“What?!?” Alyssa McCann demanded angrily. She stood in the middle of the living room staring at her father in disbelief. Moments later, Alyssa found herself running from the room, not sure whether she was about to cry or start screaming. She knew she felt something bubbling to the surface and wanted to head for the safety and sanctuary of her bedroom before the flood gates let loose unleashing a raging torrent on her father.
She had just heard what could quite possibly be the second worst news she had ever heard in her life. The worst news she had ever heard was still hearing that her mother had passed away after being diagnosed with cancer but this was a close second.
Roger McCann stood in the centre of the living room, watching his daughter as she dashed up the stairs.
“That went better than expected,” He muttered under his breath. Feeling his shoulders begin to droop, he found himself slumping onto the couch. It seemed as if his legs had just given out on him along with his resolve.
He had known when he sat Alyssa down that her reaction to this particular piece of news would not be good. He knew she would not respond with a perky “Wow! That is awesome news Daddy! When do we move?”
The moment Roger, who had prepared himself for a literal war of words with his daughter, had seen the hurt look in her eyes; he knew how badly the news had affected her.
He sat on the couch, mentally reviewing all the options available to them. Sadly, it did not take long at all as their options were limited.
Roger wished he could find another way out of the mess he now found himself in. But as his father often told him “Wishing is useless without a plan.” And so far the plan had not gone over well with Alyssa.
There were so many things Roger had wanted to say to Alyssa, to explain to her that life is not always what you want it to be. IN fact. Life rarely ever turns out quite the way you expect; the complete opposite in most cases.
He knew he had sheltered her as much as he could from the unfairness of life. IN retrospect, maybe he had tried too hard to make life easier on her but; after her mother had passed away he wanted to protect her as much as he was able.
He hoped that she knew that if he had more say in the matter, they would never have to move away from their home. But, lately when it came to his own life he was just a spectator. He did not like the idea of moving anymore than she did but with his job gone and no money coming in there was no way they could afford to keep the house
The door flew open and Alyssa flew into her room, slamming the door behind her. She threw herself onto her bed just as the tears started flowing. Feeling the hot wet tears streaming down her cheek, she brushed them away with the sleeve of her shirt.
Deep down inside, Alyssa realized she was just making the situation harder on her father and herself by reacting the way she had to her father's news. It had been all too much for her.
She had always considered herself to be a very adaptable person but then again her life had not been turned upside down all that much in her fourteen years. True, her mother had passed away just after she had turned seven but she had not really realized what was happening. She knew that her mother was sick and she knew that her mother had gone away and was not coming back but it really did not sink in for her until after the funeral that her mother really was not coming back – ever.
Alyssa lay curled up on her bed, her knees pulled tightly to her chest. The tears now flowed freely.
“Why is this happening to me?” She asked herself.
As soon as she thought it, another though popped into her mind. It was not happening to her and her alone. It was happening to both of them.
Her father had just lost his job. The powers that be in their infinite wisdom in all things business related had decided they did not need four people in her father’s department. Why had four people on salary when you could have three doing the work of four?
And now in a few weeks - fifteen days to be exact - Alyssa and her father would be moving away from the only home she had ever known. This house held so many memories for her.
Alyssa rolled over in her bed. She looked at her dresser, dominated by a large collection of framed pictures. She smiled sadly when she saw the picture of her and her mother. It had been taken the last time they had gone down to California to visit her Aunt Michelle.
That trip was the last one they had taken as a family before her mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away.
The real reason Alyssa felt so freaked out by moving away began to bubble to the surface. She rose from her bed and walked over to the dresser. She picked up the photograph of her mother, cradling it to her chest as a young child might hold a teddy bear.
Deep down, Alyssa was fully aware that there was nothing she could do to stop this from happening. It did not matter how much of a fuss she kicked up. It did not matter how much she begged and pleaded with her father. At the end of the month, they would be moving away.
Maybe if her life were some sort of fairy tale, everything would come together in the end. As of yet, she had no indication that her life was a fairy tale. Happily ever after was just a plot device designed to give the readers the warm fuzzies at the end of a book. Happily ever after was not something real.
Her father was not going to somehow miraculously win the lottery and Alyssa was more than one hundred percent sure they were not going to hit the mother lode or find an oil deposit in their backyard.
They were going to move away. To Alyssa, moving away meant more than moving away from the house. They would also be leaving behind lifetime of memories. She would be leaving behind all the memories of her mother.
Alyssa’s hand passed over a stuffed bear in a cheerleading suit as she reached behind it and picked up another picture.
IN the picture, there were three girls, Alyssa and her two best friends Bergie and Carla. They were all dressed in matching uniforms in the same colours as that of the bear sitting on her dresser.
Alyssa had been friends with both Bergie and Carla for most of her life. She had no idea what she would do if they were not in her life or if she never saw them again.
Alyssa and Bergie had been friends for as long as she could remember. Their mothers had been friends since high school. They had been born within days of each other. When they started kindergarten, they met Carla and from then on the three were inseparable.
One of the things they shared a passion for was cheer-leading. They had all managed to get onto the Junior High Squad together. When they found out that Alyssa had been offered a spot on the Junior Varsity squad in the fall, Bergie and Carla started preparing for try-outs so that they could all cheer together in high school, continuing the tradition.
If they did not make it onto the squad they still had the All-Star squad they were all members of. An All Star squad is a cheer leading squad that is not associated with a school. The main aim is not to cheer for a team but to get out there are perform, cheer to the best of your ability. A school team may or may not compete in cheer leading competitions but an All Star team lives for the competition.
Thinking about the Junior Varsity squad, Alyssa came to a sudden realization, making her life feel as if it were truly about to fall part. This fall, she would be starting high school at a new school. A school where she would not know one single person. A school where she would have no friends what so ever. And to make matters even worse, starting at a new school also meant she would be losing her spot on the junior Varsity Squad.
“I think I'm gonna be sick,” Alyssa muttered to herself.
She thought about all those long hours she spent perfecting her gymnastic skills in order to get onto both the junior high squad and the All-Star squad and felt as if she could burst into tears. Alyssa had been looking forward to when school started up in the fall and getting back to cheer leading
Alyssa felt the need to vent. So she picked up the phone and dialled.
"What do you mean you’re moving?!? Since when? I've seen you like everyday over the summer and you didn't say anything about moving then." Birgitta said in utter disbelief after Alyssa had finished telling her the bad news.
"I know Bergie!" Alyssa let out a deep breath. She wondered what else could happen to go wrong in her life. These things always come in threes didn't they?
"I just found out myself. I really don't know what to do. Daddy lost his job and now we have to move all the way across the country to live with my Aunt Michelle in Poway, California.”
"Poway? What the hell is out in Poway?"
"Other than my Aunt Michelle? Pretty much nothing. Poway is totally the boondocks of San Diego and you know how Cool San Diego is?" Alyssa grumbled sarcastically.
Neither Alyssa nor Bergie knew what to say other than to express how sad they both felt about losing a friend. Having a friend move away can be hard to deal with and it is especially hard when a friend you have known since you were both in diapers is suddenly not there anymore.
They promised that no matter what, they would try to stay in touch but the sad fact of the matter is that over time people lose contact with each other, especially when one of them is living all the way across on the other end of the continent.
“I know what will cheer you up, Alyssa – a sleep over!”
Over the years, Alyssa and Bergie had lost count on how many sleep-over’s they had. Bergie decided that a sleep over was the best way to send Alyssa off in style.
A Sleep over is always fun but at the same time she knew if they had a sleep over, it would be the last sleep over. They would be saying good bye and she was not sure if she was ready to say good bye yet.
“I won't take no for an answer, McCann. You know me, I always get my way. We're having a sleep over and you are gonna like it missy.”
Alyssa laughed. “Okay, Okay.”
For as long as Alyssa could remember, Bergie's house was the place for sleep-over’s. Usually they would watch cheesy horror movies, eat ungodly amounts of junk food while giving each other spa treatments and talk about pretty much everything that was going on in their lives.
Bergie knew the name of the boy Alyssa had a huge crush on since the second grade but was way too shy to speak to him. Bergie had been a front row witness to the disaster that was Alyssa's one and only attempt at talking to him. She made herself so nervous that she had tried to tell him she liked him and ended up throwing up on him instead.
Alyssa was the only one of their friends who knew about how Bergie's father was in and out of rehab. All of Bergie's other friends thought that he went on a lot of business trips. He used to back in the day but due to his downward spiral, he had lost his job.
When you have friends that you are very close to, you don't feel ashamed when they find things out about you. With friends like that, you can tell them things you would not want anyone else in the whole world to know because you know that no matter what, they will always love you and never judge you.
After making a quick pit stop at the super market to pick up some of the usual party necessities – chips and super sugary pop drinks. Alyssa followed Bergie up the stairs to her room for their last sleep over.
When Alyssa stepped into the darkened room, she reached in through the darkness and found the light switch. As she flipped the light switch, Alyssa thought it was weird that there we’re no lights on in Bergie's room. Bergie almost always had the lights in her room on.
"SURPRISE!!!!" A chorus of voices shouted, sending Alyssa reeling from the shock. When her eyes had adjusted to the sudden flood of light, she looked around and saw all the girls from their Junior High Squad waiting for her in Bergie's room.
“I hope you don't mind. After I got off the phone with you I called all the girls and told them to hike it over to my place. Since when does it take me half an hour to get to your place?” Bergie said.
Alyssa felt shocked, happy and sad all rolled into one. She felt shocked the team had actually managed to plan a sleep over of this magnitude without letting her in on it. Maybe Bergie could keep a secret after all.
Alyssa also felt happy they had gone through the trouble of throwing her a party. At the same time, that happiness had a twinge of sadness attached to it. This was a going away party after all.
Alyssa looked around at the smiling faces in the room. She thought to herself that this might be the last time she saw many of them ever again. Rather than being sad about it, she made a resolution right there and then. She would try her hardest to keep in contact.
“Thank god for the internet,” She said to Bergie who helped her to make a list of everyone's e-mail addresses and Instant Messenger handles.
Carla, of course, had made one of her famous lists and had it framed it as a going away present for Alyssa. One of Carla's quirks was she was forever making lists such as 'Ten ways to Tell if You are Insane' or 'One Hundred ways to tell if you are a Cheer leader.'
Alyssa smiled when she saw the title of the list that Carla had made for her – 'One Hundred Reasons Why We Will All Miss Alyssa.'
As she read through the hundred reasons, Alyssa could not help but laugh.
“Who else is going to whip us into shape? Nobody cracks a whip like Alyssa” was one of her favourites. It referred to last summer at cheer camp when they had performed a skit where Alyssa played a combination drill sergeant and Cheer Coach. Everyone had laughed when she began barking out their choreography as if the girls on her squad were a platoon going through basic training in a weird cheer leading Boot camp.
“The way she eats noodles like you do not really care what anyone thinks of her” made Alyssa laugh. Everyone knew that though she tried to eat daintily, she somehow managed to turn the eating of spaghetti into a full contact sport.
The very last reason almost brought Alyssa to tears.
“The fact that there is nobody else in the world like you and nobody will ever come close.”
Alyssa hugged Carla. “Thank you. This is the nicest present anyone had ever given to me.”
“Darn time warps.” Alyssa thought to herself as she thought back to the sleep over. Alyssa had no idea what happened to the last two and a half weeks since that night. It felt as if time had somehow sped up
Now as she lay in her bed, she gazed around at the bare walls of her room. Now that all of her furniture and clothes had been packed up, her room seemed so huge now with just the bed occupying it.
Alyssa realized this was the last night she would sleep in her own bed, in her own house. She wished that she had some more time but the fact that all of her belongings were now packed away in boxes and loaded onto a truck that would be arriving at her aunt’s house well before they did acted as a reminder of how little time remained.
The one thing that she refused to pack away was her diary. She placed it in her backpack along with her toothbrush, floss and hairbrush.
Alyssa had become accustomed to writing in her diary every night. With the stress from the upcoming move, she had so many things going on in her head. Tonight especially, her mind seemed to be reeling. She knew that if she did not process her feelings, she would not sleep at all that night and if Alyssa did not get a full ten hours of sleep a night, she was completely useless the next day.
For her seventh birthday, Alyssa's mother had given her a diary. She told Alyssa the diary was for her to write down all of her thoughts and feelings.
After her mother had passed away, a few months later, that diary had really come in handy. Alyssa had so many conflicting emotions all jumbled together. Writing down how she felt about her mother's death helped her to keep focus on her life and sort out her emotions.
She remembered her father being a total wreck after her mother had passed away and she had no one to talk to about how she was feeling. Bergie and Carla had tried to be there for her but neither of them had lost a parent. Bergie had felt sad when her dog Scout had passed away the summer before but it (had been) not the same.
Grieving over the death of a loved one is something that no seven year old girl should be an expert on.
"Dear Mommy," Alyssa wrote across the top of the page.
She knew that starting her diary entries like this might look a little dorky to anyone who read her diary but, just after her mother had passed away, she had started addressing her diary entries as if she were writing a letter to her mother.
Her mother had told Alyssa just before she passed away, that she would be watching over her in Heaven. If she really needed to talk to her, all
she had to do was write a letter and her mother would be able to read it up in Heaven. Alyssa felt comforted thinking of her mother watching over her from heaven.
Bergie was the only friend Alyssa had who knew about how she started her diary entries. Everyone knew that Alyssa had kept a diary -
but not about that part.
"I know I should not make this situation any harder on Daddy than it already is but honestly, why couldn't he just find another job out here???”
Looking back, Alyssa often thought that her writing came across very whiny. At least if she wrote it down and processed her emotions that way,
she did not have to whine about her problems in real life.
Writing down how she felt about things was her way of dealing with things in her life – both good and bad.
Sometimes just the act of getting your problems out into the open is really all that you need. After she wrote down how she felt, she always felt better.
Sometimes after writing it all down, Alyssa would read over what she had just written and wonder why she had felt so stressed out at the time.
“Why do we have to move all the way across the country?” She continued her rant.
“Don't get me wrong, I love Aunty Michelle to death and all,
but I just don't want to leave. This is the only home I've ever known and all my friends are here. I am going to miss them so much.”
“But the thing that makes me sad about leaving is we would be leaving you behind, too. You are here, Mommy. Daddy promised me the people at the cemetery would take good care of your grave but they don't really care! I bet that they won't give you roses for your birthday or Carnations for Mother’s Day. I am really going to miss visiting and talking with you. You must feel lonely all by yourself and now I won't be able to come and visit. “
“This is the beginning of the end.” Alyssa wrote, finally allowing herself to admit that the move was now inevitable.
“I promised all my friends here that I would keep in touch with them but, they will all be busy with school and cheer leading tryouts when school starts.”
“That’s another thing!!! I had a guaranteed spot on the Junior Varsity squad. You used to help me out so much when I was little and just starting out. I still have your old yearbook with the pictures of you on your squad.
You looked so beautiful in your uniform. You know, I always wanted to be a cheerleader just like you were and now my chance is gone.”
“I was so happy when all the girls on the team decided to throw a surprise party for me. Bergie even managed NOT to let me find out about it. But it wasn't just a surprise party it was also a going away party.”
This is the end of my life here. A new chapter is starting for me. Tomorrow I will be writing to you in a different room.”
”I am really nervous about moving. But I remember what you told me to do when I (had been) nervous about something. Just close my eyes take a deep breath and take the first step. The initial freefall is the scary part right? Not really knowing what’s behind door number two.”
“And, when the initial freefall is over, just exhale, open my eyes and take a look around. I am going to try to do that. I really hope it works.