After the funeral, the people that were close to Ruth came back to the house to eat and socialize. The immediate family was there and some extended family members as well. Not surprisingly, Tanya and Helen were the only people - outside of the family - who came back to the house.
I spotted Jamie, in the corner of the living room, slouching in the big chair, flipping channels. I got his attention quietly. “Jamie?”
“Since Tanya and Helen are already here, maybe we can talk to them now, instead of going over there later.”
He sat upright, “Yeah, sure. You want me to be there, or would that be weird?” He sunk back into the chair.
“Not really, but, I guess, Tanya might be more comfortable talking just to me. And, actually, I probably should talk to her without Helen, since there may be information she doesn't want to talk about in front of her mother.”
“Yeah, good point. Okay, you get Tanya out of here, maybe up to your room, or outside, and I'll talk to Helen.” This time he finally got up out of the chair. His enthusiasm fluctuated. This was normal for him, but it was especially evident today. I figured he was going back and forth from being sad about Ruth to being intrigued by getting her justice and feeling useful.
Jamie walked over to them first. I saw some nodding and grinning. He then took Helen by the arm, and led her into the kitchen. He knew how to charm the older ladies. They always took to him for some reason.
“Hey Tanya, how are you holding up?”
“I should be asking you that. But I am okay, and you?”
“I’m okay too. I was wondering if you would come up to my room with me. I need to speak with you, and alone would be better.” I announced uneasily.
“Yeah, sure. I should let my mom know.”
She was about to leave, when I grabbed her arm then said, “Oh, she is fine. She is with my brother Jamie.”
She giggled a little and said, “Yeah, he’s quite the charmer, eh?”
“Maybe with the older ones, but he's a total klutz around women his own age.”
“Really? That surprises me.”
“It surprises most people. Well, so we are good?” I said, while I led her up the stairs.
“Yup, but will it take long?” She asked, looking back in the direction we came from.
“No, it shouldn't.”
As I opened the door, I realized my room was a total mess. “Sorry about the tornado that went through here.”
“Haha. That is okay; it’s not as bad as my room. So, what did you want to talk to me about?” She asked, as she made herself comfortable in my bean bag chair.
“Well, hmm, where should I start? Do you know the guy’s name – the one you went out for dinner with that night? Because I think he and my sister were more involved than you knew.”
“Why do you say that?” she asked. I hesitated, wondering if I should tell her about the letter and necklaces. I could hear the nervousness in her voice. I thought she had the right to know.
“I found a letter in Ruth's locker, she’d written to this guy Daniel, and it sounded like they were really involved, if you get my drift.”
She looked horrified. “Oh. Well, that can't be. They barely ever spoke. I swear she had the whole thing made up in her head. This letter wasn't given to him right?”
“Wait. So it is the same guy? Daniel?”
“No, I understand what you are thinking, but I think she was hiding more from you, Tanya, and this guy sounds like he was playing you both, along with a bunch of other girls.”
Her eyes welled up with tears. “Listen Tanya. I hate to bring this up, especially today, but I want you to know the truth. I think Ruth was hiding a lot, from, not just you, but everyone. I intend to speak with Daniel to get the whole story but I need his information from you. And, if you know anything - anything at all - please let me know.”
She was pacing now, back and forth, in my room, kicking some papers and clothes along with her. “I just can't believe what a lying scumbag he is. No wonder she freaked out. I would too!”
“Tanya, I know you’re upset, but please, do you have anything?” I tried to stay calm.
“Well, don't worry. I will talk to that jerk and get the whole story. He must be why she killed herself! Eeerrrr!”
“I know you want to kick his ass, and we all do - trust me -but the important thing is to find out the truth. Maybe he didn’t have anything to do with Ruth's death.”
“Well, why else would she kill herself? She must have been in love with him, and he broke her heart. Ugh! And, I feel so stupid! It's my fault too!” This time the tears came flooding over like a dam just broke. I came closer, to give her a hug.
“Really, it's not your fault, and maybe not his either. But, I need to know. Now, is there anything else she might have been keeping from you; like any weird behaviour?”
She sniffled for a minute, wiped her tears, and then said, “Why are you asking? You should ask Daniel. And, why does it matter now? She is gone.”
I debated, again, whether or not I should tell her that I don't think it’s a suicide but I decided not to. “I think it’s because I feel partly responsible, and there were other people in her life I didn't know about that could have driven her to such a tragedy. I need to know, for peace of mind. I guess maybe to feel better about myself. And, I think Ruth would want us to know the truth now.”
“Yeah. I guess it is better to know why. I think knowing the truth would put me at ease too. And, I know Ruth was probably hiding stuff to protect us all. I am not sure what, but I guess that is why we need to find out, right?”
“Yeah, exactly. I’m glad you understand.” She looked down at the floor, as she had been doing for most of the conversation, and then nodded gently.
“I don't think I know anything else, but I can tell you something about Daniel. I don't trust him, and I know I shouldn't come with you, but someone should.”
“Don't worry, I will bring someone: probably Jamie.”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea. Hopefully, he isn't as hot-headed as your dad, or he could be the one in trouble.” She said, concerned.
“Well, I’m not worried about that. I already told him about the letter and other things, and he is angrier at himself, than this guy. And, I know he won't do anything stupid, no matter how mad he gets.”
She walked closer to the door. “That's good to know. Well, I should find my mom now. She is probably wondering where I am. These days, she has been extra over-bearing.”
“At least you know she cares.” I assured her.
“That's true. Thank-you for letting me know about the letter. I appreciate it. I probably would have gotten sucked in by his lies. I needed a bit of a wake-up call.” She admitted uneasily.
“I am glad to help. And, remember, he isn't the only jerk out there.”
“True.” She leaned over to give me a hug. She held on longer than I expected. I didn't mind though. I think we both needed the support.
“Bye Liz. Take care of yourself.”
“You too.” I closed the door and quickly went over to take out my jewellery box out from the top of my closet. I pulled out the picture with the address 113 Shephard- 12S. I looked on the front of it, and it was a picture of a teenaged girl, around 14. It was very odd as it didn't fit with all the other pictures, which were of men. Was this the same girl that Jamie saw our dad with? I had to show him.
And, what about this Daniel guy? How does he fit in? It didn't make sense. I guess I would know soon enough. I had to take the helpers’ advice, and let it unravel in good time, and I had to be safe. That was the second time they told me that. I then assumed I would be dealing with some dangerous people. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief when I remembered Jamie was now there, by my side.
I decided not to go back downstairs until everyone was cleared out, and Jamie and I could slip out unseen. I was coming down the stairs when I got a glimpse of a familiar face; a face I never expected to see.
“Liz! Hey!” The sweet face greeted me. Warmth fluttered in my stomach and in my heart.
Jamie approached him, “Who are you? What are you doing here, and how do you know my sister?”
I ran down the rest of the stairs quickly, “It's okay Jamie. He is a friend.”
“Are you sure?” He asked with his chest out and hands on his hips.
“Of course I am sure.”
“I meant to go to the funeral, but I did not hear about it until a half hour ago, and I heard people were coming here afterwards. I thought you might need a friend.” The gentle voice explained.
“Thank you Todd. That is very nice of you, right Jamie?”
“Yeah. Liz, if you need me, I'll, uh, be around.” He agreed with uncertainty, then slowly backed away.
“Thanks. I'll keep that in mind.” My eyes met Todd’s, as we both shared a shy smirk.
“So, uh, how are you?”
“I'm okay. Do you want to get out of here? Maybe talk outside?” I suggested feeling restless.
“Sure.” We headed outside to the backyard. We walked slowly, as we took turns exchanging glances. We then sat on a bench in our well-kept garden. Neither of us said a word for what seemed like forever. I didn't know what to say. I had so much going through my mind about Ruth's death that I couldn't think about how this would be a great opportunity to get closer to Todd. I knew I couldn't tell him anything about what I knew. He might tell someone else or, worse, he might not understand.
Look into the garden, I heard as a warm breeze encompassed the air around us. Spring was here. I looked down at the garden. It was beautiful. The flowers were not yet in bloom, but the beads of life were evident. Everything was beginning to come back to life.
“What are you staring at?”
“Oh. The plants. See how they are just starting to bead? Isn't it amazing?”
“Its essence. Its life, growing before our eyes, starting out as a tiny seed, and growing into something so exquisite. Then, it is picked, and given away, to spread love and happiness but it always dies. After that, another starts its life. That's what’s amazing, don't you think?” I looked at him, hoping he wouldn’t think I was crazy.
“Well when you put it that way, yeah. Definitely. So, you like flowers I take it?” He nudged me, as he shot me a goofy smile.
“Not given to me to die, no.”
“Oh.” He was disappointed.
“Well, unless I can plant them of course, so they can flourish.”
“Yeah, good point.” Silence again. “I have to be honest, Liz. I am not sure what to say. This must be such a hard time for you. I just wish I could make you happy in some way.”
“Thank you Todd. That is sweet. But, believe it or not, you have already made me feel better, just sitting here with me, away from all of the noise and drama. Maybe sometime soon, we can do something fun. That will definitely make me happy.”
He gave me a big smile that brightened everything around me. “I think that’s a great idea. So, what do you like? Movies? Bowling?”
“Hmm. I like hikes. Of course, not on a rainy day, but a sunny one like today, and when the air is warm.”
“Well, how about the next day that’s like today? We could do just that. And, maybe, we could bring a picnic. Any requests?”
“Haha. You are going to make it?”
“Yeah, of course.” He said proudly.
“Okay, hmm.. Steak? Haha…just kidding..umm..Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will do just fine. Oh and maybe some chips, and apples or any other kind of fruit. What do you like?”
“That sounds great to me. But I think I will make a fruit salad. And maybe even a regular salad too.”
“Oh, now we are getting complicated, haha. Anything you want. I’m not picky. As long as PB and J sandwiches are in that picnic basket, I am good.”
He chuckled a little, and then said, “Will do.”
“Well, I should be getting back in the house. We will be having dinner soon. And, I think most of the people are leaving, so I should say my good-byes.”
“Oh right, of course. I should be getting home too. Well, here is a card. I know it doesn’t mean much, but, uh, I hope it helps.”
“I’m sure it will, thanks.” I went to take the card from his hand, but I found myself holding on to the card and on to his gaze. “Sorry” I looked down shyly, and retracted my hand slowly. I felt a stern but gentle touch. His hand had touched mine. He held it for a few moments, as he said, “ If you ever need me, you know you can call, right?... Right?” He grasped a little harder.
“Yes, thank you again… I will call you soon.”
“I look forward to it.” He turned to walk away, when I realized I didn’t have his phone number. “Wait!” He turned around quickly. “I don’t have your phone number.”
“Haha. Oh yeah, sorry. Do you have something to write it down?”
“Oh. No, haha. Let’s go inside.” Good thing we always keep a dozen pens on a small table by the door along with the key hanger and a pile of mail. I grabbed a pen and one of the many flyers we never looked at to write down his number. “Okay, I’m ready.”
“Okay, thanks. I’ll, um, call you soon, eh?”
“Sure thing. Bye Liz. Take care.”
As he shut the door I folded the flyer and put it in my pocket. As I went to put the pen back, I decided to look at the mail. I noticed something that was addressed to me. I hadn’t gotten mail since my grandma was alive. Even stranger, there was no return address on it. I decided to take it up to my room, along with the card from Todd, so I could read both of them in private.
I opened the card from Todd first. I was more excited about that than anything else. I was hoping there would be a long letter or poem, but, more realistically, it was a short and sweet note. On the front there was a large picture of a rose, with water droplets crystallized on the petals. It was quite beautiful. Inside I expected a hallmark saying something like, “Feel better soon”, but it was more than that; he had hand-written a poem himself.
The days may be long and difficult,
But I know you’ll make it through,
Your strength and beauty, like a rose
Never stop growing,
Never stop believing,
And keep loving, in that special way you do
The clouds will clear, and the sun will shine,
With all the hope and happiness you’ll need
From your friend,
At first I had doubts about whether or not he wrote the poem himself, but I knew he must have. He didn’t seem like the type to copy someone else’s work. Even though it wasn’t spectacular, it was still very sweet and thoughtful, and that’s what counted. It was pretty impressive for an eleven year old boy. But, then again, Todd was more mature than most 11- year-old boys, so it didn’t surprise me too much.
I felt a surge of nervousness. Did he really care about me that much? We had barely spoken - before that day at school. I couldn’t figure out why he would. He barely knows me. Maybe he doesn’t like me, and he has some other ultimatum, like that guy Daniel. I had a difficult time trusting the opposite sex, and for good reason. Maybe I shouldn’t even be his friend. It would just complicate things. I decided to open the letter.
Be yourself, be open
Don’t look ahead, the time is now
Keep friends close, keep family closer
This must be a letter from my helpers. I think I knew what they were saying. I had to be open and myself with Todd, and just enjoy the moment. Also, I knew this time was critical and I had an important job to do. I couldn’t get too distracted with friends, but that didn’t mean I should cut them out completely. I did have to concentrate on what I had to do for Ruth though.
There was a knock at my door. “Yeah?! Who is it?”
“Jamie!” I put the letters in my jewellery box and put it back in my hiding place. “C’mon Liz, dinner time.”
I came to unlock the door. “Sorry. I’ll be right there.”
“We are waiting for you.”
“Who’s still here?” I asked, not really wanting to hear the answer.
“Just our grandparents and Uncle George.”
“Our other uncles and aunts left too?”
“Yeah, I guess they knew mom and dad had enough kids to feed, and you know how our cousins eat.”
“Yeah, true. Okay, I’m coming down.”
Dinner was more tolerable than usual. My Uncle George did most of the talking. He told us about his crazy fishing stories again. My brother Matt asked if he could go on a deep sea fishing trip with him someday, but my dad wouldn’t let him, “You don’t need to waste time on fishing son, you got hockey to concentrate on.”
“But dad, it would only be one weekend, right Uncle George?”
“Still. I don’t want you to like it, and become a bum like your Uncle.”
“Excuse me Bill, but what makes you think I am a bum. I make pretty good money you know.”
“Well, I don’t want him to have your life. He has talent, and there is no sense in wasting it. I am the father here, and if you have a problem with that, get out!” He stood from his seat, and pointed in the direction of the door.
Uncle George quieted right away. He knew just as well as the rest of us, what our father’s temper was like. I looked over at my grandparents, on my mother’s side. My father’s parents passed away long ago. They looked a little shocked. My dad never raised his voice near them. He usually keeps it real cool around his in-laws. That way, if my mom says anything about him, they would never believe her. Maybe, that is partly the reason why she never left my dad. She wouldn’t have the support she needed. Her family doesn’t have very much money, and wouldn’t be able to afford to take us in. They were very simple, but very sweet people. They always thought the best of others. It wouldn’t surprise me if my mother tried to tell them the truth and they denied it.
Usually they don’t get invited to our family gatherings. I actually hadn’t seen them for about 4 years. My father tries to keep them distant. He felt they aren’t as important as his family, even though he hates his family too. It would be a little suspicious to the rest of the community, if he didn’t invite all sides of the family to Ruth’s funeral.
It was a little awkward not having my grandmother from my dad’s side there. She usually took control of everything, and made things run a lot more smoothly, in a dysfunctional sort of way.
Luckily, dinner didn’t last long, and, before I knew it, the adults were in the living room with the television blasting and drinks flowing. I went to my room to gather up what I needed for mine and Jamie’s hunt. I took the jewellery box from underneath bed, and then discovered something; the present! I still hadn’t opened it. I felt this was the perfect time to open it. I had a feeling it would help me in my search.
I examined the present - it was so pretty; a part of me wanted to leave it intact. I felt Mazfanny’s presence with me. My heart was filled with joy and excitement. It was beating rapidly. I took the end of the ribbon and pulled it carefully but quickly. I then tore each folded corner. It was a wooden box. I was surprised because it felt so light. There was a lock on the box. But where was the key? I thought of the other gift that Oochoo had given me. I thought this would be an appropriate time to use it. I held it, then said, ‘key to open the box’. And it changed. I thought it might not work, but sure enough it did. Before I lifted the lid I heard something move. Was it something alive? Was the poor thing trapped in this box the whole time? No, they wouldn’t do that. I opened the lid slowly.
There was a loud pop noise, then “Hello!” said a fury brown ball with big blue eyes that bounced out of the box.
“Shh,” I said to the funny creature after I jumped right off the floor.
“Sorry, I am just sooooo exicted!”
“Who, or what are you?” I asked the small and energetic creature. It just kept hopping around my room. Every time it would land, it changed into something different. Sometimes it looked like a rabbit and other times it looked like a creature from the land of Geeshgawoodiooki. It took on all sorts of shapes.
“Can you show me your true shape?”
“I don’t have one. My true shape lives here.” The cute, now squirrel-looking creature calmed down for a second, and touched the area where his heart is.
“Oh. Well, is there a shape you like the best?”
“No. I like them all!” It bounced, then landed and became just a round orange fuzz ball. It then started rolling around the room. What was Mazfanny thinking? Yes, this creature is definitely fun but, right now, shouldn’t I be serious? Hopefully, I will get some guidance on what I am supposed to with this creature.
“Excuse me? Do you have a name?”
“Yes, my name is…..WHOOPIDOOOOO!”
“Yes! That’s what I said, WHOOPIDOOO! You say it like that!”
“No, I can’t.” I shook my head, refusing to participate.
“Sure you can. C’mon WHOOPIDOOO!”
I started to blush, in embarrassment for him, and, because a part of me really did want to say it like that. “C’mon Lizzy! Say it, pllleeeeassee.” It changed into a little kitten with big round green eyes. It was too cute to resist.
“Okay. Here it goes, WHOOOPIDOOO! Wow, that felt good!”
“Of course it did!” He said, as he hopped all around again.
I took a look in the box, to make sure there wasn’t something that I may have missed. There was another letter, and all of my gifts from my helpers, and all of the information, and the necklaces that I collected for Ruth’s investigation was inside of this box. I picked up the stone, that Vincent gave me, and held the keys from Oochoo in the same hand. I then picked up the handkerchief that Goasila gave me. As I held these very powerful but comfortable objects, I looked at the creature who was now sleeping at the end of my bed, in the shape of a kitten. It was even making purring noises. I still couldn’t figure out his purpose. Wouldn’t it distract me from what I am supposed to be doing, like Todd would? They were both cute, nice and fun, but what was I supposed to do with that? And if I bring him with me, how is he going help? What would I tell Jamie? Open the letter.
It was from Ruth. Maybe she knows.
I know right now you are confused and feel lost, but I promise things will come together very soon. Tonight, you will need the gifts that the helpers gave you. I know Whoopido might seem like a handful right now, but he will be the most helpful. He is Mazfanny’s pet. She wanted you to have him for a while. He will keep your spirit light, and remind you, even when you are in the darkest place, that there is always something positive. I promise, he will never fail to make you smile. And, just let him know that he should stay in one shape, like a dog, and not to talk when Jamie is around. That will help you greatly. That way, you don’t have to explain anything to him.
As for the other gifts, there are specific instructions that the helpers wanted me to give you.
From Oochoo: Be unseen. Move only when safe.
From Goasila: When time is limited, slow down to take a closer look.
From Mazfanny: Laugh quietly. Step lightly.
From Vincent: Remember – Purpose.
From Harmony: I believe in you, now believe in yourself.
I hope this will help you. We will all be watching and will be there for you. We love you,
At first, this letter only made me anxious. Were they preparing me for something… horrible? Was tonight going to be frightening? I felt very uneasy about the whole situation. I didn’t want to go. It would be too much. I was too young for this. I knew they said to believe in myself, and I knew they would be there to help, and I have their gifts, but was that going to be enough? Was that going to protect me? Will Jamie be brave enough? Or, maybe, he will be too brave? Will Whoopido give everything away? Will he ruin everything?
“I am here to help you Lizzy. I am your friend. Behind you all the way.” Whoopido took the shape of me! Only minature. I couldn’t help but giggle. “What are you doing Whoopido? Why do you look like me?”
“I am part of you and you are a part of me. I am showing you that I have the same intentions as you, because look - I am you!”
“But, you aren’t me. You don’t know how important this is.” I was no longer laughing. I was scared to risk.
“Now, I may not seem like the most serious type, but that doesn’t matter. My heart is in the same place as yours. I want very much to help you, Ruth, the rest of your family, and anyone else who will benefit. I am here to tell you, you don’t have to be serious to care. And look - when I have to be serious, I am, right? I am your shadow tonight. I will follow right behind you all the way. That’s what friends are for, right?”
“Yeah, that is true. Okay. I’m sorry I have a hard time trusting anything I don’t know, although I never knew Mazfanny, or Harmony or anyone else before, and they have been nothing but wonderful, so I trust you will be the same, right?”
“Okay, but we have to go through a couple of rules.” I said, as I got out my scolding finger.
“Okay, I think I can handle that. Mazfanny always gives me a few rules. Awesome World isn’t really the place that looks like it has rules, but there always has to be some, or things will get chaotic, right?”
“Yup. So here are the rules. No talking unless we are alone together. Also, I need you to pick a shape now, so you can stay in that shape, and not run the risk of changing in front of someone. Or else, they may be scared of you, okay? So what would you like to be?”
“Hmm, well I guess I should look like your pet. And, I want to be something to protect you, so a dog?”
“Yeah, that works but you should probably be a regular size dog, not just a little one. If I tell Jamie I am bringing you for protection, he won’t buy it if you’re too small.”
“Yeah, that is fine. I just like being small things usually, because they are cuter. Hehe.”
“Haha. Yeah, you definitely are cute. So what kind of dog?”
“Hmm, well I always wanted to be a German Shepherd. They are fierce, but still cute!”
“Haha. Okay, German Shepherd it is. And, quite appropriate, since we are going to Shephard street first.”
There was a light tap at the door. I put everything in the box again, and slid it under the bed. I came to the door, not sure of who it was. Jamie usually knocks loudly.
“Hey Liz, have you seen Jamie?” Jordan asked quietly.
“Well, no, but he is supposed to take me to the store soon. And, why are you being so quiet?”
“Well, I just don’t want to draw any attention up here. You know, so the adults don’t come up here.”
“Right.” I remembered how loud Whoopido and I were being. “Jordan? Did you hear any weird noises earlier? Coming from up here?”
“Oh just because I was going through some of my stuff, and I think I was being loud.”
“Oh no. So, are you sure you don’t know where Jamie went?”
“Nope but when you find him-actually, I will come with you. I really need to get to the store before it closes. By the way, why are you looking for him?”
“Well, I wanted him to take me to my friend’s place. I don’t really feel like being here.”
“I know what you mean. Okay let’s go and find him. On second thought, I am going to change.” I said, turning quickly back to my room.
“Okay, I’ll be in my room.”
“Okay, Whoopi. I think you need to stay here for now. Hmm. Maybe you can go outside and when you see me out there just come up to me, and pretend you are a stray dog.”
“Whoopi? I am no Whoopi Goldberg.”
I laughed out loud. “I know that, silly. I just thought it would be a short version of your name.”
“No short versions please. If anything it has to be the long version, WHOOPIDOOO!”
“Okay, Whoopido. No short versions. But, how about my plan? Sounds good?”
“Okay, I have to get ready now, so I will see you outside.”
“Sure thing, Lizzy.” He disappeared instantly. My insides were still laughing, even after he left. Mazfanny and Ruth were right; he will make this process a lot more enjoyable.