Part 8 – Fall 2014
Conversations buzzed all around me while the continual drone of rain beat against the windowpane. Yet I heard nothing. It was as though the world was dead to me. I felt vacant inside; only able to stare into the blank space and toss the saltshaker back and forth. All the while, despondent thoughts whirled around in my head. “Why is this so hard for me to do?” I asked myself, struggling with what was about to transpire. “Why can’t I just voice what’s wrong? I can’t keep going on like this! I must—”
“Lexie,” he spoke softly, trying to lure me gently back to the present, causing my eyes to shift to meet his concerned ones. I furrowed my eyebrows, confusion masking my expression. As if reading my thoughts, he gave a small smile. “Have you decided what you’re going to order yet?” he asked as he gestured toward the menus. I hesitated slightly, causing him to raise an eyebrow before voicing slowly, “You…just want me to order our specialty?”
After I gave him a nod of approval, he signaled the waitress while I began to fumble with the saltshaker again. It wasn’t long before dad’s soft chuckle filled the air and his hand reached over to retrieve the wobbling saltshaker. “If you keep this up much longer, you’re going to burn a hole in their table,” my dad teased. Awkwardly, I gave a slight smile and shrugged my shoulders, not knowing what to say. Silence fell, and right away, I knew what was coming.
“I spoke with your mom the other day,” Dad said cautiously, watching me for a reaction. But I only bit my lower lip and held my breath, waiting for him to continue. He took my silence as a positive sign and went on to say, “She said it appears that you’ve been—struggling a little bit since I’ve been gone.”
“He’s beating around the bush!” I thought. Already, I was beginning to feel as though I were backed into a corner, rapidly causing my emotional walls to grow thicker. Totally faking it, I started to lie with, “I’m fine, really. It’s just stress.”
“Lexie,” he whispered urgently. While concern filled his eyes, he reached across the table for my hand, trying to gain my full attention. He added, sternness and compassion dripping heavily from each word, “For once, just tell me straight out, okay? We need to know. We are all worried about you.”
At that, a wave of mixed emotions swept over me, and I couldn’t look him in the eye anymore without feeling another piece of my hard-interior crumbling. Raising a hand, I began to rub my throbbing temple and opened my mouth. However, the many words that were sitting on the tip of my tongue refused to come out.
Moments passed slowly before Dad finally gave a soft sigh and leaned back into his chair. He knew that I’d open back up to him when I was fully ready; it was only a matter of time.
“So,” he drawled, now trying to change the conversation to a lighter mood, “how has Ian been doing lately?”
“I—haven’t really spoken to him in a while,” I answered truthfully, feeling a pang of guilt rush through me while I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. In the back of my mind, I knew exactly how long it had been since I’d had a decent conversation with Ian—two and a half weeks. Sure, I had seen him since then, but the atmosphere of our meetings had changed greatly.
It was then that our food arrived, and it couldn’t have been better timing. The aroma of hamburger patties and melted cheese surrounded our table. I breathed it all in as I stared at the full plate in front of me.
“Dig in,” my dad exclaimed as soon as he had blessed the food. I eyed my fat cheeseburger one more time before picking it up and taking a big bite. I closed my eyes at the blissful taste as it exploded in my mouth. “This is good,” I commented as I waved the burger slightly.
Grinning, he doused the edge of his hamburger in ketchup before taking a large bite, causing ketchup to smear across the side of his face. I tapped the side of my face, “You’ve got a little something there,” I chuckled.
He suddenly froze. “What is it?” I asked, handing him a napkin.
His grin grew as he said cheekily, “You just laughed.”
By now, a smile had implanted itself on my lips. For the first time in a long time, I had a feeling everything was about to change for the better.
Part 9 – Winter 2014
The streetlights flickered beneath the moonlit sky while a slight breeze filled the air, causing me to pull my jacket closer around me. My mind felt completely overloaded. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t sort through my thoughts. One scenario after another replayed itself in my head. The harder I tried to organize it all, the more frustration coursed through my veins. Why did everything seem so out of whack? My emotions were spiraling out of control, and I felt as though I were riding on one endless roller-coaster.
With my hands hidden deep within my pockets, I picked up my pace. It was only a matter of time before our house lights came into view. However, with each step I took toward the side door, I dreaded passing over that threshold again. I knew full well that every time I did my guilt would triple.
“When will this all stop?” I asked myself. “When will this guilt vanish? When will everything finally seem normal?” I shuddered as these questions haunted me. With a sigh, I twisted the doorknob, swung the door open and immediately was greeted by a sweet, cinnamon-y aroma. Closing my eyes, I breathed deeply, enjoying the blissful scent. Instantly, my mouth began to water, my eyes widened, and I hungrily searched the counter for the aromatic smell.
An amused chuckle filled the air, causing me to spin around suddenly. As I stumbled back, I tripped on the rug and lost my balance. I grimaced as I made contact with the wooden floor. “Sorry, Sweetie,” my mom laughed, poking her head above the counter in order to see me. “I honestly didn’t mean to scare you.”
At that, I raised a skeptical eyebrow, not believing a single word. Shaking my head with a smile tugging at my lips, I pulled myself up from the floor, all the while focusing on the glass platter my mom was offering me. I mentally tried to contain my excitement.
“I was in the mood to bake, so I thought I would make one of your favorites,” my mom explained as she placed the platter beside me. As soon as the platter hit the counter, I snatched one of the apple turnovers so fast it would make anyone’s head spin. I eagerly bit into the warm pastry, and the flavor exploded in my mouth. Once again, I closed my eyes, entirely enjoying the sweet treat. With my mouth still full, I exclaimed, “Mmm, thanks, Mom!”
She narrowed her eyes as she handed me a cup of milk and a napkin, “Don’t talk with your mouth full.”
My eyes twinkled as I scrunched up my face, giving her a broad grin, “Okay!”
At that, Mom bopped me on the top of the head with a dish towel. Rolling her eyes playfully, she teased, “You’re such a mess.”
I chuckled as I seated myself on a nearby stool, still munching away on the apple turnover.
“So,” Mom said as she turned her back to me, beginning to put away a stack of dishes, “did you have a nice walk?”
I eyed the platter of turnovers while saying, “I suppose so. The weather was pleasant.” Then I glanced back to my mom and noticed that she had her hands on the counter, pausing in her work, as she rested her weight against it. I looked at the turnovers once again before stealing another. Snickering to myself, I began devouring it.
“By chance, did you have time to think over what Dr. Randall said today?” she asked softly.
Suddenly, the apple turnover tasted bitter in my mouth. I began to choke slightly before I took a sip of milk. “What exactly was there to think over?” I mumbled, placing the remaining bit of my snack on the napkin.
Mom sighed, “Were you paying attention at all?”
“No,” I answered honestly.
She sighed, “Honey, you sho-”
“Why?! It wouldn’t change-” I began to say.
“Lexie!” she raised her voice. “For once, just don’t do this!”
“I’m warning you, Lexie!” she cautioned, her voice growing louder still. “Just-” she froze, a certain look washing over her face before she slumped slowly to the ground. I screamed as I rushed over to her, falling to my knees, “Mom! Mom!” But there was no response, no movement, nothing.
“What have I done?” I whispered. “What have I done?!”
Written by Hannah Schweinschaupt. This article was published in the Fall and Winter 2014 editions of The Beautiful Spirit magazine.
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