Each word laced with uncertainty as it glided through her tight lips. The feeling of smooth indents against her hand from her fingernails that absentmindedly dug in, leaving behind crescent harvest moons. It was a feeling she knew all too well. Her breathing was shaky, like a ship trying to survive a storm. Except she was the ship and the storm was every single moment of every single day.
Her father picked the name Aurora, like the bright lights that gleamed through the night sky. He often recounts the day of her birth, when he looked at her and he knew for sure that she would be spectacular. She would be the beautiful light that shined into the world during darker times. However, in her eyes she was more like the absence of light if anything. Perhaps she was the darkness that surrounded other auroras, sitting in the background and letting them sparkle.
At fourteen, therapists diagnosed her as mute. They told her parents that they tried everything they could, but she just wouldn’t speak. It was a lost cause, they said. Just let her figure it out, they said.
Broken words would form in the bottom of her throat and only release when it was an important matter. No point in talking about her day, they already knew it was terrible. No point in talking about her interests, because nothing made her happy. No point in talking because no one wanted to listen anyway.
At sixteen they took her out of school. Thought that maybe homeschooling was better for her. The real problem was the overall lack of motivation, anything from waking up to brushing her teeth, to eating, to doing anything that required a functioning brain. But they thought they were helping, and she let them believe it.
That was her fatal flaw. Everyone else came first, but never Aurora. Seeing how her messed up mind was destroying the family laid guilt on her shoulders like wet concrete. How lucky, she thought, that her parents only had one damaged child to deal with.
If you shoot a gun and the bullet ricochets back in your face, would you really shoot it again?
She’s seventeen now, the impending doom of adulthood lays on the horizon. Oh the late nights spent, ear to the door, listening to her parents sob into each other’s shoulders.
“She’ll never make it on her own. We have to take care of her for the rest of our lives...”
That burned in Aurora’s mouth like rat poisoning. It was paralyzing. Just her and the hushed cries, with a thin wooden door in between. She didn’t move when her father opened the door and saw her there, didn’t move when he picked her up. Didn’t even move when he tried to put her into bed and tucked the sheets.
“I love you, Aurora. We love you.”
And for the first time in months, she formed one perfectly coherent sentence as her father began to step back into the hallway.
“Don’t lie to me.”
That was months ago. An eternity.
Today marks the first day in over three years that her parents decided to leave her home alone.
“You’re almost eighteen,” her mother said softly. “You have to learn how to be on your own. One step at a time.”
Somewhere inside of her, she knew they deserved this night together. Far away from her and all the stress that radiated from her. They deserve the world for everything they have done. Yet Aurora, while she could process this, couldn’t deal with being alone.
They left at 7:04. Their reservation was for 6:30.
As the door shut, the silence surrounded her. Choking and smothering her frail body as she slid her back down the wall. Pointed knees digging into her jaw, leaving behind pink imprints.
Aurora eventually migrated to the living room and took a seat on the couch. Behind the couch was a sleek, glossy window. The city streets thrived on the other side of the glass pane. She had her head in her hands watching the blurs of red and white lights flourish against the tarry roads and following the rhythm of the cars thumping into speed bumps.
She rested her tired head against the cool window, trying to fall asleep to the sound of life going on. As her mind started to slow, a thunderous crash radiated into her skull. Aurora jumped in fear to the sight of dirt and smoke clouding over her home.
Her heart raced as she sprinted across the house to grab the landline. It was weighty in her small hands.
She stared for what felt like hours at her terrified reflection in the screen. The girl in the reflection absolutely haunted her, with eyes that sent ice picks through Aurora’s veins.
What happened? How did she end up like this? She used to be so jovial; so free. Sure, she was always shy, but this wasn’t her. This wasn’t a life.
To her, her words and ideas were so irrelevant. She couldn’t bring herself to say anything no matter how upset she was, because it had never mattered and never would. She doesn’t tell her parents that she loves them, never confides her worries and fears to anyone. It was a sad existence.
And since no one wanted to answer, she didn’t want to ask. No one wanted to engage, so she didn’t initiate anything.
Now she’s sitting here, honestly pondering whether or not to call for help when someone could be hurt or dead. The old Aurora would have called the police...
Her fingers swiftly tapped 9-1-1 against the silicone number keys. She slowly lifted the phone to her ear and bit her lips while she waited for someone on the other line.
“911, please state your emergency.”
She thought critically about what words she would release from the pit of her stomach.
“There was-” she coughed into the phone. “I’m sorry.”
The woman on the other end sighed softly, but enough for Aurora to hear. “So it begins,” she thought. “I’ve already bothered her. But I have to keep going.”
She cleared her throat. “There’s been a car crash in front of my house. 116 North Tripton Avenue, in Cornington.”
“Okay, we have units on the way. Are there any injuries?” The woman replied.
“Yes. There must be. I’m going out to help.”
The woman asked questions, Aurora tried her best to muster up the answers. After the call, Aurora’s spirit brought her outside and to the scene. No other cars were around, just the two crashed ones and a couple people scattered around.
“Is everyone alright?” Aurora asked them. There was a woman and a man on one side of the road, bruised but alright and sitting up. On the other side was a man who was a bit more hurt. She sat beside him.
“I won’t leave you here. I promise. An ambulance is coming soon.”
The ambulance sirens wailed in the distance. Moments later it soared up the road and up to the scene.
They got out of the van and hurried over. Two people went to see the couple and one person went to help the man. Before ushering him onto a gurney, he looked at Aurora and smiled again.
“You s-saved my life tonight. You’re a h-hero.”
She looked down at her feet shyly and nodded in reply as he was put into the van. Police pulled up soon after and hunted her down.
“Are you the girl who phoned this in?” One of them asked.
He sat down next to her in the road. “You’re a brave young lady, you know that? You saved this man’s life by calling us.”
Aurora was brave. She was brave. That’s a word that had never been used to describe her. He helped her off the street and walked her to the sidewalk, keeping her company after sensing how nervous she was. She kept a light chatter with him.
Finally, someone was listening, responding, caring about what she thought and said. Aurora pondered her life, and finally came to a realization that had been aching to come out for years. Maybe her voice was more important than she believed. Maybe it wasn’t about everyone hurting her. Maybe she was hurting herself.
Reveling in this foreign idea, she grew more and more confident as she conversed with the officer. This was a fresh start for her. Although it will be hard at first, today was going to be the first day of her new life. A new life where she appreciated herself more.
Her hands didn’t even shake when she spoke.