i. In the garden, Jena thrives.
Loneliness has transformed into electric-green cacti and short, spiny plants. Anxiety raises flowers that look vibrant and oily in the daylight. Restlessness enriches the earth, coloring flora with a spill of magenta, a blaze of orange.
In the end, fear evaporates entirely under the sun. It turns into the soil caked under her nails, the wet clumps that stick to her thighs and the back of her knees.
This garden takes terrible things and puts them to good use.
At least, that’s what she tells herself.
ii. When Jena is eight, her father picks her up from school and drives for two days straight.
He tells her it’s for the best.
Sometimes, he says, running is the only thing a person can do.
The farther they drive, the quieter she becomes. Tears dry to salt on her skin. Beneath their feet, the thunderous rhythm has become something dangerous.
In her mind, she disappears.
Jena feels safe amongst the shrubs. She can easily envision this sanctuary, and so she builds it. Trees and plants and birds sprout from the ground. They start as feathery buds with paper-thin roots. As their bodies take shape, her father’s voice thins into the breeze, his face hardens to bedrock.
Every time fear creeps in, her hands form fists. With the garden she can outrun it, outmatch it, and she barely has to wait before it subsides in the grass.
iii. Jena doesn’t know it yet, but theirs will be a life on the move.
It will start with a string of motels. Each one will be indistinguishable from the next, with their jelly-lit signs, the soap slivers that cut her skin. They will turn into a monochromatic blur of vending machines and scratchy sheets and stained walls.
Soon, she won’t be able to fall asleep without barks of laughter, or the drone of a generator. It will feel unnatural to sit outside the cramped design of a car. Most of her spare time will be spent in a garden that never changes.
Years will pass before she is home again, standing in a room that no longer feels like her own.
Alyssa Jordan is a writer living in the United States. She pens literary horoscopes for F(r)iction Series. Her stories can be found or are forthcoming in The Sunlight Press, X–R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Reflex Fiction, and more. When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out with her partner or watching too many movies. You can find her on Twitter @ajordan901 and Instagram @ajordanwriter.