February 1, 2011
Life is a rollercoaster. It has its ups and it has its downs and people are never truly prepared for anything. “Life comes at you fast. Are you ready?” says one insurance company. Many people aren’t. They are not prepared for the challenges life throws us. Everyone has their story and this is Caylee’s.

On December 9, 1991, in Seattle, Washington, Caylee May Yugona was born. She was perfect. Beautiful big blue eyes gleamed in her face like diamonds and her smile was that of an angel’s. As she grew, stunning, curly brunette hair with natural blonde highlights came in and fulfilled her beauty. Caylee was any parent’s dream. She was smart and gorgeous and had a big, loving heart. She also had a great talent—she was born a musical prodigy. Nothing ever held her back from her music. Whenever she had a chance, Caylee was sitting on the piano writing a new song. For the first eight years of her life were nearly perfect. Suddenly, life decided to test her and she was not at all prepared. Caylee’s father and older sister died in a horrific car accident.
Faylynn was ten years old. Her red hair hung itself in curls around her face, bringing out her innocent blue eyes. She was a carefree young girl who fantasized about someday meeting her prince charming. She loved the rain. Seattle was her city. Every time it rained she would go outside onto the patio of her home and just sit and under an umbrella on the cold wet while reading her favorite book. Faylynn and Caylee were very close. They were inseparable. There was not a moment when they were not together playing fairy princesses or house. Personality exploded from her like a firecracker. She was an amazing little girl. Charlie Yugona was their father. He had big brown eyes and freckles covered his face. He was a great father. Whenever he was not at work, he was outside playing with his two little angels. He waited over his wife hand and foot. Charlie was a fabulous cook and had a strangely amazing sense of style. Charlie was every girl’s dream guy. He was as tall as a skyscraper and was strong enough to lift one. He had a beautiful sense of humor and could make anyone smile no matter what. Together, the Yugonas were a picture perfect family.
On the way home from Mila’s birthday party, a friend of Caylee’s sister, a drunk driver smashed into the side of the car her father and sister were in at 100 miles per hour. The car flipped multiple times and landed upside down. The windows were shattered. The car was half the size it used to be. Not an inch of it was left without a scratch or a dent. They died immediately. The image of the destroyed car was an exact replica of Caylee’s heart. The incident tore what remained of her family apart and Caylee’s life quickly spiraled downward into a pit of darkness. Her mother disappeared. Caylee had no knowledge of what had happened to her and the police were unable to find anything regarding her disappearance. Most people suspected she ran when she lost her family because she was not able to handle all that was thrown at her.
Caylee was forced to go live with her Aunt Patricia and Uncle Doug. Together, they gradually killed the last bits of happiness that resided deep in her soul. The last thing Caylee had left was her music, and eventually even that was taken from her. Caylee's life crumbled around her, falling into a dusty heap on the ground, the ash rising up through the air; suffocating, it blocked out the sun and stole away Caylee's remaining hopes. Her aunt and uncle were very uptight people. They were the stereotypical people who yell at kids to get off of their grass. Their house was dark brown on the outside and inside, the walls were a mud brown. The curtains were rarely opened so the house was constantly dark. It seemed like no one lived there. It reeked of dust and perfume mixed with wet dog and smoke. They were like moles—never letting sunlight into their lives. Caylee’s relatives were very old fashioned so they believed Caylee’s modern music to be an unacceptable form of expression and rebellion. It seemed as though they wanted Caylee to be as bitter and miserable as they were. Since she was only eight, there was nothing she could do about what was happening in her life. She was not living the life an eight year old was supposed to live. She was not allowed outside to ride her bike or go to a friend’s house. Caylee came home from school and went straight up to her dark little bedroom in the attic, not allowed out until dinner. She was only allowed to read the bible, no stories about princesses being saved by their prince charming that so many young girls dream about. Caylee was deprived of her childhood. Slowly yet steadily, Caylee lost sight of the hope in her life.
Five years went by. Five years of having nothing. Five years of being cramped up in a musty old attic having nothing to make her smile. Five years of writing music on school lunch trays and napkins. By thirteen, Caylee was almost dead inside. Every last trickle of happiness had been torn from her heart and thrown into a never-ending crater of darkness. Each night she came home and locked herself in the attic. There, she did her homework and secretly wrote her music. Her Aunt and Uncle both thought they had raised a perfect child, well educated and with proper manners and ways of life. Everywhere they went, if anywhere, Caylee was always the quiet child in the corner sitting quietly letting her parents enjoy themselves. She said please and thank you and cleaned up after herself and others when necessary. She appeared perfect. Instead, they had made Caylee into a house trained puppy just waiting to be released to breathe the fresh air. She couldn’t take it anymore. She had not been outside the three mile range of her house for five years. She was done.
A great man once said, “Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, and judgment difficult; but the best way to prepare for life is to begin to live.” Caylee lived by keeping this saying in her empty heart. It was the last piece of hope she had, so she grabbed it and held it close. One typical evening in her house, Caylee was sitting at dinner with her aunt and uncle. They were both glaring at her with disdain. For once in her life, Caylee dared to question them. This triggered something in them that set them off on a yelling spree. Every other phrase was, “Caylee you useless little child! It’s no wonder your mother left you!” Those words kept ringing in Caylee’s head hours after dinner was over and she was locked in the attic crying. She knew it was not true but she could not find any evidence to convince herself otherwise. Caylee knew that if she stayed in that house any longer, she would not live to twenty-one. Finally, she was ready. After five years, she was going to begin to live again. At that moment, Caylee packed up the few valuables she had left and some clothes, and decided that tonight, she would escape.

It was a dark and rainy night in Seattle. Water pelted the windows as if to shatter the glass. The temperature was a freezing 39°F with extreme wind. The neighborhood was absolutely silent except for the rain and the occasional screeching of cars driving by. At 10:00 p.m. when her Aunt and Uncle went to bed, she gathered her things and sent her plan into action. She was going to run away. If Caylee stayed here for much longer, she would burst. With her guitar and music she had hidden for years in one hand and her belongings in the other, she left, leaving her aunt and uncle a simple note.
Dear Aunt Patricia and Uncle Doug,

I’m sorry to do this, but I can’t stay with you anymore. I deeply appreciate all you have done for me, giving me a roof over my head and food to eat, but I couldn’t take it anymore. For five years I have lived with you feeling as though I was in jail. You gave me no room to breathe. I have been stuck in an attic with no window for five years and I need out. You have taken enough away from me and I am not going to let you have the rest of my life. I need my music and I can no longer live without it. I love you—you are family—but I just can’t stay here without completely dying inside. If you want to find me, please don’t. I will be fine. I have my guitar and it is all I need to survive. Music is all I need in my life right now. Even if you did try to find me, you probably wouldn’t. I will be on the move for a long time. If you do find me, I will just leave again. Eventually I will come back to thank you, but for now, I need to explore the world.

Your niece,

Caylee May Yugona

With that, she was gone, off to make something of herself in the world. For months Caylee explored the world. She traveled anywhere she could anyhow she could. Every afternoon, no matter where, Caylee would stand on a bustling street corner and play her music hoping to make enough money to get a train ticket or enough to pay the bus fair. Many nights were spent sleeping on the merciless ground with no form of warmth or protection. Sometimes, she would just hitchhike when she had no other choice. It was a dangerous journey, but for the first time in a long time, Caylee was living life to the fullest. Caylee found her way to the bustling city of Los Angeles, to the dry, hot terrain of Austin, Texas. From Washington where she began, Caylee ended up in New York where she finally found what she was looking for—a city of music. She planted herself in Central Park where she made hundreds from the people that walked by. She was inspired by the beautiful simplicity of the park—the gorgeous colors of the trees changing colors for fall, the sound of rustling leaves, honking cars and angry taxi drivers acting like a drum beat. The leaves were like chimes. The wildlife was the main vocalists. The pitter patter of early morning joggers was the guitar. Central Park was where Caylee wanted to be. Music was everywhere, and she could finally truly be herself. Caylee’s talent was amazing and on her journey she had just gotten better. Caylee was like the Vivaldi of Alternative Pop. One day while she was strumming her guitar on a bench to the tune of the zooming cars, finally happy about her life again, she came upon a stroke of luck. A music manager came to her and said, “Play something.”

“What?” Caylee responded.

“Are you one of those deaf musicians or something? I said play something.”

“Who do you think you are, some kind of world renowned music manager looking for new talent on the street? Unless you’re that man, you have no right to talk to me that way.”

“That, in fact, is exactly who I am. So do you want to start over, or should I just keep on walking.”

“Oh. Let’s start over. My name is Caylee May Yugona.”

With that, Caylee became what she was meant to be: discovered. Although she had a music manager, she had trouble finding someone who wanted to record her unique and captivating sound and make her famous. After three years of being in New York, Caylee finally got her big break, while on an audition for a music contract with Big Break Records. Nervously, Caylee sat in the waiting room. It smelled of freshly brewed coffee and old chairs. The walls were a bright orange which lightened the mood. Caylee’s heart was pounding out of her chest. It alone could have been the drum beat for her audition song. Within moments, Caylee’s life, once again changed. After what seemed like hours of waiting, Caylee was finally brought in to start her audition. Just as she was about to begin, a beautiful woman who resembled Caylee glided in. She began to talk to the assistant of the manager of the record company. When the woman looked up to see who the gorgeous voice singing in the background was, she was shocked at who was standing in front of her. Amber, the beautiful woman, couldn’t help but cut into the middle of Caylee’s song.



“Caylee is it really you?”

“Yes it’s really me. Why do you care?”

Amber ran up to Caylee and gave her a huge hug. In her ear, she whispered something.

“I haven’t seen you since you were eight. You look beautiful.”

Caylee, in utter shock, whispered back, “Mom?”

“Oh, honey. I’m so sorry I left you. I love you so much.” Amber said, sobbing.

The only sound in the room was that of quiet sobbing from the reunited, but still broken, family. After taking in all that had just happened, Caylee and her mother talked for hours. The tears never ceased. In seeing what an important time this was for the two women, the managers patiently waited. After three hours of realizing they were together again and talking over what had happened, they came back to the real world. In that moment, Caylee’s life was pieced back together. She aced her audition and got the recording contract, finally had her family back, and finally started to live.
Caylee quickly forgave her mother for all that she had to suffer through because it was not worth it to be alone. Caylee is now twenty-six, happily married with a three month old daughter. She and her mother are the best friends. Caylee has had six of her seven albums go platinum and has never felt such bliss in her heart, which is now filled with love.

Life is not an easy road to walk along. It has its ups and its downs, but there is always a way to find the pot of gold at the other end of the rainbow. Every person has their story to tell. This was Caylee’s story. What’s yours?

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