I came here to escape. Leave the debris and avoid the inevitable truths.
Things are better. Worse. Different. I’m finding me, but in the process I fear I’m forgetting those I have left, and the ones who have left me. Maybe I’m losing who I was. Can I forget my past and move forward? Can I forget him?
The rest of my family arrives with the late afternoon. There’s an awkward trepidation surrounding each of them before they approach me, and although it makes me feel slightly guilty, I’m a little grateful for it as well. It allows me to soak into a familiar level of numbness that only seems to briefly break when Jameson arrives. His familiar smile falters when he sees me, but he replaces it quickly and pulls me into a hug. Chicken pot pie is our family’s traditional Christmas Eve dinner, and although I was glad to not have a traditional meal on Thanksgiving with Fitz’s family, I’m even more glad to have the comforting aroma and taste of my mom’s chicken pot pie. “Ace, do you want some more bread?” Savannah asks, lifting the bread basket and tilting it in my direction. I think I’ve already had this same question posed to me nine other times. “I’m good thanks.” “How about some more fried apples?” my mom asks, doing as Savannah had and reaching for the bowl in front of her. I try to think of a polite way to tell them all to stop bothering me about eating when a glint catches my eye with my mom’s movement. My hand snatches hers and before I realize what I’m doing, I’m gripping her hand too tightly. Bile rises in my throat, forcing me to swallow painfully. “We were going to tell you all tonight,” she begins. Her hand grows rigid and she attempts to slip her fingers from my hold. I squeeze tighter. “We wanted you to all find out together.” “What in the hell is wrong with you?” I shout, dropping her hand and retracting mine because I don’t want to touch her. I don’t even want to look at her. I shove my chair back and stand up, not caring what the others are doing in reaction. “Harper Jo, sit down,” my mom orders, her voice louder than I’ve heard it in years, possibly ever. I keep walking. Her quick footsteps follow me. I know that it’s her because of the sound of her heels. My mom has always worn shoes to dinner, and ninety percent of her shoe closet consists of high heels, and right now this fact annoys the hell out of me. I turn to face her when I reach the kitchen. My mouth opens, preparing to let loose on the anger fueling me, but she beats me to it. “You get back in there this instant! You do not get to judge me, young lady. This is my house, and in my house you respect me. Now get back in there and eat something. You look horrible.” Her tone inflicts a pain that I want to return. “It hasn’t even been a year!” The volume of my accusation hurts my own ears. “Did you ever even love him?” Her face contorts, changing from shock to anger to something that looks nearly wicked. “That’s quite the question coming from you, when you packed your bags and left everyone without looking over your shoulder.” “I hate you right now.” My voice comes out balanced and heat races through me. I was never the rebellious teenager. In all of my life, I never did scream these same words at my mom like I’d heard Mindi, Jenny, Kendall, and even Savannah do on different occasions. But right now, all I feel toward her is hatred that blinds me from any other emotion. “I’m not so fond of you lately either, kiddo.” “Then why in the hell did you make such a big deal about me coming home?” “It was a mistake.” Her light blue eyes look glacial as she stares directly into mine without a hint of regret or remorse. “I guess you can add it to your list, behind getting engaged within seven months of your husband dying.” My words are far quieter this time. I don’t have the energy to scream them at her like I want to. I use the small amount of what is left to turn before she can respond and head out to the backyard. My pain feels like a living, breathing thing, consuming me inch by inch as her words play over in my head. My mom’s getting married. The heat that had filled me seconds ago fades, replaced by an icy chill. As I look into the pool that once only held fun and an escape, my body begins to sway. I want to escape again. I want to escape from everything. Not even the familiar pool holds a warm embrace for me. The water is far cooler than what it has always been kept at, making my skin prickle as I sink further into the abyss. I open my eyes as I go, looking out into a never ending sea of blue. Arms grab me before I can fully appreciate the beauty of the water and the bubbles floating from my throat to the surface where blurred lights dance. They pull me against a large body that feels sharp in contrast to the open water. As we plunge through the surface, into the night air, I hear him take in a deep breath. He is still anchoring me against him, pulling me toward the shallow end. I don’t resist. I don’t know what I was doing coming in here. I’m sure he’s thinking I’m insane, or trying to kill myself. I’m not. I wasn’t. I just needed to feel something that didn’t hurt.
Mariah Dietz lives in Eastern Washington with her husband and two sons that are the axis of her crazy and wonderful world. Mariah grew up in a tiny town outside of Portland, Oregon where she spent the majority of her time immersed in the pages of books that she both read and created. She has a love for all things that include her sons, good coffee, books, travel, and dark chocolate. She also has a deep passion for the stories she writes, and hopes readers enjoy the journeys she takes them on, as much as she loves creating them.