Heeeelllloooo, Briar's Hallow.
Opium Hardy is back again with a whole new winter wardrobe and a whole new outlook on life.
It's good to be doing this again.
I return for the winter in a layer of re-born flesh. Frailty I am no longer, no more that coward who faces the haunts of a past life in timid terror, always turning away. Always trying to forget. I used to feel so young, and I was. Am. But I feel something that, no matter what I did in life, would still be surfacing. It’s the edge of puberty, I suppose. I’m beginning to feel like a woman, but more so, a person of my own. I will not clamor for the slippery worms dangling from my mother’s jaw. And she understands.
Two months is not that long when you live through it.
You look back, however, and it’s the distance between now and forever.
When I returned home in September, I was faced with a new distance that I never thought girls with families like mine would ever face. My grandmother had died. She’d been my last connection to a past life. Death hung with that certain strange stillness, and worse yet my mother lived under the shadow of debt. Her face read the hardships so well. My brother, just recently turned 17, left to pursue his life. He was angry at me for getting it all, whatever that means. He was angry at out mother for clenching him tight. She loved us, but she’d forgotten how when we were small. When what was our father left, only leaving behind that snail trail of alcohol. She’d never learned to escape her mother’s side, even when grandma called her the wrong name, living in a delusion that it was still 1967. So when she died, mom had nowhere to hide, to cling. And when I returned, and she was the only one to great me above the now closed jewelry store across from a bulldozed theater, she wanted me to fill that space.
The thing about puberty is that during it, it is an endless trudge. You never thought you’d reach the edge.
I had planned, when I left the school for the first time, to run away. To fake my age and play and play and discover, change my name, whatever. I guess I’m the delusional one. Of course, can you blame me for staying? My mother was so lost. Being that I had just discovered the way, I felt I should stay and make it up to her. Be a child for just a while longer.
She never smiled after the funeral. Not once.
I had to start public school again, and I dreaded it. I lived through every day up until resisting all temptation to compare it to those four beautiful months I had left behind. Then the night before the first day I decided not to be me any longer. Of course, I was a much different than the last time I had to endure that prison. But you cannot escape personality without making some sort of truce with yourself to fake it. I drew inspiration from all the girls I had met at Briars, the loud ones, the fearless ones, the ones who had been friends with everyone. I walked into the gates hoping I saw no one who’d remember me from the before, and grinned. If this was all I had, then I might as well enjoy it.
I met Robby and Dawn and Gigi and Carson. They’re the kind of people your sane mother doesn’t want you to hang out with based on first glance, but inside they were the best kind. A little stupid, a little sheltered, a little spoiled. But they were nice. And they liked me! We did all the things stupid teenagers were supposed to do together, like drink beer behind a billboard and throw the cans at cars, confess our love while intoxicated and laugh too loud about it. And I was one of them! I was doing it, living in the present!
Then after all that, the past came back. To promise or to haunt, I don’t know which, but yesterday, when I returned home, mom slid over a sealed letter and said, “Go.”
I recognized the seal instantly of course and all the brain cells and memories I had put on hold came flooding back, making me feel light headed.
They toss us out than want us back? We were like Briar’s Hallow’s boyfriends. Disposable, yet half its soul.
I loved Robby and Dawn and Gigi and Carson, but I loved life there more.
Mom said, “I’ll be fine.” I knew it was a lie, but she wanted to believe it as truth just as much as I did. So I guess in a way, it was.
So I packed my bags, and returned to a place all at once familiar and strange. A new landscape. The same people.
Frailty I am no longer. And I do not dwell. I entered Briar’s Hallow for the second time and instead of sinking into my self, smiled and demanded to whoever I saw, “Miss me?”
I am resurrected.