Home > Perfection of Suffering

Perfection of Suffering
Author: M. Sinclair

Chapter One



Dahlia Aldridge



Wildberry Lane.

Possibly the only place that I would ever truly consider home. I had lived here my entire life, so it made sense. Well, nearly my entire life—I suppose, in all technicality, I was raised on the streets until the age of two… an experience that I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to remember, if we were being honest.

In the sixteen years since then, this exclusive, affluent cul-de-sac had become my entire universe. My not so little kingdom. My family had never considered moving, to my knowledge, and as more years passed, I grew to be even more attached to the select grouping of estates. I didn’t ever really plan on leaving, despite the obvious unrealistic nature of that plan. But honestly—why move when absolute perfection surrounded you?

That wasn’t a dramatization of how I felt about my small neighborhood, either. It was perfect. Now, pinning down the source of that perfection was far more difficult.

Maybe it was the long, stone-paved road that led through a stretch of massive oak trees towards the six-estate-large gated community that inspired and fulfilled the idyllic notion of romanticized Southern wealth and living. Equally as possible, it could be the shaded atmosphere that the foliage around the estate created, allowing for only small streaks of golden light to break through, bathing all six properties in an afternoon glow as the sweet-smelling breeze ruffled the leaves. Honestly, though? I didn’t think it was any of that.

There was just something absolutely unique about Wildberry Lane.

Something that in part came with the amount of money that was spent to keep this level of peace and security. It was easy to forget that only three acres out to each side of our small sanctuary were massive security fences that were patrolled by teams around the clock to ensure the safety of the residents. The security company consisted of an effective and silent group that never disturbed the bubble of tranquil zen that this place seemed to effortlessly maintain. Even now, as my eyes traced the secondary gate at the edge of the cul-de-sac, I couldn’t actually see any of the guards, but I was well aware they were there.

It was actually rather impressive.

Not that I was complimenting them, because I was still pretty annoyed that they hadn’t accepted my tea cakes. Okay, not accepting would imply that they denied the adorable treats I’d brought over to the guard house, which they hadn’t. No, they’d taken them, but they had called my parents to make sure that was something they were okay with. As if my mother, of all people, would have an issue with something like that.

Even now I felt myself nearly rolling my eyes at their formality. I understood it was their job… but a little conversation wouldn’t hurt anyone, would it?

Then again, I’d had the art of polite conversation drilled into my head from the time I was four. Not that my parents suggested I indulge in it with everyone, but even just saying a quick hello was better than completely ignoring someone. Was it wrong that I expected the same from others?

Tucking my feet underneath myself, I shifted so that the afternoon sun wasn’t shining right on my face, the air around me smelling of earth after the small rainstorm only hours ago. One that had left the air humid and damp feeling. This type of weather wasn’t for everyone, but I absolutely loved it. I closed my eyes momentarily, listening to the late August cicadas that had already begun to chirp their symphony as the wind turned just slightly cooler, enough that it brushed over my skin and had me letting out a relieved sigh. The curtains behind me brushed back and forth between the archway of my bedroom and the small balcony that I was sitting on, the entire moment bathing me in content security.

The sound of voices had me opening my eyes again and refocusing on my current subject of interest. My gaze traced the half-moon shaped property setup of Wildberry, examining each of the massive estates that faced towards the center cul-de-sac. It was a familiar sight. With that being said, there was something occurring today that had never happened before. A new experience that I was finding more than a bit off, if we were being honest.

There was someone moving into our community.

The concept was not only foreign, but made me feel… uncomfortable? No. Not exactly. Maybe just out of sorts. My lip dipped slightly, thinking about how I would never see Mrs. Born watering her stunning rose garden again. Something that she had done every single evening, once it was a bit cooler out. That was before this spring, though, when she’d taken a horrible fall and hurt her hip. Within days, her daughter had driven in from Savannah, Georgia and packed up her entire estate in order to move her into their place.

Just like that, we’d lost someone who had literally been fundamental to my childhood. It had been a shock to the system, and while I couldn’t blame them for making that choice, especially because I understood how important family was, I couldn’t deny that it was a bit sad.

I also was terrible with change, so my view on the entire situation, as a whole, was no doubt a bit skewed.

It was one of the reasons I loved photography. Well, one of the many reasons. In that moment, when you decided to take a picture, you were creating a piece of evidence that showed a moment of your life that would absolutely never change. It would always be there for you to remember, no matter what else happened. I found that notion oddly beautiful.

Someone new was moving in, though, changing a small but seemingly massive part of my daily life, and I was both interested and concerned what that would bring. My eyes ran over the large mansion that sat diagonal to us, wondering just how many people were moving in. I mean, the house was objectively massive, more so than any of the others, which was saying something, because Mrs. Born’s husband had built it from the ground up when this community was originally established. Even after his passing and after her children had moved out, she’d never left the property, claiming that it was such a large piece of their love, she didn’t feel right selling it.

I’d always loved that sentiment.

Today, though, the house was filled with movers, walking in and out of the front door as covered furniture was transferred up the pale stone stairs and into the grand foyer. For the entire summer it had sat essentially empty, the vacant, eye-like windows watching me whenever I would glance over. No more, though—now someone would live there.

Someone who had to have a fairly important place in the community, considering the background checks and price tag associated with the multi-million dollar complex.

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