Abbie stood over the pile of hair in her sink, somewhat wishing she could cry about it, but not really feeling anything. This had been the hardest year of her life, and she needed something to be easy. She couldn’t quit her job, she couldn’t escape from the responsibilities of her home, and she couldn’t stop being a mother. Cutting off all her hair had seemed a logical choice. Dismissively running a hand over her head, she shrugged and got back to work.

The view from Abbie’s back porch would have been an astounding panorama of the Blue Ridge Mountains, except that it took a particularly well-trained eye to focus on it. In addition to her yard being overgrown with weeds was the trash pile behind her house, and no blinders existed that could make her ignore it anymore. Her father used to throw her garbage on the back of his truck a couple times a week, but since his death, it had accumulated into a monster. Abbie didn’t know how to handle it, so she just hadn’t.

There were a lot of things Abbie didn’t know how to handle. Having been a mother at sixteen, she lived with her parents until just a few years before, when she moved into her own house – right next door to them. Her dad had helped her maintain it, and now that he was gone, she was struggling to understand how to take care of the place. Seeing its slow disintegration was a daily reminder of how much she missed him, and how much she was lacking in self-sufficiency. If there was anything that was a direct symbol of that, it was the ever-mounting trash pile, and now she was determined to get rid of it.

The barely running Cavalier Abbie drove was more or less held together with duct tape and zip ties. It was just sufficient for getting to work, and now she was using it to haul trash, though she could never fit more than three lawn and leaf sized bags in the trunk. She’d been making these trips to the dump three times a day for the past month, and still hadn’t reached the bottom of the pile.

Coming home one evening, Abbie felt like she was being buried under the weight of discouragement. Her hands were filthy, so she wiped sweat out of her eyes with a sunburned forearm, smearing dirt across her face. She was so sick of handling this shit. The slimy, maggoty garbage infiltrated her every thought as the smell lingered in her car and clung to her clothes. It was hard not to notice the disgusted looks she was getting.

Grabbing a glass of water, she went to the back porch and sat down on a folding chair, closing her eyes. A breeze blew over her neck, reaffirming the decision to lose her long hair. She could fall asleep there, but the day wasn’t even close to being finished. She still had dinner to make, and homework to check, and bedtimes to enforce, and tomorrow it would start all over again; mountains of trash, mountains of responsibility.

Hoisting herself out of the chair, she started to go back inside, but then something caught her eye that made her sit down again, this time with eyes wide open. The setting sun was casting a line of color across the ridges in the distance which was a shade of orange fading into purple that she had never seen before. The sight mesmerized her and she watched it until twilight descended, only then aware that she had seen it unobstructed.

It was happening slowly, but the trash pile was dwindling. Soon it would be gone, and she would be able to tackle the next big job, and the next. And for the first time in her life, Abbie realized that she was starting to feel like an adult.