Autum I finished my shift at the dealership, not really paying any attention to what I was doing, or what customers were talking about when their lips moved. I just nodded my head, nicely smiled and verbalized that I was paying attention; but I wasn’t really. If they knew what I was going do after work; If they knew, would they really care that their insurance information was incorrect, or that I can’t reach the manager at this time to discuss with them the new warranty guidelines to their Dodge Ram Club Cab? Would they be more concern about me, perfect Autum - just like the season, but without the ‘N’? No one has cared so far, even the few people that should care don’t lift a finger of empathy. So, I should just allow for things to happen…or fix everything myself. No one cares what I’m going to do anyway, right? “Hey, Autum…Autum?” Kelsea nudged me against my back again and I woke up to find the phone glued to my ear screaming profanity at me, and two customers standing before me waiting… “Oh…um…ye..yes, I do understand your concern… Let me put you on hold for a moment to see if I can reach the Assistant Manager. One second, please.” I hung up…forgetting to press down the red hold button. I played it off nicely so the customers witnessing my breakdown wouldn’t assume I did do that on purpose. I gave them my best news anchor personality, smiled and tried my hardest to clear them from my sight. Kelsea stepped up to help me out; the only friend I had who was actually sharp enough to see that I was acting unstable. When all was clear, I quickly stepped away, heading to the back break area near the service desk where I worked. I grabbed my Coke from the fridge and took two sips before Kelsea entered, her brow folded. “Hey, chica, what’s up today? You haven’t been yourself in weeks…” She stood beside me, rubbing my shoulder and giving me that ‘Carol Brady” look. God, I wished for years that Kelsea was old enough to be my mom. She’s like Betty Crocker, The Care Bears, and Mother Goose all rolled up into one tiny package. But we're only five years apart... we were probably sisters in another life. Really, she cares for me like a mother rather than a friend. I should tell her…she, of all people, would understand how I feel and know how to help me out. But, it’s so embarrassing…and it’s bad enough to live through it, but even worse to place it into words… Besides, I don't want her to get involved. “Ah, I’m just tired, I guess; I've been training for State, ya know.” I give her a cheerful glance. "Coach is not letting up on anyone, not even me." "Ah, you guys will do good, but if he keeps pushing too much, you all will end up being worn out before that day comes.” Kelsea nudges me on the head with the palm of her hand. “But, that noggin of yours needs rest, and plenty of it; can’t go around turning dumb all because you’re working too hard and not getting enough sleep.” She hands me half of a macadamia nut cookie she snagged from her lunch bag (or was it Kevin’s bag?) I took the offering, but not the advice. “Yea…I guess I can find more time for breaks - for once… I’m thinking about heading out to the lake to go swimming.” “See, that’s a good idea. Relax for a spell. Oh, and this weekend you can head with me to the mall. We can catch a few sales, and I can get you something you actually like for your birthday.” I really, REALLY didn’t want to be seen in the mall, nor anywhere else. Patronizing her, I just nodded my head. “Sounds good,” and finished the rest of my soda. “Um, look…could you tell Doris that I left early. I’m…not up to closing this evening.” Kelsea’s face folded into that sweet motherly concern, her blue eyes darkened. “Are you sure you’re okay?” Was she a freaking mind-reader? I didn’t want to be there anymore… Work is just a waste of time to me right now. “Um, yea… I’m just tired.” “Oh, alright, I’ll…call you later.” I could feel her eyes evaluating me as I turned away and left the break room, her x-ray vision taking a thorough assessment of all my vitals and emotional state. I was starting to worry that she would follow me out the building, or worse, drive me home herself. If she knew that I was not planning on going home right now… Hell, she would have place surveillance on me, 24/7. Kelsea cares. But, I’m tired of her caring, of her pity. Hell, I don't really know what I want anymore... Leaving the dealership, I trudged through the ankle deep snow towards Cedar Hollow Park, right beside Cedar Hollow Medical Center. It was just three blocks away from the dealership and two bus stops from home. When I need a place to get away, where there were no faces to smile at, eyes to prove my innocence to, I would head to the park. Today, I headed there and I didn't look back. The pristine water of Shannon Lake was beautiful this afternoon, all shiny with bits of crushed ice floating in the high current, and snow outlining the banks and on top of the rocks sitting in the water. I stood on her icy bridge and thought of the story of Shannon Eddington, the person of whom the park's outdoor auditorium was named after. Her family was one of the aristocrats who founded this town, and she, the soon-to-be bride of an Attorney, Bardamus Woodway, fell to her death off this very bridge. No one knows why, but many have their own version of history. The one I held in my mind was of her quest to break away from the social dramas and corruption she was forced into by the very family she loved. Funny, I understand her plight personally. I removed my thick coat and dropped it into the lake, watching it drape over a icy rock below. Then, I removed my purse and repeated my actions, watching it break through the thin ice.. I won’t need them, but it sure would help with my identification if they were with me. I sat on the stone railing, dangling my feet over while watching cars cruised around the park, people walked their dogs and playing in the snowy fields. No one notice me at all. Not a one. Figures, they all love me on the volleyball court, in the newspaper, on TV, but they don’t even know me. They don’t know that I’m not perfect, that I’m a social moth – following the flame, only to burn. And now this? Two months is enough! Mom...she wouldn't bat an eye; it's one less mouth to feed. But, it would break my dad’s heart if he knew. Why did I bring him up now? Cause, I wish he was here...to make it all go away. I watched as the water’s movements created little winter whirlpools in various places before the current flowed under the archway. One of my black pumps fell off my foot and plopped in. I kicked the other one in next. I heard something else after my second shoe fell, as if my ears were already filled with water or stuffed with cotton. I couldn't tell what it was. And frankly, it was too late to find out. I wasn't hanging around this place any longer. And then, I was last. Smooth splash.