December 21st, 1987- Justin
Justin’s parents didn’t stay anywhere for long. The Johanssons had lived in Florida and North Carolina in the last five years. He was twelve, so he had never lived in one place for very long.
They were writers. They could live wherever they wanted. Justin’s social life was not of consequence to them. Justin mostly stayed to himself, because he was never in one place long enough to make friends. He was into history, and most of his spare time was spent reading a book about some war or in the library looking at pictures from one.
Justin reached for the front door of the two-story, brick Victorian house that they were going to be renting. The door was heavy and a deep, rich mahogany. The owner had left a Christmas wreath hanging on it.
Justin took his coat and hat off and put them on the coat rack just inside the entryway. Since they were virtually nomadic, his parents opted out of owning furniture and instead only rented a house if it came furnished. They brought with them whatever would fit into their van, and if it didn’t it got left on a curb in whatever state they were fleeing. As long as Justin had his books and his supplies for painting his model battle figures, he didn’t pay much attention to anything else.
He walked around the house looking into each room and then made his way up the spiral staircase. He could choose between two different rooms. He chose one that had a brown, four post bed and a fireplace. There was a bookcase with a set of books on the top shelf and a stiff chair in front of it with a tall lamp.
That afternoon he unpacked his clothes and his figurines and books; when he was finished, he went outside to look around. There was a tire swing and an old shed, and then there was a pond about a hundred yards away. He went to the edge of the pond closest to the house and sat down.
As Justin was staring at the lake, he heard leaves crackle and he turned around expecting to see his mom or dad. It was a boy who looked about Justin’s age. He had brown hair, dark brown eyes, and he was dressed in jeans and a brown sweater.
“Hi, I’m Bobby,” the boy said.
Justin assumed he must be from one of the houses down the road so he stuck his hand out for the boy to shake.
“I’m Justin. We just moved in today.”
Justin invited Bobby in. He wanted to show him the figurine collection and all of his books. He walked into the kitchen and asked his mom for two glasses of lemonade and a plate of cookies, and then he and Bobby ran upstairs.
December 21st, 1987- Rhonda
Two glasses of lemonade. Maybe he was just thirsty, but she was worried it was starting up again.
They moved a lot. She knew it sometimes upset Justin, even though he didn’t show it. When Justin was younger, the moves were easier. He was more easily persuaded by the promise of new adventures.
The first few moves were about the experiences and making a better life. The last couple have been to escape the experiences of th past lives.
She hoped this latest move would be one of the last ones. Her husband, Raymond, loved the thought of settling down in Maine, and he was tired of running.
December 22nd, 1987- Justin
Since there wasn’t any school because of Christmas break, Bobby said he would be back over the next day. Bobby was quiet and didn’t have much to say when Justin asked him questions, but Justin was just glad to have met someone before he had to go to the new school- at least there would be a familiar face.
Justin waited on the front porch, and at about 10:00 a.m. Bobby came walking down the driveway.
They spent the afternoon inside. It was too cold to stay outside. Bobby told him about how he had been the new kid last year, and he didn’t have many friends either.
“All the kids here play hockey. My dad is in the military so we move a lot too. I can’t even skate,” said Bobby.
Justin felt like someone his age finally understood him. For the rest of the afternoon and the next day Justin and Bobby painted figurines, and went and explored the property around the new house.
Justin was going to ask his mom if his new friend could spend the night.
December 22nd, 1987- Rhonda
Justin walked in and he looked excited.
“Hey honey, get washed up for dinner. It will be ready in twenty minutes.”
“Okay. Can Bobby stay for dinner and spend the night Mom? I was hoping he could help put up the Christmas tree and decorations,” an excited Justin asked.
Her face fell. “Sure, I’ll set an extra plate for him.”
She talked to her husband that night when they were doing dishes and Justin had gone to decorate the tree.
“Baby, what are we going to do? We’ve been here two days, and it’s the same problems as always,” said a tired Rhonda.
“I don’t know anymore Rhonda. They said anything could trigger it,” he sighed. “I’m done moving though.”
December 23rd, 1987- Justin
His parents didn’t like Christmas. He knew that, but he still loved celebrating, so he was excited to get a small tree (that his dad begrudgingly went and got for him) up and decorated last night just in time.
Bobby had gone home that morning after breakfast, but he said he would come back tomorrow so they could hang out.
Five years earlier (Denver, Colorado): December 24th, 1982-Rhonda
Her life was shattered. She sat next to Jonathan praying and rocking back and forth. It had been an accident- just an accident. She wouldn’t let herself think anything else.
Justin stood at the top of the stairs staring blankly into space.
December 24th, 1987 (Morning)- Rhonda
Justin didn’t remember that Christmas Eve in ’82. He didn’t remember his brother either. The doctors ran tests and they talked to him for months after it. They finally just said that he had disassociated himself, and that anything regarding his twin brother or the incident seemed sort of like a dream to him.
From the outside looking in, Justin seemed like a normal twelve year old.
The last five years around Christmas Justin would see people who weren’t there. They were all boys about his age. They thought if they moved that Justin’s “friends” would go away, but they never did. The doctors had put him on medicine, but the medicine made him violent, so Rhonda took him off of it.
When they lived in Florida, he had pushed her husband down the stairs on Christmas Eve for telling him that his friend “Dustin” didn’t exist. They chalked it up to it being the anniversary of Jonathan’s death, but it seemed like every anniversary, Justin had some type of outburst.
She hoped as he got older, things would improve, but it seemed like the delusions were just getting stronger. She was terrified to take him to a hospital though, because she knew they wouldn’t let her leave with him. She had lost one son, and she was determined not to lose another of her babies.
December 24th, 1987 (Afternoon)- Justin
Bobby showed up around 4 p.m. and they were upstairs in his room looking through some of the old books that had been left in the bookcase.
Justin could tell his mom and dad didn’t like Bobby. They didn’t speak to him at all, not even a “hello” until Justin called them out on being rude. They forgot to offer him anything to drink or eat unless Justin asked. It was ridiculous. He knew they were in their own little worlds writing, but that wasn’t an excuse.
He wasn’t going to lose his friend like they had run away all of his other ones. His Dad had said Dustin didn’t exist; he obviously did. He just didn’t want Justin forgetting about Jonathan. How could he forget Jonathan? He had ruined his life. He had broken Justin’s new toy he got, and when Justin got mad and pushed him, he fell down the stairs and died. Justin didn’t mean to do it. He just meant to hurt him.
Everyone blamed him for it. They didn’t want him having any friends, or having anyone to talk to. They just kept taking them away from him.
Not this time.
He heard his Dad coming out of his room.
December 24th, 1987 (Night)- Rhonda
She sat with her husband’s head in her lap; he was still breathing but it was shallow and he was weak. She screamed in agony when she saw Justin at the top of the stairs. She didn’t know why she bothered to even look up. She knew when she heard her husband screamed what had happened.
“Baby please don’t leave me,” she wailed.
She could hear the sirens. For the first time, she prayed they would take her son away too.