Harper Lang



Harper sat curled on a bench, bleached-blonde with hunched freckled shoulders, cigarette in hand. Her somber disposition was a stark contrast to the brilliant green and blue backdrop of the hills of Malibu. Avery approached her in the rose garden, as...

Harper sat curled on a bench, bleached-blonde with hunched freckled shoulders, cigarette in hand. Her somber disposition was a stark contrast to the brilliant green and blue backdrop of the hills of Malibu. Avery approached her in the rose garden, as they had agreed upon over the phone a week prior.

In essence she had been sent to help Harper Lang, to bring her back from the hell that she had recently revisited. But had Avery even ventured far enough from her own enslavements to be of help to anyone?

Harper pulled off her black Ray Ban Wayfarers to reveal eyes the color of sea glass, eyes that permeated both a false sense of confidence and a childlike fear. She parted her full lips to say hello as she uncoiled her body. She stood, in her cut-off jeans, light cotton top, and sheer summer scarf, a slow smile spreading across her unsure face.

“Avery, thank you for meeting me here. One month in LA and it’s all gone to shit already.”

Avery spied a cryptic cursive message tattooed on the inside of Harper’s bicep as she reached out to hug Avery, a stranger. Avery would later learn that the words were indecipherable because they were backwards. The message read, “You didn’t get all of me” in Harper’s own writing. It was compliment to the simple Delta symbol she bore on the inside of her left wrist. Delta: the symbol of change.

Harper wore a thin gold chain with charms in the shape of an apple and the state of California around her regal neck. Catching Avery’s glance, she beamed, “I’m bi-coastal now. I have one charm for the Big Apple and one to rep Cali, although I’m not quite sure that I like it here yet.”

There was something ethereal, but rough about her. She was the eclectic melange of beauty, melancholy, and mystery.

Harper had come to Malibu from the Upper West Side of New York in an attempt escape the heavy chains of her past. That’s the funny thing about some people. They don’t realize that problems of this nature are rarely based on location. Born into a privileged but broken family, Harper’s eighteen years of life had been a perpetual wave of emotion.

Her parents had met in Alcoholics Anonymous, where they did not stay for very long. They found that they were both rather entertained by the thought of rearing a child. That interest only lasted a couple of years, however. Harper was given Corona in her baby bottles, pet ducks on her fifth birthday, and cocaine on her twelfth. Speed down a relentless path of alcohol, coke, boys, girls, rehabs, eating disorders and insurmountable sadness and you would find Harper in a viscous puddle at the end.

She had been a promising prima ballerina. She was an astonishing guitarist with a haunting voice and had been offered a record deal. She had been asked to walk in a Dior show while shopping in the Hamptons. For some reason—a perpetual feeling of inadequacy, as she would later say—Harper chose drugs over every chance she was given to reach her full potential.

After dropping out of Trinity to leave more time for Jack Daniels and lines of cocaine she was finally hit by an epiphany and shipped herself off to an intensive rehab program. She finished high school in rehab and emerged with a clear mind. She had uncovered a semblance of her own strength and beauty, which allowed her the confidence to move to California. Rehab had inspired such a paradigm shift that she knew she had to remove herself from New York completely. 

That’s where Avery came in. She had been at Brown for three weeks when she received a call from her old councilor at Visions in Malibu. If Avery could make herself available, they’d like her to come back to LA for a weekend and meet Harper. The councilor thought perhaps Avery could help.

Harper had been clean and sober for a year before moving to Malibu to attend Pepperdine. In a fit of self-deception, Harper had decided to go to a party with her roommate their first night on campus. The effect was disastrous; not only did Harper relapse, but she woke up with a bag of cocaine in her wallet, the full amount of cash she had prior to going out, and a hazy recollection of going to a place of shame that she had never ventured before. She did not remember who the man was but she did have nightmares of the cold, bathroom tiles on her knees.

She checked herself into outpatient treatment at Visions, completely demoralized.

When Avery met Harper she recognized the pain in her eyes, the feeling of failure, of corruption. Masked in layers of ennui and frailty, Harper lowered herself onto the bench again and Avery joined.

After that day Harper did remain clean for some time, but eventually reverted back to her chaos strewn patterns. She lived with Avery for a short while, but then jetted off to the Hamptons and returned a different person.

As Avery’s mind began to clear, Harper’s darkened. Harper began to date a close friend of Avery’s just before he drove his black Turbo Porsche off of a cliff in Palos Verdes. The two studied in London in the wake of his death, smoking cigarettes and drinking to forget. They flew to Paris together and were photographed crying while walking through the streets.

“Pourquoi pleures-tu? Tu es trop belle à pleurer,” breathed the photographer.

They got drunk on Absynth in the rain and dyed their blonde hair black with boxed drug store color.

Avery went to the Hamptons to celebrate her 20th birthday with Harper and came second to Harper’s DJ girlfriend and MDMA. When the car came to take Avery to JFK, Harper did not say goodbye.

Harper came to Napa for Avery’s 21st birthday. She had shaved her head and was sober, nearly luminescent with happiness and health.

Three years later Harper called. She was in rehab for heroin. She had left against doctor recommendation and hitchhiked down to San Diego. Once her old flame had kicked her out she caved and called Avery.

“Can I come stay with you for a bit?”

“For how long, Harper?”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” she seethed.

“You can only stay if you’re sober. I’m not okay with you using and I’m not really inclined to have you come off of heroin under my supervision.”

“I’ve learned how to use it recreationally.”

Avery said goodbye. She thought of Harper and her sea glass eyes often.

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