Naomi arrived home as the epicentre of a raging war of moods. Futility and Despair had formed an alliance of convenience and their combined forces had hit the battlefield hard, establishing strong tactical positions. Indignation was flanking to the left, and Pride was completing the pincer maneuver on the right, as Shock led a fearless charge straight up the middle. Meanwhile, Happy To Be Alive had arrayed its meagre forces on a nearby hilltop and was attempting to fly its banners without the benefit of any wind. The armies collided as she stepped through the front door.
Naomi kicked off her shoes and trudged down the hallway, the clashing of sword-on-shield clamouring through her head. She flung her backpack onto the floor of her bedroom and closed the door, which only served to shut in the echoes, magnifying the clamour.
Lying on her bed, Naomi covered her face with a pillow and tried to breathe deeply, to push away the swirling thoughts of Ian Innis’s “I-know-you” half-smile, of the car about to run her down, of that enticing, repulsive word, lucrative…
There were footsteps in the hallway. Not now. She didn’t feel at all like talking right now. Naomi gritted her teeth and skipped.
On the other side of the purple darkness, Naomi arrived back on her bed with her right knee bent awkwardly up to her chest, her right foot wedged against her mother’s back, and her left foot propped up in the air by her mother’s face. Mom calmly wormed out from the entanglement towards the far end of the bed.
“Er, sorry,” mumbled Naomi.
“Nothing to apologize for, dear,” said Mom, with a soft smile. “I probably should’ve waited by the door to make sure I didn’t sit where you had disappeared from. I’d hate to see you get twisted up too much and break your leg.”
The oncoming car flashed past Naomi’s eyes again. She sank back onto her pillows.
“Of course,” continued Mom, “if you didn’t keep trying to get away from me like this, I wouldn’t have to worry about it all…”
“Mmhmm,” grunted Naomi.
“I don’t know why you do it, anyways. You know I figured you out a long time ago.”
Mom gave silence half a minute or so to do its work on her daughter. Then she tried another approach. “How did it go this afternoon? Did you hand all of your résumés out?”
Naomi stared up at the ceiling. “Most of them.”
“And? Any positive reactions?”
Naomi didn’t reply.
“Naomi, what’s wrong? You haven’t given up already, have you? You shouldn’t let yourself worry so much. You’re going to find something.”
“Oh, sure,” Naomi snapped. “I’ll pick up 30 hours a week somewhere, earning minimum wage, hating every shift, and by the time September comes around I’ll have enough saved up to cover maybe half of my tuition, and I don’t even know what I’m going to do with a stupid History degree…”
“I know this process is tough on you, but hang in there, okay? You’ll answer those bigger questions in time. Just stick with the plan.”
“That’s the whole problem!” said Naomi. “I don’t have a plan. I don’t even have any goals. I don’t know where I want to end up, I don’t know what I want to be… I’m not making any progress, and even if I was, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be making progress towards.”
“Give it time, Naomi. Ride it out. Things will get clearer.”
Naomi turned to the wall and wrapped her pillow back around her head, assuming what she had long ago established as her “leave-me-alone-now” posture.
Mom reached over to gave Naomi’s knee a sympathetic pat, and in doing so noticed the tears in her jeans and the scrapes beneath. “Where did this come from? Did you hurt yourself?”
The car bore down on Naomi, its driver hunched forward over the steering wheel, his eyes wide and aggressive, a maniacal cackle escaping through his bared teeth. He was right on top of her, about to hit…
So what? What good is that doing me?
Some of our bigger opportunities are far more lucrative…
“No, I’m fine,” said Naomi, her voice muffled by the pillow. “I just… tripped on the sidewalk.”
“Well make sure you wash those scrapes off so they don’t get infected,” said Mom. “And throw those jeans into the sewing room so I can patch them.”
“I don’t want to wear jeans with patches on the knees like some six-year-old.”
“Then I’ll wear them.”
Mom didn’t say anything for a few seconds. She sighed. “Dinner is in half an hour.”
Naomi waited until Mom had closed the door behind her, kicked her torn jeans off, crawled under the covers, and skipped about fifteen times in a row, until the purple darkness had pooled deeply in her head and stomach. She didn’t even notice the plate of chicken and potatoes that appeared on her desk, and disappeared a few skips later.