Chapter One

Alivia rode her bike down the gravel road past the overgrown layers of thick dark dead weeds that grew in the ditches. A breeze swept across her warm cheeks, and forehead and through her long, wavy, brunette hair. The summer airlifted the earth’s scent of grass and salt water to her nose.

The chains clicked together as the tires ran over the different sized rocks.

Just a little bit further and she’d make it to grandpa’s house.

She gripped the smooth handlebars and pedaled faster. Her hair blew over her shoulders.

Her summer to-do list crinkled in her back pocket. Above everything else, she needed enough time to go fishing at the lake and get ice cream with Grandpa.

   I hope four weeks is enough?

She thought about heading off to the University of Winnipeg and got both excited and scared.

She pedaled even faster down the gravel road.

A smile crossed her face when she spotted Grandpa’s little white house at the end of the road. She paused by the driveway and looked at the rusted brown mailbox. The lid was open, exposing white envelopes.

Grandpa always gets his mail. Maybe he’s not feeling well?

Worry crept in the back of her mind.

She grabbed the mail and rode her bike up the little yard, a few feet by the front of the small deck. Along the side of the steps, there were overgrown weeds and dandelions.

A couple of tall trees stood by the small white house. His plants in the flower pots drooped over as if in good need of a drink.

Alivia gritted her teeth. She promised grandpa to keep them alive. For the past couple of days, she had been packing for college.

   I’ll water them before I leave today.

The back door swung in the grasp of the wind instead of being latched closed.

Grandpa always kept his door closed.

She got off her bike and put the kickstand down. Mail in hand she walked into the house and closed the door behind her like it should have been in the first place.

Alivia sniffed. No fresh coffee scented the air. There was always the smell of coffee when she first arrived at the house.

“Grandpa, I’m here.”

She paused and waited for a response, then looked down at the white envelopes in her hands. “Oh yeah,” she held the mail up at shoulder height. “I got your mail for you that you forgot,” she chuckled. “You never forget your mail, Gramps.”

In the small hallway, she noticed that grandpa’s shoes and jacket weren’t there.

   I know I told him I was coming over. Did he forget? No, he wouldn’t forget me. Grandpa never forgets.

She made her way into the kitchen and came to a halt.

Alivia flinched.

The envelopes slipped from her hands and landed on the floor in front of her.

Broken dishes were scattered on the wooden floor in front of the stove.

Grandpa’s chair laid on its side.

“Grandpa, where are you?”

She hurried out of the kitchen and ran down the short hallway. At the back of the couch, she froze. Her heart skipped a beat and her face grew warm. She covered her mouth and let a muffled scream through her fingers. “Oh god, no!” Tears formed in her eyes and clapped both hands on the side of her head.

In the middle of the living room, by the oak wood coffee table, laid grandpa on his back. He had on his coat and shoes. His hat laid beside his head. Water from a spilled glass had pooled by a picture frame of her and Grandpa at the lake serval years ago.

“Grandpa!” She rushed to his side and shook his shoulders so he would wake up, but he didn’t open his eyes. “Grandpa, wake up, please.”

Alivia stumbled towards the phone. Her arm knocked over a brown porcelain lamp and it shattered to the floor. She grabbed the old corded phone on the wall and dialed 911.

Her hands shook as her palms sweat against the phone.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

“My grandpa is lying on the floor!” Her heart thudded in her chest. “He’s not moving,” she gripped the phone tighter. “Please hurry- hurry and get, get here.”

“What is your address?”

“He lives on 11055 E Cedar Bay.”

“A paramedic is on the way. What’s your name?”

“Alivia.”

“How old are you, Alivia?”

“Seven-seventeen.”

“Stay on the phone with me, you are doing fine, is your grandpa breathing?”

“I don’t know, just hurry up and get here.”

“I need you to check for me? Can you see if his chest is moving up and down?”

Alivia rushed by the broken lamp. The phone ripped from her hand and crashed against the wall. She gasped, picked it back up and realized the cord was too short. “I can’t. The phone cord won’t reach.”

“Do you have a cordless phone in any other part of the house? Or does this phone have a speakerphone option?”

“No. They’re all old and have cords. That’s it. I don’t know what to do. He’s not moving.” Tears slid down her cheeks.

“Just stay calm, you are doing fine. I need you to check his breathing and try and check for a pulse on his wrist, can you do that for me?”

“Okay.”

“Come back to the phone when you’re done.”

“Alright.” Alivia sat the phone down and rushed over to grandpa’s side. His chest didn’t seem to move at all. She touched his wrist and yanked back. He felt cold like the fish they would reel in from the lake.

She touched his wrist again, still cold and no pulse. But that would mean he was… “No! Grandpa. Please wake up.” She gasped, unable to breathe normally. Her lungs clamped down.

“Hello, are you still there?” the woman’s voice said.

She shook his shoulder once more. “Grandpa.”

She sniffled. “Please get up.”

Resting her head on his chest, she again listened. Her own heartbeat echoed in her ears.

She lowered her head down and covered her mouth. This time, she screamed into her hands.

“Grandpa, please wake up. We’re going fishing today, just like we wanted.”

   I should have waited to pack my clothes for college. If I did he might have still been alive. If only I had come earlier.

She wiped the tears from her eyes and spotted the corner of a picture that stuck out of his pocket. She hesitated a moment, hand shaking, and then pulled it out. It was grandpa and her fishing together when she was five. She clutched it to her chest and squeezed her eyes shut to stop the tears, but nothing could. “Why? Why?” She screamed to the empty walls.

A few seconds passed by.

She opened her eyes to see a single white feather float into the room and land on top of Grandpa’s chest.

The ambulance’s sirens grew closer and closer until they were right outside the door. Three paramedics came into the living room and bent down next to grandpa.

A woman in a blue medic jacket helped Alivia up and took her outside.

Alivia turned in time to see them cut through Grandpa’s shirt.

“I’ll start chest compressions. You get the AED,” a Paramedic shouted.

The woman guided Alivia outside.

Several minutes later the two paramedics came out with Grandpa on the stretcher.

Alivia ran over and touched his exposed cold and limp hand. A hand that wouldn’t hold her anymore, a hand she wouldn’t watch building bird houses in the shed or help her reel in a fish by the lake.

“Is he- is he…” She choked on her words and could not finish.

They lifted him up onto the gurney and rolled him out to the ambulance.

“I’ll stay with her,” the woman said.

The two men nodded and jumped in the rig.

Sheriff Roy Bonich arrived in his old white Ford just as the ambulance passed by. He stepped out of the car, closed the door and walked over to Alivia. “I heard the call on the scanner. How about I take you home, Alivia.”

“I was too late. I should have come earlier.” She sobbed and pressed her lips together then gazed up at the sheriff. “Am I, right?”

His shoulders fell and he let out a long breath. “It’s not your fault kiddo. Things happen for a reason. Come on.” He led her to his car and opened the back door.

Alivia got in and wiped her eyes.

Sheriff Roy placed the bike in the back of his car before starting it and headed back towards her house.

“If I was only earlier-“

“There is nothing you can do, so stop that thinking. Your Grandpa was a good man, but we all knew he had a bad heart. Especially you.”

Alivia paused.

“You always came and made sure he took his pill. You did very well taking care of him.” He put the car into park.

“Thank you, Roy.”

Sheriff Roy followed her to the front steps.

Alivia stopped at the front door, pressed her forehead against the cold wood and sobbed. She squeezed her eyes shut and surrendered to the burning sensation.

With both fists, she hit the door.

It opened so fast, Alivia fell forward into a pair of arms.

Alivia’s mom, Dorraine stood there speechless. Her curly blonde hair was pulled back in a bun. It was normally down or in a ponytail. “What’s going on?”

Alivia’s eyes filled with more tears. Her throat burned, and her chest ached.

“Honey, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”

Sherriff Roy took his hat off and gazed back at Alivia’s mom. “I’m sorry, Doraine. He’s gone.”

After Sheriff Roy left Alivia held onto her mom. “It’s my fault mom, I was too late.”

“No, it’s not your fault honey.”

Alivia pulled from her mom. Her eyes were burning and stinging with uncontrollable tears. “Yes, it is mom. I should have left earlier.” She ran up the stairs.

“Alivia, please. It’s not your fault.”

She slammed the door shut and curled up in a ball on her bed.

For the rest of the day, Alivia spent most of the time in her room with all the blinds closed, hidden away in the dark. She didn’t want to endure reality all over again. Not without Grandpa. Her days will never be the same again.

She held a picture of her and Grandpa when they had gone fishing at the lake. The memories repeated themselves through her mind as she mumbled to herself, tears filled her smarting eyes.

On the floor in front of her bed clothes were compressed together in suitcases. Still packing for college Alivia was excited about it, but the loss of Grandpa put a toll on her. She didn’t want to leave and wanted to stay home.

Alivia had a shelf on the right side of her door with framed photographs of Grandpa. They were a reminder that he would always be with her.

All the walls in her room were an iris color with light purple dots.

On one side of the room by the deck doors, a wall was a cheetah print style. The queen-sized bed sat against the wall. In the far corner on the right side of the bedroom door, sat a table that had a mannequin head and dentist tools lined up in a row. A pile of thick books and single papers sat beside it.

Everything in her room reminded her of Grandpa. Is that a happy thing or a sad thing?

A part of Alivia was mad at God for taking grandpa away. Out of all the people in her family, why Grandpa? Why him? Why not somebody else in the world? It may seem harsh and cruel, but that’s how she felt. Her grandpa was a good person. He’d never done anything wrong or bothered anybody and now he was gone.

A knock at the door distracted her from the thoughts of Grandpa and the times they have spent together.

“I called the family. They will be here tomorrow,” her mom called through the door.

Alivia didn’t say or do anything. She didn’t have the strength to speak a single word.