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The Path Taken

Her wary eyes squint into thin lines, trying to see out into the darkness. Her face scrunches. The corners of her eyes forming wrinkles deeper then the ocean, her pain-stricken face held secrets darker than a moonless night. As though they were worthless, unexplored corners of an abandoned mine, they sat buried in her heart, written across her face, and throbbing at her fingertips. Her lips press into a thin pink line across her ashen face as she digs her small fingers into her sunken eyes. She inhales a quivering sob and begins to rock gently into herself. She has a deep urge that is more of a desperate want buried at the pit of her stomach, to look up at the calendar hiding away in the shadows cast gently by the new rising morning sun. She just wants to make sure that today was indeed the day. This dreaded day; but the scared rhythmic thump of her old heart, told her unmistakably that it was so.
Her thin fingers wrap themselves around her once lustrous gold locket, fitting over the three oval shaped marks on the backside where her often sweaty fingers had worn away the luster of the gold in their nervous rubbing over the years. She unhurriedly pressed the side, causing it to creak as it unlocked and unfolded, revealing an old sepia-colored remnant. She stares at the aged, tattered photo. She presses her thin, dried lips to it. Her heart seems to be stuck, and her chest tightens with regret as she sighs, and closes the locket, hiding it back under her shirt, pressing it against her papery skin above her heart. It feels cold to the touch, despite having just been held.
She knew it was time.
She unburied her old shoes, the shoes she had worn whenever she set out upon this journey, and set her feet inside their smooth, worn insides. Her feet had become much more boney and scarce since their last encounter. She sauntered out the door, in a slight nervous rush.

She carefully set out upon the rocky path, the one that lay a smooth, light, worn brown amongst the wispy, wild grass that sat peacefully beside it. Her shoes; torn laces, broken soles, and missing stitches, somehow had held together, staying strong with her over these years. They waited patiently, and held together, even in her absence. This path—her path— once accustomed to her small feet tracing along its contours; into the depths of the low fields with the dancing grass, down the tightly packed forest with deep shadows and staring, unblinking eyes of small animals.. The path had been muddled with meager, thin grass in her absence. But her feet unwaveringly knew where they were headed and pressed into the path knowingly. The softly treaded light brown was still distinguishable as her path—although she hardly kept any resemblance to the women who once called this path her own, as she walked it many years ago. Her hair, once a light, sandy brown, had framed her face in its soft curls, curls that wrapped around in perfect, loose spirals that cascaded down her back beautifully. When the sun had caught her hair, it was as though her soft curls were set ablaze; her light freckles situated upon her face as though they had been delicately painted on by gods, and her thin body laid no obstruction to the wind, but had set itself in a perfect balance with everything around her. She was then an angel, an angel set into the world with happiness and love, but shamefully so, they angel never got her wings. She didn’t know how to fly, or things would have been different. Ten years exactly had wedged themselves in between herself and her path; her freedom, and her guilt, it was because of this now then that her path had only known her beauty, those many years ago.
She continued down her path, as it took her out of the shadows, away from the dancing grass and wide eyes, into the side cliffs, where the sun beat down upon her now old and sunken shoulders. Here, the rocks became ever present and the ocean below the cliff would whisper up to her in small licks of mist, tracing out a small eternity before her—her own eternity of uncertainty and, of course, pain. The ocean was unforgiving, it knew not of her path.
Her already thin, bare shoulders were draped with graying hair that fell in loose, tangled clumps and matted knots. She shivered into the wind, a small tear tiredly falling from her slight, taught cheeks. Her feet sought warily for those smooth rocks that time had pressed into gentle stepping stones. The grass became sparse as the hillside grew behind her, and she made her way up to the top of what would have seemed like the world to little eyes set upon a still short stature. A child’s feet would have been too small to have made a mark on the path; it would have been hard for small feet to keep their grip on this high cliff. The ocean sparkled gently in the high-noon sun, but the ocean was vicious; malicious even.

Over her head, dark storm clouds gathered, casting the sun into a darken frenzy obscured by the deep, knowing storm. The ocean began to hiss and roar as the storm rolled in, and the wind continued to pick up, threatening her thin skin with a chill. Yet her feet continued to press forward, up the side cliff, past the rocks, until she was so high that the soft, dancing grass she had seen before, could no longer be found. Now all she could find around her were harsh rocks, dark, grainy sand mixed with slight strains of thinned out dirt and the occasional weedy plant. As her feet slowly continued up the now steep incline up onto the ocean side, rain began to trickle down, causing soft pats as it fell onto the rocks. Her thinned out, old shoes, soon became soggy and filled with specks of muddy water as they got stuck in the now deepening mud and sand. The rain picked up, shedding a multitude of hazy lines and fog before her. Thunder clapped over her head, and lightning lit her way, as it became darker from the heightening storm. Then, amidst the fog, rain and darkened sky, she saw it. The small patch of earth that lay darker than the area around it, with a small stone marking it... She fell to her knees overwhelmed with emotion, and begun to cry. Her old eyes filling with unrestrained tears that cascaded down her cheeks, and drizzled under her chin, mixing with the rain water the belted down from the angry sky. She reached into her bag and pulled out the flowers she had grabbed many miles before, and placed them wearily beside the unmarked stone.
She opened her locket, and stared at her son, Jamie, her baby, her life; her son that had just turned eight years old when she brought him up here on his birthday ten years before. He would have turned eighteen today. He would have been an adult today. He would have been alive today, had she been watching him better, had she not sat down to read while he roamed around. She pictured him, the way he had grabbed her hand in his soft, small ones and attempted to pull her up, attempted to get her to go over to the slick rock that over looked the ocean. She had forbade him to wander over there without her, but she told him no. she told him, she wanted to finish the chapter, that he should go play somewhere else for now. Then she heard the scream a couple minutes later. Her soft, sandy brown curls billowed behind her as she ran toward the rock, the rock where her sons face, horror-stricken, mouth wide in an O as he screamed, gave out below him, and he tumbled into the rocky ocean, miles down the cliff.

She allowed her feet to continue to guide her, as they made their way over to the patch of dirt and sand where a larger portion of the slick rock had sat. She stood right at the edge, looking into the ocean below, down onto the harsh, jagged rocks spitting upward toward her. Her locket still in her hand, her heart thumping wildly, she screamed as loud as she could into the stormy, noontime air. She screamed until her voice was broken down with deep sobs, and her thin, now old and mistreated body shook violently from her tears. She collapsed into a heap on the ground, doubled over in pain and guilt. She looked down at her locket, at her son’s young, smiling face radiating joy and happiness, the joy and happiness that made her life worth living. She should have been his angel, she should have saved him, she should have jumped into the ocean after him. He was as much a part of her as heart was, as the blood was the was keeping her thin, wispy body alive miraculously. She let out a final scream, and then sighed into the wind, and resolved to be his angel. She stood up, her shoes sinking into the mud overlooking the cliff, and she began to slip. Jamie’s soft, scared face appeared before her eyes, she remembered how he flailed desperately before he fell off. She wasn’t afraid now though as she fell. She was an angel; she just never got her wings. She was supposed to be his angel, and now mommy was coming, mommy was going to go to heaven and find him, find her baby, her life, and be his angel. She slipped off the cliff, into the ocean. Her path had set her free.



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