Teen & Young Adult

Healing Hands

Tiffany Dunlap

High school senior Dallas Ryder has it all. Then she loses everything, not once, but twice. Her wonderful family and friends do all they can to help her, but she retreats into herself, a shell of the person she was. Dallas will heal when she is ready, not when they say she should.

Age Rating: 18+ (Assault, Domestic Violence, Rape, Self-Harm, Sexual Assault/Abuse)

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Healing Hands - Book cover
Teen & Young Adult

Healing Hands

Tiffany Dunlap

High school senior Dallas Ryder has it all. Then she loses everything, not once, but twice. Her wonderful family and friends do all they can to help her, but she retreats into herself, a shell of the person she was. Dallas will heal when she is ready, not when they say she should.

Age Rating: 18+ (Assault, Domestic Violence, Rape, Self-Harm, Sexual Assault/Abuse)

1: Chapter 1 | Goodbye

DALLAS

My sapphire eyes gloss over as I watch the funeral home employees lower my mother’s wooden casket into the ground.

This will be the last time I ever see her.

I look across the way and into the dull-gray eyes of my twin brother, Liam. He is standing next to our grandmother, gently holding onto her hand for comfort as she softly cries.

I lean into the side of my father, and his arm goes protectively around me.

The yellow sun is shining rays of gold happily in the sky. Ironic on such a sad day, wouldn’t you agree? It was raining earlier this morning. The umbrella I was holding sits behind me on the ground.

I use the end of my sleeve to wipe a stray tear from my cheek. My black jacket keeps me comfortable in the chilly November air.

My mother hated the color black. She always used to say, “Why would anyone want to dress in something that has no color? Do they want to walk around looking lifeless all day?”

That is why I made sure to dress her in her favorite red dress. She wore it to every anniversary dinner with Dad and every dinner party with all of her closest friends.

I called the funeral home stylist and made sure she knew how to curl Mom’s hair the way she always used to curl it. Her long blonde locks were always perfectly curled, even when she was only lounging around at home.

I smile at how much I differ from my mom. She never wanted to look anything but her best, no matter where she was.

I, on the other hand, am happy in sweatpants and long T-shirts. As opposed to my mom, my hair is almost always in a messy bun, and I sometimes enjoy watching football with Liam, whereas she hated the sport.

I wish I could say that I am older and that we are burying my mom after she has lived a long and happy life, but if I did, I would be lying.

Sure, her life was always happy—she made sure of that. But long? Well, that would be a definite no.

A few weeks ago, she became very sick, very fast. The cool autumn air must have been poison to her, because she caught the flu, which eventually spread into her lungs, causing pneumonia.

Between the respiratory infection and the fluid that built up in her lungs, her body finally gave in, and she lost the battle.

It still shocked me that something as simple as the common cold could have turned into something so destructive, so fast.

Luckily, we were all right here when it happened. And now we are on Thanksgiving break from school.

Ironically, today is Thanksgiving, and the only thing I am thankful for is that my mom is no longer suffering.

On this day last year, Mom and Dad were in the kitchen slaving away to create our huge Thanksgiving dinner.

I remember Dad accidentally burned the turkey, so Mom placed deli turkey slices on a plate to serve. Thank God we had an actual ham that Dad didn’t burn.

I’m taken away from my thoughts when the announcer dismisses everyone. This is it. My mother’s funeral is over. Her life is over. A piece of my life will now forever be over.

“Sweetie, are you ready to go?” my dad softly asks while pulling away to look at me.

“Yeah, I just want to leave this here,” I say, looking down at the white rose resting in my hand.

Red seemed too predictable, so I went with white. I felt as though Mom would appreciate it more, because she was never a fan of clichés.

I step toward her newly placed gravestone, and carefully place the rose on the ground in front of it.

I can still hear her voice inside of my head. “I love you, Dallas, to infinity and beyond.”

I wipe another tear from my cheek as I adjust my black beanie.

“To infinity and beyond, Mom,” I whisper so only I can hear.

I suddenly feel a hand on my shoulder, and I know exactly who it belongs to.

“To infinity and beyond,” Liam says quietly, and I look up at his soft smile.

I turn and hug my brother tightly. He’s only an inch or two taller than me, but he still gives the best hugs known to man.

“Let’s get going, sis. Grandma wants to come home with us and cook us a Thanksgiving dinner,” Liam says while we both walk away from our mom, though I’m hesitant at first.

Once we both reach our car service, I turn to face Grandma.

“Grandma, you don’t have to cook us a big dinner. Not today.” I shake my head. “We can pick up some take out or order a pizza.”

“Nonsense! Your mother would not stand for anything less than a nice turkey dinner on Thanksgiving,” she replied forcefully.

“Does said dinner include your deviled eggs?” Liam suddenly asks, and I jab my elbow into his side, causing him to grunt in pain.

“Well of course, dear, it wouldn’t be a proper Thanksgiving dinner without deviled eggs.” Grandma smiles warmly. “Let’s get going while it’s still early!”

Liam smiles as we all shuffle into the car, and start to head back home. I watch out of the window and stare directly at mom’s grave until we can no longer see the cemetery.

Goodbye, Mom. Happy Thanksgiving.

***

“I can’t believe you farted during the ceremony,” Lexi snorts while looking at Liam from across my bedroom.

“It wasn’t intentional,” Liam mumbles with a frown.

“I was silently praying he wouldn’t start laughing,” I admit while twirling in my computer chair.

Liam is sitting on my green beanbag, scrolling through his phone, and Lexi is lying across my bed on her stomach with her feet crossed in the air.

We had dinner a little bit ago, so I called Lexi to come over to keep us company while Grandma and Dad cleaned up the kitchen. Liam and I offered to help, but they waved us away.

“I wish I could have been there with you guys.” Lexi frowns.

“Don’t worry about it, Lex. It’s Thanksgiving and you had to be with your family. Mom knows how much you loved her.” I smile, though it never fully reaches my eyes.

It’s going to take some time to get used to speaking about Mom in the past tense.

I keep itching to run across the hallway and into her bedroom, to see her sitting at her makeup table applying her red lipstick. I suppose it hasn’t yet sunk in how real this is.

“Well, the next time you want to go visit her, please take me with you. I want to give her a proper goodbye.”

“Will do.” I nod.

“So, want to do anything tomorrow since it’s the last day of Thanksgiving break?” Lexi asks, trying hard to get our minds off everything that’s happened.

“Honestly, I just want to relax over the weekend. School starts back again Monday, and I still have some homework I haven’t even started,” I say, though I know I probably won’t even do the homework.

“Aw, okay. Maybe next weekend.” Lexi smiles, and I nod before standing up.

“I’m going to go take a shower. We can watch a movie when I’m done,” I say and she nods at me before pulling out her phone.

“I swear you’re addicted,” I laugh as I hear the familiar sound of Candy Crush coming from her phone.

“Don’t hate.” She smirks.

“I found a food version of that game. Forget candy, I get to crush hamburgers,” Liam proudly announces. Both Lexi and I roll our eyes before I disappear into my bathroom and lock the door.

I start the water and as I wait for it to heat up, I sit on top of the sink and stare at the tile floor.

The sound of the running water is soothing.

Once I see steam coming out from behind the shower curtain, I stand up and peel my jacket from my cold arms. I unzip my red dress and allow it to fall to the floor in one swift motion.

I unclasp my bra and step out of my underwear, before pushing the curtain back and stepping into the sizzling-hot water.

My long blonde hair becomes heavy on my back as I stand under the stream of water.

I slowly pick up my bottle of shampoo, and as soon as I open it and squeeze some into my hand, I’m sobbing, with fresh tears flowing down my face.

My mom and I used the same shampoo and conditioner. We found a brand that works best for our long thick hair, and have been using it ever since.

The sweet smell of vanilla honey sends shivers down my spine, despite the hot water raining against my skin.

I suppose Liam and Lexi could hear me sobbing from outside of the bathroom, because I heard a soft knock on the door.

“You okay, Dal?” Liam softly asks, but loud enough so I can hear it through the door.

“I’m fine,” I manage to say, though I know he doesn’t believe that for a second.

He doesn’t respond, so I finish with my shower and get out to dry.

After drying my body, I wrap my hair up in my towel and then I grab my robe from behind the bathroom door and put it on.

When I walk out into my bedroom, Liam is gone.

Lexi sends me a glance, but I just give her a small smile before walking over to my walk-in closet.

I pull the closet door shut enough so that Lexi can’t see me as I change into my night clothes. I pull on a simple pair of gray sweatpants, and then I find a red tank top. I walk out of the closet and Lexi gives me a look.

“What?” I raise a brow.

“Do you ever wear anything other than sweatpants?” she teases.

“Yes. Just not often.” I shrug. “Besides, once school starts, I’ll have to actually wear clothes, so I’m basking in the joy of sweatpants while I still can,” I explain dramatically.

Lexi shakes her head. “You’re something else.”

I freeze for a second, before picking up my hairbrush. I start to work the brush through my tangled hair, while I become lost in thought again.

“But Mommy, I want to go down the slide!” I whined.

“So go down the slide, sweetie.” She smiled down at me.

“I can’t.” I pouted while crossing my small arms.

“And why is that?”

“Liam won’t go with me.” I frowned.

I looked over at Liam just as he finished picking his nose.

“Ew!” I gasped.

“You two are something else.” My mom sighed while tossing a potato chip into her mouth.

“Hey, are you okay, Dallas?” Lexi snaps me from my thoughts as I finish brushing my hair. I let it sit against my back to air dry.

“Yeah, sorry. Just zoned out a little.” I sheepishly smile. “What movie do you want to watch?”

Lexi gives me a worried look, before quickly masking it with a smile of her own. “Should we start with some comedy, or perhaps a little romance?” She eyes me wickedly.

“Hm, comedy,” I simply answer. “That’s all I’m in the mood for right now. I need to laugh,” I admit.

“Of course.” Lexi smiles before picking out a few comedy DVDs from my large collection on the shelf beside my desk.

As if on cue, Liam walks into my room with a big bowl of popcorn and another big bowl of potato chips. He’s also juggling three soda cans and what looks to be some type of chocolate.

“Will this work?” he asks as I’m already reaching for the popcorn bowl.

“You know us so well.” I smirk.

“Why thank you, kind sir.” Lexi cheerfully smiles while taking some of the chocolate.

The three of us settle in front of my flat-screen TV on the floor and prepare for a lengthy movie-night marathon.

Lexi is to my right, and Liam is to my left.

I feel safe in the middle of my two favorite people.

I’m going to need them both now more than ever.

And soon I’ll know why.

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