I woke to the daily pounding coming from the backyard, where my father stood smashing random belongings of our house. It was the same each day as my father had been doing this for years now, and when he ran out of objects to break, he merely bought more. The madness was never-ending.
I glanced at the clock then quickly hopped out of bed, as I knew I would be late to school if I did not leave soon. I threw my sheets off then groggily walked over to my desk, which was covered in my books as I was trying to complete my homework the night before. I stuffed the books into my bag as well as neatly put in my work clothes before running downstairs. I grabbed a cereal bar and glanced at my father through the back-door window, currently throwing a plate down, the ceramic one covered in flowers which he had only had bought last week. I quickly put my earnings from last week on the table, using a plastic bowl we had as a paperweight.
I sighed before yelling, “I’m leaving for school” to which there was no response, but I mean, there never was.
I felt relieved as I left the house, the cool winter air brushing against my face. Any time I spent outside that house was a blessing, whether it be school or work.
I stopped for a minute to fetch my wallet out of my bag. In the right-leather pocket, there was $2,000 in cash. In light of my circumstances, I had decided that once high school was over, I would leave everything. I was not sure where or when I was going, but I knew that I had to. I had began saving up for this from when I got my first job years ago, lying to my father that the hourly pay was always $2 less than what it really was. I kept my other $2,000 stashed in the woods where I knew he would never find it. I scanned the area around me, looking to see if anyone was around, before putting the wallet carefully back in my bag.
I arrived to my school and attended classes as usual: Chemistry then Chorus then Calculus followed by my favorite class, American Literature. These were the stories that whisked me away to a different time and place where I could imagine that nothing in my life was real. I could experience the life that I wanted though I knew I would never be able to. I travelled to different realms, meeting so many people that my head spun. It was a dream, but the hour always ended, and reality came knocking.
After school, I arrived to the Italian restaurant close by, where I had been working for the last three years. When I started, I had not been old enough to technically work there, so I had to beg for the job, convincing the manager for almost an entire month. Though the process was tiring, it was worth it. The hours were long with good pay and employee benefits.
It was a Monday, so my shift lasted five hours till 9 o’ clock. As the last customers left through our doors, we all cleaned the tables and settled down to have dinner of our own. I made polite conversation with my coworkers but never really felt the need to include personal details. I preferred not to get too attached to anyone or anything as I was going to leave someday anyways. Following employee dinner, I walked back to my house. I glanced around at the dark street I was walking down which once used to scare me, thinking about how far I had come. Before I could delve deeper into my thoughts, I arrived at the front gate of my house.
I swung it open then walked to the front door, unlocking it with my keys. I walked to the living room and then looked through the back-door window. Like every other day, my dad sat faced away from the house with a bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other. His eyes lay upon the apple tree in the middle of the yard. The apple tree which I had once loved had become a representation of everything that was wrong in my life. My mom had planted it when we moved into the house, and they both had always picked the apples together, a sort of tradition. When she died, it stood as a reminder of my mom and how happy we had all once been, but as time went on, it became a fixation for my father.
Night after night, he sits there staring at it, drinking to his sadness and his longing for her. Our family, if I can even call it that anymore, has been torn apart ever since. We’ve barely held any conversations since then, let alone even had a meal together. He has never once asked me about how I miss her or how anything in my life is.
Despite this lack of verbal communication, he becomes angrier than ever when I do not give him money on time. That is the extent of our relationship. I provide money for the two of us through my various jobs, and he squanders it on alcohol, cigarettes, and glass items.
After staring at my father for a couple minutes, I ran up to my room and opened the door to find that the entirety of it was thrown and disassembled. My clothes were all on the ground, my mirror shattered, and my books had their pages torn out. I felt the air being sucked out of me. This is where I drew my limit. I do not care if he did this in a drunken frenzy, but he did this. And I did every single thing I could for this family. I had no friends, no life. All I did was school and work since the day my mom died. I earned money to keep us alive, never fighting him on how he lived his life. I never expected him to help in any way, but this was too much. I crouched down beside my books, tears escaping down the sides of my cheeks. He destroyed my only comfort from all of this.
I couldn’t do this anymore.
Wiping my tears, I stood up, taking a good look at my room for the last time. I grabbed a couple of my books, hoping to take them along with me despite the torn pages. I then ran downstairs and frantically put my shoes on. I stuffed my books into my bag and grabbed some more cereal bars out of the pantry. I was making a ruckus in the kitchen with all my running, more like stomping, but he did not even look away from the tree. Of course, he wouldn’t notice if I left, probably wouldn’t even notice till next Monday when there would be no money on the table. I grabbed my bag, slinging it across my shoulders.
I walked out the door into the chilly night. Everything was pitch black around me, but I knew where I was headed. The time was now. I crossed the street, heading to the backyard of the facing house. The forest behind it stretched for miles and miles, a perfect place to hide belongings. I wanted to leave this town as quickly as possible; I needed my money tonight.
So I headed into the forest.
Once there, I took a flashlight out of my bag and shone it all around me, scanning for animals and any dangers. Not seeing anything, I advanced through the trees and low-hanging vines, carefully stepping around the patches of poison ivy. As I neared to my hiding spot, I could tell a glowing light of some sort was coming from the tree it was under. I squinted, unable to tell what it was at first, but I suddenly saw her.
I screamed, dropping my flashlight at the same. Oh my god. Oh my god. Still screaming, a million thoughts were running through my head. I must be going crazy. No, I am crazy. No, I am dead. When did I die? How did I die? Can you die from poison ivy? You can be crazy and dead, can’t you? Maybe, I’m both. Or maybe this is the afterlife. I should keep walking, shouldn’t I? Yes, I think I should. Okay, pick up the flashlight now.
I slowly picked up the flashlight, still afraid but in awe of what I saw. I began advancing towards the tree, unable to take my eyes off of her as I moved closer. I hadn’t seen my mom in 6 years. I remember staring at her lifeless body in the casket through my heavy tears, pleading her not to me leave me, telling her I loved her more than anything in the world. And here she was in front of me. She looked almost ethereal, so calm and beautiful that I was afraid to get closer. She stared at me too, with a comforting look on her face. After what felt like an hour, I reached a trembling hand out to see if she was real or maybe a hallucination.
She grabbed my hand and softly looked into my eyes saying, “It’s okay. It’s okay. I’m here now. It’s okay.” She pulled me into an embrace, and the tears began to pour down my face.
I looked up at her. “Mom, I’ve missed you so much.”
“I have too, but I’ve always been right with you.”
She broke our embrace and point at the path ahead, so we began walking. Neither of us said much, but I was at my most content just knowing she was next to me. I took in my surroundings, now more beautiful than ever as the sky had come alive too. The sun was yet to have risen, but the glow created on the forest was phenomenal. We passed a mother deer and her fawn, eating some grass alongside others. We came upon a patch of wildflowers, swirling with different colors. I stopped for a second to admire the beauty, and my mom seeming to have noticed my liking for the field, picked a couple of wildflowers and handed them to me. I took them and smiled, content with our time together. We walked a little more until we were in a clearing, with no trees or branches blocking the sky.
My mom turned to me with a comforting smile on her face.
“It’s going to be okay. Go home,” she said.
Suddenly, everything went black. I began panicking as everything felt like it was moving around me. The ground felt shaky, and I could not see anything in front of me. I tried to scream but nothing came out. I breathed heavily, trying to survive whatever was happening to me. It stopped.
I opened my eyes, lying on the ground and looking up at the sky. I got to my feet and looked around me, unsure of where my mom was. I couldn’t find her anywhere. I doubted that she was real for a split second until my eyes fell upon what lay on the ground. I scooped up the wildflowers in my hand, still fresh and beautiful.
I knew what I had to do. I turned on the path, now walking back to my house. The sky had gotten brighter, and I was now closer. I swung open my front, prepared to hear the smashing of glass from my backyard, but I heard nothing. The house was silent, so silent in fact that I was scared. I searched the whole house for him, but he was nowhere to be found. I ran back downstairs, trembling at this point.
That’s when I saw it. The apple tree had been cut, sawed in half essentially. I was shocked at what I had seen, and beside it, there lay a small note and an apple used as a paperweight.
It read, “I’m so sorry for the pain I caused you. I’m sorry I wasn’t a better father. And this is for the best, your mother thought so too. It’ll be ok. I love you.”
I began breathing heavier, questioning what he had meant by it was for the best. Before I could think any farther, the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find four policemen staring straight back at me. Before they even began, I knew what had happened.
They began with, “We’re very sorry to inform you that your father has passed away…jumped off the Tower Bridge.” My eyes had glazed over, and I barely remember speaking to them and shutting the door. I walked outside and sat in front of the fallen apple tree. I buried my hands into my eyes as I sobbed for what felt like forever. My tears had finally stopped, but I felt a strange feeling that someone was watching me.
I raised my eyes to find that my mom and dad both stood in front of me, glowing in an unearthly way. They smiled at me, and I smiled back, knowing they were at peace now. They were gone in another blink of an eye.
So I stared at the sky, watching it get lighter and lighter as the sun rose. It was a day for new beginnings.