“The most beautiful stories always start with wreckage.”
I’m not going to say I always knew I was different.
We’re all different. And at some point in everyone’s life, I think we all feel like we don’t fit in, like we don’t belong or that no one understands us.
We’re all human; we’re all flesh and bone. But no one is the same.
I think it’s just a matter of discovering what it is that makes each of us different. In my case, there was no ah-ha! moment. There was no lightbulb to blink on over my head. It would have been easier that way.
Instead, it was a slow realization, a series of moments, sometimes far between, that showed me what made me different.
Sometimes I wish I ignored those signs. Sometimes I wonder where I’d be right now if I had.
Everything I went through led me here. Isn’t that the way of the universe? I think I wanted to be here right now. I’m standing at the edge of a precipice; I feel it deep.
I’m not sure if where I go from here is going to be everything I want. Hell, I’m not even sure what that is.
But I do believe something. I have to, because if I don’t, misery will be my only companion.
Everything I’ve gone through, all those far-between moments, the lengthy trips through hell… the abuse.
It was for something.
Something lost is something gained.
It has to be.
Everything changed because of a magazine.
But really, a series of glossy pages filled with half-naked and provocative images stapled together and hidden between my mattress and box spring really shouldn’t have so much power.
I guess if I were honest, I would say the changes had been long coming. Inevitable. Undeniable. A magazine couldn’t possibly crumble the very foundation on which my life was built. It would take something far more powerful to do that.
However, to a seventeen-year-old who embodied so much innocence and so much… youth, well, that kid, he blamed it all on the magazine.
My cherry-red, two-door BMW slid to a stop in the driveway near the double front entry. It wasn’t in its assigned spot; it wasn’t even parked straight. I wasn’t going to be here long. I’d left my gym bag behind this morning and now here I was, rushing home from school so I could grab it, only to head right back.
Coach was going to make me run drills for this. He’d probably even put me at goalie, a position he knew I hated because, frankly, I sucked at it. After I ran drills, I could be pelted with the ball over and over again as I tried to stop it from sailing past me into the net.
I was going to be dirty and grimy. More so than usual. I’d probably have to hit the showers so I didn’t get the inside of my Beemer jacked up.
I didn’t usually shower after soccer practice. I waited until I got home. It wasn’t because I didn’t like to shower in the locker room… It was just the opposite, actually.
Maybe you left the bag behind on purpose. Wanted to be late, didn’t you? Wanted the punishment… so you could get the reward.
I pushed away my thoughts, took the stairs two at a time, and bounded to my bedroom, which was to the left of the sweeping staircase and at the very end of the hallway. I had a corner room. The windows looked out over the private backyard and pool.
The door swung open the second my hand hit the knob, and I was momentarily surprised. I thought I’d latched it this morning on my way out. I always did. I wasn’t the best housekeeper… Okay, fine, I was a slob. Mom told me almost daily I needed to clean up my stuff.
Why bother? I’d just have to get it back out.
I solved the problem by learning to close the door. She didn’t have to see the mess, and I didn’t have to clean it. Genius.
My feet stumbled a little because I was moving with haste but also because they weren’t expecting the door to give the way it did.
My eyes flew up as I faltered over the threshold. I met another pair of surprised eyes.
“Mom?” I straightened away from the door.
“Arrow,” she half gasped. “I thought you had soccer practice?”
“I left my gym bag. Can’t play without my shoes.”
Her gaze strayed across the room to the standard red gym bag with white handles lying haphazardly near my dresser. One of the cleats was poking out of the top, along with a dirty sock. “I hadn’t realized,” she said, mostly to herself.
‘Cause clearly she didn’t think I’d be home.
She was perched on the corner of my unmade bed. Neat and put together as always, she was a stark contrast to the twisted navy-blue comforter and white sheets basically piled in the center of the mattress. A few pillows still bore the indent from my head up near the wooden headboard, and my earbuds lay tangled off to the side.
The wooden blinds were open now, letting in sunlight… something this room didn’t often see. Again, why open the blinds when I would just close them a few hours later?
I could see small particles of dust floating around lazily in the brightest beam streaking across the room.
Yeah, maybe I should clean up a little in here.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t the mess that bothered me. Neither was finding her in here snooping.
She was totally snooping.
It was just easier to focus on the mess in here instead of everything else that was going on.
Like what she’d found.
What she currently gripped in her hands.
My stomach felt as if it had been stabbed with an ice pick. Except the wound was old and aching, not new and fresh. It wasn’t a stabbing panic kind of pain. Instead, it was worse. There was a hollow hole carved out inside me, and it never healed. It was doomed to ache and burn, to churn with emptiness and be crowded with scar tissue. Those were the worst kind of wounds, weren’t they? They ones that never healed. The ones you knew were chronic and would ache forever.
Along with the overwhelming feeling of sickness came one of urgent flight. As if all the oxygen in this room had been sucked out and panic for air clawed the inside of my windpipe.
Trying my best not to stare or even glance at the offending item in her hands, I jolted into motion, swiping the bag off the floor. The sock and cleat went flying, and I scrambled after the shoe. The second my hand closed around it, I vaulted up and lunged at the door.