Authors: Misha Elliott
Learning to Fly
Learning to Fly
Copyright © 2014 by (Misha Elliott)
Published by Misha Elliott at Smashwords
Cover design by Linda Boulanger
Editing by: Editing by Rebecca https://www.facebook.com/EditingByRebecca
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.
I believe everyone we cross paths with is there for a reason. Even though it didn’t seem like we were together for more than a couple of seasons, know that I carry our friendship with me, every day, in my heart.
I’m so blessed to call you friend, Sophie is, too. I love you Heidi Brouse; this one’s for you.
“It’s hard to wait around for something you know might never happen; but it’s harder to give up when you know it’s everything you want.” – Unknown
I love music. Thank you to the following artists for their inspiration.
My earliest childhood memory is of my mother reading me a fairy tale as I sat curled up on her lap with my head on her chest. I remember she always smelled like strawberries.
“Look, Sophia, do you see that pretty princess in the picture?” My mom would say as I looked on with eyes full of wonder.
“Pretty princess,” I repeated my mother’s words and put my tiny hand on the picture. “That’s going to be me someday; I am going to find a handsome prince to come and take us to his far away castle.” She said that every time we read the story. Sometimes I would try to imagine what the prince would look like, or how big the castle would be, and how cool it would be to be a princess, too.
It seemed like it took forever for the prince to come find us. I came home from Kindergarten and saw a little U-Haul attached to the back of our car. My heart got excited; maybe the prince had come and found us. I hopped off the last step of the school bus, ran as fast as I could to the door, and pushed it open. My mom was inside waiting for me. I walked past the boxes, especially those that looked big enough to hold me.
“Ok, it’s time for us to spread our wings, my little butterfly.” Tears filled my mom’s eyes. I was used to seeing my mother cry a lot, but this time I wasn’t sure if she was happy or sad.
“Did we find the prince, Mommy? Are we going to the castle?” I asked excitedly, my blonde curls bouncing along with me.
“No, not this time,” I could tell, now, that these tears were because mommy was sad.
“Don’t be sad, Mommy.” I hugged her around the waist as hard as I could, trying to make her feel better. She pushed me away.
“Stop calling me that; I told you before to call me Angie.” Her voice was so stern it made me want to cry.
“Nobody heard me say it.” I said, shaking my head. I remembered it was our secret and that I could only call her mommy when we were alone at home or in the car.
“It doesn’t matter; I can’t have you slip up.The prince won’t come if he knows about you. When we move to the new place, you are Sophia and I am Angie. You always call me Angie. Do you understand?”
I dropped my head down and watched my teardrops make wet spots on the floor.
“Answer me, Sophie.”
I was afraid to upset her again. “Yes, M…Angie. I understand.”
“Good.” She patted me on top of my head. “Now go get all your toys and put them in the box; we have to hurry.” I ran off, as quickly as I could, to do as she asked.
“You all packed, little butterfly?” She asked me a little while later.
“All done,” I replied and skipped out of the empty room, heading for the front door. I stopped when I saw the storybook sitting on the bookcase. I grabbed it, held it tight in my arms, and ran to put it in the box. “We forgot this.” I held the book out to her.
“We don’t need that thing anymore; it’s garbage.” She took the book from my hands and tossed it in the trashcan behind her. After that day, she never read or talked about princes and castles ever again.
We moved several more times after that; I quit counting after five
Somewhere along the line, she quit telling me it was time for us to fly, and I stopped being her little butterfly.
“Come on, Sophia, hurry up and get packed.” Angie barked at me.
“Alright, I’ll be done in a minute.” I snapped back.I went to my room and locked the door. I banged the back of my head against the door a few times before sliding down on my butt.I had just turned 13 and I was apprehensive about going into middle school. I didn’t know anything about Media and wondered if I would find friends there or if I would like the school.
The only thing she cared about was that she had broken up with yet another boyfriend. This time, when Angie came to me crying, I didn’t hug her or hold her while she cried. I felt so frustrated. I wondered if this was what a caterpillar felt like, waiting until it had changed to escape, finally, out of its cocoon.Angie had me wrapped in a cocoon, one that I was unable to escape. I was going to make sure that my time would come; I would spread my wings and fly far, far away—from her and never look back.
I leave third period calculus, turning in my final textbook for the day. In just 45 minutes, the day will be over. When I get back to homeroom, I dig through my bag to get my notebook and cell phone. I see I have a missed text from Heidi.
H: Need to talk to Mr. Donaldson about summer classes. Meet you out front after school.
S: Sure you do
I type back and hit send after including a winky smiley face. Stephen Donaldson is the new student teacher for AP English. He has short dark brown hair, a scruffy beard, and the dreamiest green eyes I have ever seen up close. We all joke that he is the type of man we want to find and marry after college; that is until he brings in his pregnant wife. I don’t know what it is; but seeing his wife, with a baby on the way, throws his hottie potential right out the window.
I pull the cap off my blue pen and turn to a blank page in my notebook. Although I know how much money I am going to need, I want to run the numbers one more time. Senior year will cost me roughly $1,600.00 according to my calculations: that will be for all of my AP classes, materials, tests, and enough textbooks. It also includes the basic senior portrait package with cap and gown. I already have $1000.00 saved. I draw several circles around the number and can feel the excitement building inside me.
I am finally going to be a high school senior. I know every teenager says they can’t wait for the day that they graduate and move out. Even though I’m sure that they think they mean it, I actually do mean it.Staying focused on this day ahead of me has been the only thing that has kept me going after our last move.
When we first came to town, I was sure that I would die, either from boredom, loneliness, or from finally killing Angie. Half the kids my age are more responsible than she is. Soon, though, it won’t matter, because I will be on my way to Brown University.
Heidi, my best friend, and I will be going to school together. We met in science club and have been BFF’s ever since. “What are your summer plans, Sophie? You going away, too?” Mr. Leonard asks.
“Nope, I’m going to work this summer and study so that I can be ready for testing next year.” I respond.
“Good idea to have a plan,” he says. He is a nice teacher, as far as teachers go. He is fair and doesn’t give out a lot of homework, which is a plus. Once you get past his appearance, he isn’t half- bad. He isn’t gross, like some evil, hideous monster and he has no apparent growths on his face. He wears a pair of broken black glasses that are duct taped at the nose. He wears a worn out and fading pair of blue Toms, also patched with duct tape and he uses a pocket protector that is, yep you guessed it, wrapped at the bottom with duct tape.
You would think his use of duct tape would have inspired many imaginative names referencing tape; instead, most of the student’s call him Sir Petsalotopussies. Juvenile I know, and never in front of him. Why this perfectly adolescent name? Because he insists on wearing sleeveless sweaters that were popular in the 70’s, which are always covered with cat hair. He was our cafeteria monitor in 10th grade and I would cringe anytime he came near our table. I’m not just talking a little bit of hair; he carries enough cat fur on him to knit himself a new sweater.
“Anyone else want to share their summer plans with the class?” Mr. Leonard walks back and forth looking down the rows and no one else seems interested in sharing. He goes back to his desk, takes a seat, and props his feet up on his desk.
“Psst, Sophie,” Jessica says and points to the bottom of his left shoe. There is a hole at the edge and his white, sock covered toe is starting to stick out.
“Hmm, looks like it’s time for him to get new shoes,” she continues.
“Or apply more duct tape,” I respond. I wonder where he spends all of his money. He rides a bicycle to work and obviously doesn’t spend it on clothes or grooming.
I doodle in my notebook to help pass the time and draw little designs from hearts to birds to butterflies. I refresh the screen on my phone to check the time. I am so anxious for the final bell to ring; it feels like I have spent an eternity in Mr. Leonard’s classroom.
I start thinking about my day of freedom, again, and I imagine what I am going to feel when it finally gets here. Even though the bell hasn’t rung, you might as well say we are the senior class. After this summer, there will only be 180 days; oh, wait, actually, it will be less because seniors generally get out early, usually right after prom. Sweet.
Heidi totally understands my sentiments toward the day of freedom. She says she can’t wait to get away from her folks, but I have no idea why. She has great parents, and her mom stays at home, so she’s always cooking or baking something. For me, I can’t wait to get as far away from Angie as I can, and never look back. On that day, I will finally be her little butterfly again and I will spread my wings and fly. Away from her.
When the bell finally rings, I am not prepared. I shove the pen in the pages of the notebook and make a b-line into the hall in search of Heidi. I wait around by the cafeteria before I remember that she said she would meet me outside. I run down the staircase, out the exit, and walk towards the flagpole where I spot her. She’s wearing blue jean capris, flip-flops, and a Lucky brand flowered top; her hair is pulled back into a ponytail.
“Hey there, seniors!” I shout at Heidi and her man candy, Matt Jessup.
“Right back at ya, Senior,” Heidi says, pointing at me then she shaking her hips, doing a little happy dance.
“We finally rule the school!” Matt says with a fist pump in the air.
“So how did your date with Mr. Donaldson go?” I start to giggle and can’t finish it with a straight face.
“Funny,” she says, looking at me sternly. “There are still summer spots open for English Composition; I can use the extra college credits and practice, you know I suck at English and punctuation.”
“Yes, I know, your use of the comma alone is frightening.” I put on my best- scared face at her and she sticks out her tongue.
“Well, I’m in love with you, period,” Matt says and kisses her cheek.
“So, you guys have plans tonight?” I ask, and before Heidi can answer, Matt plants a sloppy kiss on her mouth.
“Matt and I are hanging out for a bit, nothing special. You should come over.” Heidi says in between giggles.
“Uh, can you two get a room, perv?” I joke with Matt and he ignores me and starts kissing her again. This one must be more intense than the previous one because her arm drops to her side.I wonder if I would react that way if a guy kissed me and I see Mr. Donaldson in my mind. Well, that’s something I don’t have to worry about, because it is illegal for Mr. Donaldson and I to date and I doubt his wife would appreciate it. I also don’t have to worry about any of the guys at school trying to kiss me in this lifetime.
They either think I’m gay because I’ve never had a boyfriend or they still remember the 9th grade incident in the gym when Danny grabbed me and tried to kiss me. All I can say is this: I was defending myself from a would-be attacker, and he deserved the injuries he sustained. Sometimes, I wish I could just be a normal teenage girl, one who isn’t afraid of becoming an unwed teenage mother like her mom.
“You’re more than welcome to hang out with us,” Heidi says with a giggle. Matt is standing behind her and biting her ear. “We were just going to do a movie marathon, no big.” Matt says.
I think I’m just about as tired of being the third wheel as they are having me be that wheel, so I choose to tell a little white lie instead. “You guys have fun, mom and I are supposed to do pizza and a movie tonight; I’ll text you later.” I can tell that by the way Heidi looks at me; she knows I’m lying. Heidi knows my full story; calling Angie ‘Mom’ and her choosing to spend an evening with me, rather than going on a date, are two things that just don’t happen. The fact that she makes me call her Angie still eats at me. I was the deal breaker she always wanted to keep hidden and it was easier to lie, playing me off as the little sister she was stuck babysitting, than to tell the hard truth.
“Have fun,” Heidi says, giving me a big smile and I silently thank her for letting the lie stand. She doesn’t smile often, but when she does, it is contagious and makes you smile in return. Matt pulls on her long auburn hair. “Stop that,” Heidi smacks his hand. “I have a hard enough time getting my hair to stay; don’t mess with it.”
“Your hair, like you, always looks perfect to me.” Matt says, putting on the charm.
“Come on; let me get you home before you embarrass me further.” Heidi says and they grab each other around the waist and walk off.
I have to agree with Matt; Heidi is a knock out, but doesn’t see herself that way. She is a lean 5’ 8”, with runner’s legs, and can eat anything without gaining an ounce and believe me, she does. She isn’t one of those fake beauties that wear a ton of makeup; she is natural. She looks good all the time, without even trying. I don’t remember her hair ever being out of place, even after third period gym. Matt is an awesome boyfriend, who worships the ground she walks on, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Despite my ribbing, I am so happy to see my best friend happy and in love.
“Sophie, are you working tonight?” I turn to see Mrs. O, the music director, in front of me. “No, Mrs. O, not tonight; I’m still on my regular schedule,” I say.
“That’s too bad, I was going to bring the family in tonight and sit in your section.”
“Thanks, you should still stop by; they have the Wednesday special tonight.” I reply.
Mrs. O leans in towards me. “I don’t really like the food there. I just think you’re a wonderful student and I like to show my support.” She smiles and pats me on the shoulder. “You have a good summer, Sophie, and don’t forget to make time to have some fun; it is the summer, after all.” She walks across the street to employee parking where she parked her minivan.
I say my summer goodbyes to several other people en route to my apartment. Maybe pizza and a movie isn’t a bad idea. I decide to take a detour and stop by the coffee shop for a doughnut and latte.I am so happy and nothing can spoil my perfect mood. One year from now, I would be on my way to college. A life of my own, where I don’t have to constantly make sure Angie keeps her job or be the friend who comforts her when her current boyfriend loses interest in her. I spend the rest of my walk doing math in my head: one year equals 365 days, or 52.1775 weeks, or 8,765.81 hours. I’m gliding on air when I reach the apartment door, knowing I only have 525,948.6 minutes to go. I pull my lanyard from over my head and put the key in the knob. That’s weird. I don’t have to turn it because it is already unlocked. It’s just after noon; Angie shouldn’t be home from work, yet.
I push the door open and walk inside; what I see scares me tremendously. I lean against the door frame and look at how bare the living room is. I immediately notice the flat screen is missing as well as several other small electronics. “Mom, Mom!” I shout, but she doesn’t respond. Running from the living room, down the hall, I search the bedroom for my mother and don’t see her. “Angie, Angie!” Full of panic, I freeze, if Mom isn’t home, I hope there isn’t anyone else in our apartment. I wonder what else is missing. God, I hope they didn’t steal my computer. I punch in the numbers 911 on my phone and keep my finger over the call button as I open the door to my bedroom.
There she sits, on my bed, looking through my baby albums, cigarette in hand. “You were such a fussy baby. I remember thinking, if this child doesn’t stop crying soon, she’s going to be the death of me.” She shakes her head and takes another drag from her cigarette. She knows how I feel about her smoking, and that I can’t stand the fact that she is doing it in my room. I go open my window and pull back the curtains, hoping to get the smoke and its smell out. An uneasy feeling in my stomach tells me that something is wrong. Déjà vu hits and, without her saying a word, I know what is coming next.
My mother has quit yet another job, on principle or something like that; she’s called it quits with Ron, or maybe it’s Rich.What does it matter; they are never around long enough for me to know their names. She pats a spot on my mattress for me to sit down beside her. “I’ve always had such a hard life.” She takes the last drag and opens her mouth, slowly releasing the trail of smoke. “I was a single mom way before it became cool and you could get a TV show.I have had to make hard decisions that people have never understood.” She crushes the end of the butt and flicks it onto the bare wood floor. “We’re moving to Jonestown.” She says, giving me a blank stare.
“What?” Of all the things I expected to hear her say, moving was definitely not one of them. Like a shot, I’m off the bed, hands on my hips. “No, I’m not going.”
My mother slowly rises from the bed, glaring at me. In response, I lift my chin, stare right back at her – with the coldest look I can muster. We have moved over ten times already, and those are just the times that I can remember. I don’t want to do it again.
She accepts my challenge with an open-handed slap across my face. It stings, but not as much as the bomb she just dropped on me.
“Is it possible for you stop being selfish long enough to think about me?” There is hardly two feet between us, but I still feel the need to shout my words at her. “Did you even think about the serious social, academic, not to mention the psychological consequences, of making me move my senior year?”
“Damn it Sophia, you are the most ungrateful little bitch,”she flails herself down on my bed and I watch her body shake while she cries. Why am I so easy to manipulate? I hate the way I feel when I see her cry. The bed sinks when I sit on the edge. I reach over and put my arms around her.She rolls off her stomach to her right side. “You, Sophia, you’re all I have. I try so hard to be a good mother to you; it will be different this time, I promise. “
I cut her off before she can continue.I can’t take hearing any more of her lies. “Sure it will.” Catching the hint of sarcasm in my voice, she starts back the pity me routine.
“Sophia, I hate to remind you, but you are not the only one who has made sacrifices. I gave up my childhood to raise you. You have no idea how hard it was to have you at 16. I barely knew how to take care of myself and suddenly I had another person to take care of.” As if on cue from a director, she turns and looks at me, her blue eyes full of tears. Her lower lip quivers and she continues. “I was a good girl, never went out with boys, but the one time I went out with someone, things went too far, and before I knew it, I ended up pregnant.” Angie throws in a dramatic sniffle; Jeezus, who says all the best acting is in Hollywood? I can almost time the next line. “The doctor even offered to give me an abortion and no one would have ever known I was pregnant; but no, I wanted to do the right thing.”
Yet another sniffle; you couldn’t script her any better. “Your grandparents wanted nothing to do with me. I was scared and alone and your father was too busy to be responsible. I didn’t want that for you, so I never spoke to him again.”
I wish, oh how I wish, that my father or grandparents were here to call bullshit when she starts this. To hear her talk, she was the Virgin Mary herself. My father, a man unknown to me, single- handedly destroyed my mother’s life and I would have to spend eternity paying for it.
“I should have known better than to start dating Steve from work, and since I have stopped seeing him, he is making it impossible for me to do my job.” She stops talking and pulls up the edge of her blouse to wipe the tears in her eyes. “Why do I find the men that like to target and hurt single mothers?” She can’t fool me; I know Angie, and what probably happened is that Steve is no longer interested and Angie just hasn’t taken the hint. She probably pushed it too far and was reprimanded at work.She is a borderline stalker; it’s why we moved to Media so suddenly, three years ago.