FOLLOWING YOUR DREAMS by Noah Crawford

The trees hung lazily. Weeds infected the pavement. Pointless rows of dead roses were
planted along the pavement, some broken off of their stems lying on the wet ground. It had been raining earlier in the day, but eventually the sky became drained and had no more rain to feed the Earth. The clouds were numb and empty.

Mollie dragged her feet through the puddles. Splashes of water and mud seeped through her tired trainers. When she bought them they were a blinding white colour that radiated happiness, now they were a few more puddles away from blending in with her washed out black jeans that clung onto her legs like a python squeezing the life out of her. They made her legs look like twigs below the oversized hoodie that desolately lay over her shoulders covering her torso. It made no attempt to protect Mollie from the cold temperatures. Her hat was the only thing serving its purpose. It sat on her head peacefully covering the top of her dull orange hair that was draped over her shoulder. 

Everything was worn out. The stars weren’t sparkling through the darkness. They blended in with the dismal glow from the street lights. The wind was rushing past her as Mollie begrudgingly shuffled forward. She considered vanishing into the woods and never returning. A futile attempt to escape herself. She wanted to create a new world. A better reality. A place where Mollie could be Mollie without the disapproval that her Father always gave her. Her forbidden dreams would become her everyday life. She wanted to disappear forever and build an optimistic house that showered her in healthy white rose petals as she opened the dam to her mind and allowed the river of thoughts to flow onto a blank canvas frame. She wanted to surround herself with supportive people who will stare at her artwork in awe of the talent no one knew she had as the sun shone proudly through the trees. And she almost did. Almost.

But would running away truly provide the happiness she’d been searching for? She wished she could build her own loyal family from birds and squirrels that would fill the empty void her Father had created. But that was just a dream. And Mollie knew that sometimes dreams are dreams for a reason. She considered following her Father’s chosen path and suppressing any desire to follow her own ambition. She knew she’d be happier as an artist but her Father didn’t care. He wanted her to be a successful lawyer as he truly believed success leads to happiness. Mollie contemplated subscribing to his way of life because maybe he was right? All her life he had somehow managed to convince her that he was always right. 

She balanced all these thoughts in the deepest parts of her mind as she creeped past the corpses of fallen trees. Branches crunched under her feet. She stopped and gazed reminicantly at the tree house she built with her Father. Aged nine. Her face glowed with passion as she covered the planks of wood in sky blue paint. Her Father stood over her protectively. A reassuring hand on her back as she painted her life away. Mollie would never forget the moment she looked up at her Father and saw a genuine smile.

She stared up at the decaying wood. Planks lay below the old oak tree still simmering from the night before. Every memory that was safely tucked between the gaps of wood had been enveloped and suffocated by charcoal - some still pleaded helplessly for air. The dandelions underneath were sprawled over the ground like rotting carcusses. Their yellow petals - which were usually glowing with hope and positivity - had been blackened during the malicious fire. Speckles of ash surrounded the devastated tree as it mourned the loss of a beautiful home. All that was left was painful reminders of what used to be. 

She stood motionless. Everything was silent. Mollie slowly reached deep into her jean pocket, pinched a slender cigarette at the filter-end and carefully slid it out. She placed it loosely between her lips and held it there while she lit it. The flame shimmered in the shadows of the trees which had created a chasm looming over her like the grim reaper claiming its next victim. The deep orange glow from the cigarette burned as Mollie tapped away the excess ash onto an untouched patch of blue paint. She stood fiercely at the scene of the fire - ready to set the rest of the tree alight. 

The last 24 hours darted around her head: the refused application to university; her Father’s menacing screams of disappointment; the glass shattering as it hit the stone cold kitchen tiles; her dramatic exit rounded off with the front door clutching onto its frame, desperate to survive as she slammed it shut. She knew she had a reason to be mad at her Father. He had spent all her life shoving her into the thorns when she wanted to smell the roses. She was the stereotypical starving artist. He was a successful lawyer. He wished his daughter would idolise him and worship the air he breathed as he bathed in wealth and prosperity. But that wasn’t the case. Instead she showered in disappointment and failure. He was the one who provided that sinister reality that lead her to turn to art as a way to escape the world. Still, something told her she was overreacting. Was her Father right to block out her dreams and push her into his own idea of success?

Thunder rippled through the night sky deafening anything in its way. A bolt of lightning struck the tallest tree in the forest causing a fire to start deep inside it. Mollie knew what she had to do. She let her cigarette slip from her fingertips as she turned on the spot and bolted out of the woods - lightening cracked the ground. The whole forest burst into flames of determination behind her as Mollie ran past every dead rose and broken stem. Her feet crunched the weeds before they could spread any more disease over the pavement. In the distance the sound of trees crumbling and crashing to the ground. Mollie couldn’t help but smile malevolently knowing all those memories in that forest were ablaze with no chance of survival.

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