Unlike her, the jeans came that way. That used look that was all the rage, with so little fabric creating holes and strings which left nothing to the imagination. She, on the other hand, was born perfect. Chubby, ten fingers, ten toes and a cute-as-a-button nose that caught everyone’s attention. All the nurses and doctors and other parents made remarks about her beauty but no one would commit to taking her home.
So her journey began. Bouncing from foster home to group home, Lillith was nicknamed “Lil” based on her ability to stay tiny despite the abundance of food she ate. She ate to fill a need that was always there, as if her jeans couldn’t keep anything in. Lil only showed her outside to the world and hid every dark corner of her soul.
Her life wasn’t easy, no one’s really is. Staying months in an orphanage before being welcomed into her first foster home, she felt lost and alone. The youngest at four years old, getting her guardians attention was easy – she just had to throw a tantrum which was, by now, her second nature.
Years passed by and families changed like the seasons. The only thing Lillith could count on was that she’d be moving soon, starting over at a new school and leaving who she would have liked to consider friends behind. It took only three moves before she hardened herself to relationships, not bothering to make friends with classmates and instead only tolerating them. Anything more and she’d miss them and be saddened with the announcement of the move. It was easy to do with her families as they gave no reason to build trust or bond but classmates, her age and going through the same life stages, they weren’t so easy to ignore. Especially with the amount of times teachers grouped or paired students for a project.
And then one day she started walking. Despite the rain, her inappropriate footwear and depleted energy from fighting with everyone she knew, the woods beaconed. Leaving the house she knew for just months, Lil walked out the door, into the back yard and was determined not to think, worry or wonder where she was. Each step pounding the soft ground, leaving no footprints and leaving less obvious marks in the broken branches, Lil walked.
The rain, heavy at times, soaked through her cotton t-shirt and made her sandals squish but that’s not what the young girl noticed. With each step the phrase ash to ash and dust to dust reverberated in her soul.
Her feet ached, her legs were wobbly, and she was sweating more than she ever had before. Being in solitude wasn’t something Lil was used to and, while she liked it, she struggled.
Her watch, given to her as a hush gift, buzzed to let her know she reached 10000 steps. Her goal. A small, mundane objective Lil rarely reached but continued to set anyway. She reached it with many more steps to take to get home. And while she walked she wondered if she would ever find home.
Home is where the heart is, they say, but what if you didn’t have a heart? Or rather, what if it was too big to be contained? Lil was tiny in stature, with ginger hair that made all her brothers stare but her heart often felt like it was beating out of its chest.
Wondering about her parents, if she was the same as them in any way, and if they just succumbed to the pressures of life at their own hands like others alluded. Or maybe they were alive and wondering if their little girl was just the same as her. Did her mother have red hair or was it her father? Would she ever know?
And just like that she was at her current residence, walking into a group of concerned people who wondered where she was. Some pain went away, slowly, but the relief was substantial.
Only living in this particular home a short while, she was finally feeling glimpses of safety and belonging. With four sisters, all a bit younger, and a foster mother who prioritized them by homeschooling and simply being there whenever they needed, the dynamic was comfortable.
Apologizing for not letting them know where she was going, in part because she didn’t know, she surprised herself by telling them she’d be making it a regular thing. Shortly after she excused herself to take a nap. It usually took so long to get to sleep, and Lil expected it would after this welcoming but sleep took over quickly.
Each day the walks got a bit longer and the naps a bit shorter, the pain more bearable and the holes of her soul seemed to grow smaller inside. With each positive comment and offer to talk her holes seemed to fill and heal.
Months passed and Lillith remained in what she could finally admit to be her family. Three of the four sisters still lived there and she was gifted a room of her own for her 17th birthday. One sister, Abigail, was eventually welcomed on her walks and joined her every second day. They both revealed bits of their history, digging deeper beneath their own holes to find treasures they didn’t realize were buried.
The days when they walked together they took as many steps as it required to get lost and more to be found again. They left no footprints on the hollow ground but they felt each other’s progress and let the rain wash new earth into their gaps, healing what was shattered and filling what was absent.
And then Lillith turned eighteen and decisions needed to be made. She finally felt ready. Strong enough to rid her wardrobe of the clothes she desperately needed years ago to create her identity. Now, over one hundred thousand agonizing steps later, her identity was obvious and shown through her eyes.
Lil made her choice to move out and continuing travelling. She studied to be a flight attendant and, for graduation, asked to see her birth records, to know her history not to discover who she was as that was obvious but to understand who she could have been.
Lillith aced her tests and was on her way to Toronto, her first flight and most important adventure. Before leaving, at her celebration dinner where she was surrounded by family and firneds, she was given the file and packed it safely without even a glance. It would wait.
In the air, serving popcorn and ginger ale to a young soccer team on their way to defend their title. As she paced the aisles, ensuring everyone was safely abiding by the rules and content with the movie and their snacks she saw it. Or him, rather. It was like looking in the mirror but in male form. A man with ginger hair, not much older than her and about as tall. Starting to make her way towards him she was interrupted by someone asking for more popcorn and he was gone.
Distracted the remainder of the flight and not seeing him again, she shook it off and met with her supervisor. Given compliments and feeling confident, Lil was proud of herself and decided the mishap was simply the result of her nerves. Only it happened again and again, in different ways, on each of her next fifteen flights until she figured out why.
She needed to either look at the papers or destroy them.
Lil contacted her adoptive parents and asked their advice but it was useless as they said it was up to her.
A fellow flight attendant invited her to a bon fire one night they had off and Lil decided to go, taking her few possessions with her.
As she looked around to realize she was, for the first time in her life, surrounded by friends and knowing her adoptive parents were one call away she smiled. The fire lit, the laughter filling the night air, Lil rummaged through her bag to find the paperwork and dropped it into the fire.