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The Puzzle Within Me

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'A four letter word for disappointing' “Life,” I mumbled. I scribbled the letters L-I-F-E into the appropriate boxes before tossing the crossword puzzle aside. Ironically, 'life' fit. “Go figure,” I thought angrily. Usually, I would've found something like this funny. Probably would’ve mustered up a laugh or two. But, not today. No, today I felt like ripping the puzzle into millions of tiny pieces and trying to fit them all back together again; back to it's original form. Sort of like what I wanted to do with my own puzzle. Of course, it's not that simple.

I ran my fingers through my hair, trying to get rid of the sad, depressing thoughts that had been haunting me for days now. “Can you do me a favor?” I jumped at the sound of my Mother's voice. I had been so involved in my own thoughts that I hadn't noticed her walk into the kitchen, still wearing rollers in her hair. She looked a wreck, to say the least. “Kara,” she called. I met her eyes, noticing that she'd only applied eyeliner to one of her bottom lids. “I'm running a little late this morning. Can you drop off my red blouse at the Dry Cleaners? I meant to do it myself but I'm at a real press for time.” “Um...” I leaned back against the bar and sighed. What else had I planned for today? “Who am I kidding? I have no plans...”

It was a Tuesday, in the thick of Summer. School had just let out, and already most of the other Sophomores had made plans to hit the beach. What were my plans? Spending the day in front of the TV with a bag of cheese doodles, watching reruns of Jersey Shore; making the occasional trip to my room for a change of scenery. Yep, that about covers it. “Kara, if it's that big of a deal, I can just make a quick stop before work. Sure, I'll be late for the third time this month, but I'm sure my boss will understand if I-” “No, it's fine. I'll do it.” I interrupted, not in the mood to hear the rest of her guilt-trip. Mom smiled and rushed off into her bedroom, not bothering to shut the door behind her. At least I'd be getting out of the house. I'd noticed that I'd been looking a little pale lately. Although, one doesn't get much sunlight from the couch.

I had tried to avoid the mirror in the hallway; the same hallway that lead to my room. It wasn't an easy task, seeing how I spent nearly an hour in front of it every morning before school; checking to make sure what little make-up I did wear was perfect, my shirt was free of stray hair or deodorant marks, or double, sometimes triple checking to ensure the jeans I was wearing didn't make me look fat. That was inevitable though. Sure, I wasn't obese or anything, but I wasn't as skinny as some of my friends either. The same goes for my looks. I'm not the most breathtaking girl in the world, but I'm not totally gross either. Just average. But lately, the mirror just wasn't my friend. For some reason, I was developing more acne than usual. Not enough to hide behind tons and tons of concealer, but enough to make me scowl at the small patch of red spots that appeared near my hair line.

So, as I made my way to my room, I concentrated on my steps and the sound my feet made against the crunchy carpet. “Oh, Kara?” Mom's voice echoed off the narrow foyer in which I was standing. “Yeah?” I called, hoping she wouldn't ask me to return to the kitchen. “I've left my blouse on the coffee table. Don't forget that now. I've got a lunch date with a client tomorrow and I need that cleaned.” “I won't forget.” I replied. “How could I? You'll be calling in an hour to remind me again.” I thought. “Thank you!” she called. I waited until I heard the front door shut and her car drive away before I threw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. I picked up her blouse and tucked it under my arm. “Now, where are my keys?” I thought. I hadn't drove since the last day of school, which was almost two weeks ago.

I shuffled through my purse, eventually emptying all the contents onto the table. Gum wrappers, loose change, old receipts, a few cap erasers, lip gloss, but no keys. I checked the junk drawer, remembering that Mom sometimes picked up stuff she found lying about and tossed them into the drawer. Not there either. What was going on? I never misplace my keys. Angrily, I threw the shirt back on the table, watching it slide across the wood surface. After a few minutes of trying to retrace my steps, I gave up and decided to call her. Maybe she'd found them and left them in her briefcase or something. She was always finding my stuff, thinking I was being lazy and leaving them lying around, when really, I'd left it there on purpose. I returned the receiver back to it's base after the second ring. My keys were sitting on the counter, next to the waffle iron we've only used once.

“How did they get there?” I wondered aloud. Crossing the kitchen in a matter of milliseconds, I sighed and picked up my keys. I almost didn't notice the piece of paper that fluttered to the floor, thanks to my swift movement just seconds earlier. I bent down to retrieve it, wincing at the shock of cold that pierced my fingers. The linoleum floors always stayed cold, regardless of the temperature inside the house, and I hated it. I was forced to wear socks, even in the middle of August. It was the crossword puzzle I had started this morning. Someone had clipped it out of the newspaper, leaving just the puzzle and clues behind. The rest of the morning paper was missing. I scrutinized the puzzle for awhile before I realized that someone had filled in another clue.

It was Mom's handwriting, of course. I had inherited her exceptionally neat scrawl and could recognize it anywhere. My answer, the only one I had managed to fill in myself, had been erased. The boxes next to them, however, had Mom's answer. K-A-R-A. Kara. Confused, I began to scan the list for the clue she'd answered. I found it at the very end of the long list. “Number forty-eight. A four letter word for flawless, ideal, or superlative.” and Mom had put my name. Mine. And wouldn't you know it? It fit perfectly.





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