Hanna woke up to an empty house once again. She had to mentally prepare herself for another day of putting on a mask and pretending she was fine. Another day of misty eyes and wishing she’d wake up from this nightmare. Another sunrise that didn’t seem so bright. Another day that she would spend trying to piece together a reason to stay here. The sun was shining through silky light pink curtains that hadn’t been changed since she was 9. The white walls made her feel like she was trapped in a mental hospital. They were clear of posters and of pictures. They were just plain and empty, mimicking her life perfectly. The pink bedspread that she sat on top of was the only source of color in this dull room.
Hanna knew she could change it. Maybe make the curtains a little darker to keep out the light and paint the walls a better color-anything but white-but she couldn’t bring herself to. She only brought her knees to her chin and wrapped her arms around her legs, letting out a sigh. Letting out a tiny little sound that effectively made nothing better. Hanna was still alone and she was still sad and she still had to face the long day ahead of her. She looked at the picture facing the bed on the nightstand.
It was one of her and her mother before everything went bad. She had her arms wrapped around her protectively and her mother’s eyes were focused behind the camera at her father, smiling with her red lips and radiant white teeth. Her blue eyes shined with happiness and Hanna, a little, pigtailed girl was sitting in her mother’s lap, looking up at her with her chubby little hand on her mother’s cheek, smiling with her big buck teeth and freckles. Hanna’s dress was pink-it used to be her favorite color and her eyes equally as blue as her mother’s, held hope and faith and all things good. All things a little girl knew and could know and could want, really. They were really happy then.
They were so happy.
They were one of those beautiful families that got compliments on the way into the grocery store. Hanna’s dad was the pastor, so they went to church every Sunday and all the church-goers knew them well and her mother was always the perfect pastor’s wife. Spent her time baking cookies for the Sunday school goers and making up little meaningful stories to tell. She was always so perfect, and she was never bad at anything. Never did a thing to make her husband angry or sad or lonely. She gave and gave to him, but he didn’t give back.
Instead, he had an affair with her babysitter. He slept with her over and over and over again and Hanna had the great misfortune of walking into the kitchen once and catching them and he’d tried to keep her quiet, tried to bribe her, but she couldn’t stay quiet about it. She knew enough from Sunday school to know she’d seen something wrong, so she told her mother who immediately confronted the both of them about it. Hanna’s father had looked at her like it was her fault-and maybe it was and the next thing she knew, her mother had hanged herself in the attic and her father had married her babysitter, who had always wanted to get in where she didn’t belong. The look her father gave her that day never really left his face. She had gotten used to thinking it was all her fault. That’s why it was easier for her when he wasn’t home growing up. She hated having to even look at him.
They were away all the time now, sometimes she thought maybe it was better this way, but she still got an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach whenever she dwelled too hard on it. They were missionaries; Hanna used to think that was how things were supposed to go. They were supposed to go and save people in other countries, but the thing was, she needed saving here. This was a big house, filled with ghosts and monsters from the past and she didn’t think they understood that. She thought they thought that she was okay with it. That she didn’t need them because she hadn’t gone to their wedding and she hadn’t spoken more than two words to them at a time in over three years. But they were wrong, of course. She was just stubborn and hurt.
The truth was that Hanna needed someone. She needed someone to care about her the way she knew her mother cared about her when she was alive. But it was fruitless, thinking that her father could give her that when his main focus was on his new wife and learning to forget she ever existed.
Hanna’s cell phone rang and she picked it up from beside her on the bed and answered it. “Yes?” Hanna’s voice sounded steady and even, like maybe she wasn’t breaking inside. “Hey, I’m outside, you coming?” It was Taylor, Hanna’s childhood best friend. She was always there for her when she came to her, but she didn’t always go to her with her problems these days. She didn’t want Taylor to worry, and besides; she was a big girl. She was supposed to able to figure things out on her own.
“Oh, yeah. Sorry.” Hanna hung up and climbed off of the bed, grabbing her book bag from the floor and leaving her room. Outside, the air was frigid. It was autumn, and while the leaves had stopped falling, the chilly air had yet to turn to snowfall. It just hung in the air, waiting for something, it seemed.
Hanna’s blonde best friend was waiting inside her new car, wearing her hair up in a ponytail and soccer pants. She waved and smiled, holding up a bag from McDonald’s. She’d gotten breakfast. Hanna walked down the driveway and got into her car, which was warm and inviting and smelled strangely of cinnamon. She threw the bag Hanna’s way and started the car again, backing out. Buckling her seat belt, Hanna looked into the bag. She had gotten her a parfait.
Taylor always knew what she wanted. Hanna hated having hot breakfast, and she also loved fruit.
“How was your night?” She asked her, turning a corner. Hanna opened her parfait and shrugged. “No one was home, so...” She looked over at Hanna and frowned. “You could have slept over! I offered!” Hanna knew she had offered, but last night wasn’t a great night to be in her company in the first place. She had gotten in from practice and it just felt like her entire world was crashing in around her. Her eyes wouldn’t stay dry and she couldn’t stop her body from curling up into a ball under her covers. She couldn’t even answer her phone if she wanted to, let alone make a call. She’d been too debilitated by depression.
“I know. I’m sorry, Tay. I just kind of wanted to be alone, you know?” Hanna lied. She nodded in response and stole another wary look at Hanna. She didn’t believe her best friend for a second, and, really, what kind of best friend would she be if she did? “Well, we could always have a sleepover tonight. It’s the weekend and there’s a party going on tonight. We could crash it, get drunk off someone else’s booze and then walk back to mine.” Hanna nodded sending her a smile, “Yeah. We could.” knowing she wouldn’t be going. It probably made her a bad friend, to ignore her friends attempts to cheer her up, but she could bring herself to care. The rest of the ride was spent in silence while Hanna ate and Taylor drove.
When they arrived Hanna made some lame excuse for ditching Taylor at the door and went to find a place to hide for the moment. She ducked around a corner and left through one of the side doors, heading across the football field. She headed inside the old abandoned apartment building across the street.