Road Less Traveled
“The city, no matter how small,
is corrupt and unrepentant, while the sun shines brighter in the country,
making people more wholesome.”
There’s almost always one in a family of multiple kids- the outcast. The outcast in some way, shape, or form. Whether it’s because they do something their parents don’t approve of, or because they don’t listen well, or because they aren’t the angel child like their other siblings. For me, I happened to be all of the above.
My name is Riley Davenport. I’m twenty-two, fresh out of college, and expected to become a politician like my father. If not a politician, then I'm expected to become a wife to one. I’m supposed to do charity work to gain empathy from potential voters, meet and greet current supporters to make sure they continue their support, and I'm to find information to weaken my fathers’ competitors in elections. I didn’t mind doing charity work, and I didn’t mind meeting people. What I did mind was investigating other people and digging up dirt on them to undermine their campaign, while making sure my dad had a perfect campaign and an impeccable image. This was his campaign, not mine, not my mother’s, and not my sister’s. His. I understood we needed to behave to give him a good image but the truth was, I was tired of it all.
I began coping in bad ways. It started in college with underage drinking which, considering everything was within walking distance, never got me into trouble. Well, except when the paparazzi got tired of following my perfect sister around. On top of that, the kids at my own college started taking pictures of me drinking and selling them to the magazines for pocket money. I was in almost every issue of every magazine, just a small blurb of how my drinking was out of control and what a disgrace I was to my family. I was typically on entertainment newscast shows with the hosts criticizing every little thing I did. They criticized me for drinking (which I found fair enough because I knew I shouldn’t), they criticized me for wearing jeans and a hoodie to classes while my sister wore cute skirts and tops that were fashionable yet tasteful for a politician’s daughter, and they criticized me for not having as good of grades as my sister (my grades had been found out by one of my dad’s workers who sold it to a magazine). Having the constant stress of trying to be the perfect daughter for my parents, of trying to be like my perfect older sister, of trying to be the perfect celebrity role-model, all without any training on how to handle the media criticism, I got tired. I was done with it.
So I decided to be the opposite.
I behaved at any event I was forced to go to, but otherwise, I went wild. Partying, drinking, clubbing, whenever I could. Each morning, even though I never got drunk, I'd drink enough alcohol to give me a hangover in the morning, which made me endure my parent’s disdainful glances at me, and my sister’s pitiful stares. At least five nights a week, I'd repeat the process.
Tonight would be no different. I picked out a dress from my closet when someone knocked on my door.
“Who is it?” I called out.
“It’s Casey,” my sister replied, poking her head in.
“I was coming to see if I could convince you to skip the party tonight and hang out with me and Mark,” she said, fully entering my room and shutting the door. She sat on my bed, staring at me. I turned around to look at her.
CaseyDavenport. The perfect daughter of our family. Average height, bright blonde hair, soulful brown eyes, pale but flawless complexion, kind, sweet, and caring. She had the perfect job working for our dad, she had the perfect fiancé, and she had her life on track. Somehow, she could handle having our every move analyzed and watched and monitored. I wanted to hate her for being the way she was, but I couldn’t. She was my sister, and out of everyone in my family, she tried to understand what I was going through. She couldn’t, but she tried, which was more than either of my parents had ever done.
“Case, thank you for the invitation, but when I weigh the options of going to a party and being the awkward third wheel, I’d go for the party any day,” I laughed. “Nice try.”
“You wouldn’t be the awkward third wheel! Mark’s friend is coming!”
“Is he a politician’s son?”
“Not interested. I don’t want anything to do with politics. I’ll vote and whatnot because that's important but other than that, I like to avoid it as much as possible. It’s all corruption and bribery, and all the same damn families competing against one another.”
“We’re not corrupted,” Casey argued.
“Maybe not, but we’re screwed up. Mostly because of me.”
“You can change that you know.”
“You know I tried that, and all it got me was more negative comments from mother and father. I’d rather them not speak to me at all than have them saying nasty remarks to me.”
“They compliment you!” Casey argued.
I snorted. “Sarcastically, yes. Like when I get up before eight or when I show up without a hangover to an event. Those are really nice compliments.”
“My answer’s no. Thank you for the invitation though.”
“Please don’t go out tonight. This will be the fifth time this week.”
“Fifth time too little. I’ll be fine.”
She sighed. “Fine. Be that way. Just be careful.”
My sister left my room. Within an hour, I was ready to head out. I grabbed a purse and headed downstairs only to be greeted by Casey, Mark, and some guy I didn’t know but assumed was Mark’s friend. My parents were down there as well.
“- a charity fundraiser this weekend. You should come with your parents,” my father was telling the stranger. He was about to say more when he saw me. “Ah, Riley, glad you’re finally down here. I’d like to introduce you to Neil Hardy. He’s the son of-”
“Patrick Hardy,” I finished. “You must be Mark’s friend.”
“I am,” Neil answered. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“You’ll hang out with Neil, Casey, and Mark tonight,” my father stated, giving me a glare that said any other outing would not be permissible.
“Well then, I hope they’re going to the club because that’s where I’m going,” I said.
“We’re actually going to dinner,” my sister quipped. “You’re dressed perfectly for it.”
“I don’t want to-”
“You’re going tonight, or else you don’t go out at all,” my father warned.
“Fine. Lead the way you three,” I said, motioning towards the door. We said goodbye to my parents as we got into the limo. It pulled away from the curb, heading towards the restaurant. Casey, Mark, and Neil all tried to get me to talk. I’d give short, curt answers so they’d know I did not want to be there. In the end, they gave up.
About thirty minutes into dinner itself, when we were working on our appetizers, my sister excused herself to go to the bathroom, asking me to go with her. I obliged. Upon the door shutting, she demanded in exasperation, “Okay, seriously, get the stick out of your ass and give the guy a chance. What is so bad about him?!”
“He’s a politician’s son and a future politician. I’ve had enough of politics in my life thank you very much. The food’s delicious, I like your company, don’t mind Mark and Neil’s company either, but I’m not interested in the latter the way you and our parents want me to be, and I don’t want to be here in the first place.”
“Just suck it up for one dinner? Please?”
“The moment that check is paid, I’m out of here.”
“Let’s get this dinner over with.”
The two of us went back to the table where our meals awaited us. I sent a silent prayer of thanks because the dinner already being there meant I could scarf it down and be out of there as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, I forgot how slow of an eater my sister was and had to wait another hour before she was done. Then, of course, she decided to get some dessert.
I excused myself to go to the bathroom. I managed to get Casey to not come with me which made sneaking out through the kitchen a lot easier than I thought it’d be. I leisurely walked over to the club, knowing my sister wouldn’t notice my absence for a while. I showed my ID to the bouncer who let me in without second thoughts. I handed my purse to a coat check person after taking out a few twenties to pay for drinks. I went straight for the bar, ordering some shots. I saw a few club regulars, ones I hung out with whenever I saw them. They bought me drinks as well. I'd had a particularly high tolerance for alcohol before I started drinking so the number of shots I planned on taking would simply give me a buzz, especially since the alcohol percentage wasn't that high in them anyway.
I was moving onto my fourth shot when someone grabbed my hand. I turned around to find Neil staring at me.
“You didn’t ask me to come to the club with you,” he said.
“I didn’t think you’d want to come,” I replied, downing a shot.
He downed the last three of my shots. “Of course I do. Come on!”
Grinning, Neil dragged me to the middle of the club where we began to dance. It was really crowded. Bodies of people I didn’t know pushed up against me. Music blared, and the bass vibrated the floor. We danced for a couple hours, joining different groups of people we didn't know until about two hours in, he whispered in my ear, “It’s getting hot in here. Do you want to head outside for some air?”
I agreed. The two of us ended up in the alley behind the bar. The cool air felt good against my skin. My ears rang now that I stood outside in relative quiet. Sirens wailed in the distance alongside honking cars, but compared to the club, it was much quieter out here.
“So this is what you do every night?” Neil asked. I nodded. “How long do you stay?”
“A lot longer than what you lasted.”
He smiled at me. “I’m not done, I just thought I’d melt if I didn’t get out of there for a few minutes.”
“I’ll give you credit on being better than some guys I’ve danced with. At least you have some moves.”
“Only some?” Neil grinned at me, walking up to me. I knew what was on his mind right now and if he made a move to kiss me, I wouldn’t stop him. I would never in a million years hook up with him or date him, but it wouldn't hurt to have a little makeout session.
“Only some,” I repeated, looking up at him. He leaned in. I met him halfway. The kiss started out slowly but became passionate real fast, especially when he pinned me against a wall. I didn’t mind being kissed that way. He wasn’t the first guy to kiss me like this. He was the first guy to start pushing his hands underneath my dress, trying to go for an area of me that no man was welcome to until I gave him my permission. I pushed his hands away, thinking he'd catch my drift that I didn't want what he was trying to do. But he fought against me, sliding his hands up my dress and up my thighs, dangerously close to a place he was not welcome.
“Stop it!” I growled angrily, roughly pushing his hands away.
“Oh, feisty! You know you like it,” he purred in my ear, his grimy little hands pulling up the hem of my dress.
“No, I don’t, now back off!” I hissed, shoving him away as hard as I could.
“Don’t be like that,” he said, advancing on me with his hand outstretched. I swatted it away, but he kept coming, pinning me to the wall again, touching me in places I didn't want him to. In desperation and anger, I kneed him as hard as I could. He let out a yell of agony, but his fury kept him standing, and it allowed Neil to lash out. His fist connected with my stomach, knocking the wind out of me and making me double over in pain. I stumbled backward, but despite that, I recovered faster than him. In retaliation, I punched him in the face, sending him staggering to the side.
“Don’t you ever touch me again!” I snarled. When he lunged to grab me, I punched him again. And again. And again. Anything to stop him from coming towards me because he kept trying to. Before I realized it, Neil was barely conscious on the ground and my knuckles were bloody.
I pulled out my phone to call for help when the police showed up. They didn’t even bother to ask questions. They handcuffed me, read me my Miranda rights, and threw me into the back of the police car, saying they were charging me with battery. I tried to explain my side of the story, but they wouldn’t listen. I ended up at the police station with a mug shot and behind bars. I paced the cell until my parents came and got me in the morning. They bailed me out, driving me home without saying a word. When we arrived at our house, I said, “I’m sorry. Neil was trying to do things I didn’t want, and touching me, and I was defending myself. The police wouldn’t listen to me when I tried to explain and-”
“Enough,” my father interjected. “No more of your lies. Neil told us what happened, how you got so drunk out of your mind that when he tried to stop you from drinking anymore, you kneed him and punched him until he was barely conscious. This is the final straw young lady. From now on, the only time you leave this house is with me or your mother. I have never seen such a disgraceful, disrespectful, spoiled child in my lifetime. You are an utter disgrace to this family. It makes me wonder if you’re even my daughter because I did not raise you to be this way.”
“Because you didn’t raise me at all!” I spat. “It was always the nannies! The only times I ever saw you as a kid was when Casey and I had to go on trips with you!”
“Don’t speak to me that way when I just had to bail you out of jail! I have never been more disgusted by behavior before. I can’t believe you would blame a guy like Neil of trying to do inappropriate things with you when you’re the one getting drunk every damn night! Do you know what this could do to my career? You jeopardized my reelection, do you understand that? It’s always you! You don’t act like part of the family. You don’t play your part. Why can’t you behave like Casey?” My father sighed angrily. “You will go change out of that outfit and go to bed. We will go over the rest of your punishment in the morning. Go.”
I walked numbly up the stairs, my father’s words repeating over and over in my head.
Wonder if you’re even my daughter… utter disgrace… disrespectful… spoiled… no more of your lies…disgusted… what this could do to my career…jeopardized my reelection… always you… don’t play your part… behave like Casey…
A tear slipped down my cheek which I hurriedly brushed away. If I was going to cry, it’d be when my parents couldn't see or hear me. I wasn’t going to give either of them the satisfaction of knowing they’d gotten to me.
I numbly shut the door to my room, took a shower, and dried my hair. Putting on my comfiest pajamas, I crawled into bed, curling up into a tiny ball. I couldn’t fall asleep though and ended up staring at the wall opposite of me, mind racing.
Behaving well got me nowhere.
Behaving badly got me nowhere either.
No matter what I did, it was never good enough for my mother or father. Especially my father. He hadn’t said it, but I’d caught his drift. He thought the family would be better with me out of the picture. Then he could have his perfect family in the spotlight, and the problem child out of the way.
I threw the covers off of me and pulled out a duffel bag. I began throwing in clothes, mostly jeans and t-shirts, a couple of hoodies, my makeup, toothbrush, toothpaste, hair dryer, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and a razor. I left my cellphone though.
I’d snuck out of the house plenty of times, managing to avoid being seen by our guards every time. They always looked for people trying to sneak onto the property, not off. Once more, it was easy to slip past them. I walked down the sidewalk into town. I had to admit it was kind of terrifying to be walking down the road in the middle of the night with nothing but the moon to light my way. It took me three hours to get to the bus station. I kept my hood up, head down. People in this town knew me too well. It helped that I didn’t have any makeup on because I did look slightly different but I was wary. Wouldn’t any famous person be if they were running away?
“How much for a ticket south?” I asked, looking in my wallet.
“One way or round-trip?” the guy replied.
“You’re kidding right?” I joked lightly, trying to keep my voice steady as I prayed he wouldn't recognize me.
“One way I’m guessing.” He gave me the price and I paid him. “You look familiar, miss. Do I know you?”
“No, don't think so. I just have one of those faces. Thank you, sir. When’s the bus coming?”
“Should be coming in about ten minutes.”
I nodded and sat down. My heart was racing from what I was doing. I was actually running away. I kept wanting to go back home because it was familiar, but then I thought about the words my father had said and the relentlessness of the paparazzi, and any inkling of wanting to go home disappeared. This happened until the bus came. I threw my duffel bag onto the seat next to me and sank into the chair in case any drivers that went past me recognized me and called the cops.
Or worse, my parents.