Hathaway Brown School
Instructor: Elizabeth Armstrong
A ray of sunlight filtered through the half-opaque curtains, filling the bedroom with a warm glow. With headphones beaming soft melodies to block out external noises, a relaxed feeling washed over me. This feeling of peace and relaxation was always temporary and never lasted for more than a few hours. A better option, I thought to myself, was to simply not focus on anything else but the drawing I was creating. The piece was of a bluejay, gracefully perched on a branch as the sun shone on its face. The vibrant bird sat alone on its branch, unnerved by any outside distractions. The glossy residue of colored pencils on the paper reflected the sunlight as I held it up. Originally, the lonely bluejay was supposed to have other birds perched beside it, supposedly its mother and father. I decided to erase those extra birds from the sketch. They were unneeded anyways
I straightened my horrible posture. For the last two hours, without any breaks, I drew the bird, hunched over my desk. Licking my lips, I realized how cracked they were. My mouth was dry, and I felt a strong desire for water. I hesitated to take my headphones off, unwilling to break the happy warm feeling. Reluctantly sliding off my headphones onto my desk, my heart dropped into my stomach.
Beyond my bedroom door, wild screams and roars echoed throughout my house. Aggressive shouts and loud thuds were coming from downstairs. Swallowing, I sank deeper into the chair. I forced myself to get up and walk towards the door. As I approached it, the shouts grew progressively louder. The brick in my stomach fell deeper and deeper with every approaching step. Reaching for the doorknob, I took in a deep breath, preparing to walk into the battlefield.
I opened the door and a wave of panic washed over me. My parents were scowling, each trying to make their voice heard over the other. They shot arrows of toxic, harmful words at each other. Instead of the arrows puncturing the other's heart, they seemed to swivel around and stab me instead. My parents had shields to protect themselves from the hurtful words. Their shields developed over time, gradually growing stronger with each attack. They had experience making these shields sturdy, but I did not. My heart thudded my chest. I pressed my back against the door, rethinking my decision of escaping the peaceful sanctuary of my room. My cracked lips were on the verge of bleeding. I bit down on them as the unknown feeling settled deeper into my stomach.
I forced myself to take a step forward towards the railings, which overlooked the rest of my house. I gazed at the living room where my parents were shouting at each other and hadn't noticed their daughter had finally mustered up enough courage to leave her room. Making sure to not draw any attention, I crept down the hallway to the staircase which led to the kitchen. Once I came to the stairway, I silently pleaded to not be seen by the vicious warriors. I carefully placed one of my feet on the steps, clutching onto the railings to keep my balance. I let out a breath of relief, even though I had twelve more steps to go. I repeated what I did with the last step, only a little more confident this time.
The board under my foot creaked loudly. Its high-pitched squeal even caused my dad to pause what he was saying and look over my mother's shoulder. I froze, taking a sharp breath in. I had been caught on the battlefield. I pursed my lips together, shaking my head at my dad, in hopes that he could understand my silent pleas of wanting him to look away. My heart dropped into my stomach when my mother followed my dad's gaze and noticed my presence.
As soon as our eyes locked, I wanted to disappear. I wanted to sprint back to my room and collapse onto my bed. I wanted to run away and never come back unless I needed to. Instead, my legs and feet felt as heavy as massive slabs of granite.
"Look. There's your daughter," my mom crossly muttered to my dad, glaring at me. "Look at me, Harper. Don't you see that I have been suffering because of your dad? Your dad and his family have done this to me since you were born. Tell your father to explain what they've done to me."
My dad stood quietly, helplessly glancing at me. He and I shared the same goal: we wanted all the fighting to be over. Before these fights became more frequent, he had explained the whole situation to me, desperately trying to reassure me that nothing was his fault. I believed him, knowing my mom and her quick assumptions. She'd assumed that everyone on my dad's side of the family was against her. I knew for a fact, they weren't. Even though no one was against her, she took all her anger out on my dad. She took every small mistake into account. Every small incident that wasn't even related to his family, she would somehow blame it on them. When I was bullied by a group of snooty girls, whose fault was it? Apparently, it was my uncle's and aunt's fault. My mom would yell at my dad accusing him of telling his family to "target" her. All he could do was deny it, but that would cause my mother to revolt even more. Now, with no proof, my mom had finally concluded that I was against her, too, and was ready to do whatever it took to get rid of these pains. And I was one of these pains.
"Daddy didn't do anything," I argued to her. I froze, knowing what I got myself into. I prepared for the cascade of wounding words that would shower on me at any second.
"You naive little child," my mother snarled ferociously, taking a step towards the staircase. "What don't you understand? First your aunts and uncles, then your dad, and now you?" She turned to my dad, "I'm not sure why I even considered marrying you in the first place." Then she whipped around to face me, "And If I didn't marry him, I wouldn't have a little traitor like you." Her words caused me to wince. I felt tears start to pool in my eyes, but blinked them away.
"Leave Harper out of the fight," my dad responded coldly.
"No! Let her see what you've all done. I don't know why I didn't leave this house before."
Feeling a surge of anger pulse through my veins, I suddenly snapped at my mother. "Can you stop assuming stupid things for just a single day?" I paused, boldly staring into my mother's eyes. The tears in my eyes started to overflow. "I'm tired of you guys fighting. For the last few months, I wanted this to end. I'm sick of the constant screaming and shouting. You guys aren't even thinking about me anymore! You just want to fight your own battle and prove each other wrong." At this point, tears ran down my face. I knew I passed my line, but something in me didn't want to stop. Words, one after another, spilled from my mouth. "My life would be happier if you weren't around, mother. All of our lives would be better. Is it too much to ask that I want to be happy?" My voice cracked as I started wildly sobbing. All the tears I've been holding in for the last few months came gushing out. I leaned on the railings, too weak to support myself.
"Harper, you don't know when to back down at the right time. You should've stopped yourself when you had the chance. If you hated me so much. I might as well leave you and your ungrateful father," my mom spat. "I could perfectly live a happier and better life without you two."
Furiously, she strode towards one of the guest bedrooms. I stood on the steps, relieved but also worried that I spoke my mind. I knew I went too far. As I stared at the guest bedroom blankly. I saw my mom bring out a packed suitcase. Horror filled my gaze as I realized what was going to happen. I weakly tried to scramble down the staircase, my legs tremoring. My dad stood at the corner of the living room, somberly and lifelessly staring into the distance. He knew that nothing could be done anymore to heal the wounds caused by the battle. Before I knew it, I heard the garage door open and the door mercilessly slam shut.
"No!" I screamed, breaking down in more tears. Rushing to the garage, I watched the red sedan back out of the garage. As the car reached the driveway, I felt the urge to run after the car. "Mommy! No! I promise I didn't mean anything I said. Come back!"
Despite my parched throat and wobbling legs, I ran after my mom as she pulled out of the driveway. My bare feet thudded against the concrete. I desperately forced myself to run faster to catch up to my mom. My lungs pleaded for a small respite, but a final flame kept me going. Tiny pebbles and rocks jutted into my feet, causing me to abruptly stop and trip on the concrete. I watched the glistening red car drive out of my sight. Out of the neighborhood. Out of my life.
Though the battle had been won, I felt hollow and empty inside. I hauled myself up, but found myself back on the concrete with more tears pouring out of my eyes. When I looked up, I saw my dad crouching over me, checking my scraped knee. I leaned on my dad, wanting any words of solace from him. He was as heartbroken as I was, and no words escaped his mouth.
Overhead, despite the horrible situation, one blue jay happily sang on a branch. Fluttering to join the lonesome bluejay, two other birds gracefully landed onto the same branch, joining in with the singing. The additional blue jays had identical plumage to the first one, with black and white stripes lining their feathers. All three of the vibrant blue jays sat on the branch together, it made me feel a pang of sadness. They are a happy family, I thought to myself. My heart sank when the family of the three blue jays sang in harmony; the harmony that my family lacked. As I watched the bluejays in envy I tried to convince myself that everything would be okay with four words: She was unneeded anyways.