Title: Far From Home
Fandom: 2009 revival of Hair, the musical
Rating: PG-13, for angst
Word Count: 1,397
Author Note: This is the sequel to "Prepare For Battle" and will be mostly, if not all, from Sheila's perspective. It is set around the same time as chapter 3 of the previous story. Again, I want to take this opportunity to thank every single one of you who read my works. Please don't by shy and review if you have the time! I appreciate all comments, whether it be praise or constructive criticism. Enjoy!
"There is no remedy for memory,
Your face is like a melody,
It won't leave my head."
-Lana Del Rey
As the doors slammed shut, Sheila felt her heart wrench. This was it. There was no going back now.
"You're in a state of foolishness. Stand up and get off now," her conscience demanded.
However, it seemed her body was playing ignorant or was completely detached from her head, as she couldn't find the inner strength to stand and walk away from the future she was so rapidly, and perhaps hastily, paving for herself. A future that didn't involve New York.
The sudden jolt as the train departed the station finalised her decision. As her carriage lazily passed the platforms filled with daily commuters, tourists, families and friends, the tears began to flow. New York had been a welcoming home and she had been torn at leaving it and the people she loved there. Nevertheless, she knew that in order to truly spread her wings, she needed to break away and start afresh. There was too much left in New York that would have only hindered her. Sheila was a hawk; she hated to be grounded, much preferring to freely soar and live a life with no boundaries. Now though, her heart ached. She thought of her dear friends who had brought her such happiness and taught her about the true meaning of freedom, sharing the same views as her in regards to equality and peace. But the Vietnam War had shattered them apart and had ultimately robbed her of two men that she had loved in the process; Claude's life and Berger's will to live. In addition to leaving Berger, she was also leaving behind many others: Crissy, Hud, Woof, Dionne, Jeanie… God, she sorely regretted leaving Jeanie. Just three months ago, she'd given birth to a beautiful baby boy. And how she hated to admit it, but the child reminded Sheila too much of Claude, with his wisps of blonde hair and his playful, bright eyes. Allowing the tears to silently cascade down her cheeks, she recalled the first time she'd cradled him, how just holding him in her arms had lifted her spirit somehow, seemed to relieve her of all the burdens that had been so heavily weighing her down. Jeanie's baby had brought the Tribe, with the exception of Berger, back together and made then all realise that there was life after death.
Suddenly feeling overwhelmed, Sheila mustered enough composure to rise from her seat, walk calmly down the aisle and lock herself in the toilet, where she freely sobbed, knowing that the sound was blocked out by the loud whir of the train as it raced along the tracks. She was a coward. Her friends who remained in New York were facing the struggle head on, whilst she was taking the easy route out; running away from it all.
She had never realised that decisions could be so difficult, yet also so easy to make.
She had never realised just how painful it would be.
Her heart had sunk to the bottom of her stomach, rolling about in despair and aching indecision, making her feel sick. One half wanted her to turn back and return to New York. The other cried for her to strive onwards and do what she had settled on doing. But what was more important? Staying with the people you know and love in the comfort of the place you call home or venturing out away from them and discovering what lies beyond?
Ten minutes later, Sheila took a deep breath and emerged, returning quietly to her seat. She was quite stunned to find a smart-looking man had taken the seat opposite and was quite hesitant at joining him at the table. He gave a friendly smile as she slid back into her seat and, remembering her manners, returned the smile.
"It's a busy train this morning! This was the only seat left, as I noticed yours was reserved. I hope you don't mind?"
The young man couldn't have been that much older than Sheila. He was relatively handsome in appearance, with crew cut brown hair and piercing blue eyes. His smart attire of a blue shirt and black trousers suggested he was from a wealthy background.
"No, not at all," Sheila smiled and averted her eyes to the scenery outside her window.
"You headed to D.C.?" The young man pursued a casual conversation.
Yes, Sheila thought to herself, but I'm regretting it. For a moment, she let her mind wander before realising that she hadn't replied.
"Yes! I'm really sorry…I have a lot on my mind…"
Sensing the girl's discomfort, he tried to keep the conversation topic neutral.
"Forgive me, I've been quite rude. I haven't even introduced myself," he extended his hand across the table. "I'm Michael."
She shook his hand with a grin. "Sheila."
"Well, Sheila," he glanced at the approaching drinks trolley. "Can I get you anything to drink?"
As she sipped her coffee, Sheila felt herself begin to relax, the tight knots that were in her stomach from her distraught mood earlier starting to uncoil.
"So, do you commute often?"
"Not really. I was visiting my sister in New York. What about yourself?"
Sheila took a deep breath.
"No…this is my first time out of New York in a long time," she admitted, fumbling distractedly with her coffee cup.
"I see," Michael cocked his head, trying to understand. "New York's a brilliant city. Why leave?"
Sheila bit her lip.
"I'm visiting family," she lied.
Guilt began to prod at her accusingly. Michael seemed a genuinely nice guy, one whom she felt she could be comfortable speaking to about anything, yet she couldn't bring herself to reveal the real reason behind her trip. She didn't want to divulge such details yet; they were still too raw. Instead, she diverted her attention away from herself.
"So, are you working?"
Michael glanced up at the girl in front of him and smiled. She was attractive; flowing blonde hair that stretched well past her shoulders, curious brown eyes tinged with a hint of green, wearing a simple outfit of jeans and a maroon chiffon blouse.
He shook his head in response.
"Not at the moment. I'm concentrating on university. I'm studying business management," he took a sip of his coffee, absent-mindedly glancing out the window. "It wasn't what I initially planned but it saved me from being drafted."
The tears threatened to engulf her once more as the subject of conscription arose. Claude too would have been able to avoid it, if only he'd burned his goddamned draft card like Berger. He'd agonised over the decision, before finally accepting his fate and heading off to fight in Vietnam. But it wasn't just the grief of losing him that made her leave; more painful, was the stark reality that she was not enough for Berger. It was not she who could complete him, make him happy, drag him from the deepest hole that he was still currently stuck in and save him. No. He needed Claude to save him. But Claude couldn't, because Claude wasn't able to save himself.
In the aftermath of Claude's death, Sheila had been the one to rush and comfort Berger, hoping they could ease their sorrows with each other. Yet, he had lashed out and shoved her away; withdrawing into his broken shell, his anger fuelled with staggering amounts of alcohol and narcotics. She had been left in a tangled heap on the ground, startled and sobbing. Thrown away like a child's unwanted toy that they had outgrown or got bored of. She was easily disposed of.
That night, Jeanie and Crissy had accompanied her back to her apartment and spent the night trying to console her. But even when they finally fell asleep, curled up together in her bed, nothing had eased Sheila's aching heart as it shattered into pieces. That following morning, she woke to find garish clouds of black and blue around her wrists where Berger had gripped her so hard.
In the end, her only excuse to stay had been for Jeanie.
Suddenly, she felt two warm hands take her own, before being enveloped in a comforting hug. She hadn't noticed Michael had shifted beside her.
"I'm sorry for whatever I said….I'm so sorry," he whispered.
It was then Sheila realised that no matter how far away she went, no matter how hard she tried, she could not erase memories.