“Lex, come down for dinner!” Alexandria slumped across the room and down the stairs in dirty clothes, her thin blonde hair all over her shoulders.
“What are we having?” she asked, noticing the mustard stain on her sweatpants.
“Meatloaf. Your favorite! And I want you to load the dishwasher after dinner.” The smell of the meatloaf and creamy mashed potatoes with gravy filled the kitchen with delight. As Alex sat down in the wooden chair, she forgot about the wonderful smells. She saw something through the kitchen window that was beautiful. A ray of the setting sun glimmered through the swaying willow tree in her backyard. It was as if the sun was calling to her. She ignored how pretty it was, and her mind returned to dinner. A steaming plate of goodness was sitting in front of her saying eat me.
It was the best Saturday night dinner that Alex had in awhile. It was better than takeout, which was on their usual dinner schedule. After dinner, she dragged herself back upstairs with a full stomach. She went straight to the window to watch the sunset. The oranges swirled around with the pinks, and the blues kissed the purples. In the middle, the big yellow-orange sun gleamed and shined a spotlight on Alex. The white, fluffy clouds were accented with rays of sunshine. It all looked like heaven, but after a few minutes, it was gone, and the sky was getting darker.
As the colors faded away to reveal a plain navy blue sky, Alexandria sat down on her bed and thought about how she was just a typical fourteen year old girl with a typical life. Everyone called her Alex, but her mom called her Lex. Her best friend Sam and her friend Mercedes thought she was an amazing person who was funny and daring with lots of other traits, but everyone else saw her as a quiet and nice girl without many friends. It was true that she didn’t have a lot of friends, and she was nice to most people, but she could be as mean as the devil. At school, Alex tried to look her best, but on the weekends, she gave up on her wardrobe.
Alex looked back out the window. Stars were starting to peek out of the darkness, twinkling like they were speaking to each other. She thought, there has to be others like me. Others who can see the beauty in everything. Of course there are others, but how can I tell who is someone like me and who’s not? Alex did research on her laptop and found that there was a group of people like her that call themselves “The Aesthetes” and coincidentally, their home was in her state, Ohio. She suddenly felt that she had to join them, like they were pulling her in with an invisible rope. But was it worth it? Was it worth leaving her family and life behind for people she didn’t know? Maybe they were fools that lie about who they say they are. Whatever or whomever The Aesthetes were, Alex had to find out.
While packing her bags, Alex questioned if she should do this. What will happen when I find them? What about Mom? It will only be for a little while. I can do this. She rummaged through her closet for clothes, but stumbled across old photos of when she was younger with her parents. Her mood changed from nervous and excited to depressed when she saw her dad in a photo because she missed him dearly. He had left without a word to go who knows where when she was seven. He hadn’t contacted her family since. Alex quickly stuffed the photos in her bag and carried on with packing.
Stealth-like, Alex left without a goodbye kiss to her mom and started towards the bus station in her hometown, Madison, Ohio. The summer night was warm and humid as Alex walked down the sidewalk decorated with chalk. The air seemed to get colder when she thought about her dad. After ten minutes of walking, Alex arrived at the bus station.
A blasting air conditioner made the station uncomfortably cold. While sitting down on an old bench, Alex opened her laptop and on a website she read, “Though The Aesthetes went into hiding, they have been discovered in Lakeside, Ohio, where they live a happy life.”
The aroma of lavender soap from the freshly cleaned bathroom filled her nose. A short man with stubby fingers sat behind the glass of the ticket booth. Alex shoved a crumpled up twenty dollar bill under the glass window. “Can I please get a ticket to Lakeside?” she asked.
“Yes ma’am,” said the man with a fake smile. A look of curiosity was upon the short man’s face. Alex could tell that he was wondering why a young girl was traveling alone. The man slid an orange paper ticket towards her. As she grabbed the ticket, the man warned, “You’d better hurry. The bus is getting ready to leave.” With a quick nod and smile, Alex hurried to the buses.
The bus smelled like grease and was filled with only a handful of people. Alex sat down in a blue, soft, fabric-lined seat and looked at her phone. She had several missed calls from her mom, but she had to ignore them. All she could text her mom was, Don’t worry. I’m safe.
The silence and sway of the bus brought Alex to a sleep. In her sleep, she had a dream that was more of a memory. She was very little and was walking in a field, holding her dad and mom’s hands. One happy family. Her dad kissed her on the side of the head and whispered in her ear, “I love you so much, Pumpkin Pie.” The three continued walking through the field, with Alex’s dad stopping to pick flowers. He got down on one knee and handed them over to Alex and said, “A gift to my little princess.” Alex wasn’t sure if it was in her dream or in reality, but a tear slowly made its way down her smooth cheek.
Alex suddenly awoke. The bus was stopping at a gate. What was a two-hour drive seemed to last only minutes. Lakeside was painted in big blue letters on the gate. She heard the lady working at the stand saying, “We can’t let you through until you confirm that no one on this bus works for the D.P area of the government.” The bus driver walked down the aisle, asking everyone what their occupation was.
He returned to the front of the bus and told the woman, “They’re all good.” The woman suspiciously looked up and down the bus, as if she had x-ray vision and could see everyone’s work ID. She pressed a silver button and the bar leaning across the lane rose up and out of the way. It was too dark to see anything in Lakeside, but by the smell of ice cream and Lake Erie, Alex could tell it was a wonderful town. Soon after entering the gate, Alex once again drifted off to sleep without a thought about why the lady had asked about the D.P government section.
“Ma’am we have arrived at your destination. Ma’am?” The bus driver had woken her up. The bus was stopped at another station, and a few different people were on the bus. A sign in the grass read, Lakeside - The Chautauqua on Lake Erie.
“Thank you,” Alex replied, standing up and stretching. After grabbing her bags, Alex sluggishly moved toward the bus station, still drowsy from her nap. In the station, she retrieved a town map and headed back outside. The crescent moon shone brightly and was surrounded by light, airy clouds like paint strokes. She sat down on a bench outside of the station, ate a sandwich from inside her bag, and examined the map.
There were a few cafes and pubs down the block, and one or two motels. Alexandria had enough money for food, but not for a night in a motel. There were too many old, little houses to count all around her. Most were painted with bright yellows or pastel pinks and blues. Maybe someone was kind enough to let Alex stay the night.
The first house she approached was completely quiet. The next wasn’t so nice.
Knock knock knock. Then silence. A mean, elderly woman answered, “GO AWAY!” Alex swiveled around and walked back down the lawn with a shocked face.
Fortunately, a few minutes later, Alex happened upon a motel for $45 a night which was under her budget. She saw it wasn’t high in quality, but it was what she expected for such a low price. The front walls of the rooms were made of wood and were peeling, and the blue and white paint was horribly chipped. A large man with a curly beard growled, “What will it be?” He must have had a bad day.
“A small room for one night, please.”
“That'll be $46.50.” Alex scrambled through her bag for money. She handed the annoyed man a 50 dollar bill. She picked up her change and room key and traveled back outside to her room. The door read, Room 11. Inside there was one queen bed, a small t.v, and a table and chair. The bathroom was an ugly orange color and there was mold in the toilet and bathtub. Her room smelled like dirty feet mixed with lemons - a very unpleasant smell. Alex opened her bags and threw on her pajamas. Alexandria climbed into bed and she could barely keep her eyes open. She couldn't tell if the sheets were clean or dirty. At least she was sleeping in a bed in her own room, instead of in the outdoors or in a stranger’s house. Instantly, Alex sunk into a deep sleep.
The next morning was very bright and the blue sky was cloudless. Before leaving the motel, Alexandria did more research on The Aesthetes. Their home, that seemed to be sort of a camp, was right on Lake Erie, and was on the east side of Lakeside. On a mission, Alex packed up and left the motel. The smell of freshly-cut grass was in the air. The sun was as bright as a flashlight in a dark room. Children were riding their bikes up and down the street with smiles on their faces. Alex decided she had never seen a more lovely town. It was a perfect day to meet The Aesthetes.
Following her map, Alex turned onto a dirt road. Straight ahead was a beautiful mansion on the lake and there was a sign in front of a gate. Alex couldn’t make out what it said, but as she got closer, she could see that the sign said, The Aesthetes - a home where dreamers will be happy and enjoy a life in beauty. She had found them. Alex approached the gate and pressed the intercom button. She couldn’t find her words. Alex was trembling from excitement and fear.
“Hello. Um, my name is Alex… I feel that I belong here. Um…” The camera stared back at Alex with one, small eye. “I’m only a freshman in high school, so… um, you can see that I don’t work for the government,”
“You could be a government spy, young, so that we wouldn’t suspect you,” the intercom spat back. “State your business.”
“I told you already, I’m here because I think that I’m one of you. I’m tired of my average life. I feel that when I see something beautiful, it warms my heart so much that I have to reach out; I have to go towards the beauty. I feel like the beauty will give me more than just my boring life,”
Alex’s little speech must have worked its magic because the woman on the intercom responded, “We’ll meet you at the front door,” The tall metal gate beeped and opened. Alex made her way along the stone path to the mansion’s porch. Her mouth was open as she looked around, and what she saw pleased her. The grass was cut just right, and full blooms of bright purple and pink flowers surrounded the path; they were so perfect that they could be mistaken for fake flowers.
When Alex reached the giant oak door, it opened before she could even knock. A young blonde, petite woman stood in the doorway with a clipboard in her hand and a welcoming smile on her face.
“Hello, my name is London. I’m Kristie’s assistant. Kristie and Mark are the leaders here. If you would please come in.”
The huge mansion was a mix of traditional and contemporary styles. “You claim you don’t work for the government, but we need to be sure,” London said as she led Alex into a small room beside the front door. “Please have a seat.”
Alex sat down at a small, grey table and across from her, London was sitting with an open laptop in front of her. “I’m going to do a background check on you to see if the information you give me is correct.” London started reading questions off of her clipboard. “Full name?”
“Alexandria Carly Matson.” the assistant typed Alex’s response into her laptop. Her eyes suddenly got bigger after reading something off of the screen and she kept glancing from the laptop to Alex. Alex wondered what had caused London to have such a reaction, but to make things less awkward, she murmured, “Everyone calls me Alex.”
After the interview, London took Alex to the head office. On the way, a man looked up from his book and when he saw Alex, his jaw dropped in disbelief. Disbelief in what, Alex wondered. The two walked through the open office door at the end of a hallway. A man and woman sat inside the room.
As Alex and London walked in, the woman moaned, “A new one. Ugh, you shouldn’t have come here. The D.P government is after us. In case you don’t know what that is, it stands for Dangerous Person(s). It’s a section of the government that is only in Ohio and most people don’t know, but it’s specifically devoted to us. We’re not even dangerous, in fact, we are the opposite. They’ve been trying to find us, and now that our location is on the internet, they’re probably planning to stop us. They just don’t want anyone to overpower them, so they have to terminate any abnormal groups like us. You’re so young, so I suggest you go back to where you came from so you aren’t in danger.”
“That was a warm welcome,” the man said to the woman, sarcastically. “But it’s unfortunately true. You should get going.” He stood up to shake Alex’s hand. “My name is Mark, and this is my partner, Kristie. We run The Aesthetes.”
Alex shook his hand. “I just got here,” Alex said with a feeling of rejection. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Suit yourself,” Kristie replied.
Alex stormed out of the office with London trailing behind her. Alex didn’t know where she was going, but she walked quickly through the mansion. A man stopped her, and Alex recognized him as the man who had looked at her in disbelief.
“Alex?” he questioned. Wrecking balls were tearing through Alex’s brain. She knew who he was. He was the one who was in her dreams, the one who was in her pictures. “It’s Dad... I love you so much and I’m so sorry for leaving,” The words hit Alexandria like bullets as she realized that a genetic ability to see the world in an unusual way had reunited them. He was crying now, and so was Alex. They fell into each other’s arms. Their hug was the best feeling in the world. Alex hadn’t hugged her father in seven years.
The hug didn't last long because at that moment, government cars roared through the gate and onto the grass, sirens wailing. Men with guns flew from their cars and surrounded the building. Downstairs, screams of fright were heard. Alex looked to her right and saw Kristie and Mark standing beside her with no fear on their faces. A group of men were suddenly standing in front of them, guns pointed in their direction.
“Hands up!” the government official yelled. Everyone in the room held their hands above their heads. The man spoke into his walkie talkie, “Do we have permission to terminate all suspects?” He received no answer. “Well, I guess that means yes.” He aimed his gun at Mark.
“You can’t do this!” Kristie pleaded.
“It’s my job.” The men pointed their guns at the innocent people. “Ready! Aim-” The man was struggling to say fire. A little girl in a sunflower dress, like one Alex used to own, sat on the floor near the man, sobbing. The man looked out the window. Lake Erie could be seen in the backyard. The waves gracefully flowed onto the warm sand and the trees, flowers, and grass flowed elegantly in the slight breeze. The sun was a voice saying, Let them live. They need to live. “I can’t do it. We live in a wonderful world and you are people that can see this. I can see it now, too.”
They were going to be okay. The government was no longer going to hunt them.
After everything was sorted out, Alexandria and her father walked along the warm beach. The water was cool compared to the hot sand. Her long blonde hair blew softly behind her and the sand between her toes was soft and comforting. Everything around her was a glimpse. A glimpse of art. A glimpse of beauty. She thought to herself, what a wonderful world. Everything was too beautiful to be true. Was it all a dream? No. It was a glimpse.