*This is a continuation of Kate Paxton’s story, starting from the first ever Writer’s Wednesday.
Some days were fine. So fine that I almost felt like a normal student as I sat at my desk, twirling a lock of sun-bleached blond hair around my finger. Other days the late-summer mountains looked like heaven outside the window. Today was one of those days.
RIIING! The bell shrieked, ringing in the start of the second week of school. But my thoughts couldn’t be further from first hour English. Soaring blue peaks lingered outside the window, tantalizingly close as they jutted out above the thick canopy of yellowing leaves.
The trees were beginning to lose some of their summer luster, emerald greens fading to an ugly yellow-brown color that clung to the leaves like rot. It was strange to think that such an ugly color would transition into the crimson and gold tones of autumn.
How could such a gross yellow-brown simply be the sign of beautiful things to come? I thought, staring wistfully out the window, watching the mighty willow sway in the wandering breeze. That sounds like something a philosopher would wonder, and construct from that some kind of glorious life lesson.
I snorted at the thought, turning bright red as my classmates shot me confused and almost disgusted glances. The flush on my sun kissed cheeks quickly faded. Ever since I ran away, people’s opinions didn’t matter so much anymore. Things I would have been humiliated at before, things I would have obsessed over and tormented myself for now easily slipped my mind, a little silver fish leaping from the stream only to swiftly disappear beneath the rushing waters.
“KATE! Are you paying any attention?” Jolting out of my thoughts, I snapped up my head that I hadn’t even consciously made the decision to lay down in the first place. Needless to say, I was shocked. Normally my teachers were very gentle and soft with me, since they assumed I was traumatized or mentally unstable. They were probably right.
“Honestly?” Raising my gaze to make eye contact with the teacher, I stared her down, instinctively sizing her up. The teacher, Ms. Alba, was hawk-like in appearance, with sharp cheekbones and an angular nose that jutted from her face (and was usually upturned in a haughty sneer). She was thin and bony, with no fat to protect her and no muscle either. Perched on her chair, staring at me with those narrowed brown eyes, she reminded me of an eagle that came near the lake in the summer, scornfully surveying the land from a gnarled branch. Though she was taller than me, I was quite certain I could win in a fight.
Nothing intimidated me anymore, especially not a scrawny English teacher. People were of no concern. Nature held both true beauty and true power that humans couldn’t even begin to imagine. I would know.
“You know what? No. I wasn’t paying attention,” I blurted at last. The room fell quiet immediately, the noise and chatter of the classroom dropping off into a stunned silence.
“I-I- you…” Ms. Alba stuttered, mouth agape in astonished anger. For a moment, she no longer seemed like an eagle, with wind-blown brown hair like feathers and a harsh stare. For a moment she looked like an elephant that had been frightened by a mouse, who thought herself to be powerful and unrivaled only to be threatened by a puny little rodent.
I gave her a smug, rebellious smile, flipping my hair behind my shoulder with a flourish and resting my chin on my hand; Ms. Alba set her jaw furiously, seeming to regain her composure. Oohh crap.
“Well, maybe you should listen then. I will send you to detention!” she threatened, shaking a finger at me. No! You can’t do this! Not unless you’re going to escape again! My heart stopped for a moment. I laughed out loud, and classmates stared at me with bug-eyed expressions that said, “How can you be so stupid?”
But the thoughts of escape trickled into my brain viciously, pouring in with intensity that grew along with my anger and ingraining themselves deep in my mind. It was so simple. I could just escape. Right here. Right now. My mind screamed again, logic immediately combatting the idea with rational reasons not to do it.
“You know, I might like detention. Nice solitary time. Maybe ‘reflect on my behavior.’ Apologize to everyone for… what, following my dream? Being myself? Running away from stupid society because I love nature? Wow. I am such a sinner.” Sarcasm dripped from my voice, so heavy that it weighed my words. Raw fury blazed in her eyes as I held her gaze, dubiously tilting my head as irritation and restlessness warred in my chest.
Lub-dub. You need to escape. Lub-dub. Stay, suppress the feeling. It’ll never work anyway. Lub-dub! The woods are your home! Lub-dub! There’s a better way to do this! Go back to the therapist. You can work this out! Despite the pain and indecision that was bubbling hot in my blood, I still held the teacher’s gaze fiercely.
“You need to stop. This isn’t the stupid woods anymore, where you can do whatever you want and frolick or whatever. Because you were caught. That fantasy is over, so now you need to respect me. Go to the office. Now,” she said tautly, pointing angrily at the door. Rage rocketed through my heart, boiling my blood and fueling the thoughts. I didn’t move. I was paralyzed, glued to my desk, unwilling to move towards the door. The trees outside swayed in the breeze, gentle and welcoming, the bold blue mountains in sharp contrast to the warm earthy tones.
“Ms. Paxton! Go! Now. You need to obey! This is not the wild. You will never go back.” The stern voice echoed over and over in my ears. Unconsciously, I got up, pushing back my seat with a loud screech. My heart pounded wildly in my chest; the teacher beamed with pride, watching me stand up.
She expected me to go to the office, thought that I had given up and accepted my fate: to be bound to society, to be molded into a perfect, pristine person that bows under the pressures of the normal.
But I wasn’t heading towards the door. Ms. Alba’s grinning face fell with each step as I strode towards the window. Thud-thud. Thud-thud. Thud-thud. The same sound the killer had made stalking through the dusk, the same sound I made meandering through the caves, the same sound I made as I had ambled down the shining sand of the lake. Footsteps. Overlooked, but such an important part of our life. That thud-thud that you pay no attention to is always there, at the best and worst parts of life and every second in between.
“Where are you going? Kate Paxton, I demand that you go to the office! Where are you going? Someone grab her!” Her words bounced off me, like a bullet bouncing harmlessly off of bulletproof glass. My whole world was outside that window, and I was just inching towards it. People fumbled for my arms feebly, trying to grab me. It was a futile effort, and I hardly noticed their weak attempts as I approached the window.
Running a hand down the cool glass, I thought, this is it. All that stands between me and a life of freedom is this thin pane of glass. Easily shattered. This measly window and some weak students. I gazed wistfully out the window, watching the wind ruffle the trees and the yellow leaves falling to the ground in flurries. Rocky blue mountains soared beyond, and I yearned to reach them, to run my hand over the stone and feel the raw power.
I couldn’t take it anymore. My heart pounded for the woods, each beat a cry out to the mountains. A gust of wind blew my hair as I yanked up the window frame. Swinging a leg over the side, I stared at the ground below. If I missed the branch I was aiming for, I would splatter all over that ground, shattered on the grass as my disbelieving classmates watched in utter horror. It was a risk I had to take. Without further hesitation, I swang over my other leg and threw myself out the open window.