“The town was paper, but the memories were not.”
10 years later self-para [1828 Words]
Some days, Autumn thought about the town she’d grown up in; all the people she’d grown up with, the familiar playgrounds and schools, the blissful childhood that had been interrupted by death and loss. Losing her parents was still, without a doubt, the hardest thing she’s gone through. Sixteen years after the accident, she still cannot go through the box of belongings family members had given to her and her brother to split. She’d shoved them all into a large box and kept it in the back of her closet all these years. Now, as an adult, she finally took it out. It was time. Autumn sat up on her bed crosslegged, removing the lid and peering at the contents before taking stuff out. A letter, written from her dad to her mom the day Autumn was born. The things written brought tears to her eyes, and she made sure to carefully refold it before looking for more. Her first curl, saved in a plastic bag. Giggling softly, she set it aside and picked up a book of matches. It was blue, and in white script it read “Hayes”. Autumn held it gingerly as she realized it was from their wedding; the day her parents made the commitment to stay together- for better or worse, in sickness and in health. Or death.
Swallowing past the lump in her throat, she set it on her lap and pulled out…her mother’s veil. Autumn clung to the yellowed lace, a small tiara attached at the top as she shook her blonde head. How had she never known what was in the box? And what things did Thayer have? Scrambling to put everything back, she left the box on her bed and tripped over a baby toy before running out to grab the phone. Thayer wasn’t picking up, and she nearly growled in frustration. She needed the answers, it had been too long to stay angry at the world for the accident that took her parents. She was a parent now too, both Hayes siblings were. It was about time she grew up a little bit more. Looking at the time, she hurriedly grabbed clothes and the box and a map, barely having enough time to pack and text her husband letting her know she was taking the weekend to go home. He insisted he’d stay with the baby, that she should go. Even he knew, Autumn needed to go home. After an almost four hour car ride, she pulled into Mystic Falls with a rapidly beating heart. This wasn’t her home anymore, DC was. With her husband, and child, and job she loved. But here, parking in front of the Grille and walking down the street, here was what she knew best. The streetlights, the central town square, everything was exactly as it had been when she left. And Autumn wasn’t sure whether that scared her or comforted her.
Bumping into a brunette standing near the statue in the square, Autumns sucked in a breath when she turned around to reveal her best friend. Immediately, both women began crying and embraced, the hug tight and warm. It had been four years since they’d seen each other, and this impromtu reunion was one of the good things about Mystic Falls. No matter how long you’ve been gone, or how far you were, it’s so easy to just come back home. Autumn regarded her friend with a teary smile, seeing she really hadn’t changed a bit. Still as beautiful and strong as ever, and she was relieved to see she hadn’t changed. It was a priority of hers to keep in touch better, but the other girl merely insisted she understood how hard it was. “I saw your brother, a few months ago I think? He told me you’re living in DC now?” Autumn nodded an affirmative, biting her lip. When Autumn took her SAT’s her junior year, she’d gotten the highest test score in school. Long talks with her teachers and the principal revealed that she had enough credits to graduate a year early and have time to attend a program before college started in the fall. Her decision to leave was never in question, it had always been her goal to make it out.
The night before she left, Drew came over and after a long talk long into the night, they ended up sleeping together. Two best friends, who were about to be separated for really the first time in their lives. Neither was ready to say goodbye, but they knew it was time. The next morning, he helped her finish packing while Thayer stayed dangerously silent. Her car, a pretty beaten up neon, was packed to the top and Autumn stood with her back against the door looking up at Drew and her brother, who had identical expressions. Happiness, that she was getting out, and pain because her leaving was hurting them all. Forcing a smile to her face, she stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Drew; burying her face in his chest as tears stung her eyes. “I love you, Andy,” She mumbled softly, his old nickname making her smile through her tears as his arms tightened around her. Releasing him, she turned to her brother who was staring at her with so much conflict, you could see it in his face. “Thank you. For coming home, raising me. I owe you everything and I-” Unable to finish, Autumn fell into her brother’s protective arms and cried into his shoulder. He held her tightly, his chin resting on the top of her head like it always did. Her crying subsided and when she pulled herself together, she looked at the two of them and wiggled her fingers in a way that was somehow grown up yet so childish it had to be Autumn. The curly haired girl got into her car, drove down the street, and out of sight. Past the sign that said ‘You just left Mystic Falls! Come again soon’, down the highway, and after about four hours, she’d arrived. Her new life, where she’d be safe.
After her chat with Grace, she wandered around town until she ended up in the cemetery. Somehow that was where she’d always ended up when she was younger and went for bike rides. There were so many more tombstones, and Autumn visibly winced as she realized exactly what that meant. The supernatural had only gotten worse after she’d gotten out. Remembering where the Hayes family plot was, she sidestepped weeds and old plastic flowers until she reached a very overgrown plot with two headstones. It made sense; neither child was still around to take care of it. Kneeling in the tall grass, Autumn took out the book of matches from the box, lighting a candle and setting it on a clear spot near the stones. Pulling a notebook out of her purse, she sat in the grass beside her parent’s graves and started writing. Letters, so many letters. To Grace, to Thayer, to Bryce wherever he was now; to everyone she’d left. When she finished, it was growing dark and she quickly blew out the candle, using it as a paperweight for her parents’ letter. Autumn stood, wiping the tears that had poured out of her, streaking her cheeks and falling off her chin. Drawing a shaky breath, Autumn held herself together while walking to the car but as she leaned against her door, she fell apart. Ten years since she left, and every feeling; every fear, joy, nerves, smile…it all came back to her in a rush of emotions. Autumn Hayes was home.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Funny, I have a daughter who calls me mama now. I feel like twenty seven is a strange age to have someone call you mama, but then I remember you had Thayer when you were twenty six and maybe it isn’t that strange after all.
I’m writing this in the Mystic Falls cemetery. I came home. After ten years, I opened the box. Your veil, Dad’s cufflinks, the matches…you wrote me letters so I decided to write this one and tell you everything I’ve been up to. After I tested out of high school (guess I was always smart, who knew?) I went to Georgetown. I was accepted a year early into Georgetown. Thayer was pretty proud of me, and I think he owns like three hoodies from the gift shop from his first visit. I graduated after about six years there. Four years normal courses, two years for my graduate program. But I did it, I am a certified psychologist in the metro-DC area specializing in people who go through post traumatic stress disorder, like I did. I help them, I really do. It still blows my mind how that’s even possible, but…it’s the best feeling in the entire world. I get to sit and take care of people, make them feel calm and in control. I am a walking example of how you can recover from trauma. I’ve seen so much that breaks my heart, the stories I’m told through sobbing. Rape victims, soldiers home from being overseas- it is hard sometimes. It reminds me of the evil in the world, the dark that is never going to go away. But then I see people I’ve helped and all it does is make me want to help them all the more.
I’m married, so that happened. He’s amazing, guys, and I couldn’t ask for anything else. I love him, and my daughter Sophia. She has my freckles, she’s still so tiny. My precious little miracle. I’m just so happy I was able to get out of Mystic Falls, away from the pain and danger and death. It all just became too much and I was gone. I still see Thayer, whenever he’s not traveling, and just before I sat down to write this, I saw Grace and Scott, even Jeremy. Funny how relationships can change but some others can remain exactly the same no matter how much time has passed. Now it’s time for me to go back home, because I feel like…I’ve made my peace with the seventeen years I lived her. This isn’t my home anymore. My home is with my family, and I think you’d be really proud of me Mom & Dad.
Autumn ends up having another baby, a boy, named Phillip Thayer. Sophia and Phillip never see Mystic Falls, as Autumn is too protective because of the supernatural lurking there. Her and her family make the decision to move to North Carolina, where Autumn writes a book with the main goal of helping others who have gone through similar traumas such as rape, being attacked, suicide attempts, etc. Living on the beach, she raises her two kids along with her husband and finally reaches the point of complete peace.