Cake scattered the floor.
It was a beautiful red color. Red velvet. Splattered all across the tile that was yellowed with time. There was one big chunk, surrounded by others that slowly grew into smaller and smaller crumbs the further they were from this central fragment. A few of the slightly larger pieces had been grinded into the kitchen floor, smushed into it, trampled by angry feet. They looked like random dark crimson blotches among the innumerable crumbs. The way the broken cake looked, the whole scene strongly resembled a horrible, grotesque, quite unique murder scene.
Like the floor was tainted with blood.
It would have been quite the wonderful, delicious cake, too. It was moist, but not too much so. Fluffy. Just the right balance of ingredients. Holding together on your fork until the moment you ate it. Melt-in-your-mouth. A delightful quality only found in the culinary creations of true masters of pastry. She had quite the plans for this cake. It was going to be shaped like Darth Vader’s helmet. Something special for her father’s birthday; he adored Star Wars and everything related. She had just frosted one layer to another. Just made the first shaping cut.
But then, the argument broke out.
It wasn’t too sudden. The whole thing had been building up over the course of the night. Of the entire day, in fact. Just little things. Dishes not getting done. Something not going quite right.
And then, dinner happened.
They had sat in silence, the four of them. Two younger sisters, her, and her father. Single. Divorced. Broken. The food had been forgotten about, left to the mercy of the oven. Needless to say, it was burnt. She had said nothing. But her sister, the middle of the three, had dared to complain. Dared to bring up a subject that never went over well with her father.
And that had been the last straw.
War had broken out. Voices were raised to their maximum volumes. Tears streamed down cheeks. Words of hate and violence had been thrown across the table instead of punches. The girl had sat silently, her appetite lost as the feud continued.
Eventually, everyone had retreated to their respective bedrooms. But she had a cake to make.
Besides, baking was her therapy. It soothed her. Calmed her. Got her mind off of the terrible state that everything was in.
But, just when it seemed like the night would be repaired, that things would go on, that she had a chance of making them all happy again, the argument had been brought back. Her family members had all trickled into the kitchen. All drawn out by the smell of freshly-baked cake. And being so close to one another so soon after such a heated dispute had proven to be too much for them.
They had ruined it. The one thing that made her calm. They had come in—them, with their harsh words and short tempers—and argued above her as she tried to create instead of destroy. Brought hatefulness to her sanctuary.
So, this time, she had joined in.
One moment, the cake was on the cutting board. The next, it was on the floor, picked up and thrown down by her own hands. Her family had dispersed, her screams and fury combined with the cake making them all jump back. Tears of hate, frustration, and sadness ran down her flushed cheeks as she had yelled at them to go. To just go. To shut up, to stop being so stupid, that she hated each and every one of them, and so on. She fired pieces of cake at them, gathering her ammo from the few remnants still on the cutting board and from the pieces on the floor.
They had withdrawn. But their argument had not ended yet. They carried on elsewhere, leaving her alone to the kitchen. Things were thrown and broken, the crashes echoing alongside their voices for all the neighborhood to hear.
It was in this scene that she sat, slumped on the floor among the wrecked cake, sobs riddling through her body as the chaotic symphony played throughout the house.
In dire need of fresh air—and unable to produce any more tears—she managed to stand up and walk to the back door. She opened it and stepped out onto the porch that was as old as she was.
The wood creaked a little beneath her bare feet as she trudged over to the hammock. It was a fairly old thing, the blue thread faded with weather and time. Still, it was trusty. Straight from the heart of Mexico. It could hold up the entire family without even the slightest sound of protest.
She plopped into it, the motion making it rock back and forth oh-so-slightly. The crisp autumn air bit at her lungs. It was late, many lights switched off for the night as people escaped to sleep. You could see more stars than usual. There was Orion. And there, there was the Big Dipper, closely followed by the Little Dipper. Sirius, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus…
But there was no moon.
Whether it was just a cloud blocking it out or if it was just a New Moon night, she did not know.
But she didn’t think about it at all.
She was too focused on the cold metal in her hand.
She was still holding the knife that she had been carving the cake with.
Life was tough. She was at her wit’s end. First, the divorce. She had been so young. Her parents had broken the news to her and her sisters only a couple of weeks before her tenth birthday. She was a sophomore in high school now. Had it really been that long? The wounds still felt fresh. And the kids at school…Ever since middle school, she had been made fun of. She was bright. And people don’t like people brighter than them. More creative than them. Who could excel past them. She was quiet, too. She had learned not to talk, not to give them another thing to make fun of. She couldn’t even eat in front of them anymore, let alone talk. She didn’t fight back. When she tried to, they only came at her harder. She had been forced to grow up too fast, too. To be an adult for her two little sisters as her parents acted like children. Her maturity only made her a bigger target for the immature, even though she was physically undeveloped for someone her age—which, of course, only made her feel even more insecure about herself and made the teasing even worse. School was easy. Far too easy. It had always been that way. But she had always been held back, never allowed to advance. Never recognized for all of her accomplishments, either. Instead, it was Billy who was given an award for not eating his booger for once. Suzy who had finally gotten out of the “red zone” on the goodness behavior chart. Timmy who had finally learned how to turn a page in a book without tearing the whole thing out.
She was sick of it. All of it. Nothing was going right, nothing going her way. Nobody ever listened to her. Everyone pushed her down.
She was done with it all.
The twinkling light of the stars caught on the knife’s blade, making it glint. She turned it over in her pale hand, her long fingers—perfect for playing the piano, which she had taught herself to do when she was only four years old—wrapped around its handle.
The thoughts had been there before. Always in the back of her mind. They had only surfaced once or twice before, and even then not enough for her to act on them.
But not this time.
She ran her index finger along the blade, slicing it just a little. She winced at the small pain. She held her finger up to her face.
The blood began to rise to the surface, seeping past the broken skin. A single droplet ran down her finger. It was bright red. Oxygenated. Healthy. The sign of life.
Each drop felt like a piece of her frustration, her anxiety, her hurting was leaving her as it ran down her finger. It felt so good.
It wasn’t enough.
She looked up at the night sky. The stars beckoned to her, the sky calling her to its vast openness.
So free. Of all things.
She wanted to be that way, too.
To be free.
Nothing more tying her down. No teasing, no having to be grown up for someone else, nothing holding her back, no longer a burden to anybody. One less thing to worry about. She wasn’t needed anymore. Not wanted anymore. Besides, perhaps it would bring her family closer together, to snap them out of all their stupidity, to make them happier and stronger in the long run.
The tip of the knife found her chest, resting just above her beating heart.
She knew right where to position it so it’d find the organ with minimal interference.
She placed her hand, her finger still bleeding a bit, on the end of its handle, her palm just barely touching the outside of her other hand as it held the knife.
She looked up at the stars once more.
Soon, she thought, I’ll be up there. I’ll watch over them. But I’ll be free…at long last.
She closed her eyes, her lips curled into a soft, happy smile. She took a deep breath, the knife poking her chest like a pinprick. She tightened her grip, the muscles in her arms contracting as they prepared for their final action. She braced herself for the wonderful, liberating pain that was to come.
A soft, cool breeze caressed her face, making her short auburn hair dance. She exhaled.
But then, something happened.
Out of seemingly nowhere, a bright light began to shine.
It pierced through her eyelids, clouding her shut-off vision with a fuzzy whiteness. Her grip on the knife loosened as she opened her eyes, curious as to what the source was.
It was the moon.
The lonely, dark cloud that had been covering it had passed on, carried off by the wind. The moon was full, shining brightly, perfectly visible from her spot on the porch. Its moonbeams freely stretched out into the night sky, reaching out and down into the city, weaving in and out of buildings, illuminating all corners of the night.
But quite a few moonbeams seemed to be focused right on her.
She stared right back into the moon’s pale face. She forgot completely about the knife, which was still in its ready position, caught in the moon’s trance. There it was, so full of craters and scars, and yet it still shone so brilliantly, selflessly sharing its radiance with the world.
Don’t, it seemed to wordlessly tell her.
A million thoughts rushed through her head. If she stayed, she would be caught in this horrible life. Still trapped. If she left, she’d be free. Just a couple moments of pain instead of years and years to come.
And yet, she found herself lowering the knife.
Somewhere in her heart, she seemed to know that everything would get better. That there was a future to look forward to.
To live for.
She only had to keep going. To be true to herself. To get up and wait—just wait—a teeny bit longer. To walk onward with her craters and scars into tomorrow, and never lose sight of the beautiful light that shone within her.
The tiny flame of hope that she had buried deep within herself began to grow, fueled by the light of the moon.
Oh, to think that she had almost passed up on the Future. It scared her that she had almost given up on it.
She smiled up at the moon. It was a gentle, thankful smile. Awe accompanied the happy tears that were clouding her vision.
“All right,” she quietly whispered. “I’ll stick around. For the Future.”
She stood up, loosely holding onto the knife so she could put it away. It was something repulsive to her now. She made her way back to the door.
“Thank you,” she said aloud to no one. She stole a final glance at the moon. It was returning her smile.
She turned and stepped back into the house. It was quiet. Her father was sitting at the dining room table with his face in his hands. She wiped the tears from her face.
A tender, comforting wind blew at her back.
And she closed the door.
Fast forward to today. Four and a half years, give or take a month or two.
This is the first time I’ve shared this story aloud with anyone. Besides that one person. He’s the only one who knows the truth. But things happened. And now I feel the need and like it’s time I told someone else, too.
Yes, you have it right.
Hello, my name is Ariel Wynter.
No, that’s not my real name. Of course it isn’t. Not really the most original name, I know. But I need a pseudonym. The other people in this story will get different names, too. All except for one…
Anyway, that’s my name.
And this is my story.