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 Post subject: Bringing the Magic Back
PostPosted: Wednesday 16 December 2009 1:19:28am 
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Ambassador to the Land of Ducks.
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Joined: Thursday 28 December 2006 6:45:34pm
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Location: Going through LeakyCon withdrawal
This was the first story I wrote for Fiction Workshop this semester. Thought I'd post it here! Let me know what you think.

My dad named me after his favorite flower, the iris. Everyone I know was named by their mother, except me. My cousin, Alex, told me that his father wanted to name him Timothy but my aunt wanted Alexander and my aunt shouted “oh, the pain!” and my uncle gave in. That's the way it works in most families, but not mine. My mother did not care what I was named and did not even care that I was a girl. She wanted nothing to do with me, and when I was two she finally up and left, leaving Dad and me to fend for ourselves.

The day my mother left was the day all the magic left Dad's life. He loved her, despite her faults, something I was never capable of doing. She did not take the magic out of my life, but instead left me with a father who I knew loved me, yet was distanced. How do I know he loved me? My name, Iris. He put thought into that name, something my mother never did.

******

I was only fifteen when the magic left me, ten years younger than Dad had been when the same happened to him. I was only fifteen when my father committed suicide. My Aunt Helen told me that the depression is what did it; that he just could not take being sad all the time anymore. Before he died I could never have imagined being sad all the time. Now, I don't know anything else.

Aunt Helen and Uncle Tom told me not to blame Dad, not to be angry with him. They needn't have worried. Never once did it cross my mind to be angry with Dad. In my mind, it was my mother who did it. It was my mother who held that gun to Dad's head rather than Dad holding it to his own head.

Life at Aunt Helen and Uncle Tom's couldn't have been more different than life with Dad. Uncle Tom was a lawyer and made more money in a month than Dad had made in a year at his job at the mechanic's. People whispered that I would be better off at my aunt and uncle's than I was with Dad. They were wrong. No house is big enough to replace the love of your father.

Dad and I had lived close to my aunt and uncle's. We lived in the same town, Agloe, New York, and the same school district. Agloe is the sort of place where everyone knows everyone and you can't so much as get your ears pierced without half the town knowing about it. However, my aunt and uncle lived in the outskirts, where all the McMansions were. Dad and I lived near the center, in a house he had been able to afford.

“Iris, long time, no see!” someone shouted.

I looked up from the leather couch where I was playing Tetris on my iPod. Alex's best friend, Scott, towered over me, him being six feet tall and me only being about five feet five, and his sandy brown hair was mussed the way a surfer's would be. I didn't really understand why boys did that. The nearest body of water was a tiny lake a few miles away, hardly big enough to sail a canoe on, let alone surf.

“You dyed your hair black and cut it,” Scott commented. “I liked it when it was long and blonde.”

“My mother had blonde hair,” I muttered, switching the position of a tall Tetris piece so I was able to clear five rows at once. “I don't want to look like her.”

“Right.” Scott shifted uneasily from foot to foot. “Well, Alex and I are going to play Rock Band downstairs. You can play, if you want. I'll even let you play the drums.”

I ignored him. He was only offering me the drums because my dad had killed himself a few weeks ago. Usually Scott held the drum sticks above his head and said 'you can't reach them' in a singsong voice. That was not the kind of sympathy I wanted.

Scott and I had known each other as long as I could remember. He and Alex had been in Kindergarten together, a year before I was old enough to go, and had spent their days teasing me ever since.

******

“Why do I have to be the prisoner?” I whined as I sat on the grass in the jungle gym in Alex's backyard.

“Because you're six and we're seven,” Alex answered. He waved his green light saber at me. “Now, sit there and watch as I defeat Darth Vader!”

“I want to play Barbies!” I shouted, crossing my arms over my chest.

“Barbies are for babies,” Scott said. He smacked Alex with his red light saber.

Long since accustomed to having to sit through Alex and Scott's light saber fights, I pulled my brand new Malibu Barbie out of my coat and set her on the ground in front of me. I smiled and looked at her perfect long blonde hair. Fingering my own hair, I wondered how long it would take me to grow it down to my waist.

******

Aunt Helen dragged me to a psychiatrist three weeks after Dad killed himself. The school had called and suggested it, since I had missed more days than I had attended. Aunt Helen had been shocked, claiming she saw me leave each and every day. Little did she know that I hid in the garage until she and Uncle Tom left for work, only to sneak back inside and spend the day watching bad daytime television.

Aunt Helen's discomfort of being in a psychiatrist's office was obvious as she sat there fidgeting with a health magazine, glancing up at the other patients with a wrinkled nose every so often. Looking very out of place in her Gucci high heels and newly dyed red hair, she seemed relieved when a nurse came and got us for my appointment.

The psychiatrist was a slightly overweight old man with glasses perched on his bald head. He was exactly as I imagined he would be. Poised with a clipboard in hand, he gestured for me to sit down on a comfortable-looking armchair.

I did not talk at all during that session. Aunt Helen did all the talking, explaining the 'issues' from her perspective while Dr. Baldy scribbled it all down.

No diagnosis was made during that session. It took Dr. Baldy a few weeks to diagnose me with Major Depressive Disorder. Apparently that cannot be diagnosed until the person has been depressed for at least two weeks. I left the office that day with a bottle of green pills I did not want to take, but had to, since I was only fifteen and under my aunt and uncle's roof.

******

“Why are you over here all the time?” Scott asked, not taking his eyes off the television screen. He was in the process of beating Alex at the newest Mario Kart, which Alex had received for his ninth birthday the week before.

“Because my dad's sick,” I replied as I played Mario Kart on Alex's old Game Boy. I wished one of them would let me play the new game. Alex's old Game Boy wasn't nearly as fun.

“What's he got?” Scott asked just as he crossed the finish line. “Yes, you lose!”

“Depression,” I said quietly. “Can I please play?”

“You mean he's just sad?” Scott asked as he reluctantly handed me the controller.

“No, it's like his mind is sick and he can't be happy,” I answered as I took the controller from him, tossing the Game Boy carelessly onto the floor.

******

“Have you thought at all about going to college?” Dr. Baldy (I never got out of the habit of calling him that) asked one day when I was seventeen and a senior in high school, the time when all of my classmates were applying to college.

They'd spent the past two years counting down the days until they could leave their parents and go away to college. I'd spent the last two years shut in my room playing video games, only leaving when Aunt Helen forced me to go to school, and going to Dr. Baldy's every week.

“No,” I replied. The idea of college terrified me. High school was bad enough. Four more years of it? Never in a million years. Dad got along fine without college and I could as well.

“How about community college?” Dr. Baldy suggested.

“I'm not going to college,” I said, slightly louder. “I don't have to.”

“That is true,” Dr. Baldy nodded, “but I wish you would consider it. You're quite smart; you could go far.”

“I'm not going to college! I'm just not, ok?”

“All right,” Dr. Baldy said quietly, “I think our time is up for today.”

I stormed out of the building, squinting at the light. Nobody was there to pick me up. I looked around, trying to figure out what to do. The world seemed huge. Never before had I appreciated just how big the world was, or how many people were in it. People bustled past me, hurrying on their way, completely ignoring me. There were so many of them and their voices seemed to get louder and louder.

Someone jostled me from the side, hitting me with her large bag of groceries. I shrank back and leaned against the building. My head was swimming. My heart was hammering. My hands were tingling. I bent over to steady myself. The dizziness lessened slightly, but it was still there. What was happening? What was wrong with me? Maybe I was crazy; maybe Aunt Helen was right. I couldn't think straight. My mind was filled with so many thoughts that I couldn't make any of them out.

“Iris!”

I heard a car in front of me. Looking up, I recognized Scott's red SUV. It seemed far away, blocked by the crowd of of people who seemed to all be morphed together. Trying not to think too hard, I ran for it, jumped in the passenger seat, and tried to steady my breathing. I felt like I was going to be sick.

“Iris, are you ok?” Scott asked. “Sorry your aunt wasn't here to get you. She got held up in traffic and called me to get you.”

He actually looked worried. I must have looked bad.

“I think- I don't know.” I swallowed, forcing the tears not to leak out of my eyes.

******

The door to the stairway slammed behind me, echoing in the strange emptiness. Why was the stairwell empty? Why weren't any other students using it? I shrugged and smiled to myself as I ran up the stairs, excited that I had discovered a secret stairway in the high school as a freshman.

I glanced at my watch as I reached the top. Two minutes until the bell rang. I was going to be on time for the first time that day. I leaned against the door and pushed. It didn't budge.

One, two, three more times I tried to push the door open. Panic came over me as I realized that there was a reason nobody else used this set of stairs. Who locks an entire set of doors? Why would the school do that?

Not sure of what else to do, I banged on the doors. My heart started racing and it felt like someone turned up the heat to ninety degrees. I tried to catch my breath, but it was no use. I was going to be late again. What if I couldn't get out? What if I was stuck in there forever?

“Whoa, stop banging!” someone said as they pushed open the door.

Scott was standing there, looking bemused. His head was cocked to the side and he was grinning. It made me want to punch him. He knew about this stupid staircase.

“Found the Freshman staircase, did you?” Scott smirked.

“Freshman staircase?”

“Every year a bunch of Freshmen get stuck in here,” Scott said as I walked into the corridor.

“And you didn't tell me?”

“No, that would've ruined the fun.”

I pushed past him without saying another word and stalked off to Global History, which I was now a good ten minutes late for.

******

Panic attack. That was what Dr. Baldy called what had happened after I left his office that day. Another disorder to add to my list. It wasn't just that one, either. They happened frequently after that. Twice in school, once at the grocery store, once in the car. Aunt Helen demanded that Dr. Baldy give me more medication, which he did. It made me tired all the time. I skipped more school. Aunt Helen yelled at me. Alex, who had left for college that fall, called me less.

Alex was everything Aunt Helen could have wanted in a son. Star student, captain of the football team, acceptance letter to Notre Dame. In other words, he was normal. Aunt Helen had thrown him a huge graduation party the previous year. She got him a green SUV, just like Scott's.

Aunt Helen didn't offer to throw me a graduation party and I didn't care. I didn't want one. She did show up to graduation, though, as did Alex and Scott. The only reason I showed up was because I knew it would make my dad proud. It scared me to go and I nearly had another panic attack, but I had to do it. I had to make Dad proud.

My eighteenth birthday was a few weeks after graduation. I woke up bright and early, something I hadn't done in years. My first act of celebration was flushing every single pill down the toilet. I was eighteen. Aunt Helen couldn't force me to take anymore medication.

Aunt Helen made me pancakes, something that rarely happened. She set them in front of me along with a large manilla envelope. Her face was hardened and it almost looked like she'd been crying. I'd never seen her cry. Not even when Dad died, and he had been her brother.

“Your father's will,” she said quietly as she pushed the envelope closer to me.

I choked on my juice. No one had ever mentioned my dad's will and I had always assumed he didn't have one.

“He left me a note, telling me to give this to you on your eighteenth birthday,” Aunt Helen said quietly.

I nearly knocked over my chair in my haste to get out of the kitchen. Grabbing the envelope, I ran back upstairs, shutting myself in my room.

My hands were shaking as I ripped open the envelope. Why did he want me to be eighteen to open it? Why had he made me wait three years? I pulled a stack of papers out of the envelope. Most were official looking documents, but on the very top was a wrinkled sheet of notebook paper. The writing on it was slanted and messy; I recognized it instantly. Dad's handwriting.

My little Iris flower,
By the time you read this you'll be eighteen,
an adult, a young woman, a high school graduate.
I am sorry that I did not get to see you
graduate, or learn to drive, or go to Prom. I
know it's difficult for you to understand,
but I could not go on. Life was suffocating.
All the magic was gone. I used to see the magic
everywhere. In the wind, the flowers, the rain,
the sun, the snow. Life was amazing, like magic.
Not anymore. You have to understand that it
wasn't you. You were the small bit of magic left.
Try not to be sad, try not to let the magic leave
you. I've left you everything. The house, the car,
everything. I love you, Iris. Even though I'm
physically gone, I'm still there, all around you.
Love,
Dad


Tears were leaking out of my eyes onto the paper. It was too late, Dad, too late to tell me not to let the magic leave me. It's gone. It left the day you put that gun to your head.

I didn't bother looking at the will. I knew what it said. Everything was mine. I didn't have to stay at my aunt and uncle's house anymore.

Alex drove me to the house on his way to work. I hadn't talked to Aunt Helen since reading the letter, but I had a feeling she already knew what the will had contained.

It didn't look like anyone had even stepped onto the property since Dad died. I hadn't been there since he died. I'd been too scared of what I would find, too scared of what it would do to me. The lawn was overgrown and covered in weeds. Patches of dirt and dead grass intermingled with the weeds. I peeked in the garage and saw that Dad's old Ford pick-up was still there.

The inside of the house looked exactly the same, with the exception of a very large layer of dust covering everything. Dad's Carhartt jacket was slung over the coat rack and my old purple umbrella was still lying on the floor, half open. I walked slowly into the kitchen, my heart pounding fast in my chest. A pile of dirty dishes lay in the sink, as if they were waiting for Dad or me to come wash them. The small living room's floor was littered with old newspapers and homework assignments.

I took a deep breath before opening my bedroom door. It was the only room that was empty. Aunt Helen or Uncle Tom had come and gotten all my stuff for me shortly after Dad died. Only my bed, desk, and dresser remained, along with a smattering of crumpled papers on the ground.

I paused outside Dad's bedroom before shaking my head and turning away from it. I couldn't go in. I just couldn't do it. Even three years later, it was just too hard. Maybe Dad had a point in not giving me the will until I turned eighteen.

The place was a mess, but it was my house, my home. It was more of a home than Aunt Helen and Uncle Tom's house had ever been. Three years of living in that place and I still felt like a guest. Three years away from my house and it still felt like home.

I threw myself into cleaning the place up. Every room needed it and I worked all day. I threw out the old newspapers, vacuumed, mopped, dusted, and washed dishes. Nothing was left untouched, except Dad's room. Cleaning was calming. My heart returned to its regular pace, my breathing returned to normal. For the first time in three years, I felt all right. Not great, of course, but not awful either.

******

Cleaning only took me two days. Nobody came to the house while I cleaned. Not Alex, not Aunt Helen or Uncle Tom. After I finished, I sat on the couch and turned on the television, but didn't watch. It was just background noise. Nor did I think about how the power was actually on, in a house that had been abandoned for years. I suppose Aunt Helen must have been paying for it.

I sat there doing absolutely nothing for hours. They felt like the longest hours I'd lived through and the shortest ones at the same time. Cleaning had taken my mind off everything. With the whole house (except Dad's room) now spotless, there was nothing to do but sit there and think.

Everything was on my mind. It was like a huge rush of the past three years of my life all jumbled up. It was just too much; too overwhelming. I was sitting there shaking on the couch, tears running down my face. Dad was gone, never coming back. Owning the house seemed to just clinch that even more. I had no one. It had been Dad and me against the world for so long. Aunt Helen and Uncle Tom didn't really count. They were my guardians because they had to be. Neither of them had taken the time to truly understand. Instead they just shuttled me off to the psychiatrist and shoved pills down my throat.

Dad wanted me to succeed. He wanted me to be happy, to keep the magic in my life. I had failed at that. Grudgingly finishing high school, staying cooped up in my room whenever possible, not even considering the possibility of college. Dad wouldn't have wanted that. He would have wanted me to be all I could be, no matter how cliched it sounded.

There was a knock on the door, shaking me out of my thoughts. Hastily wiping the tears off my face, I walked to the door. I cautiously opened it and was quite surprised to see Scott standing on the front step. He had cut his hair and it looked nice.

“Iris,” he said quietly, “Alex told me. About the will.”

I nodded. “Yeah.”

“Look, I know I used to tease you all the time, but, I just want to show you something.”

“All right,” I said. What was going on?

Scott turned around and cut across the front yard. I followed him. He led me to the lone tree in the front yard, the one that Dad had told me would eventually be large enough for me to climb, but was still small and scraggly. I gasped when I saw what was underneath.

Iris flowers. Small, but grown enough to have the purple flowers, surrounding the tree in a perfect circle.

“I know they're your favorite kind of flowers,” Scott said quietly.

I nodded as tears began to form in my eyes. Only this time, they were tears of happiness. Someone cared. Someone actually knew me. I felt something on my shoulder and looked up. Scott had awkwardly placed his arm over me, looking slightly nervous about it.

It was then that I knew the magic wasn't gone completely. It had disappeared for a while, buried itself deep inside me underneath the grief, so deep that I thought it was gone. But it was there and had been there the whole time. The problem was that I hadn't dug deep enough to find it. Now I had brought it back and it was there, blossoming like the Iris flowers that now lived in my front yard.


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