Never Eighteen

By: Megan Bostic

Dedication




To my parents, who always believed in me,

even when I didn't believe in myself.

To Rusty, without whom this story

would not have been written.

And to my daughters, Mary and Rachel.

They are my light.





Day One...





Chapter One




I had the dream again. The one where I'm running. I don't know what from or where to, but I'm scared—terrified, really. I wake drenched in sweat. Jumping out of bed, I immediately head to my computer.

I need to get some things done this weekend, and I'm running out of time. God, I hope Kaylee can help. What if she asks what I'm doing? I can't tell her, can I? No. She'd try to stop me, I'm sure of it. Shit, I hope she doesn't have to work. I should have checked. Without her Mustang, I may not be able to do this, and I want to, I need to. Otherwise, things may just continue as they always have: painful, motionless. Like treading water. You stay afloat, but you never really get anywhere. A flash, a flicker of life, that's all I want. I don't think it's too much to ask.

I sit at the computer and stare at the monitor, wondering where to begin. I need to make a list. It's hard, but soon it all comes rushing to me—people, places, things. Over and over I think of Kaylee. I want her to be there. Need her to be beside me through all of it.

I type until my thoughts die down, come to a stop. I hit Print, grab the list, and shove it into the pocket of my jacket, hanging on my closet door. I look in the mirror. I've changed so much in the last year, physically, emotionally, mentally. I may be smaller now, but my heart and mind are stronger.

These last few months I've come to realize that life doesn't wait. If we stand still it passes us by, and by the time we understand that, it may be too late. The people I see this weekend—I hope they're okay with this. I want them to take hold of it and not let go. I hope they at least listen. If they don't, it will kill me.

I grab a shoebox that's been sitting in my closet. It held the new pair of green Converse high-tops my mom bought me before the school year started. Cool shoes. I take the lid off the box and put it on my bed. I pack the box with books, CDs, pictures, my poetry notebook, things that are important to me. I won't have everything I need until Sunday night. On Monday, it goes to Kaylee's for safekeeping.

It's late, and I have a full weekend ahead of me. I put the lid back on the shoebox and place it on the top shelf of my closet. Out of sight. There's no need for my mom to find it. She wouldn't understand.

I shut off the light and climb back into bed. My body's tired, but my mind keeps working, churning. I'm anxious, nervous, thinking of what to say, what to do. Sleep comes with difficulty, but in the end, it still comes.





Chapter Two




"Where are you off to?" Mom pries, like moms do, as I head out the door, down the walk, past her. She's already outside on her knees, pulling weeds, needing to keep busy these days. It's cold out, but at least it's not raining like it usually does in the Pacific Northwest in September. It wouldn't matter anyway. She'd garden in the heat, the rain—hell, probably even the snow. Gardening is a sanctuary of sorts for her, her place to escape, her place to forget. She leans on her garden heavily these days, but I'm hoping to change that. It would be nice if she could just enjoy it again.

"Just going out for a while," I answer, still groggy. My body wanted to stay in bed longer, but my mind was ready to get the weekend started.

"Is that all you're eating for breakfast?" She eyeballs me suspiciously, nodding to the shiny red apple in my hand. I don't have much of an appetite these days, and on top of the anxiety I feel this morning, the apple seemed like the only thing I could handle.

"I'm not that hungry," I answer. She doesn't press, and her suspicious expression relaxes into one that I can describe only as love with a hint of sadness.

"When will you be home?"

"I'm not sure. Probably past dinner," I answer. I hope she doesn't grill me. Telling my mom my plans would be worse than telling Kaylee. She'd probably tell me I'm crazy, that I should mind my own business. In fact, she probably wouldn't let me out of the house. It's best to remain vague.

She stares into my eyes knowingly, smiles, and says, "Watch for cars."

I'm seventeen and my mom still tells me to watch for cars. I suppose she feels like her job is near ending, but that as long as I'm here and she's here, she has to look out for my safety and well-being. After what happened to Jake, I can't really blame her. It's true what they say: a mother's work is never done. As I continue down the walkway, then the sidewalk, I feel my mom's eyes on me until I'm well out of her sight.

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