Tattered Flag | Teen Ink

Tattered Flag

November 3, 2007
By Halley Balkovich SILVER, Springfield, Oregon
Halley Balkovich SILVER, Springfield, Oregon
7 articles 0 photos 0 comments

She was different. She walked with hot coals under her feet and a needing lit deep within her soul. She waved her tattered black flag of solitude all over her town and disrespected like it was a religion.

She was Ophelia Munroe, rebel extraordinare.

She blew through town like hurricane Ophelia, tumbling over street corners with so much grace and confidence she looked like a swan gliding on water. Eyes closed, humming to the Ramones blasting over the one black bud that was shoved in her ear, the other dangling by her swinging hand.

Ophelia was too cool for that stupid one horse town, with it's one record store and fifty churches. How the hell did that work out, anyway? She didn't go to church, but she still believed in God- or at least a higher being that kept bringing her in enough money to buy those Rolling Stones albums at the end of every payday.

School was relative to her, a prison made out of classrooms and bad food. A prison where your inmates weren't just Ex-Cons with shivs and a love for hatred, but even worse, preps and jocks armed with footballs and withering looks that could melt iron.

She hated school as much as she hated her house, these feelings of course, driven by pure teenage angst and moodiness, but guilt as well.

Some days, she would come home to find her father looking with longing eyes at a childhood photograph or an old plaster hand print, and she knew he was pining for the old Ophelia. The Ophelia of days long washed away by years and months, the little girl who used to be before she stitched that tattered flag out of faded hopes, dreams and desires, holding it above her like a trophy. he wanted that daughter back- the one that would chase dragonfly's in the garden and help her mother in the kitchen. But that Ophelia had long since been pulled out into open sea by the incoming tide, gasping for a breath she knew would never come and all the while waving that tattered flag about as if it were going to save her life.

The day she was eighteen, she walked away saying that she'd never come back, but would call on Christmas. Her mother gave a knowing smile and sent her only child off to see the world (Or at least view it from the pages of her college text books) knowing from experience that she would arrive back on their doorstep come Christmas time with her tattered flag lowered and the coals under her feet subdued.

And Ophelia did, moral and spirit intact for the most part, and two gifts wrapped in tissue and twine tucked under her arm. That night, she had her first decent meal in ages, talking with her parents about everything that had come to happen that year over a plate of turkey and mashed potatoes. For a moment, they forgot that the tatted banner, the symbol of her rebellion was even there, it was just them and good food.

But when she left, she raised that flag high above her head and re-lit those coals, stepping out of her old home with as much moxie as she had had at age 16, her mother knew Ophelia would never grow out of this stage of being. It was her being, the sarcasm and the nonchalant attitude, in fact, she saw a little bit of herself in her daughter, walking in those thick winter boots with the single bud tucked in her ear and hands shoved in the pockets of her pea jacket. A navy blue scarf wrapped around her neck and a beanie shoved over her pin-straight golden locks, dissipating into the winter horizon.

And every year, Ophelia would come home to the town that had suffocated her so much, if only to reminisce, or place her flush palm over that of her third grade plaster hand print to see how much it had grown. After college, she brought her husband, and 3 years after that her son. One year after that, her daughter. All of her children, Ophelia's parents could see, did not have the flags, but simply the materials to make them and the spirit to wave them high above their heads in a triumph that would only be rivaled by that of their mother.

Yes, Ophelia had been a rebel in every sense of the word. Making out behind CD racks and stealing things that she never really needed. But she knew that she had not always been like that, there was once a time before that tattered flag, but the memory was lost to her, sinking somewhere in a sea of hot coals and longing for something better.

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