((I apologize for just how tragic this is. This has been, in Sky’s life, several years in the making. It was time. With all the fun things popping up recently, sorry for such a downer.. but it was necessary. Also sorry for the length! It got longer than even I thought!))
The sun slowly rose, a shaft of light inching its way toward her face. That would normally be her favorite way to wake up – if she were asleep. She had not slept all night, her thin face plagued by dark circles and worry lines that were forming on her forehead far too early for her age. Her stomach churned more than once in the night, making her main activity curling on her side and wishing she would just die. If she died, she wouldn’t have to do what she was about to do. Everyone would just be confused and sad about it…no one would suspect anything was off about her, and all would end well. It’s not like she would be missed by many people or anything..
She shook her head again. Brushed more tears onto the rough pillow. No. She wouldn’t die. Maybe everything would be all right. Maybe everyone will laugh and hug her and accept her and everything would be wonderful. Just maybe.
That hope was strong enough and lasted just long enough to make her limbs move; she got out of bed and quickly dressed. When her eyes drifted over the already packed sack, her pajamas being the only thing missing in it, her stomach fell through the floor again. That was everything she owned: all her clothes, all three pair of them, the money she spirited away and made on the side, and the fingerless gloves that gorgeous barmaid gave her. She quickly shoved the pajamas in, extracting the gloves and putting them on. She never took off her brown scarf or necklace last night, finding no small amount of solace in the gifts from her friends. Friends who knew and were still friends. She walked into the main room.
“Sky, ’bout time you got up.” Her mother smiled warmly and gestured to the leftovers of breakfast on the table: a small bowl of oatmeal. “C’mon now, git goin’ and eat. Gotta git a start on th’ day.”
Ridgley’s ash-brown head popped out from behind the table. “C’mon, Sky! We’s gonna go an’ git some food t’day! Hurry-up!”
Great. Ridgley was home. Sky cleared her throat, hoping her voice didn’t quaver as much as it felt like it did. “Ma.. c’n I talk t’ ya an’ Pa?” She paused, with an intent look to her younger brother. “…Private-like?”
That garnered the reaction she expected. Her mother blinked with wide eyes, then nodded and shooed Ridgley away to his room. She walked out to fetch her father from getting ready to leave. That left Sky a very small window of opportunity. She ran to her brother’s room and knelt down. “Ridgley, I dun’ got much time, but I wanna tell y’. I’m leavin’, ‘kay? Dun try t’ come ‘n git me or nothin’. It’s somethin’ I gotta git done m’self, an’ ain’t nothin’ y’ did.”
Maybe she had let a little too much panic into her voice, nervous as she was, because Ridgley’s eyes filled with tears as he looked up to his big sister. “Wh – where’re y’ goin’? Why? Wha’s goin’ on…?”
Her jaw worked for a moment as she fought back tears of her own. “I… I can’t tell y’. But.. dun worry ’bout me. …I’ll be a’righ’.” Instead of trying to lie to his face further, Sky launched forward and gave her brother a tight hug. “I love y’, y’know.”
Ridgley looked confused, sniffling. “I ain’ ever gon’ see y’ ‘gain?”
Sky’s eyes filled with tears at the question, but she answered him honestly. “I dun know. ‘Bye, Ridgy.” She closed his door before he could respond, wiping the brimming tears with her scarf. Long, skinny legs bolted back to the main room and just in time. The door was rattling like it did when someone was fussing with the handle.
It finally opened. Her tall and lanky father walked in, having to duck much like Sky when either of them walked through the short doorway. Dark brown eyes met plain brown ones, accompanied by a warm smile. “So yer ma tells me you got somethin’ t’ tell us, sweetie?”
Her brow furrowed deeply, worry lines making themselves clear again as they creased her forehead. “Uh… y’ should be sittin’ down, a’righ’?” She pointed to the table, far away from the doorway in which her parents currently stood.
They looked at each other with worried confusion, but her parents did walk over and sit at the table. Her mother, looking more nervous by the moment, quietly asked, “Sky, wha’s goin’ on?”
A shaky, jilted breath inwards. “I’m leavin’.”
Silence. Deafening, long, painful silence wracked the main room for a long moment.
It was finally broken by her father’s voice, both cautious and quiet. “When’ll y’ be back?”
Sky swallowed a lump in her throat. “I…uh. Ain’ gon’ come back.”
Her mother finally spoke, voice quavering and tears already shining. “Why’re y’ leavin’?”
“I, uh.. ain’ goin’ t’ git married’n… y’ been takin’ care of m’ long ‘nough.” She hung her head. It wasn’t a lie, but it definitely wasn’t the whole truth…and it hurt.
A scrape, a heavy clunk as her father stood. His steps led him to the far window. “I ain’t goin’ t’ make y’ marry some boy y’ don’ want t’ marry, honeybee. Y’ know that.”
When his clear voice uttered his nickname for her, Sky had to close her eyes and bite her lip so hard she swore she’d draw blood. Squaring her shoulders but not raising her head, she stared at the half-rotten floorboards. “I dun… like boys.”
Her admission was too vague, at least it seemed like so for her mother. Her father stood silently as he looked out the window, but she heard her mother stand and walk over to her. Soft arms enveloped her as she attempted to reassure her daughter. “Sweet Skyrah, c’mon now. It’s jus’ a phase, I din’t like boys fer a while either. They’re not really as durty as they seem.”
A heartbeat drew out into what seemed like an eternity as Sky stood silently in her mother’s embrace. A few tears dropped when she realized it very well could be the last time she ever got the chance to feel it. A nameless but familiar face swam into her vision: the woman from her dreams. That woman from that dream. Balling her hands into fists, unclipped nails digging into her palms, Sky quietly and firmly took a step back. Her voice was low, thick with emotion as she rose her head to look at her mother. “I dun like boys.”
Her mother stood, quietly; Sky could practically feel the confusion tangling the air between mother and daughter. A male voice broke through the gaze, a single sentence. The voice was calm; almost too calm. “Farra, c’mere.”
“But… Eddie wha’s she mean? Whaddya mean, Sky? Tha’.. dun make no sense..” The woman obeyed despite her confusion, quietly shuffling backwards toward her husband; yet her eyes never left her daughter’s face as she retreated.
The young woman stood her ground, but barely, as her parents talked quietly between each other. At one point, she heard the names of some men she barely recognized. Sky vaguely remembered the names as men who were driven off. She never knew why, she was too young – now she understood. Everything clicked in place. Those men were driven away because they were different. Like her. She watched as her mother begin to sob. She had never seen Ma cry before. The tall, skinny man held his wife as she silently cried, neither adult looking over to their daughter.
Time drew itself out, everything and everyone seeming to move in slow motion; it was as if she was in her own bubble of time and space. Her mother calmed down and her father looked out the window once more. When Sky realized that he hadn’t looked her way since she made her declaration, her stomach fell through the floor again. All her hopes were crushed. He wasn’t going to forgive and not care. He couldn’t. He didn’t understand. She was a twisted person to him, now. Her eyes immediately shone and tears were silently pouring down her face in a matter of seconds; yet its expression never wavered. Quiet, hurt indifference was all she let show. It was all she could ever show. It felt like her heart was being ripped from her chest, and she could never let them know it.
Her mother’s voice shattered her bubble of time and space, bringing Sky back to reality. Her father still stood, eyes glued to the window; her mother still stood, watching her daughter in disbelief. Sky still stood, silent tears streaming down her freckled cheeks.
“Wha’ did I do ‘rong?”
Something snapped. Maybe the tension finally broke her mind, maybe the past few years of living a lie finally caught up with her, maybe she just couldn’t deal with being treated like she was wrong. Sky brought her hands – still balled into fists of frustration – and rubbed them over her eyes. “Ain’ nothin’ ‘rong with m’…” Her voice held nothing but pain, a thin strain of sound.
Her father responded, cutting her mother off before she had a chance to speak. “If ya ever come t’ yer senses, c’mon home. ‘Til then, I dun have a daw’ter.”
Sky’s eyes widened, then snapped shut. She fumbled behind her, finally twisting to face the door. Her hands eventually found the handle, jiggling it a few times to finally throw it open. She heard her mother cry out and shout.
“No! Eddie, y’ c’nt do tha’! Not m’ baby girl…”
Sky did not want to hear the reply to her mother’s pleas. She moved as fast as she could, stumbling and falling down the stairs. Picking herself up off the cold, snowy ground, she ran. She ran until her head felt like it would burst, her legs were sure to fall off, and her chest burned. Gasping for air and leaning against a tree, she finally fell to the ground and cried.
She was an orphan.