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Untitled '07 NaNo, Part 1

I am not doing chapters this year. Or at least, not so far. I'm just going to be posting what I have as I have it, and what I have today is this: 1686 words.

It had taken a while to do it, but Jane had decided she wasn't going to speak at Mom's funeral. She didn't see why she should have to. Grandma and Grandpa weren't even coming, and why should she give a shit if Mom's coworkers knew how Jane felt about her? Her grief for Mom was hers, private, and nobody was going to make her stand up in front of a bunch of people she didn't even know and explain to them how important Mom had been. How important she still was.

Mom's friend Karen was going to give the eulogy. Jane thought that was fitting. Karen had known Mom since Jane was just a baby, longer than anybody else they hung out with, and Grandma and Grandpa didn't count, since A) they weren't going to bother to show up and B) Mom hadn't seen them since Jane was little anyway. Karen was almost as torn up about the whole thing as Jane was, it seemed, even though she had sucked it up and taken responsibility for Jane for the weekend until Grandma and Grandpa could get Jane's bus fare back to Pine Hill to her through the Western Union. Their old pickup was shot, Grandma had said on the phone, and Grandpa didn't think it would make it all the way down to Lansing, so Jane would have to take the Greyhound.

It was like kicking her when she was down, Jane reflected, to make her go live in fucking Pine Hill with people she didn't even remember right after her mom had died.

Karen came into the kitchen, her eyes puffy and red. Jane looked up from the wood grain of Karen's kitchen table and watched her put a bag of popcorn into the microwave and push the button, mechanically, like a robot. "You gonna be okay, kid?" Karen asked.

Jane scrubbed at her eyes with a loose fist. "Yeah, I'll be all right."

Karen crossed the kitchen and wrapped Jane in a warm, tight hug. "Your mom was a special lady," Karen said. "She raised you pretty good. She made you strong. You can make it through this."

"I know," said Jane. "I mean, I been pretty much taking care of myself most of the time anyway. It's not like I can't do it. I just miss her."

Karen squeezed her tighter. "I miss her too, Janey. We'll always miss her. But she'll always be with us, too."

Jane lifted a hand to wipe away the fresh tears running down her cheeks. "I just--I keep looking at the clock and thinking, it's so late, I'm gonna have to call her and tell her where I am--"

"Oh honey," said Karen, rocking her back and forth.

The funeral was a blur. Obviously because of how bad the crash had been they couldn't do an open casket, and it was hard to believe Mom was really in that box. Jane refused to stand around afterwards shaking a bunch of people's hands and listening to their bullshit about how sorry they were for her loss. They didn't even know her. It was none of their business. She hated letting all those people watch her cry.

As soon as people started leaving, she went over to Karen and said, "Can we go? I really want to get out of here."

Karen took one look at her and turned back to the people she'd been talking to, saying, "It was good to see you. I'll give you a call."

They drove over to Jane's and Mom's apartment to pack up the rest of the stuff. A bunch of it would be going into storage until Grandpa could get the time to come down with a U-Haul and sell it off or give it to the Goodwill; most of Jane's furniture was eventually going to Grandma and Grandpa's house, but of course she couldn't take it on the bus, and Grandma had said Mom's old room was still pretty much like she'd left it so there was already a bed and a dresser there. All Jane would have room to take on the Greyhound would be one suitcase and her backpack, which as it turned out was barely enough to pack a couple of weeks' worth of clothes, it being summer, and some of her books and her iPod, as well as the little photo album with all her pictures of Mom.

The last night at Karen's was hell. Jane was starting to really get that Mom was gone, and Karen was trying to keep her mind off it but it wasn't working. They sat up on the couch watching bad 80s movies until three in the morning, even though Karen had to work the next day and Jane had to catch the bus at nine, and crying over the funny parts Mom used to laugh at the hardest. Karen's cat, Moose, was curled up between them, and would butt his head into one of them to try to cheer them up; it was sweet, really, but Jane remembered how much Mom had doted on Moose, and how they had helped Karen pick him out when he was a kitten, and she just couldn't take it.

She didn't get any sleep that night. The ceiling in Karen's spare bedroom had three little black dots on it, the kind that happen on ceilings sometimes, and they were placed just where Jane's peripheral vision would catch them and it would look like they were moving and she'd think they were bugs. She hadn't bothered to turn the light off; it hadn't seemed worth it, and she didn't want to be alone in the dark, even in Karen's spare bedroom where she had slept god knew how many times when Mom had to go somewhere on business. Mom had had to go on a lot of business trips, especially as Jane got older, so if she thought about something else it would almost seem like this was one of those times and Mom would be back tomorrow afternoon to pick her up from school and take her out for sushi. But no; and fuck, in Pine Hill she wouldn't even be able to get sushi by herself and remember doing it with Mom.

Moose walked in through the open door--like any self-respecting cat he had the run of the house--and jumped up onto the bed, curling up next to Jane's head and purring. Jane rolled over a little and hugged him, crying into his soft fur. She knew she was probably squeezing him too hard, but good old Moose didn't mind. He knew something was wrong.

After tonight, Jane thought, I won't even have Karen and Moose anymore.

Greyhound sucked. Jane leaned hard against the window, staring out into the rainy gloom and watching the Michigan countryside speed past. She inched a little further that way, trying to ignore the creepy middle-aged dude sitting next to her who kept asking her how old she was--or, in fact, whether she was eighteen yet--and where a pretty little thing like her was going all by herself. She didn't think it would be a good idea to punch him in the mouth, because she might get kicked off the bus, and she didn't know where she might end up if that happened or how she would then get to Grandma and Grandpa's house. Besides, this was the kind of thing that happened on the bus.

There was one stop in Grand Rapids on the way to Pine Hill, and Jane had to change buses. Thank god the middle-aged creep wasn't getting on the second bus; it wasn't even full, and she had a row to herself, which was kind of nice, not that anybody on the bus other than creepy middle-aged assholes would bother to talk to her anyway. People who weren't creepy were so worried everybody else was that they tended to keep their mouths shut.

Grandpa was waiting with a rusted-out blue Chevy pickup at the bus station when they pulled in. She recognized him from the pictures Mom had of her college graduation, but he was balder and fatter and his hair was grayer now. He waved at her, probably thinking she might not recognize him, and she shuffled over.

"Hi, Grandpa," she said.

"Hi, kiddo," said Grandpa. "You're bigger than I thought you'd be." He pulled her into an awkward hug, and she didn't say anything.

"Well," said Grandpa after a minute, "go ahead and put your stuff in the bed and we'll get going." Jane did, then climbed into the truck and fought with the stiff, stubborn seat belt.
Grandpa drove in silence for a while, through the blinking yellow light at the center of town and then right down a dirt road for a ways.

After a while he said, out of nowhere, "Your grandmother's bakin' pies back at the house--she always gets to bakin' when something bad happens. When your mother went missin' she must of baked about seven hundred chocolate chip cookies in three days."

Jane nodded. "I've heard the story."

"Course you have," said Grandpa. "Well, so you'll know your mother was out in them woods back behind the corn field, and nobody but nobody could find her no matter how much they searched."

"Yep," said Jane.

Grandpa snorted. "You ask me, them woods is haunted. I know, it ain't popular nowadays to be superstitious, but them old stories come true when your mother went missin'. We searched every inch of them woods and she wasn't in 'em, but then there she was three days later, walked right out of them woods like nothin' happened." He pulled into a driveway and up next to a little detached garage, then cut the engine. He leaned over, looking around conspiratorially as if there would have been anybody around to listen. "You know she tried to say she'd been gone for ten months?"

Jane rolled her eyes. "I've heard the story, Grandpa." Privately, she thought Mom must have been into some bad weed.

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