My fingers found the sink valve and I twisted it open. The sound of water against the palm of my hand was the relief I wanted. Despite downing sleep pills last night, I has barely had any sleep and when sleep did come, my nightmare just had to butt in. I splashed the cool water on my face. It was the only thing strong enough to rouse me from the tight rein sleep still had on me. I stepped back into the bedroom and stared at my alarm clock.


Plenty of time for me to do what I wanted. I took my good time in the bathroom and prepared for work. It had been a year since I graduated from high school in the small town of Ashlake. I was supposed to leave for college two cities away but I couldn't manage. Mom and Dad already had a lot on their plates. A college so far away would wreck their finances. I didn't want that. Finishing up in the bathroom, I proceeded to dress and step into the kitchen at exactly 6:30. Mom and Dad were already there. No surprise. A plate of bacon and eggs were put in place where I was expected to sit and the glum look on their face told me this was going to be another therapy session. I was never wrong. I had my seat and just before I picked up my fork, the onslaught of questions began.

"Eloise," Mother began, the look of worry fitting her aging face well. She was the epitome of the doting mother. "Did you have another nightmare?"

I didn't look up. Not until I had picked up the fork. "No mom. Why do you ask?"

"Eloise," She continued, reaching out for my hand but I withdrew it before she came in close contact. Not because her touch repulsed me but because I didn't want to break. I didn't want them worrying again. "You don't have to lie if you are not alright. We are here for you Eloise. If the Nightmares are coming back, we can reach out to your therapist."

And add another load of debt unto their backs all because I was broken. Broken beyond repair. I kept the bold front and forked a piece of bacon. It's just nightmares, I told myself. "I'm fine mom. I did scream this morning but that was because John recommended some twisted A24 horror movie I decided to check out. Do not watch the wandering. Simply horrific."

They shared a knowing look among themselves and Dad who had been quiet all through the conversation finally spoke. "You and John are still in contact?"

John was my ex-boyfriend all through high school. We had also gotten accepted to the same college. With the way things were going, you would think we would finally have the happily ever after we deserved. We were crowned Prom King and Queen after all. The definition of soul mates but two weeks before our supposed trip, I had cut ties with him. It wasn't because he was cheating or that I was bored of our relationship. I just did not want to go because I knew all too well the damage it would render to my parent's finances. They had done so much for me. I just couldn't just stay selfish and leave. John and I were not on speaking terms. John hated me. Believed I had always shut him out because I didn't love him but in truth, I did love John. I just didn't want him to keep waiting for me. I knew I couldn't give him what he wanted. John wanted a life of intrigue and adventure. I craved my safe space and that expanse happened to be Ashlake.

"Yes," I lied, stabbing into scrambled eggs and tossing them into my mouth. "Just because we had a falling out doesn't make us mortal enemies."

Unlike mom, Dad was more distrustful of my replies. He didn't challenge me but you could see it in his judgy grey eyes. It took everything I had not to break in the presence of that steel stare.

"Well," Dad continued. "If you are John are now in contact. That means you are considering accepting your college..."

"No Dad." I cut in. "I'm fine here with you guys. I make an honest living at the cafe and when I've saved enough, I'll move to my apartment."

"Eloise, the therapist said people who have gone through what you experienced have a difficulty adapting to change. She said trauma changes the way the brain, emotional energy, and nervous system respond to stress. Is that what you are afraid of Eloise? Is that why you ding want to leave Ashlake?"

I wished I had answers to those questions. I didn't obviously. It was one of the things John had demanded I answer when I cut off our relationship. It was almost like all of them could read me like a book. I did not like it but it wasn't like I could stop it. I however could deny it. "I don't have trouble adapting to change Dad. I just believe College isn't for me. I am allowed to make that decision for myself as an adult right?"

"Yes." Mom quickly chipped in, wanting nothing more than for the tension to end. I wanted that too. "As long you are happy."

Those endearing words tore right through my bold front. I faltered and the plastic smile I wore died. That I knew. I wasn't happy. Why? I had no idea or maybe I just didn't want to go digging because I knew there was a high tendency I might not like what I found. Dad's eagle eyes did not miss that.

"Are you happy Eloise?"

I was silent. I squeezed my fork tighter praying something would come. A reply that would satisfy him. But I couldn't come up with a damn thing. My pause gave enough for both my parents to go papa bear on me.

"Eloise, you know, If you want to be happier, you have to try. You have to put in an effort. I am starting to think your problem is you do not try. Life is giving you this opportunity to explore the world, to make a future you deserve for yourself. Why are you hellbent on throwing all that away?"

I stopped playing with the fork in my hands. He had no idea. Well, today I was not having it. I looked him in the eye and replied. "I do try Dad. I have tried. I have tried for twenty years and it still feels the same. It's exhausting. You are exhausting. But I don't blame you. I just need time. I'll have enough and stop causing you two so much pain."

I didn't see mom get angry often but what I just said triggered her wrath. She slammed her fist into the table. "Stop it both of you. Honey, Eloise is an adult. She can make her own decisions and if she believes it is what she wants. Our job as parents is to stand by her." She paused and then looked in my direction. "And Eloise, you aren't causing us pain. You are not baggage. You are our daughter."

I knew she said it with the purest of intentions but all that statement did was remind me that the kind old woman in front of me wasn't my mother. Neither was the protective figure on the other side my Dad. At least not in the biological sense. My biological mother was dead. Killed by my own father. He was never found. The couple in front of me adopted me after that unfortunate incident and I was forever grateful.

"I know." I smiled in spite of the chaos that ensued in my head. I flipped my mobile phone open and took a peek at the time. An opportunity. I took it. "I'm getting late for work., I said, standing up. "I'll see you guys later this evening." That said, I dropped my half empty plate into the sink and walked out.

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