“There are two types of pain, one hurts and the other changes you.”
Sweat rolled down her temples as Astrid slammed her fists harder and harder against the punching bag, making the chains rattle loudly. Each movement sent a burning sensation through her body but she gladly welcomed the pain. This was her coping mechanism and it had been the same for the past few years. Her aching muscles begged her to stop, to take a break but her mind refused. She needed her distraction. She needed to let everything out. She wanted to scream, shout at the world but she could not. With each passing second, she was losing focus and her movements were turning slow and sloppy.
It had been almost a month since she had been discharged from the hospital. She knew she was not supposed to engage in such strenuous activity but she needed her release. Her once bright future now looked far away dreams, so unclear and unsure. She hated to feel that way but she was lost. Right now, she was just a seventeen-year-old teenage girl with no family, all dreams shattered. And most importantly she did not know how to deal with it. Right now all she wanted was to wake up from this nightmare. Her movements came to an abrupt stop as she remembered what happened in the morning.
She was lying on the couch with the tv on and her medications long forgotten on the table, her mind somewhere else when the doorbell rang, making her slightly jump. She made no move to answer the door and stared at the screen blankly, praying to get her peace again but she was not so fortunate.
Annoyed, she got up and dragged her tired limbs to the door to open it. She was greeted by a smile, too fake and practised to not notice and a voice dripping with artificial sympathy, something that she was presented with, almost every day.
‘I am Rose Johns, from Child Services. I’m here to talk to you about certain things, dear.’
From the woman’s rigid stance and the way her eyes glanced behind Astrid’s head at the eerily quiet and barely illuminated hallway, Astrid clearly understood that she was hoping to get invited inside the house. Though Astrid wanted to do nothing of those sorts, she remembered that she still had her manners left and stepped back, opening the door wider. Her eyes quickly glanced at the woman’s attire, taking in her white blouse, black pencil skirt and heels that looked ridiculously tall.
In a minute, they both were seated facing each other, Rose on the couch and Astrid on a chair that she had pulled out from the corner. Astrid knew she looked like a mess, with her raven hair tangled and fringes sticking out in all directions, her ocean blue eyes dull and blank with her black hoodie pulled halfway over her head.
‘I know things must be hard for you and that you must feel very depressed but just know that we are doing all that we can to take care of your needs and to give you back a normal life again.’ Astrid wanted to tell her that she knew nothing about how she was feeling but she bit her tongue preventing her from letting out words that she knew she would not regret but might come off as rude and willed herself to be quiet. Not once did her face betray any emotion.
‘I will get straight to the point. We tried locating your relatives, both from your mother’s and father’s side. And I’m delighted to tell you that your aunt had agreed to be your guardian till you legally become an adult, which I presume is going to be in a year. Here are all the details that you might want to know.’ She reached into her purse and pulled out an envelope. ‘Please look through it carefully and if you want to clarify anything, I will drop by tomorrow morning and you can ask me. And please sign, at the bottom of the last page.’
Rose placed it on the table and stood up, brushing her skirt and grabbed her purse.
‘So I will get going.’ She sounded eager and almost relieved to escape Astrid’s brooding presence. ‘I will see myself out.’ She moved out of the room and though Astrid did not look up, she knew it from the clicking of her heels against the wooden floor. She thought she was alone again but then she heard Rose speak again.
‘I know it must be hard for you and you must have probably heard the same thing over and over again but I am truly sorry for your loss.’ She surprisingly sounded genuine but Astrid continued to keep her gaze fixed on the envelope. The clicking of heels resumed again and barely a few seconds had passed when she heard the sound of the front door closing. Astrid let out a sigh of relief, the thought that she was alone again with nothing but her shadow to keep her company, comforted her beyond imagination.
The envelope remained untouched on the table, exactly where Rose had placed it and though Astrid tried to push it into the deep corners of her mind, she knew she had to know what was going to happen in her life. She had always been in control, of her thoughts and actions but the past few months had made her understand what it felt like to lose stability. She was nothing but the cold and empty shell now. And that realisation left her sickened and at the same time, filled her with the determination to gain her lost balance once again.
She removed her gloves only to find her knuckles faintly bruised but she did not care. She stalked into the bathroom giving her body what it demanded, a hot and relaxing shower even if it was a very short one.
Fifteen minutes later, Astrid was seated in the dining table with the envelope and a glass of milk in front of her. She could not remember the last time she ate a proper dinner, the memory of her last one being too horrifying to remember. She quickly chugged down the milk, soothing her grumbling stomach and picked up the envelope, tearing it open.
Inside she found a list of documents, her eyes and her brain quickly making sense of what was written. Apparently her father’s only sister, Tina Smith, was the person Rose had mentioned. Astrid remembered Tina from her younger days. She used to visit her often during her vacations because her parents were barely home and she had a very good relationship with her aunt. She was like a mother to her. But she remembered Tina had not attended her father’s funeral.
A strange yet warm feeling blossomed inside her. The thought that even after all that had happened, someone still wanted her and genuinely cared for her brought out a faint smile on her face. Though it was just a small tug at the corner of her lips, it was a first in many days.
She went thought all the details. Her aunt lived in Washington D.C. almost across the country. Her daughter, Natalia, had been a sweet little thing. But time had passed and she might have changed, for good or for bad, who knows. Guess Astrid had to find that out by herself.
Her hand trembled as she quickly signed her name at the bottom. She knew it was a drastic step, but she realised that she wanted it. Another chance at having a normal life again. And this time, she intended to grab it and make the most of it.
The straps for her messenger bag hung loosely over her shoulder as she removed the keys from the door after locking it. All her belongings had already been sent to her aunt’s house a few weeks back. She shoved the keys into her pocket and tapped her feet impatiently on the ground, waiting for the cab that she had booked.
She wanted to get out of that place as fast as she could. Her eyes swept over her neighbourhood, the place where she had grown up. It was the home of the happy memories that she had tucked away in the deepest corners her head, memories which threatened to bring tears to her eyes.
A honk and the screeching of tyres pulled her out of her reverie as a cab pulled in front of her house. She quickly slipped in and gave the driver directions to take her to the airport. She laid her head back against the window and closed her eyes, muttering a silent goodbye to the place of her childhood and her pain.