It was the most God-awful thing, that plush orange chair. It sat in the corner of our apartment and on rainy days it made a pretty decent fort, albeit a small one. The velvet on the buttons had worn thin in places, maybe from the repeated rubbings of a small, sticky finger, but the color was like none other. Halloween pumpkin orange, the chair was a product of the garish 70s. The chair stood alone, something missing in its aesthetic. It wasn’t until my college years that I realized what was gone. During my parents’ divorce the ottoman had been severed from the old chair, and like us would never be whole again.
The half-chair and I were kindred spirits, both of us demanded attention and sat stubbornly in place until we got it. I don’t know what preceded my tantrum, but on a chore-ridden Saturday afternoon I yelled and screamed that I was going to run away. I told them they would miss me, they would! I slammed the front (actually the only) door and hid behind that orange chair. It was supposed to be a test. Would they miss me? Who would come looking? I giggled to myself as I heard my mother and brother scrambling around the apartment calling for me. I remember laughing as I fell asleep.
When I woke, the sky outside was dark and my knees throbbed for oxygen. At first, I didn’t understand what I was hearing and then I peeked out from behind the orange chair to see my mother, face in her hands, crying. She was saying something, not a prayer because she’d tossed the church aside with my father, but uttering a desperate wish. “Come back, Jennifer,” she whispered. I never meant to hurt her. My stupid, juvenile stunt had made her cry. I crawled out from behind the orange chair and as her arms folded around me, hard and angry and soft and welcoming at the same time, I vowed to never hide behind that chair again.