Thirteen years. Had it really gone by so fast? Senior year was over. I was a graduate. An official member of the ‘life-after-school’ world. It was all so surreal.
And I was ecstatic.
I don’t think I’d been this happy all year. Tossing my diploma up in the air gave me a new sense of life. The school years were behind me. My future was just beginning.
Of course, there was one little snag left in the picture.
“Well well, looks like you graduated after all. I would have thought you’d have run off the day you turned 18.”
“You’re completely unreliable. A real waste really. It’s a shame. Jerry really should have a son instead. A boy would never be as big of a let down as you.”
“You have no talent and no drive. ‘Oh I’m Kitty, I want to be a famous guitarist! Everyone’s going to loove mee.’ Give. Up. Go get a job that’s on your own level, like a janitor. No wait, you’d mess that up too. You don’t even know how to take care of yourself, how could you be expected to take care of anyone else? I mean really, look at you. Your hair is greasy, your clothes are always wrinkled, and you smell like a monkey. You are such an embarrassment to your father.”
I. Was. Boiling.
“For your information, I graduated with a 3.7. I was fourth in the class! My father has always been proud of me. And at least I get off my filthy behind once in a while to do something. You don’t look like you’ve exercised at all from the day you were born!”
She glanced away. Something simmering within her eyes. For a moment, I actually thought I’d won, that she’d leave me be.
“Kristen. Marie. Black.” I leaned away, but not in time.
She swept her hand up and slapped me so quickly I barely remember her hand making contact.
“You have no right to speak like that.”
“It doesn’t matter how pretty you think you are, what matters is your reputation. You’ll never make it in this town. And do you know why?”
“You are the blight on the Greenwood family name. Oh, did you think no one knew? Everyone knows about little hussy Kitty Black that ruined their daughter’s good reputation. Their family will never let any member of the Black family get anywhere in this town.”
“Your father will never see his dreams come to fruition, and it’s all. your. FAULT!”
“You’d be doing everyone a favor if you just left and never came back. Maybe then your father can finally have something worthwhile in this world. The good Lord only knows what trash you are.”
I could feel my eyes welling up. But I took a deep breath…
…and turned away.
I was going to leave. But not for her. I was going to leave for myself, and for my father. Without my reputation wearing him down, the town would forgive him and he’d be the supervisor at his corporation in no time. As for me? I knew the day I lost Jade that I’d never again be happy in this desolate town.
I ran through my future in my mind. I had some cash saved up. That would at least get me out of town. And my guitar. I had my guitar. I had found that people would pay handsomely in tips if I set my case out a strategic points around town.
I just knew I could make it on my own.
I didn’t hear them return that night. I didn’t care. I packed up everything I could call my own, save some clothes from my younger years. I wouldn’t be needing those where I was going.
I called up a cab and we got ‘the hell out of town,’ as the saying goes. It was strange, looking out at the place where I’d grown up and knowing that I was probably leaving for good. The exhilaration of my decision was starting to wan as my nerves took control.
Still, I knew it was all for the best. It was time to say goodbye.
There was nothing to fear, not really. No matter where I went, I could be consoled by the same stars and the same moon that blanket us all.
So, in that theory, I would always be close to my father, and to Jade. No matter where I went.
“I can only take you as far as Butternut Ridge.”
“That’s alright, I’ll find my way from there.”
My goal was to get as far away from home as possible. I had always wanted to explore the country. This was prime opportunity.
There’s this little town somewhere in the south. A cute place called ‘Sunset Valley.’ It drew me in from the moment I set up camp in it’s central park.
I had been on the road for weeks, playing my guitar and gathering the money. You’d be surprised how quickly you can amass money when you’re strategic about your tip-begging.
I found a cute little house on the outer edge of Sunset Valley and signed myself a renters contract. $500 a month seemed highly doable, and there was a strong group of musicians up at the theater that had offered me a job after hearing me play. So here it was that I was staying.