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Sad Fiction

Read my story A Year Of Voicemail first! Trust me.

I pick up a box, grunting at its weight, and silently cursing my mom for making me help our new neighbors. I drag it inside and set it in the entryway, where Ms. Charlotte promptly jabs scissors into the strip of tape connecting the two flaps. She unfolds the flaps and begins pulling out a toaster. As I walk back to the truck to get the last box, I hear her say, “Jim! You marked the kitchen appliances as shoes!”

The last box sits in the back of the truck bed. I climb in and see that the label of painter’s tape has curled off the box. I stick it back on and read it. 

Amelia, it says. But who’s Amelia? I know Ms. Charlotte and Mr. Jim. Maybe Amelia’s coming to live with them later? 

It’s not my business, I tell myself. And after today, you’re never going to talk to these people again.

So I take the box inside and add it to the pile of boxes already cluttering the house. After wiping my hands on my shirt, I say, “I better get going--”

“Thank you for your help, Claire,” Ms. Charlotte says. She slips a five-dollar bill into my hand. 

“Thank you, but I can’t possibly take this,” I say and hold out Lincoln’s face to her. 

“If you insist,” she says, taking it back. 

“If you or your mother needs anything, just ask us. It’ll be a thank you for your help,” Mr. Jim says, appearing in the doorway. 

“Thanks. I’ll let you know,” I say awkwardly, backing out of the house. “I hope you enjoy it here!”

I cross the street and stick my hands in my pockets, but they’re not empty. My right hand is smashing something. I pull it out.

It’s the five-dollar bill. My mouth falls open and I give a disbelieving laugh. Chuckling, I put it back in my pocket. 

I bang open the door of our house and throw off my shoes into the entryway.

“Please pick up your shoes,” my mom calls from the kitchen. 

I roll my eyes and pick my shoes up off the floor. I set them on the shoe mat. 

I walk into the kitchen, where Mom is typing on her computer and shuffling through papers.

“Can we have dinner soon?” I ask. 

“Sure,” Mom says, pulling off her glasses. “I’ll make some pasta.”

“Thanks,” I say, aimlessly wandering through the spotless kitchen. Then I remember I have math homework, so I go to my room. 

The first question is a word problem. If Amelia has x dollars in her savings account, then she adds thirty-two dollars and ends up with… 

I chew on my pencil, debating my options but really thinking about Amelia. Who is she? Why is there a box of her stuff, and only one box? Mr. Jim and Ms. Charlotte had several boxes, so if she’s staying with them, why would she only have one? Is she even staying with them? 

Eventually, I solve for x, but I have a feeling that the mystery surrounding Amelia is not going to be so easy to figure out. 

---

As I walk home from school the next day, I see Ms. Charlotte sitting on her porch sipping a cup of lemonade. I hesitate, standing in her driveway, and decide to ask her about Amelia. I walk up the driveway, my hands gripping my backpack straps as I walk. 

“Can I ask you a question?” I say. 

“Certainly,” Ms. Charlotte says. 

“Um, well, yesterday when I was helping with your boxes, I saw one labeled Amelia, and I was, um, wondering who that is?”

Ms. Charlotte’s face drains of color. “Amelia,” she whispers. 

“I’ll just go, then,” I say nervously. Obviously, this is something really personal. I back away from the porch. 

“Amelia,” Ms. Charlotte says. “Amelia is… was… I’m sorry, Claire, I can’t tell you.”

I nod meekly and back away, my shoes thudding against the pavement like the thud of my pounding heart. 

---

“Mom,” I begin, trying to sound casual as we wash dishes from tonight’s dinner. “Do you know anything about an Amelia?”

“Amelia?” Mom asks. “No, I don’t know any Amelias.” 

She sounds truthful. I guessed she didn’t, but it was worth a shot. I pick up the sponge and begin attacking a bowl. 

“Why do you ask?” Mom says, putting a plate in the dishwasher. 

“Just, I saw a box labeled with the name Amelia when I was helping out Ms. Charlotte and Mr. Jim yesterday, and I didn’t know who that was.” 

“Why don’t you ask them?”

“I did. Ms. Charlotte just went all pale and said she couldn’t talk about it.”

“Well, then it’s none of your business,” Mom says firmly. 

“Okay,” I mumble. “I’ll stay out of it.”

Mom doesn’t notice the fingers crossed behind my back.

---

My mother’s words fly through my head as I go up to Mr. Jim and Ms. Charlotte’s house. The sky is darkening, and I want to ask him before it gets dark or Mom gets home from the store. 

I knock on the door, hoping that Mr. Jim answers and that I won’t have to specifically ask to speak to him. 

“Hello, Grace,” he says. “What brings you here on this fine evening?”

“Well, I wanted to ask about… Amelia?” I say hesitantly. 

Mr. Jim looks nervous, and sad. “Amelia… well, you better have a seat.”

He gestures to the porch swing, and I sit. Mr. Jim sits in the chair Ms. Charlotte used this afternoon. “I don’t know much,” he says. “But I’ll tell you the story I know.” 

I tense in anticipation. 

“Amelia was Charlotte’s daughter,” he says. Was? “Amelia ran away after a fight they had, about two years ago.”

His foot taps the ground impatiently, uncomfortably. 

“And she never came back.”

I inhale sharply, and sympathy for Ms. Charlotte fills my heart. 

“What was she like?” I ask after a pause. 

“I didn’t know her much,” Mr. Jim says. He swallows hard. “But she was a pretty girl. Liked to write. She had two best friends. They did everything together.” 

He gets up and goes inside. For a moment I think he’s going to just go, but then he comes back with a small photo in his hands. 

“This is Amelia,” he says and hands me the picture. She’s smiling and standing next to Ms. Charlotte at a carnival. A Ferris wheel stands proudly in the background. 

Amelia’s face is framed with brown curls, and her hazel eyes shine with happiness. She stands tall next to her mother. 

“What was their fight about?” I ask. 

Mr. Jim shakes his head. “I don’t know. Charlotte doesn’t like to talk about it.”

“Wow… that’s horrible.” 

Jim nods. 

"Thank you for telling me," I say. I stand, but I'm not sure if I should stay or leave. "I better head home,” I finally say. But I pause before I leave. “I’m sorry.”

Mr. Jim nods sadly.

--- 

I sit up, my face as white as a ghost. I had a dream where I met Amelia, we became friends, then she got cast as the lead in a musical, then she disappeared into an abyss, screaming. 

Just think… we may never know what happened to Amelia. How horrible that must be for Ms. Charlotte! Her only daughter may never be found. 

I wonder if the police tried to find her. What did they find? What clues did they have? 

I fall back into bed. I have a feeling Amelia’s still out there somewhere.

August 22, 2020 01:59

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