01. Lost Passports.
September 4th, 2011.
Rosalind Parker grunted lowly as she lifted the final box from the boot of her father’s car and lugged it up her porch steps. She huffed in exasperation, dropping the heavy, brown box on top of the many others that were sprawled across her main hall.
“Rose did you bring in all the boxes, love?”
Rose took in a deep breath while wiping her damp forehead with the sleeve of her flannel shirt. She hiked up her sleeves as she blew a strand of hair that had managed to come out of her pony tail away from her eyes.
“Yes Auntie Jocelyn, I just brought the last one in.”
Rose’s aunt stepped into the hallway, wiping her frail hands with a small dish towel before hanging it on the stair’s handrail. Her light, brown hair was tightly wound up at the top of her head, a pair of chopsticks carefully nestled within the strands. The huge sweatshirt she was wearing swallowed up her petite frame. Rose’s eyes trailed down her aunt’s frame until they found a small stain that stood out against the white material of her sweater.
“You guys came much later than we thought,” Jocelyn said as she examined the boxes scattered across the floor.
Rose scratched her arm uncomfortably as she stared down at her worn-out converse. Today was the first time she had seen her aunt in probably ten years. Rose and her father lived all the way back in Canada and she was perfectly content with that. However, when the news of her father hit, she knew she wouldn’t be able to take care of him by herself. Thus she and her father hopped on a plane and flew all the way across the ocean to live closer to her father’s sister and her daughter.
“Yeah, dad… he umm…forgot where he kept our passports before we left, so we missed our flight,” she mumbled awkwardly.
Jocelyn gave Rose a sympathetic look, pushing aside the thought of running up to her niece and hugging her. Jocelyn knew that Rose was going through a lot because of her father and she couldn’t help but think how strong she really was.
“Your dad’s up in bed if you were wondering.”
Rose sighed, squeezing her eyes shut for a brief moment. “O-Okay, thanks,” she muttered.
Jocelyn crossed the short distance between her and Rose and gingerly set her hand on Rose’s shoulder.
“Just get some rest, love. I’ll help you settle in tomorrow, okay?” Jocelyn smiled slightly, her British accent flowing out smoothly.
“Okay,” Rose sighed.
“He’ll be better in the morning… I’m sure of it. I’ll be down the street if you need anything,” Jocelyn reassured.
Just as she was about to step through the door, she swiftly turned around and fiddled with the bottom of her sweater.
“School’s starting up again tomorrow. It’s just… I was thinking… if you’d rather stay home for a while, I’m sure I can get Charlotte to talk to the office for you,” she stumbled out.
Although the last thing Rose wanted to do was go to school, it would be a helpful distraction to her; it would help stop her from constantly worrying about her father every minute of the day.
“No.” She shook her head. “I want to go to school tomorrow. Thank you though.”
“Are you sure?” Jocelyn asked skeptically as she quirked her brow.
“Yes… I’m sure,” Rose reassured, giving her aunt the most assuring smile she could muster.
“Well alright then. Get some rest. Charlotte will be over at 7:30,” Jocelyn instructed, referring to Rose’s cousin when speaking.
With that, Jocelyn leaned over, pecked her niece’s cheek and was out the door, making her way over to her own house.
Four hours; that was the total amount of time Rose had managed to actually get some sleep. After carrying a few of the boxes into her new bedroom, she took a quick shower, placed her sheets on top of her bed and sought out for a good night’s rest. However, sleep did not come easily. She would toss and turn throughout the night, constantly worrying about her dad. Although she debated on whether she was overly paranoid or not, she pushed aside the feeling and checked on her father. Sure enough, he was sleeping soundlessly in his room. However, that didn’t stop her from continuously checking up on him throughout the duration of the night. Finally, she gave up and climbed into her father’s bed, snuggling into his side. The next thing she knew, it was 6:00 and was time to get out of bed.
Taking a quick shower, Rose changed into the clothes she wore last night after she was done, too lazy to search through her boxes for something new. She tied her brown hair into a loose pony tail and grabbed her school bag that was currently empty. She made her way down the stairs, the soft pitter-patter of her feet filling the empty hall. The sound of a pan clattering on top of the stove caused her to rush over to the kitchen. She soon sighed in relief when she realized it was only her aunt and a petite girl sitting at the kitchen table.
“G’morning love! Did you sleep well?” Jocelyn asked as she prepared breakfast for everyone.
“Yes,” Rose lied as she remained by the doorframe. “Umm, I don’t mean to sound rude… but how did you guys get in?”
“Your father gave me an extra key last night in case I needed to get into the house. I hope you don’t mind, but I sort of started unpacking a bit and I bought a few things yesterday to put in your fridge,” Jocelyn said over her shoulder as she blindly flipped an egg, skillfully catching it once it dropped.
“Oh thanks,” was all Rose said as she set her school bag on the floor.
She turned her attention from her aunt to the young girl seated at the table. The girl looked vaguely familiar to Rose, and it was then that she realized it was her cousin.
“You’re Charlotte right?” Rose asked.
Charlotte looked up from the book she was reading and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Yeah. It’s nice seeing you again Rosalind,” she smiled shyly.
“You can call me Rose,” Rose smiled back.
“And you can call me Charlie.”
“Alright girls, come and eat. Charlotte put your book away please,” Jocelyn chastised as she set two plates of eggs and toast on the table.
Rose took a seat across from Charlotte and began nibbling on her toast. Just then, Rose’s father stepped into the kitchen, dressed as if he was ready for another day at work. She sighed as she set her toast back on her plate.
“Morning baby,” her father grinned as he pecked his daughter’s cheek.
“Morning daddy,” Rose mumbled.
“Are you going to eat anything Ben?” Jocelyn asked hopefully, placing another slice of bread into the toaster.
“I’m fine Jocelyn. I can’t be late for work,” he rushed out as he poured himself a cup of coffee that Jocelyn brewed.
Rose’s father was very tall, and had very broad shoulders. Although he was only in his late thirties, white strands of hair had already begun to appear within his brown locks. The skin around his eyes began to sag, especially due to the lack of sleep he was receiving. When he spoke, you could hear a twinge of his Australian accent as he had moved to Canada at the age of nineteen.
Rose and her aunt exchanged a quick look before Rose reluctantly stood up. “Dad, you don’t go to work anymore remember? You quit your job last month,” she said quietly.
Ben’s eyebrows furrowed slightly as he set his coffee mug down. “Oh right. I must have forgot,” he chuckled lowly as he loosened his tie.
‘Of course you did,’ Rose thought to herself as she slumped back onto her chair, no longer having the appetite to eat. After pushing her eggs around with a fork to make it seem like she actually ate a bit, she pushed the plate away and frowned slightly.
“Are you ready Rose?” Charlie asked as she picked up her plate and set it in the sink.
“Yes, let’s go,” Rose said as she stood up, carrying her plate with her.
“You didn’t eat very much, love,” Jocelyn frowned.
“I’m not very hungry at the moment. Thanks for breakfast though,” Rose rushed out before grabbing her bag. “Bye daddy.” She leaned down and pecked her father’s cheek receiving a small grunt in response for he was too busy reading the paper.
The two cousins left the house without another word and climbed into Charlie’s old sedan.
“It’s not much… but she’s my baby,” Charlie chuckled awkwardly as she buckled her seatbelt.
The car ride to school to school was short and surprisingly comfortable. During the entire ride, Rose stared out the slightly foggy window of Charlie’s car. Even though it was only March, the air was slightly nippy and chilly for the beginning of autumn. The soft buzz coming from the radio was the only sound that filled the car.
Charlie pulled to a stop behind the line of cars at the signal light. She took this as a time to turn the radio dial, searching for a channel that played decent music; all the while Rose continued to stare out the window.
The sight of a little girl tightly holding onto her mother’s hand caught Rose’s attention. The little girl happily jumped from one foot to another as she chomped on her bubblegum. She looked up from her feet, meeting Rose’s eyes. Giving a huge smile, the little girl happily waved at Rose. Rose chuckled slightly as she waved back. However, the little girl’s arm was roughly jerked back by her mother. The older woman began scolding the little girl causing Rose’s brows to furrow. Looking up from her daughter, the woman sent Rose a pointed look before dragging her daughter behind her once the signal turned green.
Charlie stepped on the gas and once again they were cruising smoothly along the road. Rose couldn’t help but look back at the mother and daughter as the pair turned a sharp right, getting out of Rose’s line of vision.
“You alright?” Charlie asked as she quickly glanced at Rose’s confused expression.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Rose mumbled in response, keeping her eyes locked on her fingers.
Charlie decided not to push the matter any further and turned into the parking lot of their school. She pulled into her usual parking spot, thankful that no one had taken it.
“We’re here,” Charlie said as she unbuckled her seatbelt, breaking Rose out of her little daydream. “You ready, love?”
Rose took in a deep breath as she continuously rocked her knee up and down. She was never good with meeting new people and her nerves were starting to finally kick in. Pushing aside the nauseating sensation bubbling inside her stomach, she willed herself to calm down.
Rose never realized how claustrophobic she truly was until today. Growing up in a small town, she went to a very small school with very few students. Everyone knew each other back in her hometown and she couldn’t help but yearn to go back.
She squeezed through the clusters of people in the packed hallway, trying to make it to her final period of the day. Overall, the day went rather well besides the fact that everyone kept staring at her. Fortunately, Charlie was in both of Rose’s morning classes; however in the afternoon, Rose was left to fend for herself. Her final period was math and she had been dreading going to that class for the entire day.
“Excuse me…” she mumbled as she tried to squeeze through a group of male students who towered over her.
Her feeble attempt soon became useless as she remained firmly planted in the same spot, unable to weave her way through. She soon found it difficult to breathe in such a tightly packed space and was growing rather uncomfortable. Bodies were pressed against hers from every angle.
“Excuse me,” she grunted loudly as she finally pushed her way through.
Not bothering to apologize to the group of boys, she quickly made her way into the ladies’ room, slamming the door shut behind her. Taking in a deep breath, she soon began to feel herself relax. The shrill of the school bell sounded causing Rose to flinch.
“Relax Rose…” she whispered to herself as she strolled over to the line of sinks.
She leaned against the counter, taking in the reflection of the exhausted girl in the mirror. Turning on the tap, she splashed cold water onto her face as her erratic heartbeat began to gradually slow down. Once she was sure she had calmed down enough, she wiped her face off and retreated back into the hall. The once insanely crowded hall was now deserted and held an eerie sensation within it. Rose took in a deep breath and pulled out her school map that was given to her at the beginning of the day. She made her way down the hall and was just about to turn the corner when something or someone caused her to abruptly come to a stop.
“Cameron! Don’t walk away from me!” a husky voice snapped.
“Piss off Irwin!” another voice bit back.
Rose carefully peeked around the corner to see the back of a boy chasing after some girl. The boy grabbed the girl by her wrist and spun her around, pushing her against the row of lockers.
“I told you not to walk away from me!” he barked.
“Let go of me,” she grunted as she wiggled around in his arms; however the boy seemed unfazed by her attempts as his grip remained tightly around her shoulders.
“I told you I would get it done by tonight!” she said incredulously.
“And I told you that you can no longer get it done because you already fucked it up!” the boy fumed.
Rose swallowed thickly, waiting for some teacher to come bursting out of their classroom to scold the two students; however no one came.
“I did not fuck it up okay? I’ve got him right where I want him to be! Have a little faith will you?” the girl scowled as she finally managed to push the boy away.
The boy sighed heavily as he pinched the bridge of his nose. Clearly the girl was testing his limits, however she seemed to be enjoying every minute of it.
“So help me God Cameron, if we lose this guy-,” he began.
“Don’t worry babe. I got it okay?” the girl soothed as she reached onto her tippy toes to peck his cheek.
Rose shifted uncomfortably, feeling as if she was intruding on the mysterious’ couples private moment. The boy scowled, jerking his shoulder away from the girl’s touch.
“Fine,” he grunted.
The boy turned to the side, meeting Rose’s eyes for a brief moment. She gasped quietly as she quickly pulled back, her breathing growing heavier and faster at each passing second.
“Hey, you!” she heard the boy bark in her direction.
Rose quickly spun on her heel, making her way in the opposite direction of both her math class and the mysterious couple.