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Authors: Gloria Foxx

Chasing Peace

BOOK: Chasing Peace
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Chasing Peace

By Gloria Foxx


Copyright © 2014 Gloria Foxx

All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

The shafts of yellow light shining in through the window are
deceptive. What looks like early-morning sun is the deceitful glow of a
security light. It’s much too early to face the day, yet here I am. Shoving away
the blanket, I move across my tiny space to the window, bars of light creeping
across my face.  

Today is the start of my new life. No, that’s not quite
right. I’m going back to my old life, changed by the experience of the past few

I’m moving on, leaving my current life behind and
reinventing myself, as much as I can on my own.

I know it sounds trite. We all reinvent ourselves. We
pretend we’re someone new. Sometimes we shed the ugly old overcoat of high
school and regret and parental accountability and what might have been. Other
times we bluff and feign and impersonate and fail because we don’t change.
I’ve learned that I can’t change who I am, but I can make different decisions,
take different actions. If we’re the sum of our experiences and our memories
and our beliefs then we need to experience the world differently, create a new
consciousness, reevaluate our beliefs, live life in a new way.

That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to build a new life
for myself, and I’m not going to let anyone interfere.

* * *

I slam my car door. It needs the extra coercion to close on
the first try. Turning the key, the engine roars to life. “I sure hope I don’t
need new exhaust,” I mutter to no one in particular.

Pulling from the parking lot, I aim my car toward campus, a
conversation with Lyla playing through my mind like a song set to repeat.

“What’s got you down tonight sweetie?”

“Nothing really,” I tell her, denying my thoughts.

“A touch of melancholy then?”

That’s one of the many things I love about Lyla. She
pushes without pushing.

“Just thinking about why I haven’t done anything with my
life,” I say, grabbing a cloth and wiping the already immaculate bar. It’s
easier to talk when I don’t have to look her in the eye.

“Oh Sterling honey, you’re only twenty-one. There’s still
plenty of time.”

Lyla may be supportive and reassuring and there when I
need her, but in this case I think she’s wrong. I’m marking time, not doing
anything with my life. It’s passing me by.

“It’s your mother isn’t it Sterling?”

“Not really,” I deny, avoiding the discontent spinning
through my head, the crazy music of a never-ending carousel.

“You’ll do what you’ve always done, what you think is
best. Don’t worry about her. She’s a grown woman. She can take care of herself.”

“Hardly,” I growl, rolling my eyes.

“Well maybe she can’t, but you’re not responsible for
your mother.”

“I guess not,” I say, but I’m not sure I really believe
it. “You know Lyla,” I hesitate. She’s been good to me and I don’t want to
insult her.

“What is it sweetie?”

“Some of the kids I went to school with will be
graduating from college by this time next year and here I am tending bar.”

“There’s nothing wrong with an honest days work Sterling.”

“I know, but I feel like I’m on a treadmill. I keep
moving, but I never get anywhere. I do all that I can and it’s just enough to
have nothing.”

I stop at a red light before proceeding through the
intersection. I’m doing it. I’m living my life and nothing can stop me now. My
mind returns to that prophetic conversation so many weeks ago.

“Then get off the treadmill and take a walk somewhere
else. Figure out what you’re passionate about and go do it.”

“I wish it were that easy.”

“It is that easy Sterling. Instead of sitting back and
letting life happen, you decide what kind of life you want and you go get it.”
She looks right at me, her dark eyes loaded and pushing as if she can will me
to take her advice.

Turning down Sixth Street at the west end of campus, I think
about how my life has changed since that conversation. Although I didn’t know
it at the time, that was the beginning of the beginning.

I didn’t take Lyla’s advice and decide what kind of life I
wanted. Instead life conspired against me. Sure, I’m going to college now, but
it turned out to be a decision by default. You know the decisions we’re stuck
with when we don’t decide for ourselves.

Default got me here but I intend to stay. I’ve created rules
and drawn lines that separate my current life from what went before. This is
one of those moments. There’s an unmistakable boldness. It feels like a dark
solid line behind me, separating the person I am now from the person I used to
be, and there’s no going back. I don’t live there anymore.

I chuckle aloud. It’s a derisive sound barely audible over
the rumble of my car. I may not live there anymore, but I can still feel it,
murky and desolate. The bitter taste on my tongue fuels my determination.

I drive up and down a couple aisles looking for an empty
spot in the lot before claiming a space facing Sixth Street and turning the
key. In the quiet of my now still car, I flip down my visor to check my look
one last time before my new life begins.

While I can only see my eyes in the tiny mirror, I know what
I look like. At five foot ten, I am skinny as a ribbon, although I’m really
not. I have straight light hair with natural streaks, a look that some people
pay big bucks to enjoy. I wear it long to my shoulders, with bangs that taper
from my cheekbones to full length. My bangs are a little too long at the moment
and doing a good job of hiding my eyes, boosting my confidence.

I’ve been told that my eyes are my best feature. Personally
I think they’re too big for my face, but I like the color. They’re a silvery
grey and reflective. My lips are curvy, plump but not fat. I consider my mouth
my best feature with naturally straight white teeth and lips that are perfect.

Well, that’s me, although if I’m being honest, some might
call me jaded. For the record, I consider myself a realist.

Flipping my visor back in place, I shove open the door,
hoisting myself from the car. It feels like such a chore, this moving on.

Close in age to a typical freshman, I look like I fit in,
but I don’t, not really. I have different priorities. Oh, I’m sure others here
have had their share of difficulties. I shouldn’t judge, but I do. I think we
all color life based on our own experiences.

The other freshmen I’ve seen are nervous, but excited. Me, I’m
just nervous. They’re stepping over the threshold, into a new chapter, new
experiences. I suppose I am too, but more importantly, I’m closing the door. I
chuckle again as I slam the car door with enough force to make it latch, my
destination, the line of busses two blocks away.

I’m living my dream now, although I can’t help but question
at what cost. Looking around, I see others socializing, making friends,
grouping together in twos and threes and sometimes fours.

Girls are checking out guys and guys are checking out girls,
everyone on their best behavior and many going bold or slick or shy, hoping to
attract just the right attention. I’m not really up for that. I’m on a mission
and the sacrifices that brought me to this point remind me that this isn’t a
game. It’s a gift and there’s no way in hell I’m going to squander it. Forfeit
has to count for something and I intend to make something of Emma’s sacrifice.

* * *

Boarding the bus, a sea of students pushes me along. Voices
are nothing more than a din, except for one voice ringing above the rest. “Sorry.
This seat’s taken.”

Most students have paired up not wanting to be seen alone.

Moving toward the back of the bus, I hear the voice again. “There
you are. I saved you a seat.” A yank drags me down, surprised air whooshes from
my lungs by the force of the man-handling. Collecting myself, readying my
irritation, I take a breath. “Please don’t say anything. Pretend like you know
me,” she whispers.

I don’t have time to register who might be talking let alone
whether they might be talking to me and yet, I am the target. I stare
speechless with mouth hanging open at the girl sitting next to me.

She’s tiny and I can’t imagine where she got the strength to
move me like she did. She looks elfin and not just because of her size. Her
smudge black hair is cropped just above shoulder length and flipped up at the
ends. Large piercing blue eyes snap with interest and her nose turns up just
enough to complete the image.

Our bus rumbles as it pulls away. “What gives?” I fire
disdain from my eyes, matching the irritation in my voice.

“I’m sorry, but I had to ditch a cling-on.”

“A Klingon?” I’m not yet ready to believe her.

“Yeah a cling-on. She latched onto me on move-in day and I
haven’t been able to shake her. I tried to be nice, but I don’t particularly
enjoy her company, so, thank you.”

“What makes you think you’ll enjoy my company?”

“It doesn’t matter. I just need a break and since she lives
next door I don’t have many options.”

“Have it your way then.” I look past her, my gaze going out
the window.

A runner passes my line of sight. He’s moving faster than
the bus as it accelerates from a stop. I watch as we gain on him. His hair is
long, but he doesn’t have long hair. It curls along his neck and over his ears
and right now it’s soaking wet and dark mahogany.

His muscles glow with sweat, defined by shadows, highlighted
by sunlight. He’s wearing loose shorts, low on his hips, his tee tucked into
the back of the waistband. The shirt writhes back and forth, the tail of it snapping
right and left with every step, rhythmic and hypnotic. It teases with the
notion it might drag down his running shorts. Fortunately, or not, the curve of
his ass holds them in place.

He runs fast, almost full out, the bus gaining very little
in stop and go traffic. I watch his movements, powerful and lithe. I study him
and wonder if he might be running from something. Watching from afar is safe. I’m
not meeting him, might never see him again. No distractions, no risks. I can
watch all I want.

As we come abreast, I examine the tattoo on his left
shoulder. It’s a raven with wings agitated and beak open. The bird’s talons
hold tight to his upper arm, appearing to pierce his skin. The raven speaks to
me. It’s a keeper of secrets and it symbolizes change and transformation,
exactly what I’m hoping for right now.

We almost pass him, my breath bated as I anticipate his
features, wondering if I might be disappointed. I turn my head, my gaze
slipping past the girl beside me, glued to his form. Before I can see more than
a partial profile, he turns away from the road, heading across the square
formed by three tall buildings.

I try to keep him in sight, my head swivels to dodge the
people blocking my view. For some reason I’m disappointed as I think fancifully
that my daydreams will be forever plagued by a faceless runner.

“Nice huh?”

The comment from the girl beside me pulls me from my
thoughts. I say nothing, but I can feel my cheeks heating to a dull red.

“I’m Annie Oakes, premed, and you are?”

I ignore her smile and her hand shoved in my direction. “Keeping
to myself, thank you.” I leave her hanging. Who shakes hands anyway?

She drops her hand. “You know we’re all new to this and the
way I see it we can either go it alone or we can work together.”

Usually limited responses keep people at bay, but obviously
not with this girl. While I prefer to go it alone, I relent rather than risk
looking like a total bitch.

Waving, like I’m raising my hand to testify, I introduce
myself. “Sterling Adams, biology and secondary education.” So much for keeping
to myself and going about my business I think while blowing the hair from my
eyes with a huff of air. I hope this doesn’t come back to bite me in the ass. “So,
you wanna be a doctor huh?”

I slide into my bartender persona with ease. I tend bar on
weekends and I’ve found that people like to talk about themselves. If I keep
them talking, they don’t ask much about me.

“My dad’s a doctor and his dad’s a doctor so it’s kind of
expected. Besides, the more time I spend in school, the longer I can put off
meeting my parent’s expectations.”

I have no idea what to say to that. “Sounds, uh, nice?”

“My parents will hate it,” she giggles with glee dancing in
her eyes and delight bubbling through her laugh. It’s almost contagious, except
that I’ve never experienced a parent who wants something better for me.

“Yeah, but you’re the one who has to do it, so I hope you
like it.”

“As a doctor I can make a real difference in the world. I
can work at a free clinic or join Doctors without Borders. Anything’s better
than endless charity parties.”

“Is that what you really want to do?” I can keep the
questions coming all night if I have to.

“I’m expected to marry a man with ‘standing in the
community,’ and while away my days with children and charity work. What other
options do I have?”

“Sounds like you’re more about thwarting your parents than
anything else.”

“Oh yes.” She grins again, enjoying the conspiracy. “Thanks
for helping.” She gestures with a nod of her head to the girl across the aisle
and one row back. “You’re a lifesaver and the first person I’ve talked to that
actually listens to what I have to say, what I think.”

Yeah. No. That’s not actually true, but I’m not coming clean
about only half listening and I don’t really care.

She continues chattering like a chipmunk, irritating, but
cute so I put up with it. “Most people just keep talking right at me,” she
continues. “They tell me all about themselves as if they’re auditioning for a
part or interviewing for a job, but there’s something different about you.”

BOOK: Chasing Peace
10.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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