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The Crossroads At 18
“Hey mom, I’m coming home from dance class. Where are all of you?” I asked.
“We will be home in maybe a half and hour. I had to pick up a few extra things for dinner tonight. I wanted to make it extra special since it’s your birthday. I’ll talk to you soon. Be careful on the roads. They are a little slippery from the snow we had this morning,” cautioned my mom.
“Alright, I’ll be extra careful. You be careful, too,” I replied.
“Don’t worry about us. Your father picked out the safest car there was. We wanted to make sure that nothing happens when we are driving either you or Kyra. We will talk in a little while. Bye honey. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Annabelle!” chorused my sister from the back seat.
“I love you all. Bye,” I declared and pressed the end button. I didn’t want to distract her from driving even if she wasn’t worried. The trees rushed past as I sped along main street and turned onto our very long avenue. The evergreens and pine trees glistened with snow and icicles that were as tall as me. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Maine always does have harsh winters. The winters are even worse out where we are because most of the roads aren’t paved and there aren’t any guardrails on the side. I pulled into our driveway and stopped for a moment to look at the Christmas lights that decorate our two-story log cabin. My dad is such a procrastinator and put our lights up yesterday. We are now only three days away from Christmas and my 8 year-old sister Kyra is practically bouncing off of the walls. She still believes in Santa and keeps reminding my mom not to light the fireplace when Santa comes.
The front door opens with a click and I flick the lights on to the kitchen. I prepare all of the pots that she will need to cook. I have honestly no idea what she is making because every year is different. I start pacing around the room and stop to look at the family portrait right above our brick fireplace. My parents, grandparents, and I were all smiling. Then there was the exception of Kyra. She had been absolutely wailing at the top of her lungs when we tried to take the picture. Eventually, we gave up on trying to make her smile. I smile now as I remember my grandparents. They both passed away a couple of years ago. My parents never had any brothers or sisters so now it is just us left in the family.
A half hour turns into an hour. Two hours have passed and the seconds still tick by on the grandfather clock in our family room. I try to keep myself calm, but I think of the worst scenarios. Then, I remember what my mother always said. She would look at me with her patented calm-down-because-you-are-worried-over-nothing look and say, “You have always been the worry wart. Take a minute, breathe, and then think about the realisitic possibilities.” I smile and take a deep breath, but my smile begins to fade after another hour passes.
Finally, the phone rings and I leap for it. “Is this Annabelle Hastings?” inquires an unfamiliar voice.
“Yes,” I answer. “Who is this?
“My name is Julie and I am a nurse at the ER. There was an accident on one of the back roads and your family was involved. We need you here at the hospital right away.” The phone clattered to the floor and I raced to grab my keys off of the marble counter. The words accident and your family kept reverberating in my mind. I jumped into my car and I am sure that I was well over the speed limit as I was driving to the hospital, but it didn’t matter. I crashed through the doors and shouted at the receptionist, “Where is my family?” A sympathetic nurse took me to see Dr. James who explained what happened.
“An elderly woman fell asleep at the wheel and your parents didn’t have enough time to react. Your parents’ car swerved and they would have survived if they hadn’t it that patch of black ice at such a high speed. Their car rolled off of the road and…” Dr. James trailed off.
“My family is dead,” I whispered, almost too shocked to speak. Dr. James kept on speaking, but it was as if I was underwater. I couldn’t hear him. I could only try to take everything in as the room began to spin. Time passed in a blur and my neighbor was called to come pick me up. She tried consoling me, but I just couldn’t speak.
I trudged up the stairs to my room and locked my door. I collapsed on my bed and tried to rid myself of this earth shattering sadness. My eyes could not produce tears for this sadness was too great. Night passed into day and the sun was shining so brilliantly through my window. This is my first day as an 18 year old and my first day alone. If the weather could reflect what I was feeling on the inside, then the clouds would be the darkest shade of black and light would never shine through the clouds ever again. The sun should not be shining.
More days passed and my neighbor would check in on me from time to time. She even invited me over for Christmas dinner, but I just ignored her and she left muttering, “Such a poor, fragile girl.” I rarely left my room. My brown hair that was normally so well kept was matted and tangled. My eyes used to be emeralds that took in all of the wonders of the world, but now they only reflect the sadness inside and the light has dimmed in them. I had so many aspirations before…I thought and shook my head. Nothing mattered anymore. My parents would never see me onstage as a prima ballerina and shout out their congratulations. Kyra will never be able to choose what she wants to be when she grows up. I was just beginning to teach her how to dance and it was something that we shared together. Nothing matters anymore because I am alone with no one to love me, I thought and wished that tears would fall, but they never did. My greatest fear had come true.
Death seemed more like an angel than anything else at this point. Death would be the guiding star that would lead me to my family. It would be so easy. I realized that I am not afraid of death anymore. My family had each other when they died together so I want them to be with me through this. I walked into my sister’s room for the first time since the accident and it seemed like nothing had changed. I stared at her closet thinking that she might just be in there and hiding from me, waiting to scare me like she normally tried to do. I blinked back tears as I went through her closet looking for the one thing that reminded me of her so much. The blanket wasn’t as soft as it was when she was first born, but it still held her smell. On the day that she was born, I held my little baby sister in this very blanket. I walked out of her room and quietly closed her door and then proceeded to my parent’s room.
I knew that my mom had kept a memory box of every happy moment over the years and I wasn’t sure what I was going to find. I had already chosen something of my dad’s. He wore this tie almost every day to work and it was almost expected after a while. While I was sifting through my mother’s gigantic memory box, I came across a letter whose return address was from Australia. For the first time since I had lost my family, I stopped thinking about them or suicide and curiosity took over.
The letter had already been opened before and the handwriting was unfamiliar. It said,
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Hastings,
We know that you have adopted our little baby girl. We love our little Annabelle and we know that you do, too. Take good care of her for us. We won’t be moving anytime soon so if you need to contact us feel free.
Mr. and Mrs. Klein
Once again I was paralyzed with shock. Why did Mom never tell me? I look so much like her. This is impossible. That can’t be right. Thoughts bombarded my mind and denied all of this, but a flicker of hope wanted to say that this was true. Maybe I’m not so alone after all, I thought. It doesn’t matter. I don’t know these people. My real family has always been here. I have known them for 18 years and now they are gone forever.
The thought of suicide once again crossed my mind, but this time I stopped to think for a while. I love my family so much, but the only reason that I considered suicide was because I was left alone with no one to love me and no one to love. A flash of memory of Kyra running and playing tag in the summer sunlight with her blond hair streaming behind her appeared in my mind. Another memory of my parents, who cherished every moment of life, smiling as it began to pour during our picnic late on one spring afternoon. Love was their currency and they wouldn’t want me to throw my life away, not even for them. They would want me to be taken care of even though I am now technically an adult.
I took a deep breath and went back to my room. My suitcase was teetering at the top of my closet and I pulled it down. I stuffed everything of sentimental value into my suitcase and other things that I knew that I would need. I sat down for a minute and thought I have a second chance now to rebuild my life…but did I ever really need to. I was never really alone. After sitting on my suitcase to get it to shut, I picked up the letter one more time and looked at the address. I rolled my suitcase out the door and hefted hit it into my car. The car roared to life and I left the home that had shown me love and shared so many memories. Only then did the tears flow down my face in rivers and I never looked back.