Content Warnings: self-harm, substance abuse.
The park’s covered in a thick blanket of white, footsteps and paw-prints imprinted the white ground as crystal flakes slowly began to cover it up. The wind howled, piling up snow drifts, blinding the night with ice-white dust. I protected my eyes against the harsh winds with my arms. The park is my kind of place in its absolute stillness. If there was a person moving out here, I would hear them. I am alone.
The old swings were stationary and there was a soft whisper from the crooked lonely trees whose brown branches are now covered with glistening snow. I scan my surroundings. The street reminded me of an unfinished painting. So much of the canvas was a perfect white, as if waiting for the artist’s hand to return.
I averted my attention to the glimmering crescent moon above me. The moon was a deep silver, as if it were a rock alone in space. The park was instantly transformed by the light of the moon as the white mist cleared and revealed the moon in all its glamor. The moonlight fought through the murky cloud, but even in its weakness it was enough to blur my sight. It splashed down its watery white-silver glow onto the park, illuminating me.
I took a breath in an attempt to warm my cold hands. I had lost my mittens the night before and my pockets were not succeeding in providing heat. A chill ran through me; I adjusted my scarf. I wanted to prevent catching a cold as much as possible since I was very vulnerable to the harsh winds. The scarf had been such a simple gift and at the time that’s all it was, a scarf.
As I finished adjusting the scarf, I looked up to see a tall slim woman standing at a distance away. I analyzed her and came to a definite conclusion. She was beautiful. Absolutely stunning. With her thick black hair flowing behind her and head held high, she waltzed towards me with an effortless saunter. Her bright red heels matched perfectly with her dark red lipstick. Her eyes met mine and she smiled a smile so beautiful that I let out a small gasp of astonishment.
“Darling,” she said softly, “what are you doing out here on your own?”
I looked down at my boots and contemplated whether or not I should reply to her. I slowly scanned my eyes up and her sparkling brown eyes caught me by surprise. She smiled and nudged at me to speak.
“I’m waiting for my boyfriend,” I mumbled quietly. He was late. I had to call him three times, he had finally picked up on my fourth try. He told me that he was helping his mom set up their new TV. An excuse that was similar to last week when he had told me he was helping her fix their new table. I fumbled with my fingers that were beginning to grow pale from the cold.
She gleamed at me and adjusted the purse that was slung over her shoulder, she searched inside of it and pulled out a pair of mittens. “Here,” she said as she handed them over to me, “your hands seem to be cold.”
I looked at her, mouth agape, as she handed me the pair of mittens that looked identical to the ones I had recently lost. I slowly took it and mouthed a thank you.
“How long have you been waiting here?” She asked.
“A while…” I whispered.
“Aren’t you cold?”
“I am…” I whispered realizing that I was actually shivering.
“My house is warm, very warm.” She crouched down so she could be at eye level with me, “would you like to come and have some hot chocolate? You can wait for your boyfriend there.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” It’s not that I didn’t trust her, but the idea of following her made me uncomfortable.
“I have my husband and kids at home. I have a little dog as well. I hope you aren’t allergic.” Before waiting for my reply, she had already presumed that I was going to follow her. She began walking and turned when she realized I wasn’t behind her. “I promise you can trust me.”
There was a glimmer in her eye that made me feel as though this woman was no harm to me. Maybe it was because she was also a woman, but for some odd reason I trusted the beautiful stranger. I saw no reason to resist such a tempting offer.
“Great!” She quickly straightened her back and waltzed back towards me before wrapping her arm around my shoulder. “My house is right around that corner.” She pointed towards an eerie dark alley. I thought about turning back around but my legs began moving on their own and I ended up following her around the corner and into the alley.
* * *
I walked up the stairs and let my hands brush along the wooden handrails. My house is a kaleidoscope of memories, photographs of my dad and I adorn the walls of the stairway, each of them conjuring a flow of emotions. There are only a few photos of my mom, a rarity since she’d never been a fan of pictures. I let out a sigh of relief as the warm floors soothed my cold feet. My mom had the floors carpeted because she hated the feeling of the cold hard wooden floors. She had the carpet be reddish brown to accentuate the steel blue colored walls.
I dragged myself back downstairs to the kitchen trying to push back the memories of my mother that I thought I had completely forgotten. The kitchen was my favorite place in the house, my father’s domain. I felt my heart drop when I saw him standing by the kitchen table. I had avoided coming back home for two weeks. My dad was supposed to be at work today, so I thought I could quickly stop by without seeing him. My dad stood by the table rubbing his eyes, it wasn’t until I looked closer that I saw he was crying.
My dad has always been old with gray hair and wrinkles; however, he now had dark circles and his eyes were more heavily weighed down with wrinkled folds. So much so that I could hardly determine whether his eyes were open or closed. He had a bottle of beer in his hand; I looked on the table and saw a dozen empty bottles. He had never drank an ounce of alcohol in his life.
He began to wobble away from the table, swaying side to side as he chugged down the bottle of beer. I bit my lip as I tried to hold back my tears. I wanted to hug him and comfort him, but I couldn’t. I was so close to him, yet so…so far away. He dropped the bottle of beer and deeply sighed as the glass shattered in front of him. He bent over and began to pick up the shards of glass, cutting himself in the process. He didn’t even flinch at the sight of blood dripping from his hands.
“Dad!” I jumped in front of him, not bothering to wipe the stream of tears flowing from my eyes.
He didn’t react, he remained knelt on the floor, gripping the piece of glass allowing the blood to drip faster. My dad let out a scream that made my heart drop to the floor. He hugged his knees and released gut wrenching cries that tore through his chest. His face turned red and blotchy and snot ran out his nose, dripping like water.
“My Elena.” My dad heaved through his tears and kept saying my name which was the same as my mom’s. I wasn’t sure if he was calling out to her or to me. Probably both. A great sob escaped me, and I covered my face with my shaking hands.
* * *
I was next to my dad, holding his bloody hand and staring at him with eyes that were at the brink of tears. I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting next to him, but after drinking about four more bottles of beer my dad had eventually passed out.
When I woke up my dad was gone. The kitchen floor was still covered with shattered glass and my dad’s blood. I sprinted up the stairs and ran into his bedroom. He wasn’t there. I was about to run back out till I was caught by surprise by my reflection. I had looked into the mirror many times before, scrutinizing every flaw that I had come across. I came across a lot. My asymmetrical face, the way my eyes bulged out, the dark circles that had formed after my mother died due to countless sleepless nights. My gaze shifted from my dark circles to my acne then to my chubby cheeks then my dry lips. I always hated staring at the mirror too long because I was bound to find things I didn’t like. I hated it. Nate has always been better at this game than I am. I thought that I had come across all my flaws, but Nate always managed to beat me, finding new flaws and insecurities. My mom had told me to break up with him, I should’ve listened to her.
This time I wasn’t looking at the mirror to discover what new things I’d eventually grow to hate about myself. I was surprised to see my reflection because I didn’t know I still had one. I didn’t know I could still see myself. I had on the same outfit as that night. I wore the black tight dress Nate said he liked the most. It was below freezing, but I still wanted to wear it. Not for myself but for him. I also had on the thick black jacket my dad bought me two winters ago and a red scarf.
I instantly diverted my attention away from the mirror when I heard the shattering of glass from another room. I found my dad in my room sitting on my bed and there was a picture and its frame on the floor. It was a picture of my mom, dad, and I. The picture that I kept on my bedside table.
I looked at the picture, and I didn’t bother picking it up. That was our beach day. My dad had gotten a promotion and was so excited that he told us to drop whatever we were doing because we were gonna have a family day at the beach. When we got there, my dad wanted to take a picture despite my mom’s protests. Somehow, we managed to force her into taking one. I’m glad we did. We had a nice family take the picture for us, my dad said they reminded him of our family. My dad stood on my right and my mom on my left. I was front and center. My parents smiled brightly and I jokingly stuck my tongue out and put up a peace sign. That may as well be the only family picture we have.
My dad sat on my bed staring at the ceiling. I wasn’t too sure if he was whispering to himself or praying. My dad had never been a religious man but he did believe there was an outward force watching us and guiding us. I sat next to him on my pink silk sheets. I had decorated my room pink when I was ten and never bothered to get rid of the theme. My dad found it cute. I looked up at the ceiling, hoping I could see what he did.
“Dad.” I whispered. A salty tear slowly rolled down my cheek.
“Dad.” I said again, louder.
“DAD!” This time I had angrily gotten up and stood in front of him. I stomped my feet on the floor and called his name several times. He continued looking up at the ceiling. Never looking at me. I hung my head down and grabbed at my chest. No heartbeat.
“Mom. Help me.” I unexpectedly called out for my mom. Ever since she died, I never reached out for her. I never believed the whole “she’s watching over us” bullshit my dad would always tell me.
* * *
My dad got up to go to the bathroom, and I quietly followed him. He opened the medicine cabinet and shuffled through all the pills. A lot of them were mine. I had gone through a fair share of hardships. My dad even got me a therapist hoping that that would help me “move on.”
My therapy sessions were a waste. The therapist would ask me pre-written questions about my feelings and emotions before prescribing more pills and sending me home. Because of that, I ended up venting my frustrations and anger onto my dad. I regret that. If I could, I would really like to tell him sorry.
After taking his pills, my dad went to the living room. I sat next to him on the couch.
“Sports again, dad?” I chuckled to myself. He didn’t turn on the TV.
“Elena,” My dad finally spoke.
“Where are you?”
“Where are you, Elena?”
“Dad…” I whimpered and reached out to him, but I still couldn’t hold onto him.
My dad curled himself onto a ball on the couch, and I stared at the clock and watched the time pass.
“I remember when you were born.” My dad began to speak aloud. “It was just like yesterday. I was late to the hospital, your mother never let me live that down. Always told me that she gave birth on her own, you know how she is.” He chuckled to himself.
“Yeah.” I laughed.
“I still made it and got to see you. When I held you in my arms, I felt like crying. I couldn’t believe you were mine. Remember how I told you we never had a name for you before you were born. It wasn’t until the doctor asked for your name that I knew it had to be Elena. Same name as your mother. Of course, she was not in favor, but I managed to coax her.” My dad sat up and looked out the window. It was snowing, the first snow of winter. “Elena means shining light. You and your mother were both my shining lights. How am I supposed to find my way in the dark without my lights to guide me?”
I looked out the window and saw the snow gracefully falling. The sky was a light gray and the moon and stars were nowhere in sight. The world had gone dark. I stayed with my dad for about two months before the world began to gradually fade away. I was always by his side. When he woke up, I got up with him. When he ate breakfast I sat across the table staring at him. When he began going to work again, I went with him. When he went to bed, I laid right next to him. He had gotten better. He’s adapted and learned how to survive in this world on his own.
He’s even gone to the police to reopen my case and find out what happened to me. He had been avoiding it in fear of finding out the truth but he decided he wanted to find me. His daughter. His Elena. From time to time, he thinks about me and my mom. Staring at the framed photos and silently crying.
As cliche as this may sound, I began to see a light. A light that kept calling for me, it sounded like my mom. The colors of the world were changing, they were becoming dull and that’s when I knew my time was up. I sat next to my dad on the coach.
“Sports again, dad?” I smiled at him and quickly kissed him on the cheek. “Bye, dad.”
* * *
The vicious winter storm smothered the world with its icy breath. My dad’s heavy black boots crunched through the snow. The world was illuminated by Christmas lights and my dad stared in awe at the towering Christmas tree, his face dazzled by the green and red. My dad smiled and kept walking. Blinded by the sharp winds, he bumped into someone.
“Oh! I apologize.” My dad quickly picked up their phone and handed it to them. He stared at the beautiful woman that stood in front of him. Her beautiful black hair blew in the wind and her eyes sparkled when she smiled at him.
“It’s alright.” She took her phone and nodded goodbye before waltzing away. Her red heels imprinted the white snow. My dad watched her as she walked away, captivated by her beauty. As he was about to leave, he saw a red scarf on the floor.
“Ma’am, you dropped your scarf!” My dad turned around hoping to see her, but she was already gone.