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On the Purple Moor
I wander through the moor, smelling the sweet scent of honeysuckle and heather mixed with the scent of salt. Listening to the sound of the waves break against the huge rocks, far below, and the breeze whispering through the trees, blowing my honey-colored hair around my face. I brush my hands against the tall stalks of grass, golden, reaching up to embrace the sun. My light, summer dress swirls around my tall, willowy frame; the color of the ocean reflected I my wide, curious eyes. The sun beats down, warming my skin.
My mind drifts out across the vast sea. The sun sparkling on the ocean, turns to a huge city, with lights in every window. I sigh, recognizing this scene from a recent book I read -- Paris. My mind shifts again, switching the scene to a green countryside with rolling hills and shallow streams. I’m pretty sure this image comes from the current novel I’m reading, though it is hard to tell -- I’ve read so many books with a similar looking location.
A sound brings me out of my reverie. My mother, Christine, leaning out of the house, saying something about picking up the mail. I find myself nodding, and walking down the dusty lane, that leads down the hill from our house, into the tiny town that we depend on for things like groceries and mail. I walk into the tiny post office, intent on collecting the mail. Dust motes swirl around me, as I reach over the counter for a tray of mail with my father’s name on it. I then begin the trek back house.
I return home half an hour later, carrying a box for my mother and a tray of letters. I put them down on the table where my mother is folding laundry, and reach for a large manila envelope addressed to me. I slide the first paper out of it and begin to read aloud.
Miss Laura-belle Chrismont
526 Oceanview Lane
Dear Ms. Chrismont,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at The University of California Los Angeles department of English Literature on a full academic scholarship. Our board of directors has reviewed your application, and we feel that your outstanding academic talent will be an asset to this school. Please refer to the enclosed letters for more information, and we'll look forward to seeing you at the beginning of the school year.
Miranda L. Blake
(Education coordinator, UCLA)
I stop reading, stunned. My mother looks over from the table, her mouth hanging open.
"A scholarship…but… Oh, Laura-belle!" she cries. "A full scholarship, that wonderful! I can't believe it, and UCLA too! Oh, we'll have to find you housing - I'll have to call Grace, maybe you can stay with her… and a car... Oh my… James - come down here!" My father, the lighthouse watchman, ambles down the stairs, looking confused.
As my mother babbles on, I turn back to the envelope. Was I really just accepted on a full scholarship to UCLA, I didn't even expect a response from them at all… I can't believe it. Well, I suppose this could be the start of a great adventure.
I walk out into the blinding sunlight outside LAX Airport and the hot air hits my face like a bullet. A taxi driver is waiting to help me load my suitcase in the trunk. We wind through the streets of L.A., as I watch the scenery, so foreign to me. Palm trees grow out of road dividers. Boutiques, clubs, and cafes line the streets, as thousands of people go about their business. Some carrying bags full of movie props, others, have their arms full of coffee. Still others are pushing racks, on which hang the most expensive designer clothes. High on a hill, famous, huge, white letters spell HOLLYWOOD.
It seemed a year ago that I was saying goodbye to my family outside our Connecticut home, but it was really only seven hours. Now I'm speeding toward my aunt's house in the heart of L.A., ready to begin school tomorrow, full of worries about a huge college campus, and a huge, foreign city.
"Laura-belle!" My aunt Gracie greets me outside her Los Angeles penthouse apartment. "Oh I'm so glad you're here! I've got to run back to the studio now, so I'll just show you around and let you settle in." She walks into the apartment and I follow, as she begins to give me the tour. My bedroom is twice as big as the one back home; the bathroom is tiled in marble, and the kitchen, family/entertainment room, and home photography studio are bigger than my whole house combined.
I hear the front door click shut, as I settle on my bed next to my unopened suitcase. I reach over and pull a map of the UCLA campus out of one of its pockets and begin to study the twisting lines of roads and hallways. I sigh, hoping that I will be able to make it through, what is appearing to be the start of a long, treacherous journey.
SEVEN WEEKS LATER
I walk out of my last class of the day, English Lit. 101, exhausted. I have barely enough energy to weave through the masses of people on the campus, and arrive safely at my long-term rental car in the student parking lot. I lean back against the seat, breathing deeply. Only seven weeks and I’m already feeling the strain of a big city.
I drive home slowly, opening the door to the apartment to find it empty. I set down my bag, and use the last of my strength to methodically prepare dinner for my aunt and myself.
Later, as we sit down to the chicken pot pies I made for dinner, and flip on the TV to a news station with the â€˜breaking news’ headline, scrolling across the top, I realize something is about to change.
The news reporter is wearing a gray suit and a somber expression. "…Police are reporting that the death toll has risen to sixteen in two weeks. Reports of a serial killer are coming in from all over the city, though they have yet to take anyone into custody. At this dreadful time, all of us here in Los Angeles are reminded of twenty years ago when a similar thing happened - twenty-four murders in fourteen days. Serial Killer Luther Robinson was found guilty of killing all those people, but a lack of prison security allowed him to escape a mere two years later. Residents of the greater Los Angeles area fear it might be the same person returning to their murderous ways."
The next day at school, the news of a serial killer out and about again is big news. Everyone is on the alert, waiting for him or her to strike again.
The stress of the situation has put a damper on Aunt Gracie’s usually cheerful disposition, so I wander over to a coffee shop after school, to pick up a cake as a special surprise for her.
The scent of baked goods bombards me as I step through the door. Pastries and coffee of all different varieties sit behind a glass cover. My mouth starts to water, and I’m forced to choose, before I buy everything in the tiny store.
Walking out, ten minutes later, clutching a lemon glaze cake, I glance at my watch and gasp. How is it so late?! I look up -- the sky is dark and cloudy, a storm approaching.
I rush out the door, turning left instead of going strait ahead, deciding to take a short cut through an alley I had seen earlier, that would let me cut three blocks of walking. I hurry through the gloom, trying to ignore the rats scurrying by and the stench of sewage in the air, when the sound of footsteps behind me, makes me freeze. I turn slowly, knowing that in this 'L' shaped alley, who ever it is will have to come around a corner before I see them. The sky darkens further as the noise gets closer. How did it get so dark so fast? I wonder.
Then a man steps around the corner. He is tall, and thin, wearing a long dark coat, a hat atop his head, a gun pointing strait at my chest.
"Well, well, well," the man says in a soft, deadly voice, walking forward so I can see him more clearly. "Laura-belle Chrismont. We meet at last." My heart stops as I recognize the face I have seen countless times on the news - the serial killer from two decades ago, Luther Robinson.
"H-h-how do you know my name?" I stutter, backing away slowly.
"Oh I know a lot of things about you, and your family," Luther says coolly, aiming the gun at my face now. He is so close that I can see his face clearly. He cocks the gun, an evil grin twisting his face, his eyes a steely silver. Still, he hesitates, as though he is deliberating. Then, suddenly, something changes in his eyes, as if he has made a snap decision. He lowers the gun, still smiling.
"In fact, why don't you go back to them. It seems you just can't handle a big city, if trouble has found you this quickly." He turns and walks away, his coat rustling.
My hands are shaking so hard that I drop the cake in a puddle. I don’t notice. I feel like my body is made of jelly, my mind turned to ice. I manage to turn and run back to my car.
Driving home like a maniac, my mind is racing faster than the car. Luther, if that’s who that even was, I think to myself, was right. I’m not cut out for a big city; I’m going home.
I stare out the window of the plane, watching the sunset, reliving the last twelve hours in my head. My Aunt's poorly concealed tears as I told her I was leaving. My speed packing, anxious to get out. Glancing in the mirror once, seeing my honey-colored hair is disarray, my pale skin, unnaturally white, my blue eyes, wide with fear. Sleeping at the airport, waiting for my last minute flight…
The flight lands; I walk out of Hartford Connecticut Airport in a daze. I don’t know how I manage to secure a cab, but the next thing I know, I’m leaning back against the scratchy seats. I float in and out of consciousness during the taxi ride home. I think it's the shock of a near death experience catching up with me, but I can't think clearly enough to be sure…
I feel my father's arms around me, lifting me from the cab, my mother's panicked voice, the taxi driving away, before I black out completely.
SIX MONTHS LATER
I wake up to the sound of panicked voices. Groggy from sleep, I pull myself out of bed. I peer out of my window. Sweet, warm air wafts in. It's late April, and I should be back in bed. The doctor said it could take up to eight months for the shock of what happened in L.A. to fully wear off. It had only been six months. And, according to the doctor, panic and chaos were the last things I needed right now. I had a feeling that my parents screaming were probably not conducive to a full recovery.
I dress quickly, and hurry outside. My father is coming over the ridge, walking slowly up the path that zigzags down to the water. He is carrying something in his arms. I gasp. It looks like a body.
"Is he dead?" my mother cries in anguish, sprawled on the grass. "Laura-belle, call an ambulance!"
"No," my father replies tersely. "Let's get him inside. For God's sake, don't call an ambulance! In the time they take to arrive, he would be dead."
My father takes the unconscious man inside and lies him down. We are unprepared for this. Most people know how dangerous this coastline is, and rarely sail along here. And no one swims - the water is too cold.
I glance down at the man over my father's shoulders, and stifle a gasp. I feel as if I am the one who was found in the ice-cold water, I can't speak, I can't breathe. The man is tall and thin, with dark hair and high cheekbones that give him an air of haughtiness. He has dark circles under his eyes, that suggest he hasn't slept in days, and his hair is disheveled, and soaking. And even though he is not wearing a long trench coat, but a sweater and pants - now wet - there is no mistaking him; Luther Robinson, the serial killer from Los Angeles.
In that moment as I stare at him, unmoving, it all comes together in my head. This is what he wanted, I think. He tricked me. He never planed to kill me in L.A., he wanted me to come home, so he could follow me, find me… find my family. If there was anything worse than Luther following me home to kill me outside of L.A., it was following me home to kill my family, out of L.A. Either way, the Los Angeles police wouldn't find him here. No one every found anyone out here.
I am pulled out of my reverie when I hear my mother's soft scream. She is staring down at Luther too, a look of shock and recognition upon her face. My father is too busy to notice anything. I hear my twin sisters upstairs. They have woken from the noise, and no doubt my brother will be up soon too, to see what all the commotion is about.
"Laura, go upstairs and calm the twins," my father says distractedly. "And don't let your brother down here. Tell him there's a huge snake in here if you must."
I felt rooted to the floor. I couldn't move my feet an inch. I, like my mother, could not tear my eyes off of the still figure in front of us.
I walked upstairs, moving in a trance-like state. Luther Robinson? I still couldn't wrap my mind around it. How did he find me here? Why would he want to follow me anyway? If he really is mentally ill, and just loves to kill, why would he follow me here instead of killing me on the spot? He must have had a plan… Questions swirled around my mind like mist in the early morning, shrouding all other thought in fog.
I walk in to my brother's room. He's sitting bolt upright in bed. I tell him the story my father suggested, and watch as his brown eyes fill with fear. I feel guilt break through my daze, as I watch the fright I have caused him. I never thought I would use this, his pathological fear of snakes, to my advantage, and certainly never in such a situation. I assure him it cannot get under his door, and then move on to calm my sisters.
Downstairs, my mother gazes over the body of Luther Robinson. He is not dead, but she does not know that. All that she sees when she looks at him is the body of her abusive, ex-boyfriend, and the life she might have had, if she had not chosen my father instead.
Luther is transferred to a regional hospital, 30 miles away, two hours later. He has not regained consciousness yet, and Father fears that he will die, if left unattended. Mother is still in shock, but from what, I do not yet know. As I continue to ponder it however, an idea forms in my fogged up head.
My mother once told me a story of a boyfriend she had in high school in Florida growing up. She told me, how, when she tried to have other friends, he became jealous and controlling. How he had told her to pick him or her friends, and she had chosen her friends. How, when she tried to break it off, he tried to hang on more. When they graduated, my mother fled the state - went off to college in Iowa, where she met my father, James. The boyfriend (I did not know his name, for she considered it to be unnecessary gossip), followed her, tried to win her back; and she proposed to my father, to prove to the boyfriend that she was no longer available. My father accepted, and they moved to a small town in Connecticut, hidden from my mother's crazed ex-boyfriend. One month later, they heard on the news that her ex-boyfriend, had become a serial killer, and had murdered twenty-four people in fourteen days in the greater Los Angeles region. He was arrested, but two years later, my parents had again heard on the news that a lack of prison security had allowed three high-security prisoners to escape, including her ex-boyfriend. My mother had supposed that he had some kind of mental illness, and the trauma of breaking up with his girlfriend, had caused him to become deranged, and dangerous.
Again, my mother had never told me the name of this crazed, ex- fling of hers; I suppose my mind was too busy that day in L.A. to realize that the story the news reporter was telling, as my aunt and I watched in horror, perfectly matched the story my mother had told me, seven years earlier. My mind, was probably too shut down, for weeks afterwards to even think about who it had actually been, who tried to kill me - not just that it was Luther Robinson, but the relationship he had to my family. And why he had let me go…
But now, in the confines of our small kitchen, my mind is racing as I consider the possibilities, remember that day that my mother told me about the boyfriend who had changed her life. Consider why she was so surprised to see him - not just consider him another survivor who washed up after a shipwreck… Then, it all clicks.
This is the man my mother used to love. This is the man, who followed her, pledged his love for her, and she rejected him. This is the man who became a murderer, because of her; because she said she did not love him too, so he decided to kill other people, because he could not kill her. Because he loved her, but she did not love him, so there must be no love in the world? Because violence was his only outlet, but he would not be able to live with himself, if the world lived without her?
So he had followed her here, after twenty years, after living without love for twenty years, knowing he would not be able to kill her, but knowing he must get revenge. Knowing he could not kill her, but he could kill what was most important to her - her family.
We are driving to the hospital. The nurses say he is awake, and
wants to thank his rescuers. Why any mass murderer would care who had saved him and want to give thanks, is beyond me; but no matter - we are still driving, at the insistence of my mother. My father, having only vague memories of that day, when Luther came to visit them twenty years ago, does not recognize him, and is assuming that my mother merely wants to know that this unknown man is okay. I, however, have figured out the truth.
We walk into the hospital to find Luther sitting in a chair in the waiting room, with a nurse standing over him. He is wearing his same clothes we found him in, dry now, and a wristband proclaiming that he is not allowed to leave yet. His hair is disheveled, and he looks tired, but that does not stop the chill that creeps into my stomach, turning everything in me to ice.
My mother's expression, on the other hand, matches that of Luther's - one of utter shock. My father face changes at the sight of him as well - not shock like my mother's - but a resigned expression, full of remorse and defeat. I am sure that he sees the same thing that I do when I look at my mother, starting at Luther - a long lost love, returned to the present. My father sighs and approaches Luther to shake his hand. Luther tears his eyes off my mother, to look at my father.
He doesn't say anything, but the expression in his eyes, tell me that although my parents saved him from most certain death, that will not stop him from following through with his plan - his plan to kill us.
I wonder how no one has recognized him as the serial killer from the news. But then, I remind myself, we don't have the channels as L.A. and the rest of the country, we have our own news. No one here would understand who he is or recognize him. Except maybe the police…
My father pulls me out of the room, taking me to get something to eat. My mother doesn't follow. I refuse to leave her in a room alone with him. I don't care that he still 'loves her'. All that matters to me, is that he is a known murderer, and she is my mother.
"Laura, come on," my father says, walking up the stairs.
"I'll be right there, bathroom," I mutter, distractedly. He leaves,
and I double back, until I'm right outside the waiting room door, listening to the conversation inside.
Silence, and then:
"Christine." The low rumble of Luther's voice drifts toward me. Very different from the threatening whisper he used when confronting me in L.A., this one is full of remorse. "You must know, surely, you must know, it was all for you."
My mother's voice is tearful as she responds.
"How is that supposed to make me feel? You're saying it was all for me - all those murders for me? My fault all those people are dead? And that's supposed to be what? Romantic?"
Luther starts to speak, but my mother cuts him off. "All these years, I've wondered why you were doing this. Ordinary people don't go on killing sprees when their girlfriend breaks up with them. Ordinary people go find themselves another girlfriend. I've lived a happy life, Luther. I found a wonderful husband, and have four wonderful children, but all these years, I've wondered what happened to you. Why you did what you did. It's hung over me like my own personal shadow, all these years. And now you come back, after, what, forty murders? And you expect me to come crying back to you?"
My mother breaks off, her voice full of anguish, crying harder now.
Luther responds, his voice gentle. "I don't give a damn about them, Christine. If you would take me back now, I'd stop killing. We'd move away, anywhere you want-"
My mother cuts him off again.
"But that's just it - you're saying you'd leave with me. Have me leave my family, my home, for you. You, who've killed forty more people than anyone ever should. You, who were controlling, demanding, and jealous. I could never return to you Luther; it's too late. You've lost your chance.
I hear my mother moving towards the door, and back away quickly into a shadowy corner. But the door never opens, so I move back to the door again, eager not to miss what they're saying.
"Remember all the good times, Christine," Luther calls to her, from across the room. "Remember all the fun times we had together. Just think, if you took me back, all the fun times we could have now. All the things we could do. My father's will left me a lot of money. We could travel the world, move out of this wretched town, have everything we could ever want?"
I peek through the crack in the door, and spy my mother's face frozen with shock again. I know that money doesn't interest her, but for some reason she is still standing there - frozen, like a statue. Then, abruptly, she moves towards the door.
I back away quickly, retreating to the shadows just in time, as the door flies open, and my mother walks quickly from the room, he face streaked with tears; leaving Luther sitting in the chair, a smirk upon his face.
Luther has been released from the hospital and is now staying in the one hotel in town, courtesy of my mother. I am not sure how my father feels about this, but I am too much a coward to ask. My mother has been spending time with Luther, these last six days, so my father and I are in charge of the kids.
I still cannot comprehend the idea that the man who tried to kill me in Los Angeles is my mother’s ex-boyfriend, much less that she still wants to spend time with him.. Of course, she does not know that he was the reason I cam home; that he was the one who threatened to kill me -- but no matter, she is still seeing him (in what context I do not know, nor do I particularly want to), and I am not going to be the one to tell her that she should stop, because he was the one who tried to kill me.
I did however, put my foot down at them going out to dinner. I didn’t think I would be able to stand seeing my father’s face, as she walked out the door. So instead, Luther is coming here, and we are all going to eat together under the pretext of â€˜him wanting to thank us for saving him’. I was considering pretending to be sick and trying to convince my brother to do the same, but as the night looms closer, I decide to just stick it out.
The sun is setting in a whirlwind of fiery colors, as we all sit down for dinner, outside under the sky. Luther is wearing a dinner jacket, my mother, a semi-formal dress. The rest of us are dressed casually, in jeans and t-shirts. My mother has cooked a huge meal, the likes of which we rarely get to enjoy.
A huge platter of roast beef dominates the table. Boiled potatoes, salad cheese noodles, tomatoes and salad dressing, stuffed artichokes, seasoned chicken, a bowl of peas and corn; the scent wafts through the air, making mouths water.
Luther eats hungrily, as though he has not touched food for weeks. My father and I barely though our food, and my mother seems took nervous to eat much either. My siblings -- to young to notice much -- eat as well, stuffing food into their faces. My parents are too distracted even to stop Ruby from throwing her plate of noodles to the ground. The soft grass stops the plate from shattering, but the spray of noodles causes my mother to look up.
“Oh Ruby!” she cries, looking flustered. “Oh! Well…Laura, take your sister in and clean her up, please. James, will you grab the plate?”
My father picks up the plate in one hand, and Ruby in the other and takes them inside. I follow quickly, taking Lacy inside as well, so that she doesn’t mimic her sister.
I see through the window, as I wipe down Ruby, my mother and Luther outside talking. Jake has wandered inside as well, so it’s just the two of them.. The sun has set, turning the moor purple, the sky, velvety black. I open the window quietly, allowing their soft voices to permeate the room.
“…so sorry,” my mother is saying to Luther, as they gather the plates. “She is only three, and has always been-“
“It doesn’t matter,” Luther says, cutting across her. “I’m just glad I got to see you again.” I watch as he stops collecting dishes and looks up at my mother, only a foot away. She stops moving too, taking a step back when she sees how close he is, but he moves forward, closing the gap again.
His lips move, but I am too far away to hear what he says. My mother is frozen. Luther moves closer still -- far too close for polite company I thought. He towers over her petite frame, and bends low so they are on a level with each other. He moves closer…
Looking back, I suppose I should have known then what was going to happen. As their lips meet, I should run out to stop them. I should call my father. I should warn my mother. But I can’t. I am rooted to the spot. I can’t move a muscle, let alone have a sound come out of my mouth.
My mother pulls away first. She looks down embarrassed, and pulls out of his arms. She moves away to pick up the dishes again, and heads inside. I stand there, in front of the sink, still unable to move.
I hear my father come into the room from behind. The tone of his voice tells me he did not see what I did -- it’s as light and easy as can be under the circumstances. I nod, not hearing what he is saying. Not trusting myself enough to speak.
The back door closes as the front door opens. My mother walks in looking dazed. The sight of her putting down the dishes in such a casual way, jerks me out of my shock. Without a word, I turn on my heel, and stalk out of the room. I hear my mother behind me as I go upstairs, and close my door before she can turn the corner.
I sigh, looking out of my window at the orange glow on the horizon. Stars blossom in the dark sky above; diamonds on a backdrop of blue velvet. I peer down into the garden below, watching my father tend to the lilac bushes. Movement catches my eye -- a dark shape, moving behind the huge peony bush, not ten feet from where my father stands. Then, several things happen in quick succession:
A man jumps out from behind I am watching, as fast as a panther. My door bangs open behind me, as my mother walks in, and a gun shot echoes through the still, night air, like a cannon blast. A cloud of birds take flight from the forest to the South, startled by the noise, my mother and I scream in unison, and the shape of my father below, crumples to the ground. The other man is nowhere to be seen.
My mother and I take the steps four at a time, and hurtle through the door. My father is lying in a crumpled heap in the grass, his leg bleeding profusely. My mother starts to cry, but I feel strangely calm, as though the fog that has been in my head all evening has lifted.
I grasp my father’s upper arm, and my mother, standing, does the same. Together we heave him towards the car. As I start the ignition, my mother runs into the house for the kids.
We pull out onto the road, my brother and sisters looking scared, my mother crying, my father barely conscious, and me -- still calm and collected.
We speed through the roads, arriving at the hospital in a record time of seventeen minutes. My father slips into unconsciousness as two nurses wheel him out of the emergency room.
It is not until half and hour later, when we are all settled in the waiting room, Jake, Ruby, and Lacy playing together on the floor, that my mother asks what happened.
“It was Luther,” I say, the words forming themselves in my mouth, though I know at once that they are true. “He shot him. I saw him out of my bedroom window. He hid behind the peony bush and shot father.”
My mother pales next to me. She puts her head in her hands and whispers something unintelligible. I don’t need, however, to hear what she is saying, to understand what she is thinking. This is her fault, really. As the thought passes through my head, I know I’m not blaming her, it’s just a fact. Luther loves her. When they kissed, he must have realized just how much, and decided to get my father out of the picture, and thought now was as good a time as any.
As I think these things, my mother next to me, is deep in thought as well. She knows, just as I do, why Luther tried to kill her husband. And she knows she must choose between the wild freedom of being with him, or the solid, dependable life she has created with her husband and four children. And she knows, that the decision she makes in the next few minutes -- whether to go off with Luther, or stay with her family, and turn in the man she once loved to the police -- could change her life forever.
EIGHT MONTHS LATER
So, in the end, my mother never really had to make that decision -- or at least act on it. She did end up deciding to turn Luther in to the police, only to find that he had already done it himself. According to the news we heard, two days later, he had walked into the police station, confessed to his crime, and killed himself on the spot.
My mother was not as upset as I thought she would be. No doubt the fact that she was going to turn him in herself, had toughened her up to the idea. Still, the fact the he was dead, did shake her up for a while. My father was very understanding.
The first month after Luther’s death was hard for us. Reporters calling at every hour of the day, shouting that we were heroes for finding a dangerous murdered, and setting him to justice. No one but our family knew of the age old ties my mother had to Luther, but somehow, the rumors still started. Newspapers saying that my mother was illegally married to Luther and my father at the same time. â€˜NOTORIOUS SERIAL KILLER BROUGH TO JUSTICE -- AND HIS SECRET AFFAIR WITH HIS CAPTOR’ headlined People magazine.
Eventually though, as the serial killer in question was dead, the interest level died down. Reporters stopped treating us like celebrities and newspapers discovered more important things to discuss. A trail was held, strictly formalities, and that was the last media coverage the situation got.
Although my aunt encouraged me to move back to L.A. and resume school, I felt that I’d had enough of such a big city. I enrolled in the University of New Hampshire’s literary program, and took all my classes that I had had in L.A., much closer to home. Now it’s graduation, and my career and a writer is closer than ever.
I look around at the mass of black pressing in on all sides. Sweat drips down my back, as the black nylon of my graduation gown clings to my body. The tasseled cap provides little shade from the scorching sun, and the heat radiating from the bodies surrounding me makes me feel almost dizzy.
A blinding flash makes my vision go briefly black, before the sun pushes through again.
The crowd around me clears. I wonder if I even remembered to smile. The graduating class of 2008 chatters happily, smiling and waving to family members. My parents, siblings, grandparents, and aunt Gracie move towards me, grinning from ear to ear. My mother reaches me first.
“Oh, darling, I’m so proud of you -- a college graduate…” My father’s and aunt’s voices mix with hers, the words becoming indistinguishable. I wonder briefly what this graduation would have been like, had I stayed in L.A.. The heat would have been even more unbearable, and the crowd certainly would have been bigger.
The smell of food wafts towards me. My family and I approach the table where the catering service had set up the dinner, smiling at people we know on the way. A large, yellow cake sits on a platter, untouched. I take a slice, thinking it looks delicious.
As the gooey, lemon icing touches my tongue, I freeze. A flashback races through my head.
I’m walking out of a bakery, dark clouds forming overhead. The enticing smell of lemon cake wafts through the air. I’m hurrying down a dark alley, late for…something. A dark sound behind me. A man stepping around the corner. A gun raised to my head. The cake slipping from my arms…
I’m shaking as I return to the present. My parents have noticed nothing. I quickly control myself, and stare down at the cake, thinking…
Those months in L.A. were nothing more than a chapter in my life -- on chapter. The man is dead, there is nothing to stop me from living my life fully again. All those days I lived in fear; all those nights I woke up screaming, they mean nothing now. I will build my career as a writer, and live in a nice quiet town. I will visit L.A. one day, to face my fears, and then return to my stationary life. My future is just over the horizon.
I lift the fork to my mouth again. I have never tasted anything so wonderful.