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Author Note: Expanded version. Originally written for NYC Midnight 100 Microfiction Challenge.
Half-asleep and sweaty from the early morning humidity, Sophie trudged behind her mom Anna as they walked through the haunted fog. As if they were a victim of a strange, inescapable curse, the fog served as a reminder of how unclear and gloomy their life was.
This is it for us, just walking. Walking to school, to the grocery store, walking forever and going nowhere, Sophie thought. The colossal weight of her battered backpack slowed her down and made her young back ache. Because Anna couldn’t afford a new one, Sophie dealt with the pain and resolved the holes with patches she sewed on.
That was upsetting.
The scene from two weeks ago played on repeat in her head, giving any anger felt for Anna a heartbeat, growing stronger each day they had to walk. If Sophie never found the ripped in half canary yellow copy of the police report in the kitchen trash, she wouldn’t have known the truth of their missing car. She memorized it word for word.
To know Anna was to know misery. Sophie knew the woman that night behind the wheel. Music blasting, speeding through the black of night, drinking prescription pills like water to escape life pressures. Blacking out, the car totaled, blamed on the tree that got in the way. It’s a miracle Anna survived.
“We wouldn’t have to walk everywhere if you didn’t crash,” Sophie groans. Wiping sweat from her forehead before it spilled into her eyes. “This is like a two-mile walk every day. I hate this town. Why can’t there be a school bus?”
“This won’t be forever, Sophie.”
“Yeah, it will, you’re always a disaster!”
“Sophie, I’m doing the best I—” Anna tripped over the raised sidewalk in front of the school. Embarrassed from the fall, she struggled back to her feet, horrified at the sight of blood oozing from both knees as she brushed herself off. Sophie looked at Anna with her usual judgmental glare.
“I’ll make things right; I won’t give up—”
“I hate you.”
Once the school bell rang, Sophie ran off without a goodbye. Further down the block was Anna’s bus stop, the only one in town. As everyone else entered the middle-school, Sophie stopped and watched Anna limp toward the growing bus line to head to her new job, arranged by her social worker after refusing to work for years. Today was her first day.
Sudden regret shattered Sophie’s heart into a billion pieces. “I believe you, Mom,” she said.