The Butterfly Effect

“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” Carson mumbles grumpily as she pulls her comforter over her head.

If she had to hear those god forsaken birds chirp obnoxiously outside her window at exactly 6:06 in the morning one more time she was going to murder someone.

It was day 27 of April 3, 2016. She didn’t know how much longer she could take it.

“It’s punishment,” the old witch bitch had said. Oh, wait. No. She said “karma.” Karma.

I mean, honestly. Who says karma seriously in a sentence anymore? She thought bitterly.

She tosses her blankets off herself, sleep a lost cause, and hisses at the cold air invading her warm bubble. She grabs her book from her nightstand and decides to move to her window seat to read.

She looks up from her book a while later to see that nearly two hours had passed. Standing up and stretching her legs, she stumbles sleepily to her bathroom, grumbling angrily to herself about the day to come. Her reflection mocks her. Her mane of chestnut curls is a rat’s nest that she struggles to tame and the bags under her green eyes contrast sharply with her fair skin. She closes her eyes and takes a deep, cleansing breath.

This is the last day, she thinks to herself, you only have to find one more wing. Make this day your bitch.

After nodding resolutely at her reflection and brushing her teeth, she marches into her bedroom, glances at her clock – 8:12, 13 minutes to get dressed to the kitchen to see her mom – and hurries to get dressed and ready for another long day, waiting for her cue.

She hears a muffled call for breakfast downstairs as she is hopping around, trying to tie her second converse. Ah, there it is.

My time to shine.

Checking the time – 8:25 – she opens her door and rushes down the stairs and into the kitchen where her mom has prepared her favorite, chocolate chip pancakes. Though, they weren’t nearly as appetizing on the 27th consecutive day in a row. But, she must grin and bare it so as not to confuse her mother, disrupt her train of thought, ruin her day, resulting in a sleepless night, blah blah blah, ultimately leading to her untimely death, or something along those lines.

Her mom leans across the counter in front of her and studies her sadly.

“How are you feeling today?”

“I’ve felt better,” she mumbles.

“It’s okay to miss him, Carson. He was your dad. If you want, we can go to the cemetery to-”

“He was a dead-beat drug addict. That’s not my dad,” she interrupts quickly.

She quickly eats as much as she can possibly take, looks down at her Batman watch, and sees that if she doesn’t leave now, she’ll miss it.

Swinging her bag over her shoulder, she kisses her mom on the cheek in goodbye, pops in her earphones, and is out the door and on the way to the coffee shop a few blocks away, right on time. Passing the local library, she begins to feel tense, preparing herself for what has to happen next. Her hand comes up and rubs her shoulder where a mean dark purple bruise had formed from the repeated abuse it had endured over the past 26 days.

Alright, Carson, don’t pussy out and move out of the way. It has to happen. Look down at your phone and send the text to Olive…now.

Wham.

She’s flies backwards and the ground rushes up to greet her; her bag sliding off her shoulder and spilling its contents. She lays on the ground for a moment, blinking harshly to clear the stars from behind her eyes.

“God damnit,” she says as she slowly sits up and gathers her bearings, beginning to collect the books and tube of chapstick that escaped her messenger bag. I never get used to that. A groan comes from her left and she cringes, remembering who she body slammed into. As if ramming into someone wasn’t embarrassing enough. It had to be this guy. This really pretty guy.

“I’m so sorry,” the boy rushes out, quickly getting to his feet and holding out his hand to help her up.

And, God, does she want to take it. To say: “No, I’m sorry. I wasn’t looking.” But, she can’t and she’s painfully aware of it. Because, that’s not how it happened 27 days ago. In fact, it went in quite the opposite direction. She tried to change it one day. She really did. But when she did her whole day changed and she didn’t get a chance to see the witch and didn’t get a chance to find a butterfly.

So, she gets up without his help and says the dreaded words with likely very forced looking malice:

“It’s fine, just watch where you’re going next time.”

He blinks at her in surprise. She looks just past him, ignoring eye contact, and quickly walks away, ejecting herself from the situation. She wishes she could snatch all the words back. But if she was kind to him, it would change literally everything. He would think differently about her. Changing his day in even the most minute way could ruin everything. So, she skulks away, rubbing her bruised and throbbing shoulder and bandaging her ego as she goes.

Karma really is a bitch.

She continues on her journey to the coffee shop; all the way, looking for a butterfly to take her out of this misery. On the way, she jaywalks across Vernon Avenue, effectively, much to her pleasure, pissing off an old man in a red Kia. She drops her candy wrapper, likely for some turtle to choke on in the future. And, finally, she slightly redeems herself by holding the door to the coffee shop for a woman who, of course, doesn’t thank her. Her friends, Olive and Izzy, wave her over and she winds through the multi colored tables to reach their booth after ordering her cappuccino.

Her butt barely touches the seat before Olive starts babbling on about the new fortune teller in town that they just had to go to. She plays her part, acting skeptical. Izzy is skeptical, too. But after much pleading and convincing, the three make plans to meet at the fortune teller’s shop that evening at 5:30.

The rest of Carson’s day passes slowly. She sees no purple butterfly, much to her dismay. But not for lack of trying. She nearly walked into oncoming traffic on her way home from work. Now, that would have been bad.

She comes home and has two hours to spare in her room before going to the fortune teller’s. She usually allots this as the time where she can wallow in self pity as well as hatred for the “fortune teller” who did this to her. She has learned her lesson: Be careful who you piss off.

She thinks back to the day where it all began:

The fortune teller’s shop- Marissa’s Truth – was shabby to say the least. It looked like one would imagine it to look like. Colorful tapestries hung from the walls, windows, and ceilings. Old, worn rugs overlapped each other on the floor. Lit candles were covering every inch of the table space that didn’t have weird, antique trinkets. The three girls had to wrinkle their noses at the heavy smell of incense invading their senses and burning their nostrils. Carson had been grumpy all day from having been woken up so early and was even more dissatisfied to be in this shop where a phoney would surely rip them off with fake fortunes. She grumbled and pouted behind her two friends as they spoke with the short, frail, old women with long grey hair, loose fitting purple robes, and rings adorning every finger.

Typical.

“You will each come in separately,” the woman – Marissa, Carson assumed – said dreamily, large grey eyes looking between the three of them in a daze. “Payment is expected up front. Forty dollars each.”

At this, Carson stepped forward.

“Now, hold up.”

Olive jabbed her in the rib and gave her a threatening look. She shuts up and steps back, letting the other two girls swipe their cards first. The credit card machine seemed out of place amongst all the dust and colorful fabrics. When it was her turn, Carson stepped up to the woman and reluctantly handed it over to her. She noticed the old woman staring and she raised her eyebrow sassily.

Problem, old bat?

She and Izzy sat on the cushions outside the back room and wait for Olive to come back.

“I can’t believe I let you guys talk me into this. It’s a waste of money.”

Izzy studied her for a moment.

“What’s with you today? You’re awfully pissy.”

Carson sighs.

“It’s April 3rd.” She fidgeted with the hem of her t-shirt.

Izzy’s eyebrows drew together in confusion.

“It’s April 3rd? I don’t – Oh. Shit. I can’t believe I forgot.”

“Don’t worry about it. It isn’t something I like talking about anyways.”

April 3, 2013 was the day Carson’s dead-beat father had overdosed and killed himself. He wasn’t a good father but he was still her father. And, no matter how much she liked to pretend otherwise, Carson loved him.

Just then, the door opened, revealing a beaming Olive. Izzy was ushered in. She paused by the door and glanced back at Carson, who was avoiding her eyes, and then turned to enter the room, shutting the door behind her.

Olive explained to her that the woman predicted that she would find love soon and that it would, much to her excitement, last through college. She seemed pleased, so, Carson couldn’t find it in herself to crush her with the reality that the woman was likely lying through her ugly yellow teeth.

By the time it was Carson’s turn to enter, she had decided that she just wanted to go home and crawl back into her warm bed and not get out ever again. She entered the room and plopped down onto the big, fluffy, tasseled pillow across the table from the Marissa. A crystal ball sat on the table between them. Within the crystal ball were, oddly enough, butterflies. All of which were fluttering around happily.

Oh, come on. A crystal ball? Really?

Without preamble, the woman hunched over the ball, mumbling to herself, eyes flitting over it’s surface as if watching a movie play within it. Carson sat there impatiently, waiting for the woman to spout her lies so she could leave. The woman sat back lazily, eyes roaming Carson’s face curiously.

“What?” Carson snapped.

“You’re a tough cookie to crack, my dear. A dark past, you have. A dark, murky past.”

“What the hell are you talking about? You don’t know me.”

The woman smiled crookedly.

“Oh, I do. I’ve seen your past. And, I’ve seen your future. If you can’t learn to move away from the past, your future will be just as dismal.”

“Who do you think you are? Giving out fake fortunes for profit. Giving people, who are naïve enough to believe your shit, false hope or false fear.”

Marissa sits forward, leaning her elbows on the table and linking her hands, rings clinking together softly.

“Carson, dear. I help people. I’m helping you by telling you that you need to forgive your father and move on if you want to be happy. People are going to tire of this ‘pity me’ act. And then what will you be? Besides, he wants you to forgive him.”

Carson reeled backwards, sputtering incoherently, eyes wide and blinking furiously.

“How did you-? What is this? Is this some sort of joke? I don’t need some old hag like you to tell me how to live my life. You’re a liar. This isn’t real. This is all a fucking joke.”

In a fit of rage, Carson picked up the crystal ball and smashed it to the ground.

Marissa scrambled over to it, picking up the pieces of the ball desperately, nearly hysterical. Her eyes, no longer glazed and dreamy, snapped up to Carson who was backing up slowly, an apology already on her lips.

“You’ll regret that, stupid girl. You owe me.” She closed her eyes and waved her hands in what looked like a very practiced motion, eyebrows drawn in in concentration.

And the ground underneath Carson’s feet felt like it shifted.

The woman came towards her, wrinkled hand raised and pointing menacingly at her.

“This day. Your worst day. It’s karma. Punishment. You must relive it until you can find 13 purple butterflies to make a new crystal ball. They’re hidden within this day. Bring them to me by the 30th day or stay stuck in the today forever.”

Carson continued to back up, for, just then the woman’s grey hair was crackling like electricity. Her anger seemingly oozing from her in sparks. She didn’t question the witch’s credibility anymore. She just wanted to leave before anything else happened. She turned and fumbled for the door knob. Marissa’s voice stopped her.

“You musn’t change anything about today in the days to come. Doing so will alter the fate of anyone who experiences you differently. The butterfly effect, girl. You know it? Every decision you made today matters for tomorrow.”

Carson fumbled with the doorknob before swinging the door open and fleeing the room, bypassing her confused friends and waiting for them to catch up outside.

“Carson! Jesus, what happened in there? We heard lots of yelling,” Olive said, breathless from chasing me out of the shop.

“That crazy lady fucking-.” Carson stopped herself in the middle of her outburst, remembering the witch’s threats and assumed that she can’t tell anyone. “She just gave me a bad fortune. That’s all. I just, uh, I just didn’t need to hear that today.”

It was partially true. She didn’t need to hear that today.

This is literally the worst day of my life.

That very thought crossed her mind every day she woke up to her phone calendar glaring the date at her. April 3, 2016. Those first few days were very uncomfortable and awkward. She felt odd deliberately slamming into the boy. She felt weird, not to mention stupid, walking into traffic on purpose. Some of the days she wished she had walked out just a second later and let the car hit her. Admittedly, she spent those first few days begging the woman to take it back. Not just the saying “please” begging. This was the full out hands clasped, knees on the floor, tears in eyes begging. The witch had made her resort to becoming a blubbering fool and her pride was severely bruised from it. She wanted nothing more than to go to bed at night with the promise of an actual tomorrow. She eventually mastered the exact timing of everything so she didn’t have to lag behind and wait for everything to take it’s course. However, she, believe it or not, grew to treasure her time in Marissa’s shop. For, Marissa was the only one aware of Carson’s state, having put her in it, and she was the only one Carson could have an actual new conversation with. She found it oddly rewarding when she found the butterflies and brought them to Marissa. Not that rewarding, though. It was enough to get her through the days. She never knew when she might accidentally spot one. It was a pleasant change in a day full of sickening déjà vu.

But, here she was, 27 days later, and she couldn’t find the last damn butterfly.

He’s a sly motherfucker. She thought bitterly as she walked up the path to Marissa’s shop after meeting Olive and Izzy.

Carson doesn’t have to pretend to sulk while in the shop. She’s pissed that she didn’t find the butterfly to end all of this. It’s her turn to go in.

“Got anything for me?” Marissa questions hopefully.

Carson shakes her head glumly and slumps down into the pillow with a huff.

They sit in silence for a bit before a thought occurs to Carson.

“Has time gone by outside of this? Are you stuck here too? What will happen if I don’t find the last butterfly?”

“Time has passed. But, if you find the butterfly, you’ll still start as you would have. On April 4th. There are many realities other than your own. You just happen to be stuck in this loop. I won’t confuse you with it all. However, if you don’t find the last butterfly, your life will go on in your original reality, you just won’t know about it. You’ll live your life forever in the today wondering what you would have been like until you die in your original reality. Make sense?”

Carson blinks, stunned.

“Not really, no.”

The woman’s dazed gaze looks away from her and towards something behind Carson with a secret sort of smile. Curious, Carson looks behind herself and out the window. At first, she sees nothing and thinks the old bat had lost it. Then, however, she notices the slow flapping of a butterfly’s wings on the ledge just outside the window of the shop.

Holy shit.

Carson looks quickly back to the old woman.

Really? There’s been one here the whole time? Why didn’t you say anything?”

The woman raises her shoulders and drops them in a shrug. “Thought I’d prolong the punishment bit longer, dear. And, it seems, it must last a day longer. Our time is up.”

Carson, who is halfway out of her seat with the intention of going to the window to snatch the butterfly, pauses. “Wait, what? It’s just right there,” she says and the witch is suddenly ushering her to the door and away from the window, ignoring her protests.

“But, but-, ” Carson sputters, looking longingly at the window.

“Ah, ah. There’s always tomorrow.”

And, with that she is out in the entry hall, where she plays her part for her friends. All the while wondering: Would the five seconds it would have taken to grab the butterfly and give it to the woman really, truly have changed the fate of the world too terribly much? No, she decides, it wouldn’t have.

That night, however, she goes to bed hopeful. Because, finally, the promise of tomorrow is in her reach. She finds it funny. She no longer resents April 3rd. It’s just another day.

Advertisements

the dress

February 17, 2015

Isabelle brushes her bangs out of her face and stares at her reflection. It stares blankly back. She has a lot of work to do to make herself look presentable for today. Her eyes are puffy from falling asleep crying again and underneath them lay dark bags from yet another restless night’s sleep. Her eyes flick to the reflection of the dress hanging behind her on her closet door before closing tightly as she releases a calming breath.

………….

March 29, 2004

Easter egg blue blurred in her vision as she spun around and around, looking at how her skirt billowed around her. Just like the skirts on the pretty princesses she watched on TV did. Her head felt swimmy and the ground seemed to be tilting. And, suddenly she was on her butt on the ground of the Belk fitting room with a soft “oof.”

“Isabelle. I need you to calm down for a little bit.”

Isabelle glanced up at her mom, shaking her head a little bit as her eyes seemed to wander dizzily on their own accord. She shot a toothless grin at her mom.

“I want this one, mama. It’s poofy and blue and comfy. It spins! Tell the Easter Bunny that!”

Her mom eyed her warily, aware of how often her daughter changed her mind.  “Are you sure this is the one you want?”

“Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!” She said excitedly, hopping to her feet and spinning once more around her mom. “Pretty please?”

“Okay, then. I guess this is the one. You look very pretty, little may.”

After changing back into her overalls, she skipped after her mother to the checkout desk, watching her pay for her Easter dress, and briefly wondering why she paid for it even though the Easter Bunny was the one to give her her Easter church dresses. She didn’t dwell on it long, for, her mind was already on showing her Grandma the dress. She begged and nagged her mom until she caved, strapping her into her car seat and driving her in the direction of their house, which was two houses down from Grandma and Grandaddy’s farm, and one house away from her cousin’s house. Her feet kicked excitedly all the way home from Belk as she babbled on about how perfect her new dress was. Her mom had hardly parked the car in the gravel driveway before Isabelle was out of her car seat and running to the sliding glass door around back, letting herself in, and shouting for her Grandma. She found her sitting in an old leather recliner, reading a Bible, a pack of ice sitting on her knee.

“Gramma, Gramma. Let me show you my dress. It’s so poofy and pretty and poofy!”

Her Grandma chuckled deeply, closing the Bible and setting it on the side table along with the pack of ice. Isabelle was momentarily distracted by the action. She didn’t catch the look that passed between Grandma and her mom as she walked through the door behind her, carrying her dress.

“What’s wrong? Do you have a booboo? Want me to kiss it?”

“Don’t worry about it, Sweet Pea, my knees just hurt a little bit, that’s all. Let’s see this dress.”

She skipped to the back bedroom with her mom to change, nearly ripping the soft tulle in her haste. Ignoring her mom’s warning to be careful, she bolted down the hall and back into the living room where her Grandma stood waiting. The smile that graced her face made Isabelle feel proud, in a way. And, when her Grandma asked her to do a twirl, she didn’t hesitate on spinning wildly in circles. She stopped, stumbling a bit to the left dizzily.

“Do you like it? Am I pretty, Gramma?”

“Oh, I love it, Sweet Pea. You look just like a princess. Even prettier.”

………….

February 17, 2015

She opens her eyes, looking up to the ceiling to keep them dry and blinking quickly. She decides to get to work on her makeup; starting, first, with concealer to cover the marks under her eyes. Opting for waterproof mascara, she swipes it on, knowing her eyes won’t be dry today.

………….

December 10, 2010

Isabelle flinched away from her friends harsh prodding, opening her eyes and taking the eyeshadow brush from her.

“OH-kay… I think I’ll take it from here. Before you poke my eye out.”

She bent over her vanity and put the finishing touches on the purple eyeshadow that matched her purple and black polka dot dress fantastically. It had to look perfect. It was her first ever middle school dance. She wanted John Phillips to notice her. To ask her to dance. She stepped away from the mirror and looked at her full appearance: dress, converse, big black bow, Shirley Temple curls, and all. Perfect. She turned to Sarah, who was shoving a tube of cherry lip gloss into her sequined clutch.

“Ready to go?”

“Totally.”

They descended the stairs where, naturally, her whole family was there waiting to get pictures of this “momentous” occasion. It was a big deal, after all. Her first middle school dance. Even her grandparents had walked across the two yards to her house to see her off. Hundreds of pictures were taken, and Isabelle, who pretended to be embarrassed by how uncool her family was, secretly loved the attention and smiled brightly for every single snap of the camera. Her Grandma, from her place on the couch with her ankle propped on some pillows and wrapped in a brace, asked her to do a little spin. She did as she was asked and did a few spins, watching as the black and purple skirt flowed out around her.

“Look at you, Sweet Pea. All grown up and going to a dance. That dress is very pretty on you.”

“Thanks, Grandma. You okay?” She motions to her Grandma’s bandaged ankle.

“I’m okay. It got a little swollen today, nothing you need to worry about tonight. Wouldn’t want a sour face to take away from such a beautiful dress.”

Isabelle nodded her head, mind already wandering to what John Phillips might think of her dress.

………….

February 17, 2017

Isabelle walks mechanically over to the dress hanging from her closet door and pulls it off the hanger before dragging it over her head. Her hairs stands up with static from the friction and she fidgets with the hem, pulling it down and twisting it a bit to get it on right. It feels itchy and clingy against her skin. She picks at it glumly.

………….

 

June 17, 2013

She let herself in through the sliding glass door in the back. Her back was slightly wet with sweat and she was a bit short of breath from jogging over. She couldn’t help it. She was excited. It was finally finished.

“Grandma?” She walked towards the back bedroom, calling out for her.

She approached the doorway to the last room just as she heard her Grandma call from within that she’s there. Crossing the door frame, Isabelle came face to face with what she had been waiting on for months. It hung from a hanger on the back of the door that lead to the bathroom. A soft pink fifties styled dress, specially made for her. She gasped softly, walking quickly to it and reaching out to stroke the material gently. Her Grandma sat on the bed, picking at the band-aid on the inside of her elbow from her insulin shot and watching her with apprehension. Isabelle turned to look at her, a grin splitting her face in two.

“Oh, Grandma. I love it! It’s perfect.”

“Well, are you going to try it on?”

“Oh, uh, yeah, hold up.”

She quickly walked into the attached bathroom and changed into the dress that fit perfectly to her form. It flared out at the waist – just the way she liked it – and reached to just below her knees. She admired it in the mirror; turning from side to side. A knock on the door reminded her that she needed to show it off. She opened the door and walked back into the bedroom did a twirl for her, as was their custom when it came to dresses.

“It’s even more beautiful on you than I thought it would be,” she said quietly, “Do you like it?”

She had the audacity to look nervous. As if Isabelle would hate it.

“Like it? I love it! It’s just how I pictured it. You really outdid yourself, Grandma. I wish I could wear it every day.”

She rushes over and smothers her in a tight hug before pulling back and kissing her on the cheek. “I love you.”

“Love you, too, Sweet Pea.”

………….

She does a little spin in front of her vanity mirror, pushing down the disappointment she feels when it doesn’t billow around her like she usually likes. After pulling on the little black heels she finds in the back of her closet, she does a double check in the mirror, eyeing the all black ensemble with distaste. Grandma prefers bright colors.

………….

February 14, 2015

Isabelle’s hands gripped the skirt of the deep purple ball gown tightly with sweaty palms; repeatedlyfluffing the material out and patting it back down nervously. Her scene was next and her stomach felt like it was going to roll out onto the stage before her feet could. Her whole family was here for the show tonight. Parents, siblings, grandparents, friends of family, and all. She had to nail this performance. So, when her time came to perform, she walked onto the stage and threw her whole self into the character, trying to make them proud. She wanted to be the best damn Fairy Godmother they had ever seen.

The rest of the show, after her big scene, finished quickly. The cast did their bows and she smiled extra big when it was her turn to bow. She felt like she could almost hear her family cheering extra loud just for her. And, before long, she was in the audience looking for them; finding it a bit odd that she couldn’t find any of them. She found it even more odd that people were staring at her with what could be read as pity.

“Izzy!”

She turned and saw her brother standing with his wife and her parents’ best friends, Dave and Kim. She meandered her way through the crowd, towards them; stopping every little bit when people complimented her performance. She finally reached them.

“You were great, Iz. You stole the show,” Dave told her with a big smile that, oddly enough, didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“Thanks. Where is everyone?” She asked, looking around them; searching for the rest of her family. She wanted to show her Grandma the dress that she had been babbling about for weeks. Pictures didn’t seem to do it justice.

“They left,” her brother replied shortly.

Isabelle frowned, before laughing nervously.

“Left? What do you mean?”

She thought, perhaps, they went to the store down the street from the theater to get some flowers. She turned to look at them, smile fading when she noticed their somber faces.

“They had to take your Grandma to the hospital, Iz,” Kim said slowly.

Isabelle’s stomach did a front handspring and she felt sick.

“Wh- what? When?” She asked looking between the four of them frantically.

“They left in the ambulance during the intermission. If you go get changed we can meet them there,” Kim told her in a sad tone.

Isabelle nodded and turned quickly on her heel, pushing blindly back through the crowd towards backstage, already taking her headpiece off. Her Grandma had been to the hospital several times in the last few months. But, this time felt different. She struggled out of her dress; leaving it on the dusty ground as she pulled her leggings and t-shirt over her skin colored leotard. Her friends hung her dress and helped her pack her bag so she could leave as soon as possible. All the while, they were assuring her that her grandmother would be fine. She wished she could believe them. In record time, she was back out into the house of the theater, ready to leave. The ride to the hospital was an agonizingly long one; the nearest one being in the next town over. The drive gave her time to freak herself out until she was an anxiety stricken puddle of nerves. She hadn’t cried yet, which was generally her go to outlet of stress. But, her eyes burned from keeping herself collected.

When they pulled up to the hospital, she clambered out of the car hastily and quickly followed everyone in. When the nurse at the front desk looked at her strangely, she realized how ridiculous she must have looked. Her face was painted with stage makeup and bright purple, glittery eyeshadow to boot. She shot the nurse a sour look before continuing into the waiting room, where her dad was waiting for them. She and her brother rushed over to him. He wordlessly led them through the doors and stopped. He told them the news that had been tickling the back of her mind all night that she had denied. Her Grandma was dead. She was gone. She had been on the decline for years, and, that night was the end of her fighting.

………….

February 17, 2015

Isabelle couldn’t recall a time that she ever dreaded seeing her Grandma. Today, however was a different case. She wanted nothing more than to turn around and walk right back outside of the Cotton Funeral Home doors. She wanted to take off the itchy, clingy, black dress. She wanted to burn it. She wanted to go back to February 14th and tell her Grandma to stay home, where she wasn’t an hour from the nearest hospital. She wanted, she wanted, she wanted. This wasn’t what her Grandma would have wanted. She would have wanted to see her twirl in a pretty, bright colored dress, not cry in a dress that was as lacking in charisma as she was in life. It was all wrong. All wrong. Her Grandma shouldn’t be there, in that box, and on display. It was morbid and dark and depressing. The opposite of everything she had represented in her family’s life.

She stood at the front with her family as people she had never met before came and offered their condolences. She studied everyone meticulously to keep her mind from the reality of the situation. She catalogued the dresses that women wore and wondered what her Grandma would have thought of them, ultimately deciding that she would have wrinkled her nose at them in distaste.

She resented that day and resented her ugly dress. And, the second she was home, she ripped it over her head and shoved it to the very back of her closet, hoping she wouldn’t need it again for a long time. She replaced it with the pink dress her Grandma had sewn for her. Finally feeling comfortable, and not quite as alone, she crawled into bed and went to sleep with no plans of getting out any time soon.

please find this

Clarissa slides into the driver’s seat of the car, automatically reaching for the heat and turning it on high.

Might as well get comfy, she thinks bitterly, this could be a while.

She sits back into the worn leather seat and decides to check her messages. However, she immediately closes them with a huff and an eye roll when she sees what they contain.

She knows she should feel grateful that people care. But, they didn’t know her grandmother, and they most definitely didn’t know her. Her Facebook and cell phone had been overflowing with condolences from people who had spoken to her maybe once and had never met her grandmother. She was tired of seeing the words ‘She was a wonderful woman,’ or  ‘Thinking of you,’ on her Facebook wall.  Not that she wasn’t expecting it, this is the second time a loved one has died in the past four months and she couldn’t help but think that the big guy upstairs was spiting her.

She is pulled from her thoughts when the passenger door opens, letting in the cold outside air. Lexa plops down into the seat, reaching for the seat heater.

“Thanks for waiting; practice kept us later than usual,” Lexa says with an eye roll, a scowl creeping its way onto her face.

“If you hate doing the plays so much, why do you keep doing them?” Clarissa asks, tired of hearing her complaining about it.

“I don’t know, Clary. I just- I know I’ll regret not doing it. I like the theater but not the people,” Lexa explains carefully.

Clarissa nods her head, not really caring for the explanation that she hears every single time she asks, and pulls the car away from the curb

They drive in a relative silence; only the sounds of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers, and Blink-182, bouncing off the slightly frosted windows.

Suddenly Lexa speaks. It’s tentative and soft. She’s testing the waters.

“Jacob texted again today.” She keeps her eyes on her lap and she pushes a stubborn, red curl behind her ear. She flips her phone around and around on her lap, wondering how this conversation will go. Though, deep down, she already knows the answer.

“Lex, I really don’t care what the asshole has to say. He has no-.”

“Clary, we need to talk about it! I know he royally screwed us over, but that’s beside the point. It’s not just Jacob. It’s why you’re so mad that he cares. Hell, why anyone cares.”

Clarissa’s hands tighten around the steering wheel, making her knuckles white, and Lexa knows she’s hit a nerve. Clarissa makes a sudden, jerky lane change, effectively cutting off the black Jeep behind her, and presses down a bit more on the accelerator, breaching seven over the speed limit.

“I know what you’re going to say and I don’t want to talk about ‘what’s wrong with me.’ My mom has been nagging me about it for the past two days. She really needs to find her own way to mourn,” Clarissa bites out.

This effectively silences Lexa for the time being. She looks out the fogged window, biting her cheek, lost in thought. She wants badly to tell her to stop being so selfish. She was mourning too, and it hurt her even more that she couldn’t talk to Clary about it without ending up in a fight. But, this needed to stop. So, she takes a cleansing breath.

“Clary, what’s going on?”

Clarissa glances at her, shooting a questioning look.

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t play naïve; you know what I’m talking about. These past few days, any time someone so much as looks at you, you get snappy.”

Clarissa dramatically releases a breath in a woosh.

“You wanna know what’s going on?” She lets out a bitter laugh. “Here’s what’s going on. My Grandma just passed away two days ago. The man who was like my second father died four months ago and no one understands or can even begin to fathom what I’m going through right now. So please, ask me what’s wrong again.”

The car merges onto the highway and Clarissa presses harder on the accelerator, now going 80. The song shifts.

Lexa scoffs and crosses her arms, sinking lower into her seat. Her resolve flies out the window, tumbling behind the car at 80 MPH.

“You’re being so selfish, Clary.”

Clarissa’s head snaps over to look at Lexa but she remains silent.

“Stop acting like you’re the only one affected by their deaths, because you’re not. Have you even thought about how much Grandaddy is hurting right now? My mom and yours? No. You probably haven’t because you’ve been too busy pushing people away so you can sulk in your own world of self-pity. You know she was my Grandma, too? You wanna know how bad I feel about her dying? Maybe if she wasn’t an hour away from the nearest hospital, she would’ve made it. If she wasn’t watching me in the play, she would still be here today. But you can’t see that I’m in pain, too, because your head is too far up your- Clary!

The car, now at 87, had started moving into the other lane, where another driver was honking her horn madly at them. Clarissa jerks the car back over, slows down, and pulls off to the side of the road. With wide eyes, she looks over at Lexa, who has her hand over her heart, trying to calm the rapid beating.

“Lexa-,” Lexa cuts her off again with a dismissing hand wave, still breathing heavily.

“I’m not finished. Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that you need to grow up and handle this like the adult you will literally be in less than a year. I’ve been trying to talk to you; your mom has been trying to talk to you, because we’re hurting. Stop dismissing her. Stop dismissing me. Stop turning your nose up at other people’s condolences, even Jacob’s. His beef is with the church, not you; let him be polite. But that’s another rant for another time. Back to the point. Stop pushing everyone away. Angsty jerk is so out of style and so overrated.”

Lexa is breathing heavily when she finishes her rant and Clarissa has tears on her cheeks. She feels like she’s been punched in the gut, but with reality. She knows that everything that Lexa just spewed is true.

“I’m so sorry,” she hiccups, “I didn’t even stop to think about it.”

“Of course you didn’t,” Lexa states smartly.

“You’ve tried to reach out to me?” She’s ashamed.

Lexa nods her head, “Desperately,” she sniffs, swiping under her eyes, “but you just- you weren’t there.”

Clarissa leans her head forward and against the steering wheel, silent sobs shaking her body.

“I was so caught up in how I was feeling, I didn’t even stop to think about you or- oh God. I didn’t even begin to think about my mom. She lost her own mother and I’ve been so-so,” a sob cuts her off, “awful. Lex, I’m so, so sorry. I’m here now. I’ll be here. I’ll listen.”

Lexa lets out a relieved laugh through her tears and reaches across the console, bringing Clarissa into a tight hug.

“I miss her so much, Clare,” she whispers into her hair.

“I know. Me too,” she says. She sits back and grabs Lexa’s hands in hers, giving them a little squeeze before turning back, putting the car back in drive, and pulling back out onto the highway.

The rest of the ride is quiet but no longer tense. Lexa feels a huge weight lifted off her shoulders. When Clarissa pulls her car into her driveway, she is determined. She is determined to make amends with her mother.

Before walking across the yard to her own house, Lexa turns, “I’ll see you tonight? At dinner?”

Clarissa nods, “Yeah, I’ll be there.”

Lexa smiles before turning and heading home.

Clarissa walks slowly up the sidewalk and hesitates before opening the door. She takes a calming breath and pushes it open. Her mom sits on the recliner, looking at photo albums for the slide show that will be shown at the funeral. She looks up when Clarissa enters.

“Hey, how was school?”

“It was fine, boring. The usual.”

She walks across and sits down on the arm of the recliner. She sighs.

“Look, mama. I wanted to say I’m sorry. I’ve been acting rude these past few days- well months, and you don’t deserve it. I just didn’t know how to handle Grandma and Steve’s passing and I took it out on you.  I’m really sorry. And, I’m really sorry about Grandma.”

“It’s okay, Sweet Pea. We all have been trying to find a way to cope. I get it. I’m just glad you’re talking to me.”

Clarissa reaches down and hugs her mom.

“I love you, mama.”

“I love you, too.”