Disclaimers: "Now and Again" and all its characters still belong to Glenn Gordon Caron, Picturemaker Productions, and CBS. No copyright infringement is intended. Five years. Wow.
She stares at the pile of clothes lying at the bottom of her closet. Jeans from last winter, the dress she wore to her cousin's wedding, the skirt so short she never had the courage to wear it before.
"I've been telling her for the last three weeks not to put this off," she hears her mother say into the cordless phone out in the hallway.
"Mom! You're supposed to be helping."
"Sorry. Gotta go," Lisa whispers into the phone. "Okay," she says turning to Heather. "What we need is a plan. How opposed are you to black garbage bags?"
They enter the room solemnly, silently taking in the cinder block walls, the pair of matching mattresses pushed to either side of the room, the desks with their fake wood veneers covered with illegal initials, dates, and doodles.
"It's like I'm in prison," Heather sighs.
"It certainly didn't look like this on the tour," Lisa adds.
Heather remembers fuzzy pink throw pillows and neon green duvet covers and a framed poster of 'The Kiss' on the wall. A place that felt like a home.
"Well," Lisa says, shifting the weight of the black garbage bag she carries. "Let's get started."
Heather waits for her mother to return from the car and decides to test out her new bed. She sinks into the center immediately. A loud knock at the open door sends her scrambling to her feet.
"Hi," says a tall girl with purple highlights and a nose ring standing in the hallway. "I'm Ashley. Two doors down. Your parents leave already?"
"My mom's getting stuff from the car."
"So it's oh for six," Ashley says with an ironic smile.
"Oh for six?"
"I'm doing an impromptu survey. Getting a head start on my sociology major. Take a random group of teenage girls, similar in class and educational background and determine how many are the product of divorces." She stops and smiles again.
Heather knows what she should say, knows she could tell this girl exactly where to go, what to do. Screw her and her assumptions about her family just because her father isn't here. As if anything would keep him away on the most important day in Heather's life. As if her father didn't love her enough to be here if he was alive.
Her mother re-entering the room prevents her from answering. "Who's your new friend?" Lisa asks.
"Ashley," the girl responds. A noise down the hall calls her attention. "See ya," and she dashes to be the first to see.
"She seems nice," Lisa offers. "Interesting fashion sense."
Heather takes the bag from her mother, hoping Lisa doesn't see the tears filling up in her eyes. She suddenly realizes she doesn't have to be poor, pitied Heather with the dead father anymore. She can be anything here; she can be like everyone else, just another girl with a father who doesn't care. This thought, however, makes the tears come faster. She wishes she'd never cry again.
There isn't that much to pack. His clothes all fit into a suitcase, the leather jacket in a garment bag. His collection of books only fills two boxes. He isn't sure if the gym equipment will be coming. Maybe they'd be buying that new treadmill he always dreamed of.
He stares out at sunlight hitting the pool as the ridiculous amount of men in gray suits move from one side of the atrium to the other. How many government agents does it take to pack a few boxes?
"Mr. Wiseman?" Michael turns to see the doc standing in the doorway. "We'd better be going. The train to DC leaves in less than an hour."
"Sure thing, doc," Michael replies. It's funny, he thinks. He always saw this place as a prison. But now he knows that two hundred and fifty miles will be the worst kind of prison of all.