Drama Adventure Coming of Age

 I died in an accident. And it cost me a lifetime to discover the true meaning of this natural occurrence, of death. What I realized when I died was this: there is no such thing as demise.

Later, after much thought, the word ‘realized’ didn’t swathe the exact meaning I was looking for. I had a sharp inclination to use the word remembered, instead. For I had lived and died many times.

And this too, I remembered in death.

The real wonder of the world is not death, but why we forget in the moment of life.

I landed in a body in England sometime in the winter. They called this my birthday. And they called me Elizabeth.

When I was two years old, people kept holding me, but I was the happiest in the arms of one specific lady. A pure softness rang in her voice when she spoke to me; a starry night appeared in her eyes. A boy who lived with us used to call her ‘mum’. But I didn’t call her anything, nor felt the need to say anything. I was only existing in the peace of an observer.

I would spend the day with this woman, listen to the stories she told her friends in endless tea parties where I was just an existing body with eyes. The woman would allow me a piece of candy she would later confiscate. Sometimes she would remove me from my toys and I would get upset.

A man came home every evening; he lit the room when he walked. The boy who lived with us called him ‘dad’. The man got us candies the woman would confiscate, and toys the woman hated to see scattered on the floor.

The man and the woman kept urging me to say the things the boy said. Mum and Dad. I didn’t understand what that meant, until sometime later, when I learned the word ‘parents’.

I grew up feeling as like “mum and dad” weren’t my real parents. I said this to them once on the dinner table when I was five years old. But I saw the shock drawn on mum’s face so I never said it again. Dad only shot me a smile from his place on the table. My ‘brother’ smirked at me.

The next year, my father took me into his study and sat me on a cold, leather sofa he got from an antique store before I was born. The walls - dark navy, were lined with wooden frames that were polished to soft sheen, just like his desk top. It was the last time we spoke in that room and the last time the ceiling looked so high. The next time I walked in, everything had gotten so small.

“Darling,’ he began. His voice was so soft, it seeped into my heart without permission. The reason he’d gotten me here was because my mom’s voice didn’t seep the same. “School – a significant experience for you. You will learn how to read, write; you will make a lot of friends!”

I think I felt the first touch of my later crippling anxiety the moment his eyes wore a stern look that whispered to me: “This decision is not yours, Liza.”

“My sweet girl,” he continued. “You shall thank us-”

“Father! I don’t want to stay there! I will go, but I don’t want to live there!”

“Elizabeth, listen now, it’s the best school in the world for you. The circumstances – you see, what can we do; the school’s up in Switzerland, but erm, you’ll come home every Christmas. In the summer too; I’ll take you to the village house then and you could ride Daisy.”

“I want to live with you,” my breath shivered; the pulse in my neck squirmed under my skin. That room, which had stayed so gigantic in my eyes for next slow-stretching years ahead of me, was now shrinking like my battered ego.

“Walter!” My mother’s voice, though dimmed by the walls, walked loudly in on us.

My father, in his crouched position, took my shoulders in his fists and pressed a kiss between my eyebrows that wore a rude frown.

“Let’s see what your mother wants; perhaps dinner is ready?” He tapped my back, tugging my pressed hair, having sat on it before my father had given me a chance to scoop it to my side.

I stood, knowing I was not allowed to stay in his study alone. He led me out where the floor was echoing with my mother’s heeled footsteps. He left me in the hallway for “a break to the loo” before he gave me a chance to say anything, to scream the words I housed in my throat for so many years: I don’t want to go!!!

The words that ate a fraction of my voice and paid me with a burdened silence…

The next morning I was woken by a rush of footsteps in and out of my room, and voices echoing through my open door. I did an extra effort to remain fixed like a wearing stick; my arm had fallen asleep on my forehead, and my forehead was now heating from the pressure of my arm. I imitated a sleeper’s breath – four seconds in and four out. Soon enough, the air from the open door sounded different; the door had closed. And my room was left with the silence breathing in its corners. And I was left with the tooting frequency sound that seemed to come from the walls or deep down from my head; I called it the sound of silence. I was now free to move and my bones cracked in relief.

When I sat in bed, a suitcase was standing before the door. And after I saw my parents in the family room, it was time to go.

The nightmares still crawled at me even months later - the sound of the train, the smoke sticking in my nose, the tears treating themselves into the cups of my eyes, and the taste of mom’s lemon cough drops burning in the back of my mouth – all the details filled my dreams for nights and years. The last touch of my father’s hand in the station – in dreams he was slipping away into the smoke and I was mistaking his hand for hundreds of strangers pulling me farther away from him. I would wake up only clutching my blanket, sobbing into my pillow – a wet pillow across my cheek became a regular. On some better nights I dreamed of being in the village house, riding daisy or painting in the shed, but it all ended in surrender to the school – the walls crumbled in those good dreams and the village house became a dark, thick square pored with windows, sticking side to side all over its face: the boarding school.

During the day I attended my classes, but I was always expecting to be called out of class – “Miss Vander, you’re father is here to collect you.” I waited for him. I had a feeling, somehow he would miss me; mom would miss me, and they would come for me “Our Liza, we couldn’t live without you; we shall put you in a school in London now; we want you to live with us.”

I wished these words would sometime swing into my ears. I wished for a visit from them – maybe we could talk again and negotiate.

But I only got a letter in December. ‘Our dearest, you will not be able to visit us this Christmas. Your grandmother is sick and we have to move to Bradford for her. With love, Mum and Dad.’

I flung it in the fire of the dormitory; I felt guilty for burning a paper my father had touched, but my eyes were burning too. My heart had been aching and nobody knew.

I sat in my dorm room mid-December, watching Alicia and Emma pack up for the holidays. When they left, I was alone. When they returned, I was still alone; I had grown jealous and refused to talk to them.

Classes resumed and I kept my parent’s picture tucked in my pocket; they’d sent it with a Christmas gift – an mp3 – and another letter I threw in the chimney. It only said my grandmother had died and ‘Why haven’t we heard from you, yet, darling?’

They weren’t going to hear from me in a long time. I thought I was punishing them. I didn’t know I wasn’t going to hear from them in a long time, too.

By the end of term, I was getting worried – nothing from them, and summer was approaching. On the final day of exams, the principal, Miss Rotwire – who once made me stand against a wall for 2 hours on end for telling her it’s not me who needed to tidy up my hair, but she who needed two hours and a fat bottle of shampoo to remove all the grease she kept on for weeks – came into my dorm room after Alicia and Emma again left (we were still not talking because they kept bringing up their parents on purpose, and I had a growing timidity that my parents, by this point, cared so little for me).

“Miss Varden,” she said, voice course from chocking herself with smoke all day. Going into her office was second smoking, level fifty. “I’m afraid you’re spending the summers with us, here. Pack the stuff you need; we’re moving to the school’s summer house.”

She was about to leave, but my eyes had failed to hold the pressuring tears any longer, so they threw them down my cheeks in a flood.

“Oh,” she hissed, holding my hand. It was warm and meaty; for the first time, her icy blue eyes that were as dead as a ghost, showed a life in them. “Dear, don’t cry. Many students stay here for summers. Mostly exchange students, but,” she paused to cup my chin, “we have a lot of fun.”

I removed my chin from her and set my eyes on her buttoned blouse, a couple sizes small.

“I want to go home.” I could only produce a soft mumble. I was too weak to talk; weak to cry. All I could do was let my heart break, a fissure digging deeper to my very core.

“Why can’t I go home?” I managed to say.

“Dear,” she said, “your parents wrote to me. They said they’re moving to France for you father’s work. They’re worried about you – that you haven’t written to them.” She stopped again and removed a paper from her blouse’s pocket, crumpled from being tucked into her stomach. “Here. I’ll leave you with it and your suitcase. Trust me. You’ll love it in the summer house.”

She left. And I read.

Dear, Miss Rotwire,

We hope you are in good health. How is Elizabeth? We hope she is doing well. Will you please send our love? We are worried she has not written to us once. So we are writing to you. We would like if you checked up on her.

Send to her that she will not be able to visit this summer. Walter’s work is moving to France, and so are we. We will be very busy, so we are very sorry. Maybe on Christmas, we look forward to seeing her. Or maybe before that, we can visit.

Mr. and Mrs. Varden.”

I let my tears fall on the ink until I could no longer figure out the words, and then the letters. We hope she is doing well. And what if I wasn’t? Didn’t they care?

By now, I was doubting they cared for me. I was confident their life was better, easier with me away from it. Why did they get me to this world, oh! I thought they loved me! By this time, I was only seven and didn’t understand yet what it meant to be a mistake.

The summer house was like the school but I could have my own room. Replacing lessons were activities like baking, drama, art, and sports. We were only 23 students staying for the summer. Most students were exchange students as Miss Rotwire had told me; Indians, Germans, French (by this time I hated the French because my parents had ditched me for France), Chinese, and Americans.

I spent my time with an Indian girl called Shati. We became best friends and made a team in all the activities. We made other friends, Lee and Andre. We shared stories before bed. We learned how to bake fruit cake. We played roles from Shakesperean plays. And we painted Miss Rotwire. She was flattered, even though we made her ugly.

The summer air soon caught a light cold. And so did we; a light flu by the start of September. We moved to school again, and I requested my room be with Shati. Miss Rotwire accepted our plea. She moved us with another girl called Amanda. She was lonely so she was happy with us.

I was enjoying my time by this point, filling my thoughts with things other than my parents. But deep in the cave of my mind, there cried a girl. She used her tears to water the thought that her parents couldn’t love her. I used many stones to shut this cave out. But sometimes at night, as I lay alone in bed, the girl cried too loud.

I could still hear the girl cry years later. I was 15 years old now. I had my first period 4 years before; Shati, Amanda and I were on the slides. “Liz, there is a red spot on your skirt. There must have been cherry juice on the slide.” But then the word got distributed around the children that I had a red spot on my skirt and Miss Rotwire had us three in her office.

Now I understood what it meant to be a mistake, and the girl in the cave cried louder.

Christmas of 1985, I received the first letter from my parents, in 5 years. The last letter had been just like the others. “Dear. How are you? We hope you’re fine. Write to us. We love you.” They never said ‘We miss you.’

But in this letter my parents were asking me to come home for Christmas.

I wasn’t happy. I had planned to spend the holidays with Shati in Amanda’s house.

“You should see your parents,” Shati told me.

“We can all go to your house,” Amanda suggested.

But I wasn’t worried about the holidays too much. I was worried about how I will meet my parents all over again. When I was a child, I said they didn’t feel like my real parents. Now, they didn’t feel like my parents at all.

After some pressuring from Shati and Miss Rotwire, I was headed to London. The smell of the train reminded me of the first time, of the nightmares. My mind suffocated with thoughts that made the smoke like a whiff of summer breeze.

The house seemed like a picture I’d seen in a magazine. I felt no relation to it anymore. A young man met me at the door. Eyes as blue as mine, hair, dark too. He had a messy beard grown like he was too lazy to take care of it. I almost couldn’t realize him. But it was obvious. He couldn’t be anybody but my indifferent brother.

The silence stretched between us, until he opened the door a little wider with a silent ‘Hi.’

Inside, my parents stood before a dinner table. The house had changed. We used to eat dinner in another room. My mother – an older version of the woman I knew, opened her arms for me. My father, still the same, shot me his regular warm smile.

I didn’t move. My mother lowered her arms, and also the smile on her face. She approached me and pulled me to her chest.

“We’ve missed you!”

Dinner was so dull. I didn’t know what to say. And when they realized I wasn’t their same girl anymore, they didn’t know what to say either. After dinner, my father called me into his study. I had grown bigger and the room had gotten too small.

I wanted to tell him how big I thought everything was. I wanted to tell him how I waited for him to get me. How I missed them. How I thought they hated me. But he didn’t deserve a word of me.

“My sweet girl,” he began. “We’re sorry.”

He explained how they noticed I was growing up away from them. How my mother cried that I had become a woman without her. They were hurt when I didn’t send anything. They were deeply sorry.

“I will never forgive you.”

With that I left the house. I was depressed. I didn’t know if I had done the right thing. Anxiety gnawed at me with full permission on my side.

In two years, we had graduated. Four years after that, I had graduated with a bachelor in fine arts. Painting soothed my anxiety and brought some color into my sadness.

Sometime in the spring I was sent to review an art gallery in France. By this point, I had forgiven that country. If only I knew I was going to end, when all of nature was beginning again.

The last sounds my physical ears experienced were gun shots. It was a terrorist attack. I thought I had died, but I floated higher above the body I had shed. Time was nonexistent where I was.

The ether around me took me home. My parents in London were crying. Of course, I forgive you. And I soared away.

I realized then, there was no such thing as death. I was still alive in my truest form. And I remembered that I shall live again, and again.

October 21, 2020 00:01

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Anell Douglas
21:21 Oct 28, 2020

I love your writing style. The story kept me engaged the whole time!


Lara 🦋
09:49 Oct 29, 2020

Thanks for the comment! Really appreciate it :D I'm glad you enjoyed it ☺


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Ramon Martensen
07:57 Oct 26, 2020

Hi Lara, What a story... You have a very clear style which makes it very engaging to read. The emotions are not forced on the reader but slowly drip inside as you wander through the words. I do wander though how the fact that she is aware that this life is not only one affected the course of the events. Thematically it makes sense. The people in our lives our interexchangeable because the lives themselves are. Throughout her life she's also treated like that. Is this realization (or memory as she calls it) a psychological coping strategy ...


Lara 🦋
09:04 Oct 26, 2020

Hello, Ramon! I'm so glad you enjoyed :) I'm happy it left you with something to think about. This was intended so I'm flattered you received it this way :D


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