As the popcorn ceiling in Margaret's room reverberates with a cacophony of ear-splitting shrieks the pain in her skull grows behind her temples.
The cries continue as she turns over in her sage-green blanket, burrowing her head further into the matching pillow. Her brows furrow in irritation as her eyes snap open.
Morning light peeks through the blinds and illuminates her new bedroom. Margaret throws off the heavy duvet like it’s been smothering her sitting up she glances around the room at her untouched boxes of belongings arranged in tidy rows like graves near the wall. Posters and succulents tauntingly hang above the cardboard boxes mocking her.
"Thanks, Father," she mumbles, dissatisfied "This is exactly how I want to wake up every morning."
Margaret had been dreading this moment for days; every thought of having to start over in an unfamiliar place left her uneasy. She stumbles out of bed, grumbling bitterly beneath her breath, “Fantastic.”
Her dream of acquiring some beauty sleep before her first day at a "stupid" new public high school gives way to the reality that it's already 5:23 a.m.
After wearily rubbing her eyes, Margaret stretches her long arms above her head in a futile attempt to shake off the grogginess and tension that has built up overnight. The exhaustion of the last few days is finally catching up to her.
Turning towards the window, she pulls open the curtains allowing an idyllic gust of fresh morning air to wash over her. Leaning against the windowsill Margaret reluctantly looks out letting the view of homes and green trees calm her nerves.
Everything is barren and plain nothing of this feels like home. The usual sounds of cars on the streets has been replaced by the dance of trees in the wind. It’s nothing like home.
Margaret aimlessly shuts her eyes visions of the luxurious furnishings, high-end decor, photos of her friends and family covering the walls of her old home cover her brain. She can almost feel the soft fabric of her Persian silk rug.
But that life is gone now, thanks to Nathen's actions.
With a deep breath, Margaret tries to shake off the melancholy thoughts and starts to make her way to the full-length mirror hanging on the door of her half-empty closet.
The girl in the mirror is a stranger to Margaret. She is a stranger to herself. Her eyes are dull and disappointed, her face is lightly tan, her jaw and cheeks have smooth, gentle features as if carved by someone who had studied beauty for years.
The girl standing in the mirror is statuesque, with long legs and tanned arms, with thick,disheveled hair tossed in a floppy ball on her head. Looking away from the mirror, yawning, Margaret leans down to grab her fluffy pink slippers which she puts on before heading to the screaming kid's room.
Margaret enters the room, and her gaze immediately falls on a rosy-cheeked little boy, with a wild mop of vibrant red curls and entrancing brown eyes. The kid lets out a wail when he sees her, but she smiles in spite of it, striding over to his crib and reaching in, carefully taking the heavy toddler into her arms.
His warm little hand is clasped in hers as they walk together into the kitchen.
There, Margaret found a woman– her lavender dress billowed around her protruding abdomen as she stared out the double-hanging window. When she hears their footsteps the woman turns towards Margaret, saying with a smile: “Margaret, thank you for getting Eilija out of bed this morning. I was about to do that myself.”
“Yeah, you’re welcome I guess,” Margaret replies in a harsher manner than she intends.
Margaret carefully peels off the lid of the cream cheese container and scoops out a heaving amount onto her bagel. She grabs a knife from the dish rack, feeling its weight in her hands as she neatly coats the bagel and then slices it into four perfect triangles.
With her bagel in hand, Margaret saunters over to the small, round table and places her breakfast down next to a small glass of apple juice. She sits down taking a moment to admire her creation before biting into it.
Taking her second bite, she savors every bit of the smooth, sweet cream cheese and crunchy bagel. It is the perfect food—crispy and delicious—her go-to breakfast food. Margaret takes another taste, which she finds to be just as delightful and mouthwatering.
Eilijas' small hands are now smeared in sticky peanut butter, Margaret peers at him in his high chair. As the kid tosses a bit of whole wheat waffle on the ground, looking for something that wasn't there-a dog.
His mother was no longer in the room; she had most likely given him his meal and then left, leaving her niece with the messy child. Except for the little babbles, the room was quiet and plain nothing like at home.
She exhaled; in the three days that she'd lived here, all indicators led to Eilijas wanting a pet, but it looked like a distant dream. This family was too close to being destitute so for anyone to even consider it was not an option.
From across the table, Elija whines and drops another crumb onto the beige sheet vinyl floor.
With a shake of her head, Margaret mumbles, “No, I'm not helping clean up that.”
A woman with the same physical characteristics as Margaret - tall, chiseled cheekbones, pale, full, symmetrical lips,and thin walnut brown eyebrows - walks into the kitchen.
Margaret always finds herself in awe of Constantine, looking up to her mother for her unwavering fight for what she believes in and her intelligence.
Margaret is sure she is a more formidable force when it comes to adapting to change compared to Constantine, though she wasn't doing a great job either.
Constantine is a clever and industrious woman but very uninterested in making alterations to her life.
Margaret's mother had been finding solace in alcohol more and more as time went on after that day ten years ago.
Every day, she would pour herself a glass of wine or whiskey as she watched the city lights glimmer in the skyline from her porch, or come home late with an unmistakable scent of Diva vodka and Chardonnay on her breath. A sadness liked to linger there with her, like a companion that never left her side- a reminder of the uncertain future ahead.
For the last three days, Constantine had been drinking more than ever before; the burden of this new reality weighing heavily on her shoulders. Margaret wanted desperately to do something to help, but all she could do was offer support when needed. She wished for things to go back to normal, for everyone to put their worries aside and move forward without such heavy burdens dragging them down.
“Good morning, sweet girl,” Constantine says with a tender smile before planting a kiss on the girl's forehead.
“Morning momma,” her daughter answers a hint of apprehension in her voice.
“You know, I went to Apple Valley High," Margaret's mom said as her brow creased and her lips formed a thin line.
“Yeah, you have told me that,” Margaret replies, crossing her arms.
“I’m so sorry, sweet girl, this is not what you deserve. You should still be at the Academy," Constantine said while trying to keep a quiver out of her voice.
Margaret grimaced and bit her lip, trying to hide her frustration. She did not want to have this conversation again.
“I know, Mom. But what’s done is done," she says calmly, though underneath it all there was an undercurrent of anger. “We can’t change what Dad did.”
Constantine sighed heavily and averted her gaze, full of guilt and regret. “I hate that you got caught up in this mess."
"Mom, seriously, it’s okay," Margaret places a comforting hand on her mother’s arm and gives it a gentle squeeze.
Constantine managed a weak smile before patting her daughter's hand reassuringly. "You're right. I shouldn't dwell on it."
Margaret gives a quiet sigh as she stands from the table and nods, her shoulders drooping in relief- for now. She glances one last time at her mom, who still has an unfulfilled expression and a tight smile on her face. Margaret's eyes linger on the unspoken disappointment before she trudges off to her bedroom.
Gingerly, Margaret lifts her backpack with both hands and places it on the desk with a thud. The bag is decorated with embroidered pale pink roses. A small bit of thread protrudes from a hole in one of the roses, reminding Margaret that she hadn't finished fixing it. A strawberry zipper pull dangled from the top of the backpack and a tag reading "I love you to the moon and back" hung off the side reminding her of days with her father by her side. She knew she had to pack the bag for school, despite its flaws, she threw the main compartment open and tossed in her notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers, and other items that she might need for school.
Constantine walked into the room, the distinct sound of rustling plastic filling the air. She extends an arm to her daughter, revealing a small bag crinkling in her palm. “I remember you like these,” she said with a smile as Margaret grabbed for it and placed it next to her colored pencils. The scent of processed snacks filled the room.
Once Margaret was sure that everything had been packed away securely, she slowly headed in the direction of her closet.
Margaret looks in taking even more than usual care when picking out her outfit. But no amount of comfort from clothing could ease the tightness in Margaret's chest as she remembers the events that had brought them here. With a heavy heart, she pulls on the soft white cotton turtleneck, her thoughts tangled in a web of confusion and feelings.
Her mother continued to try and understand the depth of Margaret's sorrow, but couldn't possibly understand fully how it felt to be ripped away from everything, her father, all of her friends, including Veronica who she missed more than anything, and her education
Nathan’s decisions had left them all with no way out, a deep hole they could not escape from. Margaret shook off the heavy feeling that weighed down upon her shoulders as she stood in front of the full-length mirror, she examined her outfit; an acid-washed pink jean skirt with a white turtleneck. Carefully pulling her long brown hair back into a sleek ponytail, and running a curling iron through the tendrils that had escaped around her face, she bends down to the floor and reaches for her white air force ones before heading to her desk and clasping on the gold "M" necklace—a present from her best friend. She studies her reflection, running her hands down the front of her shirt and tugging at the bottom of her skirt. Taking one last look in the mirror, she smiles at her reflection; ready for her first day.
On the car ride to school with Aunt Skyler, she stares out the window at the passing fields, admiring the neat rows of trees and the fluffy clouds that dotted the deep blue sky. The car ride is uneventful.
When she arrives, a feeling of apprehension pools in her stomach. As she steps into the room, the smell of chalk and the sound of laughter fill her senses. Taking her seat in the back of the room she pulls out her folder for English. Looking up she notices two boys by the chalkboard– one with dark frizzy ringlets of brown hair who's wearing a green cardigan, the other with bright blue hair wearing all black. A laugh escapes from the brown-haired boy's lips as he whispers something to his friend.
Margaret admires the boy in the cardigan across the room; she’s always loved the color green; it seems to give her a sense of comfort and hope. He seemed to call out to her, and she couldn’t look away. She felt a warmth in her heart when she looked at him, something that made her want to keep looking at him. He seemed to be the source of hope and comfort when everything else was uncertain.
The green works well with the boy’s cool undertone skin. The teenager turns his head her way and catches her staring. He winks with a grin.
She flashes a quick smile feeling the heat flood her cheeks, she looks down at her hands they are perfectly manicured in baby blue nearly matching the color of the boy’s eyes.
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