Last Fall

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Nine Lives

Scientific reasoning aside, it is common knowledge that cats have nine lives because of how agile they are. Whether it be a small step or a large fall, they always land on their feet.

Unlike me.

I admit I’ve never been one to recover successfully from my failures, but at least I don’t go around exposing other people’s disturbed pasts. If someone doesn’t want to be found, maybe it’s a good idea to leave that person alone. Of course, if my mother understood that, she wouldn’t be standing in front of me today forcing me to be a part of her life once again.

I stare at the phone in front of my face, reading the name on the screen repeatedly, wishing I weren’t here. My mother hits the dial button and hands the phone to me. As I wait for the call to go through, my mind wanders back to the last time Noah and I talked. We didn’t exactly part ways on the best of terms. I suppose, I am the one to blame. I tend to push people away until they realize I am just not worth the effort. All my failed relationships bear witness to my shitty self.

Noah. Angela’s Noah.

Noah was introduced to me by Angela when the two first began dating. He became like an older brother to me and the three of us were pretty much a crew afterwards. Noah was the first guy that Angela dated with whom I actually got along so well. After a few years of being together, they got engaged and man was I ecstatic.

Little did I know that I wouldn’t get to see Angela walk down the aisle in her pearly white, taffeta gown clutching a bouquet of handpicked chrysanthemums from Grandma Jo’s garden. I wouldn’t get the chance to stand beside her as her maid of honor with a wide smile on my face as she would recite her vows, promising to stay by Noah’s side till death do them apart. Worst of all, it would be my ignoring the strange light flickering through an otherwise dark window that would cost Angela her life.

My biggest mistake yet.

“Hello?” a squeaky voice interrupts my thoughts. I check the name on the contact to make sure this isn’t a wrong number. When I see that it is indeed Noah’s name on the contact, I cover the microphone and whisper to my mother, “It’s a child”. She grins and takes the phone from my hands.

“Casey? Is that you honey,” she says, her voice an octave higher. “Is Noah there?” As my mother engages in a friendly conversation with the child on the other end of the line, I take the moment to quickly text Naya an apology for taking so long. She replies with reassurance immediately, but I know I’ll have to explain everything to her in detail later.

My mother hands the phone back to me with a grin so large, it’s borderline serial killer if I didn’t know any better. I put the phone to my ear and before I can mutter a greeting, I am met with a deep voice pretty much shouting my name on the other end.

“Hadley!” Noah exclaims, his voice vibrating through my eardrum. “Where have you been? I can’t believe it took Elise ambushing you at the hospital for you to talk to me.”

“Hi Noah,” is all I manage to say. His excitement can’t possibly be genuine, right? I mean, the last conversation we had ended with me throwing a lamp at his head, which missed its target. Logically, I am the last person that Noah would want to be around.

“Hi yourself,” he continues to shout, which I can only explain as either excitement or a great cover up to avoid addressing the elephant in the room. I never apologized for my behaviour all those years ago, and to be honest, I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

“Okay, so listen,” Noah continues, “We have a lot to talk about, which is why I asked Elise to call me when she saw you. I knew that you wouldn’t call me on your own, and your mother was coming to check up on you anyway. And to – ” I cut him off.

“Look,” I sigh, “we can’t talk over the phone like this. I’m sure that what –”

“I know. I know, trust me. What do you say we catch up over dinner?”

“Sure,” I lie. Truth is, I don’t want to see Noah or anyone as a matter of fact. I have been confined to the hospital walls for the past few weeks, so I just want to rest. Is that so much to ask?

“Great! How does tomorrow sound?”

“That’s fine,” I keep up with the lie. I’ll come up with an excuse tomorrow.

With that, Noah and I say our goodbyes and I hand the phone back to my mother, who has that Pennywise-esque grin plastered onto her face at this point. Angela was always her favourite child out of her three children. And when Noah came into the picture, she grew a fondness for him as well. I won’t speak for my brother, Oliver, but he would agree that Noah was the son of her dreams. Someone interested in the family business and an expert software engineer? A dream come true.

My mother and I exchange a final embrace to and part ways. Hopefully, our paths don’t cross again.

_____________

I stand on my front porch watching Naya pull her car put of my driveway. She had insisted we have dinner before dropping me off at home. This gave me time to explain to her the entire situation. Well, everything minus the whole I-hate-my-mother-to-guts part. I don’t need her to think that I’m a revenge-obsessed, grudge-holding freak.

I lock the door behind me and make my walk over to the couch, trying not to stumble since I still haven’t gotten the hang of these crutches. I slump onto the couch, leaning back into the plush cotton pillows and positioning the crutches against the edge of the couch.

My eyes begin to water as the reality of my situation hits, emotions flooding my mind with the force of violent waves. I shut my eyes and let my mind wander. I realize that I haven’t been the kindest to many people in my life, but the more I dwell on it, the more I begin to tear up. I wish I were kinder to Adrian that day he asked me out to dinner after my fainting spell in the elevator. It would have made moving on a hell of a lot easier.

Instead of apologizing, here I am, this chilly September night, wishing things would somehow fix themselves.

Here I am. Unemployed. Disabled. And a coward.

_____________

I awake to the sound of a blood curdling screech. I sit upright and frantically whip my head left to right then back again when my eyes land on the back door leading out of the kitchen. At first glance, it’s difficult to tell, but seeing it again, I know for a fact that the door stopper is not in lock position. How is that even possible? I never forget to lock my doors.

A sudden, cold chill overcomes me and my spine arches instinctively as I realize the possibility that lies in front of me. Putting two and two together, I come to a terrifying conclusion. And so, without missing a beat, I grab my phone out of my pocket and dial the sheriff’s office.

“Hello, Mel speaking,” Mel, the deputy answers.

“Mel, it’s me, Hadley,” I try to contain my fear by inhaling slowly. “There’s been a break in at my house,” – inhale – “I heard a scream,” – slow inhale – “I think they’re still out there.”

“Okay okay, Hadley,” Mel says, his voice urgent. “Lock all doors and windows, we’ll be right over.” There’s a small pause. “Do you have something to defend yourself with?”

“Um yeah, I have a crowbar,” I place the call on speaker and limp over to the storage closet where I keep all of my tools. While reaching for the crowbar, my gaze falls on the wireless power drill. I gab both and balance myself on the crutches.

Moving as quickly I can, I rush over to lock the back door. I check the kitchen and living room windows to make sure that they are locked. Mel stays on the call reassuring me while I position myself on a chair adjacent to the fireplace. With the crowbar in one hand and the power drill in the other, I keep my eyes on the back door. Fortunately, the entire first floor has an open-concept, which makes keeping watch on both the front and back doors easier.

I hear a shriek once again. This time, much louder and definitely closer. My palms begin sweating causing me to tighten my grip on the tools.

“What – hell – that,” Mel’s voice cracks on the line.

“Please hurry,” I reply as beads of sweat begin rolling down the side of my face.

“Stay – ” the phone cuts off. Shit.

It’s alright, the sheriff’s office is only ten minutes away. Yeah but that ten minutes too many.

The time on my phone reads 10:16 pm. This is going to be a long ten minutes.

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