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Where Golden Weeds Grow, a novella (clip 1)
My name is Charlotte Cole— or rather, that’s what my fake I.D. says— but I won’t be for much longer. I have to change name, pack my bags, and disappear again. It’s not safe here.
They found me.
It’s two o’clock in the morning in Scottsdale, Arizona. My small condo is air conditioned, but I still feel like I should be sweating. I anxiously drum my fingers against the wooden coffee table, trying to decide what to do. My bags are packed— all two of them— but I am too worried to sit still.
I can’t stop my fingers. My heart is pounding, blood coursing through my body. I can’t breathe.
Stop, I tell myself. And I stop. I listen to my other half, my better half. She tells me it’s alright, that it’s all going to be okay just as long as I calm down. Breathe, she says. And I do. Inhale, exhale. All of a sudden, it’s easy again.
I stand; run a hand through my long hair. It’s oily. Gross. I need to take a shower, but I don’t have time. Somewhere between loading my bags into the trunk of my Toyota Camry, and sliding into the driver’s seat, I decide I’ll just drive until I can figure out where I’m going.
I can’t image anyone being out on the roads at this hour. Still, there is the occasional car. Every time I see a set of headlights wash onto the clean pavement, I clench the steering wheel tighter. I drive around for a while like this, off and on semi-populated highways and long stretches road. Then, seemly out of nowhere, I see a sign: Welcome To Yuma, California. The moment I cross the state line, I feel better, safer. But I know it’s a false sense of security.
I will never be safe.
I can feel this tug, this pull, like my better half is trying to tell me something. But I refuse to listen, instead I drive. I keep driving, like I have an idea of where I'm going.
A few hours later I see the sunrise-- some splashes of orange and pink blending into the black-blue sky. A quick glance at the gas meter deems my next stop a hotel. I need to change cars, and cheap hotels are the perfect place to steal one. I could pay for gas, but I will need to change cars anyway, so it seems pointless to wait.
I slip on a pair of dark sunglasses before greeting the elderly gentleman at the front desk. I ask for a room without windows-- if they have it-- close to the stairwell, farthest from the check-in office. He smiles at my odd requests, but hands me a key. I roll out two twenties, place them on the table, and don't look back.
The room is stingy, smelly, and dark. But I won't be staying long. I fight the exhaustion that is starting to take it's toll on me.
I stumble over to the bathroom, strip down and hop into the shower. The water’s cold, but it still feels good. I can image two days of dirt washing off my skin with every sprits and gurgle the shower head makes. I towel off quickly, running my fingers through my hair. After wiping the steam off the mirror, I’m shocked at what— or rather who I see.
I have always been thin, with a pointy chin and almost bony frame. I have fairly high cheek bones, and a sculpted nose. I also have an overbite, so even though my lips are thin, the top one is puckered somewhat. My eyes are sharp, always narrowed. They’re the lightest shade of blue next to my tanned skin. And my hair… right now, my hair is platinum blonde. My natural color is a medium brown, but over the past year, I have dyed it in an effort to fit my fake identity, my fake life.
Today, I will walk out of this room as someone else. I dig around in my bag, and find my tin of fake I.D.s. Every one has the same information, just a different hair color and name for each picture. I close my eyes, pick one at random. Jesse Baker.
Jesse. It sounds like a tomboy name to me. I rummage around in my toiletry bag until I find my assorted packets of hair dye. I pick black, because I've always liked the idea of black hair, but I never thought it went with the name Charlotte. It fits perfectly with Jesse Baker, though.
I come out of the bathroom a half an hour later, my hands cramped and my hair reeking of chemicals. But I have never looked better. Looking in the mirror, my hair almost looks natural-- my eyebrows are the darkest shade of brown. Plus, the dark hair makes my eyes stand out like a pair of perfect sapphires.
Since Jesse is a tomboy, I go with a pair of worn-in, ripped jeans and a green flannel shirt. I slip into a pair of recently acquired Converse, the tips still so white and squeaky-clean.
Walking down to the parking lot, I feel better. Lighter. Almost like a weight has just been lifted off my shoulders. I pick a car of my choice: a gray Outback, and-- wrapping my sweater around my arm-- I smash the back window.
As I speed off towards the Oregon/Californian boarder, I roll down the front windows, let the fresh air suffocate me. This is the closest feeling to freedom.