Authors: Magan Vernon
MY PAPER HEART
Copyright © 2012 by Magan Vernon
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form by or any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the author.
First Edition: August 2012
First edition edited by Looking Glass editing
Cover image licensed through Dreamstime.com
Sleeping in the field ©
You saw this book as something special and made me never give up
Mom held the piece of paper in her hands. It was as if she was holding my heart. Thin and frail. My paper heart to be torn to shreds.
"Elizabeth Libby Gentry’s grade's have not been able to meet the required 2.0 grade point average for two semesters; therefore she will
be welcomed back to Illinois State University for the fall semester," my mom read out loud, emphasizing
as if it was the dirtiest word she had ever heard.
"Mom, it's not like I tried to fail out." I held my hands out, as if my excuse was some kind of gift that I had wrapped up and presented to her.
My parents sat across the dining room table from me—Mom, with the letter in her hand and my dad with his fingers wrapped around a glass of bourbon. I had been waiting for this conversation ever since the letter came in the mail. I had mentally prepared myself for the worst.
Over the past few days I had weighed my options. I could go to community college (I had dealt with drunken frat guys for a whole year, so I was pretty sure that I could deal with a few creepy old men in class). Or maybe working in my dad's office (screaming kids with cavities were not exactly the way that I wanted to spend my day. I had enough of that in my sorority). The different scenarios played in my head over and over again. Clearly my parents had been doing the same thing since they had come up with an idea as well.
My dad swirled his drink in his hands, not taking his eyes off while he sighed. His fingers traced the rim of the crystal glass. His body may have been facing toward me, but his eyes told me that he wanted to be nowhere near me. He did everything he could to avoid looking at me. It was as if I was some sort of criminal instead of his own daughter.
"Libby, your father and I have been discussing your predicament." My mother folded her hands on the table. "We have decided that you should go work for your Great Aunt Dee."
I stopped twirling my long blonde waves and stared at my mother. Our brown eyes met before she looked back at my father and patted his knee. My mother could pretend that she was the big hot shot lawyer all she wanted, but in the Gentry house my father was always the patriarch. She always looked to him for approval.
I wished I had her courage though. Even as she looked at my dad, brushing her golden hair out of her eyes, she still carried herself like she was the most important woman in the world. She would never let a guy tell her that she had to drop a few pounds before she could be his date to formal, or stop going to class because she didn't know what the hell an acute angle was and was too afraid to ask.
"We both think this would be the best thing for you. I'll drive you down to the bus station tomorrow morning and then you'll leave for Louisiana," she said it as if it were just something simple.
"LOUISIANA? GREAT AUNT DEE?" I screeched. "Can we just back this up here? I mean, don't I get a say in this?"
Dad sighed again and stood up, the lines in his forehead crinkling as he spoke. "Libby. You messed up. There's nothing else I can really say about that. Aunt Dee agreed that you could stay with her for a while and work at her shop. Think about it Libby, do you really think you're going to find a job here? With your experience you may be able to get a job flipping burgers."
I opened my mouth to say something, but I knew he was right. It's wasn't like I ever had a job before and I definitely wasn't the fast food working type. A hairnet really wasn't my style.
"Maybe this will give you some time to think, and you can enroll somewhere else in the fall." Then dad gave me his signature, this conversation is over, don't say another word or I'm going to lose my cool, look and I knew there was no getting out of it.
Dad nodded to my mother and headed into the den; probably to pour himself another drink and pass out in front of the Cubs game. Mom reached across the table for my hand, like it would actually give me some comfort.
"I'm going for a run." I mumbled, defeated as I sprang from the table. I didn’t even bother to look back as I slipped into my shoes and ran out the front door, down the cobblestone driveway.
Running was a sure fire way to get rid of my problems. I literally felt like I was running nowhere, with nowhere to go and no one to be waiting for me. I ran every morning with my pledge class to make sure that I made weekly weigh-ins. I ran as quickly as I could through my notes before a test hoping that I would actually be able to remember something on a test. And on that last night of finals I just happened to run into my boyfriend going down on my roommate.
Maybe running wasn't such a bad thing after all. If I ran to Louisiana then maybe I could run away from everything back home and just forget about Chicago. Forget that I had no place else to go.
There was nothing that I could say to my parents that would change their minds. I figured that they had already formed their opinion, that I had turned into some drunk, partying co-ed, anyway. I wondered if they even cared to know the real Libby. I wondered if anyone actually ever would.
"Couldn't I have at least flown to Louisiana? I mean it could have been like eleven hours less time, and I could have started working right away!" I scoffed and slung my purse over my shoulder. Mom rolled her eyes and pulled my suitcase out of the trunk of her car.
"The airport is at least an hour from Aunt Dee's, and we wouldn't want to inconvenience her even more. She's doing us a big enough favor by taking you in. The least we can do is give her a shorter drive by having her pick you up at the bus station in town."
"I could drive my own car. I mean, it's just going to be sitting in the driveway for who knows how long." My black flip flops flapped on the pavement as we started toward the Greyhound station.
My mom stopped abruptly and sighed. "Call us when you get there." She handed me the tickets and started walking toward her car.
I turned on my heels. "That's it? No hug? No
I'll miss you
?" I started briskly walking after her, the waistband of my designer sweatpants falling down on my hips. I reached down and slowly pulled them up while I stood staring at my mom.
"Look, Libby." She turned toward me and put her hands on my shoulders. "Your father and I love you, you know that, but you also know how upset we are with you right now. I think you have some growing up to do."
I couldn't meet my mom's eyes. It was that same look of disappointment she wore all week. Instead I stared at the other people that were boarding the bus: mothers sending off their kids and wiping the hair out of their eyes, friends holding each other like it would be the last time that they would ever see the other, and I definitely couldn't ignore the boyfriends and girlfriends kissing goodbye. My ex, Beau, never kissed me like that. There was one couple in which the boy would give the girl one long kiss with a short peck after, like he was sealing it. The couple looked my way and I quickly turned, hoping that they hadn't noticed me staring at them. I focused back on my mom, trying to grasp on to that last bit of comfort of home.
"Someday you will learn that life is not all about partying and texting, and by then, hopefully, we'll be ready to have you come home."
She kissed my forehead, and I watched her walk back toward her car. I knew then it would be the last time I would smell her perfume or hear her laugh for a long time. I ran my fingers through my ponytail, grabbed my suitcase, and climbed into the bus. Fourteen hours of pure pleasure were surely ahead of me.
I was the last one on the bus. Everyone had already picked their seat near someone they knew, or just someone to talk to on the long ride ahead. Everyone tried to make themselves as comfortable as they could in the bright pink and green bus seats. They looked like they were something straight out of the eighties and probably were just about as comfortable as the furniture that you'd find in the waiting areas of hospitals.
I finally reached the back of the bus to an open seat in the back and near the window. I saw the girl with the longing boyfriend out of the corner of my eye. He was gone, but she was staring at her phone and smiling as she typed away. She knew exactly where she was going and didn't have to run.
I unlocked my phone and looked down at the blinking screen.
One new text message.
I unlocked my phone and smiled as I saw the message.
New Message from Kappa Kristi:
You better not run away with some southern boy and not come to my wedding!
I replied back.
Dun worry. Even the Louisiana heat can't keep me away from your wedding…and I really doubt I will find a boy in Podunk.
I put my phone back into my bag and made myself comfortable in the seat. Like hell I would miss my sorority sister's wedding. One of the compromises I made with my parents before I left was that they had to get me a plane ticket to go home for Kristi's wedding in August. I was hoping by then that they would be ready for me to come home and maybe by that time I would be ready as well.
The bus pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot, which doubled as a station, at about four in the morning. I was tired from trying to sleep and failing miserably. I couldn't have been happier to finally get off the stupid bus. I wanted nothing more than to crawl into my bed, but I knew I wouldn't be doing that again for a while.
The last time that I saw Aunt Dee was at my grandma's funeral. All I knew about her was that she was my dad's mother's sister and that she owned tourist shop in some tiny town in Louisiana. Needless to say, I had no idea who to look for in the dimly lit parking lot.
"Elizabeth? Jesus help me, is that you?" A fiery haired lady walked toward me, squinting behind a pair of overly thick glasses. I scrutinized her dye job, which I was sure had to come from a drugstore bottle. At my five foot ten height I towered over this woman. She seemed a little confused as to whether I was the right person, or maybe her French braid was just a little too tight.
"Libby, call me Libby." I twirled a fallen curl between my fingers. "And you must be Aunt Dee?"
"Oh honey!" Aunt Dee wrapped her bare arms around me as she embraced me in a hug. She was so short her head was practically buried in my chest. It was hot, with the kind of humidity that just chokes you as soon as you step outside. You could definitely smell the heat on Aunt Dee, sweat and swamp mist from what I gathered. It took all the energy I had left not to gag as I gently hugged her back.
She let go of me and looked me up and down. "You are just as pretty as a picture! You are going to be chasing these Elsbury boys off with a stick, which I'm sure is what you were doing at college…"She trailed off as she looked at my luggage. "I guess that is why you're here…" She looked back up at me. "Well enough about that, you must be exhausted. Let's get you home, I have your room all ready!" I grabbed my suitcase and followed Aunt Dee as her awful dirt brown clogs clicked on the pavement.
"Brittany is just so excited to have you. I mean it's been a while since we've had anyone in the house besides her and me." Aunt Dee searched through her hideous fake leather purse as we walked down the parking lot.
"Who is Brittany?" I cocked my head to the side as we reached Aunt Dee's car, an old, green Grand Am. It was obvious that I wasn't going to be riding in style. The car's frame creaked as I leaned against it. I wouldn't have been surprised if it just fell over, leaving only a cloud of rust and green paint behind.
Aunt Dee pushed her glasses up with her index finger and looked up at me. Her beady little brown eyes seemed to still carry a bit of a spark in them even if the rest of her face was so wrinkled; it almost looked like a lightly tanned prune.