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My father had left, that much I knew. He had taken his rusty, old Chevy pickup and driven away, out past the dirt road I had only seen through the blurry vision of my windows. For how long I wasn’t entirely sure, but I had to take my chances with this momentary freedom.
I longed for the outdoors, the grassy wheat fields on my father’s farm. I had only ventured out once before, when I was six years old, but I now knew the repercussions of that mistake. I wonder what that dirt road would feel like underneath my fingertips, the color of it when it’s right there, lying in front of me? I didn’t know if I’d ever find out.
The day when my curiosity had gotten the best of me was much like today; gray-blue skies softly painted across the horizon, the white linens flapping silently on their clotheslines and the light breeze blowing across the fields, with no supervision to stop me from leaving the isolation of my home.
I lived alone with my father. That painful reality entranced my mind at all times. My mother left us a long time ago, when she was no longer happy with her life here. I can’t actually recall any details of my absent mother, only being told about her; the departure had only occurred a mere week after I had been born, without the utter of an explanation.
My father told me that she undoubtedly had been appalled by my face. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me; the reactions recurrently failed to astonish me. I had been born with mutations painted across my face. I didn’t know if they had any kind of fancy name that could have been slapped on by those high-society doctors up in Atlanta, or what had caused my mutations, but I forever hold them liable for the loss of my mother.
I walked across the hall, in the direction of the sitting room. Here in Georgia, I’ve accepted the rays of warm sun as one of the most consistent factors of my life. Our sitting room was wide, large, and open; the circular walls were made of screen doors and windows that ran floor-to-ceiling. I’ve spent entire days lying in our padded, wicker rocker and gazing out upon our acres of life, taking in the sights and sounds of the vast beauty of it all. The sitting room was as far as I would ever come to experiencing the outside world.
My father was ashamed of me, ashamed of my ugliness. He didn’t allow me to ever step outdoors, in fear that somebody would have a glimpse at me, the freak, the monster girl. Were they even aware that I existed?
He treated me like I was damaged goods, while my mind could still function perfectly and I could hold a conversation just like anybody else could, if not better. I was normal, and I suffered in a constant struggle to block out the number of times my father would tell me otherwise. Although loneliness is a sad sentiment, the seclusion was not the worst element I was forced to live with.
My father was a tough but troubled man, with many frustrations and stresses in his life. He had no way to let his feelings out, as I was one of the only people he came in contact with. Unfortunately, my father was also a man of few words. Being the man’s man he was, he chose to show his anger and anxiety with balled fists and a forked tongue. Verbal and physical abuse, some labeled it. I simply called it home.
I’d grown accustomed to being beat, and it was an inevitable part of my life. I sometimes wondered if he’d done it to mother, too. Maybe it was the back of his wrist, not my face, which had chased her away. I pushed all that out of my mind, though.
In one swift, impulsive thought, I knew what I needed to do.
I slowly drifted out of my beloved sitting room, and strode towards the back door of my house. My fingertips caressed the brassy doorknob as I hesitantly looked through the window. Despite my screaming desire and my intent focus on the one thing I wanted, I was still unsure. How long will he be gone?
I forced that thought out, too. The beatings were unavoidable. If they didn’t come now, I would get them tomorrow across my tainted face, or the week after against my wiry back. The odds were slight that I would be caught, and with a sure beating coming anyway, the image of escaping, even for just one moment, was irresistible.
My long fingers curled around the knob and turned it as I stepped out into the daylight. The raw sunlight warmed my skin as I smiled, turning in all directions to drink it in, bind it to my memory. I took a few sluggish steps forward, and the image was overwhelming to my dazed eyes. In a surge of happiness, I skipped through the fields, falling and rolling as I pleased.
I ran, I galloped; I lived life to its fullest until I ran out of breath. And then I kept pushing. I wanted to be outside forever, I didn’t want to ever have to return. I pushed myself for almost fifteen minutes longer. A few more, and I had reached the dirt road that led to our weathered old farmhouse.
I eased myself to my knees and let my hands slide through the silky dust. The feeling was peaceful and serene, and instantly calmed my racing heart. At last I had experienced, what I considered, something I was condemned to wonder about for the rest of my life. The event was more than I had ever imagined, ever dreamed about, and a soft tear cascaded down my cheek, falling to the dirt below me.
I sat in content for an immeasurable amount of time, almost forgetting that I had a time limit. And what a time limit it was. As I came to the realization of the reality I was doomed to grasp, I saw a beat-up Chevy pull up on the crossing road leading to our land.
My father. The shock of the situation nearly paralyzed me, and my hands shook from the anticipation of the fated.
I had to run, I had to return inside before he could catch a glimpse of me, carelessly cavorting out in the open. I sprinted across the wheat, scared now, longing for the indoors. My breath came out in jagged, rasping breaths as I ran for my life, faster than I thought possible.
I wasn’t halfway across the field when my foot caught in a small hole in the ground. My ankle snapped as I fell to the ground, regretting ever venturing out of my house. Pain consumed me and I screamed, a piercing sound that gave me away. I couldn’t move, I could only wait for my assumed future. Daddy’s little punching bag.
The Chevy turned sharp into our drive, and stopped short, the driver’s door opening quickly. I could imagine the look on his face, the thoughts racing through his mind.
When he reached me, he dragged me screaming to the house, my face trailing in the beautiful golden wheat fields that I loved so much. The trail of blood from my ankle stood as my final goodbye to the outdoors. I knew I would not be back out. Although my questionable future was shaky and unimaginable, I was happy. I was smiling as my father’s hand smashed across my deformed mouth. Beaming, even.
I now knew the feeling of the dirt road under my fingertips, the color of it when it was right there, lying in front of me.