“Group” the sign read. The inviting font
of Comic Sans, as if gravitating one to join a
party. It might as well have been flashing in neon
lights, too bright to ignore. Jade walked by the
sign every day since her arrival, and, every day,
it gut punched saying, “Guess what, kid, you’re
dead.” For a second, Jade tried calculating how
long she had been here. She knew she woke up
every day, she knew she traveled the corridor
and gave the sign a side-eye as she passed. Days
became a blur trying to calculate as she fidgeted
the collar of her white cotton-blend polo.
This shirt is so uncomfortable.
She always hated wearing white, the color
susceptible to filth as she had demolished endless
times before on the lacrosse field. Why her coach
chose white jerseys, she will never understand.
Jade did her usual journey through the
corridor of the newly “welcomed” housing
complex where she had been staying since her
arrival. It reminded her of the dorms at Boston
University when she toured last summer. She
dwelled in a single ten-by-ten room with a
desk, bookshelf, and twin bed. Unlike previous
days, today she stopped at the doors. Stopped
and stared. Stood there with her wavy, copper
shoulder-length hair, olive skin, and green eyes
stuck in a trance with the sign. Named for her
green eyes like the jade stone, which means good
luck, Jade didn’t feel very lucky being here at
seventeen. A new group session began today,
but like every day before, Jade challenged her
ability to step forward into the room rather than
down the hall and outside to whatever this place
“Why do you always wait long to make decisions?”
Jade heard Pearl whisper in her psyche. Pearl
played the role of her conscience growing up,
downloading words of wisdom and caution to
keep Jade on track when her rambunctiousness
kicked in. The debate team captain would be that
way. Jade wished Pearl were here now to nudge.
I could use some wisdom right now, Pearl. Such a
gap in my heart. Please guide me.
“Thinking about giving it a try today?” a
voice introjected from behind.
Jade didn’t notice Miss Adelaide standing
there, observing her like a zoologist observes
animal behavior. It reminded her of when she
volunteered at the local zoo in middle school.
Jade said nothing. Adelaide worked as Jade’s
transitional caseworker, in charge of making
sure Jade progressed through her program.
A lovely woman of Creole decent who had a
nurturing and soft way about her, Adelaide had
been murdered in her college dorm room, fall
semester of her junior year in 1973 at LSU. Her
roommate’s ex-boyfriend sought revenge for a
nasty break up and Adelaide fell into a wrong
place, wrong time scenario. Her story shocked
the community and the news deemed her the
“roommate who suffered someone else’s fate.”
She went through the same program as Jade, but
when given the choice to cross over or stay and
help the newly entered, Adelaide stayed to help
others pass through. Adelaide had a positive
reputation among staff and participants.
How good could she be? I’m still here.
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Some color to my room would be fabulous.
The whole gray scale theme is so tired. Even the
desk and bed frame are gray. The only color that
pops in it is my hair.”
“The color scheme is meant to keep you
“Blue keeps me calm. So does green. Are all
the rooms this way?”
“Unfortunately, yes. We like to keep a
“What a shame.”
Adelaide shook her head and snickered.
“On a serious note. Are you going to give it
a shot today?”
The words burned Jade’s brain. “It’s been
too long. You’re not leaving me with many case
notes on your progress.”
Why does she even need to keep case notes? That
and why is there even protocol implemented in the
first place? Jade was surprised by the aspects
of this place. Delightful yet cold. Somber but
friendly. No real title held the name here. Jade
remembered a sudden movement and sat in
a waiting room which replicated a physician’s
office. But she sat alone in the room. Blinding
white and sterile looking as though a wave of
bleach engulfed the room, sanitizing everything
in its path. The room screamed “don’t touch”
and she didn’t want to touch, she wanted to
understand why. The couch cushions were plush
but, to her, they felt like straw poking at her back
with uneasy tension, welcoming her to this new
and uncomfortable place.
Then she met Adelaide. Aimed to help Jade
make the transition from physical to spiritual
world, Adelaide provided daily guidance and
check ins. She explained to Jade once she
accomplished all her goals in the program, then
Jade may progress to the next level. Attending
support group was the first goal Jade had to
“Nah, I’m not feeling it today,” Jade
responded, once realizing Adelaide pulled her
from her trance.
“What’s holding you back?”
“Nothing. I don’t feel like it today.”
“Oooh we’s a feisty one today aren’t we.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snap,” Jade
replied. “Just thinking a lot about Pearl today.
Wondering if she’s thinking of me. Every day
I pass this room with no desire to want to go
inside, but for some reason, today I feel like I
want to give it a try.”
“What’s stopping you? You’ve been standing
here for almost fifteen minutes. Group already
What’s stopping me?
“Nothing. Nothing is stopping me.”
She glanced over to Adelaide, catching the
enormous grin stretched across her face.
“Why are you smiling big?”
“Because you are ready.”
Jade focused back on the sign.
What’s stopping me? I don’t know. I’ll never know
unless I go. Fine. I’ll go.
She took a step forward this time, then
another, until she stood in an unfamiliar room
filled with a familiar scent.
Vanilla cookies. Just like grandma’s.
In the room sat seven teens and Chase. Jade
had seen Chase several times before during her
journeys down the corridor and in the garden.
He stood tall with a lanky build and long delicate
fingers. His bald head reminded Jade of her
favorite movie character growing up and couldn’t
get over the uncanny resemblance Chase had to
this character. He was exceptionally nice and
good-hearted. She continued advancing toward
the group. Dang these people are so young. How did
they die? Do they feel as lost as I do right now?
“Isn’t this such a wonderful surprise to see
you here, Jade,” Chase announced. His head
tilted to the side, a smirk painted on his face. One
thing Jade noticed about the staff were the level
of friendliness. At times, it felt nauseating, but
she could see the reason behind their behavior.
“Hello everyone,” Jade said, her left hand
raising in slow motion, stopping at her waist,
then flailing out her fingers and flapping
them. The group stared at her for a second.
“Why don’t you join us? We have an open
seat right here for you. Ezekiel, can you please
bring a chair up for Jade?”
“Sure, no problem,” Ezekiel responded
as he stood up and turned in Jade’s direction.
His crystal blue eyes were the first to catch her
attention. She found herself gazing fixedly
at them as Ezekiel approached. “Hello. I’m
Ezekiel. My friends call me Zeek.”
“Hi. Jade,” escaped her lips. Her hand
frozen at the hip, failing to extend to meet the
handshake. Ezekiel tilted his head to the side then
retracted his hand and proceeded to pass Jade,
picking up the spare chair sitting by the door.
Way to go, idiot.
“Jade, it’s nice to meet you. You can sit
next you me if you want,” Ezekiel responded,
knocking her tricep with his elbow as he walked
pass her and back to the circle.
Be cool, girl, be cool. Jade cleared her throat and
replied, “Sure. Thanks. Nice to meet you too.”
“Let’s continue, shall we?” Chase intruded.
“Since today is the first day of the new group
and we were all sharing how we arrived here,
let’s pick up where we left off.”
A few members were left to share their stories.
Tracy from Detroit, an innocent bystander shot
during a gang fight on her way home from
school after volleyball practice. An only child,
her mother raised her alone after her father
passed away. She was fourteen. Allister from
Connecticut lost his battle with leukemia two
weeks after high school graduation at the age of
eighteen. He received an academic scholarship
to Harvard and shared his disappointment in
not pursuing his degree in law. Cassandra (Cass
for short) died in a freak accident during a family
trip. She slipped on a rock and fell off the side of
a cliff while taking photos with her family. Her
father tried pulling her up, but she slipped from
his grip and fell to her death. She was fifteen.
Ezekiel already shared his story, so Jade
missed the opportunity. Now I regret staring at the
sign outside for so long. What happened to him? What
was he like in school? How old is he? Where did he live?
Chase turned his attention to Jade and
asked, “Jade, would you like to share your story?”
She sat staring into an oblivion on the floor
when it finally came to her. She lifted her head
up with a blank expression and looked at each
member of the group, one by one, each one
staring back at her with anticipation. Her neck
tingled as perspiration build on her forehead.
Jade looked at Chase as numbness enveloped
her mind. She took a deep breath and in a
cracked voice rattled out, “I…I…I don’t know
how I died.”