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The burden got heavier and heavier as the days grew into years. The years before the disaster began to fade; memories starting to delete themselves from her mind, happy moments began to seem unreal, familiar faces becoming a blur. Colors became too bright for her, so her world began to shift into a dark place.

She wasn’t always struggling. There was a time in her life when she was happy. A time in her life when she wasn’t afraid of people. A time when she wasn’t afraid to speak out. A time when she didn’t collapse into tears when she was alone at night.

She begun to build a barrier around herself when the disaster happened. She removed the curtain that covered her eyes and saw the world in a different way. She realized the world wasn’t such a happy place. She realized how blind she had been and how pathetic everything was. She started to ignore the questions and words of reassurance. They didn’t mean anything to her. “I’m fine.” was a regular phase she used.

It’s funny how we were taught that lying was bad. Now, we discover our world is built on many more lies than the truth.

People would watch her, unsure of what to think of her. She became an outcast, after she let go of all her friends. She would walk the halls alone, blocking out the world around her. She was used to the stares and whispers that followed her; it no longer bothered her. It comforted her. It was better than silence. The silence that filled the home she dreaded. Going home meant facing the person she feared most.

***

The door swung open, slamming against the wall. The wall spat out a chip of wood created by the force of the door. The floor coughed a cloud of dust as she walked through. The house had not been cleaned for a while since the disaster. Her mother was in her room, as usual, crying and screaming. Her mother started acting like this only after the disaster. Her mother would cry and scream and yell and finally fall into an eerie silence, only to repeat this routine the next day. Her mother ignored her daughter’s existence after her daughter made it clear that she wanted to be alone.

She made her way through the house, ignoring the echoing sobs that danced in and out of each room. As expected, he was waiting in the living room. Just sitting there. Waiting.

He was always waiting at home. No matter how early or late she arrived, he was always sitting in the armchair by the window which looked out onto the street. She wondered why he waited for her. Was he waiting to pick out her flaws and mistakes? Was he waiting for her to finally fall after years of dealing with the burden? He would watch, silently, as she struggled to deal with life and the people around her. She feared him. She feared his very presence. The scariest thing about him was when he opened his mouth.

“Why are you late.”

He didn’t ask it in a questioning tone. It was a demanding, suspicious tone. A tone that you wouldn’t disagree with. She shivered and looked away.

“I-I was caught up in something at school.” She lied. She felt her eyes start to fill with tears, and her vision began to blur. She desperately tried to blink the tears away. The tears escaped her eyes, and slid down her cheek and rested on her lips. One tear fell straight down, the glistening drop of water making a small dark mark on the carpet. She held her breath and waited. She couldn’t cry in front of her him. It made her weaker and made him stronger.

The teardrop that fell on the carpet seemed to make him even angrier. He glared down at her, as if he could see right into her thoughts. He stood up, and she backed away.

“I’m sorry.” She said quickly, trying to cover up her mistake of lying. The apologies spilled from her mouth. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry doesn’t mean anything! No one cares about you. They’re all sick of you! You’re worthless, you don’t mean anything to any of them!” He shouted, and she ran up to her room, too afraid to stay. His voice followed her as she ran up the stairs. She slammed the door, her heart pounding. His last words seeped through the door.

“I’ll be waiting. I’ll always be waiting.”

She collapsed on her floor in a heap, silent sobs climbing up her throat and tears dripping down her face. She felt his words spinning in her head, occupying up her mind.

Suddenly, she felt an anger bubbling inside of her. Why was she allowing herself to be taken advantage of like this? Why did she have to be so weak?

The anger started melting away into something stronger. Something stronger than she was. It started burning into her, using all her energy as if not allowing her to ignore this anger. She screamed and slammed her fist against the door. She pulled herself up and tore down everything in her room. Fragile photographs that captured smiling faces were covered in shards of bitter glass. Precious crafts which were held together by happy memories were ripped apart, broken by disastrous nightmares.

What was she doing? Even she didn’t know. Her door creaked open, and she looked up to see a tearful mother staring down at her. Her mother’s eyes portrayed pure shock. Her mother silently scanned the room, and her eyes fell onto something on the floor. Her mother bent over and picked up a photograph. The shards of glass fell off the photograph and tinkled down, singing an ghostly melody.

The photograph was of a young girl on a beach. The girl was holding up a seashell which she had found. The sunlight showed off her smiling, joyful face and the ocean splashed against the sand in the background. The mother stared at the photograph for a long time. What had happened to her daughter? How had she changed from this smiling, joyful girl to this insecure catastrophe? Her mother placed the photo back onto her daughter’s bedside table and knelt beside her.

“What are you doing, dear?” Her mother whispered. Her mother was careful not to make her daughter feel uncomfortable. She was like a timid animal, it would take time to gain her trust.

The daughter looked at her blankly. It had been a long time since she had spoken to her mother.

“He… he said he’d be waiting for me.” She whispered back, her voice starting to wobble. Her mother slowly reached out and took her hand.
“Who, darling?” Her mother asked. The daughter felt a tear slide down her face. She turned her head slightly to the ceiling, and her mother understood. Her mother squeezed her hand.

“He may be waiting for you dear, but he’ll have to wait for a long time. I still need you here, OK? Promise me you’ll stay here with me? When we’re both ready, they we will go to him. I love you, dear, please don’t forget that.” The three words ‘I love you’ seemed to change the atmosphere in the room. Her mother gently stroked her daughter’s head. For the first time in 6 years, a small smile lit up both of their faces.

***

The girl walked into the graveyard. She glanced at the dull, grey stones that protruded out from the green grass. A few bright patches of flowers brought color to some gravestones. The girl weaved between lost loved ones, and finally stopped in front of one. She paused and looked around, unsure of what to do. She looked back at the gravestone and knelt in front of it. She placed a small bunch of blood red roses onto the ground.

“It’s been a while,” she started. She felt her voice shaking, and the tears filling her eyes again. “It’s still hard to accept. I guess it’s all a part of of life, right? I will come to you eventually. Mom will too. I promise.” She paused, and looked around again. “I was afraid of you. I was terrified, actually.” she whispered. “I guess I just had to accept that you were gone. That I would never be able to please you if I just held on the memories and try and recreate them. You wanted me to let go, and you tried to tell me. You finally resorted to anger, making me feel worthless. It was your last attempt to try and make me let you go so I could live happily. And when you said you’d be waiting, I thought you’d be waiting for me to join you. When actually, you were waiting for me to let you go.”

She forced herself to look back at the gravestone. It had been 6 years since she had seen it. The letters were less crisp and the stone was decorated with weeds.

“It’s been 6 years.” she said aloud, repeating her thoughts. “I was 8. Now I’m 14. I’ve grown up and realized that life goes on.”

She traced her finger along every letter neatly organized on the stone. She whispered the words as she read them.

“In loving memory of Adam Jameson. March 23rd, 1948 to October 4th, 2006.”

She wasn’t afraid of him anymore. A smile drifted onto her face. She had let him go, for now. He would want her to let him go and live her life happily. She would wait until she was ready to reunite with him again.

“I miss you, dad.”




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