“That’s mine!” four-year-old Steph exclaims at the top of his tiny lungs.
“NO! Mine!” his twin sister Darcie screams right back.
I can hear Steve trying to calm them down and figure out the problem, but obviously it’s not going so well for him. I can already feel the anxiety attack coming and I’ve only been awake for five seconds.
“ALIX! COME HELP!” that’s my dear foster mother always having me take care of the littles. Eva is supposed to be our guardian. There are eight of us kids, all ranging from the age of four to sixteen. I’m the oldest child at sixteen, as of last month anyways.
“I’m coming,” I say loud enough to be heard over the, still fighting, toddlers. I get up slowly, my legs not wanting to work just yet seeming how I had only just woken up. My body isn’t ready yet for today’s torture in this house, at least it’s Sunday so I only have to deal with this “family” and not the idiots at school. Eva always gets triggered when I take more than a few seconds to do what she says so I try to hurry and get my body configured to my brain so that my limp limbs will obey.
I honestly have no idea why she hates me so much. I don’t remember ever doing anything to purposely screw up her perfect little life here. I mean, sure one day I went to school in dirty clothes and covered in bruises when I was little, but that really can’t be it, can it? I didn’t mean to make the teachers worry about me being in her care. I didn’t try to get her in trouble. I didn’t know what was going on, just that men in black suits came to talk to us a couple days later just to see that I was fine and playing with Bea. Sure, they saw us throwing toys at each other like best friends do, but that was normal. That was how I got the bruises.
The dirty clothes were the result of the water being shut off, we couldn’t very well wash clothes without any water. All of that wasn’t my fault. I didn’t mean to cause that. I was only eight-years-old! I didn’t know what I was doing or that it was wrong. I wanted to go to school, the others stayed home that day, I just wanted to go learn...I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.
“ALIX MARIE, GET OUT HERE NOW!” the She-Devil yells once again.
I’m shaking as I open my bedroom door. There’s no-way out of this mess, I’m stuck until I turn 18 or some family miraculously wants to adopt and picks me out of this hoard of monsters.
“Pfft. Fat chance of that ever happening for me..” I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was doing as that thought crossed my mind. The halls are covered in the littles’ toys, ranging from the tiny legos to the big toy trucks and such, so it didn’t surprise me when I stepped right into the middle of Henry’s elaborate lego castle which, in turn, caused him to get up and start throwing a temper tantrum.
“YOU RUINED MY CASTLE!!” the little brat screams. “What is wrong with you?! Why are you always screwing stuff up around here?! I hate you, Allie, I wish you would just go die!”
Now, to some people this would seem a little harsh, but it’s normal for me here. I’m the sixteen-year-old outcast in a house full of people who don’t want me around. Not really thinking about the consequences, I turn on my heel and just walk straight back into my room.
My mind is going in circles. I don’t know what to do. What can I do? I can’t go to Eva, she’ll tell me to suck it up. I can’t go to Steve, even though he’s the unofficial official peace-keeper of the house. I can’t go to anyone. I’m an outcast everywhere. Everyone makes sure that I know what they think of me. I can’t…
“ALLIE! Where did you go?” Gavin, the grumpiest of all the kids, starts to call for me. I don’t want to answer. I can’t answer. I’m shaking from head to toe and it’s like I’m vibrating. I know I should answer, but I can’t find my voice. “Allieeeee,” he’s drawing my name out now so he’s trying to taunt me into calling back, “I need help with homework! It’s due tomorrow, and I know you’re really good at math. Please, come help me?”
Okay, something’s going on here. Gavin never says please. He’s never this civil. I know this is a trick, but I can’t help but fall for it. I wait a few minutes before answering, though, to see what this brat is up to. After not hearing anything for a bit, I stand up and debate on opening the door or not.
“What is it, Gavin?” I call out softly as I peak out my door. It’s oddly quiet now. How did that happen? Just a couple minutes ago it was like a zoo with all the yelling. What surprises me even more is that the hall is cleared of all the toys that, literally just seconds ago, cluttered the entire space. “OK….what is going on here..?” I can’t help but wonder.
I must’ve lost time again. The air is colder than it was when I came in here earlier and the light is casting lower shadows on my walls.
“Crap. What time is it?” I walk slowly out of my room, scared that any noise I make will wake the demons and send them to chew me up and spit me out with their horrible words.
I hear plates clattering downstairs, forks and spoons scraping against their glass surfaces. I always forget just how big this place is. When I was little, and it was only me and Beatrice, I remember us calling this house a castle. It’s that big. Winding staircases lead to each of the four floors: the basement (which no one goes in), the main floor (where it seems everyone is at), the third floor that I’m on and share with Bea, Steph and Darcie, and Henry, and then the very top floor that houses Eva, Steve, Devin, and Gavin. I used to love how the ornate carvings in the wooden walls made the place seem magical, now I absolutely despise them. They gave young me the impression that I would be happy here. They gave me the thought that maybe I can be happy here. They made me think it was a magical place, full of love and happiness.
I wish I could go back to young me and tell her the truth. That she needs to toughen up. If I had toughened up when I was younger, maybe then I wouldn't be where I am now. Where I'm on medication for my anxiety. Where I can't touch Tylenol or Ibuprofen without supervision so I don't take more than the right dosage. My whole life is f***ed up and there's nothing to fix it.
“Allie Bear, come down here! You're the only one I can stand!” Bea, my best friend in the whole world starts to whine. See, we grew up together, so the bashful child she is around everyone else disappears and turns into a whiny, sarcastic weirdo. Both of our moms were teenagers when they had us and then decided they didn't want us. She gets me. I get her. That's how we are.
“I'm coming BeaBea, hold your horses.” As that statement comes out of my mouth, I run right into her. “God! Bea you need a bell.”
“Hey, not my fault you weren't paying attention Allie-Bear.” she says with the all-knowing innocent little sparkle in her big blue eyes. “I was literally right in front of you, you were just stuck in your little fantasy world again, right?”
“You caught me. Yet again.” I say in a rather gloomy voice. Today is just gloomy Sunday, I guess. There really is no way to make this day any better. I know Henry is just a young kid, but that doesn’t change how much his words affect me and my mind. Words are words and everyone, young or old, should be held accountable for what is allowed to come through their lips.
“Oh, come on. Don’t be so down. We have guests! Come on!!” Bea is in a rather strange mood right now, she’s never like this. She’s all giddy and jumpy and I have no idea how to respond to her and her happy self. Normally, she’s a little more reserved and bashful, what has her so happy and so….unlike herself?
“Hey, what time is it, BeaBea?”
“Oh, right. It’s dinner time. You’ve been locked in your room all day and I told everyone to just leave you be and not make matters worse.”
“You’re the best. Thank you, sissy.”
Now, here comes bashful Bea, she’s got that rosy tint in hercheeks and her shining blue eyes hold a glimmer of satisfaction from knowing that what she did helped her best friend. She always prides herself on knowing that she’s the only one that I can trust and how much I need her. We link our arms together and start on the trek down to the kitchen to help prepare dinner, which I still haven’t found out what it was.
“Hey, Bea, what are we cooking for dinner?”
“Oh, we’re not cooking tonight.” She looks a little relieved to say the least, “Eva is making dinner. Wants to leave a “good” impression on the people downstairs.” At this, she does her famous air quotes and eye roll.
“Ah. Do I sense some attitude there, little lady? You know Eva hates it when you have attitude.” I mock slightly, trying to impersonate the evil woman’s nasally voice.
“Yeah...I know, but she’s being so fake right now. I just wish she took care of us on a daily basis and not just when it conveniences her, yanno?”
Later in the day
“Alix, I want you to get the littles ready for bed after you make sure they have clothes for school tomorrow and all their school stuff packed up and ready to go, okay?” Eva, aka the fake witch, says with fake adoration in her nasally voice. She looks me dead in the face with her beady black eyes that practically dare me to act up and say the wrong thing. “Now, will you do that for me, dear?”
“Yes, Miss Eva.” I grit my teeth as I’m forced to refer to her in a polite manner. I refuse to look her in the eyes, and just stare at her frizzy greying hair that’s piled high on her head.
As I start moving around to gather up the children, I hear the couple in the living room speaking to the witch.
“Alix is such a little helper, she would be perfect to help out at home with us and for us to spoil, but she’s a little...moody. I mean, she’s absolutely lovable and adorable with her cyan blue eyes and curly, black hair. But…” Wait. They’re talking about me? Why would they be wanting to take me? I’m not special. I’m not a good kid. I’m nothing.
Suddenly, there’s a crash that makes everyone jump and get pulled out of their thoughts and conversations. I look around and I notice that Gavin is lying underneath Henry, moaning in pain from the little demon’s ploy to get attention.
“Henry! What onearth are you doing, boy?” Eva yells when she sees the mess. “Alix, I told you to get them ready for bed! If you had just listened...”
As always, it's my fault. As our dear foster mother continues to scold me, I roll my eyes and grab Henry up by his ear and start walking up the steps. With years of dealing with this, I've been able to block out Eva's voice and hear only the “Wa wa wa” sounds of the Charlie Brown adults.
“....You're such a disappointment, Alix. No wonder your mother gave you up at birth. She probably knew you would just mess up at everything. She probably knew that you would never amount to anything. Go to bed. I'll take care of the kids since you obviously can't.” This is different. She's never spoken to me like this before. I stop dead in my tracks and turn back to look in her face, where it’s clearly shown that she honestly believes everything she's just said to me.
I look around at the shocked faces of my foster family and the couple who sat for dinner. They can't believe it either, Bea is looking from me to Eva with a surprised look. The couple is looking at each other worry written on their faces. The rest of the kids are smiling at Eva, no doubt loving the moment she finally told me what they've been saying for months.
I can feel the tears start to well in my eyes, I’m shaking from trying to hold back the nerve wracking sobs that I can feel bubbling up inside my chest. I can’t stay in this room. I can’t let them see me break. I have to get out of here.
I run out the door as fast as I can, no one is yelling for me to come back. I can hear her snooty laugh behind me. I can’t see because the tears are coming faster and faster now that I’m alone. The path is rough, I don’t know which way I ran. I think I’m in the woods with how many logs are in my path.
“Can’t do anything right. You can’t do anything right. You’re a failure. You’re nothing, Alix. No one will ever want someone who is as big of a mistake as you are.”
Their words are circling in my brain. I can’t escape from them. What else is there that I can do? They won’t stop. They never stop. They want to make me believe their words...little do they know that I’ve believed them for years. I know I’m nothing. I know I’m a failure. I know I was a mistake. I know that no one will ever want me…so why do they keep repeating it over and over again?
I’m deep in the woods now as I stop to catch my breath. The moon is high above my head letting me know that it’s pretty late, later than it was when I started running. I don’t know how far I made it but from the looks of things, I’m pretty far.
I’m looking around trying to get my bearings back when I feel that my face is tight with the, now dried, tear tracks that were running down my cheeks. My nose is running and stuffy. My legs are shaking and feel like they’re about to give out. My head feels heavy, it’s a strain to hold it up. My eyelids start to droop, I can’t help it, I’m exhausted. I’ve never felt this exhausted before. Sure, I’ve had many breakdowns, this one was different. This one was very different.
I don’t want to live. I can’t do this anymore. No one needs me. No one wants me. There’s no reason for me to keep trying, it’ll just be the same torture everyday. Every single day. But, not tonight. Tomorrow. After school. That way I’ll have the house to myself, no one to try and interrupt me or stop me so I can do something for them that they don’t want to do.
With this resolve, I walk slowly back to the house that I’ve grown up in. The house that has brought me nothing but pain and sorrow. The house that child me loved and never wanted to leave. The house that young adult me has decided to leave for good.
“You’re finally going to get what you guys wanted. Something that everybody wanted. All except for Bea...what am I going to do about her? I hope that couple takes her away from all the pain in this house so she doesn’t end up like me…” the tears are flowing freely yet again as I say these thoughts out loud to the empty, still night air.
The Next Day
The early morning light is filtering into my room, lighting up just part of my room. When I finally got in last night, I learned that the couple actually did take Bea and Devin with him. On one hand, I’m glad they’re out of here, but I’m a smidge disappointed that I didn’t get to tell BeaBea bye. Last night was the last night I’m ever going to see her, seeing as how today is my last day here. Not just in this godforsaken house, but in this world.
It’s just a little bit after five, meaning that I have a full hour to myself before I have to wake the others up and get breakfast going before we go off to school. Normally, I use this time to do homework I didn’t get a chance to finish over the weekend or shower, however, not today. Today I don’t do anything. I sit in bed and stare blankly at the wall while listening to Flares by The Script.
“Did you find it hard to breathe?
Did you cry so much that you could barely see?
You’re in the darkness all alone
And no one cares, there’s no one there….”
This song is pretty perfect, even though it’s about someone always being there, sending out flares of hope. Most of the lyrics are pretty depressing, because it’s told to grab the listener’s attention because they can relate to it. They can relate to crying to the point they couldn’t breathe or see, they can relate to feeling alone, they can relate to having the feeling that they’re in the dark with no way out. They know how it feels to be an outcast, the one that no one wants or cares about.
This song is my go-to-repeat-on-a-loop song. There’s no way to stop these destructive thoughts now. I’ve let them in and they’re completely controlling me...I can’t do this anymore. I’m not strong enough for this. I’m not smart enough for this. I just can’t do this anymore, I’ve finally hit my breaking point.
I’m broken out of my stupor as my 5:55 alarm blares through my phone on the other side of my room. Time to get dressed, I guess, can’t really wear a cami and sleep shorts to school. There’s not much to choose from so I just grab a random baggy sweatshirt and my favorite pair of skinny jeans. School hasn’t always been kind to me so I wear the most discreet outfits that I can so that I’m not easily picked out in a crowd.
I go to each of the kids’ room, first Steph and Darcie. Since they’re twins, they share a room to make everything easier on the rest of us when we need to get them in instances like these. After I get them, I go around and get the other three boys up. Henry, the little demon, is already awake and throwing a fit while Gavin and Steve are soundly asleep. I have to get right up on them to wake their stubborn butts up. After all the children are up, grumpy or not, I start the walk down to the kitchen to make breakfast for all of us.
The bus will be here any second, now. We’re outside the gigantic house waiting in the musty October air. It’s warmed up a little bit since last night, so that’s good. The kids are all excited, only a couple more days till Halloween. Which means that they’re having a party in each of their classes today where they got to dress in their Halloween costumes and bring different party snacks. Steph and Darcie are dressed as Sneezy and Dopey from Snow White, Henry is all made up to look like a warlock, since it’s more “manly” than a witch, holding a shiny plastic apple, Gavin is the huntsman, and Steve is just in his pajamas to pass off as Sleepy, yet another dwarf. They all just went with Steph and Darcie’s desire of going as characters from Snow White, it was just easier that way I guess.
Nothing is going my way. The halls seem even more crowded than they ever have been before. People are yelling over top of each other, trying to be heard over the hustle and bustle of Monday morning stress. There’s no escaping the crowd now. Normally, I’m able to weave my way through these people, but the bundle is way too dense to do that now. I can’t get through without bumping into anyone, there’s no way I can go unnoticed in this mess, I can’t get out.
My body is very slowly starting to vibrate and I can’t control it. I can feel the anxiety attack coming, I don’t think I took my medicine this morning. What is wrong with me? Why couldn’t I remember that ONE thing that is essential for me to make it through a day without a problem? Why can’t I do one single thing right?
“-aeh, I know. She’s such a-”
I was so lost in my self-hating thoughts that I didn’t notice the “It-Girls” standing right in front of me discussing someone.
“Watch it, loser! God. What is wrong with you? Can’t you see that we’re talking here?!” Stacey the Pack Leader snaps angrily at me.
“I-I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me..I wish I could tell you.” I reply back to the raven haired-plastic barbie standing in front of me.
“Are you serious, you pathetic little twerp? Guys, she REALLY thinks that I care! She thinks that I care about what’s wrong with her!”
The whole hallway erupts in snide laughter. I’m an outcast at home and at school and basically everywhere else I go. There’s no safe place for me. I have no friends. I have no family. I have nowhere to go to escape this everyday hell that I call my life. There really is not anything else that I can do here, anymore. I can’t do this. I can’t. I’m not strong enough for this, anymore. I just, I can’t deal with all the hate directed at me.
“Awe, is the little loser gonna cry?” Stacey says in her horridly nasal voice. She’s taunting me, I know she is. “Look, everyone! Alix here is going to cry!”
The laughter doesn’t die, it just continues to get louder and louder. My body is full on vibrating, my fists are clenching and unclenching by their own accord, my chest is rising and falling faster, I feel like I’m underwater and everyone is just standing there throwing more stones on my already cold and sinking body. I can’t breathe. I can’t focus. My vision is tunneling.
I need to get out. I need to get out. I need to get OUT! I drop my bag and binder, actually throw is a better word, and I run. I run and don’t look back. I can’t look back at them, the laughing, the taunting. I can still hear them. I still hear their malicious laughter getting louder and louder even though I’m running farther and farther away. I can see the door. I need to get to the door. I can’t get there fast enough.
The sun is blinding as I slam all my weight into the heavy metal door causing it to open. It’s so blinding that I can’t see the incoming traffic that I’m running right into.
Everything goes dark after I hear that one deafening sound right in front of me.
Peace. Finally, blessedly, peace. Beautiful darkness. Quiet, deafening, loneliness. I’m finally alone. I’m finally in the quiet. I’m finally not hurting. And then there’s a sound. It’s muffled but starting to get clearer and clearer.
“She’s not responding! I need some help over here!” comes a male’s intruding voice. “Come on, help me lift her onto the stretcher.”
Why won’t they just leave me alone? I was finally free. I was finally…gone. And they want to ruin it.
Next thing I know, I’m waking up in a white room. No windows. No flowers. No color. Nothing. Just that constant, annoying “Beep. Beep. Beep.” Why couldn’t they have just left me alone?
“Good morning. You took quite a spill there didn’t you, young lady?”
It’s that same male voice again. He’s the one who brought me back. He’s the one who ruined everything.
“Leave me alone.” I reply icily to his chipper voice.”I didn’t want to be saved. Why couldn’t you have just left me alone, Mr. I’m-gonna-ruin-this-girl’s-one-chance-at-happiness??”
“A young life is precious. Why wouldn’t I save you? And my real name is Dr. Hunt. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Alix.”
“Well, Dr. Hunt, maybe I didn’t want to be saved. Maybe I wanted to be left alone. My life is miserable enough, I didn’t want to come back to this mess.” I start to try to unhook the IV that I just now realized was stuck in my arm and continue my rant, “Now, would you so kindly leave me in peace? I would like to be alone now.”
Dr. Hunt opens the door and yells out for someone called Anna, “Anna! Need some help in here.”
A young female nurse rushes in, she looks maybe in her late twenties-early thirties, at the most. “Yes, Dr. Hunt? What is i-” Anna says then stops when she sees me trying to yank the IV out of my vein pretty violently, “O.K. I see. I’ll be right back.”
I’m alone yet again with my guardian devil. While I’m still sitting here trying to rip all these wires and needles off of me, he’s just sitting there watching me with a stupid smirk on his face.
“What are you laughing about, jerk?”
Anna comes rushing in with three more buff, male nurses. One of which is carrying a big syringe with a cloudy liquid in it.
“O.K., Jim, get her right arm. Kyle, hold her legs down. Mark, hold her left arm out for me, would ya?”
The nurses start to get in their places right as I’m able to unhook myself from all of these dumb machines. I try to bolt, I really do try, I throw the blanket off of my body, not caring about the many scratches and casts holding my broken body together, and try to move. I can’t. Stupid freaking bones. I can’t move! These stupid casts won’t let me move!
The three men jump into action while my “Doctor” and his “Nurse” look on smugly. Bet they’re happy another suicidal girl’s plan to escape was thwarted in their presence. Jim grabs my right arm and holds me down while Kyle just grabs my ankles and pushes my broken legs back down onto the bed, making me let out a blood curdling scream from the pain. Anna comes up while Mark holds my, now bruised, arm out and puts the wires and needles back in their rightful places on my battered and bruised body. The big syringe is inserted into the tube connecting the needle in the crook of my elbow the the fluid bag hanging by my head.
“There we go...now she should be as docile as a newborn kitten in 3, 2,...”
Everything goes dark once again. There’s muffled talking to my right but I can’t make out what is being said because my brain is shutting down while the medicine from Anna’s needle slowly makes its way through my bloodstream.
I’m lost in my head. I know I am. The world around me looks like a fairy tale. It’s so weird. I don’t understand what’s happening. It’s snowing, the sky is dark, the environment around me is dark and gray, there’s not a soul in sight.
“Where am I..?”
“Well, child, you’re in the Enchanted Forest. Are you lost?” I turn to the voice talking to me just to see a young male with bright blonde hair, dark blue eyes, and the kindest expression on his face, “Do you need...oh my queens, you’re Snow White! Everyone has been looking everywhere for you, Princess! I’m so sorry for the rudeness I expressed towards you earlier. Please forgive me?”
“I’m what? No, I’m not. I’m Alix. I don’t know what drugs you’re on, but I think you need to, yanno, get off of them.”
“Drugs..? Why on Earth would I ever get those things? Where in here do you see anywhere that would have them? Why do you call yourself Alix, Princess? You’re Snow White. You are the spitting image of the late King, milady.”
The weirdo who is still calling me Snow White slowly starts to bow down to me, I have no idea what the hell is going on. If I’m being completely honest, this whole ordeal is starting to freak me out a bit. Scratch that, it’s starting to freak me out a lot.
I’m starting to hyperventilate when I hear a muffled voice from far away, “What’s wrong with her? Is she having a reaction to the medication? DOCTOR HUNT! Something is going wrong!”
I’m shaking like I was when I ran out of the school. I can’t breathe. I feel like I’m not in control of my body anymore. The ground is rushing up to meet me, or am I just rushing down to meet it? I don’t know. I don’t understand what is happening at all.
“What’s wrong, Princess? What’s happening to you? Are you alright?”
“Who are you?” my voice is weak and wobbly when I finally get the strength to speak. “How did I get here?”
“I’m Demitry. I have no idea how you got here, all I know is that I saw a beautiful girl walking in the woods alone and I felt like I needed to go to her... Are you alright?”
Demitry…his name is Demitry. How fitting for his looks. Wait, did he just call me beautiful?
“Who are you calling beautiful?” I can feel my cheeks starting to heat up as I look at Demitry and see him staring at me with an expression of disbelief and gentleness, “I’m the only girl here and I’m not even close to being pretty, let alone beautiful.”
“To me, you are beautiful. I find you beautiful. Not in the conventional ways of this world, but in these extraordinarily different ways that even you don’t see.Your black hair that frames your pale face, your curves that are hidden under that dress, your pouty pink lips, your long dark lashes framing those beautiful, bright blue eyes. You’re magnificent. You’re...different and I like different. ”
Demitry reaches down to me, how did I end up on the ground? Why am I sitting on the ground in this dress, anyways? When did I even put this stupid thing on? I accept his hand and let him pull me up to my feet. Something’s different about the forest now...there are red flowers blooming everywhere, the snow is melting, the sky is bright and blue, and there’s this air of wantedness and peacefulness all around me.
“I’m home. I’m finally home. Ahh..” there’s this god awful beeping sound in my ear. Just a continuous “Beeeeeeeeeeeep” that won’t go away. I try to cover my ears to block the noise out but that just makes it worse. “What is that sound?!”
“Princess? Are you okay? I don’t hear anything.”
I look up into the face of the most handsome guy I’ve ever met before. The sound is gone. I have no idea who or where I am, yet I feel like I’m home.
“Who are you? Who am I?”
“I’m Demitry. You’re Snow White. Are you alright? I just told you all of this.”
“You did?” He’s looking at me like I’m some kind of anomaly and he can’t seem to figure me out, “I’m sorry. I guess I’m just out of it right now. I am extremely tired for some reason.”
“Would you like to come back with me so you can rest a bit, Princess?”
His look changes to one of adoration and shyness, like he can’t seem to figure out what to do or if he made the right decision. His smile is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. His eyes lighten from a dark navy blue to a soft, sky blue as his lips slowly stretch out into a heartwarming grin that spells out trust and interest. I can’t help but smile shyly back at him and blush a little more while I nod slowly.
After getting my answer, which I’m assuming is the one he was hoping for, he bites his lip softly and very gently takes my hand in his and starts leading me to his home. As soon as our skin connects, I feel a jolt travel up the length of my arm, making me involuntarily shiver. He does the same. I think I’m going to like it here. I think I’m going to be accepted here. I think I’m going to be...happy.
This is the home I’ve been searching for. This is the home I’ve been needing for so long. This is my home.
He is my home.