I stared at the bright green numbers. They flickered back at me in the form of 3:07. I stopped sleeping through the night the week before my mom died. I was starting to sense it coming, and that’s when losing her truly began to rip me open. I only dreamt of her. Every single one forced me to open my eyes, only to realize it was a dream. My night’s usually consisted of me falling in out of sleep, jumping into reality only to fall back into the dream.
I was losing grip on everything I was.
Flashes of my mom’s wavy hair and her wide, warm smile played on a reckless repeat in my head. I sat up on the edge of the bed. My purple flannel sheets were bunched up and tossed against the wall. The smells that lingered in my room were a mix of vanilla and cinnamon. My sweat-soaked turquoise hair stuck to my forehead and cheeks. The room was freezing, but my body couldn’t have been any warmer.
I dragged myself from my bed to my yellow cushioned desk chair. I flipped on the computer as I grabbed my sticker-covered water bottle. The bright glow of the screen burned my eyes with its initial flash, taking my room from complete darkness to a chamber cast in a soft glow. The empty application for the travel photography internship stared back at me. Pete said he found it, but I knew it was Evie. I knew she wanted to help me, but I couldn’t bare it, not at that time. It was painful to breathe, and even harder to swallow.
My mom’s faded voice said, “Well, are you going to fill it out?”
I shrugged but said nothing. I always tried at first not to talk back when I heard her. I wasn’t sure what it meant, or even what I wanted it to mean. I was terrified that I was losing my mind, but even more so of losing my voice. I wrapped my hand around the silver bird pendant that hung around her neck my whole life.
My stomach twisted to make room for the expanding holes in my chest. An angry and toxic breath forced itself out between my lips as my finger bitterly x-ed out the browser window. A picture of a four-year-old me wrapped around my young mother’s leg was there to greet me the moment the browser disappeared.
What was I doing to myself? I quickly quit out of the photo gallery, grabbed the small tin box, and headed straight for the window.
The only thing I liked about Joan’s house was the bedroom window. It opened where both parts of the roof dipped down and touched, making sitting on the roof totally possible. I had discovered it the first time Glen moved Brian and me in. My emotions were dumping out of me at an alarming rate. I needed something to hold on to, somewhere for me to collect the pieces of myself.
I place a thinly rolled joint to my lips and lit it. Thick, harsh smoke poured into my lungs, my mind loosened as my eyes focused on the starless sky picturing the twinkling beacons as if they were there in sight.
My eyes were fixed on the cream-colored dashboard. Every single time I was in Glen’s car I experienced overwhelming urges to cover the spotless interior of the BMW in thick mud. Everything that sucked about Glen the car encapsulated: vain, selfish, and out of whack priorities. Electronic music filled the car to a point no one could talk to each other. I had nothing to say to Glen but enjoyed talking to Brian. He was a good kid. It made my stomach twist that he had to go through his life without the world’s greatest mom. I used to be jealous that he had the standard aged mom and a dad, who lived together in a substantial house. My version of our mother was sixteen when she had me, and I never met my father. She raised me as she worked full time and put herself through school. We moved to different apartments yearly. Now, I see I had it better after all. I had her. He doesn’t, plus he had to live with Glen’s new family, where in a little less than two years I wouldn’t have to deal with that. I fantasized about running away. I was beginning to think I wouldn’t hesitate so much if I had someone to go with.
The music turns down as the car slowed. “Well, Brain this is your stop. You are taking the bus home.”
I looked back at Brian’s bright blue eyes and freckled face and saw mom. He looked so much like her. He even had her pointed chin. Now the expression on his face was mostly sad.
“Have a good day, buddy,” I said tousling his hair.
“Yeah, not likely.”
“Same here,” I smiled at him.
He tossed a broken smile back. Brian pulled a book from his backpack as he climbed out of the car without saying a word to his dad. I watched as Brian wandered toward his classroom door. He sat as far from the other kids as he could manage. He tucked his khaki covered knees in his chest keeping his words on the pages of the book.
My heart sunk to my feet. These were the moments where I wished I had magical powers, where I hoped that someone or some option would appear, so that some how I could fix his life. It wasn’t fair. It will never will be truly okay again. Tears began to pull at my eyelids.
“Damn minivan is taking up both exit lanes,” Glen cursed under his breath.
“Brian doesn’t talk to any of the kids.”
“Well, the kid reads too much. He only had one friend at the old school.” Glen said this as his beady eyes stared out the driver’s side window.
“Well, then maybe you shouldn’t have moved him.”
“Private school is better.”
“There is enough change. A new house, school, and sibling was unnecessary to add. Losing his mom was enough.”
“It’s not my fault she had cancer. You are always acting like I did that her.” His words come and burn my face.
I shake my head and look out of the window. Not at Brain but the sky instead. My heart started pounding in my chest.
“Calm down, sweetie. Don’t let him get to you,” my mom’s whispered version of her voice trailed in my brain as if she was standing behind me.
“Why did you marry him?” I asked out loud without thinking. The moment the words left my mouth, dread and panic coated my muscles. I glanced over at Glen, who’s attention was focused on the white van unloading snacks and poster board. He didn’t hear me. Glen slammed his fist on the horn.
A middle-aged woman with a blond bob turned her head and glared at us.
“You’re such an asshole,” I muttered.
“Well, no one is asking you to stay,” Glen snapped, as he peeled around the van and sped off. The music was blasting again. I allowed myself to sink into the heated, leather seat and feel sorry for myself.
I needed to do something. I needed something to hold on to. The nearly identical houses blurred into a mix of white and gray. Juvenile trees with bare branches lined the sidewalks equal distances apart. Nothing stood out as special or unique.
Glen’s quick breaking turned my stomach over multiple times, so as I was climbing out of his car hoping my bag’s zipper was scratching the paint, I felt like I was going to throw up at any minute.
“The bus home after,” Glen spat at me.
“Got it,” I spat back as I slammed the door closed.
“Easy!” He yelled through the tinted windows.
The sounds of Glen’s tires squealed sounded off behind me as I reluctantly walked toward the crumbling building.
Once the obnoxious sounds of his car dissipated, it made room for a symphony of coins and other items dumping onto the cement parking lot.
“Dammit!” A voice howled in a cracked voice.
I couldn’t help but be curious. My hand naturally found the camera in my pocket. My fingertips grazed the cool metal button.
“I hate everything!” The same voice called out.
Bright red hair caught my attention. After taking a few steps closer, and drained my neck around a sad, dying tree in a planter, I saw it was Molly from group. Her canvas bag was split open, leaving the contents of her purse scattered all over the cracked cement. The door to her SUV was thrown wide open, her hair in messy disarray.
Without planning or considering it, I said, “You can borrow my bag.”
Molly found me. Her eyes were red and swollen. She pulled her bottom lip into her mouth.
“I have enough space. Two compartments.”
“That’s okay. I’m gonna put it all in the glove compartment.” She pushed a sigh through her lips as she ran her hands through her hair. “I can’t deal with this place today.”
“I’ll help you pick it up,” I mumbled as I walked nervously up to her. My heart pounded in my chest as I pushed myself outside my comfort level.
She flashed me a wide smile, “Thank you. That’s nice.” Tears were fresh in her eyes.
“Sure, it delays me going through those stupid doors.” I said into my chest.
“Well, don’t go today.”
I picked up purple sparkly lip gloss and a lighter.
“I’m not going,” Molly continued, “You can put those in the glove box.”
I nodded and awkwardly walked over to the car, “We can’t just skip.”
“Why not? We were both signed up for that bullshit program. Ya know what that means we have in common?” Molly raised one of her mismatched eyebrows with a cock of her hip.
“The adults in our lives have given up.” Her smiled widened. She was beginning to look less sad, and I felt like I had something to do with, which brought on the rarely felt pride.
“Let’s go down the shore. Nice long drive followed by a view that reminds us we are small and insignificant.”
“That’s sounds awesome.” My feet began to tingle, urging me to go this time.
“Sweet, let’s do it.”
“We could be gone for longer than five hours. I just got a dog, and I don’t want my guardians to have a reason to give her away.”
Molly’s lips flattened into a straight line. The redness of her eyes was starting to fade.
“Okay, how about the mall? Food and looking at cute things?”
I should go to the group. I shouldn’t make things worse. But, as these thoughts circled through my mind my mother’s voice found its way through, “Go be a teen. It’ll be good for you.” I allowed my eyes to close for a minute. Her warm smile and encouraging eyes found me. I could picture every time she’d widen her eyes in a way that was encouraging me to step outside my comfort zone.
“Yeah,” I said surprising myself, “Let’s go to the mall.”
Copyright 2016 Jayme Beddingfield
*Note: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to anyone is entirely coincidental.