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When Faced with Reality
If life is known for being unpredictable and we expect nothing less than for events to occur at the most unexpected and unforeseen times, why are we still so surprised when such events occur? Why do we still ask “how could this happen to me?”
I don’t seem to have any answers anymore, while for so long I believed I did. If anything I learned you never know how you will react to one of those “never saw it comming” events until you’re in one. Six months ago I never would have thought, couldn't have predicted or even imagined the future I had in store.
Now I find myself surrounded by high walls, curtained windows and hard, upright wooden benches. Soft whispers piled upon each other to make a loud and yet incomprehensible noise. I want nothing more than for the fast talking tongues of the press and public to be silent. The apprehension in the room is suffocating me as if the summer humidity itself were trapped in this courtroom.
A silence has fallen over the crowd as if upon entering the room the judge has thrown a blanket over the anxious heads of the people who have gathered in this court room today. As the judge takes his seat so do we, all but the head juror seated stiffly in the hard wood benches, legs crossed and toes tapping in anticipation.
It has been a long and difficult six months and even with the trial moments from being closed I have no idea what I am going to do now. I don’t know how I will move on now that the world I’d once known has disappeared, evaporated like water on a scorching hot day, right in front of me and never to be seen again. I’ve watched my life ascend vaporously up into the sky leaving nothing but my own body behind. And yet even with the empty future waiting on the other side of the judge’s conviction I find myself greedily awaiting to hear the words of justice on those who took my life from me the moment it started.
As the head juror is addressed by the judge and opens his mouth to form the words we’ve all waited so long to hear, I inhale deeply, feeling my attorney, Miranda’s hand wrap around mine and squeeze.
My head is dizzy and so the words of the judge asking the defendant to rise and those of the head juror slip past my comprehension, all I hear is one, simple, two syllable word, guilty. My breath seeps out of my chest and I sink into my chair.
*six months earlier*
The sun had disappeared almost instantly behind grey clouds we’d never seen coming. What had seemed to be the perfect day to hike up to Crystal Lake for a swim had turned into a rainy mess as the skies opened up and poured down, soaking us to the skin. But Lily and I didn’t care; the rain did not dampen our mood. We laughed and ran to the dock, our clothes clinging to every inch of our skin. My blue jeans became heavy and my white tank top transparent, revealing the white and pink polka dots of my bathing suit beneath. My long chestnut brown hair was falling limply out of my pony tail. Lily reached the dock before me, stopping short at the tip of the wood and opening her arms to the cool rain her face upturned to the tiny droplets falling from the grey sky.
The lake was surrounded by trees thick and green in the height of summer; their reflections distorted by the ripples of rain drops breaking the otherwise motionless, glass like surface. We laid down on the hard, slippery wood and just let the rain wash over us, cleansing and purifying, our faces no longer sticky with sweat.
Lily’s reddish blonde ringlets of hair spread out like a fan beneath her head, blanketing the dock. She inhaled deeply, her chest rising as her mouth began to form words, “Don’t moments like this just seem so perfect? So beautiful? Everything, the colors and scents and feeling of the rain on your skin, the unexpected timing, it’s all so perfect.”
I sighed, “It does. It really makes you think about things, like how impossible it seems that someone isn’t behind all of it, created it. I feel like beauty like this just doesn’t happen on accident.”
Lily agreed with a soft mhm as her eyes slipped closed. It was a while before she spoke again, “sometimes I just wonder why life can’t always be like this. I wish every moment could be this sweet, like my grandmother’s red velvet cake. Scenes like this being the flour and the company the sugar,” she elbowed me playfully, “and the pure happiness the frosting on top.”
I laughed, “Only you are capable of coming up with such metaphors.”
She shrugged her shoulders and smiled, eyes still shut, face serene.
“Well not everything can be as perfect as your grandmother’s red velvet cake. I guess if we didn’t know badness we’d never know good, even if it slapped us square in the face. We just have to take both and live for the good I guess, no matter what happens.”
“Easier said than done I think,” Lily spoke more matter-of-factly than negatively, “It’s not like either of us knows what it’s like to be starving, or to go with-out or to loose someone.”
“Well…my father…” I was about to say that I’d lost my father but that had been no more than a month after my birth. So I still didn’t really know what it was like to loose someone. I shrugged my shoulders, “I guess I wouldn’t know.”
“Well enough of this depressing talk! Let’s go for a swim,” Lily jumped to her feet, shedding her clothes and in one swift movement, dove off the dock sending a wave of water my way.
“Lily!” I shouted, faking my annoyance and jumped in after her. The previous conversation was completely forgotten.
*A few days later*
The first time I found a piece of equipment with “RM Inc.” stamped on it I’d shown it to my mom which turned out to be not the smartest choice. She’d flipped out, taking the little digital voice recording device from my hands and then after seemingly recovering from the unexpected shock, told me not to worry and go do my homework, sending me off with no explanation.
That night I’d gone to sleep only to hear my mother’s voice on the telephone, “You tell your people to be more careful- my fault? This has nothing to do with me- well did you have people installing new equipment?- what?- no- I’m telling you someone must have been in the house I- alright- bye.”
A week or so later, the day at the lake with Lily, I came home to an empty house, my mom still at work. When I’d entered my room I’d jumped, taking in a sharp breath. Jutting out from underneath my pillow was another piece of what seemed to be video equipment with the same “RM Inc.” emblem on it. When I pulled it out I found a small note attached, “Be a bit smarter this time, for you’re sake.” Confused I felt an odd feeling pooling in the pit of my stomach. This time I hid it from my mother in the far back corner of my closet behind some shoes. I had absolutely no idea where it came from or who was leaving it there but I had to find out. I decided to go to the library the next day it would have closed already today.
Trying to forget about it, I sat down at my desk and flipped on my computer. After watching a few TV show re-runs I heard my mom come in from work. I knew she had something to do with whatever was going on with the equipment but I couldn’t ask her about it and didn’t want to ruin a perfectly beautiful day with something stupid.
“Hey Tru,” my mom smiled at me as I came down the stairs. She placed her purse on the coat hanger next to her rain jacket which was dripping water softly onto the floor, “How was your day?”
“Amazing, Lily and I hiked up to the lake and went for a swim,”
My mom laughed good heartedly, tossing her wavy hair over her shoulder, her rosy cheeks indented with dimples from her smile, “Got caught in the rain I’m assuming?”
I laughed, “yes, but, it worked out for the best. It made for great laughs and a fun swim.”
“Why don’t you tell me about it while I make dinner?”
And we walked into the kitchen, laughing, talking and joking as we had every other day before.
My mother had left for work the next day before I was even awake. Dressed and having eaten breakfast, I headed into the garage. I paced back and forth, turning ever so often to look at my bicycle, unsure if I really wanted to do what I was about to do.
“What the heck,” I mumbled and rolled my bike out of the garage and headed over to the library.
It was gorgeous out but I hardly noticed anything around me, paying attention only enough to keep me in the right direction and from getting hit by a car. When I reached the library I leaned my bicycle into the rack and headed in.
I sat down at a computer, punching in my library card number to get internet access. Then I Googled RM Inc.” The results were a bunch of links to sites and articles about Reality Movie Incorporated, some company that made all the popular “reality” TV shows and apparently movies now too. I clicked on the first link but before it could show up the entire computer blacked out, “What the-” But no sooner had I opened my mouth the librarian was “shushing” me. I gave up and headed home, someone had to be playing some sort of practical joke.
I would have just tried to let it go, forget it all and just pretend it never happened. It was weird yes, but weird things happen in life. I kind of felt like I was in one of those old Twilight Zone episodes but stuff happens sometimes. I was ready to forget it all, until the next day when I found yet another piece of equipment accompanied by a note that said, “Shower, NOW.”
At this point I was all but completely freaked out. I had considered calling the police, but I’d have to tell my mom and I still hadn’t figured out why she’d reacted the way she had. She knew something about it that I didn’t, of that much I was aware. Finally I decided that whoever it was didn’t seem out to hurt me, so I took a deep breath and silently crept down the hall and into the bathroom.
When I entered the dark room I slowly stepped closer and closer to the shower, putting my hand delicately on the edge of the curtain, my heart racing. Suddenly the door to the bathroom shut and a hand clamped over my mouth before I could turn or scream.
“Shh,” said a voice in my ear. I tried to wriggle away but the person was too strong, “calm down and I’ll let you go. We don’t have much time.” At the thought of being set free I stopped squirming, but as soon as the hands left me I whipped around, shoving the person into the wall with a move I’d learned in my karate class the previous year.
“Hey! Chill out Tru!” The voice was deep but young and slightly boyish. In the dark I could make out a tall, thin but strong figure in jeans and a t-shirt. He took my wrists in his hands, “I’m here to help you.”
“Who are you?” I questioned, trying to sound strong and unafraid but failing.
“My name is Mitchell, but that doesn’t really matter. You gotta listen to me; I’m here to help-”
“What are you doing in my house? Why do you keep leaving those weird pieces of equipment around?”
“Tru just listen to me-”
“And how do you know my name? I swear I’ll call the police,”
“Damn it, Tru just shut up and listen to me, we don’t have time for this.”
The force in his voice made me jump and I shut my mouth, obedient to the strange boy.
“Listen, I’m trying to help you get your life back-”
“My life back? What the hell are you talking-”
He clamped his hand around my mouth again, “I was hoping you might figure it out on your own but you didn’t. Tru you’re life is being video taped by Reality Movies Inc. You’re mother is an actress, she’s being paid. You’re just a part of this movie they’re hoping to make millions off of, ‘A Story of a Girl.’”
My head was spinning, nothing he said made sense.
“Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. My uncle is the director, Fredrick Marx, I’m Mitchell Marx. He’s been taping your life from the very beginning. He had me working on the equipment team, but I just-” his face went cold and hard with anger, “its just wrong. I won’t let him do this to you.”
All of a sudden there was the sound of a car screeching to a halt in my driveway. “S***,” he muttered, “They can’t find me here. The bathroom is one of the few spots I was able to hotwire and make blind to them. Tru, just trust me, only you can help yourself. Anyone else who gets in the way will just be taken down by my uncle. I’ve got to go, but if you’ve got any sense you’ll do something for yourself. Go to the police. No one knows about the movie except my uncle and the crew. He was probably planning to pay you to keep quiet, who the hell knows what story he’s concocted in his sick head. He’s got to have something planned, so he can’t get in trouble. But if you don’t want you’re life sold out to the world I suggest you-” a door slammed downstairs.
“Tru? Tru honey where are you!” It was my mother’s voice. Or was she a stranger? My mind was spinning now.
“I’ve got to go,” Mitchell turned opening up the window and disappeared into the darkness outside.
The bathroom door flew open, “Honey! Honey are you alright?” A woman I no longer knew rushed in and wrapped her arms around me.
“What’s wrong mom?” I said in a cold, withdrawn voice, stunned beyond belief from the story I had been told, one I couldn’t be sure if I believed but also couldn’t be sure I didn’t.
“I tried calling the house but you didn’t answer, I was afraid something had happened to you.”
“Sorry, I hadn’t heard the phone ring,” I hadn’t heard it because it never had rung I thought to myself. I wondered how her warm, convincing words could house such a cold lie. I shook my head trying to empty it of the thoughts, “I don’t feel so well, I’m going to sleep early.”
I stepped around her and headed straight for my room, I did not however fall asleep. I listened, overhearing my “mom’s” whisper as she talked coldly into the receiver of the phone, “What do you mean you don’t know what happened- just a short circuit?- if Frederick finds out- but who could be behind it-no data recorded at all?- what does she know?” Her voice softened, but I wanted to hear more. I slipped out of bed but just as I got to the door I heard, “She’s up? Damn it, she knows. Bye.” Any doubts I’d had in my mind had vanished, the words of the stranger I’d once believed to be my mother had confirmed everything Mitchell had said. Nothing could explain the feeling I had then and with a wave of sickness I rushed into the bathroom and vomited.
I walked up the steps into the truck that housed the main screens for cameras 1-25, the ones that covered Tru’s home and the surrounding area by a radius of 500 feet. The crew was buzzing around trying to figure out what caused the glitch in the bathroom for 20 minutes and 32 and a half seconds the day before. Lounging in a chair in the far corner of the room supervising with a scrutinizing eye was none other than my uncle. Frederick Marx, infamous reality show telecaster and film extraordinaire, had the smooth face you’d think read easiness and nonchalance but I knew better. Inside he was fuming, his blood running hot through his veins. A glitch on his set? It just didn’t happen.
I couldn't help but feel a bit arrogant. To him I was an insignificant camera boy who happened to be his nephew and thus he could get away with paying me less. It seemed he had no clue, had no way of knowing that I was behind the camera glitch and I would be the one to take him down.
I walked up behind him, “Strange huh? We’ve never had anything like it happen before.”
“Strange,” he mumbled gruffly, not even turning to look at me.
“Where is she now?”
“Her room,” he paused, “seems to have the stomach flu.”
“That’s too bad…”
“No not really,” he answered quickly, “makes her human, her story real.”
I was continually disgusted with the way he talked about her. She was nothing but money to him. I knew everything about her, where she lived, her hobbies, her friends, what she did from day to day, little quirks like obsessively brushing her teeth and watching “The Notebook” cuddled up on the couch with popcorn and ice cream when she was upset. She almost always wore her hair up but I loved the random occasion where she let her long, thick brown hair fall over her shoulders. My heart melted when she smiled, her blue eyes glistening. I probably knew and noticed more about her than anyone else and yet I didn’t know her. Up until yesterday I’d never met her, never spoken with her, she had never known I existed. But in that moment, despite the rush of adrenaline from trying something so insane and the crazy thoughts with all the information I had to tell her in such a short time, that moment when I’d touched her, finally come in contact with someone who I’d only viewed through a camera lens, finally she became real to me. Not just real but really real. Before there had always been a part of it that seemed so illusory but now it had hit me, she really was there, and I was going to save her. I was going to give her the freedom she deserved.
I turned and walked out and around the back of the truck. Then, not having taken more than a dozen steps, two heavy hands took me by the shoulders and whipped me around. Pain shot across my face as a fist slammed square into my nose. “You dirty, rotten son-of-a-b****.”
When I opened my eyes Fredrick Marx was staring down at me. “You think you can go behind my back? Trick me and try to tell the girl information she just doesn’t need to know?” His foot smacked hard into my side, blood was already trickling down from my broken nose.
He knew, I didn’t know how but he had found out. Regardless, I was not going to let him get away with any of it. Being on my side I was able to reach into my pocket and pressing the camera button twice on my phone I activated the video application, “H-how did you know?” I stammered.
“I know because you’re an idiot and don’t know anything. You’ve only worked on the cameras buddy but we’ve got a whole other branch to this show here. We’ve used the most updated scientific technology to access her brain waves and thought processes, sometimes even alter-”
“You’re in her HEAD?” If I thought I was thoroughly disgusted before, I had no words to describe my feelings now.
“It really is the most brilliant technology, but I’m sure you’ll never be able to wrap your head around it.”
“You have no right-” I attempted to get back on my feet but Frederick kicked me hard again than stood back laughing.
“We have every right. I paid $5.5 million for that stupid girl, now it’s her turn to make me millions. Someday before we’re ready to go public I’ll give her an offer she simply can’t refuse, and if she tries, well I’ve got plenty of ways to take care of that. Now get lost kid. Because if I catch you back on or anywhere near RM Inc. property or the girl, you’ll wish you were dead.”
My finger pressed the “stop recording” button and shaking I stood up and headed off.
Every time I tried to make myself believe Mitchell’s story something in my head told me not to. But I had every reason to believe didn’t I? I started running through all other possible scenarios but kept coming up short. I wanted to tell Lily but something in my head told me not too, she wouldn’t believe me, would she? I thought about looking for Mitchell but any attempt seemed futile. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Should I call the police? What evidence did I have? I still had those few equipment pieces in my closet. I grabbed the phone but as soon as I placed my fingers ready to dial I got the worst head ache, collapsing to the ground. Crawling across the carpet I made my way to the closet and began shuffling blindly through the mess of shoes and clothes making my way to the back corner. My hands searched furtively, tossing all the contents of the small indent in the wall out onto my floor, but nothing was there.
Exhausted I sat up, pressing my back against the wall, breathing heavily. It was all a joke, just a cruel joke. I didn’t know how and I didn’t know why, but I didn’t care anymore. Out of pure exhaustion I crossed my room and collapsed into my bed, my head still pounding and whispering words encouraging me to relax, let it all go and fall asleep.
I couldn’t believe that stupid kid had beaten the system and snuck into the girl’s house, but I was sure I took care of him today. I figure after that good beating he won’t be coming around here anytime soon. No, nothing to worry about at all; that brother of mine will just assume the kid got in a fight, they’ve ignored him all his life, I don’t expect them to care much now. And me! The good uncle that took him under my wing, treated him like a son and gave him a good job, and this is how he treats me. Well he got what he deserved.
I sat down in the thick leather chair of my study, put my feet up on the desk and lit a cigarette with one hand, rubbing my aching temple with the other.
“I need a vacation. Somewhere sunny with a beach and plenty of girls putting on a show in lacy white bikinis-” I stopped short as the door to my study banged open unleashing a swarm of policemen.
“Frederick Marx you’re under arrest for-” and the officer read me my Miranda Rights as he turned me around and fastened my wrists in handcuffs.
That night I’d woken up to the sound of a loud car engine pulling up the driveway of our two story colonial house in Hancock, Vermont. At first I was too drowned in sleep to try and make any sense of it but the flashing blue and red lights and the hard knock on the front door sent me flying out of bed. I whipped open the door to see the woman I’d once known to be my mom, flying out of her room. She looked at me with an infuriated glance, “you little b****,” she sneered before slowly descending the staircase to meet the waiting police officers.
I couldn’t breath; my head hurt from confusion but all the pain and all the pressure from before to forget what Mitchell had told me was gone. I sat down in the doorway, pulled my legs into my chest and burst into tears.
I cried as I heard them handcuff the stranger I thought I’d known, as a man in a blue uniform ascended the stairs, helped me up and guided me to a police car. I felt alone, so terribly alone and I did not know what to think or to believe. Fear rushed through me as the world I knew shattered, evaporated in front of me.
I was taken to the station where I was surprised to find Mitchell sitting a chair against the wall, bent over himself, his head in his hands. He looked up as we entered.
“Tru, oh thank God you’re alright,” he ran over to me, wrapping his arms around my hard, unresponsive body. I was still in my pajamas though the officer had asked if I wished to change. I hadn’t been able to answer him, “Tru you’re safe now I promise. They’re all in custody, Marx, that wicked actress Tanya Diarmonio, the crew. We’ve got them and we’re going to get them all in jail, I won’t let them hurt you any longer. And in that moment the person I’d known all my life became a stranger and the stranger I just met became a friend. Unable to express any of what I felt however, I simply separated myself from him and silently sat in one of the small, plastic chairs. Anything to retain what little of me there was left.
*the next day*
Mitchell Marx’s family took me in with permission of the police and offered me a place to stay until everything was sorted out. I hadn’t uttered a word since the arrest; I couldn’t have even if I wanted to. Mrs. Marx was kind and showed me to the spare room so I could rest, even though by that point it was morning. When I laid down however I was unable to clear my head enough to sleep and when the tossing and turning became intolerable I got up and went to find Mitchell. When I entered his room he looked up but didn’t say anything, waited patiently for me to speak.
“I need to know what happened,” my voice cracked and spoke emotionlessly.
“You want to sit?” he motioned towards his bed. I sat down against the far wall across from him and he just nodded in compliance, “It’s hard-”
“I just want the truth,” I said coldly, “I just- I just need to know the truth.”
Mitchell sighed, sitting at the edge of his bed, his hands folded and his elbows resting on his knees, “You’ve been taped since about six months after you were born, some 17 years ago. You’re-” he paused, inhaled and shook his head as if he wanted nothing but the thoughts to leave his head, “mother died in childbirth. You’re father I assume couldn’t handle the thought of raising a child on his own so when my uncle offered to pay, well, a lot of money-”
“How much,” I persisted.
Mitchell sighed, “$5.5 million.” The breath caught in my chest. Mitchell continued, “Frederick had you’re house bought and hired Tanya, paying her a lot of money for the full time job. Of course, she had most days to herself, when she told you she was at work that it. Other than that the deal was 18 years of service and she’d be out, and over a 100 million dollars richer. The cameras were installed and the filming began but in moderation. The amount of attention given to you increased over the years as you grew older. When you were thirteen Marx paid major money to have a device installed that is beyond almost all known technology. An instrument used to decode brain waves and translate them into sound waves-”
“They could-” I started, my voice disbelieving.
“Hear what you thought yes, and at times, to a certain degree, persuade you one way or another. But don’t worry, it’s been shut down.”
My stomach felt sick all over again and had there been anything left I would have vomited again. Instead however my eyes fell closed and I simply concentrated on breathing. Now I knew why the head ache and ‘voices’ had gone away.
Mitchell coughed uncomfortably, “They drugged you in your sleep one night and transported you to a place where they could do the operation. You were in your own bed for hours before you ever woke up.”
I could feel the blood drain from my face, my body going cold. If it hadn’t been dark I’m sure Mitchell could have seen my face go white. He must have known even without seeing though.
“Should I continue?” Mitchell spoke worriedly. I just nodded, “The good side of it all is that Tanya was the only actress that was hired. Everyone else in your life is real, Lily and all your school friends.”
“But how-” I started, breathing heavily, “do I know if I’ve been real with them?”
“The interaction between them and your brain was very minimal, you were still you,” I could feel Mitchell’s gaze on me as he spoke but I couldn’t open my eyes, couldn’t look up and face him. He was only doing what I asked and only because he cared, but I knew if I looked at him I’d uncontrollably say something I didn’t wish to say aloud.
“How did you convince the police? What’s going to happen now?” my voice was still hard, cold and simply demanding. I couldn’t manage the sound of it or what it said. I felt as though my body was on auto-pilot, my head was too lost, broken and confused to control it.
“Well, Marx found out I’d told you. At the time we met I didn’t know about the whole hearing thoughts thing. He, well… found me and gave me a stern talking to… and I recorded on my phone some of the stuff he’d said. That was enough to get the police to drive out to the set and from then on they needed no more convincing.”
“A stern talking to?” I questioned skeptically, nodding my head towards his face to let him know I hadn’t missed the bruises and cuts. Mitchell just shrugged.
I felt like I owed him more than a thank you but I couldn’t manage to say anything. I was still so in shock, utter disbelief, half of my torn and twisted thoughts under the impression I’d wake up in the morning to find everything as it was, but then part of me knew this was my reality and I had no choice but to face it.
*Six months later*
It was 5:00 am, the morning of the final trial, and I found myself completely and utterly awake. Life had come to an utter stand still since the arrest and since I discovered almost everything I’d know to be my life was a lie. I’d been permitted to continue staying at Mitchell Marx’s house considering I had no living family members and the state had not yet decided what to do with me. I also turned eighteen in a month and a half.
Restless with the seemingly ever present thoughts of the trial and what life would hold for me afterward, if anything, I rolled out of bed and headed into the bathroom adjacent to my room to take a hot shower.
Part of me kept thinking it was my fault, if I hadn’t gone to the library that day and looked up RM Inc. maybe nothing would have ever happened, things would be as they had always been. Another part of me was angry at Mitchell for telling me, but I could never have kept living a lie.
Now it had been months and still I found myself feeling empty and alone. Mitchell would have offered consolation if I had been open to it but my mind and body had sealed itself shut and I had no energy or desire left in me to try and reopen them. I hadn’t seen anyone from school, not even Lily, though I’d received frequent calls and messages asking if there was anything they could do. My email had been flooded with messages from people I didn’t even know, people from across the country who wanted to help. Yes, my story had made not even just national, but world news. The reporters still persisted to ask me questions and take photos every time I was out of the 800 foot diameter of police protected area surrounding the Marx’s house.
Stepping into the shower, I let the warm water fall over my face and body and instantly a memory entered my consciousness. I tried to block it, force it away, this wasn’t the first time the memory and Lily and I on the dock had attempted to penetrate my thoughts. This time however I failed and the feelings and sensations of that moment in time blew full force into my tired mind.
In the memory Lily was laying next to me on the dock, the rain falling soothingly across our skin. Slowly her words came back to me, as clear as if I’d traveled back to that very moment. “Don’t moments like this just seem so perfect? So beautiful?
Tears began to run down my face, indistinguishable from the shower water except for their salty taste. I didn’t want to remember, I wanted to erase all my memories, knowing I’d never be able to separate the truth from the lies.
The ‘me’ memory sighed, “It does. It really makes you think about things, like how impossible it seems that someone isn’t behind all of it, created it. I feel like beauty like this just doesn’t happen on accident.”
Though my mind revolted against it, my heart ached for that moment, the magnificence and the serenity; none of which remained in my life. I was jealous and hated the two beautiful girls in my memory for it. I despised the words the memory of me spoke. “Lies,” I whispered into my hands, covering my face. I was overcome with grief. Though I’d never been taken to church, I had had faith in a greater being, one that respected beauty and love. But this, this life, could not have been allowed by a character so great. Anger boiled in my veins, burned through every part of my body, but the memory continued.
The memory Lily spoke again, “I just wonder why life can’t always be like this… sweet, like my grandmother’s red velvet cake…”
The Tru memory laughed, a distant sound I hardly recognized. Finally it seemed, she had begun to speak some sense, “Well not everything can be as perfect as your grandmother’s red velvet cake…” But then she continued, speaking a philosophy I no longer could agree with, “I guess if we didn’t know badness we’d never know good… We just have to take both and live for the good I guess, no matter what happens.”
No matter what happens, the words echoed in my mind. My hands reached up, clutching the sides of my head and squeezing, attempting to rip the memory out so it could no longer bring up things I’d tried so hard to suppress.
“Easier said than done I think,” Lily had spoken again, the memory refusing to let me be. And I had thought I’d known, at the time I really had thought I knew what loss was. And as Lily dove into the water off the dock I was brought back from the painful memory, and collapsed in tears on the shower floor.
*Later that morning*
I had dressed in my black pants and sweater and headed out that morning escorted by police to attend the final trial. Stepping out of the car I was swarmed with reporters and people, shouting questions I refused to give neither answer nor even acknowledgment to.
I felt hundreds of eyes on me, some sympathetic, most curious. Then an all too familiar face appeared in the crowd. Lily’s reddish blond hair glowed against her tan skin and her face was silent and somber. I stopped short as she took steps toward me, emerging from the crowd.
“Tru-” I saw her mouth form my name though I could not hear her voice over the noise of the crowd. Part of me wanted her to come, to take me into her arms and tell me everything would be okay. But I knew too well that it wouldn’t, nothing could change what had happened and so I turned, faced the court building and walked in, never looking back.
I sat silently next to Miranda, the attorney the Marx family was good friends with and had hired for me, at the prosecutor’s table. I waited anxiously for the man who had destroyed my life, the criminal to be convicted of the unimaginable and obscene crime he had committed, to enter the room.
I still couldn’t believe what had happened, that a**hole Mitchell, my own flesh and blood, turning me in. I’d been the first on trial and the first convicted, but it was only a matter of time before the rest of them joined me.
The officer at the front of the bus sat with his gun in his hands, laid across his lap but ready to shoot if any of the three of us convicts decided to get up out of our seats. We’d been in this rotting pit of a bus for over an hour when we came around a corner and the prison came into view.
Seeing its grey concrete wall three feet thick, strung with barbed wire like Christmas lights on a fir tree, made the blood drain from my face. This is where I would be spending the next 30 years of my life, rotting away. I felt my stomach churn and I turned into the isle between the seats and vomited.
The courtroom was crowded and voices buzzed as obnoxiously as that of cicadas or the crickets that croak in the night. Finally the jury filed in and took their seats in the benches on the far right. Then the small door at the head of the room opened and two officers walked through. Behind them emerged the man that had been at the very beginning, the creation of this disaster that was my life, my father.
He walked behind the officers and met his lousy, state hired defense attorney at their table across the isle from me. Apparently he was dead broke, had gambled all his money away. I felt no pity.
I felt Mitchell’s hand reach over the back of the bench and softly squeeze my shoulder, hoping to offer some form of comfort in this anxiety filled moment.
My heart was in pain seeing Tru as she had become after the events of the past months. I couldn’t blame her but I wished with all my heart she’d come through. When that bastard of a father walked in I wanted nothing more than to kick the s*** out of him but instead I reached out and placed my hand on Tru’s shoulder, willing her to feel some sort of peace in this uneasy room, to heal despite everything.
The judge spoke and the man stood. The head juror opened his mouth and began to speak. However none but one word of it meant anything. All I heard was one, simple, two syllable word, guilty. I felt Tru sink into her chair along with the reality of an end and what one could only hope would become a new and better, true beginning.