Arizona Skies
Author: Isabella Darcy

Chapter 2
Out of Sync

The house is a shock to the eyes after the brightness outside, and it takes a minute to adjust. When I do, I see the familiar orange shag carpet, glossy wooden coffeetable, and faded botanical prints that decorate the room. I sniff in the spice of green chiles and walk into the kitchen, where dad is already sitting, at ease in front of the copper spoon collection hanging on the wall and the squeaky linoleum floor.


I turn to see Grandma Lindsey with a spatula in one hand and a potholder on the other. Her frizzy reddish hair surrounds her aging face where the brown eyes peer sharply at me. I come forward and give her an awkward hug, to dad's satisfaction. Then she turns away and resumes her conversation with dad, only to pause and inform me that my room is the one that used to be reserved for my mother. I cart my bags upstairs and finally reach it. It's cramped and small, with a sloped cieling, painted a soft blue with wide, white-trimmed windows that reach to the floor and look out over the desert. The bed is white, with and old mattress that groans as I sit down. Everything is very clean and neat. I notice that she's washed the muslin curtains and that there are fresh sunflowers on the dresser. Hmm.

I tack up my Death Cab For Cutie poster and arrange my books on the shelf above the bed, trying to make myself feel more at home. My clothes I dump into the dresser in a confused jumble, and I pile my art supplies carefully by the door. Slightly better. I kick off my sandals and scoot up to the window, opening it wide. Strangely, I already love this room. My red toenails are a bright contrast with the scrubbed floor, and I run a hand through my hair and sigh. Hello, Arizona, I think sadly.

Just then dad calls me for dinner and I hurry back to the kitchen, where Grandma Lindsey orders us to sit while she bustles around the room, clattering dishes and serving up enchiladas. I take a bite, and my eyes water as the jalapenos hit me. I swallow and try to smile, but my mouth is on fire. My dad turns to her.

"Mom, thanks so much for taking Aurora. You can't know how grateful we are for you."

Lindsey smiles and shakes it off. "It's nothing, Dan. I'm sure Aurora and I will get along just fine. We're gonna be great." Her falcon eyes rest for a second on me, and her mouth curves up into a slight smile.

"School doesn't start for a couple of weeks, so we still have a bit of summer left to enjoy."

I nod weakly and eat my dinner in silence. Finally dad rises, scraping back his chair and taking a soda for the road. He heads for the door and suddenly I don't want him to leave. I hug him tight, and he smiles, patting my back. "It'll be okay, 'Rora, you'll see." He pulls back and kisses my forehead. "I'll call you once I get back to L.A."

I nod and watch as he gets into the car and drives away in a cloud of Arizona dust, then head back into the kitchen. Lindsey it washing up, setting the dishes on a plastic drainingboard to air dry. I pause awkwardly in the doorway.

"Can I help?"

She turns to face me. "No, it's okay. You run along upstairs and unpack. I'm sure you must be feeling pretty unsettled."

With that, she spins back around. I follow her advice.

I reach my new room and organize. This always soothes me, and pretty soon I feel natural in the habitat of my stuff. I hear a door open and shut and get up from the floor. The heat from the open windows has made me sweaty, so I pull off my long-sleeved shirt and jeans and change into a lighter white top and shorts, pulling out my tousled brown hair around my shoulders. I lean out of the window once more, then skip down the steps, deciding to ask Lindsey if she has any shampoo. I glide into the kitchen, only to realize that someone else is there. Their voices pause as I enter, and I blush. Opposite me at the table sits a tall, bronze-haired boy with flashing warm brown eyes who hastily gets up as I enter. Lindsey turns to me with a smile and introduces us.

"Aurora, this is Aubrey Hunter, my neighbor and good help."

He flashes a sudden, illuminating smile at her.

"And Aubrey, this is my granddaughter Aurora whom I've been telling you about."

"Hi." I blush, giving him a tentative smile. To my intense embarrassment, the boy only stares at me with hostile eyes. Bewildered, I turn to Lindsey and stammer out my question.

"Do you have any shampoo? I forgot to bring mine and I just realized..."

I'm painfully aware of my near see-through cotton shirt and exposed legs as I speak, sure that the boy is watching me. Lindsey nods.

"There should be some in the cabinet at the end of the hall." she says, and then turns back to the boy. They resume their conversation, taking no notice of me, and I slink back upstairs.

After finding the shampoo, I collapse into my dressing table chair with a frustrated growl, and frown at my reflection in the mirror. Am I so repulsive that a random boy can't even say hello to me? What's his problem, anyway? I glare into my eyes and watch as an angry tear snakes down my cheek, then another. I know I'm being ridiculous, but all of my suppressed emotion seems to swell up at this cavalier treatment. Why is everyone so mean here?

I sink down onto my bed and stare blankly out of the windows. I know Lindsey and I aren't exactly kindred spirits, but a pure stranger acting like that- ugh! With a sudden fury, I punch the pillow and a violent sob breaks loose. Stupid, stupid Arizona!  I miss California, with it's breezy palm trees and greenery- it's civilization. I miss home. It's only been two hours since dad left and I already want to go home.

With a last angry sob, I wipe my cheeks and grab my sketchbook and art bag, shoving my sandals back on. I climb down the stairs and exit the house, the screen door banging shut behind me. Stupid, stupid Bitter Springs!

I walk behind the house, heading towards the rock I always used to go to for escape. The dry desert seems unaturally silent and still, and the burnt orange of the sky has been replaced with a light blue. I keep walking until I reach my rock.

My escape is a huge, unnatural sandstone block set between cacti, overlooking a small dent in the desert floor that shimmers with heat, looking like water. A mirage. I like it because it seems out of place and alone, like me. I scramble up and balance myself yogi-style, taking out my pastels. Drawing has always been my comfort, and as my fingers grasp the well worn chalks and trace them across the paper, the tension ebbs from my body. My breathing becomes regular, and I lose myself in the beauty. The colors are vibrant, but the landscape lonely at the same time. Minutes tick by, turning into hours, and before I know it the light blue has turned into velvety blackness. I reluctantly slide off the rock, still warm from the sun, and gather up my stuff, picking my way back to Lindsey's. I crane my neck to see the silver stars above- but no moon. It must be about nine by now, but I wish I could stay out here indefinitely.

I sigh and push open the screen door, meaning to quietly tread up the stairs. But Lindsey's ears are sharp and she calls from the kitchen, Reluctantly I go in.


She looks up from where she's sitting, and I notice that the boy is gone. Her quick eyes search my face and then she gestures to the seat opposite her.

"Sit down, Aurora."

I sit cautiously, wondering. She sighs, then leans toward me, her chin in her hands. "Is everything alright?"

No, I want to scream, everything is not alright! I miss my house and my cat and yes, even my dad who stranded me here. I feel alone and isolated and out of place, and it hasn't even been 24 hours. But as I stare into those cold black eyes I simply shrug.

"I'm just a little tired."

She nods, and gestures towards my bag. "Whatcha got there?"
"Oh, just some sketches." I say. I don't offer them to her, and she's too proud to ask, so after a minute or two of silence, I leave. She'll have her secrets and I'll have mine.


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