*Nainika’s Note* Ok, to those of you who have seen Smurf’s: The Lost Village, tell me you didn’t immediately think of Smurfette when you read this prompt? Like the beginning of the movie when they were showing Smurfette trying all the trades of the individual smurfs but always doing horribly? This is completely unrelated to my story, (which by the way I wrote literally in less than two hours, so it’s not the best thing I’ve written) I just wanted to point that out - and maybe you didn’t make the connection, and my brain will perpetually be that of a 5-year-old…
My parents always told me that I could be anything I wanted to be. That’s what every parent tells their kid, right? But we all know that what they’re really trying to say, is to choose their preferred career, and along the way, they’d have nudged you along, until finally, you think you choose that path under your willpower.
I, too, fell into that trap. I was Roux Steele, daughter of famed doctors, Patrick and Violetta Steele, Ph.D., MD. It was basically the reason I was born. Everyone wanted me to become a doctor too, continuing on the family legacy. And I found myself eager to do the same. Until I was about to move into my dorm at Stanford, and I thought to myself, am I really doing something I want? The answer, if you haven’t guessed, was no. So I threw my unpacked bags back into my car, kissed my dumbfounded parents goodbye, and with a whopping $1,200 to my name, earned from babysitting, allowances, and birthdays, turned onto West I-88 and just…drove.
“Ma’am, do you have any idea the speed I clocked you at?” The cop stood outside my car door, hands looped in his belt buckles, and handlebar mustache twitching with every gust of wind that came from the trucks speeding down I-80. I tried and failed, to stifle a giggle, something that made him frown even harder. If such a thing were even possible. “Something the matter, ma’am?” I shook my head and dug out my wallet from the center console.
“Sorry, officer. I have no excuse. It was just caffeine-fueled.” I said, handing him my driver’s license. He glanced at it, and did a double-take, peering at me in the waning afternoon light.
“Steele? As in, Patrick-” I sighed. Even in the middle of Nebraska, my parents were famous.
“Yes, as in the daughter of Violetta and Patrick Steele.” He paused for a moment, then handed me back my license.
“I’ll let you off with a warning this time, but next time, you won’t be so lucky.” He nodded at me and turned to walk away. I stared at his retreating form, internally fuming. My parents still found ways to control my life, even when they were halfway across the country. I pulled out of the stopped lane, put on my sunglasses, and took the first exit. York, Nebraska. This was to be my new home. I was done living life the way my parents intended, and damn anyone who tried to stop me.
***1 year later***
“So, you don’t like baking, you don’t like painting, nor do you like square-dancing. Is there anything you do like?” My best friend, Daniel Courgin, looked at me exasperatedly. He was decked head to toe in frosting, blond hair sticking straight up, and glasses askew over his blue eyes. I crossed my arms, which was difficult to do in my lemon-meringue flecked borrowed apron.
His poor kitchen looked as if a tornado had crossed through it, which in my case, was very similar to a natural disaster. I was in the middle of a mid-life crisis, happening in my early twenties. After turning down the exit to York, Nebraska, I had made a life for myself in the dusty town and found my best friend there. But recently, I had felt like I didn’t belong, hence my baking disaster.
I had a job, started my own real estate business, that despite being in the middle of Nebraska, was doing quite well. However, I didn't want to become my parents, all work and no play. So, my idea was to pick a hobby and stick with it, finally doing something unique to me, and only me, but so far, nothing was clicking. Painting had ended in the same way, with my frustration finally ending up with me chucking the paint water at Danny, who ducked, obviously, which was bad news for his living room window. Let’s just say, I’d never seen him that mad and exasperated before.
And then square-dancing. Oh boy. I had arrived at the place with Danny in high spirits and was asked to leave almost exactly five minutes later after elbowing someone into their drinks, which had started a bar fight. It…was not the best five minutes of my life. I’m pleased to report that as Danny was dragging me out of there, I managed to get a few punches in, and wore my subsequent black eye as a trophy of honor for the next week.
I pulled out my list and consulted it.
“Well, we have a few outdoor ones next?” I said hesitantly, trying not to smile at his unamused expression.
“Good.” He grunted as a glob of frosting slid from his shirt onto the floor.
“Well, how was I supposed to know that you needed to put the cover on the blender before turning it on?” I said, my hands on my hips. He glowered and opened his mouth to say something, but I held my hands out. “Say no more. Say no more. I shall get going.” Danny rolled his eyes. Snickering, I ran out of the kitchen and into the bathroom.
After cleaning myself up, I headed back into the kitchen. Danny was a force of nature, already finished up cleaning the meringue and was just putting the numerous dishes I’d used into the dishwasher.
“I’m ready!” I announced, sailing into the kitchen. He looked at me, annoyed, before wiping his hands and taking his apron off.
“Where are we going, India?” Danny asked, hanging up the rag he was cleaning with. I looked over my list.
“Hiking!” I chirped. Danny sighed.
“Come on, then, let’s go. I want you to find your hobby by the end of the day.” I smiled, jumping on the balls of my feet.
“Yay!” We walked into the garage and got into Danny’s rusted red pickup truck.
“India, we’re gonna go to the park, because there are a bunch of long trails winding around the lake.” I nodded, watching eagerly out the window.
“UGH,” I said, groaning at the sight of cornfields, cornfields, and even more cornfields, “I don't think Nebraska is the state for hiking. We’re done.” Danny, almost twenty feet in front of me rolled his eyes.
“We just started walking!” I looked back, and saw the glint of sun on his pick-up truck, and turned around.
“It was long enough.” I said over my shoulder. Danny caught up to me, shielding his eyes from the sun.
“Then what is your next one?” I scratched my head.
“Gardening?” He pursed his lips.
“I mean, I don’t have a garden, but my sister does. We can go see if she’ll let you care for her plants.” I smiled.
“AHH!” I screamed, flinging a clump of dirt behind me, which, unfortunately for Dan, landed on his head. Dirt showered down his hair, and he groaned, shaking his head.
“What is it now?” I shuddered, ripping off my gardening gloves, and dusting my jeans off.
“There was a bug!” I said, taking my shoes off and dumping them out to make sure there was no creepy crawlies hiding there.
“That’s kind of the point of gardening.” Danny pointed out, sighing in exasperation. He ran his fingers through his hair and unearthed a small rolly-polly. “This is what you were scared of?” He asked, amused. I nodded so fast, my ponytail loosened.
“It’s absolutely disgusting.” I said. Danny got up, dusting his overalls off.
“Alright then. Gardening and hiking are gone. What’s left?” I didn’t need to check my list. I had unconsciously memorized them.
“Reading and crocheting.” Danny sighed.
“Fine. And then I’m done?” I nodded.
“Great. After today, I need a break. Preferable across the state from you.” I pouted. “I’m joking, Jesus Christ. You are so high maintenance.” I smiled, elbowing him.
“I HATE THIS!” I roared, flinging my sewing needles across the room. Danny ducked, yelling in outrage as they punched holes in his walls.
“STOP DESTROYING MY HOUSE!” he yelled back at me. I sighed, slumping in my seat.
“Am I ever going to find something I like?” He glowered at me, running a hand over the holes in his disgusting wallpaper. In my mind, the holes complimented the horrible yellow and pink stripes. I looked down at the small line I’d managed to crochet, which was so frustrating. The endless loops. The impatience of me. I just didn’t like it. Danny got up, putting aside his beanie he’d managed to complete in the past fifteen minutes, and stalked over to his bookshelf, muttering angrily. He yanked off a book, and stomped back over to me, dumping it in my hands.
“Read this. And for Christ’s sake. DON’T MOVE FROM HERE!” I shrunk back at his raised voice, then turned the book over to read the title. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austin. Hmm. I opened the cover and was immediately engrossed in the story of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. I looked up at Danny, who was slumped in his loveseat, eyes closed, and smiled.
He’d done it. He’d helped me find a hobby all my own: Reading.