Read Ripple Effect: A Novel Online
Authors: Adalynn Rafe
Sitting in the still and quiet chapel brought me peace, though I was dead and had yet to see the creator that the religious folk gave their praise to every week. Yet, something about this dwelling brought me comfort. It could be the fact that I sat directly next to my mother, or that memories flashed through my mind of the chorus singing boisterous songs and clapping their hands and yelling their praises. Smiling was inescapable, and for two young girls such as Hazel and me, it was flat out hysterical.
It could also be the fact that every Sunday Papa would sit between his girls and wrap his arms tightly around us to make sure that we knew how much he loved us.
A woman used to live down the street from the old church. We called her Mama April. Her skin always reminded me of milk chocolate and her hair was like an afro. Big baggy muumuu dresses were her favorite, probably because she was kind of large. She spoke really fast, which always made us laugh, then she would laugh. She made the best caramel cake in the entire universe! Hazel and I spent a lot time with that old lady when we were young. She considered us her kids.
My favorite phrases from Mama April were: “Child, you don’t know what the Lord has given you until he takes it right back out of your hands and smacks you with it!” and “Well honey, if all dogs go to heaven, then maybe Mr. Barker down the street has a chance when he finally tips.”
Mr. Barker was this mean old man who lived a couple houses away from Mama April. Let’s just say that he constantly raised his cane toward her for a beating and she always lipped off at him for being so old and senile, even though she was older.
I’d say we were about thirteen or fourteen when her baby died. Her son Morgan. He was her youngest child, only twenty when he passed. Poor kid was driving home from his big fancy university up north, and he got into an accident with a semi-truck. Let’s just say that the truck won.
She was crying really hard one day when Hazel and I showed up. It was awkward––not going to lie. We’d never seen Mama April be so serious before, let alone cry. We told Mom and Papa later, and my mother insisted on making her some brownie pie. After ringing the doorbell, we were quickly let into the house and gave Mama April the treat we made for her.
Mom and Papa were really close with Mama April. Papa had never seen anything like her before and loved her contagious energy and quick wit. My mother felt a connection to Mama April through church, which led to a beautiful friendship between them.
Mama April smiled through her tears and hugged us all. “I’m happy. My baby has been taken home to our sweet Lord above. I know that he is being held in the arms of our Redeemer.” And that was it. That was all she had to say about it. She wasn’t angry at all.
About a year later, Mama April joined her son. She never ever feared what came next after this life. Perhaps that was where my mother got all of her strength for when my Papa died. Maybe Mama April rubbed some magic juju off on my mom, giving her the faith and strength that she needed to continue through life, through the darkness that awaited her.
Glancing at my mother brought me some sort of peace. It felt like the
calm before the storm
type of peace. Like when you knew that your whole world was going to topple, but you somehow kept it together. My mom was the master at that.
She had moved into a kneeling position before the four candles that she had relit. Her eyes were closed and her lips moved ever so slightly as she prayed. Her hands were clasped together tightly, knuckles white, and her head bowed respectfully. She made it look so easy.
I looked around the chapel for any watching eyes. Did it matter? No, I was dead. But still. I hadn’t prayed for a long time . . . and I meant a long time. Like, when I was seven and lost in the woods. I swear to this day that a bear was going to eat me. Praying seemed so natural to my mother, but to me . . . it felt so foreign.
But this was something that I had to do—like a final step.
Exhaling, I bowed my head and closed my eyes. Silence filled my mind.
Almighty dude above?
I stared at the candles. I could pray; I just had to try harder.
My mind went blank again. I pushed my thoughts through the fogginess.
If anyone is interested, I have a few requests. Um . . . I need you to make sure that Adie doesn’t die, and that Hazel gets her life together, that Mom doesn’t go insane . . .
My eyes cracked opened. I peered at my mom. She’s still praying. I rolled my eyes and sighed. The woman could pray for centuries! Apparently I wasn’t done.
Okay, okay. I am sorry that I died okay, I don’t know why or how I found myself in such a sticky situation and why I had to die. Most of all, I don’t know how to gain redemption. I know that I have screwed everything up here with my bizarre ripple effect, but listen . . . please don’t take my bad actions out on the ones I love. Whatever is going on with these girls, please help them. Take the hands of evil from them so they can be free once more.
My eyes filled with tears.
And, one last thing. Please don’t take Kelly away from me. I need him and we love each other. Unless you are sending me to hell or something, then don’t let me drag him there with me. Well, duh. And, well . . . um . . . Amen and Hallelujah, I think.
My mother shuffled beside me. I cracked open one eye and saw that she was now looking up at the pitched ceiling that held shadows. Maybe she saw angels. That meant her prayers were over. Finally. She rubbed her face tiredly.
“So, Mom, I thought I’d tell you that the guy that I am in love with saved great-grandpa. Yeah, the guy, Kelly, was in the Navy and saved your grandpa’s life. That means that Kelly died. Then we fell in love after death,” I said casually, as if I had never left her side and died.
Mom just sighed tiredly as she glanced down at her hands. She was contemplating something, and it was obviously not my words because she couldn’t see or hear me.
Regardless, I continued to talk to her. “And Bandit is hanging out with me in my afterlife space that I created. I can fly like an airplane if I want. I was able to see the day of my birth and it was really tender. I was born into a really awesome family.”
My mom nodded, as if she could hear me, but I knew she couldn’t.
“I haven’t seen Papa yet.”
She stood up and stretched her limbs. “Cecily, my dear girl, I miss you.”
Everything froze within me. Did she just say that? Like, could she hear me?
“I just know that you are with your Papa and that mongrel. They are taking good care of you.” My mom flashed a teary smile.
Disappointment filled me. She didn’t hear me or even sense my presence.
Mom began her way down the aisle, away from me.
“Oh, and, Mom! I didn’t commit suicide if that is what you are thinking.”
She paused and looked behind her. She shook her head and continued.
Maybe, just maybe . . . she sensed me.
Hazel was practically chewing a hole through her lip when I found her in her room. She looked like a nervous wreck. Everything about her screamed disaster, and I meant everything. Yet, she appeared scarily calm.
Lifting her shirt to show her swelling abdomen, she patted her stomach. “It’s going to be fine. It’s better this way.”
She was talking to her fetus that began to show. My eyes widened in shock. Wasn’t she supposed to get the abortion when it was a few weeks old and not a few months? Hazel didn’t know what she was walking into.
I kneeled down before the pregnant belly of my best friend. Holding my hands on her warm stomach, I spoke to the unborn and soon-to-be dead fetus. “Listen, fetus, Hazel is loads of screwed up and I am sure that you are too. There is nothing we can do about her decision, but I hope you know that your mom loves you. She used to fantasize about how wonderful motherhood would be. Please don’t hate her. It’s all my fault, and I understand that now.”
Hazel placed her hands over mine and looked down. “I’m sorry,” she apologized to the fetus, and secretly to me, I hoped. Just for the abortion part.
After pulling her shirt down, she ran her hands through her golden hair once again and grabbed her purse. She smoothed her hand over her small baby bump once more. I could see regret written all over her face.
Stepping to her bed, made nicely with a lacey white duvet and surrounded in a sheer white canopy, she lifted her purse. Before leaving, she sat down and picked up a picture of the two of us from her pinewood nightstand, which sat beneath a crystal lamp with a zebra shade and an alarm clock in the shape the Eiffel Tower.
I sat beside her and looked at the picture, the one I’d seen a thousand times before. Every time I saw it I rolled my eyes and told her to update it already. It was a picture of the two of us, goofballs, around the age of fifteen. We braided our hair into little braids, wore Jamaican colors, and told the whole town we were going to start a bobsled team. We had just discovered the movie,
, and walked around saying
Both us laughed at the dorky teens we were. I touched the bedazzled frame and smiled widely. She’d never forget me or hate me, though she had every right to.
We now sat in the white crossover SUV, her seats lined with familiar zebra covers. I sat shotgun, obviously, and she drove. It was night and I figured that she was doing this illegally, now that the fetus had grown so big.
Hazel sorted through her CD’s before selecting one that she and I had made the week that I died. She remained perfectly still as she listened to the song. Usually, we’d be bobbing our heads up and down and trying out rap moves and laughing at each other. Tonight, we just stared absentmindedly out the front window at the flurries of snow that fell lightly to the earth.
“So, Hazel. I hear you have some new friends. I’m glad you’ve moved on, but––not gonna lie, okay––they suck!” I wanted to choke her. “What are you doing?”
Hazel changed the track. Now it was a more serious song that reminded her of me—hence the sudden attack of sobs. I hated to see her cry.
“Actually, I am sorry about everything that has happened to you since I went loco on you. You should have smacked me or hit me or anything, Hazel! I was so freaking stupid!” I could feel warm tears streaming down my cheeks. “I’m so
Hazel changed the song once again as she cleared her throat. Now we listened to “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2. We related a lot to this song because we were in high school and still trying to find what we were looking for, which we had no idea what exactly. I was pretty sure that the song was about finding religion, though it was applicable to a thousand other things. Then, Celtic Thunder, this Irish band of hot guys, did a remake of this song and it became all the sweeter.
In all honesty, it was a song my father used to hum. I think that’s why I always had such sentiment to it. I wondered, though, if Papa had ever found what he was looking for . . .
I caught Hazel singing along to the song in complete sync to me, just as we used to. We were both still crying like children, but at least we cried together.
“Hazel, will you forgive me someday?” I asked her quietly. “I should have told you about Mr. Leison. I should have listened to you when you told me not to do drugs.”
The car turned down a dark street. As we pulled up to a small house in the middle of nowhere, a faster paced song came on. We loved the killer guitar solos and the fact that the song was based upon death scaring the hell out of someone. I could relate.
Hazel fixed her makeup after wiping the tears from under her eyes. “It’s going to be okay,” she assured herself.
After knocking on the door of an extremely small and trashed colonial house, a tan man with a dragon tattoo and black hair led us into the basement. It was messy and smelled like pot and cheap liquor. The guy did his dirty work out of his house, it looked like.
“Babe,” he said. A girl rose from the old couch like some sort of sleeping cat. “This is Hazel.”
Judgingly, she raised her dark eyebrow and lit the cigarette in her mouth. “Hazel. How far are you?” I noticed the tattoos that covered her bare ivory shoulders, most of them butterflies and roses. Her dark hair was in a million braids and tied behind her head.
Hazel spoke quietly, seeming embarrassed for even being there. “Um––a,” she stuttered. “Like three months.”
“This is going to cost extra,” the girl informed Hazel with hint of chastisement in her tone. “And it’s going to hurt a lot more.”
Hazel’s eyes widened. She was terrified.
“Babe, you’re scaring the girl,” the guy said, shooting her a look to tone it down.
“You know how many teenage abortions we do each week?” Her gaze was cold as she stared her down at my best friend.
Hazel shook her head and her gorgeous green eyes filled with fright.
“Too damn many, that’s how many.” She threw a condom at her. “Next time, use some protection. Just because we are in this business, doesn’t mean that we agree with it.”
I recognized the girl. She was a year or two older than Adie. From what I remembered, she always seemed a little weird, but always had compassion for what Adie was going through.
They escorted Hazel into a back room. I stayed in the messy main room, littered with old bags of chips, Mountain Dew, and beer bottles. It was in my best interest to ignore ash filled china trays, most likely once beautiful heirlooms. Of course, this was combined with a few piles of grimy blankets, pillows, and clothes. On the walls hung posters promoting the safety of animals, especially dolphins and seals, and feeding starving children in third world countries. A historical documentary, perhaps focused around the Cold War, played on the flat screen TV.
Pacing was the only thing I could do. No one even knew I was there, but I was. I just paced back and forth, listening to the monotone voice of narrators from the TV, as I waited for Hazel to be done. What was that about Biopreperat and Soviet Russia? Who cared, I was too worried about Hazel.
A scream emerged from the room, a very painful and loud scream that came from Hazel. It shook me to my core and filled my stomach with a horrible, terrible feeling of dread. Frozen in horror, knowing that I couldn’t do anything about it, I put my hands over my ears and started to sing as I resisted the urge to cry.
I swore that hours went by before they were done. Even a new documentary came on. One about aliens running the government. Finally, Hazel wobbled out of the room, her face as pale as the moon, and her body trembling. She could hardly breathe she was in so much pain.
My hands covered my mouth as I shook my head. She was sick, really sick.
“Hey, are you sure you are going to be able to drive?” the guy asked.
Hazel nodded her head, yet I could see in her eyes that she felt unsure.
“Well, see ya later. Take something for the pain as soon as you get home,” he said casually.
“Okay,” Hazel mumbled through pale lips. She was on the brink of tears.
Hazel and I left. We cycled through the rest of the CD on the way home. She sniffled here and there, but she kept it together really well. Once we reached her house, she slowly got out of the car as she kept a firm hand on her stomach. She winced in pain and had to stop moving frequently to avoid painful contractions.
Watching her self-medicate and settle into bed by herself was the hardest thing for me to do. If I was alive, I would have taken care of her every need. I would place cold wet washcloths on her feverish head and give her pain relievers and ice chips. But, I wasn’t alive.
What broke my heart the most was the fact that no one was there to help her.
Once she was lying in bed, I leaned down and kissed her forehead. “Hazel, I love you. I am always here beside you,” I promised.
Hazel’s forehead felt hotter than it should have been. She was really sick and no one who was alive knew about it.
A hidden fear within me began to flare up.
Hazel really could die.