|This is a story of a life lived in silence, of a child that never had a chance, of a torment no one could even begin to comprehend. This is the story of a girl named Solace.
Her full name is Solace Leigh Harrigan, a name bestowed upon her by a mother long since gone. Annette was only twenty-two when Solace was born, and while some say the experience ultimately killed her, others know the child gave her a reason to live. Solace was annette's angel, her only cause to smile in a life torn asunder by the disease that destroyed her hopes of a long and prosperous existence.
Perhaps some other time we can further elaborate upon how solace came to be, and how her mother was lost so young, but for now let us focus on the girl. Her father, an handsome, strong, and quiet man, never understood that his daughter had suffered differently their shared loss of Annette. He forced her to grow up too fast, to become an adult at seven years old. It may not have been his fault, for surely he tried his best, but somehow he lost the strength of will to raise her alone, and so she was forced to raise herself.
Solace was a beautiful girl, with a rare and perfect smile, and fair but unfreckled skin. Her hair and eyes, both seemingly a plain brown, turned innumerable shades of red and gold when glimped by firelight or a stray bit of sunshine. Her beauty went unnoticed in the awful flourescently-lit world she was trapped within, as did her scarred and broken soul. Perhaps most days this was to her advantage, but she never seemed to care anyways.
Solace was blessed not only with beauty, but also with intelligence and an immense love for new languages. Latin had always itrigued her, as had German and Italian, but a half-Hispanic father meant that Spanish would rival English as her second language by kindergarten. It showed early on that Solace was a bright girl, and sinceh er mother's death, schoolwork had become her favorite distraction.
Music was another of Solace's beloved distractions. Contented by either singing or dancing, it helped her release energy & frustration, and cleared her tormented mind. Ballet lessons, encouraged by Annette at only four years old, taught Solace more of how to feel the music, to relax and be taken by it, than to plie or pirouette as the other girls in tulle skirts did. Singing and dancing with her mom was endless joy for Solace, and continuing it kept her feeling closer to Annette.
Tonight the song & dance was of quite a different sort, meant to convey a deep message and also provide the thrill of performance for Solace. A school-wide talent show, which she miraculously managed to get into, was packing the auditorium with random people awaiting the seven-thirty beginning of a vast variety of performances.
Her routine, an interesting mix of ballet and break-dancing to Linkin Park's "Hit the Floor," would be near the end of the show. All the better to be long-remembered by everyone, except her father of course, too busy working overtime to even show up for his alienta de aire fresco and her dance routine.
Pushing his rusty old Silverado to its limits, racing to try and make it in time for his little Alienta's big moment, Charlie prayed like crazy that she might see him amongst the crowd and forgive him for some of his past mistakes.
Brakes squealed in resistance as Charlie parked his truck, then he dashed inside the Ridgewood High auditorium just as the first beats of "Hit the Floor" reverberated throughout the building.
Sweat kept strands of hair stuck to Solace's face as she flowed perfectly through her dance, black tank top and loose pants accentuating her ghostly-beautiful complexion. The crowd, transfixed, watched her every move packed with deadly grace, and beheld a side of this girl that no one had ever seen before.
The routine ended to a surprising amount of applause as the song died away. Solace looked up from the floor, at first blinded by stagelights but then spotting her father at the end of a row, near the back. She quickly backed off the stage and ran into the crowd, finally allowing herself to smile once safely within Charlie's fatherly embrace.
Not caring to stay for the award ceremony and refreshments, Solace and her father left Ridgewood and its only high school in a cloud of dust. Unfortunately, they also pulled into the driveway of thier trailer in nearby Copper Valley in a cloud of dust. Ah, the unavoidable dustiness of the South. In cooler months it coated everything in a fine haze, and in the hot, damp months it blended with the infamous mountain clay and stuck to anything it touched.
The mess rarely bothered Solace, it being just another part of life, like thier gray double-wide, rusty pickup, and a loveable mutt named Booger. He'd been a gift, given in hopes of consoling a child who'd lost more htan she ever knew. As a puppy, he'd been scared of everything, so Solace asked her dad why he was so boogery. "Because he's boogery," he said, and so he was. From that day forth, he was a part of the family, someone to hug and pet, to talk to when no one would listen, and to cry on when needed. He was Solace's only friend.
Flopping face-first on her old twin bed, an old four-poster with pastel plaid bedcovers and mosquito netting draped over it, Solace debated going to bed now, but the familiar scent of microwaved pizza drew her back out of her cluttered room. A few slices of cheese & mushroom couldn't be better than tacos, but it was damn close. Afterwards, a shower and chocolate ice cream would complete her evening.
Dinner with Solace, although only pizza warmed over with iced tea, was a rare and enjoyable occurance that Charlie treasured all the more this night. Maybe tonight could help finally make up for all he'd put his daughter through in the past.
Some said it was his fault, all of it, even that Annette was gone. She'd been so like Solace, quiet, brilliant, and graceful. They'd met in high school, and married soon after. Her health problems had always been at the back of everyone's mind, but when she said she wanted a baby, Charlie just couldn't find it in him to refuse her.
Annette had some obscure disease, discovered in her childhood and forever leaving her with a weak stomach and heart. No one believed she'd survive to see 20, but with Charlie and eventually Solace, she had plenty to live for. Annette's parents were the distant, older type, wanting nothing to do with their only grandchild and in part blaming her for Annette's death. When she got to the point of being hospitalized almost monthly, the Jensens wanted their daughter in professional care permanently, but Annette begged Charlie to let her stay home with her baby. Her parents just couldn't see the difference between a steady heartbeat and actually being alive. Charlie did.
Oh, how he did miss Annette. Nearly ten years gone, and still he wore his silver wedding band. Solace had her mother's, on a thin chain with a cross Annette had worn often. They both must miss her dearly, but time had kept them from sharing the emptiness, and now he withed he'd done better in raising his little alienta.
Now back in her childish bedroom, Solace was too exhausted to read and thankful that it was Friday so all homework could be postponed until Sunday evening. Looking around, she was for once pleased with her descision not to redecorate the room her mother had so lovingly arranged. The pink and white wallpaper was faded, but a touch of adhesive fixed the peeling corners, and so it stayed up. Nothing but the clothes in the closet and the books on the shelves had changed in all thopse years.
Snuggling up next to her favorite teddybear, Solace let the day's stress and the night's excitement fade and disappear. Soon lost in dreams of her mother, a smile graced the light dimples of her pale cheeks. Tonight, for once, Solace would sleep well, and tomorrow wouldn't bother anyone until it happened.
A different day dawned bright in memory, once Solace was deep in slumber. Twas a birthday so long ago, nearly a year before her mother died. They had birthdays only a few days apart, Solace's January 3rd and Annette's the 7th. They celebrated both on the weekend before Solace would go back to kindergarten, and nearly a foot of snow obscured the backyard in its sparkle.
They decorated the picnic table with tissue paper, iced on with water from the house. Ice cream cake, Oreos, and chocolate milk made up the dessert that came first. Thier dinner afterwards was delicious, filet mignon with mashed potatoes and sweet peas. Annette was an excellent cook, one of the few things she could enjoy until the very end.
As birthday gifts to each other, Solace and Annette made teddybears out of scraps. Satin befriended velvet, plaid mingled with floral prints. They may not have been everyone's idea of beauty, but to each other those bears were everything.
Solace woke the next morning, still with her bear in her arms and pleasant memories drifting through her mind. Maybe sometime she could cook for her dad, remind him that she was growing up and would soon be gone too, just like Annette.