1. A w a k e n i n g
Sunday morning I wake up suddenly to the constant sound of rain
thumping against my window. Groggily, I walk over to the window to
see the overcast sky stretching out across the green, rolling
hills. My favorite time of day. I try to relax, but I hear the
muffled voices outside my bedroom. I am sure not quite ready to
face the day, much less the constant bickering with my mother. With
a quiet 'tap, tap' my bedroom door slowly creaks open. I jump at
"Sophie, I told you to stop sneaking in my room!" I hiss.
She gives me a timid, apologetic smile and closes the door silently behind her. Shadows dance across her face as she makes her way through my disastrous room. Her dark hair is in a messy bun on top of her head, and instantly I can tell she has been crying. For only thirteen, she acts much older than her age. As she should, for she has been through a lot in the past couple weeks. Most little sisters are considered to be irritating, but I find Sophie completely lovable. She is so much tougher than I can ever dream of being.
"Oh, I'm sorry Soph. You just scared me," I say quietly. "Are you alright? Did you have the dream again?"
Faint outlines of bruises are still slightly visible on her skin. She looks at me and just shakes her head slowly, sitting on my bed. I can see her determination in her eyes to not cry in front of me as her jaw tightens. Even with these efforts, a few unwanted tears spill from her eyes. She looks toward the window as she vigorously swipes them away. When I am with her I try my best to be strong for her, but only so she can feel like she is any normal girl. But when something so terrible has happened to her, I cannot see a normal girl anymore. I see a look of fear glazed in to her emerald eyes that used to bounce with joy over the simplest things. Even as stubborn as she is, she can't keep herself from crying. I walk over to her and put my arms around her, trying to make something- anything- better. She gives in and weeps, all the while trying to be quiet so our parents won't hear.
"Sophie, I'm proud of you. You're the brave one, not me. I'm so, so sorry. You know you did everything you could," I whisper, but this just makes her cry harder. We don't speak for what seems like hours. I just sit there and hold her.
"I don't want you to leave," she finally says through her muffled tears.
Instantly, I feel guilty. For months and months I have been angry about my life, and now I was taking the easy way out. In the process, I am leaving my baby sister alone, scared. What will happen when she wakes up in the middle of her nightmare, and has nobody to talk to? What will happen when it hits her suddenly, the vivid images seared in her mind? She won't go and talk to my mother. My parents are still attempting to pretend nothing ever happened. Being strong for a little girl is one thing, but I cannot justify being completely ignorant.
"Ask if you can come with me. I won't mind," I say, dipping down, trying to look her in the eye. She just shakes her head again.
"That would require them knowing you were leaving." Her voice comes out sarcastically, her tone bitter.
I just shrug, and her eyes immediately soften.
"No, I will just try to come and visit. I'll be okay," she whispers, trying to convince me. It sounds more like she's trying to convince herself.
"I'm okay, Peyton," she replies a little more sharply.
"Okay, okay. You know, I'm leaving tonight and-" I start.
We both hear the front door slam loudly, causing me to me wince. The car engine fires up and I can't help but feel relief when I hear the sound slowly fade away into the distance. Sophie touches me gently on my arm. Looking back towards her, I try to ignore the long scratch against her neck and not cry.
"Peyton, you're going to have fun. I'll come up soon. I'll even write! Don't worry about me, please. I just want things to go back to normal."
"Oh like Mom and Dad?" I counter my voice acidic.
She just shrugs and tries to smile again.
"Be safe, okay?" And when she doesn't reply, "Okay?"
Sophie nods and we say our goodbyes. She helps me begin to pack, but soon leaves me to my thoughts. I pile everything into two bags, leaving my room empty and looking abandoned. The closet, drawers, and bed are all empty. A few books and picture frames are the only scattered remains. In a few hours, I will be in North Carolina with my grandmother. My best friend in the entire world had come up with a plan earlier in the month. She knew she would be off to her home town in California, where she had been waiting to go all year round. And I was lucky to have her, because most friends wouldn't worry about leaving me behind. But not Kait, she really does take care of me. Much more than I can ever admit I deserve. But of course, I will be leaving others behind. That's just what happens. Jason, my boyfriend, will be one. And I really will miss him, but my time staying here was over. And I think somewhere in his heart he knows that, as well. I need to leave. I need to leave my needy, arrogant mother. But unwillingly, my loving father will also be left. My beautiful sister, who was once silly and young in the heart, believes she should stay as well, for her sake as well as mine. Hands down I would let her come with me, but my mother would rather rip her hair out before admitting that she is slowly being abandoned by her own two daughters.
Things happen in our lives that cause us to change course. And in the past couple months; this time for me has come. I am ready to start over. I need to, because I am beginning to go crazy. Everything is planned out thoughtfully- as of a few weeks ago- before everything occurred with Sophie. Lately, I have been living for others, never for myself. I have been living to fight with my mother. I have been living to be there for Jason if he ever needs me. I am there for Kait to talk to, and there for Sophie to cry with. I am losing myself. But some days I will start to think, I don't even know who "myself" is. Going through the motions of everyday life, and I am no longer living. Summer has come, and I need to get away to clear my mind. I am only worried for Sophie, but I know I will see her soon. I also know she is much better than anyone ever gives her credit for, including the credit I give her. Sophie's independence is something that has always been striking to me, her still being such a young girl. She isn't one to want help, from anyone. No "charity work" under her watch, as she always is saying. That's just the way she has always been, and I know that some part of her is feels relief for me leaving. She loves me, and she just wants her sister back. Though, this timing is to be considered more than awful.
I say a quick goodbye to Sophie and left three notes in my, now lifeless, room while my parents are still out. The taxi takes me to the airport, and as I sit in front of the terminal, watching the plane pull up, I can't help but take a much needed deep breath. I simply sit there, staring at the plane through the heavy rain and fog of Washington. A few tears began to fall from my eyes as I think, "I'm not fine". The past couple months, that was all I have said. I'm fine, fine, fine, fine. Not good, not bad. I was just fine. But now, I think I may be happy. Nervous. Excited. Regretful, even. But most of all, I have hope. I have hope for a new beginning for myself, and even more hope for Sophie, knowing she is now starting over as well. I smile assumingly at the flight attendant through my blurred eyes, and flop down in my seat. I plug my iPod into my ears to drown out any of my thoughts, especially those urging me to go running for the emergency exit. Soon enough, I drift to sleep dreaming of the three tiny notes on my bed. Unconsciously, I release the uncomfortable tension in my shoulders. The three crumpled notes had created a whole new beginning for me, a whole new life.
♦ ♦ ♦
I need to be on my own for awhile, away from your accusations and judgments on my behalf. I'm safe, Dad knows where I am. Maybe now that you can worry about one less thing, you can think of the mess you began. Take care of Sophie. Let her come see me soon. Peyton.
I'm going to go visit your mother up in North Carolina for awhile. For the whole summer, to be exact. Take care of Soph for me, please! I love you, and I am sorry I didn't tell you, but I think you know why. Take care of yourself, and I will talk to you very soon. Thanks, Daddy. Love, Pey.
P.S. Please deliver the note addressed to Jason when you find the time.
I'm being spontaneous as you always told me to be. This is when you should start laughing! I'm spending my summer in North Carolina, and I'm sorry you can't be home for me to say goodbye. We have had great times, and I thank you so much for being good to me. I will miss you, and I am sorry. I know you will understand that I need to be on my own for awhile. I love you for being such a good friend to me, and I hope it can stay this way. Take care of Sophie, please. She really does like you. Thank you Jason, and come see me if you ever want to. Try and forgive me! But I hope you will understand, and know there is nothing to be mad about. Love, P.