My eyes were barely open as we pulled up into the driveway of our new home, in Glendale, Arizona.
Stretching while I yawned, I said out loud, “I don’t remember driving here. I must’ve fallen asleep as soon as we left Tombstone.” Taking in the new neighborhood, I slid out of the passenger door, “Everything looks the same here, just desert and cactus and rows of houses with more cactus’s in the front of the house.”
Dad was busy unpacking the back of the station wagon, and yelled at me impatiently, “Quit your complaining, grab a bag and take it into your new house.” “It doesn’t look new.” I flashed back. “It’s kind of grey and sad.”
My sisters were already out of the car and grabbing what was left of the luggage sitting on the driveway. So, I followed my Mother and Grandmother inside our new home.
All the homes were sandy colored stucco, designed in pueblo fashion with clay shingles. Ours was a large 3 bedroom, 2 bath house. As you walked in the front door you could see the long living room, kitchen, dining room and the sliding glass door leading out to the backyard.
I ran right out to the back door and couldn’t believe my eyes. Green grass! There was a large tree surrounded by a circle of colorful plants and a swing hanging from one of the huge branches! A grass utopia right in my own backyard! Just as my excitement propelled me out the sliding glass door, I saw a little girl swinging on the old tire.
I quickly stopped with a dreaded glance back to my mother, now walking into the kitchen. She said, “Aren’t you excited to see such beautiful green grass right in the middle of the desert with such a huge tree? The previous owner put in the grass for his little girls but the tree has been there for a really long time; it’s very old. Your dad and I knew you would appreciate such a nice backyard.”
Seeing I wasn’t running out the door, she asked, “Are you alright? What’s wrong?” Still not pronouncing my r’s, I stuttered out, “Theesss a little gurl on the swing.” “What little girl are you talking about?” Mom asked as she looked out at the tree swing, not seeing anyone in the backyard. “She was there, I promise I saw her.”
Looking concerned for me, Mom put her arm around my shoulder and started moving me away from the sliding glass doors view. “That’s ok, why don’t we go and look at your new bedroom. The movers should be here any minute with all our furniture. Let’s see how the beds going to go.” The next few weeks were spent rearranging furniture and unpacking.
Once the record player was unpacked and set up, I started listening to my mother’s old records. I became obsessed with Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Gene Kelley. I even started writing down all the words and would sing along with them while imagining being on stage with them. It was a very odd experience for me, I even stayed in the house more than usual.
One day while in my room, Bing Crosby blaring from the small built-in speakers, I was writing down, “Don’t fence me in.” I could hear a woman’s voice behind me singing along. I turned around, expecting to see my mother but no one was there. Turning my attention back to the lyrics, the voice was even closer, seeming as if someone was standing right beside me singing in tune, “Give me land, lotsa land, under star…” Once again, I turned to look, this time I could see a short woman, standing right next to my bed. She looked happy as she sang along with the record. I looked right at her, she turned as if to return my gaze. She turned around and I could see part of her head had a huge, bloody hole on the left side of her face. I jumped off the bed and ran straight out to the living room where my parents were hanging pictures.
“Whoa slow down, what got into your britches?” Dad said as he held up his hands as if that would of slowed me down. I just sank to the floor, tired from running away from these people. “I just saw a woman in my room with her face shot off, that’s all, nothing new or unusual about that, right?” I knew I was being sarcastic and could get into trouble but I meant it. “Are you sure you didn’t fall asleep and have a bad dream?” Mom tried to defend my irrational and sarcastic response but Dad wasn’t having it.
“Don’t give her any excuses, she says she sees this stuff all the time. What’s next? The boogie man?”
Trying to make light of my experiences, my dad just excused himself from the conversation and said, “I’m going to go get a beer and then I’m going to help your mother hang some more pictures. You can just go back into your room and do whatever you were doing. Now go on, don’t make me say it twice.”
Not feeling like walking, I crawled back into my bedroom. Looking around the corner before making my way back inside. “No one’s in there, go on and turn that music down,” my dad said as he watched me crawling back into my room. I slowly crawled back into my room making sure it was all clear, without looking back or responding to my Dad. I turned off the record player and decided to go out front and see who I could play with.
The next few weeks I didn’t see any new ghosts, I started to get to know the neighborhood kids. Several of the girls my age played softball, so I thought I would give it a try and tried out for the team.
Baseball became another way to escape the realities of my world. I was pretty good at it so they made me a pitcher. We started practice before school started, so I already knew a lot of the kids in my new school. After getting to know a girl named Kimberly, we became good friends. It was like I could read her mind.
One day after school started, Kimberly had an encounter with one of the boys named Ray. He had made fun of her shirt, it had a stain on it that looked like a blop of ketchup had fallen and not been properly cleaned. After Ray made fun of it, she smacked him in the arm so hard he cried out in pain.
This brought the attention of a teacher, asking what was wrong. Ray tried to say that Kimberly had hit him without any provocation from him. I was standing near Kimberly when Ray first made fun of Kimberly but knew Kimberly could handle herself.
Without even thinking about it and before Kimberly could respond to the teacher’s question, I blurted out, “Ray made fun of Kimberly’s shirt and she hit him but that’s not really why she is upset. Her parents are getting a divorce and her mom moved out of the house, no one was there to wash her clothes and that has her really upset.”
The look on Kimberly’s face was one of shock and dismay. She looked at the teacher and said, “That’s not true! I was mad at Ray for making fun of me, so I hit him.”
The teacher told all of us to go to the Principal’s office. Kimberly and I walked together to the office. She asked me, “Why did you tell them my parents are getting a divorce? I didn’t tell you that.” “I know but it is true, isn’t it. That’s why you are so upset, right,” I pleaded with her as I just knew it was the real reason.
“Yes, but I didn’t tell you, no one is supposed to know. How did you know?” I could only respond with compassion, I couldn’t tell her that sometimes I just “Know” things. “I’m sorry Kimberly, I didn’t mean for it to come out like that. I was just trying to make sure you didn’t get in trouble.”
As we waited for the Principal, I promised not to let out her secrets ever again.
To be continued…