If someone had told me a year ago that I would break up with my boyfriend, lose all my friends, stop going to school, and eventually be shipped off to live with my dad in America, I would have laughed in their face and returned to finding ways to further shorten the skirt on my school uniform without my teachers realising.
The start of my downfall was breaking up with Joshua. We were each respectively Head Boy and Head Girl, we basically controlled the school, we were unstoppable together. People spoke about us as though we were one person, we were the couple everyone wanted to be and our lives were laid out in front of us. He would take over his father’s accounting business, and I would be his trophy wife.
My breaking point with him was when I cut my hair. For as long as anyone could remember I had curly, dark brown hair that reached my waist. I craved change though and one day I went to my hairdresser and told her to do what she wanted with it, I trusted her to do something that would suit me. I walked out that day with shoulder length, flat ironed hair, with slightly lightened tips. Joshua had the audacity to tell me that I should have asked him before I changed my hair so drastically. I told him that he could go to my hairdresser and shove my cutoff hair up is ass if he cared about it that much, that way it could always be a part of him, unlike me. Admittedly it wasn’t the best way to break up with someone but it got the job done.
Desperate to not be embarrassed by me, he took it upon himself to tell the school that he had broken up with me because I had slept with some boys from another school for money. Word started spreading that I was a slut, that I was just an ‘easy lay’. My ‘friends’ stopped associating with me in fear they would be labelled as such too, and I was left alone. My grades started to slip as I skipped more and more classes and eventually I lost my title as Head Girl. The girl who I had once considered my closest friend, Rachel, was suddenly the new me. Head Girl, Joshua’s girlfriend, top of the class, well liked, everything that I had essentially thrown away with the rest of my hair.
But I made new ‘friends’, most of them were 18/19, and I had just turned 16. They went out drinking every night and lived in a drug induced haze, so I joined them. We’d go around town breaking and entering into places we thought might be ‘haunted’ for thrills. Miraculously, I managed to avoid being arrested. For a while my mum and step-dad, Oliver, pretended I wasn’t on a downward spiral. They ignored the fact that I would come home later and later each night, but when I didn’t show up at all for a few nights, they decided they’d had enough. Everything they had previously swept under the carpet was dragged up onto the table. They also found out that I had stolen money, alcohol, and jewlery from my mother to pawn off for extra cash.
It was a Thursday night when I was called from my room to find my mother, Oliver, and my younger half brother Benjamin bunched together on the living room sofa.
“Enough is enough Aubrey.” My mother sighed, motioning for me to sit down on the chair they’d pulled in from the dining room.
“What? I haven’t left the house in days, what did I do this time?” I protested, sitting on the chair and kicking my legs up onto the coffee table.
“Exactly, you haven’t been to school in two weeks.” Oliver announced, as if I didn’t already know what I had or hadn’t done with my life. “Is this the example you want to set for Benjamin?”
There it was, the punchline in the joke that was my life. My mum and Oliver acted as though Benjamin was the prodigy child, they worshipped the ground he walked on. Everything he did was perfect, he was 6 years younger than me, yet I felt like I was the one desperately clinging at straws to live up to him. No matter what I achieved, precious little Benji had done better. We went on a weekend trip to France once, we got a boat over. When my mum remarried, she took Oliver’s last name. So when we got on the boat, the woman working took a look at our passports to confirm we were who we claimed to be. Oliver Waters, Sylvia Waters, Benjamin Waters, and Aubrey Newby. She looked me up and down and asked “Is she a family friend?” and Oliver said “If only” in response. My own mother laughed as though it was the funniest joke anyone had ever told. It truly solidified the feeling of not belonging in my own family.
“We’ve discussed things…” My mother began. “We think it would be best if you go to live with your father for the time being.”
“WE?” I was enraged. “WE DISCUSSED IT? WHAT ABSOLUTE BOLLOCKS!” I was aware that if I continued at that volume the neighbours would have something to say, but apparently they wouldn’t be my neighbours for much longer, so why should I care?
“Language!” My mum gasped, appalled by my behaviour.
“It’s English, Sylvia!” I retorted, if I weren’t so pissed off I would have given myself a pat on the back for that one.
“Excuse me, I am your mother and you will address me as such!” Her own voice was rising in volume, and it took every inch of self control I had left to not respond with ‘You may be excused’.
“This is for the best, Aubrey.” Oliver said sternly, taking over for my mother who was now evidently too angry to continue the conversation. “You will be leaving on Saturday. I suggest you pack your bags now.”
“Your father has enrolled you into Hawkins High School, he’ll be picking you up straight from the airport.” My mother continued, having mildly calmed down. “We’re doing what's best for you Aubrey.”
“Whatever.” I huffed pushing myself up from the chair and storming to my room to dig out my suitcase. As much as I hated the idea of leaving behind everything I knew to live with a man I haven’t seen in years, it was a chance to get out of this house and away from everyone who has hurt me.
I had just finished packing all my clothes when there was a knock at my bedroom door.
“I’m not eating dinner tonight!” I called out, hoping whoever it was would leave.
“Um… That’s not why I’m here…” Benjamin’s soft voice called out from behind the door. I rolled my eyes and hopped over my suitcase to open it.
“You here to check out your new trophy room now that I’m going to be gone?” I began to continue my angry ramblings until I saw the tears in his eyes. No matter what happened to drive us apart, he was still my little brother. “Hey, hey, it’s okay.” I whispered, pulling him into my room and then into a hug. I was instantly hit with a wave of regret at how I’d spoken to him, he’s only 10 years old, he’s still a child no matter how advanced he is at school.
“I’m sorry.” He sobbed out, hugging me closer. “It’s my fault you’re leaving.”
“No! No no no it’s not!” I pulled away to look at his face and wipe his tears away. “It’s not your fault at all. It’s mine!”
“But... Dad said it was because you’re a bad influence…” He sniffled, not wanting to meet my gaze.
“Love, it’s not your fault that I’m leaving. I promise.” I explained, sitting him down on the side of my bed, pushing some unpacked clothes out of the way to make room so I could sit next to him. “We all know I’ve done some pretty stupid things, and if I carry on like this it’s only a matter of time before I get in lots of trouble for them… Maybe… Maybe it is for the best…”
“I don’t want to lose my big sister…” Benjamin whispered, hugging me closer. My heart broke seeing him like this.
“You’re not losing me, I’m just going to be on an adventure.” I tried to explain to him. “It’s like Doctor Who! The Doctor wouldn’t get anything done if he just sat around all day, would he?” My brother slowly shook his head, a small smile forming on his face. “I’ll write you letters and send you cool things I find on my adventures all the time, I promise… Now, wanna help me pack?”
“I can’t believe you’re going to America! That’s so cool!” My friend Ava squealed before taking a drag of her cigarette.
“Your parents are shipping you halfway across the world because of your behaviour, that’s so badass.” Joshua agreed as he fumbled to light his own cigarette. “I can’t believe you’re gonna be gone though Bree!”
“Eh you guys won’t miss me much.” I shrugged. “Keep smoking all that weed and you’ll forget I even existed in a months time!” I chuckled, earning some laughs in response.
“America is so cool though, I’m jealous.” Toby snickered, clutching the whiskey he had been drinking straight from the bottle for the past half hour.
“It’s Indiana, not like… Las Vegas or New York or something.” I pointed out. “I lived in Hawkins until I was 4 and I visited my dad every summer for a few years, and trust me…” I sighed deeply.
“Nothing exciting happens in Hawkins.”
On the plane from the UK to Indiana, I found myself sat next to a mother named Janis and her baby Jodie, whom she proudly announce had turned 14 months old that day. About 2 hours into the flight Janis needed to use the loo, so she asked me to hold Jodie. Typically, Jodie immediately fell asleep in my arms and in a desperate attempt not to annoy the people on the plane with the sounds of a sleepy, grouchy, crying baby, she remained in my arms for the next few hours while she slept. Though I wasn’t upset about this in the slightest. If I could achieve only one thing in life it would be to be a mother, which shocks most people when I tell them, as I don’t come across as a mothering type to most. It’s like I become a completely different person around kids.
Other than the impromptu babysitting session, the rest of the flight was mostly uneventful. We were fortunate enough to have no turbulence. Upon landing, I bid farewell to Janis and baby Jodie, the former of which had given me her number and address and told me she would happily set up a room for me, should I need it. It was sweet and I tucked the piece of paper into my back pocket.
After reclaiming my bag, I was struck by the fear that I wouldn’t recognise my dad, Bob, or that he wouldn’t recognise me. I scanned the crowd and in seconds our eyes met and I knew my fears had been irrational. I may not have seen him in years, but I still knew.
“Oh Aubrey! You’ve grown so much!” He cheered, tears in his eyes as he pulled me in for a hug which I only half reciprocated.
“Barely, I’m 16 and only just scratched 5’0.” I scoffed, pulling my suitcases closer to me. “I haven’t grown since I was 14.”
“Yes, well I haven’t seen you since you were 10.” He pointed out. “Because someone decided they were too old to spend summers with their dad.” I rolled my eyes at this.
“That wasn’t the issue and you know that.” I sighed. He hummed in response before changing his demeanor and grabbing one of my two suitcases for me.
“Let's get going! The sooner we leave, the sooner we get home! I can’t wait for you to see your room.” He cheered as I followed him through the airport.
When we got to the car, Bob loaded the cases into the trunk and squeezed it close. His Cambry was the ugliest colour I had ever seen, the only way I could describe it was ‘baby poo brown’.
“What sort of music do you listen to nowadays?” He questioned, fiddling with the radio once we were in the car. I shrugged in response, looking out the window. He put on a random station with some semi-decent music.
Things were already so different in Indiana. It was slightly colder than it was in the UK, when I went to check the temperature I found it was in Farenheit, not Celcius. When I went to get in the car, I made my way to the front, left side, only to realise that it was the driver's seat. I also realised that I would probably be expected to learn how to drive. Whereas in the UK, you have to be 17 to start driving which for me was a good few months away. Would people make fun of me for not knowing how to drive? Oh god would I have to get a job so I can save up for a car?
My head started swimming with all these unanswered questions and I started to feel sick.
“Are you okay?” Bob asked, noticing my sudden change in demeanor. I gently shook my head.
“Pull over please.” He did as I asked by pulling over to the side of the road, I quickly jumped out and emptied my stomach on the side of the road. I had managed to keep my nerves at bay about moving to Indiana, I managed to pretend like it wasn’t too big a deal, it was just something that was going to happen and I was going to let it happen. It wasn’t until that moment when I truly realised how different everything would be from now on. My mum and Oliver hadn’t told me how long they expected me to live with Bob for, it could be months, it could be indefinitely. I had both British and American Citizenship due to having been born in the USA but settling with family in the UK, but was I expected to live the rest of my life in America? I kicked myself for being too stubborn to properly talk things through before I was shipped off, but it wasn’t like I was given much time.
When I was done I got back into the car and Bob offered me a mint to clear my breath.
“Still get travel sick, huh?” He joked, taking off again. I rested my head against the window and closed my eyes.
“Yeah… Something like that.”
“You’re kidding, right?” I questioned my father who wore a proud grin on his face. “Please tell me you’re kidding.”
“I kept it exactly how you left it last time!” He informed me. “Except the bed of course! I swapped out your old one for a queen sized one, figured I’d splash out a bit so you’d be comfortable.” We were stood my childhood bedroom which was now I guess just my regular bedroom. Two walls were a baby pink and the other two were a hideous pus yellow, all of the walls had little hand-drawn sheep along the bottom. The hardwood floor had a tiny rug in the shape of a sheep just by the bed, and on said bed was another stuffed sheep.
“You’re really not kidding... “ I mumbled, dumping my suitcases in the room. “It’s sweet but… I’m 16, not 6.” Bob let out a small “oh” as he saw my point. I couldn’t blame him, the last time we saw one another I was still a little girl and I guess that was what stuck in his mind when he thought of me.
“Do you want me to take you to buy some more paint? Do a bit of redecorating?” He asked, I smiled and nodded. If this was going to be my new home, I might as well make it feel like a real home.
At the shop I picked up a lot of grey paint and a few smaller cans of different colours with the plan to spice one or two of the walls up a bit more. While we were checking out, I spotted a missing child poster on the window. Will Byers. Could that be my old friend Jonathan’s brother? I used to play with Johnny when we were kids, we’d run around the forest bashing one another with sticks we pretended were swords. My mum went mad when I came home after one summer with 5 splinters in my ear, but I had fun at the time.
“Hey Bob, is that Byers as in Joyce and Jonathan?” I questioned, nudging him and motioning towards the poster.
“Yes, poor boy. Joyce is so lovely too, she doesn’t deserve that.” He sighed, shaking his head sadly. “You can call me dad, you know?”
“I know but…” I took a deep breath. “One step at a time, yeah? I need time to adjust and get back into the swing of Hawkins.” He nodded slowly in understanding, trying to hide his disappointment. I felt guilty. I could tell that he was really trying, and I appreciated it, I truly did but… It was all just too much all at once. He sent me generic Christmas and birthday cards every year, but I hadn’t actually seen or even gotten a ‘hi, how are you?’ letter in 6 years. I didn’t understand why contact was so sparse with Bob when I was younger. I know now that it was my darling mother and Oliver’s doing. They claimed that we were “too poor to ‘waste’ money on flights” to and from Indiana every year, despite the fact that Bob paid for half of the ticket and continued to send child support even for the month and a half I wasn’t even there to be supported. He never once asked for anything in return for the new clothes, food, and toys he bought me and sent me home with when I was there. In all honesty, I think my mother resented the fun I had with him, I would kick and scream when it was time to come home, I’d try to fake illnesses so I wouldn’t be able to get on the plane. It wasn’t Bob’s fault, yet he was the one who was punished for it by being cut off. It was my fault, I should have known.
“Did you find everything you need?” The cashier, a kind looking older man, questioned me, snapping me back into the present. I nodded and scrambled to find my purse, only for pound coins and notes to fall out. Bob put his hand on my arm to stop me digging further for the dollars I’d exchanged at the airport and placed his own money down. The cashier took the money and printed off the receipt, handing it to me. “It’s good to have you home in Hawkins again Aubrey.” He nodded with a smile, I furrowed my brow before Bob pushed me out of the shop.
“So I may have told some people about your arrival.”
5 hours later and I was smothered in paint, but so were my walls. I had first coated them in the dark grey I had bought an abundance of before I got to work on my grand plan. On one wall I had painted a giant dragon, which was breathing fire. The fire spread in bursts across the walls and on the ceiling, which I managed to reach by standing on my cabinets.
“I’m heading off to bed now, I have work in the morning.” Bob informed me as he walked in, his eyes widening once he saw what I’d done to the walls. “Wow, that’s impressive! I might have to get you to paint the rest of the house!”
“Yeah, I’m thinking Unicorns in the living room and trolls in the bathroom!” I played along with him, both of us laughing at the thought of turning the place into a fantasy funhouse. “Speaking of the living room, I’m probably going to sleep on the sofa in there, I think I’ve inhaled enough paint fumes for today.”
“That’s fine, just remember you’re diving right into the deep end tomorrow- it’s going to be your first day at Hawkins High School.” I waved him off and told him I would make sure I get plenty of sleep. He walked off mumbling about how crazy it was that I’m in high school already.
Once I was in my pyjamas and curled up with my duvet on the sofa I flicked through the TV channels, expecting to find reruns of Doctor Who on the BBC, only to remember that I was in America now and I probably wouldn’t be able to access the British Broadcasting Corporation as easily here. In the end I settled for sticking on some American sitcom as background noise while I fell asleep.
“Aubrey! Time to wake up now!” I heard as someone shook me awake.
“Five more minutes.” I complained while rolling over, only to fall flat on the floor. Well that was one way to wake me up. When I opened my eyes, it took me a moment to remember where I was.
“Finally! I’ve been trying to get you up for 30 minutes now! You sleep like the dead!” Bob chuckled slightly. “I’m leaving in 20 minutes and I assume you’re going to need a lift to school so you’re going to have to get ready quickly.”
“Yeah about that… I was thinking that maybe I could start next week?” I mumbled, Bob stopped to stare at me while he was halfway through taking a bite of his toast.
“Hawkins High School is expecting you today and you will be there today.” He told me firmly, I rolled my eyes.
“But I need time to-” I tried to protest but he cut me off.
“But nothing young lady! You are going to school and that is final!”
“Bloody hell! Fine!” I groaned, my hands up in the air in surrender.
“But I promise you I will hate every second of it!”