Love was imaginary, a belief for fools, a wish for children. So what if her father had left her, her mother was dead, and her brother was marrying? She didn't care. All she had to do was repeat that for a few more years and she'd believe herself. Sometimes it takes a new person to bring a new perspective on things, however, and the photographer she meets might do just that.
I knew not love, its meaning nor its feeling. I did not care for love, long for love. The term itself seemed foolish to me, something unworthy of my attention. So I pushed love as far away from me as possible, avoiding any and all contact with it. Love had cheated me in the past. Who was to say it wouldn't commit such a transgression again?
My mother died when I was barely six years old. I recall standing there as she drew her last shuddering breath, my older brother standing rigid beside me. I held my mother's journal in my hands, holding the leather-bound journal with such force that my knuckles were white. The journal was the most recent gift my mother had given me; an empty journal from her childhood. One she had never used.
I had hoped that holding the journal now would give my mother the strength to fight the death clawing at her painfully. A foolish dream, but my dream all the same. My father's blue eyes were wet with tears, and he clutched her hand tightly. He murmured soft words, comforting words, as she lay there with squinting eyes. She trembled slightly – out of fear, possibly? – as she watched her children look at her with wide, sorrowful stares. I remember it quite clearly.
I think she felt guilty, in a way, as she wouldn't be able to see us grow and mature into what she expected us to be. At her funeral, my father and brother watched her burial solemnly, but I was still shocked, emotionless. I was but six years of age, after all. I hardly understood the term death. All I knew was that my mother had gone, and she wasn't coming back. That alone was enough to push me into my own dark world. Hell, maybe I was doomed to go to that world anyway.
I tried to enjoy life after that. I do believe I did. But it wasn't the same. My laughter had vanished. I think that was the main sign. My father was the first to notice. He told me stories, made funny hand gestures. (Well, funny to him, at least.) But I didn't show any amusement. I felt no amusement to begin with. I was lost. I was a prisoner of my own vision, and my vision refused to allow me to escape the haunted look in my mother's eyes, the last breath she drew before she vanished. That was the first crime love had committed.
When I was fourteen and my brother was twenty, my father told us we were old enough to take care of ourselves – or at least John was. John would look after me. And I was a teenager now with a sense of responsibility. Father told us he had fallen in love, something I expected, for he often left home at late hours of the night when he thought we were asleep. I often heard him murmuring affectionately to someone on the phone, and he spent most of his time outside the house, coming home with roses obviously meant to be given to his mysterious lover.
My brother and I knew this, and so we weren't as shocked by the news as my father thought we would be.
No, we weren't shocked. But we were angered. Maybe we didn't show it, but it built up inside of us, slowly and painfully, that startlingly strong sense of hatred. More in me than my brother, really.
My father informed us that he couldn't bear to give us the pain of having a stepmother, as his lover was a widow with children of her own.
No, he was much too kind and loving a father to place that burden upon us, so he left us. He entrusted us with the house we had lived in for so many years, along with thirty-thousand dollars. John had a job as an accountant, so he would take care of us. My father didn't seem the least bit concerned. If we encountered any life-threatening problems, we could always call him, though I think he knew that, even if our lives depended on it, my brother and I never would.
As he left, I called after him, wishing him well. It was an empty wish, to be bluntly honest. I think he knew that as well. My voice was strained, and I half expected him to turn back and hug me the way he used to, but he didn't turn back. I didn't want him to, anyway. So my brother and I erased him from our minds. I had lost a father. That was love's second transgression.
Those two transgressions led to a third. I had many friends as a child, and as a young teenager. I had always been a bright, easygoing girl, and even after my mother died, I tried to maintain that. But the absence of my father left another gap, a greater gap, even, for I felt I had been betrayed. He had betrayed John, betrayed me, and betrayed my mother, even. And to think something like that could happen to someone who shared my blood was too much to bear. I did not trust anyone other than John. I pushed my friends away, and my grades dropped drastically. My boyfriend left me much the same way my father had, and I came to expect nothing else. It was just my brother and I now. I didn't need anything else, anyone else. I didn't need love. I had my journal. I had my brother.
One particularly gloomy day, while my brother was at work, I sat home alone, staring at the journal my mother had entrusted to me. It seemed so . . . empty. I felt the need to write something in it, to make it more complete. Even if I were to write but a sentence a day, that'd be enough. I'd write something to complete the blank pages. And besides, it seemed like an ingenious way to pass the time.
So I wrote. I wrote a sentence. Then two. Then three. And then I had a paragraph. By the time my brother got home, I had over twelve pages. It was the beginning to a story, a story marked with loss and pain. My brother entered the living room and saw me holding a black gel pen in my hands, staring at the pages with interest. "Alliane," he had exclaimed, "it's so dark in here! The least you could do is turn on the lights." Then he saw my journal. He picked it up and skimmed the pages. "Did you write this?" he asked me in surprise. "It's very interesting."
I thanked him for his compliment.
"Do you plan on continuing it?"
I told him I didn't know.
"You should," he said firmly. Then he laughed. "Who knows," he said with amusement as he walked out of the room, "maybe you could be a writer."
I imagine he was teasing me, in a way. Like he was laughing with mirth at the idea of a child publishing a novel. But regardless, I kept the idea in mind, and I guess it stuck to me. I wrote more, and eventually, writing became a door for me, a way for me to escape the dystopia I lived in. My teachers became more and more aware of my growing interest in writing, and one day my English teacher asked to read some of my work. I handed it to her apathetically, and watched as she read the few pages I had in my latest story. She smiled and looked up at me. "There's a publishing contest taking place in May," she explained. "If you'd like to enter, I'd be more than happy to submit your work. That is, if you can finish your story in time."
I told her I'd consider it, but as soon as I got home I began to write.
Interestingly enough, I won, and I published my first novel when I was a new seventeen year old.
And I still wrote, pursuing my career as an author. When I reached the age of seventeen, around a year ago, I was introduced to my editor, one who took care of all my problems as a writer, for she found me a publishing company and the such. Yet even after all these accomplishments, I was trapped. I was trapped in a cold, dark, emotionless cage with no one to depend on but myself. My pride wouldn't let me do anything else. I thought for sure nothing would ever change this. It wouldn't even matter if my mother came back to life. I wouldn't care if my father left his new wife and came back to John and I. It wouldn't matter if an angel coaxed me, or a monster threatened me. I wouldn't change who I was, and none of those things could change it either. And I was right. None of those things did change my opinion, not that any of them happened in the first place. But what did melt my heart and lowered my guard was a photograph.
Author's Note: This is from a story I posted on a different website, just so you know.