buildings to honking geese and towering trees, but I knew my mother was right; it would be the perfect
spot to forget about my depressing love life.
I had two brothers and one sister, but they had already moved out of the house, so now I was
virtually an only child, with the two most wonderful parents. We were a loving, close-knit family, and I
couldn't have been more thankful for that.
It was only June when we moved in, so I had almost the whole summer to get used to California and
my new home before school started. I carried in the last heavy box to my cluttered room; everything
was a mess. I bit my lip hard as I looked around at all the boxes and bags, knowing there was no way I'd
get everything unpacked and put in its place in one night.
My mother pushed through the maze of boxes, toppling them everywhere. "Pizza's here."
It was past lunchtime, and my stomach rumbled. My German shepherd pranced around in a circle
"Mom," I said, "Max needs to be walked first."
She brushed her hair behind her ear and smiled. "Go ahead and take him out, then, but don't
wander off too far."
I kissed her cheek. "Of course not."
She pointed to my eyes. "What's with the dark circles?"
"Uh…I'm sure it's just makeup, or maybe just because I've been getting absolutely no sleep?"
"It's your makeup," she said, smiling. "You look like a raccoon."
"See? I'll fit right in with the wildlife out here."
My mom laughed. "Well, maybe the raccoons can adopt you. They're nocturnal too."
"I just can't sleep at night. I can't help it."
She wrapped her arm around me. "Is this about the breakup with Sean? Honey, it's been six months.
Remember what we talked about? We're here for a new beginning, a fresh start."
"I know," I said, wincing because the whole thing still hurt.
Sean had dumped me out of the blue, and getting dumped sucked, no matter the reason. I had given
him my heart, and he had trampled all over it. The breakup absolutely blinded me, and I didn't see it
coming when he called me and said, "Taylor, this just isn't working for me anymore."
I knew it was time for me to move on with my life, with whatever grace and dignity I could muster.
We'd both made mistakes in the relationship, and neither one of us were perfect by a long run. Still, I
refused to let that relationship define who I was. Just because we didn't work out and clearly weren't
meant for each other, that didn't mean things wouldn't work out with someone else in the future. My
friends set me up on stupid dates that never worked out, and I wondered if I'd ever find the "spark"
again. For the time being, I decided I was done with guys. I was just going to enjoy my fresh start and
focus on my passion, painting. The yard was overrun with weeds and vegetation, but my dad had hired
someone to fix it up, and when he was finished, it would be the perfect place for me to pursue my art.
I threw my black, curly hair into a messy ponytail, then slid my feet into my white tennis shoes. I
wore a white t-shirt and my favorite pair of skinny jeans that hugged my curves so tight they felt like a
second skin. I'd washed them so many times that they were faded and super soft, form-fitting in all the
right places. The right knee had a large rip in it, but that only gave them originality. Silver and leather
bracelets dangled from each of my wrists, and silver rings adorned my fingers. I looked into the mirror
and wiped the smeared eyeliner from underneath my brown eyes, then headed outside.
It was so beautiful there. Our yard was surrounded by towering trees that stretched high into the
sky. The birds chirped, the sun shone on my face, and a cool breeze ruffled my hair. I loved my back yard
woods. Inhaling the clean air, I smiled. I'm really going to enjoy my fresh start here…and so is Max, I
thought as the dog explored the back yard, fascinated and intrigued by all the new smells and sounds.
Suddenly, Max's ears shot back, as if he had noticed an animal in the woods. Peering closer, I
glimpsed a whitetail deer sipping from a puddle. My heart melted at the sight of the adorable animal.