Laboriously, Bronwyn picks porcelain teapot up from the mahogany table with a trembling grip. Her eyes are directed towards the cream-colored pot, but she can feel the burning stare that penetrates her lace-covered back.
"Faster, Bronwyn," Lise admonishes, a glimpse of disappointment washing through her eyes.
The tea pours into the cup with such a class of un-gracefulness, moistening the table as if flies in the air and cascades back onto the table, that Lise holds a hand out in front of Bronwyn's face.
"Enough, enough. I'm disappointed in you, Bronwyn. You may return to your quarters."
Bronwyn frowns, her lips pressed so tightly together that they may disappear.
Her tears balance on her eyelids like a tightrope, threatening to topple over the edge at any given moment.
With a quick nod of her auburn hair, Bronwyn hurries up the marble steps and collapses on her laced bed.
She replays the moment in her head when Lise, her older sister, had told her that she was disappointed. The worst kind of disappointment designated to yourself comes from somebody you look up to.
Bronwyn was not surprised in the least, though. She had never been a fan of the elegant, dainty life she was designed to fulfill, nor had the talent to fulfill it. Though the outside of the mansion is beautiful, with its stunning stone walls and gorgeous surrounding shrubs, the inside is like a cage.
It encloses Bronwyn in a world where her life is planned out in every detail. It's almost as if she is trapped in a jar, watching herself become somebody she's not, sitting helpless with her hands pressed against the glass. She's a-girl-in-a-jar.
Lise is different. She enjoys her life, engulfed in lace and tea-cups and lushes houses. In fact, she is the one who insisted her sister take lessons with her, so she could learn to pour a tea-pot correctly and curtsy gracefully.
As you can see, it didn't turn out very well.
Bronwyn stares out her window, grabbing the notepad with a half-finished sketch of a tree. Actually, it is more of a cluster of penciled scribbles, but calling it a tree makes Bronwyn feel prominent.
Lise had encouraged her to try art, because "it can stimulate the flow of your mind,"
Bronwyn laughs to herself, remembering what her sister had said.
For a moment, Bronwyn is just a regular kid, lying on her bed. She imagines growing wings and flying away, leaving everything behind her. She imagines that there are dominos and that when she decides to, she can push one and watch the rest tumble down.
If only, she thinks. If only it was as easy as that.
As Bronwyn sits in her room, a feeling begins to grow inside of her. It's bubbling, seeping over the edges. She ignores it, but it is inevitable.
She begins to hum, hoping for something - anything - to distract her.
All she can do is mummble a tune hoarsely, lying supine on her bed, desperately waiting for a wave to pick up her mind and let it drift away, guiding her farther from land, or in this case, the feeling she has.
The wave never comes.
Finally, she gives in. Soon enough, Bronwyn is dressed in the least posh thing she can find - a beautiful designer knitted sweater and leggings. She had stolen this years ago, saving it for a moment like this.
Now, all I must do is get past Lise, Bronwyn thinks.
But, when she makes her way down the stairs, Lise is nowhere in sight.
Bronwyn makes her way out and starts running. Past the garden, through the gateway, and finally, onto the pavement of the road. It seems to stretch on forever, winding in various directions, but she is determined to make it into civilization. The air splashes against Bronwyn's face as if it were water, refreshing as if drips down her face. Her intricate braid is tossed from side to side and she sprints. Her legs are burning, but it feels good and exhilarating to let out the stinging sensation inside.
After almost two hours of running, Bronwyn's face is plastered with sweat. Though she had rolled up the sleeves of the sweater, she could not keep out the heat.
Bronwyn didn't have a care in the world about these minor details, though.
This was the most alive she had felt in such a while that she laughs to herself with the purest of glee.
It felt good to get away from the cage people insisted was her house.
By now, Bronwyn can see houses and cars and, well, normal people. It's nothing she is used to - the cookie-cutter shaped houses, the short trees in yards, the regularly dressed people walking their dogs down the street. Bronwyn almost feels embarrassed, as if these people will turn her away and kick her out of their lovely, cozy neighborhood.
The only thing that catches Bronwyn by surprise is the air. It's not as crisp and clean, but it has a certain smell. A smell that says: people live here, you are not alone.
It's actually the smell of fresh bagels, drifting from a corner cafe. It lulls Bronwyn, and soon she's sitting down with a bagel.
She's never felt this normal. It's as if she's taken the bars of the cage and ripped them apart.
Bronwyn turns her head to find an old man staring at her. He has a scratchy beard and pale skin, and sunken, green-gray eyes.
"As I was saying, I was sitting here."
"Oh my... I'm so sorry! I had no idea. Here, take the seat back," Bronwyn exclaims with panic. She scoots out of the chair and holds it out for the old man to sit in.
Once he's settled, he looks up at her.
"I'm am so sorry. Do you want me to buy you something, or..."
"Not necessary," the old man cuts off. He smiles a warm smile, and something about it comforts Bronwyn. "I'm Roberto. Call you Rob. You are..."
"Bronwyn Amber Smith," Bronwyn says formally, stopping herself before she curtsies because even she is aware that it would be strange.
"What are you doing here alone? You're what? 12?"
"Well," Rob says. "Have a seat, Bronwyn."
Bronwyn smiles and settles into the chair, taking a bite of the warm, crunchy bagel. She closes her eyes and lets the warmth of it all sink in.
"You new here? Newbies love the bagels," Rob says with a laugh as Bronwyn nods vigorously.
"I come from a place much different from here," Bronwyn says with a proud nod.
Rob smiles. "I come from the army."
"Really," Bronwyn says, curiosity seeping into her voice. "Well, tell me about it!"
"It's a long story, child," Rob warns.
"I'm ready," Bronwyn persists. She continues munching on her bagel, and then props her head upon her elbow as if to say, go on.
"Ok, ok. It begins a little over 45 years ago. I was 18. Much younger, as you can see." He motions to his scruffy beard. "Anyways, I was drafted for the army. I did not want to go - I cried, I screamed, and I held onto my parents every second until I had to leave. But when I did go, I loved it. At night we would play cards and relax, and in the day we trained. I made many friends and cherished my time. instead of looking at the situation as "I got drafted for the army" I started to think of it as "I'm honoring my country" The training, the friends, all of it was good. Then one day all of us were packed and armed on a plane for an event called "The Hearts of Cam". After a 5 hour flight, we arrived on an island called Cam. It was very poor, and the people gave us strange looks. I remember landing on the coast of the island, the sand spraying everywhere. I had no idea what we were doing. Turned out, we were packing Christmas gifts for them. We took hours wrapping presents and delivering them. It was by far the sweetest thing I had ever done. It was a historic event in Cam. We packed gifts for the kids and food and water for families. I remember this sweet little girl who had eyes like emeralds. Like yours, actually. She said to me 'Thank you, thank you so, so much.' She started crying and then ran back to her family. Happy tears, I hope."
"That's amazing, Rob," Bronwyn says. "That's so sweet."
Rob nods. "My favorite part."
Bronwyn thinks about this for a moment. "Oh my gosh, Rob. Thank you! Thank you, Rob!" It's as if a lightbulb has appeared over her head.
Without waiting for Rob's response, Bronwyn jumps from the chair and begins to run again, until she finds herself at the beginning of the long winding that took her hours to run.
This is the faster she has ever run, the wind slapping her on the cheeks. Her braid has become a big tangled mess, and her sweater is sprinkled with poppy-seeds from the bagel.
Still, Bronwyn runs.
I am going to take my clothes, I am going to donate. I am going to be like Rob.
Run. Run. Run.
Why should I get this when others don't? The people of Cam need this more than I do. I don't need this lace and poshness.
She has found her wings, she has pushed down the dominos.
The girl-in-the-jar has shattered the glass. She's free.