chapter one

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[tw: family death, bulimia]

The autumn breeze is swift yet cool, tickling my skin as it makes its journey through the dimming day. I stare up at the sky, its magnificent shades of blue dissolving into the golden orange hues of the glowing sun. Branches, barren of their rusted leaves save for a few, stretch high above, reaching for the infinite space above their tips.

A few fingers interlock with my own, and I turn my gaze to the smiling face of my mother. I grin too, comforted by the softness in her eyes, that stare never failing to make me feel safe.

"It's time to go home now, 'Trick," she says, nodding. I pout, pleading, "Just a little longer?"

The corners of her eyes crinkle as she shakes her head. "No, my love. It will be dark soon. We don't want to walk home in the dark, do we?"

A shiver makes its way down my spine; I do not like the dark. My grip tightens on her hand and she smiles again, gently leading the way down the sidewalk and out of the playground. As we tread, I continue to observe the world around me, but mostly the sky, and the sun setting to make room for the moon.

We round a corner and reach a busy intersection that we must cross. Many accidents have happened here; as if on cue, my mother whispers to me, "Never let go of my hand."

"Okay." We watch as cars rumble past, leaving whooshes of air in their wake. I notice the roads are not as packed as they usually are. My hold on my mother's hand loosens ever-so-slightly; she does not notice. I'm a big boy now, I think. And suddenly I am overwhelmed with the urge that I must cross the street on my own, to prove that I am grown, and how eventually, I must let everything go, starting with Mom's hand.

And so I did.

We are walking to the edge of the crossing, but the indicator is still red. Mid-step I completely detach from my mother and, seeing that there are no cars nearing, run down the thick white lines painted onto the asphalt. Exhilaration bursts through me. I am doing it, I think. I am crossing the street by myself.

I am three-fourths of the way there when I hear my mother scream my name in abject horror. I halt and turn around to see her, pushing her way through a group of people. Her heeled boots make it difficult to run, I notice; but soon she too is on the crossing, frantically making her way towards me, hands outstretched. The indicator is still red.

Suddenly it is as if time has slowed down. A car I thought was farther down has caught up, and I see the driver, his gaze incredulous as he glances at me. And then he sees my mother, who is directly in front of him, and I know he is attempting to break or swerve or something, but it is too late; I have distracted him. The vehicle slams into my mom.

I scream as her body crumples and flies forward, skidding onto the concrete in a series of sickening crunches. Cars now disregard the traffic lights and halt completely as people get out. I rush to her, tears streaming down my face, kneeling next to her and thinking no no no please God no Mom wake up its okay you're okay just get up, and then I am pulled away from her lifeless body that is oozing blood and I cry. The surrounding adults are talking to me, asking me questions, but I do not speak. I cannot speak. My voice is gone, and I cannot find it. It went away with my mother.

The flashback dissipates in my mind and my eyes are filled with tears. It takes me a few seconds to realize I'm in bed, shaking, the covers pulled up to my chin. I hear shuffling at the door of my room and quickly swipe at my eyes, sitting up to see my father at the doorway, his tired gaze filled with vague concern. He knows I've had a nightmare and nods slightly, as if such a gesture would bring me comfort from reliving that traumatic experience.

critical veins || peterick au [REVISED/REWRITTEN]Where stories live. Discover now