A New Life for Sara
By: Gabriella Balcom

February 8, 2014

Darting toward the park's outdoor restroom, Sara almost went through the males' door by accident, but caught herself in time. She circled to the women's side, and forced herself to enter at a casual pace, because she didn't want to be noticed—or remembered. Glancing from the corner of her right eye, she was glad to see the toilet's only other occupant seemed 100% preoccupied with preening in front of the full-length mirrors. She sauntered into the closest stall, sighing with relief as she shut the door behind her. Sara's fingers shook and she had trouble sliding the latch shut, but at least she was away from There. She didn't plan to return to that hell. Now if only Miss Stare-At-Myself-Till-My-Eyes-Cross-Or-Fall-Out Sally, Betty, Candy, Honey, Foo-Foo, Dumb-butt or whatever her name was would stop admiring herself and leave. Surely, she'd get tired of what she was doing soon, right? How much more could she need to admire her butt which she'd—obviously—just barely managed to squeeze into jeans. It was a wonder she could draw a breath, much less smirk at her reflection.

An eternity passed for Sara, while she held her proverbial breath in the stall and waited for Pesky Preener to leave. However, she finally heard a door open and shut. Was she alone? Stooping, she took great care in peering out from underneath her door. Yeah. She saw no feet anywhere. All good. Hopefully.

Dashing to the outer door, she locked it as fast as she could. She used the second lock, too, since it was there. The poor thing was more loose than secure and wouldn't hold a fly out, but flicking it shut couldn't hurt.

Sarah hurried to a sink and shoved her hood back, revealing her long reddish-brown hair. Unzipping her jacket, she reached inside for her concealed purse and yanked it open. Pulling out scissors, she grabbed handfuls of her hair, and began hacking. Clumps fell to the floor. Next, she took the plastic bag from her purse which held the hair dye she'd bought less than an hour ago. The very thought of using it was strange; she'd never changed her hair or even tried to. But, when she'd read online about ways to vanish, one suggestion was for people to take steps to change their appearance.

Within minutes, she stared at a stranger in the mirror. Pale, green-eyed, and anywhere from twelve to sixteen years old. Positioning sunglasses on her face added to the surreal nature of the moment. Still, Sara had to admit she didn't look like herself—whoever the heck that was—anymore, and that was good. Her goal was to break free of that miserable piece of crap who went around masquerading as a decent foster parent. If she had a way or magical powers, she would've called lightening and fire down from the sky to blast his miserable ass and send it straight to hell! Sara shuddered. Shaking her head, she tried to expel memories of tears and screams from her mind and realized tears had leaked down her cheeks. Sniffling, but only once, she scrubbed the dampness away with a vengeance, tightened her lips, and squared her shoulders. She'd have plenty of time to look back, rage, remember, grieve—whatever—later, once she was safe.

She used the park's available soap and paper towels to clean her face, neck, and arms, and she tried to brush or pluck stray hairs off herself.

When loud rapping sounded on the outer door, she jumped. Had he found her? Surely not this soon, right? Gathering her wits, she yelled, "Just a minute. I'm sick!"

"Good grief!" A loud, exasperated voice began complaining about bathrooms existed to benefit everyone, not just the selfish one or two.

Sara gathered up the clumps and tufts of hair which had fallen here and there and hurried to wipe the surfaces she'd touched: latches, sink, floor. She didn't want to leave any indication that anything out of the ordinary had occurred. Sticking scissors, empty dye bottle and box, and all the hair remnants wrapped in paper towels inside her bag, she crammed it inside her purse. She yanked off her baggy sweats and sweatshirt, revealing a partly wrinkled tank top and mid-thigh shorts.

Sticking her fingers down her throat, she made herself throw up the scant driblets of food she'd forced herself to eat earlier. She rinsed part of the vomit down the sink but left some. After all, she'd claimed to be sick. Backing up what she said by leaving crud in a sink couldn't hurt. She recalled her father—her real father, not that state-paid devil—saying, "If you're gonna do something, anything at all, do it well. Remember that, SissMiss."

Whoever was outside banged on the door and yelled, "Hey, it's not a private bathroom, you know!"

Sara called back, "Just a minute!" To complete her transformation, she turned the size-2x hooded jacket she'd taken off inside out and pulled it back on. She'd nabbed it off a clothesline earlier and had been delighted to discover it was reversible. She'd worn the blue side on the outside before. Now it was red. Pulling the hood over her head, she yanked it partly down her forehead. Hunching her shoulders and drooping her body, she undid the locks inside the door and slipped out.

The two women waiting to get inside shot irritated looks after the fleeing figure.

Within seconds, Sara had vanished across the park. Soon she'd be one more faceless, nameless nobody walking down the road.

She hot footed it to a bus station and bought a ticket with cash. While waiting for the bus, she thought her heart would burst from her chest, chewed her fingers to the quick, sucked them to stop the bleeding, and paced in jerky steps. Impatient to be on her way, she eyed the waiting room clock again and again and again, sometimes several times a minute. She relaxed a bit when the bus finally pulled in and people disembarked. She climbed on board, chose a seat away from people, and plopped down. She was pleased to see the bus had few passengers. Thinking a moment or two, she lay down sideways on her seat and feigned sleep. Hopefully, that would ensure no one tried to sit by her.

And, just like that, one life ended and a new one began.

The End.

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