Testimony of the Living, part eight

This is part eight of a serialized fictional story written by freshman staff writer Allison Maschhoff. Part seven can be found here.

By the time our parents were heading to our rooms to wake us up for our first day in the glorious life of a worker at the Finder’s Point compass factory, we were long gone. I kind of wish I could’ve seen the faces of the factory managers when they were told we would not be coming into work that day. Or, for that matter, any day in the foreseeable future.

You see, just like those rambunctious water droplets that tried with all their might to leave the fountain on the school patio, we had always been too alive to spend our lives in Finder’s Point. By the time we had grown into seniors in high school with big dreams, we knew there was only one path that was going to give us what we wanted.

So before the sun rose on the day after our high school graduation, we piled into a van that Jonah had bought a couple weeks before. Each of us brought a bag with the essentials. When I was leaving my room, I was shocked. I had removed the things I felt I couldn’t leave behind, and yet my room still looked as if nothing had changed. My room looked no less lived-in than it had the day before. I was truly leaving this life behind.

I was almost out the door when I heard my mom’s voice. She had whispered my name so quietly that I almost hadn’t turned around.

There was more emotion in my mom’s face than I had ever seen there. I wasn’t sure what it was. I thought that it should’ve been sadness, maybe betrayal or pain. But it wasn’t that simple. There was something else there that I had not expected.

“You’re leaving,” she said. It was a statement. It was not a question.

“Yeah,” I whispered. “Yeah I am. I have to, Mom.”

Her eyebrows pressed toward each other. “Greyson, if you’re going to really leave, you have to say it. You have to truly tell yourself that you are leaving. This is not the sort of thing you whisper in the night as if I’m a ghost you might frighten away.”

I had never heard my mom use that kind of language before. I wasn’t even sure I had ever heard my mom say that many words at once.

“Greyson,” she repeated. “If you’re going to leave, you can’t be afraid.”

I swallowed. My grip on my duffel bag tightened. Her eyes were trained on mine and I couldn’t look away. I felt as though I was on the verge of shaking. Was this some sort of attempt to make me stay?

But that look in her eyes… it wasn’t anything cunning or underhanded.

I loosened my white-knuckle grip on the bag. Pressed my shoulders down. Took a few steady breaths.

“Mom,” I said in a normal speaking voice. “I have to go now.” I paused before adding, “I won’t be back.”

She nodded. “I know.” She stepped closer to me and held out a large paper bag. “I made you kids some sandwiches.”

I was frozen for a moment. She cleared her throat. I took the bag.

“Thanks, Mom.”

The smile that appeared on her face was different than any other I had ever seen. I turned around as she said, “I thought maybe we deserved the goodbye that my mother and I never got. I hope we did.”

I didn’t turn around again; I was worried that it would stop me from leaving. But I told her, “I think we did.”

And then I walked out the door and I got into that van and I never looked back. My mom had never before given me any guidance on anything concerning emotions or the future. But she had just told me not to be afraid. I had no way of being certain what had brought such words out of her, but their strangeness gave them power. I didn’t know if it was all the result of me leaving, of her figuring out she’d never see me again. I didn’t know if it was all because of the way she once left her house without a goodbye, if it was tied to her personal regrets. I didn’t know if she had been much more alive this whole time than I’d ever considered, if it was in fact from her that I got my liveliness. But I did know this: I would do everything in my power to avoid giving into the fear that surrounded me.

That was the least I could do for her.