Torn (Fiction)

by Elena Mackey

It was raining outside, and Stella couldn’t stop staring out the window, watching the drops fall from the clouds. She sat in a coffee shop by herself. The sense of normality calmed her and she allowed herself to relax, but she should have known such moments didn’t last. As Stella continued to stare out the window the sounds inside the shop faded away. The sound of the rain surrounding her grew and, suddenly, she was outside. The coffee shop was gone. The buildings she had walked by to get there had changed and become old and rustic. The rain continued to fall, now soaking her skin. 

“Stella! C’mon!” a young girl called from down the road. 

“Anne,” Stella tried to answer, but it came out as a whisper. 

It wasn’t the first time she’d been here or seen this girl. It had been just a few days since she’d found herself at this location, but it looked like years had passed. She watched Anne skip away with her brown hair soaked from the rain. It was longer than Stella remembered. Anne herself was longer, taller. It was as if Stella had been frozen in time while everything around her aged. Wasn’t I somewhere else a minute ago? she thought to herself. 

“Stella! We’ve got to get home!” 

She followed Anne down the road. She couldn’t feel the rain falling on her anymore and was barely aware of how her soaked clothes clung to her skin. The farther they went the more her body seemed to remember each step she took, as if she’d walked down this road a million times. Her eyes recognized the trees and fields she passed, but each looked a little different. Fields which had once been filled with thousands of wildflowers now grew corn, and trees which had been in their youth now had matured. 

Finally, they stopped at a small house, the town left behind. Around the house was a yard, the grass overgrown. Two trees on either side of the house had grown towards each other since the last time she was there, and their leaves now touched just above the porch steps. Once Stella caught up to Anne, she grabbed her hand as they walked up to the front door. Before they even set foot on the porch the door opened, and a middle-aged woman stood in the doorway with her hands on her hips. 

“You girls will not step foot in my house like that!” she stated. 

“But how will we dry off then, Mom?” shot back Anne. 

“You can sit on the porch till your skirts are done dripping.” She turned back into the house and shut the door behind her. 

Anne plopped down on the steps and sighed, acting annoyed even though Stella saw the smile tugging at her lips. Stella stared at the spot where the woman had stood, or was it her mother? 

Of course that’s your mother, she thought to herself. But why, then, is part of me trying to tell me this isn’t real? 

She turned and sat beside Anne, taking in her surroundings. Up and down the street were houses much like the one behind her. A couple sat on the porch of the house opposite her. The wife smiled when her eyes met Stella’s. 

“Stella,” a man’s voice called out to her. “You good?” 

Just like that, she was back at the coffee shop. She turned away from the window to find a man sitting opposite her. Luke, her best friend. She spread her hands out on the table, taking in how the wood felt under her fingertips. “You really zoned out there, huh? I’ve been sitting here for two minutes.” 

“I was somewhere else.” Stella answered, looking down at her watch. To her it felt like hours had passed while walking through the streets with Anne. However, according to her watch, it had only been a few minutes. Those streets weren’t the ones she saw now as she looked out the window. She shook her head, hoping that the scrambled pieces of her mind might fall into place, and everything would make sense. 

Luke’s smile disappeared from his face, replaced by a look of concern. This wasn’t the first time she’d said this to him. He was the first to hear about it when Stella had begun having dreams of this other place. He never called her crazy when the dreams became something more. 

“Was it the same place?” he asked, leaning in. 

“Yeah, but it’s like a few years had passed. Anne was older and my mom … she was still just as beautiful, but I could see more wisdom in her eyes.” 

“Did it feel more real than here?” 

“I don’t know. I just keep getting thrown from place to place. Each time it’s like years of my life are erased in either place.” Panic bubbled up in her stomach. She was so tired of feeling torn between worlds. 

“Maybe … it’s a hallucination?” Luke said, hesitantly. 

“I’m not crazy, Luke,” she replied, even though she wasn’t sure she believed it herself. 

“You know I don’t think you’re crazy. It’s just that none of this makes sense. One of these places has to be real.” 

“What if both are real? Heck, what if neither one is real? Maybe all of this is just a dream, too.” Stella said with exasperation. 

For years Stella had been trying to make sense of the two worlds she seemed to exist in. It was almost as if she was simultaneously living two lives, unable to control which one she experienced at a given time. The one she found herself in now, across from Luke, seemed to prevail over the other, but it didn’t make the other world seem any less real. 

“I don’t know what’s real anymore,” she said, feeling defeated. 

“Hey, look at me,” Luke held her face in his hands, “I’m real.” 

Stella so desperately wanted to believe him. She wanted to believe that she could call this reality her true home. She nodded to reassure him, but her mind was filled with doubt. How could she call one place home when each held a piece of her heart?

Elena was adopted from Colombia by American parents. She’s lived in the United States, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic, but the D.R. is/always will be home. She is nineteen and living in Virginia while attending Liberty University, pursuing majors in Writing and Psychology. 

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