She walked down the too familiar road with her hands in her sweater pockets. She wore her black and white checkered, tattered sweater her brother let her have. Her hood raised, the girls face was concealed with no more than her hair cascading over her shoulders. Her breathing was quiet, threatening to become quicker with every step she took. With every step the proximity between her and her destination got smaller. Her legs threatened to break into a jog, a run, and then a sprint. But she forced them to stay in a ginger yet casual pace as she passed the houses she used to see every day.
It wasn't far now. It was right at the corner, right at the end of the street. Her stony gaze fell upon the elementary school she attended since first grade. She hated that school; she loathed the people inside it. She wanted to watch it burn to the ground, with nobody in it except the old, grey memories graduation after graduation brought.
A wind picked up and threatened to blow her hood back, daring to reveal the torn countenance that marked her. However, she was much quicker than the wind.
Not this time, she thought, holding her hood in place until the wind died down. She welcomed the nice breeze it brought, the sun was beating down mercilessly today. It wasn't sweater weather but she needed to wear one. It was the only way she ever felt safe; she needed to be covered up if she wanted to be protected. Her sweater kept her heart from falling out, the world from peering in. Nobody could know what she was truly thinking, what was really behind that facade she built.
Here. She stopped. Her feet planted themselves on the cement, where she and so many others had stood before. So long...it felt like an eternity had passed since she'd been here. It wasn't an eternity, though. It was only a year and maybe then some.
She stared at the building. The house she used to reside in. The last place she lived in that she could call hers. The place where her heart remained and refused to leave. The last place she had that she would ever consider home.
The door was the same; dark brown with a big, square glass window situated in the middle. Dead plants and weeds covered the basement windows, blocking the outside world from view. She remembered the basement well, remembered all the details she ever laid eyes on. Details she'll never see again.
Because of them.
It was all their fault. They did this to her. They tore her from her home, separated her from what she knew and what she thought she knew. They screwed her mind up, twisted her reality into distorted concepts and confusing truths that may very well be false.
There wasn't a point in thinking about the cause and effect. It was over, what is done is done. She knew very well she couldn't change the past. That was one thing she did know to be true in this world: no matter how hard you wished and how much you prayed, time could not be reversed and distorted into your perfection. It just wasn't possible.
So much for impossibilities being impossible.
Her eyes traveled up the brick building, landing on what used to be her living room windows. Three windows. All placed precisely beside another. One. Two. Three.
Windows. Her father had bad habits with climbing out of windows. She recalled both times he nearly jumped out of them. Once here. Once in the house before they moved to this one.
She tilted her head. Why didn't he jump? What prevented him from taking that leap of faith? He believed he'd survive, he claimed it wasn't that far down. So why didn't he do it?
The girl walked up to the front door. Placed her palm against the warm wood. She closed her eyes and inhaled. Exhaled. She opened her eyes again. Her fingers traced the door handle. How many germs covered this handle? How many times had she grasped it to open it? How many people had pulled it? How many times had she thought of this and never found an answer?
She pressed down and pulled. The door didn't budge. The girl, unfazed, tried it again. Still, nothing. She released the handle to dig into the large pocket of her sweater. Her fingers came upon several pieces of metal. Pulling the objects out, they were all connected to a keychain. Her eyes instantly found the right key. It had a red ring around the top. It was the front door key.
Gingerly, she pushed it into the keyhole. Her hood fell over her forehead, a shadow befalling upon the chosen doorknob. She took a slow, deep, meaningful breath. The key turned effortlessly. The lock clicked.
The door was open.
She replaced the keys in her pocket as she opened the door wide. A waft of warm air emerged from the hall. The deep brown of her eyes turned an even darker shade as they looked around the vacant hallway. Memories cascaded down the stairs, bounding down the steps...one after another…
The stairs she had come down so many times remained the same. Cobwebs clung to the sides of the steps, dirt scattered over each and every inch of wood. The black and white tile of the hall was unscathed and probably cold. She closed her eyes and pictured the coldness of the tile as her bare feet touched them during the winter. It was so cold. So mercilessly cold.
The girl stepped inside. She pulled the door closed behind her, leaving her surrounded in a grey, lonely light. She felt cold. Chills crept up her fingers, across her arms, enclosed around her neck. Her breathing was forced to stay soft, easy, calm. Her hands gripped the ends of her sleeves, concealing themselves from view.
She was afraid. But felt strong at the same time. Powerful. The chills crawled cautiously, dangerously, threateningly down her spine. Her skin tingled, goose bumps arose, and her hair stood on end.
She took a step. Then another. Placed one foot on the step. Then the other. And continued. Until she reached the top. Until she stood before the only obstacle in her way.
She reached for the keys again. Stopped. Thought. How many times had she stood in this same exact spot? How many times had she grasped that doorknob and turned to reveal her depressing life? How many times?
The keys were pulled from the pocket, the right one was chosen. The key was inserted, she hesitated before turning it. Numbers sounded in her head as she counted. Memories sprang to life in her mind and she struggled to stay with reality.
She turned the knob. The door opened. Her eyes widened. Her heart stuttered. Her knees gave out and she fell to the ground.
She shut her eyes against the scene that unfolded before her. She didn't believe it. She couldn't believe it. She couldn't take it. She opened her heart and spread her arms wide.
A furry and soft orange cat wobbled into the girls arms. The cat meowed and sniffed the girl endlessly, her little nose twitching as she inhaled. The deep void and statue-like expression was cleared away from her face. Her dry, cracked lips turned upwards, upwards, into a smile she remembered she used to make. She rocked the cat back and forth in her arms, kissing the top of her head. Her hood fell, her face was no longer hidden.
A headache, a sharp one, pierced through the girl's skull. She cried out but no sound emerged from her mouth. It was silent but the pain echoed and bounded from one side of her head to another. She squeezed and clung to the cat, shutting her eyes tightly. Her teeth grounded together against the force of the pain, her fingernails dug into the cat.
Her eyes shot open as the pain was erased. It vanished. No trace of it remained except for her ragged gasps. The girl looked down at her empty arms. The cat was gone. Her hands were bare. She looked up.
Her parents lay on the couches. One on either sofa. They faced the wall beside the girl. She looked at them. Stiff. Solid. Frozen. Her eyes scanned both lifeless bodies. Empty vessels ignored her. Eyes devoid of life watched the frozen television.
The girl stood on two feet. Her countenance was lost in a flurry of confusion and grief; sorrow and anguish. Hesitantly, she took a step toward her father. He remained unmoving. Watching the television with unblinking eyes. His chest did not move, his pulse did not beat, and the shell of a wise man lay there, motionless.
The girl turned toward her mother. She looked into her green eyes and saw what she always saw; nothing. She didn't see anything that resembled any form of life, any form of determination, any form of caring. So her mother laid there, dead. That's what they should be. Dead. They might as well be.
The pain returned with a vengeance. Her skull felt like it was cracking in two, then four, then shattering in pieces until none remained. The girl fell in a heap on the living room table. Her body shook and trembled as the pressure increased.
Words, screams and shouts reached her ears through the cracking and breaking of her cranium. She opened her eyes; her vision was blurry with excruciating tears. She saw her father, once lifeless and frozen, now sitting up and talking to himself.
She watched helplessly as tears stained her pale cheeks. Her soft brown eyes couldn't budge from the vision of her drunken father rambling on about the war he was never in. The people he never killed. The life he never had.
The pain faded in...
The girl blacked out. Her eyes fluttered open; they were moist and rimmed in red. The sky was blue, light blue with clouds. She looked around. The house was empty save for her.
The front door opened then. Her dad stumbled through, dazed and defeated. He slammed the door with a harsh push. His face was bloody. His hands were swollen. The scent of alcohol emanated from his person, filled his breath, his mind, his soul.
Her mother yells at him. He screams a retort. He snarls at her, rage clouding his senses and filling his eyes. He points his finger in her face, she smacks it away and the rage increases. The girl watches. Helpless. Defenseless.
Time quickens as the scenes switch places. The husband and wife both zoom in and out of focus, in one spot one moment and across the room in the next. The girl's eyes attempted at following the figures moving at such a rapid pace, they hurt and caused her head to throb. She shut her eyes and bit her lip, clenching her fists as the scenes came in and out of her head.
She is standing now, facing the living room windows. Her eyes open to reveal her dad sitting on the edge of the window, dangling his feet outside. The room tilts and spins. Her father chuckles as her brother and mother struggle to pull him back inside the protection of their home.
Jump. Why doesn't he jump? Everything would be so much simpler had he jumped.
The room stretches far, far back, two football fields long. All of a sudden everything comes crashing back toward her in a rush and the girl is knocked to the floor.
The table is turned over; everything slides helplessly to the floor. Her father is pacing in a delusional rage. She doesn't know what he's mad at. She doesn't know what's going on.
Her head turns and now her father's on the couch. He seems dizzy and out of it, his head rolls backward. Her eyes widen as she sees herself standing before him, her mother by her side.
Her hand collides viscously with her father's face. Once. Twice. Three times. Her hand is stinging. She doesn't want to stop. The rage bursts open and fills her heart. It's all she can focus on. She wants to hit him again. Hurt him the way he hurt her.
But no, she can't. Her conscience forces her back. But the words tumble one after another, insult and threat bundled up into a false promise. Is he listening? She doesn't think so.
Her mother continues to hit him, not letting up. She doesn't stop until her daughter yells at her and pulls her back. Words flow from her mouth but she can't hear them.
The girl notices her face feels wet, she raises a hand, and tears mark her fingers as another one slides down her cheek. She wipes them away with her tattered sleeves, but they continue to fall.
A loud, booming knock sounds. Echoes. Increases. Her eyes shut tight against the noise but it's too loud. She grips her head and cries out as hot tears fall to the floor. She falls onto the dirty carpet, her mother needs to vacuum. She should tell her mom she needs to vacuum. Where is she? Where is her mother?
"Mom!" No response is given. The booming continues, she feels a crack in her skull, ripping across the face of her cranium. Her mouth is agape in horror, she screams in silence, unable to make a sound.
"Mom!" Her thoughts shout in desperation. "Dad!" No call comes back to her. No arms wrap around her. No affection is handed to her. Nobody comes for her.
The loud noise dims, her eyes gently open. Through the pain and the tears there is nothing. Wandering eyes fall on vacancy. Her heart wrenches. Her stomach squeezes in knots. Her fingers become tingly and numb. She grips the floor and crawls to her knees.
"Jacqueline..." Through a hazy gaze she sees her best friend.
Her only friend. The only one who understands. The only one who never judged her. A weak smile dances on her lips. The cat wobbles over to her...disappears...reappears...fades out...fades back in...
The girl begins to cry as she realizes the horror of her reality. A hard, helpless lump fills her throat.
The house is empty.
The room is cold.
There's nobody here.
And she's all alone.
The girl curls up into a defenseless ball. Her sleeves are gripped in her hands as her arms lock around her long legs. Her silhouetted hair sticks to her face as the tears hold the strands in a caress. They don't stop. The tears fall with ease as the girl realizes she's all alone in this tragic world.
She cries as her body trembles and her heart shakes. She cries because she knows nobody understands her. She cries because she can't take the pressure the world placed upon her fragile shoulders. The tears overflow because she can't tell the difference between reality and imagination. Her eyes sting in sorrow and pain because she can't come to grips with her life.
She cries because she wants to go home. But nobody's home.