Beside me, I hear my mom sigh. She did that a lot whenever she was stressed or irritated, which, over the past few days, was all the time. I could tell I was wearing her down. Good, I thought bitterly. Maybe she would finally stop trying to convince ...

Beside me, I hear my mom sigh. She did that a lot whenever she was stressed or irritated, which, over the past few days, was all the time. I could tell I was wearing her down. Good, I thought bitterly. Maybe she would finally stop trying to convince herself that she actually cares for my wellbeing.

Mom flicks the blinker on. The car was so old it made a loud noise each time the light blinked. That's when she started lecturing again, her tone sounding out the click of the blinker. "Just do me one favor and I won't ask for anything else. Please conduct yourself in a manner that won't bring shame to our family. I don't care if you get tired of hearing it. I'll say it again, because many kids are not offered the same opportunity."

I remained silent as we turn onto a seemingly deserted one-way road.

"This is for your benefit," she continues, but I choose to ignore her as I

rest my head against the cold glass of the window. I stare out at the white blur of snow covered trees. It was relatively quiet here, unlike the neighborhood I was used to. With no family attractions that featured high roller coasters or campaigned music festivals closeby there was no wonder the place seemed to serene. If asked Mount Peters was known for its harsh winters and below 80 degree summers. Needless to say it wasn't a preferred destination since many contracted health issues due to the extreme elements.

One thing I couldn't wait for was to visit my grandmother who lived nearby. Sure, I had to sleep in the dormitory, but nothing had been mentioned prohibiting off-site visits.

As we continue to drive, I blow hot air against the cool glass of the window, and catch sight of my reflection before it fogs. Using my finger, I draw a small design against the glass, a replica of my tattoo.

It shouldn't be long now. Just a few minutes and we would arrive at the front gates of the institution where messed up kids like me go.

My eyes travel down to the two flyer's mom gave me earlier today. Both of them were filled with information about the school I was being forced to go to, including a map of the grounds and student resources that answered frequently asked questions from both the students and parents. I traced my fingers over the colorful lettering on the cover that was written in bold ink that read: Stark House. Below it was a picture of iron gates that reminded me of a prison and a sandstone colored building. With a sigh,

I put them away into my brown folder that sat next to me, just in case I needed any information later on.

The worn material on the folder was ripped somewhat near the edges with a big yellow band that held the pages together. My entire life was in there. Every record of my attendance was marked down, along with any misbehaviors, which includes when I freaked out and burned down the science room because I was paying more attention to what greeted me than handling compounds. It was funny, because I thought it would feel different once I got it. Like I would be able to understand why I was such a freak in the first place.

I clutch onto my folder as I try to forget everything that happened.

"I'm sorry but there's no other option. She's too much of a risk." Unfortunately, I couldn't stop my mind from repeating those words.

After much practice I recognized the look on the principal's face. It was the kind that expressed his already predisposed judgment of who I was. It was one of those looks that seemed to say,

'Young lady, you need special help of which I cannot provide.'

It wasn't entirely my fault, but mom didn't see it that way, and when she told Jett he chased me around the house yelling with his bible raised in the air. I felt like I was being casted out. At least that was until I locked my bedroom door and escaped through my window. Still, I couldn't remove the thought that I would be sent to hell for my sins.

"It's not so bad," says mom.

Speaking first was her way of easing me into transition, and even I had to admit that my silence was growing uncomfortable. But this was because I was busy trying not to freak out over the fact that this foreign place would be my home for the next eight months or so. It wasn't too late to cross over a different prospect. I had to graduate, but there was a nonconforming route left to explore.

And ultimately, no matter what option I picked, I needed to follow through on my word. I promised to give Starkhouse a try and I would.

Looking up I recognized the building came from the French Renaissance. I was amazed to see how well preserved it was and wondered if, by some chance, it had any of those high structured ceilings I read about in books for interior decorating.

"Do you want me to help you settle in?" asked mom, as she parked the car.

Her question caught me off guard. I didn't expect her to offer any more help. Besides, I was too preoccupied by the marveling at the tall buildings and unique designs to take much notice of much else.

"No." I shake my head and unclasp my seatbelt before getting out of the car. "I can handle it. Don't worry about me."

It was a lie I repeated often.

Mom smiled tightly as she jerks the key forward to restart the engine. Her posture is almost as tight as mine. My body feels stiff as I back away from the car and

watch the black smoke drift out the exhaust pipes.

"Well, good luck." She gave me another one of those forced smiles. "I'll keep in touch."

I nod in response and wave automatically. My mother was good at throwing people under the rug in favor of pretending that our home lifestyle was perfectly stable. She likely told her group of friends that I was away on vacation. Thus I didn't hold on to any expectation of seeing her any time soon.

Without uttering a single sound I watch as she rolls the window up and drives away without looking back.


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