A Long Way Home: The Journey Starts
“I’m short of the others dreams of being golden and on top
It’s not what you painted in my head
There’s so much there instead of all the colors that I saw”
– Imagine Dragons, Dream
Aleigha stepped from the train, her dark skin glistening with sweat from the summer heat, her palms shook with nerves, and her messy hair had come out of the braid she put it in. Up above her, a pale moon shined on a sky full of stars. She turned back to the train attendant and thanked them.
“No problem miss,” the attendant said, “you be safe now.”
Then they disappeared into the train, and it left, leaving her behind—leaving her to the nervous twitch in her fingers and the feeling of flying free in her racing heart. She carried a purse and a stuffed suitcase with a smile on her that she hadn’t worn in years.
You be safe, they said. For the longest time, Aleigha thought the meaning of the word was a joke. A myth meant to keep children compliant. And she certainly was. She took the harsh words, the actions that pushed the boundaries of what was right, and did nothing. She got tired of doing something, and nothing happened. In other words: she gave up. And now, she left in the silence of a broken life. Aleigha strolled through the mostly empty train station. She spotted cleaning or maintenance crews here and there along with stray, homeless folks looking for a cool place to sleep. But otherwise, the place was nothing but an empty building. Aleigha went to the first open, lit ticket station she saw and tapped on the glass. The napping employee behind the glass jerked awake.
“Yes?” The counter clerk asked after moving the glass door aside.
Aleigha placed a bundle of bills on the counter. “Where will this take me?”
The employee grabbed the cash and counted it eagerly. Her blue eyes lit up with joy after she counted it. “You got enough here to go just about anywhere. Where do you want to go?”
“Far away from here,” Aleigha responded without a single hint of emotion in her voice. “I don’t care where.”
“As you wish,” the clerk told her with a smile. She then turned around, entered something into a computer, and turned back to Aleigha with a plain white ticket with black printed text. “Here you go. And your change is—”
“Keep it. Consider it a payment for silence. No one is to know where I’m going.” Aleigha grabbed the ticket and was about to walk away when something occurred to her. She turned back just as the clerk was closing the glass. “Can I have a piece of paper and a pen?”
“Y–yes, of course.” The clerk nodded, her words tripping over each other. With pale shaking hands, she handed Aleigha a pad of yellow lined paper and a pen.
Aleigha took it then sat on a bench to write words that she should have said a long time ago.
I cannot be the person you want or need. I cannot be the person who stands by while you destroy what was once beautiful and perfect, even with its imperfections. No longer can I be naïve or silent to what you do. No longer can I live with the guilt of what you’ve done. I am old enough to know that the freedom a voice brings is worth fighting for. I am old enough to know the difference between that freedom and your sense of it. With a single tear falling down her cheek, Aleigha then wrote the hardest thing she ever had to write. Goodbye, mother. I never want to see you again.
Then Aleigha got up, grabbed her one suitcase and purse, and made her way to the terminal where the train, which would take her away, had just arrived.