©2019 by Canvas Literary Journal

Published by Cosmographia Books

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Emmylou, or The Decision

R.M. Lawler

Autumn (Halloween) 2019

There comes a point in everyone’s life when a change comes about quite suddenly that serves as the catalyst for the rest of their mortal life—whether it be the beginning or end of everything remaining to be seen. From this genesis, spreading like the disturbed waves of an unsettled lake, the whole of a person’s life is formed. The substance becomes nearly tangible in its absolute authority. This came to be the case for a Miss Emmylou Harris of number 10 Ashton Drive.

As ominous as the earlier skies had seemed in the bitter cold of the blurry morning, the day bloomed into the wonderfully crisp fall day that happened rather seldom in the quiet college town. A refreshing breeze blew out from the craggy shoreline, a hint of salt and sunlight on its breath. It was into this wind that Emmylou stepped out, having just finished hearing a class lecture on the importance of agrarian economics in the nineteenth century. She strode out into the wonderful glory of the day and decided upon taking the long route from the university to her apartment. The wind whipped the gossamer gold of her hair before, quite suddenly and vehemently, it yanked the wool- knit cap from her head. She chased the bright red of the cap in dismay, struggling to catch up to its fleeing crimson hue.

Suddenly, just as her fingers were coming close, close, closer to her lovely knit cap, another hand abruptly grabbed it from the air. And before her feet could stop, she charged straight forward into the body of her hat’s captor. Luckily, neither person fell. Standing before her was a tall boy (man?) of about her own age. He offered the hat to her.

“I believe this is yours,” he muttered stiffly before promptly handing it to her.


“Thank you! I appreciate it.” After a quick smile, she started in again on her path, having quite a bit of research to work on. As she trundled on, suddenly a pair of dirty brown boots came into view beside her. Someone was catching up to her, and quite easily at that.

He cleared his throat before grinning sideways at her and saying, “What’s my favorite girl up to?” before placing a palm over his heart.


Oh, good God, she thought. Turning to him, barely refraining herself from an eyeroll, she exclaimed in an unnaturally high falsetto voice, “Why, talking to an incredible imbecile!”

The boy choked before covering it with a cough. “Jesus, Em. That tongue of yours is still as sharp as ever. It truly cuts, you know—see look; I think I’m bleeding!”


She laughed and glanced at him with a sharp smirk.

“If only it would bleed quicker . . . I’m becoming rather bored of your dramatics.”

He pressed a hand to his cheek and sighed heavily, “Your words wound me dreadfully. I may not survive this. Unless, of course, you come do research with me.”

She fixed him with a look before smiling steadily and uttering, “Well, I’m only saying yes because I had to do research anyways.” And with that, they set off for the large stacks of the university library.

To him, Emmylou Harris was always the girl. She was divinity in human form and was greater than all the others who had come before. He jealously watched her in his tortured mind’s eye because she was the ultimate trifle to be won. Day in and day out, he plotted and planned to make her his, to win over that tempestuous creature. The first time he had every laid his eyes upon her, he had seen her big, dark eyes and cutting smirk; he was utterly intrigued. After he heard her argue with the professor in class and win, he was besotted. And after seeing her lead an intramural team to victory, he was obsessed. Quickly, he joined activities adjacent to hers and sat in decent proximity to her in class. Soon, he started carefully learning all her classes and her daily habits, from her club meetings to her outdoor excursions. Then he began to follow her. Once he even had the courage to accidentally run into her and save her hat; they even exchanged a few words. This was all about to change, though, because he was going to truly meet her, while she was taking her usual path home. And this time, she would become his.

When she did not appear upon the path; however, his devastation was crushing, exacerbated by the fact that he had rescued her hat not an hour beforehand. He lashed out at a few rocks in rage before quickly calming himself. There was no use getting so worked up over the girl, he reasoned. He could just try again tomorrow. With that thought firmly in place, he walked home in complete agitation and anticipation for the events to come.

All night long, he drank and drank in sadness and anger, quiet grief in being denied what was rightfully his. Then his impaired mind firmly decided, “To hell with it all!” With the vodka and whiskey sloshing around inside his stomach and injecting itself into his bloodstream, he decided to drive out to the girl’s home, just to have a glance. As his car trundled along, he could not help occasionally swerving into the next lane or going through stop signs. When a siren pierced the air of his drunken reverie, he jerked sharply to the left. Before long, his car was pulled over, and he was having to explain (slowly and patiently) that he was just visiting a friend to the irrational officer. He sighed in obvious contempt when he was informed that he had to do a breathalyzer test—that was until he was placed in handcuffs outside the car. He became belligerent at having been thwarted yet again and started to kick and contort his body forcefully. As he was being pushed into the backseat, his heart ratcheted up in tension as he watched a newly arrived officer opening the trunk of the car. When he heard the exclamations of shock, he slowly melded into the seats in utter defeat. It was over.

The morning rose bright and clear. Emmylou rose from bed and went through her normal routine: showering, having a quick breakfast of fruit and yogurt, brushing her teeth, and then leaving for her 9:30 a.m. class. As she walked along the tree-lined path to her destination, she took in the gorgeous blue sky broken up by the thickets of fiery red leaves. Lost in a reverie of what would be discussed in class, she was suddenly jarred by running footsteps and a loud voice, shouting, “Wait up, Em!”

She turned to see her friend crash towards her on his damnably long legs and could not help but smile at the scene before her. As they started to stroll towards class together, he said, rather secretively, “Guess what?”

Raising an eyebrow, her interest only the slightest bit piqued, she offered an obligatory “What?” while shrugging her shoulders.


“Well,” he started, before adjusting the worn leather satchel on his shoulder. “You know that guy in our history class . . . Edward? Or maybe Ethan?”

She thought for a moment. “I think so! The quiet one . . . with longish hair?


“Yeah, that’s the one.”


“Well, what about him?” she rolled her hand, motioning him to continue.


“He just got busted for a DUI. Then when the cops searched his car, they found a shitload of stuff.”


Her eyes widened in surprise before glancing up at her friend. “Really? That kind of surprises me, considering how quiet he is. It seems difficult to do business if no one knows you’re selling.”

“That’s the thing though—he definitely wasn’t selling. What they found wasn’t hardcore drugs either. People have been saying different things, but it seems like it was a combination of pot and a weird collection of things: a hunting knife, twist ties, a tarp. Honestly, serious serial killer type shit.”

A beat of silence passed before she said, “Well shit, man. That’s quite the way to perpetuate a stereotype. How long could he be in for? After all, there’s nothing definitively wrong with owning that stuff. It’s a bit odd to have in your car, yeah,” she added shrugging.


“Apparently, he gave the cops some weird vibes, especially considering that girl who went missing about a year and a half ago. Nothing’s for sure yet, but rumor has it that the police are getting a warrant for his residence to see what else they can find.”


Emmylou shivered and pulled her coat tighter around herself, “Jesus! I feel like I just stepped into a cheesy teen horror movie!” And on that note, they headed off to class.

Little did Emmylou know, as she sat in class, listening to a lecture and tapping her pencil on her chin, that the police had begun their investigation of a certain apartment. Inside, they found exactly what they were looking for . . . and then something more.

Charles A. Surrey, a newly appointed junior officer, was looking through the bedroom—which was a dark, heady- scented place—as a part of his first official assignment when he stumbled upon a small walk-in closet. The door was painted the same ghastly maroon as the wall and was missing its handle. What he found inside, though, was far more disturbing than any horrendous shade of red.

The walls were covered with hundreds of photos—both grainy and brilliantly clear—that overlapped each other in a nonsensical pattern. Every single photo was of the exact same girl. A girl with golden hair whose face usually held a lopsided smirk. As he looked around the small space, he felt slightly sick. Not only were there photos, but there were also scraps of paper covered in slanted handwriting, empty water bottles and stained coffee cups, tattered girls clothing, both student and city newspaper clippings about the girl, used Band-Aids, tissues. And all of it was used to draw attention to a name scrawled onto the wall, in what appeared to be painstaking fashion: EMMYLOU.

Charles A. Surrey laughed hoarsely. This whole operation had started as a minor drug search and curiosity about some items found in the suspect’s car, but had turned into something much, much darker. He turned and left the disturbing shrine, returning only after he had procured his supervisor.

As Emmylou walked along the craggy shore on a cloudy, windswept day, her thoughts turned as they often had in recent months, to troubled contemplation. Ever since she had heard about the apartment bust, about the shrine dedicated to her, she had started to have a newfound appreciation for that fatefully gorgeous fall day. She thanked God, the universe, herself—anything and everything—that she had made that fortuitous decision to do research and then take the long route home instead of her usual one. After all, had she not gone the way she did, she may very well not be here to contemplate anything at all. She had no idea of what would have happened to her if she had gone on her usual journey. With weeks of considerable thought to support her, she resolved that she did not wish, even out of mere curiosity, to know what would have occurred on that wretched day. And so, she continued on the rocky coastline, enjoying both the serenity and fear that comes from being so fragilely bound to this mortal world.

R.M. Lawler is a high school senior from eastern Kansas with a fierce love of words and Trivial Pursuit. Besides writing, she also enjoys being outdoors, reading, and volunteering. In her free time, you can probably find her enjoying either Buzzfeed Unsolved or a classic ‘90s rom-com.