“How unsettling.” A raspy girl’s voice whispered behind my head. I wasn’t paying attention to what she had said at first, until I realized it really was unsettling. There was really nothing exactly settling about being on a stinky wooden boat surrounded by murky green water. I pushed in the black frames of my glasses and caught a glimpse of a seaweed-filled water bottle dancing along with the dirty waves. Aquafina, I think.
I turned around to see who the voice belonged to, and behind me was a girl with a black bowler hat, remarkably auburn hair, and big dark eyes. We locked eyes for a moment, and I noticed that one eye was green and the other was blue. Both very dark shades of green and blue, but regardless, the color was different. She stared at me, and I stared at her, and for a moment, we just sat there, staring at each other. A look of concern crossed her face, and it had seemed like she wanted to say something important, but instead, she gave me a small smile.
“Oh. Hey.” I pushed a thin column of hair behind my ear and looked down, at the boat’s sloshy wooden interior. The floor was covered in leaves and seaweed, and the way the wood creaked made me wonder when the boat was built.
“I mean, isn’t this the most depressing thing you’ve ever seen? Who wants to go for a boat ride on a wet gloomy Sunday afternoon?” She wrapped a leg around the other, and leaned in, indicating she was about to engage in a conversation with me. Couldn’t she tell that I didn’t want to talk to anyone?
“I guess.” I mumbled. I played with the thick camera strap that hung along my neck.
She watched me, but I didn’t return her stare.
“What are you doing here, anyways?”
“Uh, my parents wanted to go on a tour of the city.”
“Are you new here?” The girl unfolded her legs and pulled her phone from her blood colored bag.
“Where are you coming from?”
“Uh, Kansas.“ I folded the camera strap around my thumb and felt each engravement embedded in the strap.
“Kansas? Wow.” She typed something in on her phone and then put it away and looked up at me.
The boat waded along shore and started vibrating loudly, creating thick film bubbles in the water. It swam up to the docking parallel to the sidewalk and made a complete stop. The intercom buzzed and a beefy black man came up the stairs. “Welcome to Palm Cove, Pennsylvania. We welcome all newcomers and hope you find many delights within your stay…” Then he started rambling on about nearby hotels and other things that didn’t interest me.
The girl began to get up from her seat and swung her bag across her shoulders. “Well, Welcome to Pennsylvania. I’m Katya.” She waved at me, and walked away, quickly. As she walked away I couldn’t help but again appreciate the perfection of her hair. Within each step she took away from the boat her auburn locks which were perfectly curled bounce with confidence and determination.
I ran my fingers through my stringy black hair that was tied in a loose ponytail, and envied her a little. No matter how many Youtube videos I watched I would probably never have hair as perfect.
My parents came up the stairs and met up with me, giggling about some inside joke. They loaded off the boat, and motioned me to come off with them. Families pushed by in strollers, and women with big purses shoved their way through the crowded exit. When I got off, my parents beamed at me.
“Wasn’t that just fantastic?” Mom grinned.
“Did you take any good pictures?” Dad pressed.
I only shrugged and continued walking behind them. The truth was, I hadn’t taken any pictures, and even though it was my favorite thing to do, I just wasn’t feeling it today. Maybe it was the gloomy weather and solemn people.
After we located our rental car, we drove five minutes to our new abode. It was pretty retro, you could say. The house was a cross between a deep pink and a light sepia or brown, and to be honest, it wasn’t very flattering. The shape of the house bent in odd places and had an odd cubism architectural style. Some places bulged out more than others and it didn’t really seem to fit in with all the other, solidly colored square houses neighboring ours. Once we got inside, the house looked like every other house that I’ve been in, and started to look a little more normal. Because I didn’t feel like exploring at the moment, because I didn’t really feel anything, my parents showed me the only room in the basement, and told me it was mine.
I walked in and saw my naked bed laying on the bare carpet. I guess Mom noticed something was wrong.
“Honey,” she said sympathetically and tilted her head a little, the way adults do when they feel bad for you. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I’m fine.” I lied. I collapsed on the bare bed and stared at the popcorn white ceiling.
“You’ll get used to it, I promise.”
“Okay.” I mumbled.
“Don’t you want to explore the rest of the house?”
“I’m really tired, mom.” I lied again.
“Mk. If you need anything…”
She snapped off the lights and slowly closed the door, and the blue from the window veered in.
Maybe this would be good for me. Maybe I could finally leave Kansas behind.
Or maybe I couldn’t. Maybe the mistakes I made would haunt me forever. Not mistakes, actually. Just one. Maybe I would love it here. Or maybe I would hate it here, and never forgive myself for what I did.
I stared up at the beads of white shapes on the sky of the ceiling and closed my eyes. Memories poured in, and a tear slipped down my cheek. It wasn’t even a tear tear. It was one of those pity tears, the sad tears that you cry slowly, you know, the ones you cry when you feel bad for yourself.
But I didn’t want to cry. I didn’t want to cry because I’d already done so much of that in Kansas. So I wiped the tear away and stopped being a weakling. I tried to list the positive things about moving.
At least I wouldn’t have to deal with all of the people that hated me. At least no one would know who I am. The good thing was that I could become a totally different person and leave the old Riley from Kansas behind.
At least people wouldn’t label me as the girl who killed her boyfriend.
Immediately I flushed the thought out of my head, but it didn’t work so well. The thoughts came flooding back and I tried to block them out again. My mind began drowning in the memories and more tears came. And then I allowed myself to remember because you can only push things away for so long. I would remember this one last time, and then I would forget, I would try to forget.
I’d been dating Tyler for a full year last February. I remember him telling me he had something important to show me, something important to tell me on Valentine’s Day. He didn’t really give my any hints, but I was pretty sure he was going to tell me those eight letters three words. I was ready to tell him, too. I mean, because I was ready. I really did love him.
He was so charming, and controlled. Not necessarily controlling, but controlled. I guess he just always knew what he wanted. He was the most put together guy I’d ever met and I loved that about him. I loved the way that his dark brown hair was parted perfectly, and wasn’t too curly or too straight, a healthy medium. I loved his really big brown eyes, those were legendary. His ability to be clever and cunning, he made you want to do anything he did. He was persuasive, to say the least. I loved his messy hair when he woke up, the way he smelled, the clean cut smell, I don’t even know how to describe it. Everything about him was fascinating, and I loved being with him, and I loved how I felt when I was around him. Careless, free, unstoppable. It wasn’t something just anyone could pull out of you.
On the night of Valentine’s day, he drove me to a really deserted campsite cliff. Nothing dangerous occurred to me then, because I trusted him with my life. I remember even making a joke, something like, “Did you take me here to kill me?” just because of how deserted it was.
I don’t think he laughed.
We kissed for a while, which, for one, he was an incredible kisser. Things got pretty heated and we got to second base. That was when he got out of the car then told me he was going to show me what’d he’d been planning to, and told me to close my eyes. I guess he didn’t think I was really keeping them closed, so he blindfolded me. Remember, this was all still romantic, it didn’t really occur to me that anything dangerous could happen. Not when I was with him, anyways.
We got out of the car and went further alongst the cliff, and then he told me to wait there. Here’s where I started having memory issues, where things get dicey. I think I waited for a minute or two before I started hearing a girl’s muffled whimper.
As the whimper neared I got a little confused. I started to get the impression that he wasn’t going to tell me he loved me. If only I had put two and two together.
“Tyler?” I whispered. The pitter patter of two sets of feet veered closer and then I smelled him, and felt safe again. He gently planted a kiss on my lips, with the blindfolds still on, and then said something.
“I’m gonna miss your pretty freckles.” He kissed my nose, and then told me to take my blindfolds off.
I blocked out the memory and opened my eyes again. I was back in my room. I wouldn’t remember anything more. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t allow myself to.
I think I lay there for two hours before I started smelling pizza. My mom knocked on my door and told me dinner was here. I told her I wasn’t hungry. Another lie. I fell asleep in my dress and no covers, and woke up at three in the morning, because I was starving.
Truth was, I couldn’t really face my parents. Even though I was innocent, I didn’t feel like their pure cleansed daughter that they had known for years. Ever since last year, I didn’t feel like I deserved them as parents.
I wandered into the kitchen that was nearly empty, except for the pizza placed on the marble island. There were four slices left and I ate three of them. They were cold and the cheese tasted cheap. I debated whether I should take on the fourth piece, and without another thought, swallowed it down. I still felt hopeless. I thought maybe if I ate enough, I would be full.
But it didn’t matter anyways, because I wasn’t looking to be hungry-full… I just wanted to be full like I used to be.
I decided maybe a walk might clear my head. When I went outside it, there was light rain, and at first it was cold and annoying, but after walking a few blocks, I got used to it.
Even though I was soaking wet and wearing a dress, and had nowhere to go, I didn’t really mind much. I just kept walking, step after step. Every few minutes a car drove by splashing me with little droplets of water without their knowledge. I passed a few outlet stores, a library, and a mall before I reached a park. I had no idea how long I’d been walking, and I was about to pass the park, I was about to pass it, but a blurred blob of strawberry blonde caught my peripheral vision. I craned my neck and saw a girl about my age. She was on a swing dressed in all black, with a black umbrella clenched in one hand. She was reading a book, and she wasn’t really using the swing, just kind of swaying it here and there.
I stood there and watched her read in all black. The way the rain spilled from the sky with the dark blue night’s backdrop and her gothic attire, it was all pretty eerie. Pretty, but eerie, too.
Maybe she heard me coming earlier, but after flipping a page with one of her free hands (which was coated in a black leather glove), she looked up calmly, ask if she knew I was there, but was waiting to finish her page. She looked perfectly polished with shiny red lipstick to really brighten her sadistic look.
“Oh. Hello.” She said. She didn’t really say it all that loud, but I heard it over the pitter-patter of the water and the swishing of the tree. She inspected how inappropriate my attire was considering the weather, and offered me the swing next to here.
I sloshed over to her, and she smiled.
“I didn’t think anyone else came here this late.” She placed a bookmark in the center of her page and snapped the book closed.
“Riley.” I mumbled. I kicked my galoshes back on the mud-soaked woodchips and swung a little.
“Nice. So why are you out here, this late, or this early, or whatever?”
“I was just taking a walk—I mean not to a particular place, I was just walking.”
“Ah, I see.”
“What’re you doing out here, all dressed in black?”
“I like black.” She shrugged. “And sometimes the sound of rain is better than the sound of the world. Don’tcha think?”
“Yeah, I guess so.” I swung a little higher.
“You new here? I’ve never seen you here before.”
“Yeah. I’m new.”
“How are you liking Palm Cove?”
“Gloomy.” At least I was honest.
“It is pretty gloomy. I guess I’ve never noticed that.” She twirled a piece of light orange hair around her ear, and drummed her fingers along the spine of the book. “I just try to forget how boring it is here. Not to be a total putdown or anything. Hey, you wanna see something, I learned how to when I was six?”
She didn’t really wait for my response just handed me her umbrella, and wobbly stood on the string. She hopped up on the shiny bars that the string’s chains were attached to and somehow found a way to hang from it like a monkey. Her hair dripped down from her head and it looked pretty twisted. And cool, I guess, if you were into that. It just looked weird to me, but maybe I wasn’t using my imagination right.
“Pretty snazzy, right?”
“I guess.” I offered a smile.
“Get up here and do it.”
“Uh, I’m fine here.”
“No, do it! Come on you’ll feel like you’re flying. Look at the world from a different perspective.”
“Get up here, Riley!” She laughed. “Hurry up, this is hurting my legs.”
I paused a little and remembered that I didn’t really even know this stranger. For all I know she could be a psycho. And maybe she was a mind reader, or maybe she really wasn’t one, but then I heard her say, “I’m not crazy.”
I guess that was enough for me.
I struggled getting up there at first, wobbling to and fro. I grabbed a hold of the thick blue bar and got ready to flip in the position that she was in. And then I fell.
As I fell my heart took a little leap, the kind of leap you get when you’re on a roller coaster, and for a split second I wondered if I would have that same leap if I fell off of a building. I’m not suicidal or anything, I just think the feeling might be similar. I imagine that my head will split into a plethora of pieces and make a mess of a clean cemented sidewalk, and then my head lands with a faint thump against the softened woodchips It didn’t really hurt that much, but I wondered what hell the back of my head might look like.
“Shit.” I muttered.
“Try again?” she called, trying to hold back her laugh.
“You can laugh, you know. It just makes it worse if you don’t.”
She let out a giggle, and told me to try again. So I did.
And once I got the hang of it I really did feel weightless. My stomach felt light and airy, and everything was upside down. I didn’t even really feel lightheaded. It just felt nice, the way my stomach felt, the feeling of knowing that no one could really bother you, if the world was upside down. The girl was talking to me, but it all just went through one ear and came out the other.
“Spiritual, isn’t it?”
“I guess it is.”
And then she turned and looked at me. “Be confident when you speak. I used to have that problem too. It’s either one or the other, it’s either spiritual or it isn’t, there is no gray.” She turned back towards to sky, and we continued to hang from the swing’s base. “So, Riley, is it spiritual or isn’t it?”
“It’s spiritual.” I agreed.
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