Sitting in class, looking around at the idiots we call the popular group making a joke out of everything the teacher says and does on the board, I wish I were anywhere but in class. Don’t get me wrong, I love maths, I love school. I just don’t love the idiots I go to school with.
You know how the saying goes? Be careful of what you wish for, as you just might get it . . .
I learned the hard way that anything can happen if you wish for it. It’s just how and what that you never know about until it’s too late.
I’m Samantha Preston, a 15 year-old girl in Grade 9, who had a really good, but quiet, life up until this fateful day of 1 June 2007. I have an amazingly talented little brother Ricky, although he will hate me for calling him little, as he might be younger than me but he literally towers over me. Then there is my dad, Sam (who I got my name and nickname from), my mom Julien (who can be a bit much to handle at times, and we don’t get along that well but I love her just the same), and my two aunts.
We are not a very big family but we are a close family; a bit too close, as you will soon see.
One aunt is my mom’s sister, aunt Merrel (who is living with us at the moment because of an ugly divorce), and my dad’s sister, aunt Tamara (who lives in Ireland and whom I have never met).
Neither have any children, so my brother and I are the closest thing to kids they will ever have. We aren’t a big family so we all stick together. Even my aunt in Ireland makes a point of phoning at least once or twice a month and vice versa.
So I thought my biggest problem in life was the fact that I had very bad acne, which earned me the lovely nickname of ‘Pimple Face’ by all my peers at school. I was the most unpopular, most unattractive girl in school and I had the great fortune, or misfortune (depends on how you look at it), of having to tutor the most popular, perfectly hot, total jock, totally amazing, dreamy-eyed class clown, Brandon Gillen,who I was madly in love with. (Yeah,yeah I know, totally clichéd and totally predictable. So what! I am only human and don’t have control over who I fall in love with. Even if he was totally out of my league.)
Since I was the maths whiz of the school and he needed to pass maths in order to stay on the rugby team, I was ‘volunteered’ by my maths teacher to tutor him. He is also dating the school cheerleader, Kimberly Hirst. It’s actually more like he belongs to her. I use the term ‘belong’ as she really plans his life for him. What he does, what he wears, who he talks to – and he allows it. Only she couldn’t intervene in the tutoring part as a teacher arranged it so that the school could keep him on the rugby team, you know how it is. By remaining on the rugby team, Brandon and Kimberly could also keep the title of ‘Most Popular Grade 9 Couple in the School’.
Nonetheless that made her hate me even more, and made me a bigger target for bullying. So what if I wasn’t the best looking or dressed in designer, tight-fitting clothing? I was myself, okay. Maybe I could wear slightly more ‘sexy’ clothing but I’m at school to learn, not pick up boys. My acne I couldn’t do much about but wish it would go away.
So there I was, sitting in class wishing that I were anywhere but there, when the next moment a voice boomed over the intercom system: “Samantha Preston to the principal’soffice, Samantha Preston to the principal’soffice.” Everyone in class turned to look at me at that moment and the silent ‘Ooooh someone’s in trouble’ whispers went through the class. I felt the blush creeping up my face from all the eyes on me. You could hear a whisper here and there as some kids tried to figure out why I, the goody two-shoes of the school, the one that never does anything not approved by the rules, needed to go the principal’s office.
I slowly started packing my things, trying to avoid all the gazes and whispers, but, you see, I will never be totally invisible no matter how hard I try, because just as I got up to leave, my backpack’s zipper caughton the table, ripping my bag open and dumping the entire contents onto the floor. I groaned inwardly as the entire class burst into laughter. Kimberly, never letting an opportunity pass, dropped one of her famous insults: “Good job, Pimple Face, craving some more attention I see. Is the principal needing to see you not enough for you?” She snickered as she said this.
As the words left her mouth my blush deepened and the laughter in the classroom increased.
“That is enough. Now quieten down and continue with your work.” I was so happy that Mrs. Simmons had intervened, taking some of the attention away from me. “Now hurry up, Samantha,” she added.
Nodding my head yes, I pushed my things back in my bag and hurried out of class, head bent low, making sure I made no eye contact with anyone as I left.
As I made my way to the principal’s office, I kept wondering why I was needed. I was still pondering this when I entered the building.
Looking up, I stopped dead in my tracks. Standing in the lobby were three police officers, two of which, I knew, worked with my dad at the station, one being my dad’s partner, Greg. Confusion, dread, fear and anticipation filled me all at once. They surely weren’t here to see me, were they? By the look on everyone’s faces I knew that nothing good was about to happen. I could kick myself at that moment for wishing I were anywhere but in class.
Looking around the room I tried to find Ricky and my mom. If something had happened to my dad, then both of them would be here as well.
The next hour played outlike a typical movie scene.
The secretary took me by the arm and I was ushered into the inner office and onto a chair, followed in and circled by the three police officers, the school psychologist, the school secretary and the principal, but still no sign of my mom or brother.
Everyone just stood there staring at me as if I was going to grow an extra head, or maybe I already had? By the third time the secretary had sniffed and dabbed at her eyes with a tissue, I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Will someone please tell me what the hell is going on? I’m missing class, not that I mind a break from my fellow peers, but I would really like to get back to class now, please! Plus Miss June is freaking me out with all the sniffing and dabbing.”
The words had barely left my mouth whenMiss June burst into full-blown tears. With her tears, the fear and dread began to creep back while my irritation now took a back seat. This was bad, this was really bad! Where were my mother and brother, and what had happened to my dad that everyone was in such a state?
Like that dreaded ‘Jaws’ music that starts out calm and relaxed but just dramatic enough to keep you on your toes knowing something is going to happen, and then the buildup starts – and before you know it the climax hits and blows you away. Even though you try to prepare yourself for it, you always end up getting a fright. In my case, even though I prepared myself for bad news, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to hear.
Looking at Greg, I asked the dreaded question that kept running through my mind. “Something has happened to my dad, hasn’t it? He got hurt in the field or something. Just spit it out, tell me he is still alive, please!” I said, just as my voice was about to break.
By then Principal Lennon had retrieved his voice and was finally breaking the silence. “There was an incident involving your family,” he began to explain. “Your aunt Merrel, as well as your little brother Ricky, passed away this morning.” Before I could form a response to that remark he barreled on with the rest of the story.
“Your mother . . .”He gulped before starting again.“Your mother is in hospital under police surveillance being treated for minor injuries, and your dad is down at the station being questioned and giving his statement.”
Total confusion and disbelief took over my entire body and the only word I could get out was ‘Ricky’ before I broke down in uncontrollable sobs. No way was my little brother dead. He was only 13! Kids don’t die; old people do, like my aunt. Okay, she wasn’t really old but still she had lived a full life. My little brother had only started living his life now.
Someone stuffed tissues into my hands, and Miss June and the psychologist (whose name I have no clue about), patted me on the back, telling me everything was going to be fine, when it all hit me. How? How did all this happen? What had happened that guaranteed my entire life had just fallen to pieces?“Wha-. . . wha-. . . what happened? Why. . . why is my mom at the hospital? Why. . . why is my dad at the police station being questioned? Why. . . why. . . why is Ricky . . .?”
At that moment I broke down crying again, not able to finish the last and most important question. When they calmed me down again, the officer that I didn’t know spoke up.
“Your aunt was shot and your brother died in a car accident,” he said with a straight face, and very little sympathy. He really needed to work on his delivery, I thought to myself.
At that moment it felt like I was removed from my body and looking down on the entire scene in front of me. I could hear my voice asking questions but I wasn’t sure if it was I who was asking them. I sat staring at the officer, hearing what he said but not believing or understanding him. I mean it didn’t make sense, right?
“The story we have so far,” brokethe officer’s voice into my thoughts, “is that your dad and your aunt were having an affair. Your mom found out and shot your aunt. She took off in her car with Ricky, not sure why he wasn’t at school with you, and overturned the car, which flung your brother out, killing him instantly. Your mother has minor injuries.”
“He has the flu, and mom kept him home so she could take him to the doctor as he wasn’t getting any better, and she didn’t want the entire house to get sick, so she kept him home. . .
She kept him home to take him to the doctor. He has the flu, he has the flu.” I think I repeated that about 50 times before my brain processed the rest of the officer’s words. My mind was drifting, trying to understand what I had just been told, trying to make sense of everything.
Before the officer could go on, Miss June broke down again in sobs and my tears were replaced by anger and shock. Jumping out of my chair and pointing a finger at Miss June, I shouted at her: “Why in hell name are you crying? It is my family and my life that just fell apart, and you are crying like it’s your brother that just died and it’s your mom that just lost her mind.” My shock outburst had the entire office staring at me wide-eyed. Miss June stopped the water works immediately.
Turning to the officer I continued my rant. “And you,” I said, pointing at him, “you’d better stop talking and fast; you are just lying to me to get a rise out of me! So congrats, you got your rise. Let me help you get your story straight. My dad and aunt are not having an affair. My aunt is staying with us as she lost her house after her divorce and we are helping her out, and my mom isn’t capable of killing anyone. Ask me, I know, I have lived with her my entire life. That is just not possible. I want to see my parents and I want to see them now. I’m done talking to all of you.”
With that I grabbed my bag, which thankfully stayed intact this time, and stormed out of the office breaking into a sprint as I reached the door, tears still running down my face. I could hear them calling my name but I was on a mission to get home and get to the bottom of all this drama.
Pulling out my phone as I ran down the street towards my house, taking the same turns I take every day when I walk home, I started dialing my dad’s number.
When he didn’t answer I tried my mom, then my aunt. As I was coming up to the last corner before turning into my street I stopped dead in my tracks for a second time that day.
There, as clear as crystal, was my mom’s car lying on its roof. I could see the police officers standing there, with the scene investigators and firemen all milling around.
Sinking to my knees in the middle of the road, the tears started streaming down my face again, this time with no sign of letting up. I opened my mouth to scream but no sound came out. The only thought that kept crossing my mind was of Ricky. As I sat there looking at the mess in front of me, I kept repeating Ricky’s name.
One of the firemen noticed me in the middle of the road and approached me to see if I was okay. When he got to me and heard what I was saying, he must have put two and two together as he picked me up and carried me to one of the ambulances still on the scene. As he layme down on the bed I could hear them talking to me, but I just kept repeating Ricky’s name, never taking my eyes off my mom’s car. The last thing I remember was the paramedic saying something about me being in shock and that they would give me something to calm me down and help me to relax. After that everything became a blur and then went black.
Later that night, after my dad had finally picked me up from the hospital where they treated me for shock, we sat staring at each other, not knowing what to say. I kept waiting for him tell me that the story was a lie and that my mom had just suffered a breakdown, and that everything was going to be okay.
But the words never came.
After a while I couldn’t take it anymore, so I finally drew a deep breath and asked: “Dad what really happened today?”
He looked up at me with sad eyes, and I knew he was about to confirm everything.
“Your mom caught me and your aunt in bed together. I thought she had already left to take Ricky to the doctor.Your aunt and I certainly didn’t mean it to happen –it kind of took us by surprise. And then your mom freaked out and shot Merrel with my service pistol, and took off with your brother.
“Before I could comprehend what had just happened, my Lieutenant phoned and told me about her accident, and then a few seconds later Greg was at our gate.”
“After that everything went into overdrive and I wanted to be the one who told you, but I had to go to the station.So Iasked Greg to please tell you what happened. Then Greg phoned me to say they took you to the hospital to treat you for shock.” My dad finally finished talking.
I sat there staring at him for a long time before I pushed myself out of my chair, knocking it to the ground.
“Yeah, well Greg did not deliver the message. Some other insensitive officer broke the news to me,” I cried, before fleeing from the room.
By morning my mom had been arrested for my aunt’s murder and my brother’s death, my dad took leave of absence from work until the case was settled, and I started to plan two funerals. The story of the tragic Preston family event spread through town like wild fire through a dry field in the dead of winter.
I tried going back to school, as I needed to keep my mind busy and my thoughts off what happened. But that didn’t work for long, as some kids were sympathetic and wanted to comfort me, some just wanted to see if they could get more details out of me about what had happened, and others saw it as an opportunity to try totorment me even more. Like I needed to be messed with some more, like my life wasn’t bad enough as it was.
A week later I buried my aunt and my brother without my mom being present at either of the funerals. We had a kitchen filled with ready-made dinners, with every neighbour stopping by, wanting to know if they could do anything for us, but in actual fact I think they were only looking for a bit of gossip about what happened. I made two separate occasions out of the funerals as I felt both deserved their own personal goodbyes from the people who loved them. Half the school arrived at my brother’s funeral. I suspected that would happenas he was a well-loved kid and liked by many.
After that first day my dad and I had stopped talking as I couldn’t seem to forgive him for the drama he had caused, and since the morning before all this happened I hadn’t seen my mom nor spoken to her. I could see my dad was struggling with this entire mess. But I was just too broken up about all of it to be able to comfort him. My aunt Tamara came home and she tried to be there for him as much she could, but it was difficult. My mom’s attorney kept trying to persuade me to go to see her in prison as he said it would help her case if the judge could see her family was still standing by her through this tragedy. I told him to try his luck with my dad as I wasn’t interested. But, the thing is, I couldn’t forgive my mom or my dad and I didn’t want to stand by them or see either of them. I just wanted to be left alone. By then I had stopped going to school, as I couldn’t handle the stares and the whispers any longer.
My aunt made an appointment witha therapist and insisted we go to see him, but I took one look at the quack and left. I flat-out refused to talk to any therapists after that. Well actually, I basically refused to talk too just about anyone who dared mention my family.
A week before my mom’s trial was about to start, the guilt must have become too much for my dad, as he shot and killed himself while I was out getting some things for the house, leaving me a lovely mess and a two-word note to find when I got back home. ‘I’m sorry.’ That was it. That’s all he could think of saying to me before he killed himself. That’s all he felt he owed me for everything he had done to this family and to me. If I were him, I could easily have left an entire novel, but hey, that’s just me.
For the third time in so many weeks I was planning a funeral again, and again I had a kitchen full of ready-made meals. There were just as many, if not more, nosy neighbours trying to get some more details about the crazy Preston family. I swear bets started going around about when my mom would be next, and how long after that I would follow suit.
Two months later my mom was convicted of manslaughter and negligent driving causing a death, and was given a ten-year prison sentence for each conviction to be carried out concurrently, with the option of parole after three years. I wasn’t at the trial or the sentencing. Her lawyer called me the day she was convicted, hoping I’d come to see her before she left for prison.
By then I was just one huge mess and everyone I knew tried to get me into therapy. I was at breaking point. I didn’t want to go, because in therapy you have to talk about what is wrong and what has happened, and I didn’t want to talk about it or think about it. Luckily my aunt Tamara realised I was about to snap and offered to take me in.
This meant I moved all the way to Ireland for the rest of my high school career. I grabbed at the fresh start being offered to me without a second thought. I packed up and sold the house, stuffed everything I didn’t need into storage, and shipped myself off to Ireland to start a new life.
Everything was going great and I was finally starting to feel happy again. But you know my luck. Just as things started going well everything had to turn sour again. And there I found myself . . . back to square one!