Chapter 1: Fresh Start
Silence. That’s all there seems to be these days. Ongoing silence that no amount of noise could fill.
It’s a horrendous, unbearable kind of torture that one can always seem to rely on for relief. Who knew the sound of nothing could feel so lonely, yet so comforting? I didn’t, at least, not until recently.
These days it seems to be one of my only friend and my worst enemy, other than myself.
As I stare out the window of my mother’s silver Ford Flex, all I can think about is the underlying emotions that always seem to want to devour me till there’s nothing left.
I do my best to focus on anything else. The small roar coming from the car, the cold air, lightly whisking my hair out of my face, or the smell of the fresh pine needle air freshener hanging on the rearview mirror. Even the extremely warm, dark-green beanie atop my head to hide the new, small patch of hair growing in on the side of my head. Or the stiff seat belt constricting my body to the leather seats beneath me. Or the wind that surrounds the outside of the car, adding a little hum to help with the silence, but barely.
I can feel my mother stealing worried glances at me from the driver’s seat. If only she knew about what was going on in my head. She’d pull over in an instant, demanding another family therapy session where’d she’d sob uncontrollably and I’d just sit there trying to keep my shit together. Whether for her or for me, I don’t know.
All I can think about is how I so desperately want to scream till my throat is consumed by this scratching soreness. I want to cry until my eyes feel too tired to stay open any longer. I want to yell at anyone and everyone and spill all of my dreadful thoughts out until there’s nothing left.
I also can’t stop thinking about how badly I wish I could scratch my itchy right arm underneath this ugly, neon-green cast. Or how badly I want to take out these irritating, plain-brown contacts. But I don’t. I can’t.
I can no longer be that innocent naive girl anymore, nor can I be that broken girl who cried at everything and nothing. I’ve fallen apart enough times in these past few months that my pride can’t take anymore and neither can anyone around me. So I keep it all locked inside, hiding it from the terrifyingly, cruel world that feeds on weakness.
Instead I continue to stare at the large trees that create a beautiful, protective dome over the long, empty road in the afternoon. I choose to focus on the end of the naturally,perfect scenery before my eyes, to see the edge of a small town that I would soon have to call home.
“You excited?” My mom asks, trying to sound happy herself, when we both know it’s just a lie we’re telling ourselves that we hope will one day be true.
I slowly turn to her and I can’t help but take a beat to look at my beautiful mother, who so desperately wants everything to be okay again. I start to notice the new wrinkles on her forehead and on the corners of her eyes that had not been there a year ago. Or the slight grey hairs that secretly try to plague her amazing, long, blond hair that compliments her fair skin.
It was such a contrast from my short, raven-black, hair, and milky-brown skin tone. If it weren’t for our similar body types and light-green eyes, I don’t think anyone would be able to tell that we were related.
I quickly avert my eyes away from her, afraid she’d be able to see what it is that I’m feeling, what I’m so desperately trying to hide.
“I guess. Anything’s better than the last one.” I shrug, refusing to meet her eyes, afraid my resolve will break if I do. I can my feel chest constrict from my copout answer.
“Look, honey, I know this year’s been rough on you and I know you’ve lost a lot, but I promise you, you’ll always have me.”
“I know. You’ll always have me too. I promise.” I finally let myself meet her eyes, only to find that she already had tears already beginning to consume her’s and it kills me to know that I’m the reason that they’re there.
I slowly reach for her right hand that rests near the gear shift, giving her a small, reassuring smile that she slowly returns. Her hands are cold and cracked from the fact that she has been too busy taking care of me and never herself, but I give a small smile like nothing was wrong.
She releases a deep sigh of relief and a small chuckle as she sniffles. After giving me a curt nod, she turns her focus back to the road, removing her hand from mine to wipe away the tears that threatened to cloud her vision.
The rest of the car ride we continue to ride in silence and I don’t know whether to be thankful for it or upset with it. I don’t know if I should let myself indulge in my never-ending demons or ignore them like I’ve been trying to do for months now ...Of course I go for the latter, as usual.
After twenty or so minutes, I feel the car come to a stop after my mother slowly pulls up to an average sized, navy blue, two-story house at the end of a small cul-de-sac. She parks the car in the long, narrow driveway in front of the white garage door that looked like it had seen better days.
My mother and I slowly step out of the car to take in the full view before us. The house looked worn down, like it had been vacant for years. The windows looked a little brown from all the dust it had probably collected overtime.
It feels a little warm outside, but not unbearable. I look up to the sky to see a few clouds, providing minimal shade. Chirps and caws from the birds flying in and out of the trees and streets mix with the joyous laughter of children coming from one of the nearby houses fill the atmosphere with noise. A small breeze causes my hair to dance softly along with the trees, as if they found a song that us humans are incapable of hearing.
I look to the lawn to see that it has a variety of green and brown patches, with small, prickly bushes on the sides, lining the walkway to the dirty, white front door.
No wonder why my mom got such a good deal on this place. No one wanted it. But of course my mother, being the interior designer and gardener that she is, always had a soft spot for diamonds in the rough. She always loved a good project, especially now, when she’s trying so hard to forget about our horrific year.
Eventually, after my mom surveys the whole front of the house, she walked up to the front door with purpose in her step, eager to see our new home. She slid the silver key that the realtor gave her into the lock and pushed the creaky door open wide to see a humble, old-fashioned interior with dark wooden floors, light-grey walls and great potential.
I can hear the creaks coming from the wood as my mother walks to the middle of the room before facing me again. She sauntered over to me, grinning proudly to herself, before putting both her arms up in the air and wrapping one around my shoulders and placing her head against mine for a moment in a warm embrace. Turning her head to the side to look at me, gesturing to our new house, “Well, what do you think?”
I scan the the house to see our dark brown couch in the middle of the room, behind our long glass table, next to our small reclining sofa chair. Behind the couch, there was a screen door with a thick, white curtains to provide privacy. To the right of the screen door, was our round dining table in the corner with four chairs surrounding it.
To the left of the front door, was a small closet for coats and other things. To the left of the screen door there was an island with grey, granite countertops, dividing the living room and kitchen.
At the very right of the room, stood a small flight of stairs that led to what I was assuming was the bedrooms. To the right of the stairs was a small, dark hallway with two doors that led to what I’d assume to be a bathroom and a guest room.
“I think it's great, mom. I mean, it needs a little tidying up and some improvement, but with your master design skills I’m sure this place with be magnificent in no time.”
“You really think so?” I nod with my most small and sincere smile that I’ve had in a long time as she moves to stand in front of me. “Good.”
“And it’s a good thing aunt Kelly and the movers came earlier today to drop all of our stuff off. Made our lives a little easier.”
“Very true. Gotta love small mercies and aunt Kelly.”
With wide eyes filled with hope, she turns back to study the house from all angles, going through every possible idea in her head as to what our new home should look like. She removes her presence from my side to take a few steps forward again with her hands behind her back, leaving me to miss her warmth.
When a knowing smirk appears on her face, I know she’s already made up her mind as to what her game plan will be. Placing her hands on her hips, she turns to me again. “Welcome to our new home. I promise you’re going to love it angel. This is gonna be nothing like you’re old school Aren, just you wait. We’ve already hit rock bottom, we can only go up from here.”
She held a sweet smile on her lips, one that didn’t quite meet her eyes as she tucked a piece of hair behind my ears. And I can’t help but feel guilty for the pessimistic thoughts that invade my brain.
If only she knew that we were far from rock bottom, that I was still falling and it would only be a matter of time before she got dragged down too. But I don’t tell her that. I can’t do that to her again, not when she’s on the edge of another break down and potential, drunken pity party. So I keep quiet, hoping that everything will be great like she’d promised.
“Come on, let’s unload the car. You can carry the small stuff. Oh and don’t forget to take your pills soon.”
“I know mom.” I sigh as she walks out the door before I mumble to myself, “I never do.”