I'm out of my bed before my alarm clock can let out an air-screeching ring. I haven't slept a solid minute since I said goodnight to my father a few hours ago. I've been wide awake for most of the night; pacing the entire house, painting my nails a pale-blue, checking my luggage to make sure I have everything ready for my new life in a major city – New York. The mere thought of stepping foot on New York ground makes it hard to breathe.
I haven't traveled outside of the tiny dot on every map everywhere otherwise known as Hawkins, Georgia in all the eighteen years of my life, which worsens the tight knot inside of my stomach. I'm going to New York City to study my greatest passion, ballet, and in the notorious school with an incredible alumni list – Juilliard.
Thinking about where I will be in a few hours makes my bones ache and heart pound as I neatly tuck the corners of my bedsheet against the headboard. A conflicted smile conquers my face. This will be the last time I'll be doing this. A day from now, I'll be spreading a new bed in the Big Apple.
Before I can get too wrapped up in emotions I don't have time for, I walk over to my dresser and get dressed in a simple tank top and shorts. I don't hear any pots and pans banging or my father calling for me to wake up because, along with the rest of the small town's population, he's still sleeping. Granted, it is five in the morning. I'm one of those people that needs to get a good lap around the neighborhood in before I finally process being awake. After tying my hair and sneakers, I quietly jog down the stairs and out of the small house.
In no time, my blood is raging beneath my aching bones and sweat breaks out beneath the blonde hair escaping my tight ponytail. I pay it no mind and push myself even harder. Usually I get lost in the music pouring through my headphones or the sun slowly peeking through the pine trees, but not today. Not the most important day of my life.
For the last eighteen years, I've spent my energy, time, and effort into getting into the college of my dreams. I remember opening the acceptance letter with shaky hands, my father hovering over my shoulder, my aunt's cheeks red from her enormous grin. I couldn't have been anymore exhilarated. Pride filled every inch of me as it dawned on me; every late-night practicing, tolerating ice-baths for sore muscles, high-stakes dance competition made this happen. Every obstacle, whether it be physical, mental, or spiritually, was worth it.
I know he's up before the front door closes behind me. "Dad?" I call out as I start for the kitchen. He's furiously scraping a pan full of charred eggs above the stove, and his sheepish disappointment makes his anxiety for today clear as his gleaming blue eyes.
"Only you would run for an hour before you have to leave for college, butterfly," he teases, the fair skin beside his eyes crinkling.
Actual butterflies swarm my stomach at the nickname he's been calling me since I was five years old and obsessed with the breathtaking creatures. He'd dress me up in sparkly pink butterfly wings and let me wear them to school for a whole year. That got me a lot of teasing and nicknames, but he scared every little kid away.
"There's nothing wrong with getting in some cardio before the day starts," I remind him, though he is fitter than most men his age. "You don't have to worry about breakfast, I'm fine with this. You should be eating more of this anyways." I grab a shiny red apple from the fruit basket. I'm the only one who eats them, despite my badgering him about his cholesterol. He is my rock, my only parent-figure, I can't let him have a heart attack on me.
He rolls his eyes and points the spatula with egg bits on it at me. "Enough sass. You need to get ready. Your aunt Lyra should be here any minute now." Luckily, she is nothing like my mother, her sister.
"Your aunt Lyra is right here," a familiar voice says as the backdoor creeks open.
"Aunt Lyra!" I smile at her as she walks over and pulls me into a hug. I try not to be a freak as I inhale her coconut scented hair and stiff lilac nurse scrubs, before she pulls away, smiling from ear to ear.
"Niece Lily!" She laughs. Apart from her having the kindest soul I've ever seen, she's the closest thing to a mother figure since my 'real one' is sunbathing somewhere in California. A long story I don't have time for nor desire to discuss.
"I am going to miss you," I admit and listen to her heavy sigh. She rubs my back and hugs me a little tighter.
"I'm going to miss the heck out of you," she whispers. I want to remain in her warm arms for the rest of my life and listen to her gossip about her stuck-up coworkers, like she does when we're all in the living room; she usually sat on the couch binge-watching whatever TV show caught her attention, dad on the recliner in the corner of the room, making a mental Wishlist from his Home Depot magazine subscription, me amidst piles of papers and textbooks as I studied on the floor.
"Oh, don't cry, cutie. I'll call you every chance I get, and I'll badger you to do the same." She smiles into my neck, hearing my embarrassing tears. But I can't help it, she's like a mother to me. I wish she didn't get called in for an emergency shift at the hospital. I instantly regret the thought. I'm being selfish, people need her more than I need her, however insane it sounds to me.
I nod at her words, sniffling back my tears, feeling dad's eyes on my back. "I promise to keep in touch with you." I reluctantly pull away from her comforting hug and look at dad over my shoulder. "You too."
"You better," he jokes with a wink. I laugh and wipe away my tears with the back of my hand.
"I'll be down soon. Dad. Eat a banana or an apple or something that isn't dripping with grease, please." I turn around and walk out of the kitchen as he claims grease is detrimental to his brain power. I roll my eyes at his ridiculous statement and rush up the stairs. I hope I wasn't too reckless running today when there are so much important things that need to happen.
I don't take too long in the shower just in case I messed up the schedule I created a few weeks ago and have been memorizing every day since. Thankfully the warm water loosens my tense muscles. My skin becomes slightly pink to its natural fair color.
I dress myself in a presentable outfit: white button down top with a light pink cardigan covering it, and a pastel-pink skirt. I smile fondly at the yellow daises Lyra helped me paint on the side of my converses. It's going to kill me to let go of her and dad when I arrive in New York. I try not to think about it is as sit at my vanity and delicately entwine a pink silk ribbon around my honey-blonde ponytail.
"Ready, butterfly?" Dad asks. I look up from my vanity table's mirror and nod.
"Just about." I smile. No dimples. He leaves with a knowing, sullen look. Once he shuts the door, I let out a hefty sigh and look into the oval mirror. I twirl the end-piece of the ribbon. "Am I ready, though?" I quietly ask myself.
I look around my small, but homely bedroom. I take in the soft blue walls, my twin bed, study desk, a few beaten up textbooks under the bed, a crystalline butterfly hanging in the middle of the room, post-it notes in my long mirror. Tears well in my eyes until my wandering eyes land on the wall. At the acceptance letter I had copied and hung up to showcase my ultimate achievement. It had also soon become a symbol of reassurance. That I can do this, that I am good enough to do this and so much more.
"I can do this." I let the letter reign me in and look into the mirror. Dimples pop on top of my cheeks. I stand and shake out my slim hands. "I can do this."
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