Full Circle

There was a sudden silence. Without hesitation, Audrey rose from her seat and left the room. She clutched the ruby necklace she was wearing, hoping it would give her the ability to relax as it had so many times in the past. The ruby necklace had been her mothers, and her grandmothers before that. It didn't shine as brightly as it used to, and the golden chain it rested upon was slowly tarnishing. Audrey had worn that necklace every day since her mother had died, and she had no intention of ever stopping. She choked back tears as she snaked her way down the everlasting hallways, a path all too familiar to her since that day almost three years ago. Audrey opened the unlocked door to the guidance office. The door was never unlocked; the guidance office was almost never used. The room smelled of must; old paper and the remnants of musky perfume. This room was used for two types of meetings: meetings about honors classes and meetings about death. She prayed silently that there was an exception to this longstanding canticle. As she sat, she thought about her father, a all, lean, and generally nice man with soft brown hair and laugh lines. He had been ill for a few months now, and a week ago he ended up in the hospital. She had been staying with her aunt while he underwent treatment, forbidding herself to think about how grim things could get.

The door opened. The counselor motioned her inside, and asked her to sit down. The two looked at each other, both as if they had stale secrets locked inside. The guidance counselor asked her if she needed anything, and they began their conversation. The counselor told her that her father was worse, and that the hospital had called to tell her that her father was requesting her presence. Audrey's head fell into her lap clumsily, tears burning in her eyes, but not breaking through. Audrey stoop up to leave and flew out of the room, stumbling over displaced books and slid on pamphlets that had been knocked off a rack. She ran. The hallways seemed to grow as she ran towards the student parking lot. She thought she heard the counselor calling after her, but she couldn't be bothered to turn back. The tears finally came as Audrey burst through the door and into the blinding sunlight, tears glimmering on her face. She reached her car and stumbled as she jammed her keys into the ignition. Trying to keep her eyes straight, she drove out of the parking lot and towards the hospital. She asked herself questions as she drove with reckless abandon; why now? What could be going wrong? She had just been the hospital two nights ago with her aunt, and the doctors had said he was making a speedy recovery for someone of his age. Were they allowed to lie, or were they just that ignorant?

The automatic doors groaned apart sleepily as Audrey looked around for a receptionist. With no one in sight, Audrey climbed the mountainous stairs to her father's fifth story room. No time could be taken to wait on another lazy machine. She finally reached the hospital room, clutching her mother's necklace and gasping for breath. He father looked up and smiled. With a smirk on his lips, he informed her that the doctors had lied to him. They had told him that he was going to get better. They told him he would lead a fully normal life after he was discharged; now he wasn't sure if he'd be discharged at all. He grimaced as he bent over to pick up a framed photograph off of his bedside table. The picture was of Audrey and her mother. Audrey was a toddler then. her hair was gathered up into to spiky pig tails. Her hair was just starting to fade from it's baby blond to its current ashy brown. Her mother's red hair spilled over her shoulders and engulfed the small child, who was giggling happily. Audrey's father gazed at the picture for what seemed of a lifetime, perhaps remembering the times of his life that had passed and would perhaps never resurface. He finally glanced back up at Audrey, remarking on how much she had grown and how much she looked like her mother. He gestured for her to sit down beside him, and he took her hand. Gripping it tightly, he told her that no matter what, he would always love her. Tears slid down the snowy peaks of Audrey's cheeks, and her father closed his eyes.

Then, the shrill sound of a heartbeat flat-lining filled her ears. It filled her being until she numbly realized what was going on. A doctor who had been standing behind Aubrey for quite some time now came forward to place a comforting hand on Audrey's shoulder. She swatted the hand away, collapsing into the plush chair behind her. She didn't remember how long she wept, or even if all that time had been spent weeping. When Audrey became conscious of her actions again, she was lying in bed at her aunt's house. She rose form the bed groggily and went to the kitchen. She filled a glass of water, and looked aimlessly at the media on the fridge; paintings from her small cousins, a variety of old and current wedding invitations and baby announcements. Her eyes wandered until they lapsed across a picture of her father. Memory of what had happened flooded her brain, jolting her awake. She dropped the glass, crystalline drops and fragments spraying across the kitchen floor. But she did not cry. She only stood, and stared. Unsure of what to do, she crawled back into bed, where she stayed.

Audrey spent the next few weeks fighting through fog. The typical stages of grief went through her like a river, flowing one straight into the next. The blank faces of family and friends drifted in and out of focus, a lullaby of forged sympathy and bittersweet thanks. The funeral was beautiful, and the burial was hard. Audrey could hardly remember any of it, the hours turning into days and days turning into weeks. Many times, she caught herself thinking how funny things were; so ironic how things came full circle. Her freshman year she had been called down to the must office with the fake flowers, and she had been given the news of her mother's accident. She had been driven the the hospital, only that time by her father and not herself. She had watched her mother's final breath, and said goodbye in the same fashion. Now, in her senior year, the things so painful had come back to haunt her; not as mere spirit, but as a poltergeist, throwing her life into a tedious fit of emotions. She had laughed and cried so much in the last year. Things have changed so much. She became salutatorian, priding her family as the second generation to have finished high school. She had made many friends and lost many others. Audrey was given her first car, and backed that car into her father's car on the same day. She had moved in with her aunt. So many things were gone and passed, but clung to the web of her brain like droplets of water. So many things she wanted to forget, but couldn't.

She heard her name called, and she walked across the stage. Her cap and gown, a bright gold glitter under the stage lights, bounced as she took each step, as if congratulating her. She walked to her principal, who looked as nervous as she. She took her cylindrical rite of passage, and shook hands with those who had led her through the last four years. She acknowledged the audience, who had earlier listened to her speech that had felt hours long as her throat grew tight. She took one last look at her teachers, and walked off the stage smiling, clutching the ruby necklace around her neck, walking away from her past and into the world, glimmering threads of hope dangling within reach.





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