Status: active;;

Right Now

Let Go and Surprise Yourself

"Dakota James Bryce, you watch your language," Mama snaps at my outburst, and I snort inelegantly.

"Why? I'm twenty-one. I'm a legal adult. I can say what I want."

I know as soon as the words come out that it sounds immature, like I'm a petulant child unhappy with being scolded, but all I can think or care about is how everything has changed so abruptly. I laugh to myself bitterly as I remember my thoughts from the other night; I almost wish my parents were part of the Witness Protection Program. Then this wouldn't be happening. I shake my head when my dad begins speaking.

"Deej..."

"No. Don't call me that. You can't sit there and talk to me like everything is all right when it's not. What made you think this wouldn't fuck everything up?"

"Dakota, you will not be told again to watch your language. You are a beautiful young lady and a child of God. You don't curse like a sailor."

I push myself to my feet, and the way my mother flinches back minutely almost makes me feel bad. But I don't even try to stop the thoughts that turn into words without my permission. "Yeah? Well, you're married. Married couples actually love each other. They don't spring it on their goddamn children that hey, we're done trying, see ya. You know what, I'm going out. I'll be back whenever." Pausing in the hallway, I look at my sister. "Coming, Banana?"

She rushes out of her chair and across the room, not giving our parents a second glance on the way. The front door slams behind her; I grab a pair of tennis shoes for her and slip my feet into my flats. I don't even care any more that I still smell like Cara Mia's. Anna thanks me quietly when I pass over her shoes, and I nod in return before reversing out of my parking spot. Trees rush past the windows as I drive. Neither of us talk, but her hand finds mine ten minutes down the road, and I squeeze back as comfortingly as I can. I know we're both thinking about the same thing.

Another thirty minutes slip by, my tires eating up the miles, and I finally pull into the parking lot of a diner in the next town over. She follows me silently into the building, and a waitress smiles and tells us to seat ourselves. I lead my sister to a booth in the back, slide in next to her, and wrap my arm around her shaking shoulders. When the server comes by the table, I force a grin and ask for two cups of coffee, cream and sugar on the side. She nods succinctly and disappears. Anna's hand feels impossibly small in mine, like when we were kids and I was the one she looked up to and followed around even when she got scared.

"I, I'm not gonna ask if you're all right, because I know you're not, but... do you want to talk?"

Her head thumps against the side of my arm, and her voice trembles as she asks, "Why are they doing this, Deej?"

"Oh, Banana, I wish I could say that this is all just a bad dream. I really do. But I can't. Just know that I don't care if you're seventeen or forty-seven, I'm always gonna be here for you."

"I know. I just wish things weren't going to change." Her breath comes out unsteadily, and she pushes away from me. "What's going to happen?"

We finish our coffees without any more conversation. Anna heads out to the car while I pay, and the woman behind the register promises that things will get better. I stop myself from making a sarcastic remark and dip my chin before walking away. The drive back home is just as quiet, just as fraught with tension, and I try desperately to make the forty minutes' trip longer by taking back roads. No matter what I do, though, I know the routes like the back of my hand, and autopilot keeps me going forward. Eventually, I clear my throat; Anna doesn't move her head from where it's resting against the window.

"D'you... wanna come visit Bri with me?"

Her shoulders rise and fall with her sigh. "Nah. I mean, I'd love to, but school."

"Can't argue with that," I mutter as I signal to merge lanes and pass the car going fifteen under the speed limit.

"This mean you're definitely going?"

"I dunno. Gotta figure out if my professors will allow it."

She reaches over and turns on the radio. The guitars and drumline of Carrie Underwood's "Blown Away" fills the car, and I lean back in my seat. Over the music, I barely hear Anna mutter something that sounds a lot like "I wouldn't blame you if you never came back."

Our mom is sitting on the back porch by the time I park in front of the garage. Anna scoffs and storms past her, and I watch as Mama's face falls at my sister's actions. She doesn't say anything when I make my way to the deck, and I think maybe I'll be home free until her fingers wrap around my wrist, and she pulls me to a halt.

"You know we're not doing this to hurt you girls, right?"

"No, but I guess we're just collateral damage."

"Of course you're not, DJ. Your father and I... we have tried so hard to make it work, we really did. We just couldn't."

"Why not?" I sit beside her, wrap my arms around my knees. "Twenty-three years can't be that easy to throw away."

"Oh, honey, it isn't. Trust me, it isn't. God knows we wanted to make our marriage work, at the very least so we didn't have to hurt you. But, Deej, do you remember that line from that Tyler Perry movie? 'Sometimes we try to hold onto things that God himself is trying to tear apart'? That's how we feel. Honey, this was a long time coming, we just didn't know it."

"But how can you just stop loving someone you've spent almost half your life with?"

Mama sighs, shrugging, and runs her hands through my hair. "Oh, I'll never stop loving your father. After all, he gave me my two biggest blessings. But the love we had just... morphed into something else, something not quite suited for marriage. And this doesn't mean that you'll be losing either of us. Things are just a little different now, that's all."

I nod stiffly, dragging in a deep breath, before standing. She doesn't stop me as I head inside. Anna's voice drifts from the living room, and I know she's probably talking to Carly, her best friend of fourteen years. I peek around the corner of the archway, and my heart sinks at the sight of her splotchy cheeks and red-rimmed eyes. I sigh quietly and go to my room.

My phone is vibrating on the bedside table by the time I get down the stairs. I glance at the screen and ignore it when I see it's just Rachel. Talking to someone is at the very bottom of my list of things I enjoy at the moment; I flop backwards onto my bed then curl into a ball, closing my eyes against the stinging that precedes tears. It's absolutely ridiculous that I'm reacting this way to the news of my parents' divorce, but I just can't seem to find a way of making it stop. I let out a shuddering breath.

The melodious tones of the kitchen clock chiming midnight, muffled through the floor and insulation, meet my ears as I wake. My body aches all over from lying still so long, and I stretch out the tension and bunched muscles. A slow-blinking light comes from my right; I grab my phone and check the screen. Ten missed calls, nineteen texts, and six voicemails. Twelve of the texts were from Brianna, all variations of Are you okay? Why aren't you answering?, except in much more colourful language. Rachel has called seven times, my work the other three. Jena, Alberto, and Rod texted, and I know immediately that it can't be anything good if my coworkers went out of their way to send me a message. I doubt all three of them were asking me to cover a shift at the same time. My gut feeling turns out to be right; they were just trying to warn me. My heart plummets as I listen to the voicemails from my work. Though I've never missed a day and always picked up extra shifts during the year and a half that I worked at Cara Mia's, my boss somehow found it necessary to fire me.

I throw my phone onto the bed, shift until my back is against the wall, and rest my forehead on my knees. A hollow nagging twisted in my stomach. Now what am I going to do? I've just lost my job, and everything at home has changed in less than a day. My head hits the wall with a thump, and I stare at the photographs pinned to the plaster - Brianna and I at the state fair, waiting for a vendor to hand us our elephant ears; us floating on the river the summer before we started our senior year, wine coolers in one hand and holding onto each other with the other; our first day of third grade, hugging one another in our matching outfits (we spent our childhoods claiming we were twins despite major physical differences). Everywhere I look, I see evidence of just how pervasive and integral Brianna has been in my life. She was always there for the big things, the small things, and everything in between.

I groan; I know she is going to be incredibly pissed off if she finds out I've kept something of this magnitude from her. Slowly, I lean over the edge of my mattress and grab my laptop off the floor. It boots up gradually, and I finally bring up an internet window. My fingers start typing into the search bar before my brain has the chance to stop them. I've made up my mind, and I am not going to overthink it.
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title credit surprise yourself jack garratt