The grass beneath Caroline’s feet felt squishy with the previous night’s rain; her cleats made slight squishing noises as she bounced between the balls of her feet. “Let’s go Cougars!” she yelled as she clapped her hands covered in goalie mitts and cupped them to her face so her teammates in the middle of the field could hear her. This was it. This was the last game of the season. The Cougars might have been in second to last of the league, but they were playing like champions today.
The mob of players started rushing towards Caroline in the goal as they chased after the soccer ball like a greyhounds after a robotic rabbit at the tracks. A large girl who had control of the ball headed straight for Caroline, barreling down at her before kicking hard. Acting out of pure reaction, Carolina jumped to her right and cried out in a bit of pain as the soccer ball rammed into her stomach with a hard thwack! Her teammates roared up in cheers, hugging and jumping up and down as if they had won the super bowl; the referee blew his whistle. They had done it! They had won their first game!
Caroline joined the rest of her team, and giggled as she was swung around in a giant bear hug by her friend Josie. All of the girls were giddy and couldn’t wipe their silly grins off their faces as they went to join their parents in celebration. As all of the other girls ran over to the side of the field, Caroline jogged in the opposite direction to the locker rooms to clean up. She didn’t need to go searching for her parents- they hadn’t made it to a single one of her games this year so why start now? Caroline didn’t mean to be bitter; she knew a lot of other kids who had it much worse than she did, but it still hurt the way it seemed that everyone else’s parents were invested in the children but hers.
Still buzzed from the excitement of the game, Caroline used the few precious moments alone in the locker room to use the hot water in the shower. Her muscles seemed to unfurl under the warm jets of the water as she cleaned the sweat and dirt from her skin. Tan lines from the summer were still visible on her lithe body, a stark contrast between the golden kissed skin of her arms and legs and the paler skin where her shin guards and soccer shirts hid her from the sun. No matter how long she had used her building’s roof to sun for the summer, she still got the obvious sport’s tan that all of the girls loved to complain out.
Caroline had just stepped out the shower, toweling off her auburn curls. The sounds of the other girls echoed in the locker room, cheers and giggles intermingling with the gossip and congratulations as they changed and cleaned up from the game. Carolina joined the others at her place in the mirror to reapply her makeup when her best friend Josie fell in beside her.
“You coming back to Maddy’s with us?” she asked while skillfully applying her mascara.
“I don’t think so. I’ve got that whole essay for Ferguson that I haven’t even started,” answered Carolina as she finished primping. Caroline wasn’t beautiful by any means, but she was neither homely. Her face was sharply angular, and her nose seemed a hair too big for her face (beak like as some liked to mock it), her lips a tad too small, but her eyes were her redeeming feature. They shone bright like emeralds, green like her grandmother’s just like her olive skin during the summer.
“ah, too bad! I’d try to convince you, but I think for all of our sakes I better not,” Josie answered with a smile through the mirror. “Maybe he will give you an extension after today’s win?” she giggled as the other girls joined in yelling “Go Cougars!” loudly.
Caroline just smiled back before collecting her bag and heading out across the field. She nodded and waved to friends she knew still on school grounds as she joined the rest of the New York crowd rushing to get home. Caroline was lucky she lived so close, many of her friends had to take the metro every day to school, but she lived in one of the high risers just a couple of blocks away. The walk was never long enough, though. She would drag it out as much as she could, taking the long way around, even if it only added a few minutes on to her trip.
Her apartment was nice, as was the neighborhood she lived in, and the friends she had. It was all so very nice. Plainly nice. Caroline felt suffocated in the large city by the simplicity of it all; she wanted thrill and adventure and excitement, not yelling cab drivers or parents who never went to her soccer games. Caroline didn’t blame her parents for their neglect. They were young when she was born, not ready for children but too responsible to turn their backs. The strain was beginning to show though as the intense screaming matches between her parents became almost nightly. Caroline knew what was coming, everyone did, but being as stubborn as they were, none of them talked about it. They all hoped that perhaps by ignoring the rising tension, it would just leave.
It was obvious when Caroline entered the apartment, however, that was not the case. Though it was silent, it was the harsh kind that buzzed after having been filled with angry taunts and jabs. Caroline’s mother sat in the small kitchen bar, glaring through a glossy magazine with a vigorous flip of each page. Her father was nowhere in sight. Caroline didn’t bother consoling her mother, she had tried it too many times before and had been grounded for meddling. So, she just padded through the hallways to her room.
The yelling picked up again later that night, just as Caroline was putting the finishing touches on her paper. The hushed and muffled talking had turned to raised voices, and were now approaching the decibel of a large plane. It was all Carolina could do to tune them out and pretend that it was just the television. Still, her mouth tasted vile as she worked, her stomach in knots as she strained to listen for that one phrase that would finish off the family for good. It never came though, and the shouting eventually stopped.
Like every night, since Caroline had turned sixteen, she went to bed silently praying for a different family when she woke up. One that didn’t fight about every little thing and that made it to her soccer games. A kind of family with a mother who welcomed her home with a snack and questions about her day and a father who took her to the movies on Saturdays. She prayed silently as she stared up at her celling, wishing for reprieve from her life that bored her. She prayed hardest for an adventure.
Caroline turned to the window, staring out at hit wistfully as she looked at the stars. The stars were particularly bright tonight. She focused on their magical glow, wishing she could fly up among them, fly so far away that she didn’t need to worry about a family that fought or missed soccer games. A shadow blocked the stars. Someone was at the window looking in. That was ridiculous though, her apartment was on the eighth floor. How did they get up there? In the faint flow of the hall light she could make it out that it was a boy. The shadowy boy pulled the window up and slid into the room with a quick, fluid movement.
Shooting up in bed, Caroline almost screamed in fear. What was going on? The boy rushed over to her though, in the crack of light creaping through her door, and placed a finger to his lips as if to hush her. Caroline swallowed hard. He had a tangle of flaming orange hair, shoulder-length, a sprinkle of freckles across his nose and cheeks, and his ears were—pointy! He looked at her to see if she would yell but she just stared back, her chest racing and her hands curled in her blanket. It was then that she noticed the color of his eyes: gold like a lynx.
He cocked his head, then smiled, and when he did, those golden eyes sparkled. It was the kind of smile a child would have when they had a secret, one they knew no one else knew. There was something wild in those smiles, something exciting and dangerous. He slid a left out onto the fire escape and nodded for to come along. Caroline started out of her bed, then stopped. What was she thinking? She couldn’t just follow this strange boy out into the night. She shook her head silently but made no move to return to bed.
His mischievous smile fell as he glanced up to the stars, then offered her a wave as if to say good-bye.
“Wait,” she hushed out. He waited.
And that was as far as she got, unsure what to do next. The only thing Caroline was sure of was that she didn’t want this magical boy to leave her. A sparling star caught her eye behind him. She blinked, tried to clear her head, needing a minute to think. Caroline was afraid of waiting though, not wanting to let the boy out of her sight, afraid this might break the spell so that when she was ready he would be gone forever and she would have lost her adventure.
The boy reentered the room and knelt beside her with his wild eyes and untamable hair. He told her of an enchanted island where no grown-ups were allowed. Where there were other kids like her, who loved to laugh and play. Where there were great adventures to be had. Caroline almost laughed in his face, but he was so sincere, so painfully honest and she found herself believing when he invited her to come along. And even though a voice deep within her warned her to stay away from this strange boy, she wanted nothing more at that moment than to follow along after him.
This time, when the boy stood to go, she dressed quickly, following him out onto the fire escape, down to the street, and into the night. She had nothing to lose—it was probably all some crazy dream or scheme her friends had created. This was her wishes invading her unconscious, it wasn’t real. But it felt so real, and deep down she knew it was.
If Caroline could have only spoken to the other boys and girls, the ones that had followed the golden-eyes boy before her, she would have known that there is always something left to lose.
I wanted to apologize to anyone I was in the middle of an RP with for my abrupt leave from the guild. I was going back to school, which normally isn’t a problem, but my dorm has been without power and I’ve been moving all of my things in between class to another dorm so I’ve been a bit busy. I’m typing up as many responses as I can tonight and tomorrow if you are still interested in continuing. This was totally unusual and I can’t see it happening again but I’m so sorry for disappearing like that!
"We are the miracle of force and matter making itself over into imagination and will. Incredible. The Life Force experimenting with forms. You for one. Me for another. The Universe has shouted itself alive. We are one of the shouts." Ray Bradbury