gaze, swiping my growing-out bangs–which I knew would be cut, since I never had the patience to grow out the bangs I’ve had since I was five–to the side for a clear view of my face. To say I resembled Helen would be a great understatement. We possessed the same blue-black hair, mine falling mid-back in soft undulating curls; hers cut into a chic and sophisticated bob which she took a flat iron to daily. Unlike my dad, Roger Cohn, Helen didn’t have one gray –though she didn’t color her hair like most of my friends’ parents do, she was just fascinatingly young when it comes to her personality and appearance. Rogers’s hair was described as salt and pepper. Helen aged better than Roger did; she appeared ten years younger than her true forty-two year old age. Much like most make-up commercials always insist they can achieve.

Helen gave me a pained but searching gaze, my eyes expressing a thousand unspoken questions. My favorite trait that Helen and I shared was our eyes. Helen, my sisters, and I all had one common feature, our violet shaded left eye. Helen never really gave us more of an explanation than that it ran in her family, but truthfully I didn’t want to know. My intuition kept sending me big flashing stop signs whenever I felt the erg to finally get a straight answer. Unfortunately, that is where the similarities between my family and I stopped. Helen, even in her forties, beat me in the looks department. Her skin was ivory, mine is alabaster. We might have had the same eyes–both our right eyes were the same shade of deep blue–but, hers are full of life and excitement, while mine are darker; dimmer. I resemble Roger too much, too plain.

“I know I’m rambling,” Helen sighed, finally speaking at her normal speed. “But it’s only because I love you Luna. You and your sisters are my world. You know I love your father of course, but did I carry him in my stomach for nine months and then had to experience thirty-two hours of labor? No! So I just want to make sure you’re safe and you feel better.” I gave her a forced smile. She had no clue that she was making me feel so guilty. I almost felt tempted to tell her the truth. Almost, but not quite.

The truth is that I had convinced everyone that I was sick. My lying “talents” knew that if I was going to pull this off, I would have to start “not feeling well” a couple days in advance. About two days in advance I started coughing and sneezing, going to bed at seven following dinner and a shower–that part I particularly hated but it had to be done for the greater good of free time–, and complaining about a headache. So when I didn’t feel up for seeing Rose and Karma perform in our school’s rendition of South Pacific, they of course believed me. I’m a great liar. If it wasn’t for the fact that our school put on musicals instead of plays, I would audition and probably get the lead. Sadly I’m as tone death as a hyena.

My older twin sisters Rose and Karma were two of the ten top actors at my school. Throw in that they could sing and dance and you have a triple threat to anyone attempting to make it in the world of show business. However, what made them a threat to the majority of the girls at our school was that they were both drop dead gorgeous and no one could hold a candle to that.

Rose had strawberry-blond hair that fell to her mid-back in soft wavy curls with natural tints of a honey-gold shine to it. She has a heart shaped face with a bright blue right eye and a light violet, almost lavender, left eye, rose pink baby doll lips, and rosy cheeks. Add in her unblemished ivory skin and you had a real life princess. Sweet, cheerful, and pure.

Then you had Karma. With her straight and shinny light brown hair with tints of auburn that curtained around her shoulders, sultry cherry Angelina Jolie plump lips that were glossed 24/7, and perfectly tanned skin. Ok, that was a product of the tanning salon but she still looked beautiful in her natural light olive complexion. She resembled an actress ready for the red carpet at all times. Throw in her alluring eyes, the right a hazel, and the left almost lavender like Rose’s, and everything about her just screamed hot. She was practically exotic.

As if that weren’t enough they were both geniuses. Their schedules are full of AP classes and they both have received admission to Ivy League schools; Rose, Harvard and Karma, Yale.

“Mom stop worrying, I’ll be OK. I’m almost sixteen; I can be left home alone without you worrying that I’m going to play with matches.” I whined in a scratchy voice to keep up my façade.

Helen didn’t speak for a minute. She was weighing her options. She had three choices, she could either 1) leave me home and trust me, 2) drag me to the play and risk me becoming worse from the cold night air, or 3) stay home with me and disappoint Rose and Karma by missing their lat performance even though we all know I’m capable of staying home without a babysitter.

Finally she spoke, “Lulu-Pop, honey, are you sure you’ll be OK? It’s not that your dad and I don’t trust you, it’s just that we worry about you.” she said, her voice full of concern and melodrama. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. Roger wasn’t worried at all. He saw that I’d grown up and matured and should be allowed to be left alone with out being checked on every five minutes. As much as I loved Helen, she could drive me nuts with her worrywart ways. Wasn’t she young once? That’s why Helen and Roger were a match made in heaven, she worried about everything and he worried about just about nothing. Together they made a good couple and parents. The only problem was that Roger was raised in a family with a mother who had a strong personality and even stronger death-stare if you dared question her. He pretty quickly learned from Grandpa Isaac to just back off and not to mess with women when they say they’re in charge. In this family, Helen wore the pants in her atypical soccer mom style. No doubt.

“Mom, I said to stop worrying; I’m gonna live to see morning, I promise. Again I must state that I’m almost sixteen; I’m not going to talk to strangers or burn the house down. And, though it will be hard, I’ll resist the urge to run with scissors.” I rolled my eyes as to get my point across. A faint smile crossed her lips as she in turn tried to roll her eyes but instead looked like she twitching. I laughed.

“Well if you’re sure…?” she hinted, hoping that I would tell her I couldn’t bare without my Mama and needed her to stay with me as if I were still seven. Helen was what you could call over protective. Ok, that is the biggest understatement ever; that’s like calling a 300 degree fire “warm”. She hated leaving anyone home alone, even Roger, as if she believed the bogeyman was about to appear out of nowhere and steal one of us away as a snack. According to her rules, there had to be at least two people home together at all times.

It can’t be boys, since at the age of fifteen, mid-sophomore year I must state with great despair, I didn’t know any guy whom liked me more than one-of-the-boys, much less want to kiss or date me. Mental check list to self: GET A DAMN BOYFRIEND! And if Karma and Rose ever brought a guy over –which I can’t verify or deny– I would never snitch on them. We established this four years ago when they first entered high school,. Sadly I'm starting to feel as if I received the short end of that romantic stick.

“If you’re sure–” Helen began.

“I already said I am.” I interrupted. She just continued as if I hadn’t spoken.

“If your positive than I guess I can’t change your mind, you have always been strongly opinioned.” Helen smiled, standing up from my bed, her favorite perfume surrounding the air around her. Chanel No.5, a classic. Just like her. She held my chin as if we would never see each other again, wanting to memorize how I appeared. “Luna,” she said, her voice no longer nervous or playful, her tone freezing over. “If anything happens, no matter if it’s something strange and unexplainable, I need you to call me right away. Promise me you will?” Helen demanded.

I was about to protest, tell her that she was sounding crazy and maybe she was the one who should be staying home, of course in a nicer way since she is my mom, when her eyes stopped me. There hidden deep within their depths was fear, anxiety and something more which I couldn’t quite put my finger on. There was something she was keeping from me that I felt as if it was better I didn’t know. I nodded, watching her shoulders relax a little.

She kissed both my cheeks, fretted over my hair as I tried to pull away, and just smiled, before walking down the stairs. I went to my bedroom window which faced the front of the house. As Helen locked the door behind her before entering my parents’ Volvo s80, I realized what else had been hidden in her eyes.

“Surrender.” I whispered to myself after watching the Volvo disappear at the end of our street.

I shook my head of my mindless unspoken chatter. I might have not been sick but I was tired. It was mid January and already I was counting down to the end of school. This summer we were returning to the Cape house. I planned to beg the sun to let me tan as I lay on my beach chair reading some steamy and hot romance novel while listening to my iPod. Truthfully, I would probably come home just as pale as I left. I don’t tan but at least I don’t burn, I just stayed the same shade of albino pale no matter how long I sat in the sun. I’m strange. And Irish.

Changing out of my jeans and t-shirt and into my favorite PJ–the purple silk shorts with matching spaghetti strap cami that Helen had given me for Christmas from Victoria’s Secret–I kicked off my slippers. I strode over to my large collection of CD’s, popping some Enya into my stereo on a medium volume before crawling into bed. I was listening to the soothing sounds as I slipped into a deep sleep. That was the first time I had the dream that literally and symbolically epitomized all that I held close crashing down around me.

I was standing on the side of the road, my hair up in an unkempt bun in the camisole and shorts that I had worn to bed. I rubbed my arms, the cold night air getting to me. The snow was still coming down, quick melting, leaving a residue on the ground.

I rubbed the sands from the corner of my eyes, trying to fully wake myself so I could figure out what the hell I was doing here. Was I still asleep? Did I sleepwalk out of my house and onto the side of a random street? I pinched myself and felt nothing. Yeah I must be asleep. I was about to wish for a young seventeen year old Leonardo DiCaprio – it’s my dream, I can wish for or do anything I want– when I saw the two cars approach.

On one side was my parents Volvo. Rose and Karma were half asleep in the back seat whereas Roger was remained vigilant, reciting passages from Shakespeare with the conviction of a Southern Baptist saying prayer. And then there was Helen. She was outright nervous, a reaction I hadn’t believed my always cool and collect mom was capable of.

On the other side was a black Mercedes, sleek and shinning in the moonligh, as it sped down the street, its windows tinted so I couldn’t decipher who was driving. All I knew was that it was speeding straight at the Volvo like it wasn’t even there.

“Watch out!” I screamed futilely.

Simultaneously my life fell apart. First, Helen looked up, seeing me on the side of the street. For a moment she was horror stricken before a look of realization swept across her face. She bit her lip, a bad habit I had inherited from her, before mouthing one word that felt like a punch in the gut. “Leave.”

She turned back around and screamed her head off just as the two cars collided, the impact of the collision tossing me to the ground.

I woke up screaming. I glanced at the clock: 12:00am. Sliding out of my bed, my feet groped around for my slippers. I turned off my stereo and retreated down the stairs for a bottle of water. The house was silent; I could have heard a pin fall from the second story. I was returning to my room when I stopped at Rose’s door. Just a peek, that’s all. I cracked open the door, nothing. The same went for Karma and my parent’s room. They did say they were going to be home late, they’ll be home soon, there’s no reason to worry.

I repeated that to myself as I climbed back into bed, hoping I would have a peaceful, dreamless sleep.

“Hmph.” I sulked angry that the sun was shinning through my baby-blue curtains and into my eyes. I really needed to order blackout curtains. The clock flashed ten in big red numbers. I was starting to wake up when I saw the water bottle sitting on my nightstand and remembered waking up the night before screaming.

“What was that about?” I asked myself, not remembering why I had woken up.

I hurried down the stairs expecting to find Roger making Sunday breakfast which consisted of pancakes, bacon, and sausage, Helen squeezing fresh orange juice, Rose coming in from her morning jog, and Karma finishing homework she had put off until Sunday since Helen wouldn’t let her out of the house later unless it was finished. This was the normal routine for my family on Sundays, not church.

Roger was half Jewish half Catholic, his parents, Zadie Isaac and Nana Barbra, never pushed religion on him since they believed it was his decision. Helen on the other hand was raised as a Catholic family, though she considers herself more spiritual than religious. We don’t break the law, God’s or the governments (except for keep holy the Sabbath day, and on occasions respect your mother and father), and we have a cross in our doorway. I think that's good enough.

I mulled it over as I glanced around my empty kitchen. Where the hell is my family?!? I ran up the stairs and into my parent’s room. Empty. The same went for both Karma’s and Rose’s.
I gradually descended the staircase, hesitantly taking each step, as I held on to the railing for dear life. I felt sick to my stomach; I knew I should be remembering something important but what? I needed to get a grip on myself!

I made a bowl of Special K cereal, not as tasty as pancakes, but I have the rare skill of burning water so cooking isn’t really an option. After finishing my breakfast, washing the bowl and placing it in the dryer, I went back to my room and glanced out the window. No cars were traveling the heavily snow covered streets.

“That's it, they were snowed in.” I assured myself, pretending that I didn’t know Helen would do anything to get home, even if our house was moved to Mars with me stuck in it for the ride, she would find a way.

I was ready to calm my nerves with reading- one of my favorite things to do, yes I’m a bookworm and proud of it- when the doorbell range. I ran down the stairs, hoping it was Rose and Karma who always needed me to open the door for them since they never remembered their keys.

Unfortunately, as I swung the door open it wasn’t then standing on the other side. Gulp!

“Hello, are you Lunetta Cohn?” asked a woman around Helen and Rogers age, her graying brown hair pulled back in a bun. Behind her stood a man in his late fifties to early sixties, his obviously once brown hair was now mainly gray and in some places turning white.

“Who are you?” I asked her right back. They definitely weren’t Karma or Rose.

“I’m Mrs. Jones.” said the brunette taking out her ID. “I’m with child services, and this is my friend Officer Marino from the Salem Police Department.” she motioned to the man behind her. He flashed me his badge. “Can we come in, we have to talk.”

I led the duo into my living room, my heart beating almost out of my chest. Anxiety paralyzing my body.

“Miss Cohn, do you know where your family is?” asked Mrs. Jones. I shook my head lightly, almost as if I thought it would fall off.

“They’re probably snowed in.” I stated in denial, even though I knew that couldn’t be true, Mrs. Jones and Officer Marino where here.

They exchanged a look before she spoke, confirming my fears. “Last night there was an accident. Your parents were driving home when they got into a head on collision. It seems the car was speeding in the opposite direction when the two met…”

Mrs. Jones kept talking but I drowned her out. As her words came spilling out last night’s dream hit me at full force. Roger driving, Rose and Karma sleeping, and Helen a nervous wreck, warning me to stay away. Like…like she knew what was going to happen.

“When? Where?” cried out a hoarse voice.

Mrs. Jones looked at me, making me realize that the voice had been mine. “The accident is estimated to have occurred around midnight, about a street over,” she said. That's why the street in my dreams had been familiar; I pass it everyday to school.

“Who was driving the other car?” I asked, remembering that the windows had been tinted. I received another how-are-we-supposed-to-explain-this look from them.

“That hasn’t been determined; the other driver somehow miraculously survived the crash and left the scene on foot. They left no blood or prints behind that we have been able to find, but the car is still being examined. It’s as if the car magically appeared!” Officer Marino confessed frustrated, forgetting himself for a moment until Mrs. Jones nudged him and shot him look to get a hold of himself.

This new info made my head whirl. Either 1) I just made up this dream and dreamt something completely different last night, which just happened to wake me up at the same time, 2) I’m still asleep and better pinch myself now, or 3) something freaky is going on here. I pinched myself and held back a yelp. Yeah, number two is out.

I knew that meant there was only one more question to ask. If they confirmed it then yeah, I did dream it. Right now I’d rather just assume myself to be crazy though.

“What type of car was it?” I questioned. This time they exchanged a what-the-hell-does-that-have-to-do-with-anything glance. I don’t know what my expression was, but with one look Marino decided to answer me.

Regrettably, I beat him to the punch. “A black Mercedes.”

This time around it was their turn to stare in disbelief. They glared at me with a how-the-hell look. Call it shock, call it sixteen years of always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, but only one word seemed appropriate.



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