Can a tortoise rise out of the ashes?

“A Phoenix rises from a pile of ashes, Trudy, to become a beautiful new bird. 

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You can begin a new life as a beautiful bird and stop hiding from the world at every little upset, like a tortoise.”

I hate my grandma’s use of metaphors, but I try to visualize myself as the mythical bird as I greet my companions for the trek over to the football stadium.

Bang, three more in rapid fire succession. Pavement pealed away skin as I dove for cover and prayed what I heard was only the back fire of a truck. How do I explain my strange behavior to my new friends who were looking at me as if I was an escapee from a mental ward.

I apologized for the concern evident on their faces. “Sorry, tripped over my own feet. I’m a bit of a klutz at times.”

Lindsay extended her hand, “are you hurt, Trudy?”

“I’m fine.” I assured her as my battered self rose from the walk.

“We need to get a move on,” Kyle grumbled, or we’ll be late for the kick off.

Not an auspicious start for my first game at Berkshire High. Lindsay was in many of my sophomore classes, but Kyle still belonged to the population at middle school. Tim, their older brother was a senior on the Hornets defensive squad. The two younger siblings resembled their mom’s oriental heritage, but Tim acquired the broad shoulders and the look of this Irish dad.

A bit of a mismatch, if you ask me, but my light mocha skin, hazel eyes, and black shoulder length hair only hinted at my mixed parentage. I use a quick pit stop to pull the tattered edges of my cool back in place. Lindsay touched up her already flawless face while I pretended to relieve my bladder.

“Hey, Lindsay, over here!” Paula waved her hands as she stood to gain our attention. Her blonde curls bobbled around her face.

I followed in the wake of my friend as she worked her way toward the saved seats half way up the bleachers on the fifty yard line. Kyle was already in his seat and resolutely ignored us.

My eyes roamed the crowd looking for potential threats.

My dad had always stressed to my brother and me. “Keep your eyes open and watch each other’s backs.” I wiped my eyes with the ripped sleeve of my hoodie.

“It will be okay, Trudy, we have plenty of time to win this.” Lindsay mistook my tears as a result of the visiting team’s touchdown. I forced a smile and tried to focus on the game.

I hope my grandmother is happy. “You need to get on with your life, Trudy. Go to the game with your friends.” My friends are in short supply these days. Shrinks tell me that I have PTSD as a result of the drive by shooting that took my mom and little brother from me.

Pain shoots through my arm as the wind kicks up, and the crowd around me roars their approval of something on the field. A small tremor begins in my stomach working it way to a full blown quake by the time it reaches my outer shell.

I try, but the vibrations of the stomping feet and defining noises have me retreating inward. Utterly alone in a sea of humanity, my rational side loses, as I make like a tortoise. I guess the whole rising from the ashes will have to wait a bit longer.

To be continued

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