Chapter 19 – Tara Moran
Automatic. That’s how Tara felt as she sat in the booth next to her mother.
Everyone had bags on the bus and under it. Michael had gone out first and opened the storage compartments. A few at a time, the new residents of the Midhaven Motel went to the bus, caught their breath inside, came back out to grab their suitcases and bags, and brought them to the diner. Tara had gone with her mother and Anthony. Fortunately, he hadn’t tried to talk during their brief minutes on the bus. Neither had she or her mother.
They just walked there, did what they had to do, and left.
Tara’s brain was shutting down. She hadn’t slept at all the night before, crying almost nonstop. During the brief times she was able to quiet herself, the sound of her mother’s muffled tears kept her from falling asleep. Now, with Frank giving them all of this new information, Tara felt unable to cope; and her only recourse was to put herself into automatic. Walk, stand, carry, sit. No thought—just pure autopilot.
Frank placed a chocolate shake in front of Hadley as some of the group eyed her jealously. The smell of grilled meat and fry-grease saturated the air. Tara should have been hungry, but her appetite was gone.
“Eliza’s in the kitchen, making some cheeseburgers and fries for you all,” he said when he turned around. “I’d take some special orders, but that would take more time. I’m sure most of you are getting hungry and impatient to hear everything else.” He glanced at Carter and waited for a moment. When no one objected, he grabbed some cups from under the bar and started pouring soda from the fountain.
Two-by-two, Frank passed out the sodas. After he had given one to Carter and Aubree, Carter spoke up.
“If you can answer one thing before we eat,” he started, his face as rigid as ever. Frank looked over his shoulder as he went for more drinks.
“What’s that, Sgt. Townes?”
“You said a psychic brought us here,” Carter said. “Does that mean there’s someone here who can read our minds?”
Frank chuckled. “No. A psychic isn’t someone who can hear your thoughts or control things with their minds.” He pulled the tap on the dispenser and filled another cup. “A psychic is simply someone who is more in-tune with the vibrations around us. Call it empathy or intuition, we all have a little bit of it. You get a bad feeling about a person or a place for no reason, you think of someone and they call, you know that someone you love is hurting without knowing why… We all have times like that.” He gave the last two sodas to Anthony and Seth and walked back to the bar. “A psychic is just someone whose ability to do that is amplified. They can connect with the unseen better than we can.”
“Who was the psychic that brought you here,” Michael asked.
“That would be me,” Eliza said as she emerged from the kitchen carrying four plates.
“Now, let’s all focus on our food before we starve to death.” She walked over to Rachel and Hadley and gave them two before giving the other two to Alexandra and Tara.
As Eliza set the plate in front of Tara, she blinked in and out, sending Tara back to the night before—to the black hands that had wrapped around her father and the utter desperation as she pulled against the inevitable. She could still feel her father’s leg slipping through her fingers. She could still see the tears in his eyes—those eyes she had always looked to for comfort and strength—as he spoke his last words.
“Take care of Tara!”
A small hand rested on Tara’s wrist, yanking her from the memory. It was Hadley’s. Eliza had already gone and was handing out plates to the others.
“I’m sorry about your daddy,” the little girl said, and the lump in Tara’s throat jumped up. She wanted to be strong for Hadley, but how could she when she was on the verge of breaking down?
“We’re fine,” her mother’s voice broke in. “Now, please go back to your aunt.” Her face was unsympathetic, even cold. Tara turned to Hadley and saw the hurt before her head lowered. Tara put her hand on the little girl’s.
“Thank you, sweetie.” Hadley turned and walked away. “What was that,” she demanded of her mother, keeping her voice quiet but stern.
“I don’t trust that girl or her aunt,” her mother shot back, also whispering. “And, we don’t need her sympathy.”
“This isn’t their fault.”
“We’ll talk about this later,” her mother said and turned her attention to her food.
Why was her mother being so hostile? Why couldn’t she see the innocence Tara saw?
Nobody talked while they ate, everyone too hungry to think about anything else. Everyone except Tara. She barely swallowed two bites before she gave up on the burger and only nibbled on a few fries here and there. Her father would tell her to eat, that she needed to stay strong. But, how could she? How could she force anything into her stomach when it was full of so much pain?
Somehow, her mother was able to, though. She devoured her meal, a scowl on her face the entire time. It was almost as if her anger at Rachel, Hadley, and even Michael—she had shot a few hateful glances his way as she ate—overrode her sadness and she was eating in spite of them. Maybe it was her way of dealing with their loss. Whatever it was, it wasn’t anything like the woman Tara was raised by.
One by one, the plates slid across the tables, everyone finishing their meals. As soon Frank pushed his away, Carter spoke up.
“Can you tell us about this place now,” he asked to Frank, apparently losing his patience.
“Of course, Sgt. Townes,” Frank said as he wiped a napkin over his mouth. He stood and looked at the group. “Has anyone ever heard of the lost town of Midhaven, Kansas?”