December 15, 2008
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The crowd that had entered her house was shocked. The house had not one picture on its walls. But not only were there no pictures, the walls had been scraped bare, fingernail marks etched into the plaster itself.

In any other house, an audience would have been silent. The roar of photographers and journalists was deafening, even you could not hear yourself think! The flash of camera lights and shouted questions traveled through the hallway and into the main room.

Here, all was quiet, but it wasn’t a peaceful silence. Mouths hung agape as t
he people gazed at a gruesome sight at their feet. For, in the middle of the room, lay the model.

Dead, and cold as stone.
* * * * *

Caroline stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She hated who she was. She hated what she saw. Her hands curled under the sink, trying to channel her anger through her fingertips. Before she could contain it though, her eyes blurred with salty tears and her paled lips began to tremble. With a scream, she threw her fists at the glass; shattering the image the world thought was perfect. The pain was not what made her cry, although fire had spread up her arms. She slid down against the wall behind her, bringing her bloodied hands to her face, trying to be the comfort she so desperately needed. Her shoulders heaved as her sobs echoed through her home, her breath shallow and unfulfilling.
Her tears stopped when the phone began to ring. Already sure of who it was on the other side of the receiver, Caroline allowed the machine to answer. “Caroline! Caroline darling? Its…well you know who this is! But that is beside the point! You’re late! Where are you? Scarfing down your last bite of low fat vanilla yogurt, I hope, because Rick is here and he’s impatient! Get your silly little model butt over here pronto!” the speaker clicked off abruptly.

Caroline took a deep, lungful of air and reached above her to grasp the silver door handle. She winced, reminding herself that she had just broken her mirror. She looked around to observe the mess; pieces of glass scattered the floor, her towel was bundled up, and soaked with water, and then Caroline herself. More broken and shattered than the mirror could ever be. But she was late. She would just have to suck it up and think of an excuse for her tattered hands. She was klutzy, anything could happen!

Caroline slowly began to move, letting the lingering pain spread from limb to limb as she navigated around the shards at her feet. Once she got around the glass, though, she slammed the door, locking away the disaster that was her life.
By the time Caroline arrived at the photo shoot, she was a real live Cinderella. Her hair was blown out, highlights sparkling, and her make-up was flawless. Just as she should be. The only thing missing was her smile. Her passion. What happened to that girl? She wondered. Where did she go?

Suddenly, she felt a hand on her back, “Lets GO CAROLINE!” it said. “The world waits for NO ONE!”

Caroline quickly plastered on a grin, “Well, Theresa, I’m here now! What do you need me to do?”

Caroline watched as her agent played with her hair. Theresa had been with her manager since the beginning. Her aggressiveness had gotten her anywhere she’d ever been, and it made her successful. Theresa was like a mother to Caroline, regularly checking in, going to dinner, shopping, even the holidays were spent with Theresa. Caroline counted her as a true friend, and the closest thing to family she had.

“Smile and look pretty. Like you always do, Sunshine,” Theresa answered, laughing to herself. “It’s the same as every day!”

Caroline grimaced, “The same as every day,” she whispered to herself, “The same as everyday.” Caroline stopped and shook her head. She would not allow herself to be brought back to that morning. She forced back tears and let herself be whisked away by another nameless face.
The day went by unbearably slow. Only the minute hand seemed to move with every click of a new roll of film. They moved her like a mannequin. Head up, shoulders back, legs slightly crooked, feet relaxed. All to take the perfect picture. The only thing she heard was, “Smile” or “Alright! That was beautiful! Do it again!”
Each hour was a new pose; a different shade of lip gloss. Caroline tried to smile, tried to look gorgeous, but she failed at every attempt. The photographer finally began to notice. “Come on, Caroline! You LOVE doing this! Give me more!”
The moment those words left his mouth, Caroline’s fake smile faded. “Oh do I!” she said maniacally. “I love doing this? Please Rick! I have given you ‘more’ more times than anyone else in this company! Give it a rest for once! You’re making my ears bleed! Tell me THAT’S going to look good on a billboard downtown Chicago!”
By the time she stopped ranting, Caroline’s eyes overflowed with tears, and her mascara streaked in heavy, black channels down her face. Before she could continue Theresa maneuvered herself into the argument. “Caroline, take a deep breath! Relax! Clearly you’re stressed. Why don’t you take the day off? Get some rest. Go to a movie or stay in and order pizza! I don’t care!” She pivoted onto her left foot and threw her arm towards the door, “I’ll call you.”
“Don’t bother,” Caroline replied flatly.
Caroline propelled herself forward through the onlookers who had gathered around them, and didn’t bother to glance behind.

She hastily made her way against the throng of people, and the cab driver would have been burned to a crisp with her fiery glare if he dared to turn around. Good thing for him, he didn’t, but Caroline “forgot” to give him a tip as she threw herself out of the car. “Have a nice day,” she added curtly, her body a flash of light it moved so fast.

The door to her apartment shut behind her with a deafening slam. It almost helped clear her mind. But Caroline had snapped. Nothing could stop her now.

She threw her jacket on the floor and stared at the hall in front of her. The walls were decorated with pictures of her. Caroline in Japan, Caroline with the President, Caroline holding a Pantene shampoo bottle. Caroline, Caroline, Caroline! She screamed, running to the first picture, dragging it from the wall. It flew across the room, shattering another perfect image.

Caroline’s rampage continued, stripping the frames from their resting places in the wall and taking the plaster with her. Slivers of glass and wood littered the floor, leaving almost no safe spots to stand. In her frenzy, Caroline annihilated every picture she came across, face down on the floor were graduation photos, holidays with Grandma, and summers in Florida. She couldn’t stand to see what everyone thought was so beautiful. “What do you see?” she cried.

“Why don’t I see it?” Caroline closed her eyes and imagined herself in the bathroom again. Some things had changed; her hair was dry, the towels were gone, but the glass was accumulating, overflowing in piles at her ankles. Caroline looked down at her hands. They didn’t hurt! She turned them over, searching for evidence that she was the one who had broken the glass, but they were unscathed! The glass was crystal clear, not stained red like it had been earlier, crimson from her blood. Curious, Caroline picked up a shard and delicately placed it on her neck. She smiled shamelessly, a single tear slipping down her cheek. Caroline’s lips quivered softly as she drew a line across her throat.

Caroline’s eyes opened abruptly. She blinked, watching the bathroom fade away, revealing the chaotic living room she had destroyed. Caroline glanced at her hand, only to see the bloodied piece of glass that had so easily become a weapon in her dream. Then, she touched her neck. What she found was not a dream. No, it was as real as it could get. Blood was flowing from her throat, dripping onto her shoulders and splattering the hardwoods below her. Caroline’s lips curved up. This time, in more of a grimace, as the pain increased and traveled through out her body; racing to her fingertips and toes. This was it. All of the hurt Caroline had felt would end. She would no longer have to live up to the high demands of a society that wanted non-stop perfection and poise. She could finally take a breath, and feel fulfilled. Caroline let her hands fall to her side, resting her head on her shoulder. In that moment, time stood still, and she was at peace. Her pain disappeared, and her breathing ceased. Slowly, her eyes closed, and Caroline smiled, listening to the last beat of her heart.

* * * * *
The windows rattled when Caroline slammed the front door. Her breath was short, and her heart was racing. She knew what had happened during the car ride home would follow her into the house. She heard footsteps from outside coming towards her, “Great. This is amazing. This is awesome. My life is being ruined.” She whispered to herself. Caroline started to sprint up the flight of stairs when another slam shook the walls.

“Caroline Grace Thompson! Where are you planning on going?” the voice boomed.

“My plans haven’t changed from three minutes ago, Dad!” she screamed without turning around. Caroline knew her voice was loud enough anyways. There was no need to make eye contact.

“This conversation isn’t over! Take one more step and I swear…” her father threatened.

Caroline turned sharply on her heels. “This conversation ended when you made it oh so crystal clear that you have refused to believe in me. Refused to believe in even the faintest of hopes that I could follow my dreams, Father,” she seethed. “I think you got your point across. But I don’t know! Do you have anything else to say?” Her anger seemed to erupt out of her, as if it had been hidden away for decades.

“I am not DONE!” although his tone matched hers, Caroline held her ground.

She knew things would just heat up from here. Her father would storm into the kitchen and sit over a bottle of hard liquor until he thought the problem disappeared. It never did.

“Just go back to your permanent counter space! Drink your worries away! And tomorrow, we will CONTINUE to act like nothing happened. It’s the same as every day! Nothing changes!” she screamed again.

Her eyes traced her dad’s movements, watching him slip down the path that was drowning him ever so slowly. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he paused. Caroline could see he was hesitating. Trying to think of the words that would stop her dead in her tracks, trapping her in guilt and shame. “You were never good enough,” he hissed through his teeth. “Even for your mother.”

Caroline froze. This was unexpected. This was cruel. This was a step no one ever dared to take. “What. Did. You. Just. Say?”

“You heard me,” he replied icily. “Your mother hated you. You. Perfect Caroline,” he mocked, “Not so perfect are we now? Now that she is gone.” His voice exploded, the weight of his words stunning Caroline.

Caroline was silent, memories rushing through her head, memories of Mom. She was always so vibrant. Until it ended. Until one day, the glue that held the family together vanished, stolen from the ones who needed her most.

“You don’t mean that. No. Mom…”she choked on her words, emotions overflowing, “She…She loved me. I know that. You think I’m perfect? Well! Compared to you I’m a saint! Do you know how many times I look in the mirror and hate what I see? I look like her! Every morning I wake up and wish that day had gone differently! Hope that this is all some insane trick my mind is playing on me, that I will blink and everything will be back to normal! I’ll come downstairs and she’ll be in the kitchen, telling me the bus is here and I’m late!” Tears where streaming down her cheeks now, and no matter how hard she tried to keep it together, she couldn’t. Her mind was filling up with thoughts of her mother. Christmases when the lights, tree, gifts, food, family was all perfect. Summers in Florida when she and Caroline would lie on the beach for hours, soaking in the sun, days filled with endless laughter and joy. Those were the days when Caroline knew she could be herself. Knew she could be flawed and imperfect and still be loved.

Still, every happy story comes to an end. The day of the accident continued to remain a blur to her. The minute details, once so important and vital withered away, all she could remember was the last thing she said to her. “Mom! Let it go! Just come get me!”

“Caroline this is serious! What’s going on?”

“MOM! I can’t explain now! Please! Get here as quick as you can!”

“I am on my way.” Her mother told her.

“Good bye,” she retorted.

The dial tone ringing in her ear was the last thing of her mother she could recollect. Her mom never made it to her that night. Red and blue flashing lights obscured what remained of her mother, that being the image etched in Caroline’s mind. Her car was flipped and totaled but the driver responsible was nowhere in sight; probably half way up the interstate by now, dented front door and all.

Caroline’s sorrow was never ending. The funeral, held six days later, was the hardest on her. After the service, and all grievers had left, Caroline remained. Weeping by her mother’s grave was the last time she had cried since.

Caroline’s head snapped up, the sound of her father’s voice now like a knife in her heart, “Caroline. Oh Caroline…snap out of it!” his fingers were fingernails on her chalkboard. She was really crying now, for the first time in months, there was no going back now; her dad was going to regret this. She would leave tonight, for her mom; for both of them.

“The day your mother died was the day you died to me as my daughter.” He spat in her face, breath reeking of alcohol.

Caroline’s face hardened, and her tears suddenly stopped. “Then consider yourself a lonely fool. Do you want to know the last thing I said to her that night?” Her voice began to tremble.

“Whatever it was…it wasn’t good enough.”

“Good bye.” The words were barely audible, but she was sure he had heard her, and if he didn’t, he would know by the time he woke up the next morning, when her room was empty and her car gone.

Caroline didn’t wait for a reaction. She turned from her father and ran up the stairs to her bedroom, half way to New York in her mind.

It was eleven when she finished packing, downstairs she could hear her father’s drunken snores coming from the kitchen. Caroline dragged her belongings through the front door, along the ground, and into her silver Ford Focus. With her bags packed, piled to the ceiling, and enough coffee to get her from Ohio to New York without stopping, she backed out of the driveway; ready to start over, ready to be the Caroline her mother would have been proud of.

Caroline picked up her cell phone and quickly hit speed dial number one. She waited as the receiving end rang three times before someone picked up. Caroline smiled when a familiar voice answered, “Hello?”

“Theresa? It’s Caroline. I’m on my way.”

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SonjaRenae said...
Dec. 11, 2011 at 9:32 pm
Really Nice!!! A mix of things that kept me on edge! I loved it :D It would be great if you could check out my work! Any comments or ratings would be very appreciated!!
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