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“I need help. I need to know.”
The girl sat on her bed, eyes closed, hands clasped.
“Hi, you haven’t really heard from me much. I didn’t really feel like bothering you. I wasn’t sure I believed in you. No offense or anything. It’s just hard, you know? One of the girls said this might help me find answers.
“She died almost a year ago, my mum. Well, they said she died. I don’t know what happened to her. I want to know what happened to her. I’ve spent far too much time wondering, you know?” The girl opened her eyes. “This is stupid. All I’m asking for is your blessing. I just want to find her. I know she’s alive. I can feel it. Please, just let me find her.” She got off her bed.
She threw her belongings in her case, a black backpack. She didn’t have much to take with her. Some skirts, sweaters, and the worn photo of her mom. Black and white, her mother smiling, hair piled atop her head. She couldn’t remember what the style was called. She left her note on the kitchen table. All of the other girls were asleep. It was the time to go. The door clicked shut behind her.
The girl walked to the bus station, hands in her pockets, hair tucked in a bun. It was quiet. The streetlights flickered.
She climbed onto the bus. It was mostly empty. She picked a seat halfway back, next to the window. She leaned her head against the glass, resting her head.
The bus trundled along to California. It was a twenty-hour journey, twenty hours of rattling seats with snoring men and fat, flatulent women. She didn’t mind. In eighteen short hours, she would be in California.
Her mother had always dreamed of California, longed to be a movie star. She remembered her speak of it, fondly as if she knew what it was like. Of course, her mother had never been out of the dirt road town she had grown up in, the dirt road town the girl had grown up in. But her mother had still collected the magazines, cut out the pictures of the beautiful people with shining teeth and perfect hair. She pasted them on her wall. She had told the girl that one day, one day very soon, she would be one of them, one of the people in the expensive gowns and the sparkling jewelry. She would sit the girl on her lap and tell her stories of Hollywood, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Old Hollywood, Classic Hollywood, beautiful Hollywood. A place where the sun would always shine, the waters always clear, the sand soft beneath your feet. There, her mother had always said, was where one could be happy.
The girl got off the bus. Taxis whipped past her, leaving her skirts rustling. People bustled past her, tourists jostling by. She gripped her hair, spun around. The bus drove away. She was surrounded by people. She was left alone.
She made her way to a hotel, reluctantly handing a few of her dollars to a bored clerk. He sniffed and handed her a key, pointing her in the right direction.
“You working girls get younger and younger,” he said, flipping through a newspaper. She reddened.
She closed the door to her room and sat on her bed, eyes closed, hands clasped.
“Please, hear me. I know I might be bothering you, sorry about that actually. I just, I just need to know. It’s been about a year now, and I’ve wanted to know, but I haven’t really needed to know until now. I’ve had enough of a family. Thanks for that, by the way. But they’re gone now, I left them, and now I’m alone. I just, I just want to know what happened to my mother.
“I really am sorry for asking you for so many days in a row, it wasn’t my intention to become a nuisance, I promise. But you know these things, you must know these things. They’re your domain and all that, you know? I mean, who else do you ask when you need answers like this?” The girl opened her eyes.
“I feel stupid. Hell, I always feel stupid. God, well, you know that. Guess that’s why I feel so stupid asking.” The girl bent her knees, wrapping them in her arms.
“Anna’s been gone for almost a year, Mia for longer. I haven’t seen Lily in ages. It was fine when it first happened because I had them. They were my family. They weren’t perfect, but you know no family is. And they’re gone. Adopted. Too good for the likes of me. And I can’t stand it any more. Really, if it isn’t too much trouble, that’s all I want to know. She left so long ago, and I just want to know what happened. Thanks. I think this is where I say Amen. Good night.” The girl lay down, switching off the light beside her.
She was in a field. Tall yellow grasses tickled at her calves. She was dressed in white. A tree arched towards the sky, green against the blue punched with clouds of ivory. She walked towards the tree, sat down beside it. She heard birds in the air, twittering. There was a light breeze, whistling through the trees. It smelled like wheat, sun-drenched grain wafting towards the sky. She took a deep breath. The air was warm. She leaned against the tree, cool and rugged against her back. Her eyelashes fluttered.
“It’s nice, isn’t it?” hers eyes snapped open.
“Who are you?”
“The answer to your prayers.”
“That doesn’t answer the question.”
“Well, I’m God. A god, your God.”
“Everyone sees God in a different way, this is how I look with you.”
“ Let’s say I take that at face value. Why are you here?” The woman with the long black hair, the one who called herself God had appeared in front of her.
“ Mind if I sit down?” The girl shook her head, the woman cloaked in white sat beside her.
“Why do you keep speaking to me?”
“You asked me to.”
“Am I dreaming?”
“No, that’s not really the word that I would use. But, you can call it a dream if it makes you comfortable.”
“So, this is real. It’s not happening inside my head.”
“Well, it’s in your head, but a different part of your head. A later part of your head. Most people don’t get here until after death. “
“So, where am I?”
“Paradise. Well, your paradise. It’s where you’ve been happiest.”
“I’ve never been here.”
“If you think really hard, I’m sure it’ll come to you.” The girl looked around, the tall grasses, the large tree, the gentle hill. She blinked and a house appeared. The birds were singing. She heard a girl’s laugh. She stood, walked around the tree. A swing hung from a lower branch. A girl with long blonde hair clung to the ropes, an older woman pushing her. The young girl shouted with glee every time she reached the peak, her feet just barely touching the leaves. The girl turned and walked back to her God. The laughter died away.
“That’s me.” She said. God nodded.
“That’s you. This is where you used to live, so many years ago. Some of your greatest memories happened in that house. It’s gone now, but the memories live on if you look for them.”
“So, why am I here?”
“You called for me. You wanted answers, your mother?” The girl nodded but turned away. She started to cry. “Darling, what’s wrong?”
“You took her away. You took her away from me. And all I have are memories.”
“It’s more than most get. Your mother loved you, cherish the memories.”
“I don’t want to know what happened.” The two women sat at the base of the tree, grass tickling their calves and thighs.
“She didn’t die. She left. She left me. She didn’t love me. She ran off. And, if I know she left, know she didn’t die, I can’t possibly think of her as she is.” The young girl’s laughter rung in her ear. “As she was. I don’t want to know.” She stood up. The god smiled at her.
“You’re a beautiful girl. Just because some can’t see it doesn’t make it untrue. Don’t ever forget that.” The god pressed her hand to the girl’s forehead, and the girl fell asleep.
She woke up the next morning. She heard the birds singing.
“Thank you. Amen.”