December 15th, 1991
We sat in the stall for a few more moments, passing the bottle back and forth. The steam from our breath ascended in the cold ambient air. The lights did not work. We could see the dense fog from the broken panel window above us.
“I’m going to head back to class, don’t want Mr. Dipshit to find us again.” Jake said as he wiped his mouth. He then sprayed himself with cologne and shoved about ten mints in his mouth.
“I’ll be there in a bit” I replied taking another swig.
I locked the stall door as he exited the bathroom. I sat back down against the wall by the toilet staring at the drawings on the inside of the stalls wall. I could hear the wind blowing past the open bathroom door. The broken tiles covered in slush and mud. I began to hear someone talking from a distance. It grew louder and closer until I heard footsteps enter the bathroom.
From the voice alone I could tell its Jessica. Jessica is in special needs classes and seems to be one of the more adventurous mentally challenged students on campus.
“Is that you? is that you my friend? Hello sir.” Jessica said with a smile as she stared at me through the crack in the stall door.
I figured it was time to leave. I walked out of the stall and over to the sink to wash my hands. Jessica stood behind me staring at me through the mirror.
“Jeg Elsker Deg Min Konge I like your crown” Jessica said playfully through the reflection
“Let’s go back to class.” I said as I dried my hands.
“Why don’t they listen min Elsker?” Jessica said under her breath as we exited the bathroom
We walked under the awnings that hung over the pathway, across the campus and through the hall until we found ourselves at Room 301.
I’m not proud of the staff associated with 301. There are supposed to be 1 staff member for every three children. We have 2 teachers and 23 students in 301. 23 students that require special care, some more extensive than others. I question if the students are receiving adequate care. Jessica’s disabilities were not as severe as the others but that is no excuse for her to be across campus, she was not supposed to leave here unsupervised.
After I brought her back, I continued down the hall until I was in front of my Classroom door.
As I reached for the nob, I heard the tone sound from the hall speakers. This usually happened before someone came through to speak.
“Forrest Alamos to the front office, Mr. Alamos to the front office”
It was the last class of the day, it was the last 20 minutes. What the fuck could they want. I walked out of the building, through the cafeteria and into the administration office.
“Hey, I was called in.” I said to the lady at the front desk.
“Mrs. B wants to have a word.” she replied passing me two pieces of gum
“You need to control that sir.” she added with a smile
I smiled back as I threw the wrappers in the bin.
I walked down the hallway and into her office.
“Shut the door please.” Ms. Bringston said as she took a seat at her desk.
“I’m going to be honest ma’am, and pardon me for being rude but why have I been in here three times a week for the past couple weeks?”
“Would you rather be in class Mr. Alamos?” she said as she maintained eye contact
As she began to speak, her expression and posture slowly changed. Her voice got softer, her glare was full.
“Forgive me Forrest,” she said reaching into her drawer.
Ms. Bringston placed a picture frame on the desk in front of her.
“Please look my boy.” she said as I walked over to the photo. I stood next to her chair looking down at the desk. She placed her hand over mine struggling to smile. The photo was of a young boy standing next to a young Ms. Bringston and two men, one old and tall, the other a barrel-chested man with a long mustache. All four were standing in front of a large, three story brick building facing the camera for a photo. The sign next to them said Willow Creek State Educational Institution.
“When was this?” I asked as I picked up the frame
“Long ago Forrest, before you were born.” she stated as she took out a small book from the drawer.
“I want you to have this Forrest, I want you to take the photo and this Journal”
“We must have a misunderstanding Ms. Bringston, you’re giving me this for what reason?” I asked as I placed both objects on top of my backpack.
“Don’t stop writing Forrest.” she responded.
We maintained eye contact for a few moments. Her complexion transitioned very slowly from a pleasant smile to a face full of anguish, her eyes told a story that didn’t need words, her bottom lip began to tremble.
The bell rang.
It was 2:13PM and time to go home.
“Ms. Bringston I have to go, are you sure you want to give me these? I don’t know what I’ll do with them.”
“Write for me Forrest, leave it on, don’t turn it off, promise me my dear.” She said as she watched me put the frame and journal in my backpack. I then stood up behind my chair, gently pushing it in. ” live a good story my dear” she added
“Yes ma’am.” I replied still a bit confused.
“I’ll see you soon Forrest,” she responded as she struggled to maintain a smile.
“I’ll see you soon Ms. Bringston” I responded as I shut the door behind me.
I walked past the front desk and out the door, onto the sidewalk towards the parking lot. The sky was dark from the thick cloud that had crept in, it was 11 degrees today and has been snowing on and off since late October. The fog was dense but beginning to lift as the wind picked up. Our school is at a 8,750 ft elevation in a town called Northridge. The highest in elevation along with the most history. Northridge is the main town on the mountain with a few small communities scattered over the range. The forest of tall thick pine stretches endlessly across all neighboring counties.
It is the coldest from December to early March. The snow gets so bad that occasionally we must wait on the snowplows to clear the one road leading down the mountain. We are surrounded by tall eastern white pine trees, Sometimes 75 feet tall. There wasn’t too much snow on the ground yet, so I wanted to get to my truck as soon as I could before it started coming down heavy. I forgot the chains in my garage.
I walked a couple more yards before rounding the corner into the main parking lot.
Ashton was standing under a streetlight in the parking lot next to a couple cars. Black snow boots, thin black pants with an old ski jacket. she has long, straight black hair, soft lips, white teeth, and a small button nose. She is thin, with a dark, elegant aesthetic. She plays piano beautifully and is a great photographer as well as an artist. Ashton is quiet but her eyes will speak for her. She has a delicate touch but has no fear of eye contact. She can be very intimidating to others when she does speak. She has a soft and calm tone but can be very direct and blunt.
She is highly intelligent and doesn’t entertain bullshit. The type of woman that you have always thought about talking too, but the thought of a conversation makes your legs weak. She will read the timidness in your voice; she will see past the small talk. She makes it very clear that she decides who she fucks with. You’ll learn very quick that that person is not you. You will leave that conversation feeling good she gave you the time of day but disappointed that that is the first and only conversation you’ll have with her. She listens to records rather than cassettes, she loves the configuration of spiderwebs. I have not seen fear in her other than the day I met her in Merlot. Last year around this time I was homeless, completely miserable and lost. I had reached a point of my life where I was giving up. I had no parents to disappoint, I had ruined my relationship with my grandparents and did not have a home. I felt there was no one I was letting down, and I can tell you most of my situation was self-induced and steamed from me not taking care of my thoughts. I was on my way to play chicken with a train when I walked under an overpass on my way to the subway. This is where I met Ashton, sitting on the floor alone with a cup and a sign that read: “no money, need change”
We did not say a word to each other the first 72 hours. We just followed one another around town, showing each other the spots we would go to escape. My favorite was a rooftop overlooking the city. Hers was behind a billboard, a small trek up the mountain on the side of the freeway. The view she had was breathtaking. Her presence alone made me want to fix things with my grandfather. After we found a payphone, I made a call. After Ashton and I panned enough money, we saved up enough to take a taxi home the following month. My grandparents home is in a little neighborhood halfway down the mountain between Northridge and Merlot. This was the house I grew up in.
immediately after I came back home I mowed lawns and delivered groceries to old people to get the money to get Ashton clothes, menstrual supplies, and anything else she needed. We made the decision to put her in Northridge’s education system once we were on our feet again.
Ashton is not just a girlfriend; I don’t think she ever was.
She walked up and wrapped her arms around my neck before kissing me.
“I missed you.” she said with a smile
“I missed you too darling.”
We began walking towards the truck, through the lot. Ashton brought out two cigarettes from her bag and lit them both as we made our way through the fog.
“Thank you.” I said taking the cigarette from her lips
“You’re welcome my love.” she responded after taking a drag.
We walked along the building, on the side walk under the dim light street lights until we reached our cars. Jake and Kendall were standing in front of their jeep.
“What’s the plan bitch boy?” I said aloud.
“Let me get a grit man.” he responded with his hands together like a poor renaissance tradesman. He lit his cigarette and took a hit before handing it to Kendall.
“Let’s meet at my house tonight, we can use the living room” Jake added.
Jake is my best friend, He is like my brother. Jake is slim just like me but four inches taller. Skinny jeans and usually wears a band shirt but today he is in a ski jacket. Jake and I have known each other since we were five and have lived down the street from each other ever since I can remember. He has a deep voice and good sense of humor. He’s always doing whatever the fuck he wants. Sits on furniture, lights cigarettes indoors. I watched this fucker fight a businessman in Merlot after he stepped on his worn-out converses, claiming they were expensive shoes. Jake hates businessmen. There was a point in our lives we would cut out stencils we traced onto construction paper. The joker’s hat was our favorite. Late at night we would sneak out and paint the stencils onto businessmen’s houses, we also fucked with politicians. If they were a pedophile, we would throw rocks at the house and do what we could to the car windows. When Jake finally made things official with Kendall, she started coming with us.
Kendall is Jake’s girlfriend, she has been in our little family for many years but has been with Jake for 3 years now. Kendall ran away from home 3 years ago and has been with Jake ever since. She is the most daring out of all of us, she doesn’t care about the law at all, but is still very polite and classy when she needs to be. I’ve seen Kendall get into fights at school with girls that flirted with Jake. She is very pretty and has a little attitude with the adult’s majority of the time, she is one of us. She has dark hair and is also slim but a little taller than Ashton. She is 18 like the rest of us but is also the oldest out of all of us. She paints just like Ashton, but Ashton is the better artist in my opinion.
From a far we saw two other figures approach behind the dense fog.
It was Edd and Taylor. Taylor is Jake’s younger sister; she is only one year younger than us. She also has dark hair and bright eyes just like Jake, Taylor is very pretty and attracts a lot of attention that she doesn’t want. Jake is constantly getting in the juniors faces over allegations of people trying to pursue Taylor after she clearly told them to stop. Taylor is strong willed and also has a sense of elegancy but is very forward when she speaks. She has been with us for as long as Jake has, they always were a pair as kids. It’s pretty cool that she comes with us on investigations, it’s not common finding girls here at Northridge that like to venture into the forest, but we have 3.
Edd is the third guy in our family. I met Edd the same time I meet Jake. We all grew up in our neighborhood together. Edd is very smart, defiantly the most intelligent out of all of us. He is slim and lanky with large hands, sometimes he wears glasses. He has a sharp jaw and dark hair. Edd is a real fun guy to be around and is always down to do some sketchy shit. He has a deep interest in the paranormal just like all of us but he is the one to do most of the research,
Its Tuesday and we are 3 more school days away from winter break. Something like sixteen days off from school, I cannot fucking wait.
The snow began to come down harder than before.
“What time do you want to meet at your house Jake?” Edd asked walking over to his dads’ car.
“Seven, everyone come over at seven.” Jake said as we all slowly walked over to our cars. Jake, Kendall and Taylor all piled into Jakes Jeep. Edd too his dads Blazer, and I was in a 1972 bench seat Chevy. Black, with light brown leather interior. The center console had a binder full of CDs next to a box full of cassettes. Ashton took a drag as she loaded a Ramones tape into the slot.
We continued out the school parking lot, and onto Jericho.
Only three more days until winter break. We were all excited to be going home. My grandparent’s parents left last night. They are going to be gone until new years eve. Edds father travels for work and won’t be home until after Christmas. Jake and Taylors mom won’t be home until the third of January. We had three separate houses all to ourselves for the next few weeks.
We drove down Jericho for 11 miles until we reached our turn. Ashton and I took a left onto Tavern Rd. While Edd and Jake went straight. After school Ashton and I usually go to a cafe in Northoak. Northoak is an incredibly old town from the early 1900s that is tucked in the mountain. The main buildings and roads had been renovated, while other spots had been left alone since the settlers and miners left. There are about 2000 residence, mostly Native American descendants. Northoak sits about 7 miles east, off Jericho. I’m glad not a lot of people come here, there is a ton of history I’m sure my generation won’t appreciate. Some roads ore closed off and considered vacant or abandoned. The center of the town is still active throughout the day and even more so at night. Northoak still has lamp lighters. Good men that light the flame lamps along the streets. The snowplows aren’t apart of any company. Just like our little neighborhood, Northoak has patrons that turn their old trucks into plows. After clearing the roads, Northoaks governor would write them a check.
The snow piled up on the sides of the sidewalk, the payphones and yellow pages were frozen in place
The Café is called the Diamond café. A two story coffee shop with a balcony in the back that’s incased in the woods.
Aston ordered the lavender tea and I ordered a black coffee.
We sat outside today, the fog was beginning to settle into the trees once again. Only Ashton and I were in the shop. I wrote in my journal as Ashton read one of her many books she rents from the library. I grabbed a pipe from my backpack that my grandfather gave me, followed by a bag of string tobacco. I lit the cutty and continued writing until the sky got to dark and the snow began to fall harder.
Eventually, Ashton and I piled into my truck and we continued our way home. The wind chill was beginning to get too much to handle.
I began to feel Ashtons hand on the back of my neck as we took a left back onto Jericho
“I love you.” she said softly as she watched me drive
I turned up the windshield wipers than grabbed her hand,
“I love you too.”
Ashton sunk back into her seat and rested her legs on the dashboard. She squeezed my hand every now and then to let me know she’s there.
“Grit?” she asked
“Yes ma’am.” I responded. She proceeded to light two cigarettes. The clouds grew darker, the glow from the streetlamps became a little dimmer.
We reached a point where we saw flashing lights off in the distance. They looked like emergency lights from a couple cars. The trees were very tall in this part of the forest, the settling fog was dense. We were on a road that ran straight through a small valley. We could see 20 feet ahead of us at most.
The first car was a large white sedan. The hood, the axel, and the motor was pushed back into the front cab. The horn from one of the cars was stuck and maintained a constant tone that echoed through the trees. There was a large hole in the windshield with a lot of the glass pulled back. From a far it looked like the car was totaled. The emergency lights were reflecting off the snow. The road was blanketed in slush and was wet. Another car pulled up and turned on their emergency lights. As we approached, I saw the second car. A smaller sedan was mangled in the center of the road. The car was blue but the wheels and doors were almost unrecognizable. The top was caved in. The car had rolled a few times before coming to a stop.
When we were about 150 ft away Ashton and I agreed to pull over. We grabbed our flashlights and began making our way through the weather. We walked over to the first car, the white van with the broken windshield.
I didn’t really know that was a body at first.
He was scattered across the asphalt, 50 feet from the van. his carcass was unrecognizable, he flew through that window and died on the pavement. His left leg, his forearm and half his head, all missing. his torso was ripped open, his contents were scattered across the road, his eyes were open.
Ashton jumped into the front seat of the van and put it into park. That’s when she noticed the little girl in the front seat.
The second person that pulled up to help called 911. After she got off the phone, she came over to help us with the girl.
She was staring forward, fixed on the body on the road in front of her. The glow from the emergency lights illuminated her father’s corpse as they flashed. She was bleeding from both ears, a section of her head next to her eye socket was pulsating. She had a severe skull fracture. The bones in her forehead were noticeably broken but her skin was still intact. The woman brought her to the ground before she began seizing. She violently shook back and forth as fluids poured from her mouth. The woman proceeded to give CPR. Her body rocked violently back and forth, as the woman gave deep compressions.
Ashton and I began running over to the second car in the center of the road. The fenders were all over the road, glass was everywhere, the radio was still playing. We walked over to the driver side of the car.
Someone had taken the headrest off the seat. The airbag deployed.
There was nothing to keep the woman’s head from folding over the seat. Her contorted body sat in the front, her head and neck had been stretched into the back seat. her vertebrae, and tissue exposed by our flashlight. We opened the back door, Her face was pale, her eyes were open, the radio continued to play.
I know that face.
Ms. Bringston, The parking pass belonged to our school.
The back of her head was wide open, the contents had spilled onto the back seat. As we walked around the car, we began to hear the radio switch stations. I reached over her body and pulled the keys out of the ignition.
The woman tending to the girl in the front seat of the white car was crying loudly. sirens could be heard from a distance.
The Fire department showed up first, followed by two ambulances, the battalion chief and a second fire engine.
The department ended up taking over CPR on the girl, they loaded her on the gurney and continued CPR in route to Northridge hospital. Two fire fighters rode in the back of the ambulance.
We gave our report to the police, collected ourselves the best we could and got back into the cab.
We were quiet most of the way home, Ashton’s hand crept up into mine as we rounded the corner onto our street. The low cloud had lifted, there was still some light out.
“Let’s talk about this once we get inside... please, my love” she said squeezing my hand
“Of course, I agree” I responded pulling into the driveway.
WE gathered our things and made our way into the house.
“Did you feed Grim this morning?” Ashton asks walking into the kitchen.
“Of course I did sweetheart” I responded
Grim is our 140 lbs. pup. The vet said something about how his dad was a timber wolf, and his mom was a malamute. I’m not sure what that makes Grim but he’s black, and grey with one blue eye and one orange eye. He is taller than me when he stands on his back legs. Ashton and I found him wondering near Northoak in October. Our vet said its okay to keep him if we have no other pets and suggested we give him a rabbit every two weeks on top of his dog food. He is well trained and we have become accustomed to his nature.
I took my coat and my shirt off than laid on the bed. Ashton put her things down and laid with me as we looked up at the ceiling. She then wrapped her legs in mine and took deep breath.
“What’s on your mind?” she asked.
“I don’t think I have words baby.”
“I want you to be okay.” she responded
“I’ll be okay sweetheart. I saw her today. I was with her when the bell rang. I was in her office three times last week.” I stated
“That’s why your name was called today” Ashton said to herself
“she gave me some things I haven’t gotten a good chance to look at, I’ll bring them to Jakes house later.”
“That’s in a hour, you sure you still want to go?” she asked
“It’s going to come out eventually, I’d rather it be fresh”
We laid in bed for a few moments until Ashton got up to go shower.
The house phone began to ring.
I wasn’t going to pick up. The voicemail tone went off but no one left a message.
Night was beginning to set in, the wind began to howl. The streetlights gave off that dim yellow glow. The road is icy. There are no cars out.
I’m going to leave this computer on for now on. I have a feeling in my stomach I never have before. Before she died, she told me write. She told me not to turn off my computer.