“These stories take place on the morning of October 7th following the sunrise, known in photography as the golden hour.”
Two figures sat on a couch in a darkened room, the only light being the red bulb in the umbrella bouncing light off the white backdrop and back into the room. The glow hid the identities of the figures, making them appear to be shadows, one hunched over the table in front of them, the other sitting back watching.
“The investigation is closed, it’s over.”
“But these posters have started appearing all over campus, all over town! Someone’s gonna trace her back to me, I know it.”
The table was covered in newspaper clippings reporting the disappearance of a young woman, Rachel Amber, and the hunched figure pushed a Missing Person’s flyer across to the other.
“It’s one person looking for answers they won’t find. She was a wild girl, plenty of people partied with her. Calm down, have you been taking your medication?”
“This isn’t fucking paranoia! This is bad, we should destroy the pictures, get out of here.”
“And you don’t think that would seem suspicious? I told you I’d protect you, it was just a mistake.”
Silence. The hunched figure winces and turns his head away from the other.
“You need to get past this, your lack of nerves nearly cost us last time. It’s over, as far as anyone knows she ran away, she certainly spoke about it enough. No one’s looking.”
“Bullshit! Someone IS looking for her and I know that idiot kept a paper trail, he brought the stuff here! He could come after me, he could tell someone.”
“That would implicate him, he’s not that stupid. Just keep taking your medication and stay calm. I promised I’d protect, you can trust me.”
The figure reaches out a comforting hand on the hunched shoulder, and both of them stare at the many faces of Rachel Amber on the table.
Chloe sat at her computer with a cigarette dangling from her mouth, the smoke creating a haze in the morning sun streaming through her window. She pulled up the Facebook page of a beautiful blonde, the name at the top being Rachel Dawn Amber. The last update was almost 6 months ago, a photo of her smiling sweetly at the camera. She sighed and took a long drag of her cigarette, leaning back.
“Where are you Rachel? What are you doing?”
Chloe placed the cigarette in the ashtray next to a stack of Missing Person posters bearing Rachel’s image. In the background music played gently on her beat up stereo, a melody that brought memories of their secret den. Chloe closed her eyes and let the memory play in her head. Rachel dancing teasingly as Chloe watched on trying (and failing) to hide her glowing cheeks. Rachels hair flowed golden in the sun streaming in beams from the roof making her almost angelic, just for Chloe’s eyes. Her perfect angel.
“One day Chloe, we’ll escape this nowhere town. Go somewhere beautiful like LA, the city of angels. Perfect for us. Somewhere we can be free.”
The memory brought a smile to Chloe.
She changed tabs to the profile of a harsh preppy guy, staring defiantly at the camera in his picture. The name on the page was Nathan Prescott. Chloe grabbed a nearby memo pad and scrawled a note angrily as she spoke.
“I know who you are dickweed, and I know how much Daddy wouldn’t want the good family name dragged through the mud by his asshat son.”
The note read: “HEY ASSHOLE – We need to talk or I’m going to tell everybody what you did – and you’re going to pay motherfucker.” She tore it out and shoved it in her pocket. Taking a final drag from the cigarette she stubbed it out, lifting one of the flyers from the pile and looking at Rachel’s smiling image.
“I’ll follow you soon, wherever you are. I’ll find you, and we’ll be free.”
“You know you can’t shut those parties down Hun, the best you can do is tell the principal your concerns and let him deal with it.”
Joyce stood making pancakes in the kitchen as her husband David stood back against the fridge looking at his reflection in the cup of black coffee.
“There’s a video of a student practically whoring herself at the last one, the most straight laced student on campus. There’s no way someone didn’t slip her something, no way. God Joyce, she’s ages with Chloe.”
Joyce relaxed her body. She knew David cared for Chloe, and she knew how wild Chloe could be. She always seemed to end up caught in the middle of them.
“I know, but getting fired isn’t going to help anything. Your job is campus security, not investigation. You can’t push this.”
David drank the remainder of his coffee in one gulp and sat the empty cup in the sink with a sigh. He knew Joyce was right, she always was.
“I’ve talked to the principal, but he’s so deep in the pockets of the parents he won’t risk bearing down on the wealthiest students. I just wish I could do more, do anything.”
He shrugged his jacket on as Joyce gave him a peck on the cheek and placed his cap on his head.
“You do plenty.”
David smiled at Joyce and headed out the door. Stepping out into the world, he looked at the bright orange morning sky. He fished his wallet from his back pocket and looked at the picture of Joyce and Chloe he kept in there.
“It just isn’t enough.”
Kate’s bedroom was dark; the light creeping around the blinds was the only thing giving any brightness to the room. She sat on her bed sobbing into her phone, a letter clutched in her hand.
“Dad, I don’t know what to do. I don’t even remember any of it happening. I tried talking to the nurse and the principal, they couldn’t help. Can’t you just talk to Mom, can’t I come home? Please, I can’t be here anymore!”
A soft white rabbit with black ears and one black eye bounds gently on the bed next to her and lifts itself on its hind legs to offer a comforting nudge of its head against her arm. Kate looked down with tears framing her face and dropped the letter on the bed side table to pet the rabbits head.
“Please, please talk to her. Tell her I love her, tell her I’m sorry. Please. Ok, I love you too dad. God bless.”
She placed the phone down and lifted the rabbit, sobbing gently into its white fur. Laughing from the hall caused her to tighten and move back towards the darkness. She was alone, apart from the rabbit in her arms, alone in the darkness. Composing herself she rose from the bed and placed Alice, the rabbit, in her crate and closed it. Her eyes were drawn to the image of Christ hung on the wall beside the cage, her cross hung over the frame.
“Give me the strength to get through the day. I believe it can be a good day. It’ll be a good day.”
A final tear rolled down her cheek as she pulled the cross over her head, the solemn image looking down on her.
Frank was sitting outside his RV parked in the corner of Blackwell Academy’s parking lot. It was a nice quiet spot, the rising sun shaded by the RVs overhead collapsible blind. His faithful dog Pompidou was sleeping in the shade next to a bowl of fresh water. A can of beer in one hand, he watched the day begin and the clouds in the sky. Shapes formed in the clouds, a dog, a face. A voice from across the lot distracts his attention. Looking over he sees David, the campus security guard, shooting a dirty look in his direction. Frank raised his beer can in response.
“Beautiful morning ain’t it?”
“You shouldn’t be here. This lot is for staff and visitors only.”
“That so? Well as it happens I’m visiting someone.”
David huffed a response and turned away. Frank grinned and turned to the dog.
“Don’t think the locals like us much Pompidou.”
The dog lazily lifted his head in response then caught sight of a flyer blowing towards them across the pavement. It came to rest at the dogs paws, a Missing Person poster. Pompidou whined at the flyer and looked up at Frank.
“I know, I miss her too.”
He relaxed back into the chair and took a swig from the can. Looking back to the sky the face shaped cloud had morphed into the face on the poster.
“I miss her too.”
Warren’s room is covered in textbooks, mostly sciences, and dirty clothes, mostly geeky.
“Gonna be late, where’s that book?”
Scrambling on the floor he picked up and discarded book after book before finally picking up a copy of Schrödinger’s “What is Life?” and stuffing it into his shoulder bag. Leaving his room he was met with a group of guys huddled around Nathan Prescott, who was showing them something on his phone outside his bedroom door. He didn’t need to ask what it was.
“Oh my God!”
“I don’t think God was watching over this one!”
“She’s so crazy, who woulda thunk it!”
Warren flared up and walked to Nathan, this guy needed to be told by someone, might as well be him.
“Why can’t you leave her alone? It’s bad enough half the school has already seen that thing, you’ve gotta keep pushing it? Get a life.”
Nathan’s expression went from amused to pissed in a flash, and Warren knew he made a mistake.
“What did you say to me!? Where do you get off telling people to get a life!”
Warren made to move but Nathan blocked his path, the other guys now backing off to watch what was shaping up to be more entertaining than the video.
“What do you have going for you? I could buy and sell your ass if I wanted! Don’t tell me what to do geek!”
Warren hated confrontation and was regretting getting involved. He tried to move past Nathan and once again was blocked. The spectators let out a laugh just as Nathan’s phone rang. Taking advantage of the opportunity Warren darted around him and down the hall to the exit as Nathan answered the call with a loud “What!?” Outside Warren made his way to class, passing through crowds of students in the courtyard. He spotted Alyssa sitting by the Jeremiah Blackwell statue reading a book, Love Today or Die Forever.
“Mornin’ Alyssa! Have you seen Max around today?”
Alyssa raised her head and yawned.
“I’m barely awake enough to know where I am Warren, for all I know Max blew away in a tornado and will never be seen again.”
“Shame we didn’t fall in with her, I could avoid this physics test.”
Alyssa smiled and yawned again. She rarely smiled but Warren always brought it out in her, even this early in the day. Warren let out a friendly laugh and made his way towards the main building. Before heading inside he pulled out his phone and checked his conversation with Max to see if she’d replied. She hadn’t. His last message was “Don’t ignore this message”, 2 days ago, but her picture in the corner meant he couldn’t be angry.
“Today my life is dedicated to tracking you down Miss Caulfield!”
Max shuffled out into the hall in her PJ’s where Victoria and her cronies were pinning a poster for the Vortex Club on the notice board. Victoria clocked her instantly and not one to let the opportunity pass;
“Max it’s called concealer, acquaint yourself with it, for the sake of our health.”
On cue the cronies, Taylor and Courtney, giggled and Victoria posed victorious. They’d performed this routine countless times.
“Victoria it’s called a soul, acquaint yourself with it, for the sake of our sanity.”
“I think the one who needs to find their lost soul here is dear Kate.”
Victoria added loud emphasis to the last part directed to the door behind them, Kate’s room. Max looked disgusted and stepped towards the trio, hissing at Victoria.
“If the only way you can make yourself feel good is to drag someone down, you really need to take a look at yourself. Get a grip Victoria, and leave Kate alone.”
“She brought this on herself by acting in a very un-Christian manor Maxy.”
“She isn’t the one who put that video up online, but I think we both know who did Vicky, and I bet the principal would love to find out.”
She stormed off for the shower room leaving the girls standing in their default pose, Victoria huffing in her direction. In the shower room Max examined the bags under her eyes in the mirror and groaned.
“Ugh, you’d think I’d just been dug up from the grave. No more late night horror movies, definitely some beating on Warren later.”
She lazily brushed her teeth and showered. On her way back to her room she knocked on Kate’s door as she passed, Victoria thankfully had vanished.
“Hey Kate? You want to walk to class with me?”
No answer, until Brooke appeared from down the hall.
“Kate left a few minutes ago when Victoria and her drones buzzed off.”
“Oh, thanks Brooke. I hope she’s OK.”
“I hope someone swats the drones and their queen bee.”
Max chuckled as Brooke walked down the hall to the exit. She drew a little bunny on Kate’s message board and left. In her room Max got dressed for the day and picked up her phone, bag, and Polaroid camera from the desk.
“I still have to find something for the contest, Mr. Jefferson has been going on about it constantly.”
Looking at her Polaroid collage wall, she examined the pictures. All the memories she had there, her whole life in pictures. Arcadia Bay, Seattle, her parents, friends, a shot of her and Chloe as kids. One picture stood apart, a shot of her facing her Polaroid collage, many pictures within one shot. She plucked it from the wall and looked it over.
“Ugh, I dunno. Is this really something that captures an ‘Everyday Hero’? I don’t think I exactly fit the description…”