I do not own The Lovely Bones
Alison sat on the floor of a pink and orange colored room, placing crumpled pieces of paper into a cardboard box and old clothes in another marked 'Good Will'.
"Hey Ali!" a deep voice shouted. Alison didn't move her eyes from the messy floor as she sorted the trash from the clothes. The door behind her creaked open and a man in his mid-twenties stood in the doorway. He had bushy, knotted brown hair and a five o'clock shadow across his face. He was topless, with only black and blue plaid pajama bottoms on. He had a bag of Doritos in one hand, and a Pepsi in the other.
Alison glanced at the man, "Nice breakfast." she murmured. The man rolled his eyes, "Mom and dad just left and it would mean a lot if you could finish this up and then help me set up for the party."
"Jason do you really think it's the right thing to throw a house party the day after your little sister's funeral?" Alison asked. The man named Jason rolled his eyes, "Your way of dealing with this is to 'talk about your feelings'. Mine is to get plowed and have a good one night stand. Don't judge." he said, turning and walking away.
Alison groaned and threw a pink sweater into the Good Will box. "Typical thing; Mom and dad leave for the weekend to be with Auntie Jane and uncle Todd, leaving me with stupid Jason who acts like he doesn't care and makes me do all the work at emptying Shannon's room. This blows."
"This blows." Buckley groaned as he dug throw the pile of somewhat clean clothing next to his bed. He was on his lunch break and wanted to find a nice pair of clothes for the party that night. Sadly he was stuck in his gray Beatles t-shirt and blue jeans and could not find another clean shirt, nice enough for the party.
"I'm out of laundry soap so I can't clean any of this in time." He grumbled, tossing a dark blue button downed shirt across the room at the dirty clothes hamper. He didn't understand why he wanted to dress nice for the party. He'd never been to a house party before, or even drank a beer. How were you supposed to dress for a house party?
'Well…I might meet a girl tonight so maybe I should dress nice. But, gosh, what if by the time Nate and I get to the party all the girls are wasted and are so drunk they don't even care what I'm wearing or can't keep a steady conversation going? I shouldn't waste my time and just go like this.'
Buckley jumped off his bed and made his way down the stairs to the shop. His boss should already be there, checking the inventory and checking the family safe. And, like on cue, once Buckley walked through the screen door into the flower shop the other door behind the counter was open, and a pudgy man stood with a clipboard staring at the many shelves of frozen flowers and vases.
"Hey boss." Buckley called as he perched himself up on the stool behind the counter. "Huh?" The man grunted glancing behind him. "Oh, hello Buckley!" he called nicely over his shoulder, and then returned back to work.
"How's the family?" Buckley asked, picking up the New York Times on the counter. "Good, good. Melinda and I are going on a vacation in a few weeks so we're gonna close up the shop until we get back."
Buckley grew slightly worried when we heard this.
"Don't worry; you'll be off with pay."
Buckley's worry left him quickly as he went back to the New York Times.
"Why are you going on vacation?" Buckley asked. "Just need to get away. Get some alone time before we meet little number six." The boss laughed. Buckley half smiled. The boss was talking about his sixth grandchild. His two daughters were both married and one had three girls and the other had two boys. The one who was pregnant was the one with two boys and, wouldn't you have guessed it, she's having another boy.
"Well I hope you guys have a good time." Buckley called. The boss walked out of the other room and up to the register. He was bald, with gray eyebrows and he had a round belly and a gray beard, like Santa Claus. Funny thing is, he volunteers as Santa Claus at the mall every year at Christmas.
"Thanks Buckley. So what are your plans for tonight?"
"Going to this party with my friend Nate." He said. The boss laughed, "Oh I remember partying when I was young."
Buckley stiffened a chuckled. The man who looked like Santa…was partying?
"Enjoy it now Buckley. Have fun tonight." The boss said. Buckley nodded, "Will do boss." Buckley said, half sarcastically. After all, he was only going since his sister pointed out the other day that the way he lived made his own family question his sexuality. He needed to do something with his life. He wouldn't admit it out loud but, he might be content, but he was also slightly bored.
Hopefully that party tonight will take the boredom out of his life for a little while.
Alison finished packing up her younger sister's bedroom a few hours before the party. All the clothes were in the garage for Good Will and all the trash were over flowing the trashcans outside. The bed sheets and pillowcases were sitting in the laundry room and all the pictures and trinkets that sat on the shelves were wrapped in newspaper and stuffed in three different boxes she sent up to the attic.
The walls were too bright without all the posters and photos covering it, and the bed looked too white without its butterfly comforter on it. The dresser and shelves were empty and ghost like. Alison didn't like the feeling of the room. The only thing left she needed to do was take the orange curtains down from the windows, but that could wait until tomorrow.
She joined Jason downstairs in the living room at five o'clock. She set out the millions of coasters her mother owned on every surface she could find while Jason poured bowl after bowl of chips he had bought that day for the guests. A cooler of beer sat in the kitchen, and he had also bought pacts of Pepsi for all the "squares" who didn't want to drink.
"I really don't agree with this Jay." Alison said as she tried stuffing a bag of ice into the freezer. "I don't really care. If you don't want to stay, leave. I have no problem with it." Jason said boringly as he searched the phone book for a pizza place.
"You know I can't, Jason. Someone has to be the sober supervisor at this stupid party." She said matter-of-factly. "I need to make sure nothing gets broken and no one goes into mom and dad's room or Shannon's."
Jason rolled his eyes, "You're such a square!"
"And you're a sixteen year old trapped in a twenty-five year olds body, who still lives at home with his parents and works at a Car Shop." Alison retorted.
"You still live here too, miss college drop out."
Alison groaned, "I didn't drop out! I simply choose not to go back for my last two years because I knew mom and dad couldn't afford my education and Shannon's hospital bills. I really don't mind working at the mall Toy Store than doing something a bit more…worthwhile."
"Liar's go straight to hell, no stops. Remember that when you're getting third degree burns to your pretty little face." Jason said matter-of-factly as he took three bowls into the living room.
Alison rolled her eyes. Jason always needed the last word.
The doorbell rang and Alison quickly shoved the last of the frozen treats into the fridge. Jason put an AC/DC CD in the stereo and quickly opened the door, letting in a group of guys, all cheering and carrying in six pacts of beer.
Alison rolled her eyes as she leaned against the door frame into the kitchen. Tonight was going to be a long night.
As AC/DC blared on the stereo, more and more people walked through the open front door. Soon, the whole living room was full but more people kept walking in. People were crowding into the kitchen, and the downstairs' den. Alison watched the party grow from the second level, sitting behind the railing of the stairs and making sure no one made their way up.
She never talked to anyone in Norristown, since she had either been away at college or visiting with her sister at the hospital. She never saw a reason to get to know anyone in the town. From looking at all the people at the party, she figured her brother knew a lot of people in Norristown. But she felt slightly surprised when a familiar face walked through the front door with another group of people.
Buckley stuffed his hands deep into his jeans pocket, his shoulders stiffly up and eyes staring at his shoes. He could already tell from the loud music, smell of beer and smoke in the air that he wouldn't like the party.
Nate stood next to him, grinning ear to ear. He had shaggy brown hair and wore a jean jacket, black Aerosmith t-shirt and jeans. His left hand held a six pack of beer, and he wrapped an arm around Buckley and shook him, "This is gonna rock! Don't you think so Buck?" he asked excitedly.
Buckley nodded, shrugging his friend's arm off his shoulder. Nate handed the six pack to Buckley, "Bring that to the kitchen, will ya? I gotta find Jay and tell him this party rocks."
Buckley nodded and Nate quickly pushed past the crowd and disappeared. Buckley sighed, and looked in all directions to find the kitchen. He had no idea he was being watched from the second level.
Buckley mumbled 'excuse me' as he made his way right off the front door, and into the yellow and white kitchen. He averted his eyes when he saw a girl sitting on the kitchen counter in a very see through tank top, making out with a guy who held a beer in his hand. The rest of the kitchen was filled with people devouring pizza that had been delivered a half hour before Nate and Buckley arrived or grabbing beers out of the cooler.
Before Buckley could walk to the other side of the kitchen to put the beer in the cooler, a buff looking guy grabbed them out of his hand and shouted, "Beer!" and cheers evoked throughout the kitchen. He dropped four beers into the open cooler and took two for himself, then disappeared past Buckley and into the living room.
'If this is what college parties were like, I'm glad I never went.' Buckley thought solemnly. He glanced around the room to see if there was anyone sober enough he could have a good conversation with. Sadly, it appeared everyone was busy dancing or drinking to talk.
Buckley sighed and walked over to the cooler. Luck for him, he spotted some Pepsi buried under the ice water and beer. He reached in and pulled one out, then quickly exited the kitchen just as a crowd walked in. He missed Alison, who walked into the kitchen with the group, looking for Buckley.
She groaned as she looked around and didn't see the blonde haired boy she met the day before. "I must have just missed him." she mumbled, turning on her heal and walking back out of the kitchen.
Buckley walked past Nate, who was toasting a beer to a guy Buckley thought was Jay, the host of the party. He walked past the staircase upstairs and found a staircase downstairs. He followed the stairs, and held a hand over his nose and mouth as he walked into a cloud of smoke.
If he squinted his eyes, he could see a group sitting on two different couches, eyes glazed over; passing around what Buckley believed was a joint.
Buckley quickly went back upstairs, hoping he wouldn't get a contact high from being down there for a full ten seconds.
He walked to the staircase leading up to the second level and followed those stairs. Hopefully no one was up there doing anything he didn't want any part of. As he stepped up the stairs, his thought from the day before were answered. Along the wall was family photos, and in one of the photos was a slightly younger version of the girl, Alison, he met yesterday.
He noticed a photo of Alison and her brother and in the middle of them was a younger girl, with light brown hair that reached to her ears and freckles stretching across her pointed nose. She had bright green eyes that almost matched Alison's and her brother's.
He stepped up the last few stairs and onto the second level. He sipped at his soda as he looked at every last photo hanging on the wall. As he walked he noticed the pictures of Alison's younger sister never showed her when she was sick. In fact, all photos of her grew younger and younger. It seemed it never showed pictures of Alison's sister in her teen years or her late childhood.
He glanced over the banister at the party below him. It didn't seem like anyone could move anymore, they were all so close. The front door was now closed, and Aerosmith now played on the speakers. Time seemed to be lost once you entered this house. Buckley hadn't even noticed when the AC/DC CD's had run out and they switched to Aerosmith.
He continued down the hall, passing closed door after closed door. As he reached the end of the hallway he was faced with a door. He didn't know what had overtook him, but he felt like peace and quiet was behind the door in front of him.
He reached against the cold doorknob and walked in.
The pink and orange walls looked gray against the darkness. Buckley kept the door cracked as he walked over to the windows and drew back the curtains to let in the moon light.
The room was bare, with nothing but furniture and a twin mattress. It seemed like once he entered the room all the noise from the party disappeared and all he could hear…was Susie.
He knew this room belonged to Alison's dead sister. He stood in the room of a dead girl. It was different from when he'd stand in Susie's room, which was now a guest room for when Abigail Suzanna, Stephen and Sydney wanted to spend the night with Jack and Abigail.
This room still had a certain smell to it. It smelled like peaches and chocolate. When Buckley had been old enough to remember anything, the smell of Susie's room had become musty and stale. It wasn't the same. The room he was in now, it smelled fresh and like the girl had just been in the room days before.
And in the back of his mind, he could hear the whisper of his name, from a voice that he thought was Susie's. It kept calling to him, at some parts it sounded happy, another it sounded scared and worried, and another angry. All the different emotions of her voice when she called his name all those years before.
It tugged at his heart hearing the voice that hadn't been voiced for years. He stood in the room of a dead teenager, who was probably in Heaven. Maybe she had met Susie up there. Maybe they had become friends.
He touched the orange curtains and stared up at the moon that shinned in. He set his Pepsi can on the window sill so he could tuck his free hand in his pocket.
At the sound a real voice, he jumped and turned around to see the silhouette of someone standing in the doorway. The person closed the door shut, and once the moon light hit her face Buckley knew it was Alison.
"I thought I saw you walk in." She said, walking up to the window where he stood. He glanced at her, "You're brother seems slightly cold hearted for throwing a party after his younger sister's death."
Alison nodded, "He's just having a hard time dealing with it all. Look at my parents. They chose to leave their last two children home and traveled to New Jersey to visit my auntie and uncle. They didn't even invite us along."
Buckley nodded, trying to remember how his family dealt with Susie's death the first time it hit. Sadly, it was all too foggy for him.
"Your sister was very pretty." Buckley said. Alison chuckled, "I thought so too. She thought she was ugly every time she lost her hair. She loved wearing wigs and when she didn't have a wig, she'd insist on brushing and styling my hair, which is why it's so long. She loved it long."
Buckley felt the need to change the subject. "When are you parent's going to be back?" he asked. Alison shrugged, "A week maybe. Knowing Jason, he's probably gonna be gone every night, and I'll be stuck ordering pizza the rest of the week."
Buckley thought for a moment. "Do you like Italian food?" he asked. Alison gave him a confused look, "That's a strange question."
"Can you answer it?" Buckley asked. Alison nodded, "Yeah, my mom made it every Saturday when my sister was alive."
Buckley picked up his Pepsi, and then continued. "My mom is making spaghetti and meatballs Monday and the whole family is invited for dinner. It's like a thing in our family that we go to my parents' house every three days for dinner. You can't keep eating pizza every night so how about you come over for dinner?"
Alison was taken aback by his offer. "I just met you yesterday…" She trailed off.
"And I'm feeling generous. You should take the opportunity and say yes." Buckley shot back.
"Are you saying you're not always generous?" Alison asked. "Not to strangers, no. But I'd like to help and my mom does make pretty good spaghetti." Buckley explained. Alison shrugged, "Sure."
Buckley's lips twitched. He was slightly confused but decided to follow the twitching before Alison looked at him like he was insane. Turned out the twitching was a message from his lips that they wanted to smile.
"Do you realize some people are smoking pot?" Buckley asked. Alison nodded, "I told them to keep it in the basement but the smoke traveled to the living room. I'm gonna make everyone leave in a while. It's almost midnight and I'd like some quiet sleep."
"Midnight?" Buckley asked, shocked. Alison nodded.
Buckley rubbed his temples, "It feels like I just got her five minutes ago." He picked up his soda and took a drink, then spit in back in the can. "My soda's warm!"
"And probably flat. It's been a while since you got here Buckley. I saw you walk in at like seven."
Buckley shook his head. He needed to stop blacking out and going into la la land. He was probably standing in this room for hours before Alison found him.
"I need to go find Nate. I have work tomorrow." Buckley said, walking towards the door. "Do you work every day?" Alison asked, following him out the bedroom door.
"Not on Wednesday or Thursday. Those days I work on my garden and try to do laundry." he said, turning the banister and going down the stairs. "Good to know." Alison mumbled before bumping into Buckley when he stopped on the last step.
"Hey Buck." Nate said happily, holding a beer in his hand. Nate's eyes were slightly glazed over and Buckley could smell the alcohol on Nate's breath. Looked like Buckley was driving Nate home.
Nate glanced at Alison, then looked above him and noticed the line of closed bedroom doors on the second level. He grinned at Buckley, "Buck you sly dog, you. I didn't know you had it in ya!" he said, playfully punching Buckley in the arm.
Buckley rolled his eyes, "Yeah, sure. Whatever you say Nate. Time to get you home." he said, taking the beer out of Nate's hand and handing it to Alison. "Will you take care of that please?" he asked. She nodded. "So, on Monday do you want me to stop by the flower shop?" She asked.
Buckley nodded as he led Nate through the slightly less crowded room, "Come by around five, okay?"
Alison nodded and watched as Buckley led Nate out the front door.
Buckley got Nate back home by twelve thirty, waking up Nate's mother. She thanked Buckley and helped her son inside.
Buckley left Nate's car keys with his mother and walked down the street to his parents' house, hoping the front door was unlocked and he could crash in his old room for the night, and then his father could give him a ride to work in the morning.
As he walked he thought. It only took a few moments before he was passing "The Green House", that was now owned by a new family with five daughters. He'd never met the family that lived there, and avoided them at the block parties over the years. It wasn't their fault his sister died, but it felt weird to him to make friends with a family living in the house his sister's murderer lived in. Not to mention when he was seventeen and he and Nate were spying on the family, Buckley noticed a very large black spot in the garage. Nate said it must have been paint, but Buckley knew that blood turned black over time. He couldn't help thinking that's where Susie's body was for a moment all those years ago. That Susie was so close to them but the police and his family had just missed her. He forever since completely avoided that house, and even tried his best not to look at it.
He thought back to when he was younger, and his sister had told him he made crazy accusations of seeing Susie when he was four. Seeing her walk into his room at night and kiss him on the cheek, seeing her in different corners of the house, hearing her voice. At first Buckley thought that was just his younger self trying to cope with never seeing his big sister again, but as time grew he'd see fading images in his memories of him looking up from his bed and seeing a transparent mousey blonde haired girl kiss him and whisper a "Good Night Buckley" before disappearing. Not to mention when Lindsey and Samuel first announced their engagement, Buckley had seen Susie across the room under the old clock. He didn't know if he should call out her name or not, but before he could completely comprehend it, Susie had vanished.
As he turned the corner onto his street he felt a strange breeze, and heard the bark of a dog. Buckley loved dogs, a trait in the Salmon family. He could still remember the death of the family dog Holiday years before. He went the way any dog should; peacefully, and in his sleep. Truthfully, that's how anyone thing or person should go. His whole family cried for Holiday, but they never got a new dog. Holiday was too special to the family to ever replace. The only new dog that came into the Salmon life was the golden retriever Lindsey and Samuel had gotten their children three years earlier, that Abigail Suzanna named Oatmeal since that was her favorite food at the time.
Buckley wondered if Holiday had met up with Susie in heaven. Holiday didn't die until Buckley was ten, so Susie had been without her childhood dog for six years. He imagined Susie in a white dress and angel wings, sitting on a cloud with a halo floating over her head, picking at the cotton candy like cloud boredly. Then, suddenly, a bark is heard. Susie jumps up and holds out her arms to the golden blur that runs to her and tackles her down, dirtying the white dress. Susie laughing and crying as Holiday would lick her face and Susie hugging him. The thought brought a smile to Buckley's face. He hoped it would be like that when his father died and got to see Susie, and his mother and then Lindsey and himself: Susie waiting with Holiday for her beloved family members to arrive. Maybe she was even with Grandpa and Grandma Lynn.
When Buckley was tired and alone, he'd think in the back of his mind how he was waiting for death. How he believed the world of the dead would be better than the world of the living. He could see his long lost sister when he was dead, and his father would actually appear to be happy to him. Buckley wouldn't feel sad anymore, and he wouldn't have a slight bitter resentment towards his mother still for leaving him all those years ago. All those feelings would disappear in heaven. Lindsey would play with Susie around the clouds and they'd race with Holiday and finally Buckley would be old enough to play too. To run and jump with his big sisters, but at the same time understand what they were saying fully and talk about serious matters with both of them. Buckley held on to the hope that death would be better than his life living could ever be.
Finally, he reached his childhood home. He glanced at the garage and saw something like a movie playing. Day light and the garage door open, and the Mustang his father owned pulling out of the driveway and cutting across the yard, driven by his sister and lying pale in the backseat was his younger self.
He shook his head and climbed the steps of the house. He jimmied the doorknob and thankfully, the door was left unlocked.
He slowly walked into the house and looked around in the dark. No one seemed to be in the living room or in the kitchen. It was quiet.
He closed and locked the front door, and found his way in the dark to the staircase and up to the second level. He could hear the small snores coming from his parents' open door and he tiptoed past them and into his old bedroom.
He climbed into the bunk bed he slept in for his whole life at home, and set the old fashioned alarm clock for seven in the morning. He would only get about six hours of sleep, but hopefully he'd get to sleep on his lunch break.
He crawled under his covers and as he closed his eyes, he felt like he was four again, ready to drift into sleep land where everything was made of Legos and dinosaurs were the family pet instead of dogs. Only in this dream land, everything was black and the only light was coming from a house that looked identical to Alison's.
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