My finger shook violently as I pushed the doorbell. What if she doesn’t even live here anymore? As I waited with bated breath for someone to come to the door, she entered my mind. I wondered how she would look after ten whole years. I wondered if she kept her silky red hair short or long. I wondered if her personality would even be similar at all. She could be a complete stranger. In ten years someone could have very well turned from the sweetest red-headed girl into a monster. I could only wait and see. My heart ached just waiting. I needed her now more than ever.
The door creaked open and there she stood. It was almost surreal. Her beautiful red hair was up in a messy bun on top of her head. Her dark eyes were staring at me with a flash of recognition. A slow smile crept across her face revealing her no longer toothless smile I remembered from all those years ago.
“Jonah? What are you doing here,” She paused, unsure of what to do.
“Hi Ariel…,” I said, staring into those eyes intently. She flung her arms around me and wrapped me into a tight hug that seemed to last hours. She was so warm in my arms…I almost rethought my plan. Too quickly the hug ended.
“Oh my gosh, come in, come in,” She said, opening the door wider. Ariel motioned for me to follow her.
Inside her house looked exactly the same. A wave of pain washed over me as the familiarity of it all hit me. I sniffed at the same apple-cinnamon smell in the air as I followed Ariel up the rug covered steps and down a small hallway. We stopped at the last door and she opened it.
“As you can see it sort of darkened over the years,” She said with a chuckle.
And change it did. The once girly pink walls with purple butterflies was replaced with gray walls with black quotes. The once pink ruffled bed sheets were now a solid black and gray. The curtains? Black and gray. Everywhere I looked was black and gray. But I don’t know why it terrified me so much. Those were the colors I saw inside my head. Those were the colors the world was tinted now. Those were the colors of the figurative clouds above my head at all times. I rubbed my eyes to make sure the colors I was seeing now were actually there.
I pulled my eyes away from the new room and looked at Ariel. She was smiling at me expectantly.
“Jonah…I missed you so much,” She said, tears welling in her eyes. “I was so worried…I cried for days after. I didn’t even know you were leaving…I didn’t get to say goodbye….”
The tears were flowing from her eyes, down her pale cheeks and into the sweater she was wearing. I wrapped her into my arms and held her tight.
“I’m sorry,” Was the only thing I could muster.
“Why Jonah, why?” She sniffed into my shirt. I figured now would be a good time to tell her everything.
I sat down on her bed and looked at Ariel. This was going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Well, second hardest.
“I…I killed my dad,” I said, immediately regretting the words I spoke. Ariel’s face told me what I was afraid of, I was a monster.
“You…you what? Why?” Ariel struggled to get the words out. As her hand reached up to cover her mouth in horror, I almost cried. I couldn’t lose her, I needed her.
“Ariel you don’t understand…,” I said, trying with all my heart to get her back on my side.
“THEN MAKE ME!” She screamed. “Make me understand or…or I’m calling the cops.”
“Ariel… he was a rotten man. You have to believe me. He hit me…hit my mom. That’s why we moved all those years ago. To get away from the questioning eyes. I was practically tortured by watching my mom get hit every night. Every night, Ariel!” The words were tumbling out of me like vomit. I got up and knocked a picture off her dresser, realizing only after that it was a picture of us at five. Glass shattered everywhere. Ariel jumped back, looking at me with horror. I couldn’t take it anymore, I was losing her.
“Didn’t you notice the scars? The bruises? Heh. Guess not. But it’s fine, my mom is safe now. I’m not fine though. I killed him. I couldn’t take it. Pulled the gun right up to his head. One shot and he’s crying out for help. Two shots, he’s silent. Three shots for good luck. Bang. Bang. Bang. “ A sick little smile spread across my face at the memory. I pulled a gun out of my sweater. Ariel screamed but I was beyond the point of caring.
“Bang…bang…bang. I’m not safe, Ariel. I can’t stay here. I’m sorry. You are honestly the best thing that’s happened to me. But we’re not five anymore. I…I wish we were. I wish we were….”
I looked her straight in the eye, pulled the gun up to my head and bang. There was nothing more than darkness. And the last thing I saw before I was gone forever was the swish of Ariel’s red hair as she tried to stop me. That exquisitely silky red hair.
Outside my window, there are clouds. Soft clouds that take me away to a dream-like world. A place some people say doesn’t even exist. In the depths of my heart, I know it does. I fly up and up and up. A real smile creeps across my face for the first time in awhile. In this dreamlike place, the gates open up and relief washes over me. In this place, I am no longer in the shadow, but instead I am in the light with everyone else. I hear the most angelic music and I sway back and forth. I finally know what happiness is. Here in this surreal place there is unlimited food. I eat and eat and eat and the person in the mirror never changes. Here in this surreal place, there is no such thing as the word stress. I am so happy I start to dance. I twirl and twirl and twirl until I fall, laughing until I can’t breathe. Then suddenly the soft clouds aren’t so soft anymore. They’re looming and they take me back. Back through those gates. Way back down to this hospital bed. Back to the real world where no one notices me, where I am merely just a convenience. Back to a world where the person in the mirror does change. Back to a world where I don’t dance or laugh. Back to a world where I don’t even know what happiness is. I stay in this world overridden with shadows. I close my eyes. I breathe in. Breathe out. And breathe in for the last time ever. The last thing I hear is the beeping of the machines struggling to keep me in a world I am desperately trying to get out of.