There was nothing out there, only a straight line. The intense heat and the blazing sun made her eyes droop. The vast landscape of the prairies was too boring to look at. She couldn't help but sigh softly, mentally wondering why she, her father, and younger brother had to move to Saskatchewan in the middle of summer.
The wind whistled past her ears as she rested her head against the seat belt strap. The hard whooshing of the wind pushed out the sound of her fussy brother, the growls of the old Volkswagen engine, and her father's loud humming. She brought herself into her own world, slowing down her breathing, and closed her eyes. When she opened them, she found herself in a darkened room. She couldn't even see her hand when she held it in front of her. Her body began to shake out of distress, and she closed her eyes, trying to figure out how she landed in this place.
Remember…what is there to remember? Who am I? Where am I? Then she opened her eyes and saw a small, pale light in front, growing closer and closer.
Curious, she moved forward towards it. Her hand reached out again, this time visible. Why? What is this?
She touched something solid, and the strong smell of fresh stool overwhelmed her nose suddenly, as rhythmic dripping of water echoed throughout the space. In front of her stood a full bodied mirror, the same one her mother use to own, the dark, wooden frame decorated with colourful, children stickers, but who she saw in the reflective glass made her pause.
It was her mother, naked and covered with purple-ish, green bruises covering her entire body like a painted canvas. Heavy bags positioned under her tired, brown eyes. Cheeks contracted. Hair—pale brown—stood up in every direction, ragged and messy. Pale limbs were long and boney, and blood dripped off her finger tips from the deep cuts on her wrists—a shocking sight.
She tried to scream, but the only thing sound that came out was a name: "Clarrissa…"
At first it was female, soft like her mother's voice, but it turned deep and masculine, calling the name over and over. Her eyes narrowed as the reflection copied. Her head began to grow light as the world around her started to spin.
Then everything stopped.
The masculine voice again.
She opened her eyes, wincing again as a calmer light flashed in front of her.
She opened her eyes further as the smell of stool mixed with greasy food filled her nose. The feeling of the wind was gone and her hand touched a solid surface beside her. She subconsciously pushed a small button, letting air rush through her again like a giant wave, and making her light brunette locks dance. She breathed in fresh air, opening her eyes to her surroundings.
The bright, summer sun touched everything in sight. Nothing could escape its dreadful heat.
"Finally, you're awake," the male voice said. "Can you not roll the window down?"
"But it's hot," she said in a quick tone.
"Clarrissa, your brother is getting too fussy from it."
She glanced over to her left to see a middle-aged man, with brown hair and dark sun glasses, smiling forward. She rolled her eyes, and rolled the window back up.
"We're almost there anyways," he added. "I think you can survive a few more minutes."
She nodded shortly, smelling the stinky stench once again. Her nose scrunched up. "How long has he been like this?"
"Relax, it's only been an hour," he sighed. "There's a small gas station a few miles ahead according to the GPS. We'll stop there and take a breather."
She looked behind her to see a brown eyes toddler staring back at her. He smiled and giggled, throwing a small, red car onto the seat beside him. She smiled back at him, turning around, and looking at her hand, remembering the dream. It felt so real…but what does it mean?
"Clarrissa? Are you okay?"
She looked over to the man again, nodding. "Just a dream."
"Dreams can sometimes be gateways into the future you know."
She snickered at his words, resting her head on her hand, and staring out into the open land. Let's hope not.
She could feel the old Volkswagen purr when she focused more. The thirty year old vehicle was getting older and older like the man beside her. Effects from not maintaining over the years started to show. Rust was building up around the rim of the vehicle, cracking and breaking off like flakes. The tires deflated easier, results of buying cheap ones after becoming broke. Engine weakened, groaning like a senior under the stress of gravity and movement. The tan, leather seats had faded over time, and patches of vomit, blood, and even urine marked the smooth fabric from years of use. The only new feature was the small GPS on a used stand, attached to the windshield.
"Soon, Clarrissa," he started to speak again, his tone hushed. But she didn't look at him. "Soon, life will return like it was before. We'll have a new home, a new future."
No…it won't, she said to herself. It will always be the same. There will always be one path.
Ever since her mother passed a year ago, Clarrissa and her family were never the same. She always did wonder why her mother would often stare out into the distance and new, dark, purple tattoos would mark her skin every day. She would only smile at Clarrissa, and feed her brother when it was time to do so.
When her father came home, Clarrissa's mother would often become quieter and almost timid. Her mother would often cry after hearing yelling and harsh words from her husband's mouth. She would cook, do the dishes, put Clarrissa's brother to bed, and hide in the bathroom until bedtime. Clarrissa didn't know why her mother would be in the bathroom for a long period of time. She would always think her mother would want to join her father for some evening tea and go to bed with him. So she decided one night, Clarrissa would see what her mother was doing. She used a coat hanger from her closet, and picked the bathroom lock. She thought her mother would've hear her, but strangely enough, not even Clarrissa could hear what was going on inside. The only thing she could hear was a rhythmic drip of a leaking faucet. She opened to the squeaky door to find the horrific sight.
Her eyes widened. Body froze. She couldn't scream. All she could hear was her own heartbeat rapidly, and in front of her, her mother lying in the bathtub full of red water, naked. Pieces of mirrored glass littered the floor, one covered with blood. She'd only been there for a few hours, but Clarrissa could already smell something foul, mixed in with rotting baby dippers in the trash. Fresh purple and green bruises formed on her pale skin. Slash marks right between the elbow and wrist still dripped into the calm waters.
That was the night Clarrissa's life changed, and no matter how many times her father said it would get better, it would only get worse.
I won't be surprised if we find ourselves living in this car and social services take my brother away and maybe me as well.
Her father turned into a small, ghostly gas station, one big enough for two vehicles at a time. Behind her, the toddler fussed, and started to scream. Clarrissa, still not moving, closed her eyes, and blocked out the noise.
The door slammed and she was left alone. A quiet sound of grasshoppers sung their song in the heat, cooling off in the tall grass not far from her. It was too soon when her father and brother came back. The toddler smelled a bit better, but the foul stench still stained the car. We'll need hundred bottles of tropical Febreze to get rid of this smell.
Clarrissa sighed, and opened the door, stretching out her limbs.
She looked over her shoulder to see her father filling up the gasoline and a cigarette now sticking out of his mouth. She shook her head.
"Um… Dad, I don't think smoking is a good idea right now," she told him.
"Oh, live a little, Clarrissa. Haven't you always wanted to be on the edge for once?"
She didn't answer, and walked away before it got too far.
Hiding in the bathroom, she couldn't help but look herself in the cracked mirror, seeing a young, unfamiliar, sixteen year old girl with tired, brown eyes looking back. She looked exactly the same as her mother in her dream.
"You look like you've gone through hell," Clarrissa commented to the reflection. She laughed in amusement. "Perhaps you have."
But perhaps it's time for a change. Her eyes narrowed at the reflection, at her mother, and at her future.
"I will not become someone like you," she said to the reflection. "I will not throw my life away for some lowlife guy. I will not get pregnant at an early age. I will do what I want! And you will not stop me."
She washed her hands quickly, and headed back outside where her father was already in the car, ready to go. Where? She didn't know. There was only one road in front of her, one path to direct her future, and when she got in the car, she looked forward at the straight road, smiling slightly, and deciding.
Today, I will start building my own paths from the road ahead. Today, my future will bright and I will no longer hide in the darkness. I will build my own life from now on.