We cried for hours in the car until exhaustion claimed us and we fell asleep, leaning against one another for warmth and comfort. Yet when morning comes no sunlight wakes me, for the ever present storm never lets any light peak through. Actually like how my hope that Poppy could still be alive and kicking is clouded by reality. Sad, heart-wrecking reality.
So I instead wake up from the distant sound of a car alarm going off.
Stretching as much as I can in the small car’s interior, I lazily rest my forehead against the cold foggy window. Rain pelts against the glass, finally starting to lighten up from the endless downpour it’s been these last few days, yet the coldest in my chest lets me feel no joy of the decreasing storm.
Wiping away some of the fog, I look around the parking lot trying to see if Mason was back.
Sighing loudly in pain and frustration, I try to wipe away the new batch of tears gathering in my eyes as I look down at the empty parking spot. Sadly though, it doesn't matter how hard I try, as the tears are unrelenting as they sting my sore eyes.
Trying to distract myself, I take another look outside. A low mist has settled over the ground, making the parking lot of the cheap motel look haunting as the only light to illuminate the early morning darkness is the dull red glow of the large vacancy sign. One other car occupies the parking lot, a bright yellow smart car with a corgi sticker on the tiny backside window.
I wonder what time it is?
No signs of life exist in this moment. Even the dull yellow glow of the office light is off. No cars can be seen or early morning joggers, though I wouldn’t want to exercise in this weather either.
The ghostly touch of cold air seeps into my bones and tickles my spine rigid, my body starting to shiver beneath Jamie’s hoodie. We hadn’t thought to bring a blanket with us and Jamie is never prepared for emergencies, no matter how many times I nag at him, so we had to make do with the oversized hoodie he had been wearing.
Because there was no way either of us were stepping back into that room.
Fishing into my black sweatpants, I take my phone out to check the time. The moment the screen lights up though, my stomach starts to twist in unease.
128 unread messages
52 missed calls
What the shit??
Quickly unlocking my phone, I dive into my messages. Numerous texts from Mum, Nora, Dad, Mason and Sylvan ly before me, all urgently demanding me to call someone, anyone to make sure that I was alright.
The strangest thing is that all of the texts and calls date back to yesterday. Yet I know I never received one call from anyone because I had been checking my phone hourly waiting for Mason.
Turns out he did try.
I quickly dial his number.
‘The person you are trying to reach is….’
I hang up quickly, cursing quietly as I try my mums number next.
Dad has to pick up. If anyone was going to it would be him. He didn’t carry around that ancient Nokia for no reason.
“JASPER! WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU YOUNG LADY!” The angry baritone of my fathers voice blares to my ears and warms my icy heart. An instant sense of relief has me sagging against the seat, shoulders no longer tense as iron.
“Da...dad…” I find myself stuttering, throat constricting as I start to sob and hiccup. All the relief and joy I felt moments ago is replaced by an overwhelming need to be comforted. Just hearing my dad's voice makes me want to fling myself into his arms and cling to him like a parasite. I want to say something, need to, but the breakdown is uncontrollable as I cry into the phone. I can hear the faint sounds of my family in the background, my father's yelling must have grabbed mum’s attention because I can hear her loudly yelling at him to give her the phone.
“Hey, hey honey it’s okay…” the awkwardness could easily be heard through the phone, my dad has never been able to handle tears very well, especially from his baby girls.
“I’m just so happy you picked up” I hiccup. I jump in surprise when I feel a hand on my shoulder, quickly pulling away from the source only to turn and see a red eyed Jamie.
“Sorry didn’t mean to scare you,” he mutters, his voice hoarse and groggily from sleep. He runs a hand through his silver hair, messing up the already serious case of bedhead as he eyes the phone.
“Dad…” I answer.
“Yes?” Dad asks, thinking that I’m talking to him.
“No, ah sorry dad, Jamie was asking who I was talking too”
“Oh...well I glad you are both safe but I’m going to hand the phone over to your mother before she guts me” Dad says sheepishly, no doubt getting the brute force of my mothers withering glare, which could scare even the most hardened badass. I hear a little shuffle before my mum’s chilly voice makes me shiver in fear.
“Where have you been?”
The icy question was loaded, voice calm but I can feel the rage she’s containing.
“Do you realize how worried I was!! I thought you were dead! Now that I know that your safe I am so angry at you! You don’t do this to your mother Jasper, my heart can’t handle it! I already lost your brother!” My mum’s words have freezing. What did she mean by that? She can’t...she can’t mean that…
“Mum...what do you mean you lost my brother? Where’s Edson?” My voice shakes, panic slowly starting to creep into my lungs, constricting air flow.
“Jasper…” she hiccups into the phone, sniffling.
“he’s dead honey...he passed away early this morning”
I drop the phone. My vision blurs and lungs constrict, I’m unable to breath.
Head swimming. Tears burning my eyes.
“Jasper!” Jamie’s panicked voices reaches my ears but I can’t see him, darkness is everywhere, slowly cutting off my senses one at a time. Making it painful as everything starts to disappear.
A sudden strike to my back has me gasping as I suddenly breath in. Coughing wildly, I flutter my eyes as my vision slowly comes back. My mother crying my name through the phone pairs with Jamie’s panicky voice as he tries to soothe me.
“Jasper what’s wrong?” Jamie asks. All I can do is look at him as something in my head snaps.
“What’s wrong? What do you think is wrong Jamie?! Poppy is dead and lying in a sh*tty motel room, Edson’s dead and I’m having a panic attack in your tiny ass car!” I snap. I know my anger is unreasonable, but I can’t help but think.
‘What a stupid question…’
“Edson’s dead?” He asks but it’s not directed at me. He’s just gazing into the back of the seat in front of him, toying with the string on his hoodie.
I shakily pick the phone back up.
“Jay…” the sound of his voice. Oh god no I don’t want to cry again, I’m tired of crying already. Yet another bout of tears start as he says my name again. I’m starting to feel like a damn faucet with how much I’ve cried, that or the biggest baby in the world. What is happening? This was supposed to be a fun time with my friends and family yet all that seems to be happening is death and crying. Why? Why did it turn out like this? What did we do to deserve this?
Taking a deep breath I try to control myself as I ready a reply.
“Hi baby, it’s so good to hear your voice, how is everyone? How are you?” Mason’s voice is calm and soothing, like balm against a burn. It’s funny though, we haven’t been apart for very long but I miss him so much that just hearing his voice makes me feel better. Even if it's just a little bit.
“I’m not good, not at all...why is this happening?” I whimper in question.
“We don’t know what’s actually going on cause the internet isn’t working and phone signals are extremely spotty. But from what Nora has seen in the hospital a lot of people are dying from an illness, apparently she and Edson saw a guy collapse in the waiting room and cracked his head open”
“What? Oh god...how is Beau doing?” My stomach sinks at my question.
“She...she’s not looking to good Jay” it’s clear he doesn’t want to give me the full details, and I’m grateful. Hearing about the deadly situation my one year old niece is in will only cause another panic attack.
“Mason, Poppy passed away last night”
Silence met my ears for a good five minutes before he could respond, his voice now more hushed.
“She had the sickness just like Edson...what am I going to tell Nora?”
“I don’t know, to be perfectly honest I’m not sure of anything at the moment...where are you guys?” I try to move on from the conversation, needing just to back away from the topic of death for just a moment.
“We are at the camping grounds, I stopped by the check in on everyone before I came back but shit went down outside and the police have blocked off the roads”
“That’s weird but no wonder it’s so quiet over here”
“Be careful Jasper, something happening and the police aren’t giving us any clues” Mason replies. Always the overprotective one but I’m not complaining, it’s one of the many reasons why I love this man.
“You think there were riots or something? People are no doubt freaking out about everyone getting sick” I ask. It would make sense. If so many people were experiencing the same thing we are I can understand them channeling their sadness into rage. It’s human instinct to find a source to blame, to somehow rationalize what was going on around them.
Grief can make people do stupid things.
“I don…” Mason’s voice suddenly cuts off and static replaces his smooth baritone.
“Mason! Can you hear me?!” I shout into the phone, pulling the device away from my ear only to see I have no signal. Hiding under my breath, I curse at my luck as I glance over at Jamie. His brown eyes stare back into mine, slightly glazed over as if he wasn’t actually looking at me.
“Jamie, hello in there” I snap my fingers in front of his face. It takes a few minutes but he finally snaps out of it, pupils constricting as he focuses his gaze on me.
“You with me now?” I asked, genuinely concerned for his mental state at the moment.
“Yeah, I’m here...just ah...took a trip to mars for a bit” he replies sheepishly, hand running through his hair again. His cheeks and eyes are stained red, his silver hair a complete mess, lips cracked and a five o’clock shadow starting to bloom around his jaw. In other words he looks like a hot mess, and I probably look no better.
“Yeah...so what’s gonna happen now? I mean with Poppy?”
“Well apparently death is happening all around the city at the moment and the police have the roads blocked off, so we probably won’t be able to get her body moved right away so I say we just go rent another room and try to get our shit together” I try to sound confident in my answer, but it doesn’t seem to work well. Jamie just nods his head in understanding as I sigh. I’ve only been up for maybe an hour and I already feel exhausted.
It’s going to be a long day.