By the end of summer I was almost looking forward to going back home again. Despite our differences I missed my sister and just talking over the phone with her was just blah. Over our phone calls she described the puppies that the farm dog had, had. Purple with lavender spots and paws, they sounded adorable. It wasn’t really a surprise I guess when I came home to find that one had made its way back to our house with Indy. She named him Speckle and adored him as he followed her everywhere around the house except for the stair since he was too little to climb them.
I think everyone in our home bonded pretty easily with Speckle. As I petted his soft fur before he would scamper off to follow Indy if she left the room, I kind of wished that I had a little dog of my own.
Late Friday evening while I was painting away a typical Friday night in front of my easel, letting the world disappear in swirls of color as shapes slowly emerged only to be turned into figures and landscapes like some fairytale giving its blessing there was a knock at my door. Ignoring it I continued on painting not to be disturbed as I tried to combine that sound in my mind with the beating of the drums that played not so softly, but not intrusive from my stereo. “Starry?” I heard my father’s voice from beyond the door but I was in my own world where I choose that the only existence was I, my easel, brush and music. “Starry Night I know you are in there.” He said louder, insistently and firmly that made me hesitate in my painting. I had almost a whole summer away from easel and I wanted to do right now was to get back to the only thing that made me, well me.
“Starry Night Meringue…” I heard him say my voice in a tone that should never be ignored and decided to stop pressing my luck for now since it was evident that I wouldn’t be left alone. Best to give it the Band-Aid method and get this over as quick as possible. I thought as I sighed while putting my brush down.
“Yeah, dad I umm didn’t hear you.” I fibbed a bit when I opened my door. “Right as if I never did that to either my mother or Fade, when I was your age.” My father replied with a knowing smile, which made me feel relieved that he wasn’t angry. “So you wanted to talk or something?” I asked anxious to get back in my own little zone. “Well, can I come in your room first? I have a surprise that you might want.” He said as he shifted his weight while holding a medium sized wrapped box complete with a bow that caught my eye, so I pushed open my door completely letting him into my room.
“Now you may not believe it but I know what it’s like to be an outsider.” My father said surprisingly after he put the box down that seemed intent on not being still, this wasn’t anything that I expected but none the less I still scoffed. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Uncle Ashen says that you were always popular… in school”
“No it’s true. In my own family I was the outsider. Look at that travesty of a grey and turquoise house that your grandparents call a home. It’s a perfect example of how I never fit in with them as if not knowing at the time who my father was, wasn’t enough of a reminder of that. The point is that I never want you to feel like that in your own home with us. Your home is where you should feel the most comfortable not some place you ever need to feel like you have to run from.” He started to explain as he gingerly picked up the box that he had been holding when he came in.
“Now this doesn’t have anything to really do with this but I just wanted to talk to you for a bit before I gave it to you.” My dad said as he handed me the medium sized box that he had been holding. The ribbon fell away easily as I pulled on it and the top was nudged up a few times before I lifted it. Inside was a small dark blue puppy with white spots that went across her dark fur like stars in the night sky. Gemini
What shocked me the most when I came home was my brother and his best friend Midnight deciding to join the military. Porfirio was always an easy going sleep in to noon kind of guy that always went with the flow and Midnight was practically the same way, only difference was that Wisteria could rile him up like no other could about the most trivial of things. My father tried to argue with Porfirio about his decision but he stood firm on it not willing to budge an inch. “I just don’t understand why you would choose this when you could go to any college you want to go to.”
“And do what dad? I have no plans for what I want to do with my life. No job or career choice interests me. Honestly if I’m not doing this then I’m probably not going to be doing anything until I can figure out what I want to do. I don’t plan to be in forever but it’s something that I need to do for myself right now.” Porfirio tried to explain to our father, though he had better luck than Midnight with Wisteria.
“What do you mean you joined?” Wisteria’s shrill voice cut across the room from the kitchen “I mean I joined. What’s not to understand about that statement?” Midnight said returning her question with one of his own, though a tad more sarcastic which made me smile as they played out their drama as loudly it seemed as they could. “Why didn’t you talk to me about it before hand? You know we are not going to see each other for like months while you go through training? And then what if you get stationed or something, somewhere else? Did you even think about us?” My sister demanded her emotions switched gears from being confusion to anger quickly before reverting to sadness. I almost felt sorry for her but I didn’t understand why they were still drawing their relationship out like this. But then again as Wisteria liked to remind me I had never been in a relationship before, so what did I know?
“I did think about us. I know we’re only 18 but I got this for you, for us. It’s not an engagement ring, I can’t really afford one of those right now but hopefully one day it will be if you accept. Promise me that you’ll still be there for me when I’m done with training and then we can start our life together. That’s why I’m promising that everything I’m going to do and go through in these next few months is for you.”
Oh gag me. I thought as I threw down the remote in disgust back on the couch and stumped upstairs. Seriously you’ve got to be kidding me that was almost as bad as those movies from my parent’s teenage years that they get all nostalgic over. I wonder if he thought of it all on his own or had some help. I surmised while snickering to myself. The more I was around the two of them the more it kind of made me glad that I hadn’t had any experience with the opposite sex. I don’t know if I’d be able to deal with the drama that went along with the dating world.
I wish I could say that my senior year was different than all the other years at high school but it was unsurprisingly the same. Shuffling through the hallways on the first day trying not to gag from the over perfumed group of girls the hurried by gossiping about what they did over the summer as group of boys past by me going in the opposite direction wearing probably unnecessary aftershave in copious amounts that made me wonder at the lack of a clouds following either groups. But then again life is never like cartoons otherwise it would be too fun.
Midnight’s absence from Wisteria’s life could be felt around the house more so than our brother’s. It was almost as if she made sure of that, moaning and complaining everyday about missing him. I guess it was understandable but by the end of the first month it was beginning to grate on my nerves and I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t the only one. So when her part time job at the spa became a full time one and as she started going out with friends again instead of lounging around the house like she was me, our parents breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Porfirio wrote us so many letters it was a wonder that he did anything in boot camp. Each and every one was filled of stories about their training and new berries he was meeting from all over Sweetland that was in his unit. At least once or so he would mention in each letter about how much he missed mom’s cooking and was looking forward to visiting back for one of her home cooked meals when boot camp was over.
When homecoming rolled around in the fall I didn’t know how I was going to make it until the end of the year. Just another few more months then you’ll be out of here. I reminded myself every morning as I got ready and then again every night as I tried to wash away the stress and tension away.
The only saving grace was eventually the envelope that came in the mail one day. So thick it was, it barely was able to fit in the mailbox. And it had my name on it, not Indy’s, not Wisteria’s, but mine. Across the up left hand border was the Art School emblem in fancy scripture it read Briocheporte Art Institute. An envelope this thick could only mean one thing. I was in.
No surprises that Indy had made it into the running for homecoming queen after being a homecoming princess every year before our senior one. But this year she took the reins from Wisteria as the tradition was that previous queen would crown the new one. Indy excitedly explained to me later that night after she got back from the homecoming game what would now be happening at the homecoming dance that would be held later on this week. “You should come Starry, it could be fun you know.” Indy tried to persuade me unsuccessfully. In front of me stood a sight that no one ever saw and it almost made her look venerable if I didn’t know her so well. Stripped of all her makeup and wearing her glasses that only saw the light of day when she finally removed her makeup and retired to her room, Indy tried again “If I can find you a date would you go?”
“No because then it would be just like seventh grade when your friend got that exchange student, what was his name? Sansai Soba I think? That doesn’t matter but you remember what happen? After his host parents and him picked me up and then dropped us off. He went off and danced with any girl that would dance with him. So no I am not interested in going through something like that again.” I said dismissively no willing to budge even an inch on this one as I played with Gemini, making her chase after my shoelaces as I hovered my foot above my floor. The dance I spoke of had been my first and last dance that I would ever go to. The whole experience had been a lesson that just reinforced my views on school dances. Silently I prayed that Indy would remember this when prom came around.
But she didn’t.
“Starry what are you wearing?!? Its prom night!” Indy said in surprise as I waltzed down the spiral staircase dressed in my comfy robe and slippers. “Yes and your point is?” I asked her confusedly as I passed her on my way to gather up all the junk food in the house so I could plop it and myself down in front of the TV and just veg out for the rest of the night while my classmates made memories that would last their entire lives.
“But I thought… I know you don’t like dances but its prom you know. You only get one of these and I always thought that you might change your mind and go.” Indy said as her perfectly made up face seemed to crumble under her equally perfectly coiffed hair. “It must be hard always being so optimistic about everything. Aww Indy I know you mean well but both you and I know that I really wouldn’t enjoy myself there.” I told her as I looked away to go back to finding my favorite chocolate covered snack. “I know but you can’t always hide from things that you don’t enjoy. You’re going to miss out on a lot in life Starry.” She said before flouncing off in her dress to go back upstairs.
She might have been right about a lot of things but I highly doubted that I would even look back and regret not going to my prom. I had no date, no dress, and no friends to go stag with so what exactly would I be missing? Though I had to admit as my parents fussed over her and her date as they took their pictures, that I would have liked to walk a day in her shoes if only just for once.
I suppose if my life had been some teenage rom-com movie now would be the point I would begin my glorious transformation into the beauty I never knew that I was and off I would go to prom with the cutest guy in school. But life is not really like that and as it was I was staying home dateless on prom night watching old romantic comedies from my parents younger years while secretly wishing my life was like, eating all the junk food that I could get my hands on. As I watched Pretty in Pink Chiffon I found myself muttering as I threw some popcorn at the screen “Where’s my secretly in love with me best friend that makes me mixed tapes?”
By the time the clock struck 11 and my parent’s retired to bed after a night on the town together, I was bored and tired. Gemini was fast asleep at the foot of my bed as usual. My life was the same day in and day out. Something had to give and give soon.
Staring back at my face in the mirror I felt nothing but hopelessness instead of the joy and excitement that I should be feeling from graduating High School and being accepted into art school. But instead I replayed standing alone like always by myself while everyone else was having a blast. Feeling like the whole time I didn’t belong and truthfully I didn’t, I don’t belong anywhere. And being alone on prom night without a date, without anyone just reinforced that.
Quickly wiping away a tear that fell across my right cheek I never felt as self-loathing as I did looking into the mirror at the face that stared back at me obscured by the stickers that my sister and I had decorated it with. Something needed to change; things couldn’t be like this forever. What I saw was a thick mess in front of a face like a splatter of ink or paint across a painting ruining it. Trying to push it away with my hands it only fell back into place from the years of training it too. Blindly my hands fumbled around the counter while my eyes stayed trained on the image before me before they fell upon cold metal. Tracing their way up the blades my finger tips found the plastic covered end and grabbed them.
Let there be chaos I thought as I grabbed up a thick random strand of hair and quickly cut it with a pair of scissors. One strand quickly became several as I cut more and more feverishly like some possessed creature, letting them drop to the floor. The floor… All of my hair is on the floor…The floor… All of my hair is on the floor. My thoughts repeated themselves as they ran circles in my mind as I stared down at my hair that covered my slippers and the tiled floor in a mess.
And then I looked up.
Now the face that I had hidden behind the stands of my hair was looking back at me without anything to hide behind. I felt like it was now on show for everyone to see. Oh My Berry what did I do now?