Ravenwood, Chapter 23 [fiction]

Do Overs, Part 3:

I decided to distance myself from the people in Ravenwood for a while. Then Vree’s sixteenth birthday arrived.

She yanked the steering wheel of her father’s John Deere riding lawnmower and sent it across several surface roots of the old oak tree in her parents’ backyard. She and the mower pitched left, right, left again, then … BAM. The deck slammed down on a root. The blade stopped. The motor whined for a moment before the engine stalled.

She leapt from the mower and almost fell when she stumbled over a root. I hurried to catch her.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I got the lawnmower stuck on these tree roots. My dad’s going to kill me if I broke anything.” She pushed from me and brushed her ponytail from her face. Wind blew across a flowery second-growth field behind us and purple-gray rainclouds edged the sky around us.

“Help me,” Vree said. She stood next to the mower and scowled at it.

I pondered what to do. All I knew about lawnmowers was how to check the gas and oil, and how to start the engine and turn it off.

“Hello?” Vree’s irritated voice brought me back. “Help me get it off this root.” She hiked up the waistband of her cotton jeans and grabbed the steering wheel. Wind rippled her green and white T-shirt like a flag and it danced across her back.

I hurried, placed both hands on the back of the seat and rocked the mower, grunting and pushing it until it was away from the roots. The damaged root exposed a white, wet wound where the lawnmower blade had cut it.

“There’s a can of tree wound sealer in the shed left over from when I cut into the roots last year,” Vree said. She balled her hands into fists. “This is great. Daddy’s gonna ground me. And on my birthday”

Thunder rumbled over us.

Vree hurried back into the seat and tried to start the mower. The engine coughed but did not jump to life. She tried several more times before she gave up. Her blue-green eyes met my gaze and worry filled them.

Thunder banged overhead, vibrating its way into me. The sky opened and dropped a flood of rain. It rushed through the umbrella of leafy oak branches and drenched us. We scampered to the tree trunk and shivered from the chill. Thirty yards away, the backdoor of her parents’ spacious Craftsman home beckoned us. Her orange tabby cat sat at the living room’s middle bay window, watching from behind the rain-streaked glass, and waiting for her to feed it. Three o’clock was Mr. Whiskers’ afternoon feeding time.

Five minutes later, the rainstorm showed no signs of letting up. Vree and I were drenched.

I followed her to the lawnmower, which felt heavier in the rain as we struggled to push it to the shed behind the garage.

“Come on and move,” she begged the mower. “Move.”

My shoes lost traction on the wet grass, and I lost my footing twice more before we managed half the distance to the shed.

Thunder cracked behind us and I yelped.

The rain fell faster and colder.

We kept pushing and had gone ten feet across the soggy ground when a flash of bright light dazzled me and tremendous heat hit me like a giant fist and knocked me off my feet. I do not remember landing on my back before I rolled to my stomach and rubbed at my eyes with cold, wet fingers.

Vree lay on her back a few feet away. My body ached as I inched my way to her. Her arms and legs twitched then stopped. She did not move.

I begged her to answer me.

“Can you hear me?” I took her hand in mine. Her eyes were closed; she was not breathing.

I placed an ear over her mouth to hear or feel for air. Nothing. Putting two fingers on her neck, I felt for a pulse. None.

“Please don’t die.” I fell on her and wept, but only for a second.

I had to save her.

I had seen an EMT demonstrate CPR on a rubber mannequin in my eighth grade Human Health class three years ago. But that was it.

“Come back, please don’t be dead, answer me, please,” I begged while I applied the little I knew about external cardiac massage.

Minutes later, I stopped at the sight of her lips becoming blue. I switched to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but she remained collapsed at my knees with no pulse and no breath.

The rain had stopped but I did not know it until sunlight fell across her lifeless face.

“Don’t be dead,” I pleaded. I looked heavenward. “Please, don’t take her away.”

White light glows from Vree’s face

A buzzing filled my head, vibrated down my back, to my arms and hands, on to my legs and feet. The palms of my hands grew sore where I clutched Vree’s shoulders. White light glowed from her face. Warmth filled me from head to toe.

Was this a trick of the sun?

Vree shuddered against me. I touched her cheeks and her face stopped glowing.

She gasped in a breath and opened her eyes.

“What happened?” she asked. Her voice sounded gravelly.

“I don’t know.”

“I saw white light. It was all around me. A voice—a woman’s voice—told me to stay with you.”

“With me?”

“Yes.” She sat up. “The voice said we’re connected and I’m to never break that connection.”

“Why? What will happen if you do?”

“She didn’t say.”

Vree stood on wobbly legs for a moment. I helped her put away the mower, then wished her a happy birthday before I stopped typing.

Vree had said that she was never to break her connection to me. She kept that promise and visited me in my dreams. Ten months passed before I sat at my typewriter and visited her.

My visit with Vree coming soon.

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