Chapter 1 - Eden
I’ve come to visit my Aunt Beatrice in Oregon every summer since I can remember. Every year, the week after school finishes, I’d take the train from Chicago to Portland. It’s a long and boring ride, but thankfully I’ve always had my books to keep me company. This year, since I’m graduated from school, I’m moving to Oregon to live with my Aunt until I decide what I’d like to do with the rest of my life.
I step down from the train, my suitcase in one hand and my duffle bag in the other. I didn’t bring too much to wear with me, as I prefer to keep my bag filled with books to keep me busy instead. On the downside, however, it makes my bag much heavier to carry. I lug the case behind me through the bustling station, keeping my head down. My heart lurches in my chest whenever someone gets a little too close to me. Big crowded spaces aren’t really my forte, but I’ve been navigating through this station alone for years, so it doesn’t faze me as much anymore.
Once I’m outside, I notice my Aunt resting against her cherry-red convertible. Her arms are crossed over her chest and one Doc Martin adorned foot rests against the passenger side door. She wears little round sunglasses on the end of her nose and a torn up Pink Floyd t-shirt with a pair of cut-off jean shorts. Her curly brown hair is streaked with copper tendrils and is tossed messily over her head, needless to say, she is still beautiful as ever.
“Aunt B!” I smile nervously as I call her.
“Oh, Eden!” She smiles widely and takes me in her arms. My Aunt Beatrice is like the typical ‘cool Aunt’, but she is actually really cool. She is an artist, currently living in a lavish modern mansion by herself just outside Portland. I love visiting her because she is not as strict and organized like my parents, instead, she’s carefree and her art stuff is scattered across the massive main rooms of the house.
“I’ve missed you, Aunt B.” I give her a gentle squeeze before releasing her and she grips me by my shoulder and takes a good look at me, I feel my cheeks flush as she examines me. We’re about the same height, around five-foot-five, but she looks a little taller now in her boots. Her blue eyes pierce into my own as she looks me up and down.
“My Goddess, you look like your mother, more beautiful and elegant every time I see you.” She smiles and takes my bags from me, tossing them into the backseat. “How’ve you been?”
“Good, Aunt B. Just happy to be here.” I smile softly before getting into the passenger seat.
I realized a while ago that there isn’t any point to trying to hold up a conversation in the convertible since the wind just carries our voices away with it. So instead, I just learned to enjoy the warm summer breeze blowing my ginger hair in my face. Aunt B likes to play her rock and roll music loudly too, and I prefer not to yell over Brian Jones. Aunt Beatrice’s wild hair seems to blow perfectly behind her as we blast down the freeway, her small sunglasses now pushed all the way up by her wide smile. I smile timidly and do my best to keep my fiery red hair behind my ears and out of my eyes.
Even though I love visiting Aunt B here in Oregon, I noticed the past few times I’ve visited she has been more preoccupied with luxurious parties and trips to Los Angeles. Not that I mind too much, being alone is a preference for me. I usually just sit in the backyard on the patio or in the living area in front of the fire when she isn’t around. She’s always apologetic when she comes back and feels bad for leaving me alone, but she brings the best books back as gifts for me. One time, she brought me the original copy of Beauty and the Beast written by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve. Of course, it’s in French but that’s not a problem for me and reading it was spectacular.
I’ve always felt more at home with Aunt B than I have with my own parents. They try too hard to push me from my comfort zone, forcing me to dinner parties and shows with them but Aunt B always lets me do my own thing and doesn’t make me do things I don’t want to do ever. I feel more like I belong in Oregon as opposed to Chicago as well, I much prefer the nature surrounding my aunt’s house then the bustling city surrounding my parent’s penthouse.
The car comes to a halt in front of the mansion, and as always, my heart rate picks up and a smile spreads across my cheeks. I’m home. Behind the house, the sunset is glowing tones of soft pink and lavender and the treetops seem to stretch out to touch the sky. The house practically made up of windows, and inside the house is lit up warmly. I take my suitcase and duffle bag from the backseat of the convertible and make my way inside. The house is equipped with a home gym, home theater, an outdoor pool with a hot tub inside of it, and an open concept living room that flows perfectly into a grand kitchen. I’ve never felt more at home anywhere but here.
I take my stuff up to my room which is across the house from Aunt B’s. She’s quite the bachelor, so I think she likes to keep us separated. The room overlooks the backyard and forest, and Aunt B gave it to me to do anything I wanted with. Of course, when I was ten, we painted the walls periwinkle and she bought me all the stuff I could ever want for it. She let me design the whole space myself though, from the four-post canopy bed to the white plush rug on the floor. Books are scattered all over the room along with Barnes and Noble bags that I imagine are filled with books Aunt B thought I’d enjoy.
“It’s the same as when you left last summer,” Aunt B leans in the doorway with a soft smile on her slim face. I offer her a sheepish smile and tuck my hair behind my ears. “I’m glad you're home, Eden.”
“Me too, Aunt B.” I feel as my cheeks grow slightly red.
“I’d love to spend the night with you here, but I’ve got to get to Tillamook to meet with… someone important. I’ll be back later tonight though if you’re still awake. I’m sorry, love.” She offers me a sad smile.
“No, it’s okay.” I smile back, I quite enjoy being here alone. “I’m pretty tired from the train ride, so I’ll probably just relax.”
“Perfect, I’ll see you in the morning then.” She plants a soft kiss on my forehead and is gone just like that. As much as I love her, there’s something odd and mysterious that I’ve never been able to place about her. Though she doesn’t hide much from me, there are some things she tends to tip-toe around. My father and mother tend to act the same way when they get late phone calls or have to attend to business that they say they can’t tell me about. I’ve never been one to intrude on people, so I don’t pressure for more information.
I scan my shelves of many books for a new read, and upon choosing one, I head outside to the patio beside the pool to begin. I’ve read A Midsummer Night’s Dream many times, but it still remains one of my favourite Shakespearian works. In my opinion, it never grows old.
It is dark now, and a full moon hangs in the sky above me. I now sit on the edge of the pool with my feet in the water. My jeans are rolled up past my ankles and I kick the warm water around in soothing motions as I read the play. This has been one of my favourite things to do while I’m here, which is odd because I don’t favour swimming much at all. In fact, I can’t swim very well, not even if my life were dependant on it. I just like the way it feels on my feet and sitting here I can see clearly into the forest. I enjoy looking at the forest, but ever since I was little Aunt B forbade me from going in there. She blames it on mountain lions and such being in there, but I always sensed that there was more she wasn’t telling me. Again, I moved on and didn’t press for any more information.
I wonder what Aunt B is up to in Tillamook, and why she seemed to be in such a rush to get there. She doesn’t really have a job, she just sells her art for money. Maybe she’s meeting with an important buyer? Or maybe she’s seeing a guy that lives in Tillamook that she still wants to keep secret. Though I love my aunt and her house, I always was curious as to how she afforded it on a struggling artists budget, as well as her convertible and her expensive taste in clothing. I don’t ask questions though, it isn’t my place.
In the distance, I hear a rustling in the woods that causes my heart to drop into my stomach. I hastily pull my feet from the pool and slap my book shut, but don’t make any other sudden movements.
“Hello?” I call, my voice cracking softly with fear. “Is anyone there?” On the brim of the forest line, a bush begins to rumble with an inhuman growl. I don’t hesitate to get to my feet as my mouth runs dry. Could it be a mountain lion like Aunt B said? Or could it be something much worse? Whatever it is, I don’t intend to find out. I run inside of the mansion, flick the outside lights off and lock the door.
I take deep breaths in attempt to calm my pounding heart. I’m inside and nothing can get me in here. I’m safe.