Making Bad Choices

By: Rita Stradling


Culter Fuller broke my heart when I was fourteen. Well, that was what I told my mother the night he left my life.

My mother and I lay under the stars in our favorite stretch of grass, just a little way out from Griffith Observatory. Stray grass strands poked through our woven blanket to tickle my bare arms and legs. Otherwise I was comfortable, the air cooled to just warm after another scorching Saturday. Few stars fought their light through the smog layer that night, but this was emergency star-gazing—we hadn’t checked the sky, just jumped in my mother’s car and sputtered up the hill.

My mother’s fingers scratched over my scalp as her lavender scent wrapped around me. “When are you going to start rebelling against me? I’ve been looking forward to having a rebellious teenager my whole life and you haven’t done it once.”

“I don’t know, Mom,” I whispered. My head fit into the hollow between my mother’s shoulder and armpit, a hollow my head had worn into almost the perfect pillow from years of doing just this. Usually it was the perfect pillow, but her shoulder was on its way to boney again, and I was determined not to think about that right then.

I scrubbed a tear off my cheek with my palm, and added, “I think you’re supposed to tell me not to do stuff if you want me to rebel, Mom.”

“Oh,” she said, still combing through my hair with her fingertips. “Well, then you probably need to ask to do something really bad, like sky-diving or something.”

I glanced up at her, seeing a fan of eyelashes over pale skin and a smirk on colorless lips. Three days ago, she cropped her dark brown hair to almost nothing—she called it her battle-ready haircut. “Wait—Mom, I thought you said we were going to go sky-diving?”

She grinned. “Oh, that’s right, huh? Your fifteenth birthday?”

I swallowed. “You said I have to be sixteen.” That was a year and a half away, which was a good goal as far as I was concerned.

“Definitely sixteen,” she said it in a strong voice, as if maybe she was trying to convince both of us that was possible.

The city reflected its lights onto the brown-gray sky layer, obscuring all but the tail of the big dipper and a few scattered stars.

“So, what did it feel like when Culter broke your heart?” she asked me.

“Like he punched me in the chest.” I scrubbed off another tear.


“I hate him . . . forever.” And I would. I would hate him forever.

“That’s just sad, baby.”

I yanked up a piece of grass, pulling it out by the roots and raining dirt onto our blanket. “Ugh, Mom. I’m your daughter; you’re supposed to take my side.”

Her hands continued working through my hair. “I am. But I also think everyone is making this into a way bigger deal than it really is—”

“You would think that.” I sat up and crossed my arms.

She sat up next to me and continued as if I hadn’t interrupted her, “. . . and I don’t understand how Culter could have broken your heart. You keep telling me you don’t even like him.”

“That doesn’t matter, Mom.”

She turned fully to me, eyes bright under drooping eyelids. “I just think that someone needs to have your heart in order to break it, honey.”

I glared. “He did it, he broke my heart. I didn’t like him before, but now I hate him.”

She sighed. “All right, baby. You’re the expert on your own heart. I just think it’s a shame. Culter is a sweet kid—“

“Are you talking about the same Culter? No, he’s not sweet, at all.”

“. . . and I think you guys are going to miss each other. It’s up to Jen and your dad, of course, but I believe that Culter should come back and you two should work this out. Maybe you could call him?”

“I will never miss him, Mom. And I don’t have his phone number. I don’t want it.”

“Maybe on social media?” she asked.

“Mom, no, I blocked him. Can we just drop it? Like, forever?”

She sighed, lying down beside me and not answering.

Eventually, I lay down beside her, and even put my head on her shoulder, because that's where I wanted it, truly.

“I love you; I just want you to be happy.” She kissed me on the top of my head, through my hair.

That might be what she wanted, but I knew the truth, I would never be happy. Furthermore, having Culter back in my life would make me the opposite of happy. Lying there, under the hooded sky, I made a wish that I would never see Culter Fuller again. And for once in my life, my wish came true. At least, it came true for three and a half years.