“Hey, it’s me. I’m just calling to let you know that Thad ambushed me. Apparently, this time, he’s really shipping me off to my estranged grandparent’s house in New Mexico. I don’t even know them, never met them, ever. Anyways, I just wanted to tell you bye, so…bye.” Phaedra was actually glad that Liam hadn’t answered. She was afraid that hearing his voice might truly push her over the edge. So, instead, Phaedra continued to hold back the tears that were threatening to spill over her eyes, and when she swallowed the lump in her throat wouldn’t budge. Feeling strangely overwhelmed with this new turn of events she stared out at the Bay. Phaedra refused to turn her head in her brother’s direction, Thad, who sat next to her while speeding down the Parkway. Phaedra’s head jerked as he wove in and out of traffic confidently. He was taking Phaedra to JFK International. She truly never believed that he would follow through with his threats, but it was becoming blatantly apparent to Phaedra that he really was.
Hate, disappointment, and pride engulfed her, so much so, that she couldn’t tell Thad what she really wanted to, and that was that she was sorry for behaving the way she had. She wanted to cry out, look him in the eyes, and beg him not to do it. She wanted him to turn his car around and take her home. She wanted to promise she’d be better, and, she actually wanted to be better. But Phaedra hadn’t cried, promised, or apologized for anything she’d done in a very long time. If she’d have believed her actions would have driven Thad to this point, she would have never been as rebellious as she had been. Except, she truthfully thought he’d never follow through with this particular threat, he’d never followed through before.
For a long time now Phaedra could do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. Thad was never home to stop her and, when he tried, his punishments were miniscule and tolerable. He was just too busy traveling all over the country running their father’s excelling company to really be a true parental figure to her. Now he was insisting that she live with their Grandfather and Grandmother Howl on some remote Reservation in New Mexico. She would do anything to stay with him, anything except tell him so.
Thad was the only family she really had left. Now Thad was going to send her to live with perfect strangers? They might be her grandparent’s but Phaedra wouldn’t know what they looked like. They hadn’t even come to the funeral.
“Phaedra,” Thad’s voice broke into her thoughts. She didn’t budge, didn’t look at him, nor did she answer. His drastic decision to send her away hurt terribly, and so, like so many times before, she was determined to defy him.
Phaedra willed her features to stay motionless and unreadable. The sun was hovering over the towering skyscrapers casting flickering geometric shadows across her face. “I know you don’t think so now but this is for the best. I can’t be there for you like you need, and, you just keep on getting into trouble,” he said in frustration while veering right to exit the Parkway. “I’d like to have a life of my own you know….one where I didn’t have to worry about you all the time. I am twenty seven years old and all I ever do is constantly worry about you, Phaedra. I Worry if you’ve snuck out when you should be home, or if you have skipped out of school while I am at work, or if you’ll come home with another tattoo. To be honest, Phaedra, I’m surprised that you haven’t turned up pregnant or dead.”
Phaedra winced. Thad’s last remark cut through her. Mechanically, Phaedra turned her head to look at him, a deep scowl creasing her beautiful features.
“The kids you hang out with…Phaedra. Why? It’s just not fair to me.” Thad questioned in frustration. He paused while waiting for a response from his little sister but when he didn’t receive one he let out a sigh, and in a more somber manner, went on. “I should have just sent you to live with them right after mom and dad died. I don’t know what I was doing thinking I could be your legal guardian. I was so young then. I am still too young for this sort of thing.”
The tears she had been fiercely holding back finally spilled over her cheeks. Phaedra wiped at them in frustration turning away from him again, glaring out the window with a dark scowl. She was hurt that he didn’t want her, hurt that he had given up on her.
“What is this? Are you crying?” Thad said in surprise. “I didn’t think Phaedra cried.”
Phaedra pulled her hoodie up and turned her head as far as it would go making sure that her brother couldn’t see any part of her face. Then she placed the earplugs to her iPod in her ears and cranked up the music. She was sorely wounded that he would assume the worst of her. Sure she was drawn to unusual people, she couldn’t help that she liked eccentric types, they were interesting to her. It always seemed that wherever she went she was drawn to trouble. But, she was more of an observer than a participant, and it hurt that he would think she was involved in sex and drugs. Though she would never discuss such things with Thad, she was still a virgin. She also detested feeling out of control, so the thought of taking a drug to induce such feelings was not appealing to her. She let the pain his doubt inflicted seep into her heart and then Phaedra turned the hurt into something she could handle, anger, rage, and disconnect. In that moment, Phaedra swore never to talk to Thad again. He was the only true family she had left and he had turned on her when she needed him the most.
Phaedra knew she was utterly messed up somehow. She enjoyed things that others did not. Like some sort of predator she stocked, and preyed on others weaknesses, feeling very satisfied when turmoil broke out. All her life a struggle had brewed within her, one where she could either answer the call of some instinctual, carnal emotion, or simply not. She was certain the battle was so much more powerful than what other teenagers around her were going through, but she couldn’t explain why. How could she tell her brother, or anyone, how she felt, and what she was dealing with when she couldn’t even articulate it? And if she could they would think her insane. So she hid behind a defiant mask. Hanging out with people who were irresponsible took the pain away, or at least dulled it some, and if they entertained her while doing so, the better.
Mayhem, drama, tension, and the electricity from a conflict, or a gathering crowd thrilled her something fierce. Lately, her reaction was becoming more and more reasonable, easier for her to accept. When both your parents die in a plane crash at the age of eleven, becoming emotionally messed up was something that just happened. Phaedra never even had the chance to say goodbye. They had left unexpectedly one winter’s day to see to a family emergency while she was naively sitting in school. One of the plane’s engines ignited, crashing into a remote mountain range. Their bodies were ruined, burned, and dismembered beyond recognition. In fact, any charred parts of them that were recovered had to be cremated. Their ashes were spread out over the deep Brackish loughs of Ireland, her father’s beloved home, and the very place they were headed. Phaedra still kept the note her mother had hurriedly scribbled and left on the kitchen counter in their pent house apartment. Phaedra, we had to leave to Ireland we will call and explain when we can. The Millers said you could stay with them until we come back. Love you, mom and dad. The nightmares of it all still plagued her. Lately Phaedra had begun to accept that she was simply different because of this traumatic experience in her life, deciding to let go of her inner turmoil and just give in and accept the fierce pull she felt towards chaos.
Thad reached across the car daring to put a hand on her shoulder. The minute Phaedra felt his touch she pulled away, shrugging his hand off. “I’m sorry, Phaedra. I just can’t do it anymore,” he said, even though his words fell on deaf ears.