Alexis Davenport stared out the window, too angry and upset to notice the beauty of the Rocky Mountains flashing by the windows of the blue Chevy S10 Blazer. Her iPod blared at a volume that made her mother, Patricia, cringe.
“I need to make a pit stop. You want anything?” Patricia asked, poking her daughter in the arm to get her attention.
Alex didn’t answer, just turned up the music louder and ignored her mom. She felt a tiny bit guilty when she saw the spasm of hurt pass across her mother’s face. Then the reality of life crashed over her, filling her with anger and resentment, which made it easier to ignore her mother.
She did not want to move across the state to start a new life. Life had been good in Longmont. She had friends, a life. When she thought of Cassie and Melissa going shopping for new clothes to start their freshman year without her, tears fell down her cheeks. I won’t have anyone to shop with in stupid Grand Junction.
A movie played in her mind of all the good times she and her two best friends had had that summer: the sleep-overs, the giggling and blushing while they watched Jacob Lawrence take his shirt off in the movie Teen Vampire, the hours spent listening to music and dreaming about what high school would be like.
Their parents called them the Three Muskateers and often teased the girls about being as bad as conjoined triplets.
Alex did not know how to feel about her father leaving. He hadn’t been around much of her life. And when he was at home, he was drunk, laughing and shouting about the guys down at the auto body shop. On those nights, Alex would escape to her room and lose herself in her history books, ignoring her father’s shouts of “nerd” and “geek” as she padded down the hall.
Alex didn’t care about her mother’s reasons for moving them across the state. As far as she was concerned, her parents needed to grow up and work things out and leave her the hell out of it.
And she certainly didn’t want to live with an aunt she barely knew. She didn’t pretend to understand why her mom and aunt had stopped speaking to one another. One evening, she had overheard her mother and aunt on the phone and she caught something about jealousy and stubbornness, but she had been too busy juggling the stack of books she had checked out from the library to pay much attention.
The thought of her precious books brought up the memory of that horrible day when she had come home from school to find her mom selling their belongings. Alex had thrown her backpack to the ground, and confronted her mom.
“Alex, I have no choice. We have no money for rent and I can’t find work. Your aunt Karen is giving me a job in her store but only if we can get to Grand Junction this weekend.”
“What does that have to do with selling our stuff? My stuff? Don’t you have a bank account or something?” Alex pointed to her beloved bookshelves, her desk, even her bed. She trembled with rage and did not care that she was making the people browsing nearby uncomfortable.
Patricia had turned red at her direct question. “Your dad took all the money when he left.” She finished in a whisper, avoiding the stares of the people browsing through their things.
Alex lost it. She screamed at the people to get the hell away from her stuff. She filled her arms with the familiar knickknacks, reaching down to pick them up as they fell from her over-stuffed grasp.
Her mom had tried to get her to calm down, but Alex wanted to do anything but calm down. Her world was being turned upside down and finding people rummaging through her stuff was too much to bear.
It was her mother finally resorting to grabbing her by the shoulders and forcing Alex to face her that broke through the rage for a brief moment. “Do you think this is easy for me, young lady? Do you?” Patricia began to cry. “I hate having to go running with my tail between my legs to beg help from my older sister. She always told me Gary was no good and now she gets to say ‘I told you so’. I hate this as much as you do, but we don’t have any choice. It’s either move to Grand Junction or live on the streets.” Patricia’s voice shook with humiliation and rage.
Alex had been angry at her mother, at her father, at the world for being so unfair. She threw the things in her arms to the ground, stalked into the house, packed her things, and draped herself in a shroud of silence. I might have to move but I don’t have to like it.
Alex watched her mom stretch, placing her hands at the small of her back before walking slowly into the Burger King just off Interstate 70. Alex bit her lip as she found she did indeed have to use the restroom. She took out her ear buds and threw the iPod into her purse before opening the Blazer’s heavy door. She winced as her muscles protested, having been in the same position for hours.
The air was crisp, with the feel of fall in the air. A blanket of gold, red, and orange covered the hillsides. Alex loved this time of year, and she found herself staring at the beauty of the changing colors and a feeling of peace came over her.
When she had been little, the family had gone camping a few times in Estes Park. Alex remembered the beauty of the white-topped mountains, the clarity of the lake, the daunting height of the pine trees. She had seen her first deer and caught her first fish, squealing in delight when she pulled the wiggling trout from the icy water. That night, her dad had helped her hold the thin, green stick with a large, fat marshmallow stuffed on the end of it. Alex could still see the fire curling around the marshmallow, turning it a warm, golden brown.
Alex remembered that trip. It was one of the last times the three of them did anything as a family. Her parents had laughed, shared kisses and long hugs, and Alex had thought that life couldn’t possibly get much better.
It wasn’t long after that trip that Gary started going camping with the guys and leaving her and her mom at home. When Patricia would ask if they could tag along, Gary would mumble some excuse about needing some time alone, or that it had been someone else’s idea and it just wouldn’t be right to invite them.
Alex sighed, the happy memory ruined by the intrusion of the changes that had come over her father, changes that seemed to make him drink more and distance himself from his wife and only daughter.
She entered the Burger King and took the door to the left leading to the bathrooms.
“The urge got you too I see. I am going to grab something to eat. Want anything?” Patricia had just come out of the restroom. Her curly brown hair framed her square face. Her eyes looked tired behind her large glasses.
“I’m not hungry.” Alex brushed past her mom.
She grimaced at the condition of the bathroom. Public restrooms were dirty and disgusting, and she avoided them whenever possible.
Alex finished quickly and hurried to wash her hands. She gazed at her reflection in the mirror. A blue scrunchy encircled her brownish-blond hair. Small tendrils had come free and framed her square face. Her hazel eyes were bloodshot. She had foregone make-up that morning and her face looked pale. Her father had always teased her about her plain features as well as her lack of a womanly figure.
When Alex would retreat to her room in tears after yet another of Gary’s remarks about her looks, her mother would smooth her hair and say that her father had been kidding, that he really didn’t mean anything by the teasing. She would promise to talk to him and try to get him to stop.
Alex closed her eyes, hating that her mind was dredging up these awful memories.
She finished washing her hands and looked back up at her reflection. Suddenly, the image in the mirror shifted. Alex was no longer looking at her own face.
The strange girl had dark hair in disarray around a very dirty face. Instead of hazel eyes, the girl in the mirror had bright blue eyes and they were as wide as they could possibly go.
The reflection looked strange. It wavered and moved. Like water.
Alex sucked in a breath and jumped as the door to the restroom opened. A little old lady entered and gave her a suspicious side-ways glance. Alex turned back to the mirror and found her own face in the reflection, her eyes wide and her face as white as a sheet.
I did not just see that other face in the mirror.
She dried her shaking hands and left the bathroom. Patricia was in the Blazer, eating a burger and sipping on a large Coke. Alex tried to shake the image of the girl she had seen in the mirror from her mind as she climbed into the passenger seat.