Ace's Past: Mysterious Events
Sweet child of mine,
Close your eyes,
Your dreams will not
Hold onto them tight,
And they will work with you,
And help you smile
When the skies are gray.
Remember this lullaby,
My baby, my child,
When Mama isn't there
To wipe the tears away.
"Where did you learn that song?"
Lucy turned around, blinking at Anne. The two of them were in the woods behind the house. Lucy was on a rock on a hill, the sky open before her. The trees were vast, green, and large, covering the rolling expanse of mountains in life. The lake in the basin was clear, reflecting the cloudless sky with a calm beauty.
"Anne! Anne! Up!" Ace yelled as he suddenly ran up to Anne, who was standing in the dirt in her old pink sneakers beneath the rock. Anne picked up the child, smiling at him, but then looked back at Lucy.
"You sing well, Lucy," Anne told the girl, lips spread and white teeth shining in a glimmering smile. Lucy blinked, then smiled back. The smile was so big, it could've split her head open. She jumped down from the rock, landing in front of Anne with a soft thud as her feet hit the ground.
"My Mom used to sing that to me when I was little, back before...well," Lucy gave Anne a wink, making Ace giggle. "You know."
Anne frowned a bit, but then Ace reached out and yanked on Lucy's hair. "More! Sing more!"
"Ace, what do you say when you want something?"
Ace whined. "Please?"
Lucy laughed at Anne and Ace. Anne just scowled at her, but the twitch of her lips revealed it wasn't genuine.
"Sure, Ace. I like singing that song. But I want you to know, oh child of mine…"
Ace was sitting in his Daddy's lap, eyes wide as he watched the dancers on stage. They were spinning on their tippy-toes and stretching their bodies to the extremes. Anne was up there, one of the ballet dancers on stage. Anne did lots of dances, because she really liked dancing. Ballet was one of her favorites. She was up there, all of the girls dressed in blue, their hair pulled back as neat as possible, wearing their best slippers for the performance.
Mama was sitting on the left of Daddy while Lucy was to the right. Ace looked over at his Mama, and she was smiling one of her best smiles. Looking up at Daddy, he was smiling, but his eyes were also watery, and Ace wondered why. Then he looked to Lucy. Her eyes were sparkling and she was on the edge of her seat.
Lucy looked up at Ace then and gave him a smile. "I wish I could dance like that, Ace." Lucy said, staring at Anne. "I can do sports, but I can't do that."
The music - a melody, fast paced and beautiful, played with violins and pianos and flutes - ended in a flourish. The girls and boys on stage all ended in poses building up into a peak, the children on the outer edges were lying on the ground, while the people in the center stood as tall as they could, balancing on their toes. The many people in the room clapped and Ace, swept up in the sound, began clapping and laughing. Many people were filming, including Mama, and Ace could tell why. It was so beautiful, not that the child understood what that was. He just knew the show made him extremely happy.
One of Ace's favorite things to do when it was sunny was to scribble all over the driveway with chalk. Mama would be sitting in a chair on the front porch, reading a magazine. She would leave the garage door open. All of the toys that Ace, Anne, and Lucy shared were in a shelf immediately to the right of the door. Mama and Daddy didn't care if Ace scribbled all over the driveway with chalk. Their driveway was super long, and eventually turned to dirt further down the gigantic hill.
Today was one of those days - the sun was shining brightly above, the sky was as blue as it could be, and it was hot. Ace was wearing sandals, a T-shirt, and shorts even though he kept complaining about how hot it was. But he couldn't take his shirt or shorts off because his Mama said his skin would turn pink and red it and it would hurt later in the day.
Ace toddled into the garage, moving over to the chalk bucket. It was big, but small enough for the child to carry. As Ace approached the chalk bucket, he saw some papers on the ground. There were never papers in here. They looked like his Daddy's work papers, which was especially odd. His Daddy was always careful to never let Ace see his work papers.
Ace picked up the sheets, staring at the images. There were pictures of a man on the papers, a strange man indeed. The strangest thing was the drawing (that was what Ace thought it was) on his arm. It might have been two. Ace wasn't sure, but it was scary looking. Skulls were something Ace had yet to learn about, so to him the markings were foreign, menacing. And the faces the man made in the picture weren't pleasant either. The smiles were threatening, the frowns and scowls were intimidating.
Abandoning the bucket in favor of the papers, the toddler ran out of the garage. "Mama, Mama!" He called loudly. The woman looked up from her chair, her brows furrowed upon the abnormally quick and high-pitched voice of her son. She stood and walked briskly to Ace, kneeling before him. Ace frowned.
"What's wrong Ace? Are you hurt?" She asked, looking her son over, pupils darting from his head to his body, his arms to his legs, his hands to his feet.
"Mama, dis is scawy!" He whined, voice wavering. "I don' like him!" His Mama took the papers, looking them over. Eventually she looked to her son, smoothing his unruly hair down for just a moment.
"It's okay Ace, you don't have to look at this scary man again," She soothed, smiling at the child. Ace grinned at his Mama, and then suddenly threw his arms around her in a hug. She gave his forehead a kiss and then he pulled away, running back to the garage and yelling about making the biggest picture ever on the driveway.
(What Ace didn't know:
Rouge didn't move for a moment, staring at her son. Then she stood, turned, and returned to her seat. She had a book and a magazine. She folded the papers and opened the book. The pages were cut out so there was a hole in the middle. She placed the folded papers in, closed the book, and opened the magazine. The magazine covers had pictures of actors and models. It's contents, as she flipped through the pages, depicted gang members, arrest records, weapons, and biographies, as well as details of past events involving gangs and mafias and assassins.
It was a magazine for those who had witnessed the evils of the world and had to make the choice to serve justice, to stay neutral, or to turn to evil acts. It was to make them decide - is evil the best choice to protect those you love?)
On Mondays and Fridays, Mama took Ace to the supermarket. They would leave around 11 in the morning and get there by 11:30. It took a while to get there because, well, they lived in the midst of mountains on the edge of a small town in the middle of nowhere.
That day was a Monday. Daddy had left for a short business trip and would not be back until Thursday evening. Anne and Lucy were at school. Mama kept saying she was happy, she didn't have to buy as much food if Daddy was away. Daddy ate a lot of food.
When they had reached the halfway point of Mama's grocery store routine - Ace always knew because that was when they reached the meat section - something out of the ordinary happened.
"Excuse me, Ma'am," a very tall, broad man with a scar on his face said, bumping into Ace's Mama. Mama stumbled a bit, and then looked over at the man, annoyed, but the look soon turned more dangerous. "So it is you," The man, who was looking back at that point, said in a monotonous manner.
"I believe you knew who I was," Mama replied, grabbing the cart and pulling it closer to herself. Ace blinked, confused yet observant. Something in the air told him to stay quiet. He heard the man - now behind him - chuckle.
"I have every right to be suspicious," She told the man, voice quiet but not lacking force.
"I just wanted to ask you," the paused, and Ace looked back as Mama picked him up out of the carriage, holding him close. "Why are you two so willingly putting yourself in the line of fire? We are only observing for now, and you were at one point, too. So why, now of all times, are you making such a dangerous choice? After all," his eyes moved to Ace, and for some reason Ace didn't feel threatened by this man, but he had a feeling this man wasn't his friend. The man looked back to Rouge. "Don't you two have some precious things to care for?"
Rouge's arms tightened around Ace. "Now we have even more precious things to protect. After all, friends are forever, right?" She said, back straightening and eyes unwavering. The man's shoulders dropped, his mouth opened in a soft exhale, and he made a slow blink, eyes staying closed for a moment and then opening slowly.
"We have decided to stay out of this unless things get out of hand," The man told her.
"I expected no less," Rouge told him, placing Ace back in the cart and taking hold of the handles. She looked at the man. "You have your own precious things to protect, don't you?" Turning back to the cart, she walked away, heading towards the frozen foods section.
Ace looked at the oddly dressed man. He didn't move from his spot for a while, just stared at the two of them. Then a little girl yelled something, "Papa," Ace thought, and ran up to the man. Smiling, he lifted the girl, only a little older than Ace, and held her close. A woman approached him and the two began talking, the woman pushing the cart as they walked in the opposite direction of Ace and his Mama.
It was late at night when Ace woke up from a nightmare, crying softly and holding his blankie. He was whispering "Daddy," to himself, building up the courage to get off of his big boy bed and somehow open the door. He stood on his bed and got to the edge, looking down. Shadows of monsters were peeking out from under it. With a gasp, he jumped away, far from the edge, and ran to the door. The handle was barely in his reach. His chubby fingers almost couldn't grasp it, but he managed to open it by getting on the tips of his toes.
He peeked out the open doorway into the dimly lit hallway, staring. There were a few shadows, moving about the hallway slowly. Sucking in a deep breath, Ace bolted out the doorway and in the direction of the kitchen, where the light was coming from. His feet were quiet against the carpeted hall. When he reached the kitchen entrance, he paused. Someone was crying in the adjoining room the living room.
Ace laid himself flat against the wall, like when he played hide-and-go-seek, and peered around the doorway from the kitchen into the living room. Anne and Lucy were on the couch while his Daddy and Mama sat in the two chairs. They were talking in soft voices, so soft Ace couldn't hear what was being said. But he had a feeling that Lucy was scared. She was shaking and sobbing and hunched over like Ace did when he fell and got the air knocked out of him. That always hurt really bad.
He decided he would brave his own fears. He looked back down the hall, sucking his lips in, and then remembered - he had a night light! He ran back to his room, holding his blankie around him like a cloak of protection, and ran into his room to the wall right across his bed. He fell on his butt and blindly searched for the night light. When he found it, he smiled triumphantly and plugged it into the outlet. Anne always said "When a hero is in need, this light will save them!"
Ace looked back at his bed and saw that all the scary monsters were gone! Grinning, he crawled over to his bed, then jumped up on top of it, crawling to the head to get underneath the covers. Holding his blankie in his hand, he fell asleep within moments.
Ace had woken up in the middle of the night. He hadn't been having a nightmare, and there was no thunder crashing in the sky outside. He didn't know why he was awake. Anne and Lucy were both sleeping, snoring and spread over their beds.
He decided he might have to go to the bathroom. He wasn't sure, but he decided it was worth a shot. He crawled to the edge of the bed, gripping the sheets as he lowered himself to the floor, and then shuffled his feet quietly along the surface. He reached the door, cracked open to let light in. His bare feet landed on the hardwood floor. The chilled surface sent a shiver up his spine. Still, he walked slowly, his feet dragging and his eyelids threatening to close as he yawned, down the hall in the direction of the bathroom.
The bathroom was next to the kitchen, diagonal to the door leading into the living room and entrance to the house. Ace paused when he heard whispers, barely audible, coming from the front door in the living room. It sounded like his Mama, he couldn't hear the other person, was crying. Ace hated the sound of his Mama crying. It was the first time he heard it. He headed towards the entrance and was about to tell off whoever made his Mama sad when he noticed she was with Daddy, and Daddy was crying too.
They continued whispering to each other. Daddy had a backpack on, big and black. He was wearing strange clothing Ace had never seen before either, strange mixes of dark greens, browns, and black. A long stick hung from his side, and there was a strange bulge attached to his thigh. It looked like a bubble gun, but different. Bigger. Darker.
Mama and Daddy hugged. They had hugged before, but Ace had never seen a hug like this. They both had tears streaming their cheeks. Their hands clenched at each other. Their brows furrowed and their lips were thin lines, holding back the sobs that shook their bodies at the very core.
A man stepped in the doorway, which Ace just realized was opened. He could hear the crickets chirping their peaceful melody, singing the night away. The man whispered, seemingly letting the crickets song reign. Mama and Daddy pulled away from each other, Daddy nodding. They held hands, and then they leaned in. It was a kiss, but not one like Ace had ever seen. It was longer than a chaste peck, more passionate, but filled with the same amount of love Ace always saw when they looked at each other with their eyes soft, their smiles wide, and their words full of joy.
Mama stepped back, a bit deeper into the house, and Daddy stepped towards the door. He said one last thing to his Mama. Ace could still only hear their voices, not their words because they were so quiet. Then he stepped out the door.
After a few moments, the sound of a car engine began to rumble. Ace say the light of the headlights of the car stream in through the front windows. Mama fell to her knees on the ground, her hands covering her face as he whole frame shook and trembled.
Ace doesn't know what compelled him to do it, but he ran for the door, his footsteps loud. His Mama looked up as he passed, her eyes wide. She yelled his name as he ran out the door, watching several cars - enormous, their frames wide and tall, their forms black, the wheels bigger than Ace - pull out of the driveway. Ace ran after the cars, feeling desperate. He felt tears begin to stream down his cheeks.
"Daddy!" He yelled at the top of his lungs, feet pounding on the pavement as he futilely tried to keep up with the cars. His short legs weren't capable of moving him fast enough. But his lungs, powerful with youth and despair, was louder than they had ever been before. "Daddy! Come back! Daddy! Please! Daddy!"
Ace tripped over his own feet, landing hard on the pavement. His body shivered as he looked up, his eyes practically swimming in a sea. "Daddy!" He yelled one last time before descending into wails, watching as the lights disappeared into darkness, just as the echo of his voice faded into nothing. He got to his knees, sitting there as he felt a wave of betrayal wash over him. Something horrible had just happened.
He heard his Mama calling his name, getting closer, but he just continued to wail, ignoring the sound of his name.
As the weeks passed, Ace, Anne, and Lucy began to lose hope that Roger would ever return. Rouge did not. She held onto hope every day. All she told the children was that Roger had to attend a business trip. He would be back when work was finished.
Ace didn't believe it. His Daddy leaving felt so painful. It was like it was the last time he would ever see his Daddy was as he walked out the door as his Mama cried on the ground.
Ace was so confused. It was one pain right after another. Why did this have to happen? The pastel colored walls, the tiled floor, the coughing and crying and injured people, the smell of cleanliness - chemicals and soap and hand sanitizer. It was all too much, too overwhelming.
Ace sat in his Mama's lap. She was curled over him, hands clasped and murmuring. Anne called it praying, the first time Ace asked what the gesture meant when they were passing a cemetery. An old man was making the gesture, kneeling before a grave.
Ace felt a knot in his gut. It made him feel sick. Anne and Lucy had big booboos. The doctors had to give them lots of bandaids, but Ace couldn't see them until they were done putting the bandages on.
A nurse walked out, calling out a name Ace had never heard before. A young man stood up frantically walking up to the nurse. They spoke softly, so quietly that Ace couldn't hear. Then they walked through the doors, disappearing down the hall that smelled too clean.
For so long, Ace sat in his Mama's lap. At some point, he put his hands on hers, but she didn't notice. She seemed so focused on praying that Ace wondered if she realized Ace was sitting in her lap.
Ace watched as a nurse walked through the doors of the smelly hall. The nurse looked at the clipboard, looked up, and loudly spoke into the quiet room, "The Gol family."
Ace's Mama stood super fast, holding Ace in her arms tightly. With her purse slung over her arm and her son in her arms, she quickly shuffled to the nurse, eyes wide, skin pale, and body shaking. "How, how are my daughters? Are they ok?" Mama asked with a trembling voice.
"They have been stabilized. Lucy is awake, Anne is still asleep," The nurse told Mama quietly with a reassuring smile. She led the two into the super clean hall. There were many people in the hall. Some nurses pushed people in strange looking chairs with wheels. Doctors were conversing with nurses while walking at fast speeds, managing to avoid the stretchers and patients with ease. "The accident hurt Anne more than it hurt Lucy. Lucy has a concussion and a fractured arm. We believe Anne also has a concussion, but she also has a broken leg and ankle and severe bruising on her abdomen. There was internal bleeding, which has been fixed with surgery. She has twenty three stitches on her abdomen and four stitches on her head."
Ace was so lost. These words were strange to the young boy. He took it all in, but it confused him and in some way made him want to cry. He felt as if these words meant that bandages weren't enough to help his sisters.
The nurse led them into a room and opened the door. Within, Anne and Lucy lay on beds. Ace could only see Lucy at that point, not realizing there was a bed next to her. Lucy was awake, the bed tilted upward in the direction of the television. Her eyes were unfocused, empty.
"Lucy?" Ace questioned. Mama let Ace down, and he ran up to Lucy's bed. The girl looked over at Ace, giving what Ace interpreted as a horribly fake smile. He saw her hand and grasped it in his own. She blinked, and then gave his hand a slight squeeze.
Ace looked to Mama. She walked slowly into the room, to the bed on the opposite side of Lucy's. From where he was, Ace couldn't see the bed. He couldn't see Mama or Anne. He wanted to, but now Lucy wouldn't let go of his hand, wouldn't let him move to see her. All he knew was that whatever happened to Anne, it was bad enough to make Mama burst out sobbing. Ace hadn't heard the sound before, but it made him upset. Tears slipped down his cheeks, but he didn't let out wails or hiccups. He wiped at the water from his eyes with quickly movements of his free hand.
"It will be okay, Ace," Lucy whispered, staring at the young child. Ace looked up at her. Her eyes spoke no lies. She looked determined, fierce, and strong in that moment, stronger than Daddy sometimes looked. It gave Ace a feeling of security. He nodded his head. Lucy squeezed his hand once more, tighter, and kept Ace where he was standing until it was time to go.
Ace jerked out of his darkening journey down memory lane when he heard a loud crash as if something had fallen. Heavy footsteps sounded outside the door, followed by gruff men yelling at each other. Ace paused in his story, looking at the door, estimating how much time was left.
"What's wrong Ace?" Smoker asked, followed by a series of pained coughs. Ace looked to Smoker and Law. Smoker was in terrible condition. He was strong, one of the strongest men Ace knew, yet he looked like he had been sent through the metaphorical meat grinder. He was in utter agony, and it killed Ace that he couldn't help Smoker. Or Law. Law was covered in cuts and bruises from the car crash. He obviously had broken limbs as well, if the way he cradled his arm was any indication of injury.
And of course, time was starting to slip away all too fast. Ace knew it was only a matter of time before someone stormed in here, and all chaos would break loose. He wanted to hold onto the hope that he would get out of here alive. He wanted to live.
"Smoker?" He asked, voice sounding weak and raw. Smoker and Law both stared at him. "We're going to get out of here, right?" Smoker's eyes widened just a bit, imperceptibly, at the sight of tears welling in Ace's eyes. Smoker gave a firm, promising nod of the head.
"We're going to get out of here," Smoker promised, looking from Ace to Law. Both nodded their heads, the teen gulping while the younger boy let out a shaky sigh.
"I'm not done yet, so...I guess I'll continue," Ace told them, closing his eyes as he remembered everything about his past. Everything before and after hell broke loose.