EPISODE EIGHT: A Secret
Jamison stood in front of the Main Office of the community. If he was right, the Big Three would be there. He laughed to himself. He’d been living in this community for over 25 years, and they still hadn’t inducted him into their leadership group.
The Big Three consisted of three longtime residents of this neighborhood who had decided long ago that they weren’t going to let an anonymous association run their community. They had banded together under a relatively unknown loophole in the Association Manual and pretty much ran everything.
Jamison had made it his first priority to get involved with these guys. One of the men, Trace Walker, had quickly become a friend. The other two had decided he was the enemy.
“It’s about time you showed up.” The door to the Main Office opened as Trace stepped through. “What took you so long?”
“Nice to see you, too,” Jamison replied, grabbing the door. “Is your family doing all right?”
Trace sighed. “They’re scared. I won’t let them watch the news, but Shayla wants to know.”
Jamison nodded. Shayla was a worrier, like Emmy. They had to know the facts, other wise they couldn’t rest. Emmy had gotten better at staying calm, but he could imagine that Shayla was a mess.
“What about your kids?” Trace crossed his arms. “Weren’t they coming over for a visit right about now?”
Jamison frowned. “They picked the worst time,” he replied. “One of them is down in Homestead, and the others decided it was a good idea to go fetch her.”
“And you disagree?”
“Rosemarie will come back when she’s ready,” Jamison said, stepping into the Main Office. “She always has, always will.”
“You keep saying that Jamison.”
“Well, I’m always right, aren’t I?”
“How many hours has it been?”
She had been sitting in a car all afternoon on her way down here, but the drive down 248th street stretched on monotonously and felt a thousand times longer.
“We’ve only been driving for a few minutes, Lyn,” her husband said, pointing to the clock on the dashboard. “We’ll be in Homestead within a half an hour.”
“If only we’d have taken the highway,” Lincoln mumbled in the backseat. Lyn felt her face stiffen. He was so ungrateful. We’re coming all this way for him. The least he could do is stop complaining. She couldn’t fault him, though. He was still very young and immature.
“What is Rosemarie’s boyfriend like?” Toby asked.
“I’m actually not too sure,” Lincoln replied. “She started dating him when I moved away to college, and we’ve only talked about him a little.”
“Well, it’s a good thing Misty knew his address,” Lyn added, “otherwise, you would have been of no help.”
Lincoln ignored her. They continued to drive forward in silence. She turned to look out the window. It was too dark to see anything clearly, but she could make out a stop light further ahead. It was the only one in a row of stop signs and rolling stops. She wondered if cops spent any time hiding in the shadows, trying to catch people speeding. If she’d been driving, she would definitely have been pulled over. Toby was good, though. He didn’t like to speed, even when it was dark and no one else was around.
The car made a strange rumbling sound. She glanced at Toby. A red light flashed on the dashboard.
“What was that?”
“I don’t know.”
“I thought this was a new car,” Lincoln grumbled from the back.
“How much money do you think I have, Lincoln?” Toby shook his head. “This car is a piece of junk. It can die at any time.”
“Why didn’t you take my father’s car? And if it was so bad, why did you use it to drive us down here?”
Toby did not respond to her question. “The car is starting to overheat,” he said instead. “We need to pull over and give it a chance to cool off.”
“We never stopped when we were driving before.”
“Do you not believe me, Lyn? Do you want me to keep driving until the car explodes?”
“Is that what is going to happen?”
“Fine,” she said, throwing her hands in the air. “Pull over wherever you want. So long as it’s not in the bushes somewhere.”
Toby turned on his highbeams. “There’s a parking lot up ahead.”
“It’s a school zone,” Lyn said, straining to read the signs. “What school is this, Lincoln?”
“Oh, so now I’m suddenly of use to you?”
Toby pulled the car into the lot. Dozens of yellow school buses were parked along the east side, with a few regular cars near them. Lyn searched for a sign on the school building, something that would let her know which one it was.
“I want to look around,” Lyn said, unlocking her door.
“Don’t go so far.” Toby opened the hood of the car and peered inside. “This shouldn’t take so long.”
Lyn slipped her phone into her back pocket. She walked toward the school’s entrance. It wouldn’t be open this late at night, but lights were on inside. To the left of the main entrance was a second building. It reminded her of one of the school’s she’d gone to growing up. Her fifth grade class was the first to move into the new buildings on the side. They called it an annex, and she always thought of the place where Anne Frank had lived in when she wrote her diary. It was also an annex.
Lyn had never liked reading the diary. She knew that Anne was going to die at the end, so every time the girl wrote about the future, Lyn knew it would never come to pass. Lyn told her teacher it was too sad for her to read, but her teacher wouldn’t listen.
She continued walking toward the second building. Dark, painted letters covered the side of the building, but she couldn’t make out their meaning. If I could get closer, maybe I could read it. Maybe it’ll tell me what school this is.
Lyn wondered why she wanted to know. Why did it matter to her what school this was? Because it reminded her of the school she’d gone to when she was — ?
A little girl appeared in front of her, running toward her. The girl was wearing a torn life vest, and she was calling out her name.
The girl was gone.
The room was suddenly alerted to his presence. Chris Adler rose from his seat.
“Who invited him?”
“Jamison has been attending our meetings for the last twenty five years,” Trace said, patting him on the back. “He didn’t need an invitation the first time, and he doesn’t need one now.”
“Whatever.” Chris took his seat. “So what do you make of all this? Does it fit into one of your ‘end times’ sermons? Is this foretold in the Book of Revelations?”
Jamison laughed. “Um, no, I didn’t see anything about an infection spreading through Florida the last time I read my Bible, but maybe I wasn’t being thorough enough.”
“Well, we’ve been doing as much research as we can, and we don’t understand this.” Harold Whitaker, the oldest of the three, had a loud, commanding voice. Jamison knew the man didn’t like him because he stayed with Emmy, even after she cheated on him. Harold was going on his seventh or eighth divorce, and he always tried to convince Jamison that being single was the only route to happiness. But more than all of that, Harold hated not understanding something. He poured himself into research and study to figure out anything he wasn’t sure of.
One of those things was forgiveness. He still hadn’t wrapped his mind around that one. It never made sense to Harold why Jamison had forgiven his wife. He was, after all, a veteran of divorces and affairs. He had perfected the art of blaming, accusing, shaming, and guilting. Forgiveness, of any sort, had no part in his life. He tolerated Jamison’s presence because Jamison had a lot to offer, and everyone, including Chris, knew it.
“The government is itching to close that barricade soon,” Chris said, shaking his head. “I don’t like this at all.”
“We’ve got at least four hours left,” Jamison cut in, taking a seat near Trace. “Before they barricade it, though, we need to make sure we have enough supplies.”
“I sent a few men to collect information from around the area. They should be back with reports in a few minutes,” Harold said.
“We should consider using this as a center for supplies. Everyone can bring what they have here, and we’ll dole it out as needed.”
“Uh, no, that won’t work,” Chris said, shaking his head. “Some of the newer families in this neighborhood are more affluent than others. We welcomed them because it was beneficial to our community, but they will not want to share their resources with those who didn’t think to stock anything up.”
Jamison sighed. “Chris, we’re in a time of crisis. We have to work together, affluent or not. Certainly they would understand that.”
“Well, it smells a little too communistic to me.”
“Are you going to help, Chris? Or are you just going to shoot down everything I say?”
“Bad ideas need to be weeded out.”
Jamison leaned back in his chair. Chris had never liked him, and he never knew why. He had never done anything to Chris in the twenty five years he’d known the man, but that didn’t stop Chris from hating him. Jamison knew he wouldn’t get anywhere in this meeting, not if Chris disagreed with everything he said for the sake of disagreeing. There was only one thing they could do, if this meeting was to get anywhere.
“I call for a vote,” Jamison said, raising his hand. “Although we’ve got the government here, setting up the barricade, they don’t care about our community. I propose that we vote a leader for ourselves, one who has the best interests of the neighborhood in mind.”
“And I suppose you vote yourself as this leader?” Chris asked, a sneer forming on his lip.
Jamison smiled. “That wouldn’t be such a bad idea.” He glanced at Trace. “What do you think?”
“A vote is a splendid idea.”
The older man nodded slowly. “I’ll vote.”
“Excellent.” Jamison looked at Chris. “Who would you like to vote for?”
Chris scowled. “I will vote for myself.”
Trace raised his hand. “And I will vote for Jamison.” He turned to Harold.
“It’s up to you.”
Harold sighed. “I don’t really like you, Jamison,” he said, “but we need to do something. I’ll vote for you.”
“I knew this was going to happen,” Chris said, shaking his head, “but I’ve been with this community for too long to leave it in the hands of a newcomer.” He folded his hands. “So what’s our first order of business, leader?”
Jamison crossed his arms. It was time to get to work.
I’ve seen her before.
Lyn turned around and headed for the car. She’d seen that little girl before, in a place that needed to stay buried in her memories. But why was she seeing the girl here? This wasn’t the place where it had happened.
“Oh, there you are.” Toby slammed the hood shut. “We’re ready to go.”
Lyn ignored him and pulled open her brother’s door.
“Lincoln, what school is this?”
“Hey, you don’t have to be so rough.”
“I asked you a question, Lincoln. Can you please answer it?”
Lincoln frowned and crossed his arms. “It’s Redland Elementary and Middle School. Are you satisfied now?”
Lyn closed his door. “Toby, we have to leave this place.”
“What are you talking about? Of course we’re leaving. The car is fixed.”
“No, we have to leave now.”
“Lyn, your face is white,” Toby said, grabbing her. “What’s going on?”
She looked up at him, shaking. This was it. The secret she’d been hiding for so long. She had to tell him. There was no way around it.
“This was my elementary school.”
Toby smiled. “Oh. I thought there was something wrong.”
“You don’t understand,” she said, clinging to him. “We have to leave from here.”
“This is where my friend died. I don’t want to stay here anymore.” Lyn felt tears coming on. “I saw her, Toby. She was running toward me, and—”
“Okay, we don’t have to talk about this anymore. Get in the car. We’re leaving.”
Lyn moved as quickly as possible. The memories of that day so long ago were flooding back to her. She tried to stop the wave, but there was nothing she could do. Her best friend was dead and there was no going back.
Toby slipped the keys into the ignition.
“How much farther do we have?” He tossed the question to Lincoln in the backseat.
“Quiet.” Toby held up his hand. “I hear something.”
He tried the ignition again. “It won’t start.”
Lyn began to cry. “We can’t stay here, Toby! We have to go!”
“I know,” he said, “but if I can’t get this car started, where are we going to go?”
“This car is a piece of junk!” Lincoln yelled. “All those hours you work, and you couldn’t afford a decent car?”
“Toby, we have to go,” Lyn begged. She was falling apart. She hated doing this in front of her brother, but she couldn’t stop it. “We have to leave before she comes back.”
Toby nodded. “All right. Lincoln, get out of the car. Lyn, I need you at the wheel.”
“We’re gonna push it, okay?” Toby leaned over and gave her a hug. “I’m gonna get you out of here, Lyn. Don’t worry.”
“Hey, wait, are you gonna push this car all the way to Homestead?” Lincoln shook his head. “Sorry, buddy, but I won’t help with that.”
“There’s a church around here,” Lyn said, suddenly remembering. It’d been a long time since she’d been in this area, but, somehow, she still remembered it. “One of my friends used to invite me to it all the time, although I never went.”
“You’re right. Dad never really liked churches.” Lincoln opened the side door. “Let’s get to pushing, Toby.”
“What’s the church called?” Toby asked, handing her a tissue to wipe her eyes.
Lyn swallowed back a sob.
“It’s called Christ Fellowship Redland.”