This was a writing challenge presented to me by my lovely friend Larabelle. She asked for a story about “a lost little girl, fear and betrayal and brokenness, self-discovery and healing”…I don’t think I did too bad a job, but she wanted the outcome putting on here.
Any more challenges of this sort are more than welcome, just inbox me. :)
Rarely do you buy an expensive portrait and then watch it char and dissipate in front of your eyes, littering ash upon foot-worn wooden flooring, before vanishing without a trace of remain in a gentle July breeze.
That’s not how perfect pictures perish.
Not like that.
They go with grace.
Yet for Stephanie, it had come to pass; a vision of bliss, a household once filled with laughter and warmth, reduced to embers and smoke as a result of an adults foolish decisions and careless words. The consequences of said actions were now all too clear to see, though every best effort was made to keep them hidden at first – A shameful skeleton in a closet the two of them had tried to destroy.
But sheltered they did not remain – Stephanie might have been young, but stupid and blind she was not. Left to piece together the who’s, what’s, when’s and the where’s, she found herself more immediately concerned with why; why they had felt the need to seek satisfaction elsewhere, why she hadn’t been told, why the two of them weren’t trying to fix things…she was powerless to observe as her home crumbled, the debris left for her to wade through, but nobody bothering to clean up.
They were so caught up with their own bitterness; their now-unearthed sadness, their malice and their overly-complicated ways. Too caught up to even notice the day that Stephanie left. A bag packed, appearing far more prepared than in actuality, her astute stature belied what little was contained in the backpack she clung to under the gaze of the Saturday morning sun. She had even left via the front gate; not secretive in her exit, a 12-year old girl wanting, praying, that somebody would stop her and ask the inevitable trail of questions that would result in her spilling the entire fiasco amid a cascade of many a years worth of unspent tears.
Nobody stopped her.
For 5 years she had survived, making her own way, teaching herself the things that her parents had neglected to. Benevolent strangers and sincere hospitality from fellow humans were her lifeline. Choosing out of spite to beat a hasty retreat from all who inquired about the whereabouts of her family, she spoke only to those who found themselves occupying the same tunnels and alleyways as she; and when they asked questions, she gave her answers, and they understood. She made friends and developed guardians in a place most consider inhospitable, a new family whose own misfortune and status brought about an empathy and recognition lost on those who looked down from their high-rise offices and second-storey suburban home windows. How they were oblivious to the privileges surrounding them.
Stephanie did not begrudge those people, nor had she ever. This path had been her choice, and she did not regret it; wherever they were now, the ones who had housed her those first dozen years of her life had not seen fit to seek after her. There was no denying that it certainly wasn’t the scenario that had played over and over in her beautiful mind on those infant nights those many moons ago; the passing of time had sped from the glacial pace of seemingly endless summers to a gallop as weeks blurred to seasons in the blink of her emerald eyes - but she was content. She was alive, and Stephanie was also blissfully unaware that a few days from now, while scavenging for food, she would happen upon a kind lady who would stand out from others she had met; unlike any other. A lady whose merciful nature and uplifting conversation would eventually lead Stephanie into her welcoming home, where this hurting adolescent heart would start down a path filled with promise, hope, and a warmth that had seemingly so long been absent from her world.
But now, as she curled up to get some sleep, arms wrapped tightly around a stained coat found in a skip, her bedding dripping wet from recent rainfall, Stephanie stared up at the sky, and wondered what lie ahead; was the image of her life a partially-burned self-portrait?
No. As she would soon discover, it was simply a case of finding the right painting to fit the frame.