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At exactly five feet tall, Aubrey Delaveaux stood tall on top of the world. Scratching her nails along her scalp, she runs her fingers through her freshly chopped mahogany strands. The now even layers glided through her fingers. She loved the gentle, barely-there feeling of the weightless tresses against her shoulders exposed by the halter top that she wore. Being pleased about her appearance put her in a good mood; the only thing to depress her was the earlier events of the day. She knew a similar occurrence would take place when she finally decided to go home.
She stood on the bridge, one arm over the other resting on the rail. This bridge had some sort of town history in its uneven wooden planks and rusted metal handrails, but she didn’t know it. She liked how secluded it was, the way it overlooked a small section of the tree-lined river, and the stories she had embedded in the unsteady crossing.
It was a common place for her to think. When her parents’ marriage had failed, when her mother left; both instances she found herself standing on the bridge. This was the sight of her first kiss, and while neither the face nor name of the boy mattered anymore, it’s the moment she treasures – it was raining, a sweet release from the unbearable heat of the sun. Every time she fought with her father, she came here. Every heartbreak, disappointment, failure; she could find solace here.
This particular occasion was no exception. She needed the bridge, the powers it held. She stared emptily with indecisive eyes, an ashen emerald gaze, into the river full with the early spring rains. The water smoothed the stubborn stones with its gentle but relentless force. Letting her mind wander, the motion mesmerizes her. Like fire, the current was flickering, captivating, and drawing her in.
It wasn’t working, she decided, watching the degrading, decaying damage of the smooth stream on the rocks underneath. With a discontented sigh she leans back off the railing, and slowly places each foot towards home.
“Where were you?” he asks, jumping from his chair, accusing automatically and assuming the worst. She ignores the question and leaps up the stairs to the sanctuary of her room.
The dialogue from earlier today replayed itself in her head as she lay on her bed, facing the familiar ceiling, the one she’d be staring at most of her life. The words he told her, sounds with no meaning. Meant to maim and knock her off-balance with their brutality. Angry words shot from his piercing gaze.
“I want to talk.” He says through the wooden door, painted a pale blue underneath the posters of colleges she dreamed of attending, of sports stars she dreamed she’d become, of inspirational sayings she used as mantras on bad days.
“I don’t.” Aubrey states simply, without bitterness.
“Too bad, I’m not going anywhere. You can’t just run off and decide you’re done talking, when I have more to say. Where’d you go?”
You always have more to say, she thought. Instead, she said,
“I got my hair cut. I had an appointment that I told you about before you started yelling. Just because you need to b**** at me doesn’t mean the appointment is cancelled.” She says, the words spilling out faster as the heat rises in her face.
“You were gone for two hours!” He exclaims, angered by her audacity, sensing a lie and trying desperately to sniff out the falsities in her speech.
Now fully agitated, she bounds to the door in heavy steps, and yanks open the door.
“They were behind on appointments.” She says, trying to maintain calm, pointing to her shortened locks for effect. Having said her line, she swings the door closed again.
Brought to her attention, she runs her fingers through the unusual length of her hair again.
“It’s short.” He says plainly.
Silently rolling her eyes is her only response to the obvious truth, and she is glad he cannot see her do this. The gesture alone had been cause for various arguments regarding her ‘attitude’.
Hearing his steps creak down the stairs she sits on her bed, letting her legs swing over the edge.
She couldn’t deal with his distrust anymore. The wild accusations of things other teenagers might do, but she didn’t. Actions her brother may have made, maybe her mother when she was young – but not her. Not to say she never got in trouble; she just couldn’t be that carefree, that oblivious to her conscious.
It was too warm to be April. The humidity was weighing down on her as she sat in her room, like the decision she was about to make. All winter long, each argument had continually been built up, to this point, where the pressure formed cracks. All those spidery lines got too long and they were running together, shattering her pretense of happiness.
Pacing her room, chewing her nails and the inside of her cheeks; she measured and calculated the pros and cons with the precision of a mathematician. Then, just as carefully as she made her decision, she started packing. These were the first actions of her decision, the one she was making entirely independently. She was still unsure, and so she loaded her bag slowly, considering each object, each article of clothing – it’s mass, it’s function – and she arranged it all just right. Once this was done, she held the bag that she had arranged and re-arranged. She stood in front of her full-length mirror, hung next to the door. She watched herself say the words, rehearsing every line. One last deep breath for courage, and she walked down the flight of stairs to the living room where he sat, waiting for an apology or confession. But not for this; he was not waiting for the bag she was carrying, the shoes she was wearing or the unchangeable expression on her face.
“Going somewhere?” She hadn’t expected him to speak first, only to sit in icy silence. Despite the minor setback, she continued with her own list of carefully packed words.
“I’ve decided to leave. You can tell me it’s a mistake, but I’m going anyway.” She told him, almost convincingly.
“Where? Where else can you go?” She had known that he would ask that, he was always about having a plan, even when being spontaneous or spur-of-the-moment. She had thought about leaving for a long time, but she still didn’t know what to do once she said she was going.
“I’ll drive for awhile, I think.”
“So you have no idea.”
“Fine, leave. Just like your mother.” He said, knowing the last four words would harm her more than anything else could. That last sentence alone made the decision for her. She left without another word, only the sound of the door clicking shut to act as the punctuation on her final sentence.
The sun was sinking with accelerated speed as she started her car. A dirt-colored, manual transmission machine that seemed to keep moving regardless of needed maintenance. She resisted the urge to peel out of her driveway, much in the way she stopped herself from slamming the door when she left. They were signs of immaturity, and she had a lot to prove that involved her acting unlike the child her father thought she was.
The words ‘just like your mother’ were racing through her head in bright neon lights, flashing, distracting – she couldn’t shake them. Her mother had left shortly after the divorce, fleeing from her father’s black-or-white mindset. Her brother had pulled a similar stunt; leaving for college the instant he threw his cap into the air. Although he bolted from her father’s hard-fast rules, not the absence of grey in his thinking.
She found herself at the bridge, for the second time that day. As the night breeze brought a chill to the air, she missed her long tresses. Instead she grabbed a light sweatshirt from the duffel bag she had packed earlier. The bag was a threadbare black color, old and worn around the seams. She closed the selected garment around herself, and walked towards her magical swaying bridge.
Instead of admiring the soothing water scene, she decided to walk over the bridge into the clearing, surrounded entirely by tall oaks and maples. In the long but not unruly grass, growing healthily from all the recent rain, she stretched out on her back. No longer could she see the blinding brightness between the trees, but she saw the hazy colors explode across the sky. How could her father only see black and white in a world like this? Or even in shades of grey, for that matter? Life was color. It was meant to be viewed in every hue, shade, and tint. Loud dyes, complicated pigments, thoughtful paints should be the basis of decisions; not the yes’s and no’s, rights or wrongs.
She was nineteen, and while still young, felt too old. Not just too old to still be at home, but she felt old. The stress and pressure was weighing on her, and she could feel it. Her brother and mother had both taken flight the first chance they got. Why was she still here? She didn’t agree either, with the way her father ruled the household. But she understood his fear of loss that made him hold on with a painful grasp. Did she believe she could change him? Was that a false hope to have? If anyone could change this man, it would be his only daughter. His baby girl, his princess.
She could hear the forceful river beside her, slowly wearing down the rocks to an unmarked slickness. The rushing noise that sounded like wind was soothing, and she feared falling asleep. She didn’t need anyone or anything else to decide for her, she thought, as she sat up. She combed the grass from her hair with her hands, and stood, facing the bridge. She watched the final acts of the sun beyond the horizon, and walked back to her car.
Probably not tonight, but maybe tomorrow, she thought, as the first stars glimmered in the sky. Maybe a week from now, or longer than that. She would go home; she wouldn’t be like her mother. Her father needed her, if no one else. But she wouldn’t that need alone stop her from anything she dreamed of. She wouldn’t let his monochromatic view affect her own sunset.