Pieces of Me by evergreenwriter83
Chapter 47 by evergreenwriter83
Chapter Forty Seven

Letter Rule #4: Donate your time and kindness. Time is precious; make it meaningful. Kindness blossoms with a smile - do it a lot and you'll see it in turn.

"Where do you think you're going?"

I practically jumped out of my skin. The door hung open slightly, the light from the street lamp hitting the clock on the inside. 3 a.m. I glanced out the door to the lawn.

Joe stared at me with a smirk on his face. He folded his arms and stepped out of the shadows, not bothering to help me as I tripped down the walk and hunched over to attempt to keep out of sight.

"Go away!" I hissed.

"Not on your life," he preened. "You're running away. I fucking love this shit."

"This is none of your business."

"Where are we going?"

I paused by a large flowering bush that was on its last batch of flowers for the year. "We're not going anywhere."

Instead of responding by voice, he began to sign. "You're going to the funeral, right?"

I looked around. The guilt was mixing with the adrenaline. I bit my lip.


"Right," I signed back.

"I'm coming with you."

"No, you're not."

"Yes, I am."

He shoved his hand in his pocket and pulled out some bills. The size of the stack was smaller than my own. He raised an eyebrow.

I weighed my options. It wasn't that I was worried he'd rat me out and tell dad where I went. No, dad was smart enough to figure out where I was. I was just worried that I wouldn't even get a head start.

"Fine," I signed roughly.

He grinned triumphantly. "Follow me," he signed.

"I've already got it planned."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For a brother that had told me more than once that he hated me, Joe had managed to put together a plan that I never would have been able to construct.

It began with Javen.

It took about a half hour to walk to Javen's. It took Javen another hour in his mom's food truck to drive to a small air strip out in the middle of nowhere. My anxiety spiraled. The area was practically pitch black, illuminated only by the weak glow of the food truck's headlights. The weak light caught the shadow of a few dust clumps that rolled around like we had time traveled back to the wild west.

"My Uncle owes me," Javen explained. "I caught him with this chick who was not Aunt Marisol and...let's just say I've used it to my advantage. He's waiting for us in the carrier."

Joe laughed. "That sounds like a win all the way around...except for Aunt Marisol. He must be the one that hooks you up with the cigars, amIright or amIright?"

Javen just laughed. He hit the brakes and the truck squealed another few dozen feet. The headlights caught the edge of what looked like a small shed. I could tell that this whole thing was giving Joe a natural high. His foot jiggled and he leaned forward, his brown eyes trying to take it all in.

Or what there was to see, that is.

Javen's Uncle turned out to be a pot-belly, greasy haired guy in his fifties who I couldn't begin to imagine would be charming enough to attract anyone. He had a Cuban cigar hanging out of the corner of his mouth and spoke rapid-fire Spanish. If that wasn't bad enough, the sight of the plane that would take us to Kentucky sealed the deal. I jabbed Joe.

"No," I signed.

"Yes," he signed back. "We will not get there in time if we don't fly."

"We'll die."

"Live dangerous."

I closed my eyes and inhaled. Time is precious; make it meaningful.

"What are we waiting for?" I said aloud.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Uncle Tabor was a surprisingly good pilot. The civilian prop plane that we were squeezed into smelled like tobacco and sweat and randomly, Taco Bell. Joe held my hand, his jaw tense and his gaze fixed on the window as the plane flew high, dipped down, and then came back up. Uncle Tabor claimed he didn't usually have a chance to show off. I guessed Joe's tenseness was due to the acrobatics, but part of me thought he was also probably afraid that I'd tease him for doing something nice by holding my hand. He knew how nervous I was. How big this whole thing was for me.

Alexis McLean was running away.

But, I wasn't really running away, was I? I was running to a destination with the intention of going right back home. It was a much lesser offense, right?

I wasn't sure I believed my reasoning.

The plane wasn't near as fast as a commercial airline. Still, we arrived a little bit after 8 a.m. The field was just as nondescript as the one we had left in Florida.

"Walk about thirty minutes east and you can catch a bus," Uncle Tabor said. He rambled instructions so fast it made my head spin, but Joe turned in the direction he kept pointing at and nodded.

I hadn't even bothered to pack a bag. My money was stuffed in my jeans. My black jacket flapped in the cool breeze.

"Thanks," Joe said. "Appreciate it."

Uncle Tabor smirked. "Remember this if you ever meet my wife," he warned. He stuck a new cigar in his mouth before climbing back into the prop plane. Joe and I both stepped back as the engine roared back to life.

Within minutes, the plane was flying low and we were standing in the middle of nowhere.

I was never more happy to have a brother. Joe looked at me and smiled. From his jeans pocket he pulled out a tie and threw it around his neck. He zipped it up.

"Let the adventure begin," he said seriously.

I just smiled.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We reached the funeral home around 10:30 in the morning. We weren't sure if it was the right one, but Joe had guessed that it would be near the youth rehab center. It was a small, nondescript building with a simple wreath on the door and a black hearse parked out back. The sign just said 'Morgan's.'

I didn't want to go in.

"What if we're too late?" I asked.

"We're not," Joe said confidently. He looked around carefully and I knew what, or rather whom, he was looking for.

"I'm not sure she'll be able to come."

"Then I'll go to her. C'mon. Let's make sure we're at the right place."

He took three confident steps and hit the bottom steps. I crept cautiously behind him.

What was I doing?

Even thinking of seeing Cole in a casket made me sick. Did I want that as the last memory I had? Was dad just trying to protect me?

"You're just in time."

Joe skidded to a stop and I crashed into him. My eyes honed in on a pair of shiny black shoes.

Mason stared at us, his arms crossed. His face was set somewhere between a frown and a smile.

"Hey," Joe said cooly, touching his tie.

I didn't feel near as cocky. Mason looked at me and smiled. He held up a bag.

"Shelby thought you might need this."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

He wore a high button up white shirt. His jacket was gray as were his pants. A large floral cascade was placed upon the simple gray casket. The flowers were white carnations with white baby's breath.

Everything was so grayscale. Even his lips seemed not pink, but rather mottled hues of gray.

It was the most depressing thing I had ever seen.

"They did a horrible job," Joe whispered under his breath.

The black dress Shelby had bagged for me brushed against my knees. Part of me was trapped in my head, wondering if dad had reached out to Shelby, if he had known I'd be rebellious for the first time in my life.

The other part of me couldn't look away from Cole. So lifeless. His hair had already grown, but it was nowhere near the sheepdog look he had worn when we first met. I thought about the first time I had seen his eyes. I would never see another pair of eyes that emerald.

Myself, Joe, and Mason were the only three in the room. I stood feeling a little like a flamingo with my bare scrawny legs covered with goosebumps from the freezing temperature of the room. I took another step forward.

There were a million things I wanted to say to Cole. A million things I wanted to ask him.

The biggest question was..."Why?"

"Joe," I heard Mason say softly. I turned my head just slightly to see them heading out of the room.

Now I was alone.

Alone with a body that used to house a real, living boy. A confusing, frustrating, funny, deep boy.

The first tear fell from my eye the minute my hands touched the edge of the casket. I didn't brush it away. I let it fall on the toneless gray suit.

"I'm mad at you," I mumbled. "Why did you do it?"

I don't know what I was expecting. Did I really think his eyes would fly open and he'd give me some philosophical reason why he had hung himself?

"It wasn't me, right?" I swallowed hard. "Right?"

It was the question I needed an answer too. It had plagued me since the moment I had heard the news. He had never gotten the CD. He didn't know that I really, truly cared about it. This summer had been so crazy. I was trying to find myself. If I had been more carefree in the beginning I would have kissed him the very first time he had wanted to. Instead, I spent every second of every day worrying about repercussions.

"You deserve so much better than this," I whispered. I touched his hair. It felt so different compared to the day I cut it.

"He's in a better place."

I turned. Jess walked towards me, her make-up heavy over her jagged scar. I could see Kim talking to Mason in the hall.

"Shit, they did a crappy job. Or he did."

My fingers squeezed into a fist. "Shut up."

"He was cute, y'know. After that haircut you gave him. He just got a raw deal. He ever tell you about the blindness?"

"Did he tell you?" I said coldly. I could almost imagine the look on Cole's face, the disgust at the girl drama.

"No, but I overheard," Jess crossed her arms. Her eyes briefly glanced into the casket. She shuddered and looked over at the small fern on the gold plant stand.

"Dad was a genius. Professor, scientist...whatever. Mom was a mail order Russian bride. Mom left right after Cole was born. Dad liked little boys a little too much, if you catch me drift."

Bile rose in my throat. I didn't want to know this. I didn't want to hear this...

"I think he landed with his aunt and uncle when he was about five or six. Now here's the biggest kicker. He could see. He liked to tell people he was blind since birth, but that was a lie. His uncle obviously got pretty tired of being razzed about being compared to his pervy brother and he had a temper to boot. He had a son around Cole's age and when Cole was about 8 his uncle thought Cole was peeping on his boy. I never could get the exact details out, but whatever happened was enough to blind him. I figure it couldn't have been drain cleaner or anything because his eyes weren't totally fucked up, y'know?"

I didn't answer. Jess didn't seem phased.

"Some new little dipshit accused Cole of touching him the day before Cole was found," she made the motion of the rope rather than say the word. "Probably all came back to him and he just decided it wasn't worth it. "Oh shit, here comes Kim..."

Jess broke away. I was frozen to my spot. I barely registered Kim coming up and giving me a hug.

"Ally, how are you doing sweetheart?"

I couldn't answer. A pressure that felt like an elephant was on my chest.

If what I had just heard was all true...

"I need to talk to you," I mumbled. "Please."

Kim's forehead wrinkled. She stared beyond me. Towards Cole.

"Absolutely. Let's go down the hall. There's water and tea."

I didn't want either, but I followed.

I just wanted to weed bullshit from truth.

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