There isn’t a single writing utensil in my entire house. I’m serious, no pens, pencils, not even a little crayon stub. My parents bought me my own computer when I was only three years old, and instead of learning to write, I was taught to type. When it came time to begin schooling, I was enrolled in an online program that could be accomplished right from our kitchen table. And as the time where I would begin education approached, I dreamed of what adventures my friends would have without me in Truman elementary. I remember when I was five, and the whole “first day of school” routine and how disappointed I was to not be able to attend the local elementary facility.
“But Mommy, why can’t I go to Truman Elementary? All of my friends get to go, it’s not fair.” I had gotten all dressed up for the bus, a puffy pink skirt over black and white striped tights. My pudgy hands gripping the straps of a lime green dinosaur backpack.
“Melody, honey, we’ve talked about this. Your father and I think that you would do better here at home, where we can help you.” My mother answers coolly, and her soft hands gently work the backpack out of my grasp. She takes my fist, still clenched, in hers and leads me to the table, where my bright pink laptop is waiting for me.
And that’s how it went, for eleven whole years.
When the doorbell rings, I’m not expecting it. Its Friday afternoon and biology is the only thing that stands in my way of being done with school for the week. My days of green dinosaurs and stripped leggings are over, leaving a sixteen-year-old girl in their wake. I rise from my position on the overstuffed armchair in the living room and hobble across the carpet, my legs cramping from being crossed for so long. I open the front door and am not surprised to see that no one’s there. But then I look down and see a gigantic cardboard box squatting on the step before me.
“Who is it, honey?” calls my Mom from upstairs.
But before I can answer, a big white envelope on the top of the package catches my eye. scrawled in thick black letters on its cover are the words: FOR MELODY’S EYES ONLY. I’m not entirely sure why I decide to lie. I’ve never really done that before, but something didn’t feel quite right about telling the truth concerning this mysterious box.
“Nothing Mom, just some kids.” She doesn’t answer, and in one movement I scoop up the box and envelope in my arms and run to my room, slamming the door behind me.
I settle onto the blue quilt adorning my bed and stare at the brown cube across from me, curiosity and perplexity trumping caution. And just as I move to flip back the lid of the box, my door begins to creak open. The hinges groan and I grimace as I envision the hurricane known as my mother that would come with it. But what waddles in and wades through the plush carpet was not in fact one of my parental guardians, but Toby, our dog. The beagle leapt up onto the bed beside me and sniffs at the box, licking as he goes. I smile and stroke his long ears, momentarily forgetting about my urgency to be secretive. Coming back to myself, I kick the door shut with my foot and give to box one last inspection before peeling back the flaps and peering inside.
I’m not sure what I expect, some photos, a book, maybe a new sweater? Instead, mounds of tissue paper await me. This has got to be a prank. I think. Then I remember the feeling I’d had when I first saw the package, and, with that thought in mind, I begin to pick my way through the white gossamer sheets. In thirty seconds, I am surrounded by tissue paper, like a mini snowstorm let loose a small flurry on my bed. and suddenly, I’m at the bottom, and I would have never guessed what was waiting for me. A small black pen rests at the floor of the package. I gingerly pick it up and cradle it in my fingertips, the smooth cylinder shining in the fading light. My skin tingles wherever the pen comes into contact with my hand, and I almost drop it out of unfamiliarity. Then I remember the note and retrieve it from under the mountain of white paper. I rip it open and read the neat handwriting.
For years our power has been hidden from you. They are afraid of the abilities you possess, as well they should be. You are an extraordinary girl, and they know that. You are not to trust anyone, for nobody is as they seem. This pen is your greatest weapon. Use it. I wish I could explain more, but no amount of paper in the world can prepare you for what lies ahead. you must leave your home immediately and make your way South. I will find you. Whatever you do, don’t stop.
I stare at the note, to dumbfounded to speak. Leave home? Powers? I’ve lived for sixteen years, and never have I seen evidence of any powers. Again, I examine the pen. The dude Arkin said that this was my greatest weapon, but it looks pretty ordinary to me. I take it over the small desk in the corner of my room and pull out the notepad my friend Clara got me for my thirteenth birthday. It’s never been used so it doesn’t take much time to find a clean sheet. I grip the pen. It takes me some time, but eventually I establish a comfortable position between my fingers on my left hand and then I place the tip on the paper. At that moment, I draw for the very first time. Since I’ve never actually held a pen before, my art skills are a bit shaky, but I manage to sketch out a tiny stick-figure dog, like Toby. Its about the size of my palm and I stare at it, wondering what I expected to happen. Then Toby knocks my chair with his body and I slap my hand on the table to keep myself from falling. But when lift my palm from where it fell on the notebook, the tiny doodle-dog was gone. I am speechless, and I turn my head to face Toby and we share a confused look.
Then something pulls the hair on the top of my head, and I reach up to grab it. When I yank the nuisance down to examine, I see a little stick figure dog. I pretty sure it didn’t like being manhandled and the beast was nibbling on my fingers in protest. Toby gives a small yip of surprise and retreats from the room. I stare in amazement, open mouthed for a long time. Then an idea occurred to me. If it slapped my hand to get it out of the notebook, then maybe I can put it back into the paper the same way! I placed the puny canine onto the clean paper in front of me and poise my hand to strike. Then, I smack it down with a resounding thud. When I lifted my palm, I found my doodle perfectly flat against the page.
Five minutes later, having discovered this power that Arkin had talked about, my room is teeming with squiggly cats, dogs, snakes, even elephants. Birds swoop in the air around my head and I sketch on. And not only do they come in and out of my paper, but I discovered that they also obeyed my every command. I’m having so much fun that I don’t hear my mother’s warning that if I wasn’t down to dinner in thirty second, she would come drag me down by the ear. When the sound of angry footsteps coming up the stairs finally reached me, I was knee deep in doodles. I was suddenly a whirlwind of activity, shoving tissue paper into the now empty box and stuffing it into my closet. I summon all my squiggle beasts into the notebook and slam the cover shut, tucking it into my desk drawer. Then I threw myself onto my bed and closed my eyes, pretending to be asleep. At the very last second, I remember about the pen still clutched in my fist and slip it safely under the pillow just as the door flies open and Mom storms in.
“Melody, what in the name of…” her voiced trails off when she sees my ‘sleeping’ form splayed out on the bed.
“Melody, honey, get up. Its time for dinner.” I open my eyes and rub them sleepily, trying to make them look red and irritated.
“Really?” I say in a thick voice, looking at her with my long lashes flying half-mast. I get up and stumble out of the room behind her.
When I sit down at the table, I am greeted by the heavenly aroma of stuffed peppers and sticky rice, my favorite.
“So, Rich,” says Mom, addressing my dad who sits across from her, “Melody said that some kids where playing ‘Ding Dong Ditch’ this afternoon and we were the victims.” Her lips are pursed as she saws into a green vegetable.
“Really,” Muses, Dad, not actually paying attention. “Did you see who it was, Mody?” Dad has been using that nickname for me as long as I can remember and I’ve always liked it. But after Arkin, I’m not sure whether that’s a sign of endearment or the product of duty.
“I didn’t actually see them, but when I opened the door, nobody was there except the” I draw in a quick breath and catch myself before I can give anything away, but my slip-up did not go unnoticed.
“Except what? Mody?” Now Dad has turned his body in his chair to face me, chocolate eyes consuming my blue ones. He uses my nickname again, but this time it feels more like a threat.
“Nothing,” I say, “just a couple of coins that must have fallen out of one of their pockets.” I know this cover-up is flimsy, but I have to try. I casually take another bite of pepper and chew, but my appetite is gone.
“Really? How much change.” Dad leans his elbows on the table, his eyes narrow as he scrutinizes my upcoming answer.
“I’m not sure,” his question caught me off guard and I stammer. “I-I think it was around thirty cents? I didn’t count it.”
He’s not convinced, and I can feel that I’m in hot water. Then I remember more of Arkin’s letter. You are not to trust anyone, for nobody is as they seem. I wonder if my parents are really my parents, if they really love me, or if I’m just how they get their next paycheck. I push my chair away from the table and stand shakily.
“I’m feeling kind of nauseous, I think I’m going to lay down.” I say, my voice wispy and distant. Mom and Dad share a look.
“Are you sure, sweetie?” Mom says, her voice heavy with fake concern.
I throw my response over my shoulder as I head up the stairs, something about being fine and just tired. When I get to my room I shut the door behind me and get right to work. I snatch a backpack from my closet and unzip the top. The letter said to bring only what I need, and I look around my room. It’s hard to stomach, leaving all of this behind. I begin to scour around the room, picking objects a I go. When I’ve made may way around, the mound on my bedspread is gigantic and I know without even trying that I’ll need to downsize.
Four minutes and a bazillion items later, I’m ready for the trip.
I push open my window, then throw out my bag and swing my leg over the sill.
“Forgetting something?” a familiar voice asks from the doorway. I turn my head to see Mom standing in the entrance with the black pen. How could I have forgotten that? Arkin said it was my most important weapon and I neglected to add it into my escape plans.
“Give it to me.” I say, trying to make my voice sound authoritative.
“Give it to you?” taunts Mom. “And why should I do that? where did you even get this?” at this point, I’ve pulled myself back into the room and am facing the imposter who has played the role of my mother for the past sixteen years
“Let’s just say, Arkin was very enlightening.” I sneer. Her face falls and its as white as a sheet of copy paper.
“Arkin? Where?” there’s something resembling fear in her voice, then recognition flashes across her face. “There was a package, wasn’t there? That’s what was at the door this afternoon.” Its rhetorical, and I know it, but I can’t help making a snappy remark.
“I’m glad you worked it out, now we can both be on the same page.” I used to respect, even love this woman, but it turns out our relationship was strictly one-sided. “now give me the pen.” Her face hardens and she takes a step towards me and suddenly there’s a gun barrel in my face. She must’ve pulled it from the waistband of her designer pants, but I didn’t see it coming.
“I hate to do this, Melody. I was hoping we could continue as a family, but it seems that’s obviously no longer an option.” Her voice is cold and harsh, nothing like the tender, musical sound that I grew up with.
“We were never a family!” I cry, “You never loved me, I was just your job, nothing but a pebble in your shoe!” tears have begun to well up in my eyes, blurring my vision. Then, Mom’s expression changes. A new emotion takes its place upon the billboard of her face, accompanying anger and fear is… sorrow. Yes, sorrow. A single tear dribbles down her cheek and plops to the floor. Now’s my chance. I think, and lunge toward her, wrestling the gun from her limp hand driving the barrel under her chin, my finger poised on the trigger. But no matter how much I hate this woman, I know I could never hurt her. But she doesn’t know that.
“Don’t say a word.” I whisper harshly into her ear. “Give me the pen.” Her fingers open and the black pen lands on the thick carpet with a muffled thud. Slowly, I drop to my knee and pick it up. Then I draw a pair of pale-yellow handcuffs from my wall and bring them to life. They snap themselves on m mother’s wrists. I don’t bother with a key, because the last thing I want is this diabolical woman following me. Next, I create a roll of duct tape a cut a strip, then place it over her mouth. I pocket my pen and toss the remaining tape out the window to retrieve later. My mom is still crying. I crouch down before her.
“Cut the act, Mom.” I saw, matter-of-factly. “I can see right through you, and I won’t let you go.” She shakes her head and saws something through the tape covering her mouth, but I can’t understand it. I rise to my feet and make my way to the window and climb out, closing the curtain behind me.
And then I’m gone. Leaving behind my family, my home, my life. Heading South to meet Arkin, to meet my destiny.