August 6, 2010

Artwork by K. Sage Steadman

Digitally colored by Lauren T. Hart

I've often wondered what constituted life. Not so much the heart pumping, lungs breathing part of life, but the 'I'm alive, and this is me living life' part. I suppose its fair to say that for some of us, that never happens. Maybe it's because we get too caught up in the day to day. Maybe it's because we fear the risk of letting go of what's familiar to discover the unknown. Or maybe it's because we just don't know how.

I'm afraid to say that if I hadn't been born with a life predestined for something extraordinary, something beyond the mundane, I would never have truly lived. Because even when I thought I'd escaped the mundane and was really living my life, I wasn't. Not really anyway. Because I didn't really know what it meant to live life, to take risks. For me, risk was putting the ketchup directly on my fries, or buying the car with the better gas mileage over the one with the higher safety rating.

I believe that there were brief glimpses of the extraordinary story that has become my life along the way. But I wonder, as I write this, when exactly did my life - my story - truly begin? Was it with my birth, or my conception? Or was it before that, with my parents, or their parents? Was it the first time I asked for what I wanted? Or the time I thought I saw an angel? Was it when I finally moved out of my parent's house? Or the first moment I knew I was in love? Or was it the moment he told me he could never love me the way I loved him, and even though my heart was broken, and I knew that we could never be, I also knew I'd love him forever anyway?

If you ask me, I think I'd have to say my story began with my grandmother. Her name was Iona. I was six the first time I met her. I remember she was old, and wrinkled, and smelled like apples. Her eyes were tired but kind, and she always wore a smile. I also remember that she loved me.

You see, to my parents I had been an unwanted accident discovered too late to abort. And so I was reluctantly kept and raised by accidentally obligated parents, an assortment of babysitters, daycare workers and the occasional nanny.

To my grandmother I was nothing short of a miracle. I was someone she had longed for, loved and adored long before I was even born. She was also the first person to tell me that she loved me. After our brief visit I told my mother I didn't want to live with her anymore, that I'd rather live with my grandma and her friend Marjory.

It was a bold move on my part. A risk.

In response she slapped me hard across the face. My right cheek still bears the scar from her ring. I don't remember all the things she said to me that day. I didn't even understand most of it, but I knew that she hated my grandmother and feared that I may turn out like her.

I didn't understand how she could hold so much hate for someone so wonderful, but I did understand what it was to hate one's mother. Which is perhaps one of the only things my mother and I ever had in common. That and we both enjoy reading.

My grandmother died a couple of months later, just shy of her ninety first birthday. At her funeral Marjory told me that my grandma had been ill for a very long time and she believed that my grandma kept living just for the chance to meet me, and that she had died happy because she had met me.

 It was a very lovely sentiment, but at the time my six-year-old brain was convinced that she would have lived longer had I never met her, and as dying was such a sad affair, living was a far better thing than dying.

My mother didn't want me talking to Marjory, so when I saw her scowling at me from across the room, I thanked Marjory for being my grandma's friend and asked her if she had loved my grandma. "Very much," she responded, her eyes full of tears.

"Me too," I told her and then I left.

I couldn't explain my sadness, but I felt that if my mother saw my tears, that she might now that secretly I didn't love her - someone I'd known my whole life - as much as I loved my Grandmother and Marjory people I barely knew.

I left the viewing room and found a dark corner at the other end of the building to cry in.

"Eden?" came a voice.

I didn't recognize the person behind the voice; he was a man with long white blond hair wearing light colored slacks and a white button up the front shirt, with the sleeves rolled up.

"Is my mom looking for me?" I asked in a panic.

"I heard you crying. I just came to see if you were alright," he said then came and sat down on the floor across from me.

"Were you friends with my grandma?"

"I never met her," the man answered, "But my mother new her very well, and has told me about her."

"Like what?" I asked.

"Well," he smiled. "She's told me that Iona made the best Apple Cinnamon Muffins in the entire world. That her favorite colors were yellow and blue and that she had the biggest heart of anyone she had ever known."

I nodded, trying not to cry. "I really miss her," I said. "And I don't even have a shoulder to cry on."

I didn't really even know what that saying meant, but it sounded like something nice to have.

"I have one," he said, as he brushed his hair back from his shoulder.

In later years, it occurred to me that I didn't even know this person, but at the time, it didn't even cross my mind. He was someone who was showing concern, love even, and I was desperate for it.

I practically lunged into his arms. He wrapped his arms around me and I buried my head into his shoulder and cried.

I cried so hard and so long that eventually I cried myself to sleep. When I woke, hours later, I was in the back seat of my mother's car and she was yelling at me 'not to wander off,' and telling me that I was 'too old to take naps.' I don't know where the man had gone to and no one at the funeral even remembered seeing a man with long white blond hair. My mother told me I must have dreamed it, but I knew better, and I was sure that I had just met an angel.

That memory stayed with me. I cherished it. Even more so the day my mother told me that I was as crazy as my grandmother, and that she believed in angels too. Then my mother took all of my drawings, and stories I'd written about the angel and burned them all in a trashcan in the back yard.

"Why?" I cried. "Why?"

"My mother wrote about angels too," she said. "And I did the same thing with her writings. Because the truth is, there's no such thing as angels. They're evil. Nothing but devils, every last one of them."

It was that comment right there that truly gave me hope. She hadn't said they don't exist like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. She had simply reclassified them.

It didn't really matter to me that my angel was really a demon, all that mattered was how he had made me feel, and how my grandmother had made me feel, and on the other side of that, how my parents continually made me feel.

When I was older I learned that my grandmother had left practically everything she owned in a trust that I would inherit when I turned eighteen. I probably wouldn't have found out about it at all until I turned eighteen except that my mother was vigorously trying to contest it.

It's not that she was left out of the will; my grandmother left her a small assortment of books, and a chair my mother used to sit in to read. As well as all the letters she had written to my mother that my mother had returned to her unopened.

In the beginning my mother told me that she wasn't fighting for herself as much as she was fighting for me. All that money could be used to buy things like clothes that I was continually outgrowing and a decent education. The money from selling the house alone would pay off all of their debt and my parents could get their lives back on track to the place they were financially before I was born.

Some may wonder, where was my father in all of this? He was there, right by her side, as always. Silent and unemotional, I'm sure he said less than a hundred words to me in the eighteen years we lived together. I said at least ten times that many the first few years, but after a while I just gave up. He might as well have been a piece of furniture.

About a month before my eighteenth birthday I got a letter from the attorney handling the trust. I skipped school to go to his office and meet with him.

I told him the situation with my parents and he gave me some very good advice: Move out.

And so on the morning of my eighteenth birthday, I did.

I finished the school year renting a small room from Mrs. Newton the schools home economics teacher and resident cat lady.

It was a great few months. I hung posters, listened to popular music and lost my virginity to Blake Sommersby after Prom. We were pretty hot and heavy until graduation when Blake thought it would be better that we take it slow during the summer since we were going to different schools in the fall and long distance relationships never worked out.

I would like to say I took the summer to travel Europe, but I didn't. I wasn't ready for an adventure that big. Instead I found an apartment near campus, moved and got a job. I had a few odd jobs that summer, and a few odd boyfriends, but eventually I settled on being single and got a steady job at a travel agency, Gulliver's. Yes, Gulliver's Travel Agency.

At the time, I really thought I was living life to it's fullest, but I wasn't. For example, my major was in Business Administration with a minor in Accounting. I wanted to major in Art History, but the career prospects weren't as good. And I already mentioned the economical versus safer car.

I had just started my sophomore year when I met Parker. He was the resident tech specialist at the computer lab. I swear there wasn't anything he didn't know about computers.

The first time I saw him was from across the quad and for a moment, because of his pale blonde hair I thought I had seen the angel I'd first seen when I was six. Naturally, I followed him to the computer lab.

His hair was the same pale blond color, which he would occasionally spike with bold colors. It oscillated between short and shaggy depending on how long it had been since his last haircut and it was almost always unkempt. He wore glasses and blue jeans and had an extensive collection of T-shirts. He was friendly and helpful and flirty, though rarely with me, but when I bought a computer for my apartment, he helped me pick one out and even helped me hook it up.

I watched Parker for a while before we actually met and came to the conclusion that other than his hair color, and his helpful nature, Parker was no angel and I was being ridiculous to have ever thought he was.

For starters, Parker is agnostic. Maybe I'm just stereotyping but that just doesn't seem like a very angelic trait. But that wasn't the only thing. He had other vices.

For example, not everything Parker did in his day to day was strictly legal. But that's all I'm going to say about that.

For another thing, Parker always had girlfriends. Yes, plural, girlfriends. Hot ones.

I'm not going to lie, I've always found Parker attractive, but I figured out pretty early on that I didn't stand a chance against them. Plus, there are just some things I'm not interested in sharing.

Despite all this, and for reasons I'm not sure I could even begin to understand, somehow we became friends. Or at least I liked to think so I was never completely sure until the night I was standing on the arm of the couch in the living room of my apartment, changing a light bulb. I know, bad idea. Proven only seconds later when I slipped and my left leg caught the corner of the coffee table. It was a pretty nasty gash. And it hurt. A lot. But when Parker saw it he was practically beside himself. He drove me to the hospital, stayed with me the entire time, took me home after and wouldn't leave until he was practically kicked out by my room mate Jessica.

He kept telling me how much he hated seeing me in pain and how he wished that he could make it better. He was almost infuriated that he couldn't fix it. I couldn't believe how much fuss he was making over it. Over six little stitches and a cut that was healed in a week. I barely even have a scar.

That was when I knew for sure, he may not see me the same way he saw his girlfriends (which was fine with me because they cycled through a lot) but unlike them, I knew he really truly cared for me. He loved me. And in case you haven't figured it out by now: I, Eden Paige Finley, love just being loved.


Chapter 32 - West Of Nod

(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart