Clara’s Cross Episode 3 — The Talk
Clara’s birthday is almost over, but there’s still one more surprise left for her.
Continued from Episode 2
Clara’s eyes met those of the man watching them from across the street. It was hard to see his features in the dark, but his car was unmistakable.
“It’s fine,” she sighed to Jenn. “That’s my dad. You go inside, I’ll be in soon.”
Jenn looked confused, but luckily she saved whatever questions she had for later. She let go of Clara’s arm and hurried off towards the apartment. Clara was confused too. Her dad hadn’t been to her apartment since he helped her move in. And it wasn’t like him to drive three hours to see her without a good reason.
“Hey…” Clara began as she walked across the street to meet him. “Is everything okay? What are you doing here?”
“Hey Clara, happy birthday,” he replied with a weak smile. “Do you have a minute? There’s something I really need to talk to you about. I -uh, I had hoped you’d be able to come home for this but… yeah, here I am.” He opened the passenger door of the car as he spoke and gestured for her to get in.
“Uh, sure,” Clara replied after a moment, then got into the car and sat facing forward, her hands folded in her lap. Well I guess I know why he wanted me to come home, she thought as he closed the door and walked over to the driver’s side to get in. Why would he use my birthday as an excuse to talk to me about this, whatever it is?
What’s so important that he felt the need to use my birthday as an excuse to talk to me? Part of her felt hurt as she realized that he probably hadn’t even cared about celebrating her birthday with her, but why did she care if she didn’t even want to celebrate her birthday herself? She shook her head gently at the thought.
Clara’s dad closed the driver’s side door with unusual care, as if he were afraid to break it, then sat, also facing forward, and was silent for a minute.
“Did you have a good birthday?” he finally asked.
“Uh yeah, pretty good,” Clara looked down at her hands and examined her palms. There was no use telling him about her strange experience earlier that night. “So, uh, what did you want to talk to me about?”
Her dad exhaled deeply and brought his hand to his forehead. “Look, Clara, I know that you and I haven’t always… well things have been really tough since we lost your mom and I don’t always… you know... uh, handle things as well as she would. You know she was incredible, your mom, a remarkable woman.” His expression brightened a bit as he spoke about Clara’s mom and she smiled slightly.
He sighed then continued. “Look, there are things that were always really your mom’s job to explain to you, and now with her gone, I know she’d want me to explain them and… well the thing is, I probably should’ve explained these things years ago, but it’s just not really the kind of conversation I know how to have with you. And then you moved away for school and we just… you know? But I can’t put it off any longer now.” He said the last phrase firmly, as if he needed to remind himself.
Clara’s eyes had widened in alarm as he spoke. Things mom should’ve explained to me? Not the kind of conversation he knows how to have? Oh no does he mean the TALK? Please tell me he doesn’t think his twenty-one-year-old daughter needs the talk!
“Clara, things are going to change for you now.”
“Woah woah woah,” Clara interrupted, “Dad, I appreciate the effort but I’m pretty sure I went through the changes you’re talking about a looong time ago. The ship has sailed, we really don’t need to have this conversation.”
Now his eyes widened as he realized how she had interpreted his words. “Oh… oh! No no, not that conversation, Clara. We don’t have to talk about that.”
Clara was relieved but confused. “Then… what’s this all about? What changes am I going through?”
Her dad exhaled one more time, trying to gather his resolve fully to avoid any further miscommunications. The best he could do was quickly explain, “Clara your mom had... well, abilities. Let’s call them abilities. And now since you’re her daughter then you’ll also have these abilities. Because yeah, it’s uh, a family type of thing. That’s what it is, a family thing! And so you’re twenty-one now and that’s the age that you get these abilities, so yeah… um,” he trailed off, appearing unsure of how to continue, and his mouth hung open as if he knew that once he closed it he wouldn’t have the will to keep speaking.
By now Clara’s mouth was open too, hers in disbelief. “Sorry, abilities? What? Dad, what are you talking about? I don’t remember Mom having special abilities.”
“Well that’s because she never used them until...”
“Until she did. And then she got caught up with the wrong people and...” he sighed. “Clara, your mom didn’t die in a freak accident.”
“What? What do you mean...?” Clara froze. Not a freak accident? Impossible. She had been to the crash site. She had seen her mom’s mangled car. Only a monster would have done that to her mother on purpose. She decided she had heard enough. “I have to go,” she murmured, turning to grab the door handle. But her dad grabbed her by the shoulders and turned her towards him.
“It’s okay, Clara,” he looked straight at her even as she tried to turn away to hide the tears beginning to form, “that’s not going to happen to you. You can learn from her mistakes. You don’t have to let this thing rule over you.” He said the word “thing” with what seemed to be disgust and shook his head. “You can’t change what you can do but you can choose not to use it like she did.”
“What is it, Dad?” Clara’s voice was barely a whisper. She was horrified by the idea that the thing that had gotten her mother taken from her was an ability which she was now apparently going to get.
Her dad wrapped his arms around her stiffly and pulled her in close, resting his chin on her head. She imagined that it was easier for him to say what he said next without her looking at him. “I never fully understood it. She didn’t really like to talk about it,” he said quietly. “But I’ve talked to your grandma, about it, because she had it too, and uh...” He exhaled gently then pulled away so he could look directly at her.
“Ghosts,” he said singularly. “She could see ghosts. But only ones whose lives had been taken, and only when she was around the people who had taken those lives.”
If any other person had said those words to her she may not have believed them. She might have just written it all off as a joke, including the appearance of Amber Evans. But her dad wouldn’t make that kind of a joke, and he explained it so matter-of-factly that there was no room for misunderstanding.
Clara was speechless for a moment, and when she finally opened her mouth, all that came out was a laugh, small at first but then it grew bigger and began to morph into sobbing. Tears streamed down her face as she rocked back and forth in the seat of the sedan. Her dad couldn’t have known how she’d react to this news, but he definitely was not prepared for this particular situation.
“Hey, it’s okay,” he tried to reassure her, wrapping his arms around her once more. “If you play this right, you might not even ever have to see one. You can come home and we can figure something out. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, I’ve just been so afraid.”
“It’s too late,” Clara sniffled.
“No it’s not too late, of course it’s not too late,” his arms tightened. “I’m so sorry, Clara. I’m so sorry I haven’t been there for you the way I should have, but I’m here now. I’m not going to lose you, too.”
“No but Dad, it’s too late, I’ve already seen a ghost.” Clara’s doubts about her earlier encounter were completely gone. Amber had been real, the whole thing had been real.
Her dad jerked himself away in surprise. “A ghost? Where?!” Clara was thrown off by the sudden shift in his demeanor. She couldn’t remember ever seeing him like this. His soft voice had taken on a harsher tone and his normally muted expression had contorted into a combination of anger, fear, and urgency.
“At this party earlier I — ”
“How’d you know it was a ghost?” he interrupted.
“I recognized her — ”
“Her? Was it a girl from your classes? Are you sure she wasn’t just a normal girl?”
“Sorry,” he apologized. “Tell me.” He shut his mouth firmly and furrowed his eyebrows, waiting for her to continue.
“It was this girl, Amber,” Clara pictured Amber’s haunting brown eyes as she spoke. “I knew she was dead because it’s been all over the news. I was just at her memorial earlier today. At first I thought I must have imagined seeing her but then she came and talked to me — ”
“Wait what? You talked to her? Clara, why would you do that?” His newfound tone had resurfaced.
“What do you mean why would I do that? It’s not like I wanted to, she just realized I could see her and she needed my help!” Clara was starting to get angry. It wasn’t her fault that Amber had approached her. Maybe if he had warned her sooner she could have been prepared for the situation.
“Help? What help? Clara you can’t get involved with these things it’ll only put you in danger — ”
“These things? She’s not a thing, she’s a person. And she just wanted me to help the police find the guy who killed her…” Clara trailed off as she remembered Amber’s request. She had to tell the police what she knew.
“Clara, listen,” her dad grabbed her hand gently. “You can’t tell anyone what you saw or what you know.” Clara opened her mouth to protest but he squeezed her hand tightly and quickly continued, “I get it, you can relate with her, she was a college student just like you. But now it’s too late for her. If you tell anyone about this you’ll only be putting yourself in danger. Please, Clara, just let the police do their job and keep this all to yourself, I can’t lose you, too.” By now his grip on her was like a vise.
Clara’s mind was a hurricane. She hadn’t even had time to process her new abilities and now he was asking her to pretend they didn’t exist at all? Swirling through her head was the new knowledge that her mom, too, had these abilities. Not only that, but her mom’s abilities had somehow gotten her killed? In the midst of this chaos was a single certainty in the hurricane’s eye: I have to help Amber.
She pulled her hand slowly away from her dad and looked down at her feet. She could feel his eyes boring into the side of her head. “I’m sorry, Dad,” she mumbled, “but I can’t just ignore it.” She reached for the door handle before he could protest and swiftly rose from the seat.
Before leaving she leaned down to look at him one last time. “Don’t worry, I’ll be careful, I promise. And I’ll think about everything you said. I just need time.” He didn’t say a word, but nodded with a frown on his face. He could tell her mind was made up.
She turned and walked back across the street to the apartment complex and up the stairs to the second floor. She knew he was still watching her but she didn’t look back. She didn’t hesitate at all as she went into her apartment and walked straight to her room, closing the door behind her.
She didn’t bother turning on the lights, but simply went and sat in the corner of the room next to her closet. She pulled her knees to her chest and sat very still. The hurricane was pulling at her again. So she picked up her phone and looked up the number for the anonymous police tip line. Her fingers trembled as she dialed it and she hesitated before pressing the call button.
Once you call there’s no going back. What if your dad is right? For all you know, they could solve the case without you. But Clara knew she couldn’t just keep it to herself. Amber needed her help. No one would ever know it was her that called it in.
She pressed call and lifted the phone to her ear as it began to ring on the other end.
— Thanks for reading, check out Episode 4 here!—