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As you can see, this is part 3 of my prologue.
Ari jumped at the scream. She didn’t know why she was doing this. She hated horror movies. Her sister, however, loved them and had convinced Ari and their grandfather, Opa, to watch one with her.
The commercials came on and Ari grabbed the popcorn bowl. It was empty and she needed something to do. Ari found it hard to sit still for long periods. She was a very active person and spent the majority of her time outdoors with her father. Lovey was just the opposite. Though she too was athletic, she spent her spare time inside helping her mother and writing.
Ari opened the microwave and placed the popcorn inside. She set it for 3 minutes and went over to the sink to wash the few dishes left there. Her reflection in the window over the sink caught her eye and gazed at it. She studied herself and once again came to the conclusion that she was not pretty. She didn’t like her hair which was long – down to her waist. It was auburn (though Ari called it fire-engine red) and curly. No one knew where it came from, though Stan thinks it might’ve been his side of the family. She usually braided it into a thick rope in the mornings to keep it out of her way. Her eyes were bright green (the only thing she liked about her face), and she had her father’s features. When she smiled, people saw straight white teeth except for one canine tooth that had decided to come in above the others. She hated that tooth and felt like pulling it out sometimes. She was tall and thin (“I’m scrawny!”), but she was strong. She loved helping her father because she felt that she was useful to him.
The microwave beeped and Ari jumped. She was on edge tonight for some reason. She wasn’t a superstitious girl but she was suddenly filled with a sense of foreboding. She supposed it was the movie, but movies had never bothered her like that before. Another scream sounded from the den. She shook the bad feeling off and chuckled as she retrieved the popcorn. “Ari-girl, you are letting that movie get to you.” She went back to rejoin Opa and Lovey.
Lovey took the popcorn from Ari. “Thanks, sis. This sure hits the spot!”
Ari rolled her eyes. “No problem, brat.”
Lovey threw a piece of popcorn at her. Ari threw it back. Opa got caught in the crossfire. “Hey, you two! Knock it off, now. We’ll miss the best part!”
Opa settled back and grinned. “They certainly don’t make them like they used to.”
“These horror flicks. I remember the original Dracula with Bela Lugosi. That'll give you the creepy-crawlies even in broad daylight!”
“Oh, Opa! Today’s horror flicks are good, too,” said Lovey. “They scare me silly!”
“They are just blood and guts, Lovey-child. Just blood and guts. How can you possibly like that?” Opa demanded. “In my day, they made horror into horror! You were afraid to go to bed at night.”
“It’s the suspense, Opa. The suspense is what scares me,” explained Lovey. “I mean, you never know when the bad guy is going to be there!”
“Unless you watch it a million times,” muttered Ari.
Lovey continued as if Ari hadn’t said anything. “You wait and wait and by the time he shows up you’re wound up so tight that you have to scream to let the tension out.”
“Well, I for one think it’s stupid. I’m going to bed,” declared Ari. “Enjoy your suspense.”
“Good night, Ari-girl,” Opa watched Ari walk to the stairs. She moved like she had a huge burden on her shoulders. Something is bothering that girl, he thought. I should talk to her before I go to bed. Ari continued up the stairs and only paused to respond when Lovey called a good-night.
Later that night, as Opa prepared for bed, he saw Ari’s light was still on. He knocked on her door and entered when she called out.
“Ari, what’s bothering you?” he asked with a concerned look on his face. Ari was curled up on top of the covers of her bed. She hadn’t even changed into her pajamas yet and her eyes were wide and frightened. “Ari, tell me!”
She turned her head towards Opa and started to cry. “Oh, Opa! I just had the most horrible dream! Mom and Dad were in a car accident!” She flung herself into Opa’s arms. He grunted a little, for Ari was not a small girl anymore.
“There, there,” he soothed. “You know that they stayed at the hotel tonight. They’ll be home in the morning. It’s been a long time since they’ve had any time to themselves.”
“I know. But Opa, that’s not all. Mom died but Dad didn’t. Someone came and took him out of the car. He was wearing a hooded robe and he just pulled Dad out. Then there was a bright flash and they were gone! My Papa was gone!”
Opa tried to comfort her but she would have none of it. Lovey woke up and came into her sister’s room. She started to cry too when she heard of the dream. Nothing would do but that Opa should call the hotel and check on them.
Opa called the hotel and almost dropped the phone when they desk clerk told him that no one had checked in with either one of their names. He checked the information Annie had given him and then decided to call a couple of other hotels that Stan and Annie liked to go to. Thirty minutes later, he hung up with the last one and sat down. He had heard of family members having premonitions of bad things happening to others, but he prayed that it wasn’t the case here. The girls came in to the living room and sat down on the sofa. They huddled together and looked at their grandfather, hoping to hear some good news. He looked at them and tears formed in his eyes. They looked so young sitting there. So vulnerable. Dear God, please let Stan and Annie be alright!
“Well, girls, I called the hotel but they haven’t showed up. However, they could have changed their minds and gone somewhere else. Considering that it’s their anniversary, I’d suggest we leave them alone and go to bed. We’ll find out tomorrow if we need to worry about them.”
Ari nodded and helped a half-asleep Lovey back to her room. She didn’t think she was going to get any sleep herself, but shortly after climbing back into bed she was sound asleep.
Ari was the first one to wake up in the morning. Bleary-eyed and yawning, she made her way down to the kitchen and made some coffee. As she breathed in the rich aroma, she remembered the night before. Her eyes snapped open. Did she really break down last night? Over a dream?
Opa came into the kitchen and helped himself to a cup of coffee. “Mmm…I declare, Ari, you do make a good cup of coffee.”
Ari brightened. She kissed Opa and said, “Good morning to you too!”
Opa smiled. The girl didn’t seem to have any ill-effects from last night. “How are you feeling this morning?”
“Well, I do feel a little strung-out, but better. I don’t know what happened to me last night.” She replied.
Lovey came in just in time to hear her reply. She winced, and then said, “It was probably the movie last night. I’m sorry; I shouldn’t have made you watch it last night.” She looked so forlorn that Ari laughed and gave her a hug. When Lovey was assured that it wasn’t her fault, she started bouncing around the kitchen. “Should we have pancakes? Yes, let’s have pancakes!”
With her long blonde ponytail swinging as she moved, Lovey began pulling stuff from the cupboards. After seeing what was landing on the counter, Ari opted for her coffee and toast. She watched Lovey and Opa as they set about concocting the world’s best pancakes and smiled. All’s well with the world again.
It was fun having Lovey as a sister. Even though she was 14 years old to Ari’s 17 years, she was very mature. As a result, the sisters were also best friends and it was almost impossible to separate them. Sometimes it seemed as if they had their own language. They could look at each other and know what the other was thinking. They were closer than twins, if that was possible.
It had been hard to watch when kids would tease Lovey at school because she was so much smarter than them. Ari had gotten into several fights about it. Therefore, when Annie presented the idea of home schooling, Ari jumped at the chance and begged Lovey to do it. Lovey agreed and after the first couple of months, the change in her was amazing. She smiled more often, her writing was far more cheerful and humorous, her eyes glowed and there was more color in her face. In short, she was a different person than she was when attending public school. She became the Lovey that her family knew and loved.
Ari smiled again at Lovey’s antics. She stood up and stretched, and as she was doing that she realized that she was still wearing her clothes from yesterday. She never had put on night clothes and she felt a bit grubby. She went upstairs and took a shower.
After her shower, she braided her hair and threw on a pair of jeans and an old sweatshirt. Feeling much better, she reentered the kitchen to find Lovey and Opa still there. They were doing the dishes, so Ari grabbed a towel to dry them. They went on like this in easy camaraderie, bantering back and forth. They were in the midst of a towel fight when the chime of the doorbell pealed through the house.
Stopping, they looked at each other and Opa frowned. They didn’t get many visitors as it was, so the idea that someone would come after the snowstorm last night was a little concerning. Opa shrugged and said, “I’ll get it, girls. It’s probably some person who got caught in the storm last night.” He threw his towel onto the counter.
“Hey, Opa! Does that mean that you are ‘throwing the towel in’?” giggled Lovey.
Opa scowled at with an amuse glint in his eye, and then he chuckled. “Oh, I’m not through with you yet, young lady!” He was still laughing when he opened the door to the Sheriff Tibbs.
“Morning, folks! How’re you all doin’? Mind if I come in?” And the sheriff walked in without waiting for an answer. He plunked himself down in the nearest seat. “Hey, is that coffee I smell? Could I have a cup? I take mine with both cream and sugar, thanks.” Ari glared at him but he didn’t seem to notice. She turned and stalked into the kitchen and got the coffee.
When Tibbs was settled in, he looked at Opa and the girls sitting on the sofa opposite of him. He smiled in what he thought was a friendly smile but it was more patronizing than anything. Opa started to scowl. He could already tell that he didn’t like this man.
Tibbs’ smile turned into a grin as he said, “Well, I suppose you’re wondering why I’m here. Well, I’ll tell you. About four miles up the road a car crashed into a tree. The passenger is dead and the driver is missing. What I want to know is, where’s you daughter and son-in-law, Mr. Carter?”
“They were supposed to spend the night in town last night. It was their anniversary and they decided to celebrate it by a night on the town followed by a stay in a hotel. Why?” replied Opa. “Were they the ones who crashed?”
Ari had turned white. Lovey was holding her sister’s hand so tightly she was cutting off the circulation. Opa was sitting on the edge of the sofa, an intense expression on his face. He was praying that Tubbs would say “No.”
Sheriff Tibbs became serious and set his coffee mug down. He looked at the tight family on the sofa and a brief thought about his own not-so-tight family went through his head. He may not be the smartest tool in the shed, but he did so hate giving families like these bad news. Slowly he nodded his head.
Opa bowed his head and his mouth started moving in prayer. Lovey started to cry quietly. Ari just stared at the sheriff, white-faced and open-mouthed. Then color returned to her cheeks and her eyes hardened as she stood up and began to rail at the man in front of her. “How dare you come in here grinning like a Cheshire cat when you have this horrible news to tell us? How dare you! We let you into our home and you treat us like the idiot you are!”
“Now hold on a minute! “ Tibbs started to reply. “I am not -- ..."
Ari wasn’t done. “You are! When you knew that you had to tell us this, you acted like it was the greatest news ever! Well, I don't believe you! I know you never liked Dad, but you don’t have to go to this extreme! How could you do this?” Ari stopped. She was breathing heavily and she just now noticed that tears were coursing down her face, which made her even angrier. “I gave you coffee!” she said, as if that was the worst betrayal she could have ever performed. Fuming, she turned and ran to her room. The others in the living room heard a door slam and furious pounding on the wall.
Lovey got up, and with a glare thrown at Tibbs she ran to her sister. Opa shook his head. “I’m sorry, sheriff. She’s very…upset. Surely you can understand. She also didn't sleep very well."
"Oh?" asked Tibbs. "Why not?"
"Well, we watched a horror film before bedtime last night and she woke up in the middle of the night with a nightmare. Stuff like that happens, I guess." replied Opa. Though what he said was exactly true, he decided to leave out what the dream was about and why it bothered him as well. He stood up to indicate that Sheriff Tibbs should leave.
"Hold on, now," said Tibbs. He put up a hand as in a gesture meant to delay Opa. "I'm not done here."
Opa sat back down. Concerned, he leaned back and said, "Alright. What is it?"
"Well, as you know, the driver is missing. We found your daughter about 15 feet from the car so it's safe to assume that it's your son-in-law who's gone." Tibbs paused to see if Opa understood what he was saying. Satisfied, he continued. "We know he was there because there is a third set of footprints. These prints start in the middle of the road, go to the driver's-side door, and turn around headed back to the middle of the road. This man, yes man, was dragging someone. Then they disappear. They weren't obliterated or messed up. They are just gone."
Opa stared at him. "Gone, you say? Did this man vanish into thin air?"
Tibbs shrugged his shoulders. "Your guess is as good as mine. With as little evidence as we have, we could conduct a search but they have been gone for hours now. They could be anywhere. Do you want us to search?"
Opa thought for a second, and then he said, "Sheriff Tibbs, I would like you to put every man you can spare and every resource to which you have access and find Stan. I'm an old man and I am not in the best of health. I do not know how much longer I will be here. These girls need their father."
Sheriff Tibbs nodded. He got up and headed to the door. Stopping, he turned to Opa. "I may not be the smartest man, but I'm not an idiot and I know my job. We will do our best."
"Thank you. That's all I ask." Opa showed the sheriff out. He closed the door then leaned his head against it. He was having a hard time taking it all in. Annie was gone and Stan was missing, just like Ari dreamed. What was going on? Shaking his head, Opa admitted that he didn't know and that he wasn't sure he wanted to. It was enough tragedy to know that it had really happened. He sighed as he straightened, rubbing his face with his hand. IT was time to go talk with the girls.
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