Look and Leave Your Past Behind You.
Andrea tossed and turned until she realized sleep was pointless. 'Recharging her batteries' each night became increasingly difficult as time moved forward.
Unlike individuals who choose substance abuse, physical self-harm and/or develop bizarre habits for 'coping' with a loss, Andrea developed a deceptively harmless habit... looking out the window of her bedroom when she could not sleep. She swiftly pushed the curtains aside, pulled up the blinds and finally opened the window. Her bedroom was on the second floor of her home, providing a clear view of the night sky. Those who slept in the rooms on the first floor would have their views blocked by the palm trees of Lush Island.
Gazing upon the black night sky, she counted the golden stars instead of sheep each night. The infinite amount of stars represented the infinite amount of possible life paths; choosing which constellation to follow or wandering into a black hole proved difficult for all individuals. Walking back into bed she found herself unable to lay down. She furiously argued with herself as she stood beside her bed.
“Get out of my spot! This is MY bed, you only slept here! I should have married a jellyfish; they have greater strength and personality!”
Covers were thrown aside, sheets shredded, and pillows hit the walls like a meteor shower. The king size bed was flipped on the ground, leaving metal bed poles partially cracked. Shoving a nearby armchair a few feet closer, Andrea confidently jumped from the chair into the center of the bed, smashing the remainder of the bed into pieces. She took her (future) ex-husband's bedside lamp and stabbed any remaining furniture. Metal, torn cloth and feathers stained the room. Former furniture and other bedroom accessories were blended thoroughly like smoothies. Several splatters stuck to the walls. The sickening sight placed a brief smile upon Andrea's face. She had not smiled in months. As villains often shriek,
“MWAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA! Clearly, getting into a fight with an android is unwise! Pity he didn't punch you, HE would have wound up in the hospital. Thank mother dearest for designing you with super strength...”
“Yes, thank mother dearest for programming you with the inability to correctly display your emotions and forcing you into hiding the remarkable scientific wonder you are throughout life. Alas, nothing is perfect, not even you...”
“You made your choice now live the consequences! Don't let him rewire you! You may not have a beating heart, yet you do have a soul... be stronger than your programming and stop stalling! GOODNIGHT !”
Apparently the exciting nighttime activities caused her to regenerate. 'Oh boy,' she thought the following morning. She awoke laying on the bedroom floor by the window instead of her bed. Yet she noticed the room was not destroyed. Thankfully, her nighttime 'fun' was only in her dreams. Postponing her regeneration cycle always resulted in vivid nightmares. Adults have no curfews, however, she set one for herself (which she often broke). Technology frequently malfunctions as the batteries die and living at 1% each night was causing her problems at 100% each day.
With each passing night, Andrea spent more time at her window when she should regenerate. She could not sleep with the lack of knowledge regarding why Carl left. He was ultimately the villain of the story and tortured her by providing no answers. He would likely take his 'logic' to the grave. She would see him die, eventually 'dying' and starting a new life elsewhere.
Jane, one of Andrea's best friends also resided in the Smith family home. Andrea's family and Jane had plenty of space for private life. However, they regularly 'visited' each other. The Lush Island residence was formerly a decrepit hotel, purchased by Andrea's wealthy father and remodeled into their present home.
Enhancements programmed into Andrea included altering appearances. Years of disguising herself to 'blend in' eventually led Andrea's parents across the country to Bright City. Andrea, Jane and Mia met in elementary school and instantly became inseparable. Upon graduation, the trio moved to Lush Island, as roommates. Online college was a blessing because they could stay together although they followed vastly different career and life paths. If only Andrea and Carl could have shared a bond as strong as she had with her 'sisters.' The saw Andrea and Carl become lovers, spouses and eventually parents. 'What happened' was the question on her minds too.
With no improvement in sight, an otherwise optimistic Jane finally lost her temper. Startled by the late hour stomping noise, seeing Jane was the cause concerned Andrea. Opening Andrea's door and the crashing sound resulting from slamming it shut indicated something was amiss.
“Jane, what is going on? Why have you entered my room this way, you might have ripped the door off! Seriously, are you drunk,” Andrea replied with a bitter tone. Jane interrupted her stargazing, a crime worthy of capital punishment.
“Frankly, I've had enough of YOUR behavior! So have the girls! As their godmother, my job is protecting them from harm. You are harming them by focusing on your broken heart versus the people who do love and care about you,” Jane's sympathetic tone changed as she yelled loud enough she woke the girls from their slumber on the opposite side of house.
“Who took Emma and Charlotte to the emergency room when Emma broke her leg on the entryway staircase? ME! Who sat by their sides comforting them? ME! I'm surprised you noticed their absence. You couldn't be bothered with the simple task of calling a repairman and having the stair fixed before OR after this incident! I DID! I have been the one making sure your daughters arrive at school. I'm the one cooking for your family and maintaining YOUR household!” Jane's eyes turned red and Andrea was uncertain how long she could restrain herself from murdering Jane.
“BACK OFF! You don't understand...I don't either...I might be at peace if I only knew! Who are you and what have you done with Ms. Glass Half-Full? I don't need another person against me!” Jane's heart was breaking because Andrea was right. Nevertheless, she continued, walking closer to Andrea.
“If I was not here, they wouldn't be either! They would be dead or taken by Child Protective Services. You rescued them from an orphanage as infants, do you want them sent back as teens, likely 'aging out' and living on the streets once they turned 18?”
“That would never happen! There is no CPS near Tree Town! You think I'm stupid or something? Well you can GET OUT if you don't like here! We don't need you, the twins and I have each other!” For an intellectually superior android, she did not seem to understand Jane's point.
Mia was the Broadway actress, yet Jane hoped her acting skills could match that night. Almost bashing her head into the wall she became so frustrated by Andrea's obliviousness. How much clearer could she be? Perhaps one last comment would straighten Andrea out,
“You have forgotten people are suffering worse problems compared with your difficulties! GET OVER YOURSELF! You will not receive any answers which are truthful, if anything is said period! Don't bother telling me to get out, I've already made arrangements-” stuttering “I am going back to my parents, and,” taking a deep breath, hoping Andrea would finally listen before her courage left her, “I'm TAKING THE GIRLS WITH ME! Do you understand?”
“Get out and take them for summer break. I want them back for school. I hate saying you're right. Goodnight, start packing. You should leave upon returning them,” she replied, shoving Jane out of her bedroom and locked the door. As she looked into the deep black sky, Andrea wondered whether Jane would follow through and/or who should apologize.
Tiptoeing from her bedroom to Charlotte's, Emma prayed they would not alert the adults. The creaking of the floorboards and the small squeak of the door opening thankfully went unnoticed. The twins sat on Charlotte's bed, looking out at the night sky, seeing the same stars their mother did. Contemplating their current situation, Charlotte asked,
“Do you think Auntie Jane was serious? Personally I think mother agreed so she would leave. Such behavior is 'out of character' for her...”
“Given how life has been flipped upside down, I wouldn't be surprised. Would I be rude saying 'good riddance' to father? The only reason he can be called a 'man' is due to his biological attributes! Truly, he is a monster... with seriously poor planning skills. Honestly who just-”
“-just takes parts of his prized belongings with them, yet leaves indefinitely?” Charlotte rolled her eyes as she interrupted Emma by placing a finger over her lips. Silencing Emma proved difficult. Emma believed constantly talking, 'facing the facts,' was more therapeutic compared with bottling up troubling feelings until an explosion occurred. Peaking through the crack in the partially closed door, Charlotte breathed a sigh of relief. Her next comments were not received kindly by Emma.
“Honestly, as much as I agree with you sis, I'm tired of hearing everyone obsess over a nonexistent person. Would I be rude telling everyone 'SHUT THE **** UP? Focus on your own lives!' Father is mother's loss, not ours. If mother wasn't deeply affected, I would say he was not a 'loss.' We still have our lives ahead of us, yet mother is aging. Soon she will be too old for any man to give her a single glance. We should give her the space and support she needs and let her choose how the situation is dealt with. Even adults need lessons on coping.”
Emma's bluntness contrasted so deeply with Charlotte's milder views on most occasions, however, Emma was surprised and insulted by Charlotte. Her words were spoken differently, although they expressed the same sentiment. Always needing the last word, Emma tried lightening the mood. Perhaps her sister would return the favor instead of continuing with her arrogant tone.
“On the bright side, at least we are not going suffer the trauma of a custody trial. If he did not already give up his rights, the court would likely take even partial custody away from him. Mother should not have bothered providing him the chance to collect his belongings. Leaving them behind as quickly as he left the family should mean he is surrendering his stuff. We could have made a fortune selling most of his stuff online!”
“Alas, I think that's illegal without his explicit consent. Besides, I would feel guilty selling his belongings... we might poison our customers! I can't believe the mold, dust and random creatures spread throughout his belongs and died. How did we all miss them entering the house? I suppose mother wonders how she didn't see the end coming sooner. Blehhhh. His electronics are broken and/or missing pieces. If we move into customer service, I would prefer customer satisfaction. The more we talk, the more he wins, although he will never know.”
Chuckling at her sister, they both looked out the window, observing the night sky slowly grow into a lighter blue. The stars became faint as the morning arrived. They knew resistance was futile and Emma sneaked out of the room. She provided Charlotte with the brief satisfaction of ending a conversation. Charlotte was right, why couldn't mother think like her?
The both mourned the recent 'loss' of a friend. A divorce resulted in granting partial custody to an abusive father, returning her home for the school year. She came back each year black and blue, often missing the first week of school recovering from prior injuries. The twins, presumably, would not suffer such a fate. The whole family would suffer a fate making physical injuries far more desirable; Tree Town gossip.
The next morning, the girls video called their 'Auntie' Mia. Currently living in a small apartment near Broadway, the time difference was slightly inconvenient for Mia. Nevertheless, she took their call; the absurdity of their story made her question the entire household.
“Girls, let me check in with your mother and Jane. The hour was late, making their conversation as nonsensical as the whole situation. However, you three should spend the summer with me. You can see the last performance of Romeo and Juliet and the first of Mary Poppins. If Jane comes she can supervise you... I'm not inviting Andrea if she is going to be so callous, giving you up without a fight. Love you girls, talk with you soon.” No plans were made, yet fun might be had alleviating the girls suffering.
A long drawn out discussion led Andrea reluctantly sending her daughters away for the summer. New York and Broadway would be pleasurable, however, Andrea's presence would ruin the experience. Mia was dead serious about Andrea not coming. Finally, Andrea knew the price of letting her mind control her actions. This was a test run of 'what if' she lost her children. Controlling herself was no longer about blending in; she feared she would hurt the ones she loved most. The twins would return for the school year, Jane's residency remained uncertain.
Tree Town was a microscopic location within walking distance from the twin's home. Gossip spread quickly, no mystery left unsolved. The 'missing' friend of Emma and Charlotte as well as the tragedy of her new living situation spread like wildfire. Fortunately their friend was not around listening to the conversations surrounding her dilemma. Any pending tragedy was a town conversation starter. Words of sympathy would be provided by genuinely caring and merely curious people, however, the shocking turn of events quickly made the town inappropriately excited, awaiting the next 'chapter' of the story.
Presumably, the stress of the town seeking additional information from Andrea (Houghman) Smith was factoring into Andrea's mentality. The blond blue-eyed Andrea still suffered from facing peer pressure as much as any human. She spent her whole life told 'blending in' with the crowd was vital. If she revealed herself, unsavory scientists might kidnap, experiment and eventually destroy her.
Currently, she was in her mid-thirties; chronologically, she was an elderly woman. Ironically, although she had lived multiple lifetimes given her programming enhancement, Carl was her first romantic love/loss. Most elderly individuals would have experience, advice and provide help. Her parents had passed and her friends knew little more about relationships than Andrea. All they could provide was love and support. For a 'grandma' she was extremely strong, often muttering about how lucky the town was because she genuinely could snap every gossiping individual in half. Andrea considered herself an 'expert' on keeping secrets and infuriated the town when she kept her problems quiet.
Another night of stargazing gifted her with insight instead of the normal hell. The sky broadcasted a 'video' of her thoughts, blocking her visions of violence and hatred. She stood up with determination, looking away from the window at the empty bed. Never again would the bed be warmed by her (future) ex-husband. Looking out again, she saw the joyous moments of their lives. His romantic proposal and exclusive wedding. Them holding baby girls in their arms. Finding success in helping their daughters survive serious health problems. Highlights of vacations, academic and professional achievements were featured. Simple peace laying beside each other was also featured. The end was not as pleasant, yet the most important.
“Have you learned your lesson? Well, hurry up and finish what you started,” the voice in Andrea's head kindly asked.
"I am beginning to understand..." Andrea's inner voice replied.
With nobody around, she could 'cheat' and use her true strength. She began cleaning out her bedroom. She donated her bedroom furniture, hopping it was not cursed, and purchased new items for herself. Shipping proved inconvenient given her location however, she was unbothered by their struggles. She was busy addressing her own. Rearranging her room was effortless, a blessing given she struggled multiple times before becoming satisfied. She always placed her bed on the wall, facing away from the window. Pulling up a chair and looking was possible, although now only a habit of sleeplessness.
No longer would her romantic difficulties cause her endless suffering. The pain still existed. Andrea's isolation provided the enlightenment she needed. Used her programed enhancements instead of stressing herself out about 'blending in' at home, a place where she should be loved and appreciated. She realized the abuse she put upon herself and others she cared about needed to end. Letting it overtake her thoughts and actions was worse than Carl's behavior. Now she felt passionate hatred for the lawmakers who declared 'divorce papers cannot be signed for over a year of the couple living separately.'
Whether he never appeared at the courthouse was another dilemma she, ironically, did not need stargazing to alleviate. Summer solitude helped her look and now leave her past behind her. The family's return gave them the peace they needed; slowly their animosity faded. When nighttime wind washed over Andrea, the chill dried her tears and cleared her mind of worries.