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Hog Creek Review
Allen County High Schools 2010

Fiction
Allen East star Apollo Career Center star Bath star Bluffton star Delphos Jefferson star Delphos St. John’s star Elida star Lima Central Catholic
Lima Senior star Perry star Shawnee star Spencerville star Temple Christian
Freshman/Sophomore Division
A Turtle, a Pair of Wings, and Jenny
Kaitlin Wrasman, Delphos St. John’s
Sponsoring Teacher: Chrissy Elwer

       I never expected to die so young.  I often dreamed of my future, how I would grow up, where I would go, who I would meet, how many grandchildren I would have some day.  As a little girl, I took for granted that I had many years ahead of me, my whole life; but I wasn’t that lucky.  I’m thankful, though, that God took me when He did.  There’s no way I would have been able to save Jenny otherwise.  Now, I’m positive that everything happens for a reason…even my own death.
       “Are we almost there yet?” I bothered my dad with this question every five minutes when we were on our way to my favorite place, the lake.  It was a tradition; my family would travel two hours to Coldwater Lake in Michigan every Sunday during the summer, and I wasn’t a very patient little girl.  I just couldn’t wait to see that huge oak tree at the end of the road that hid the sparkling water behind its deep green leaves.  Once I saw it, I knew our little cottage was just a few minutes away.  The main reason, though, that I couldn’t wait to arrive at the lake every week wasn’t just the sparkling water, smelly seagulls, sandy blue water, or the sunshine that lasted forever.  It was Jenny.
       Jenny and I had been and always would be best friends.  I only got to see her in the summer because she lived in Michigan by the lake all year long.  I was a little jealous of Jenny.  Jenny, her dad, and her mom had what seemed like the perfect life.  They got to spend all their time together at my favorite place.  They went paddle boating, fishing, and swimming together as much as they wanted.  At the time, though, I was just happy to see Jenny as much as I did.  We had a hard time in the winter when I never traveled to Michigan because we missed each other so much.  Of course we had other friends, but Jenny and I were more than just friends; we were like sisters.  Before each summer ended, we would come up with a routine; usually, I would call Jenny on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and Jenny would call me on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.  Jenny and I would talk as long as we possibly could about anything and everything in between, until my mom would say, “Hang up the phone, Kylie.  You’ll see Jenny soon.”  Summer never came soon enough for either of us, though.
       So finally, my dad said, “Just two more minutes until the oak tree.”
       “Jenny!” I thought out loud.  We were now seven, and it was the summer before second grade.  I hadn’t seen her since we were both six.  The time in between summers seemed like it lasted forever.  At last, I could see our little blue cottage with the familiar deer statue standing out front.  I jumped out of our truck, slammed the door, and started laughing and running at the same time.  Jenny must’ve been watching for me. I saw her house door open, and there she was, my best friend.  We met each other on the road and hugged for what seemed like forever.  That day, I remember I spent every second with Jenny.  We had contests to see who could catch the most turtles, went tubing behind the speedboat, and went swimming until our toes were wrinkled and our skin was so sunburned that we could hardly move.  We’d had enough water for awhile.  So, we decided to take a little walk and explore the mysterious woods at the end of the road. We didn’t tell our parents we were leaving because the woods weren’t our property, and we weren’t supposed to go back there.  Jenny and I were feeling adventurous, though, and besides, what could happen?
       We headed down the road.  I had always been curious about those woods, and now I would finally get to see what was back there.  We reached the dead end where the trees met the road, and we kept walking. I thought that little dirt path would keep going on forever, but then the trees cleared.  It was beautiful.  Behind those trees was a different, imaginary world.  The ground was covered with tall grasses and wildflowers, and the blue sky was endless.  Back a little ways, there was either a really small lake or a very big pond (I couldn’t tell) surrounded by trees and flowers.  Jenny and I looked at each other and smiled.  This was amazing; we had our own secret fantasy world, and it was real.  I can’t remember exactly how long we stayed.  We ran through the grasses picking flowers, lay on the hills dreaming in the clouds, and picked up rock after rock skipping them on the clear, smooth water.  As I was reaching down for another rock, I noticed a splash of color.  It was a turtle!
       Jenny and I were still competing to see who could catch the most turtles, and so I was determined to snatch this one.  It was kind of far off shore, but I knew I could reach it.  Jenny stared and giggled as I tried to stretch my body just one more inch to grab the turtle.  It was sunbathing on a small rock a few feet from the rocks we were standing on.  My toes were on the very edge of a rock, and I almost had it.  Just then, a very small wave came and wet the rocks underneath my feet.  I remember looking back at my best friend and mouthing, “Jenny.” 
       I could faintly hear her starting to scream, “Kylie?  Kylie?  Kyyylie!”  As I slipped, I banged my head on the many rocks that made up the bottom of the pond.  My body landed face down in the water, too far out for Jenny to reach me.  She was still standing on the edge, tears streaming down her cheeks now, shocked.  Jenny didn’t know what to do; she tried to reach her hand out, but she couldn’t even touch me.  I wasn’t moving, and my face was under the water.  Jenny knew that if she tried to help me herself, she would just slip too.  Without thinking, Jenny ran as fast as her legs could take her.  The whole way she was screaming, “Someone help! Kylie!”, but by the time my parents heard her, it had already been too long.  My dad got to me first, and he lifted me out of the water.  My small head was bloody, turning the water red, and my skin was becoming white.   I can remember the ambulance sirens coming closer, but it didn’t matter; I was already gone.  There was nothing that my dad could do, nothing more that Jenny could’ve done.
       Most people may have thought that I was gone forever, but really just my body was gone.  A few days after my death were a little hazy, but it’s all clear now.  I always wondered what happened to people after they passed, and now I know.  I floated up beyond the clouds and rainbows, and I got to meet Jesus in heaven.  I was just an innocent, precious child when I died.  So, I automatically got into heaven.  God is a very busy man, but He took the time to ask me how I was doing.  I told Him that I was fine now, but I was very worried about how my best friend was handling everything that happened.  I told Him that somehow I needed to make sure that Jenny was okay.  God understood and helped me out.  He decided that I would be Jenny’s guardian angel for awhile until I knew that she was happy again.
       “Me?  A guardian angel?  But what if I do something wrong or can’t protect her?”
       Jesus just smiled at me and said that He’ll be with me, and I’ll know what to do.  So, He gave me my own pretty little pair of wings, explained all the rules, and sent me back down to what had once been my absolute favorite place on the earth.
       The lake seemed different somehow; the sunshine wasn’t as bright, the water didn’t sparkle as it used to, birds weren’t chirping, and I couldn’t spot any turtles basking in the sun.  Being an angel felt weird, just kind of floating above everything but not actually being a part of it.  At first, the whole flying thing was tricky, but I found out that I really didn’t have to do anything; I just sort of flowed with the wind.  I made it to Jenny’s home, a tiny moss green house with white shutters and many colorful flowers growing in the pink window boxes.  From the outside looking in, it seemed just as pleasant and perfect as I remembered.  Then, I went inside to find out how Jenny was doing.
       I saw things that I certainly did not expect.  For one thing, Jenny’s dad was half passed out on the couch with beer bottles surrounding him and a cigarette in his hand.  I never knew that he smoked.  Jenny’s dad was kind of like my dad, too.  He always used to buy us ice cream, push Jenny and me on the tree swing, have water fights with us at the sand bar, take bike rides with us up the big hill so we could coast down, and mostly, help us catch turtles.  I always viewed Jenny’s dad as a loving, nurturing father, but right now, it didn’t look like he was acting like one.  Okay, so I found Jenny’s dad, but where were Jenny and her mom?
       I checked the messy kitchen, the smelly bathroom, and the disorganized office, but they were all empty.  I moved on to my best friend’s familiar pink flowery bedroom and found Jenny.  She was stuffed in her closet, holding on to her favorite teddy, and staring at pictures of her family from the past summer.  They looked so happy in the pictures.  Apparently, a lot can change in a year.  I went through the small house once again, but Jenny’s mother was nowhere to be found.  On Jenny’s desk, I discovered a letter written to her from her mom:

“To my beautiful daughter, Jenny,

       I couldn’t stand to tell you this in person, but I am going away for awhile.  Things are very hard for us right now, and your father and I can’t seem to work them out together.  I want to take you with me, but I have no idea where I’m going.  I think that it’s best if you stay with your dad, at least for now.  With all that’s happened in the past few months, I know you’re hurting, and I’m sorry, but I just can’t stay.  Know that I love you more than anything, and I will be back as soon as I’ve figured everything out.

                                                                                                                                                      -Mommy”

       The date on the letter was three weeks and five days after my death.  Poor Jenny.  First I left her, and then her mom did, too.  I didn’t know what I could do to help Jenny now.  I was just a spirit, so I couldn’t be there for her, to comfort her.  She could get through this with her dad, right?  Well, I would stay and make sure that she did.
       The next morning was much of the same.  Jenny was hiding away in her room while her dad was drinking and watching the news.  I didn’t understand why they weren’t together, hugging each other, consoling each other.  Their grief would’ve been so much easier to cope with if they helped one another through it.  But, maybe this was just their way of dealing with everything.  Everything had to get better from here.
       Jenny eventually got herself ready for school.  She piled her books in her backpack, tied her shoes, ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast, and put on a sweater and jacket even though it was spring now and beginning to get very warm during the afternoons.  Walking out to wait for the bus, Jenny and her father never exchanged a word, not even a simple “bye.”  Something was wrong with this picture (other than the fact that Jenny’s mom had recently abandoned her and Jenny’s best friend had died just months before).  I was going to find out what it was.
       The school day went on normally.  Jenny said hi to old friends, was polite to teachers, and played kickball with her class at recess.  One small thing, though, stood out to me.  While breaking a sweat running during recess, doing push-ups in gym class, and working with a flame during science, Jenny did not ever take her heavy sweater off or even just roll up the sleeves.  I was even getting warm just watching all the kids playing out in the sun.  Her teacher and a few of her classmates asked Jenny if she wanted to take off her sweater and hang it up, but each time Jenny replied, “No, I want it on. I’m fine.”   Jenny might just not get as hot and sweaty as most kids, I thought.  That sweater was probably nothing, but for some reason I kept thinking about it.
       Jenny rode the bus home, thanked her driver, and entered her house; that’s when things got much, much worse.  She walked in and there was her dad, waiting for her.  Right away, he started screaming at Jenny and getting in her face.  He was yelling about how Jenny didn’t wash her bowl that morning, and so he had to do it for her.  He kept moving closer to Jenny, waving his arms all around, and spitting in her face.  It was just a bowl, why was he getting so upset at her?  Her dad just went on and on about how Jenny’s mom was gone now, and she couldn’t just expect someone to do everything for her.  He said that he certainly wasn’t going to clean up Jenny’s mess and help her with everything the way that her mother had.  All the while, Jenny stood there looking horrified.  I kind of felt like she knew what was coming.  She was terrified of her father. 
       Still yelling and cursing, Jenny’s dad came at her.  She tried to run, but he grabbed her arms so tight that his knuckles were pure white, and he slammed her against the fridge.  The more Jenny wiggled, the tighter her dad gripped her small arms.  He just stood there for a moment, squeezing his daughter’s fragile arms, not knowing what he was going to do next.  Finally, he threatened Jenny that if anything happened like this again, the consequences would be much worse.  She nodded, and then he practically threw her across the kitchen.  Jenny landed on the floor and smacked her head on the table leg.  By now, Jenny’s dad was already on his way back to the couch.  Jenny got up quickly, tiptoed to her room, and locked the wooden door.  She didn’t even cry; she just grabbed her teddy off the floor, lay on her bed and stared out her cracked window.  I felt so awful and worthless.  All I could do was watch this happen to my best friend, and I couldn’t even help her.
       I stayed all night with Jenny, just watching her.  She got up occasionally to look at pictures or do some homework, but mostly she just sat quietly.  I wanted to know so badly what she was thinking so I could help.  Eventually, Jenny fell asleep.  I stayed.  As the sun was beginning to rise and signal the beginning of the next day, I was scared.  I was scared for Jenny. I was scared of her father.  Mostly, I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to protect her. 
       Jenny had forgotten to set her alarm the night before and was still sleeping when her bus stopped at her front door.  The bus driver beeped, waited for a few minutes, and moved on.  I did everything I could to wake Jenny up. I opened her blinds, blew papers off her desk, and even opened the window so the sunlight hit her face.  She was so exhausted that her eyelids wouldn’t budge.  I was trembling, and I could hear her dad grumbling and his heavy footsteps moving closer.  I wanted to pick Jenny up and take her away, but of course I couldn’t.  Her bedroom door slammed open, breaking the lock.  That woke her up, and she saw her dad standing over her with an expression of pure anger.  She knew what she had done.  Jenny started to explain immediately, “I’m sorry, Dad, I just forgot…”  Before she could finish, his hand came across her face, and it knocked her off her bed.  He wasn’t yelling this time, just staring at his daughter on the floor.  Jenny stared back at him, but her innocent eyes didn’t get to him.  Her dad kicked her with his heavy work boots before he pulled her to her feet by her hair.  He told her to get dressed (now I understand that Jenny wore long clothes to cover her swollen, purple arms and legs).  Her dad shoved her out the door and told her that she was walking to school, which was over six miles into town.  I couldn’t stand this anymore.  My best friend was being abused while I sat back and watched.  I had to go. I had to do something, anything.
       God was right; I did know what to do.  I zoomed as fast as my little wings would take me to Jenny’s school.  I was going to hunt down Jenny’s mom and make her come home to save her daughter.  I went through every one of Jenny’s files hoping to find something useful.  Finally, I stumbled across a phone record. Jenny’s mom had been calling the school every few days to make sure that her daughter was all right.  Obviously, the school told her everything was great because no one besides me saw what was underneath Jenny’s sleeves.  So, her mom really did care about her still.  That was good to know.  The phone record showed that Jenny’s mom had been calling from the same number every single time.  She must’ve been staying with a relative, maybe her parents or sister.  I scanned through Jenny’s contact information and discovered that this particular number belonged to Jenny’s grandparents who lived about three hours away.
       It didn’t take me very long to make it to Jenny’s grandparents’ neighborhood.  Now, I just had to figure out which house belonged to them.  I knew the street, just not the actual address; I hadn’t stayed long enough to see.  I popped into a few houses that definitely weren’t the right one, so I moved on.  The next house had to be it; it smelled like old people, had doilies under every lamp, and had a room with three suitcases half unpacked.  This was definitely their house, and the next thing I found brought tears to my eyes.  On the mantle above the old brick fireplace, there was one picture that caught my eye; it was little Jenny and me in our pink and purple bathing suits, each of us holding a turtle in our hands. As I looked closer, I noticed many more pictures taken at the lake, and I was in about half of them.  I had almost forgotten that the lake had once been my absolute favorite place.  So much had changed.
       No one was home.  All I could do was wait, and I didn’t want to imagine what Jenny was going through right then.  At last, I could hear voices.  Jenny’s mother, Michelle, and Jenny’s grandparents walked through the door at 5:21 p.m.  So much time was gone, but I had to get Michelle to go home that night.  I followed Michelle up to her room and got to work.  I had known that I was going to need some things, and so before I left Jenny’s house I grabbed the note that Michelle had left for her and the picture of Jenny and Michelle at the lake, the one that Jenny always stared at.  I could tell that Jenny’s mom wanted to go home and thought about it often because her suitcases were ready to go any time, and Michelle’s face just showed how much she wanted her daughter back.  All I had to do was give her a little push. 
       While Michelle sat at her desk typing on her laptop, I cracked the window and released the picture I had in my hand.  Her papers blew across the room from the spring breeze, and the picture landed right in Michelle’s lap.  She glanced down and froze.  Staring at the photo, I could see a glimmer in her eyes, tears were forming.  She looked at it for a long time, just staring at her daughter’s bright toothless smile, their hair blowing everywhere, the sunshine making them squint, Jenny’s arms around her neck.  Michelle sat there for awhile holding the picture to her chest, but then she just wiped her eyes and went back to work.  It was time for the letter.
       I carefully slipped the letter in between Michelle’s clothes in her open suitcase while she was in the shower.  After fifteen minutes, Michelle walked out with a towel wrapped around her body.  She headed to her suitcase to grab some clothes.  As she picked up her green shirt, she heard the letter hit the floor.  Michelle bent down, picked it up, and started reading her familiar words.  When she was halfway through, she stared at the paper in disbelief.  Michelle broke into sobs.  She had known that what she did was wrong and that Jenny did not deserve any of this.  She threw on her clothes, zipped her suitcases, and ran down the stairs.  While pushing open the front door, she hollered, “I’m going home to Jenny,” and then she was gone.
       The three hour drive home was very difficult for both of us.  The whole time, Michelle had tears streaming down her cheeks, and I couldn’t stop wondering if Jenny was still alive.  Now and then I would hear Michelle whisper to herself, “…awful mother,” “How could I have done that to my baby?”, “I shouldn’t have ever left her.”  Even though Michelle had left, I could tell that she loved Jenny with her whole heart and would never intentionally hurt her.  I felt comforted and knew that once Michelle was home, she would take care of Jenny, love her, and keep her safe.  We were only an hour away now until we would both see Jenny once again.
       Finally, I spotted the huge oak tree! Just two more minutes and we would be there.  When we made it to the house, I noticed that Jenny’s dad’s truck was missing.  He must have left to go buy more beer or something.  Jenny was sure to be home by herself.  Michelle didn’t even bother to park her car; she left it running on the street.  She jumped out and yelled, “Jenny,” between her sobs.  Michelle opened the door to her former home and found her daughter running towards her with a tear stained face.  Jenny jumped into her mom’s arms and held her tightly.  Through tears, Michelle whispered, “I’m so sorry, baby.  I love you more than anything, and I will never ever leave you again.”  Jenny and her mom remained intertwined in each other’s arms for what seemed like forever.  My job was done here, and so I faded out of this real place and back to my new home, my new favorite place.
       I never expected to die so young.  I’m so thankful, though, that God took me when He did.  Because of that, I was able to save Jenny from the same fate; I saved her life.  And even though Jenny couldn’t save my life that day, she is still my best friend in the world.  She always will be.

Raging Waters
Julia Dickman, Delphos St. John’s
Sponsoring Teacher: Chrissy Elwer

There I stood, looking down at the waters below me.  From 50 feet up, the treacherous waves crashed against the jagged rocks, but the thought didn’t cross my mind.  I was too busy examining the faces of those few individuals who had decided to come out despite the ominous, forthcoming weather, searching for the one face I was sure to see, the one face I needed to see.

From the moment we had first met, I had incessantly planned this moment out in my head: where we would be, what I would wear, what would be said.  It was almost a need now to continue; there was no way to stop it.  The whole idea consumed my mind.  There was nothing else I could think of.  Nothing could vacate it. 

Our reunion seemed only fitting that it would happen here, of all places and appeared slightly ironic, when considering the date.  This was the exact place and date in time that I had first caught a glimpse of his perfectly formed features, his striking smile, his urbane look.  Seeing him had become almost an addiction since then.  I needed it as I needed to breathe.

Somewhere in the midst of my obsessive planning, the storm had taken a turn for the worse.  Water now cascaded down in a torrent.  The deafening wind battered anything that stood in its way, thrusting me backwards.  The ferocious downpour seemed to have a mind of its own, clouding my vision and making me struggle to stay upright.  Yet despite the tempest, I couldn’t have been happier, for there he was, in the heart of the storm.  There he was, as if he was waiting just for me.  The only flaw in this reasoning was that I wasn’t the reason he was here, at least not yet.

My need was suddenly satiated, if only for the time being, but it wasn’t enough to just see him from afar.  I had to get closer to him.  Being apart from him felt as if something was tearing at my heart, making me unable to breathe, unable to live; there seemed to be no other option for me.  The solution was as clear as day and I knew what I must do.  I had to convince him of what I deemed to be fate: that we should be together.  If only he saw in me what I saw in him.  If only he saw me as more than just someone like a sister needing protection.  If only he saw me not just as someone to watch out for, but as someone to love.

Ever since his father had given me a place to stay, after a tragedy that took away both of my parents, he seemed to treat me like his sister.  I should have been happy that he accepted me at all, but I wanted so much more than that.  If only he could see things my way.  I had long since moved out, being old enough to get my own place, but he still felt the need to shield me from any potential harm, as if he was my big brother, although we were mere months apart in age.  I had hoped that he would eventually realize how perfect we would be together, but that time had long since past.  He was soon to be moving away and it looked as if he would never come around.

As I contemplated how to get down to him, a sudden gust of wind forced me down to the ground.  In the moment I stood back up, I had lost sight of him.  He was gone.  In an act of desperation I jumped, forgetting the perilous waters below me.  The only thought going through my mind was to find him, to find him and to convince him not to go.

The mere fact that I missed the jagged rocks at the bottom was a miracle.  The ocean battered me around and for a moment I feared for my survival, but the trepidation I felt for my life was nothing compared to the agony I felt at the thought of losing him forever.  Suddenly a light broke through the treacherous waves engulfing me, and the water began jarring me upwards.  I broke through the water and began gasping for air.  Grabbing hold of the immense, sturdy rock that I narrowly escaped during my plummet to the sea, I tried to slow down my breathing, to no avail.  For there he was, just a few meager yards up shore, looking as perfect as always and taking my breath away.  He hadn’t left after all.

I tried to call out to him, but found that I couldn’t find my voice.  When I did, I wished I hadn’t.  It was sore from my unpleasant encounter with the ocean.  The salt water burned both my throat and eyes.  I struggled to gain composure of myself, but I could sense that I was falling apart at the seams.  All my troubles in life kept adding up, weighing me down; nothing had ever gone right for me.  This cruel life seemed as if it was just hammering out one last final blow.  Even now I could feel my fingers sliding off of the jagged rock.  I tried to reach, but my hands could find no purchase.  The colossal waves took me as their captive once more, holding me hostage from the one I love.  I was never going to be able to tell him how I had felt about him;   I was going to die.  Even as I came to realize this, there was one final image that passed through my mind, one that made no sense at all; then everything went black.

When I awoke, I was extremely disorientated.  I had been so sure that I was going to die; I had had no more strength left in me to fight off the ongoing battle I was facing with the sea.  Though even with all of that, there was no way that I could be dead, heaven wouldn’t be this uncomfortable.  My head was throbbing and my throat aching.  This was what had first made me question what I had believed to be inevitable, but was there any possible way I could have survived that?  The thought of not knowing what was going on was agonizing, but I had no way of finding out.  My voice still didn’t want to cooperate and the only thing I could see was a few black silhouettes.

By the time my eyes had adjusted to the darkness, I realized how cold I was.  My whole body was shivering, shaking from head to toe, even though it there were many heavy blankets covering me.  Though I still couldn’t recognize any faces, I could hear voices.  They were talking in whispers, in what seemed to be a conversation about me.  I strained to listen, but could only make out a few words, although it was enough.  Enough to recognize that one voice that I needed to hear.  That voice was his voice.  That voice was Jayden’s.

The effort in which I had to use to hear his voice was excruciatingly frustrating.  His voice was about the only thing distracting me from my current predicament.  Why couldn’t they just move a little closer, or speak a little louder for me?  After all, if I was the central point of their discussion, shouldn’t I know what they were saying? 

Since none of their conversation was making any sense to me, I began deliberating upon that last image I saw before I was engulfed by darkness.  I had assumed that it was just a figment of my imagination, but me being here, alive, proved otherwise.  But who in their right mind would’ve jumped into the raging sea, risking his or her own life?  There was only one person I could think of that would do that and seeing him gave me hope that maybe he did feel something more for me, something more than just good friends.

I began listening intently again, hoping to get the gist of what they were discussing now.  The way their voices had changed in tone made it sound as if they had moved on to a new topic.  That was when I heard two little words, two little words that caused my already erratic heartbeat to skyrocket.  Those two little words were ‘plane’ and ‘leaving’.  I began gasping for air, wincing as I did because of the strain it put on my already tired, aching lungs.  After all this, could he really still leave?  I closed my eyes, willing myself not to cry.

Footsteps brought them closer to me.  I didn’t dare open my eyes for fear that my tears might betray me.  As I tried to calm myself, the footsteps stopped.  A moment later, I felt someone brush the hair out of my eyes.  I didn’t have to look to know that the person beside me was Jayden.  The very thought of being this close to him set off my breathing again.  As I made an effort to regain the composure I had just lost, his captivating voice broke through the silence.

“Kaylin, Kay, are you all right?” he inquired. 

This time I opened my eyes.  I couldn’t resist the temptation of looking into his dark, mystifying eyes while he was so close.  As I did, I was sent into a state of bewilderment.  How could he look so effortlessly dazzling?  I was in awe at the sight of him; I had never seen him quite so stunning.

I watched his expressions as they registered throughout his face: first, concern, then wondering, and back to concern again.  I quickly realized that my expressions could be as easily read as his.  I tried to feel my face from the inside, contemplating on what it was he was seeing, but as far as I could tell, there was nothing out of the ordinary; I felt just the same as always. 

The silence had lasted long enough, so I figured I should answer, but what should I say?  The question could be understood in two different ways, and I was just about certain that his interpretation and mine were two different things.  I wasn’t entirely all right emotionally, but I was sure that when he had asked, he had meant physically.  So I answered in a way that wouldn’t necessarily be a lie for either one.

“I’m not exactly sure,” I hedged.  “What happened?”

“You fell off a cliff from fifty feet in the air.  You’re lucky to be alive,” he explained, though it didn’t sound admonishing.  He must have assumed the plummet was an accident, and I wasn’t going to correct him, but then he asked the question that I was hoping he wouldn’t. “Why in the world were you even out in weather like this?”

“I- I- I,” I stuttered. I didn’t want to admit that he was the reason I was out and about, but what else was there that could explain it?  I didn’t have an excuse that anyone would believe like he did.  I didn’t even have the excuse that storms fascinated me; the only type of storm I liked was the figurative one, the one without wind and rain, lightning and thunder.  The only storm I liked was one of passion and love.  And so I had no answer, but then, fortunately, I was saved from answering, because at that moment, the other figure in the shadows spoke up.

“Jayden, give her a break, she’s been through a lot today.  Why don’t you let her rest for a while?”  That’s when I recognized that the voice was that of his father’s.  I was so thankful at that moment that I was saved from my muttered excuses, but also a bit sad.  Would he think that he should leave me alone completely, to recuperate by myself?  I didn’t think I could handle that, him being so close, yet so far away.  The mere thought of it was simply unbearable. 

Thankfully, I was saved from this ordeal when Jayden spoke up again.  “Sure, Dad, but I think I’ll stay here for a little bit while she’s resting.  Is that okay with you, Kay?”  He asked, turning his attention back to me.

What else could I say?  This was exactly what I’d been hoping for.  “Yes, of course you can!” I replied, hoping I didn’t sound too eager.

“It’s settled then.  I’ll see you in a bit, Dad.  Kay and I will do a little bit of catching up.”  Then he added with a wink, “It’s been a while since we really talked.”

“Okay,” his dad replied doubtfully.  “But don’t keep her up too long.  Kay?  You be sure to get some rest, all right?”

“Yes, sir, I will,” I answered, as he walked into the next room, though there was no guarantee that that would happen.  How could I when his gorgeous face was inches from mine?  Sleep was the last thing from my mind right now.

“That was some fall you took.”

“Oh, yeah, I guess it was,” I said as his voice broke my concentration.  I had been trying to memorize every single detailed feature on his face.  If he was really leaving, I didn’t want to forget a single, flawless trait.

I sighed.  I had to ask him sooner or later, and now seemed as good of a time as any.  “Are you really leaving for good this time?”

I could see him grow uncomfortable.  What was it that he didn’t want to say in front of me?  Could it really be that bad?  My worries left me as soon as he answered.  “Well, I was going to talk to my dad about that.  He really wants me to go out and find a real job.  I know he won’t like what I have to say, but I love what I do now.  I couldn’t live without surfing.  And it’s not like I wouldn’t be making any money.  He just doesn’t seem to understand.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.  “Oh, I was kind of hoping you’d say something like that.”

He looked at me questioningly, but then appeared to just shrug it off.  “Kay, I don’t want to go, but you know I can’t stick around here forever.  Even if it’s not now, eventually I’ll have to leave, and when I do, I don’t think I’ll be coming back.”

The thought of him never coming back brought tears to my eyes, even though I knew the fact was true.  Eventually something would happen.  He’d get hurt surfing and not be able to continue, or just get too old to be able to make any profit from it, besides the joy it would bring him.  It hurt to admit it, but I could see the reasoning in it.

“Then take me with you,” I silently whispered.

He began laughing silently, though I couldn’t see any humor in this situation.

“I was being serious,” I said, feeling a little stung inside.  How could he be so cruel?

“I know, but don’t you see?  This whole thing is unnecessary.  I’m not going anywhere, at least not yet, so we don’t even need to be having this discussion.  Let’s just wait it out and see what happens.  Why worry about something that we don’t even know for sure about?”

“But you already have the plane tickets.  And – .”

“Kay, stop worrying about it.” He tried to soothe me, while breaking me off in midsentence.  “I haven’t even gotten the tickets yet.  Those were for my friends, who, according to my dad, ‘are getting real lives and settling down.’  They’re not goofing off and wasting they’re lives away like I am supposedly.  Now why don’t you get some sleep?  I’m sure you’re exhausted.”

“No, not yet!” I protested.  “Not until you promise that you won’t leave me,” I said only half-jokingly.

“Kay, do you really think I’d leave you all alone to fend for yourself?  Someone has got to look out for you when you do something stupid, now don’t they?  Why can’t that someone be me for right now?”

“Hey!  I don’t always do something stupid!” I objected, although I liked the attention he was giving me.  “Sometimes you’re the one who makes me do something stupid!”

He laughed.  “All right, I’ll give you that one.  Now get some rest.”

Suddenly the exhaustion was too much.  I could feel the heat from the fireplace making me drowsier, if that was even possible.  My eyelids slowly drooped, and so I gave in to their protest.  I obeyed, falling rapidly and completely asleep.  As promised, he stayed right by my side.

When I awoke he was still there, taking his own nap beside me.  His body was warm and felt good next to mine, which was still chilled from my plunge in the ocean.  I snuggled closer and couldn’t help but think that this is how it could always be, but maybe never would.

He stirred just a little, but it was still enough to startle me.  Once again I was daydreaming of the life that I wanted so badly.  I must have awakened him, because suddenly he turned his head to look at me, while moving his body into the sitting position and looking very much disorientated.  His expression was almost comical.

“What’s so funny?” he asked.

“You!” I replied, as I snickered.

“Ugh, what time is it?” He asked, though I had no idea either.  For all I knew, it could have been a week later.  I had lost all concept of time.  “How long have I been asleep?”

“Too long,” came a voice from the hallway.  Soon after the voice appeared his father.  “The plane’s long gone by now, along with half of your friends, the ones with minds at least.  There’s no way you’ll make it in time.”

I couldn’t help but smile at this recent news.  I was coming one step closer each and every day to my goal, my goal of Jayden loving me back.  I closed my eyes and savored the moment, for right now everything was right.  I was alive and well, and with Jayden, who seemed to be coming around to what my idea of perfect was.

When I opened my eyes again, his father was gone and it was just me and Jayden again.  Though we’ve known each other for years, I couldn’t think of what to say.  Would he be upset if I was glad that his departure was postponed, giving us more time together, perhaps for forever?  I decided to chance it, although I wouldn’t say outright how entirely too glad I was.

“Thank you,” I whispered, just enough so he could hear.  “Thank you for staying with me.  Your presence here means the world to me, more than you could ever know.”

At that last comment he looked up, puzzled.  “Kaylin Marie, are you trying to tell me that you love me?  And this is the first time you’ve said this.  Why?”

I began blushing; maybe I had mistaken his actions.  Maybe he was doing all of this because he loved me, and not because he felt he had to out of kindness, or even out of the big brother instinct. 

“Well, what do you have to say for yourself?” he inquired teasingly.

I didn’t say anything.  At a time like this, actions speak louder than words.  I leaned in to kiss him sweetly, the kind of kiss that’s associated with first kisses, but it rapidly changed into something more, something full of passion and love, true and meaningful love.  I closed my eyes and let myself be taken into the moment, while plunging into the depths of the raging waters.


Scheusale
Janina Bradshaw, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Tricia May

1

      Tick, tock, tick, tock, ding! The little green clock above the weathered stone mantle chimed mournfully. One o’clock, it announced to the empty room. It’s high, light metallic squeal sounded trapped, muffled by the blanket of snow that covered each windowpane.
      Annamaria Weber was in the parlor, sitting at an old oaken desk sagging into the faded carpet. She was writing a letter, or at least thinking about writing a letter. She couldn’t come up with the right words.
      “What do you say to a husband off to war?” she wondered helplessly. “That everything’s fine? Everything isn’t fine. I don’t dare lie to my husband. . . but do I dare tell him the truth?” The light streaming through the window hurt her eyes, too bright as it reflected off the white snow. She rubbed them wearily and pushed back a mouse-brown curl that had somehow freed itself from the tight bun she wore, a desperate attempt at neatness even as everything else fell apart.

      “Mein Liebling, Luther,” she at last wrote. My darling, Luther. That seemed right. She began cautiously, but soon the words flowed from her pen. She spoke of the fun she and Lorelei had, playing in the snow. The poor three year old girl had been sick for weeks, scarcely eating, but he didn’t need to know that. It was better for him to hear about the good things they had done, not the demons that plagued them. Annamaria couldn’t bear the thought of him worrying for them, while he was the one off fighting for those. . . for those Nazi Scheusale! Monsters.
      “How could they even call themselves Germans,” she thought bitterly, “When all they do is steal fathers away from their children and husbands from their wives? Force them to fight in the bloody war they created!” Tears of rage and hate escaped from her tightly shut eyes, streaming down her pale skin and dripping, one by one, onto her precious letter, blurring the words.
      “No!” she shrieked, ripping the letter off the desk. Luther could not see even a hint of her tears. However, try as she might, she collapsed helplessly in tears, letting the letter fall to the ground and banging her fist on the side of the desk in frustration.
      “What’s happening to me?” the young mother whimpered as the tears subsided. She looked up at the wooden wall of the parlor, gazing upon a picture taken a few months after Lorelei was born. It seemed like a century ago. Annamaria stood in a beautiful, simple green dress, hair pinned up in the latest fashionable style. Lorelei was snug in her arms, blonde curls bouncing as she laughed at something off camera. Luther stood next to them, every inch of him glowing with pride for his beautiful new family. It would be years before he would be drafted. Years before that glow would be stripped from him and replaced with the fear of the front lines, the anxiety of fighting for a people he thought evil, and the sadness of shooting at the people fighting for his cause.
      That picture was false. It portrayed a false hope: new baby, new house, new marriage, new life. The people in the picture had no idea what was about to happen, and Annamaria was helpless to warn them.
      “Without Luther,” she thought, “I am nothing. It’s like half of me is gone, and with every second, it slips further away!” She sat on the floor, listening hatefully to the steady tick, tock of the clock. Eventually, she was able to compose herself. Finding her pen, she wrote her final words on the letter. Only in this sentence did she speak the whole truth. “Offen gesagt, mein Liebling, ohne dich kann ich nicht.” Frankly, my dear, I cannot live without you. With this, she sighed heavily and buried her face in her hands. A few rooms away, a little green clock chimed. 2 o’clock, it squealed, but its cry fell upon the deaf ears of a woman whose only wish was for time to stop.

2

      “Obergrenadier Weber!” a deep voice barked from a hard looking man in a dirty black uniform. Luther Weber jumped as his name and title was called.
      “Jawohl, Oberleutnant Strauss?” he said, using the respectful term for “yes” since Oberleutnant, or First Lieutenant, Strauss greatly outranked Weber, who was only an Obergrenadier, or Private.
      “Do not, I repeat, do not daydream!” Strauss growled. “We have a job to do, and you are going to do it if it kills you!” The shiny pink scar on his cheek crinkled as he frowned. Luther looked down at the smudged toes of his once-shiny boots and grimaced.
      He had, in fact, been daydreaming. Imagining poor Annamaria, left at home to raise Lorelei. “How she must need me. . ,” he thought. “And poor Lorelei. . . Does she even remember me anymore?” He felt Strauss’s expectant glare boring into him and shook his head, clearing it of thoughts of home. “Yes, Sir,” he said to Strauss, misery cracking his voice. “It won’t happen again, Sir.” Strauss snorted and marched away through the trees to torment others in the platoon.
      Luther sighed a heavy sigh and went back to his post.  He knelt down in the snow, gun pointed out in front of him, dark eyes searching for any sign of Allied troops. He was a handsome man, or at least he had been handsome. His face was caked with dirt and grime, and his cheeks were pockmarked with the scars of shrapnel from a grenade that had hit his face a few months earlier, nearly costing him his left eye. It had also deformed his left ear, through which he could barely hear the loudest noises.
      He shifted around in his uncomfortable olive green uniform, adjusting his sleeves so that they didn’t rub against the blisters on his arms he had gotten from crawling around on the ground for so long, searching out enemies to kill. He glared at the red armband on his left arm, sticking out against his sleeve like an open wound. Shaking his head, he looked around. No Strauss in sight. He took out a worn photograph from his pocket. Annamaria smiled at him in her lovely green dress. Her hair was pulled neatly up and back so that it framed her beautiful, smiling face. Baby Lorelei, not such a baby anymore, sat nestled in her mother’s arms, blue eyes twinkling at some unseen delight. He stood beside his family, one arm around the waist of his wife, looking so proud. This was the memory he wanted to keep: the memory of two happy newlyweds with a beautiful newborn baby girl. His calloused hand ran over the picture as it had so often in the years he’d been fighting, imagining what it would be like to hold his wife again, to hug the baby girl he had barely gotten a chance to know.
      “Oh Annamaria,” he murmured, “Mein Schatzi, my treasure. And little Lorelei, mein klein Prinzessin. My little princess.”  A tear welled up in his eye and he shut them tightly, hoping to hold them in. Even so, one tiny drop escaped, sparkling like a diamond against his dirt-caked face. It dripped down off of his chin and fell on the picture he was holding, right in the center. Fearing it might distort the image, Luther tried to wipe it dry with his sleeve, but his frozen fingers were clumsy and his precious picture fell from his grip. He dove to grab it and just then a bullet whizzed over his head. He looked up, stunned, and saw the enemy sniper, frowning at him as he reloaded. A dark line in the trees seemed to shift right in front of his eyes. The enemy had arrived.
      “Sound the alarm!” Luther screamed as he stumbled in the snow, taking cover behind a tree. The muffled sounds of screams and gunshots hurt his ears, and he covered his good one with his right hand while stuffing the picture back into his pocket with his left. Gathering his courage, he ran out from behind the tree, firing into the line of enemy soldiers. Everything was a blur; he could barely tell the difference between the soldiers and the trees. Suddenly, there was a flash of white light, so bright he had to shut his eyes. A loud bang sent him flying through the air and crashing into a tree.
      He looked up and saw across the snow an American soldier, proud eyes glittering, grenade pin sticking jauntily out of his mouth. Luther tried to find his gun but it had been blown ten feet away, and he couldn’t stand up. The forest was burning around him; the blast had hit something flammable. He tried to get up, but he couldn’t move his entire left side.
      “This is it,” he thought, helplessly. “I’m going to die without ever seeing my family again. And with my killer staring me right in the face. All for nothing; everything I accomplished. . . for nothing.” He grimaced and, with his right arm, wiped something out of his eyes. He looked at his hand and saw blood. He stared at it, surprised and horrified. He didn’t even feel any pain. “There must be some God out there showing me mercy. . .” he said, smiling.
      His vision started to darken, and he looked around. Dying soldiers lay in the snow everywhere in pools of dark snow; some still screaming, others lying still, faces blank. The smell of death and burning filled his nostrils, causing him to gag. Suddenly, he spied his red armband, with its hated symbol burning its way into his fading eyes. Screaming with rage, he ripped it off, throwing it into the snow, out of his line of sight. He began to sob, shoulders shaking with pure emotion. Digging through his pockets, he found the picture of his family, slightly torn. Composing himself, he pressed it to his lips, closing his eyes. “This is the memory I want,” he thought. “This is what I want to see.” He held it up to his face and gazed at it until the darkness swallowed him up, and he fell, lying in the cool snow. The picture flitted away from him, landing on a burning branch. As the life slowly drifted out of him, the picture burned, until all that was visible was his beautiful wife and his young daughter. And, after a while, even that could no longer be seen.

3

      “Woo! You sure taught that Kraut a lesson, now didn’t’ya, Willy?” Charlie said, clapping William Fischer heartily on the back. William choked on the grenade pin sticking out of his mouth and spat it out, grinning foolishly.
      “C’mon now, Charlie,” he said, smiling at his friend. “You know you’re a better shot than I’ll ever be. That one was luck. And it sure helps that grenades explode.” Charlie laughed at this and gave William a friendly shove. A blast from behind shot them both face first into a snowdrift, a nearly deadly reminder of the horror going on around them.
      William sniffed, smelling smoke. Suddenly, he felt pain shoot up from his feet; his pants were on fire! Charlie quickly dumped snow on his friend’s leg, dampening the blaze. “Thanks, Charlie.” William said, grimacing. “I owe you one.” Charlie smiled, but the smile did not reach his eyes.
      “It seems the Krauts have some bombs, too,” he said, eyeing the enemy.
       “Fischer! Damon! Get outta there! You’re right out in the open!” William looked behind him and saw First Lieutenant Harvey Richardson, their commander and friend, waving his arms at them. “Come over here! It’s safer!”
      Gratefully, William and Charlie walked over, William leaning on his comrade for support.
      “That’s a bad burn. . .” Harvey said, taking a look at William’s peeling leg.
      “I’ll be fine,” William said, putting on a false bravado. “I can still shoot; it’s just this one leg. I’ll be okay as long as Charlie’s here to help me move.” Harvey eyed them both suspiciously, and Charlie smiled mischievously.

“C’mon, Harvey! It’s his first battle. Let the man fight!” Charlie clapped William on the shoulder, sending the much smaller man stumbling forward. Harvey caught him and rolled his eyes at Charlie.

“Fine. But if you have any trouble. . .” But they were already walking away. Harvey rolled his eyes and went back to his post. Charlie and William knelt down in the snow, guns aimed at the stone-faced Nazi soldiers.
      “Devils, all of ‘em,” Charlie whispered knowingly. “Wouldn’t know kindness if it bit ‘em from behind.” William nodded. Every soldier knew about the heartlessness and cruelty the Germans were known for. Charlie frowned grimly and returned his eyes to the line of enemy soldiers, searching for signs of weakness.
      William followed the lead of the older man. William was 27, Charlie was already 30. Charlie had been a friend of William’s older brother, Tom, when they were in grade school, but William and Charlie had grown close over the years. Charlie had been overseas a lot longer than William, almost since the war began. William was still in his first year, and hadn’t seen any real action other than this blindingly sunny, frigid German winter day. William returned his thoughts to his gun and his duty, taking aim at a big, bearded German with a scar on his cheek. He fired, and the bark of the tree behind the German splintered, causing him to look behind him and take cover.
      “Good shot, Fischer,” Charlie said sarcastically. “Now watch me.” Biting his lip in concentration, Charlie aimed his gun at a smaller man, partially hidden behind a large rock. A loud boom rang out, and William let out a yelp, covering his ringing ears and shutting his eyes tight.
      “God, Charlie, what did you do?” William opened his eyes only to see Charlie lying on his back in the darkening snow. Another explosion rang out, this time behind William, but it barely registered with the young man. “No, Charlie. This isn’t funny. You gotta get up, Charlie. You’re supposed to carry me around, remember?” William crawled over to sit beside his friend. He shook the bigger man’s shoulders, his voice getting louder as he panicked. “Charlie! No, no, no, Charlie! Please don’t. . . You can’t do this, Charlie. Think about Lottie. You two were gonna get married, Charlie, remember? You ‘n Lottie. Me ‘n Catherine, we were gonna be there! I was gonna be your best man, Charlie! My Tommy, he was so excited to be the ring-bearer!” William grabbed Charlie’s face and screamed at him, but the light had gone out of the big man’s eyes. Sobbing, William pushed Charlie away and grabbed his friend’s supply of bullets, stuffing them into his own pocket. Murder in his eyes, William began firing into the line of Nazi soldiers, screaming and yelling, not even bothering to aim anymore. Tears had blurred his vision, and he began firing at whatever he saw. With his vision gone, all his other senses intensified. The smell of gunpowder and the flesh of burning soldiers choked him, causing him to reel around awkwardly. The painful screams of dying soldiers pierced his ears, so loud that he couldn’t even tell where they were coming from anymore.
      “Stop it!” he screamed, clutching at his throbbing head. William collapsed into a sobbing heap, curling up into the snow. “What have I become?” he thought, horrified. “I’m a monster.” He looked at his hands, caked in dirt and dried blood; his or Charlie’s? At the thought of his dead friend, tears flooded anew, and sobs wracked his small body until he choked, gagging pitifully in the cold snow.
      Sniffling, William fumbled around in his many pockets and found an old photograph. Unfolding it, William wiped the tears from eyes. There were quite a few people pictured there. William’s older brother, Tom, and his oldest son, Charles (named after Charlie, of course), stood to the far left, beside Charles’s namesake and his soon-to-be fiancée, Lottie. “He proposed to her the day this was taken,” William remembered, frowning. “Now they’ll never get the chance.” Fresh tears welled up in his dark blue eyes, and he wiped them angrily with his sleeve. Shaking his head to clear it, he turned his attention back to the picture. Catherine, William’s wife, stood beside Lottie, beaming at William, who was standing behind the camera. Looking at her, William could still feel the love in that look. Next to her was their eldest son, Johnny, with his younger brother Tommy in a chokehold, ruffling the younger boy’s hair. Catherine was holding their newborn daughter, Helen, who was absent-mindedly tugging on the collar of her mother’s dress. “Everyone was so. . . happy.” William murmured, gazing at the smiling faces staring up at him. That photograph had been taken long before any of this had happened. . . Long before William had been drafted, long before he had learned to kill.
       A sharp pang shot through William’s chest as his thoughts drifted to the first soldier he had killed, just twenty short minutes ago. It seemed like years. William had been unable to take his eyes off him until Charlie had distracted him. The soldier had thrown off his Nazi armband. Why? Charlie had always said how all of them were Nazi animals, unable to have compassion or love for anyone other than that monster, Hitler. But that man. . . He had thrown off his armband and then taken out some sort of small paper, like the picture William now held in his own hand. Could he have had a family waiting for him to come home?
      “Stop it!” William said aloud. That kind of thinking was deadly to a soldier. The enemy. . . They are not people. They are animals to be slaughtered just as they had slaughtered the innocents back in their homeland. But still, the nagging doubt persisted in the young American. He looked up at the line of Nazi soldiers, but even as he tried to aim, all he saw were wives, mothers, sisters, brothers, and children, staring at him, pleading him not to be the murderer of the one they loved.
      William shut his eyes and threw down his gun in frustration. Pounding his forehead with his fists, he knelt down in the snow, willing the apparitions to stop tormenting him. He felt the frigid breeze tug at his clothes, and he opened his eyes, and froze. Before him he saw Lottie, standing in front of a German soldier, eyes filled with sorrow and misery. William screamed and looked up at the vision, who was now wailing helplessly at the sight of her dead fiancé. “Lottie!” William whispered, then screamed, “Lottie, I’m so sorry!” Sobbing, he ran towards her, breaking through the line of his fellow American soldiers, who tried to hold him back. Suddenly, the image of her swam before his eyes, and all he could see was the cold eyes of a German soldier and the soldier’s gun, pointing directly at him. Pain shot through William’s chest, and he crumpled to the ground, the agony of his grief still etched on his face.

4

      Annamaria wearily rubbed her eyes and rested her chin on her fist, elbows on the desk. She slid her eyes over to the right and gazed out the window, staring blankly into the cold winter sun. Slowly, she stood up, as if every bone hurt. She walked tiredly over to the window and, with sudden strength, thrust it open. The cold German air blew into her face, snowflakes gliding across her pale skin like the feathers of a crystal bird. Reaching up to her head, she pulled the pins out of her hair one by one, slowly, as if she was pulling daggers. Tight, dark curls blowing gently backward, she let the cold wash over her, cleansing her of her weariness and sorrow for the time being. She turned her attention up towards the bright sun, and brought her hand up to her brown to shield off some of its glaring light. “I wonder if my Luther is looking at the same sun,” she wondered, and she smiled at the thought.
      A sudden gust of air made her shiver and she closed the window, pulling her olive green shawl tighter around her shoulders. Lorelei would be home soon from her friend’s house, and she would want dinner. Contentedly, the young housewife got out the pots and pans and started to cook dinner for her small family.
      Once the soup was on and the bread was in the oven, she walked swiftly to the parlor, grabbed her letter, and walked to the front door. She opened the old wooden door and dropped the letter quickly into the mailbox, closing the door as swiftly as possible so that the room would be warm for Lorelei when she got back. Smiling to herself, she imagined Luther’s face as he received her letter. He’d probably be overjoyed; she hadn’t written to him since last month! She sat down and brought out her knitting. The little green clock on the mantle chimed three o’clock. Annamaria smiled, believing in her heart that with every chime of the clock she had one hour less before her soldier came home.

Best Friend
Elise Wiechart, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Tricia May

“Adrianne, Adrianne

 “Adrianne, Adrianne! If you don’t get up now, we’ll be late!” yelled my mother, Lynn Thomas, from the bottom of the staircase. I rolled over and fluttered my eyelids to see the bright red alarm clock numbers, 7:50 a.m. I decided that my mom was right; it was time for me to get up. I had to leave by 8:00 a.m. to get to the barn on time for my horseback-riding lesson. I gradually rolled out of bed and stumbled my way to the closet. I slowly grabbed my jeans, and a green and gold Notre Dame t-shirt off the hangers. I sat on my bed and put on my jeans one leg at a time. I stood up and gradually put on my t-shirt. I rushed into the restroom, snatched a hair tie and put my hair in a low ponytail while I staggered down the stairs. Of course, my mom already had the bank check from the office, carrots from the refrigerator, my riding boots, and helmet. I climbed in the car, and stared at the fields as we drove. My mom tried to make small talk with me, but I was too tired to care.

We pulled up next to the barn, and I was finally awake and ready to work. As I walked into the barn, Jean, my horseback-riding instructor, greeted me with a smile and causally said, “How’s it going?” I smiled and murmured, “Great.” Even though my mind was on seeing Chestnut. As soon as I reached Chestnut’s stall, I opened his stall door and I greeted him with a wholehearted, “Good Morning, Boy!” I stood admiring his coloring. Chestnut is striking with a deep chestnut brown body and  a coal black tail and mane. His lower legs are black except for his front right leg, which is white. As I walked him out of the stall, the light on his face made him look like a majestic animal only possible in dreams. He is my best friend; I trust and love him with my whole heart. I slipped his halter over his fore face and ears, acknowledging the fact that he is mine and would never hurt me. He followed me around the arena like a loyal puppy. I went through my regular routine cleaning him, which consist of currying, brushing, and picking his hooves. Since we have worked on this for weeks, Tom, the horse trainer, prepared to help me lunge Chestnut. Chestnut’s patience exceeded my expectations, since I am the one who is learning how to lunge not Chestnut. Lunging is a part of horse training that teaches the horse how to walk, trot, and canter. Tom lunged Chestnut first to get all of Chestnut’s energy out. I loved to watch Chestnut trot around in tight circles exemplifying agility, leaning way into the inside of the circle while still maintaining his balance.

I strolled into the middle of the arena and I stood parallel to Chestnut, on his right side, across from his saddle. I took the lunge rope and twirled the excess rope in my left hand called my push hand. I lifted my right hand called my guide hand and firmly said, “walk” while I swung the rope in my push hand. Chestnut walked on slowly and we started our dance, one step forward and I swung my push hand towards his shoulder then two steps to the right. I repeated this until Chestnut completed a circle, then after walking around six times; it was time to tell him to trot. I lifted my guide hand and said, “trot”. While I blinked, I heard a noise come from somewhere behind me and Chestnut started to neigh and I glanced over my right shoulder where I thought the noise originated. I looked back to Chestnut just in time to see his hind legs come towards me. I heard the sound of bones cracking. I heard my mom scream my name as I fell and my head hit the arena dirt.

 

Twenty-Four Hours

 

 

            “Adrianne, Adrianne?” I heard my name whispered. I blinked my eyes to see my mom appearing and disappearing over me. I forced my eyes open  and tried to sit up, but as soon as I did I felt a sharp pain in my left side and I saw the cast on my left arm. As I lay back down in pain, I realized I wasn’t in the barn anymore. I was in a hospital room. My mom must have seen the confused expression on my face and said, “Honey, are you ok? You were in an accident. Chestnut got scared when a horse kicked its stall door behind you. Chestnut was bucking and he kicked you.”

The doctor walked in and said, “Well, good morning! You were out for a while there, you hit your head pretty hard but that’s not my biggest worry. Your horse…” “Chestnut”, I corrected him. The doctored continued, “Chestnut kicked you in your arm which caused you to get a distal radius fracture. We set you in a cast, which means you will have a fast recovery. You also have some small fractures in a few ribs. You are going to experience some pain but it is important that you rest. Just be thankful that ‘Chestnut’ didn’t do worse damage.” I ignored the doctor’s monologue about my injuries. I glanced over to my mom and pleaded, “Please tell me Chestnut is okay.”  My mom whispered to me “Yes, but that doesn’t matter, Are you okay?” I felt the warmth come to my cheeks as the worry built in my body along with the state of shock from yesterday’s events.

Worry overwhelmed me as hot tears ran down my face. Through my sobs I heard my mom rush to my side and say I promise this will never happen again. I jerked my gaze towards her and exclaimed, “What!” She calmly but firmly said, “We are getting rid of Chestnut as soon as possible.” I started crying even harder. I yelled, “I am not crying because I am hurt. I’m crying because I’m shocked. Over my dead body, you’ll sell Chestnut!” My mom looked at me and determinedly said, “I will do whatever I think is best, I’d rather have you unharmed than have that horse. You are not going to ride him ever again.”

 

Nine Weeks

 

I am back to normal, well physically at least but emotionally I’m a wreck. My mom and I fight every time we talk, so we resorted to not talking at all. Today is my last day I will see my best friend and the last day to say I’m sorry. Today, I meet the people who are buying Chestnut, my best friend. At first my mom wasn’t going to let me go to the barn, but my dad forced her to. I climbed into the car and said nothing the whole way to the barn.  I experiencing déjà vu, watching the fields pass. It felt as though someone else was riding in the car, it was my first trip to the barn since the accident. I shuttered with thoughts of the accident. I snapped out of my daze and realized we arrived.

 I ran out of the car into the barn to see that Tom had already put Chestnut into the stall where I curried, brushed, and picked his hooves before my mom could object. Working with Chestnut, I completely forgot the accident. Then my mom walked in and I could feel her glare while I saddled Chestnut. With the glare’s heat, I anticipated mom’s yelling and screaming. Instead I heard a jolly “Hello!” from a strange voice. I slowly turned around still anticipating the screams. I saw a middle-aged woman and man staring at my horse, my best friend. I heard him say, “Wow, ain’t he a beautiful horse?” ,as he reached out to shake my hand. I turned around and started saddling Chestnut again; breathing slowly, in through my noise and out through my mouth. The air, smells of manure and the open country. Some smell a stinky horse barn; to me it smells like home and calms me. While I was tacking, I heard my mom apologize to the couple for my behavior and she started describing Chestnut as the best horse in the world. I knew she really thought, with Chestnut gone her daughter was safe. Once I was done tacking the horse, I got a lunge rope and started walking to the middle of the arena to lunge Chestnut. My mom snatched the rope from my hands and handed it to Tom.

Tom walked to the middle of the arena and tried to get Chestnut to walk, then trot then cantor. Every time Chestnut came around and saw me sitting on the stool, he just stopped. Tom recognized Chestnut’s behavior at the same time I did. He winked at me and I knew Tom’s plan. I knew that I was going to lunge Chestnut myself. I studied Tom and Chestnut’s dance. He went around in a circle; one step forward than the left foot over the right foot. Around and around he went. I knew that to keep Chestnut I would have to “get back on the horse again”. Instead of getting back on, all I had to do was lunge him. With every pass, Chestnut stopped and looked at me. Tom started to act flustered and frustrated with Chestnut.

Then Tom eased out the word “Whoa”, and glanced over to my mom, saying, “ I think Adrienne should take over, it seems Chestnut is only paying attention to her.” Before my mom could say no, I hurried over to Tom’s side and repeat the steps I took before the accident, I strolled into the middle of the arena and I stood parallel to Chestnut, on his right side, across from his saddle. I took the lunge rope and twirled the excess rope in my push hand. I lifted my guide hand and firmly said, “walk” while I swung the rope in my push hand. Chestnut walked on slowly and I started to dance with him, one step forward and swung my push hand towards his shoulder then two steps to the right. I repeated this until he completed a circle. Then after walking around six times; it was time to tell him to trot. I lifted my guide hand and said, “trot”, I winced at the words but Chestnut went into a beautiful English trot. The pace was perfect, not too slow and  not too fast. As Chestnut went around in a circle, a smile grew upon my face. Since the accident, I have not truly smiled. My mom noticed the smile. As soon as she recognized the joyful smile on my face, she realized she could never take away anything that made me this happy.  I heard her say, “I am sorry but Chestnut is no longer for sale.” I eased out the words “whoa” to Chestnut and handed the lunge rope back to Tom. I rushed to my mom and extended my arms out. She pulled me towards her forming a hug. It felt wonderful to be back in her arms, there were no hard feelings. I knew why she wanted to get rid of Chestnut I just didn’t agree with her. While still hugging her I whispered, “I love you and thanks for letting me keep my best friend.”


In The Shadows
Victoria Shaw, Shawnee
Sponsoring Teacher: Stacey Rivera

 

cinderella, dressed in yella

went upstairs to kiss a fella’.

made a mistake;

kissed a snake.

how many doctors

 

did it take?

 

            Thunk.

            Your eyes flicker open to stare at the ceiling, disoriented and annoyed. The room is bathed in silent darkness and for a long moment, you’re not sure why you’d even woken up. Nothing is out of place, nothing is amiss. The clock beside you glows 3:26 in the morning, red numbers that light and burn painfully in your unprepared gaze. Frustrated, you turn to bury your head into the mattress, attempting to fall back asleep. It was hard enough to get to sleep the first time, you think. The blanket shuffles, then all is silent.

            Thunk.

            Immediately you’re awake and upright, staring wide-eyed at the ceiling in apprehension. All semblance of sleep dismisses itself from your mind, replaced with a pale fear of the unknown. The house suddenly doesn’t feel as safe as it did, and the shadows cast by the pale moonlight manifest into something from your nightmares. The clock sheds an eerie glow around you, causing delicate goose bumps to race up your spine. “It’s nothing,” you murmur, voice cracking from sleep as your nervous gaze sweeps the length of the room warily, “…just the wind.”  For a few long seconds, it seems as if everything holds its breath, waiting for confirmation.

            …thunk.

            In one short gasp, the air is stolen from your lungs. Your hands are a quick flurry of motion to grasp at the lamp on your bedside table, flicking it on to immerse the room in harsh, comforting light. Nothing seems to be at all unusual, but you know differently: somewhere in this house, there is something. Creeping like a shadow along the walls, occasionally throwing its weight down to crash against the floor. Trying to unnerve you. Quickly, with a nervous vigor, you throw the blanket from your legs and stand. The floor is ice-cold even though the warm summer air around you is causing sweat to dew on your skin. There a moment of stillness where you wait and think of your next step. Something deep within your mind screams for you to hide, to reach out for your phone and dial for the nearest neighbor.

            And yet, something urges you forward; maybe the adrenaline coursing through your veins, maybe the stabbing curiosity. Maybe it’s a dream. You hold tight to the hope and slowly inch towards the door.

            Outside, the hallway is the same in its Victorian wallpaper and framed family pictures--family that had moved away and disappeared from your life one after another. Pictures that usually cause comfort and a firm sense of nostalgia. You take a hard look at them and decide that they’re not as comforting in the dark--with smiles that twist the the Cheshire cat, and eyes that follow you the length of the hall to the stairs. All noise above has stilled, and you realize now that it’s too quiet. Pausing with ears strained open, you stare at the ceiling and wait. After a long, tense moment of silence, you hear something.

            A shifting. Gentle footsteps move across the floor towards you, installing a slow sense of dread in your heart. Explorer’s curiosity still burning bright, you edge your way towards the door leading to the attic stairs. It feels as if the feet above seem to follow you, inching along at a relaxed pace. The house is otherwise eerily, deathly silent. Fingers clammy, you reach out for the doorknob and enclose a shaking hand around it, glancing up. Nothing.

            Taking a long, deep breath, you fling open the door and dart up the stairs, trying to make it to the top quickly as possible. What should have been a few seconds seems like an eternity, and the nearing doorframe causes your heart to erupt in a fast paced, anxious rhythm. Every step is a drumbeat in your ears, echoing like church bells through the narrow hall. Wood screams beneath your weight and, finally, you burst through the doorframe into the attic.

            For the second time in only a few minutes, you hold your breath and wait. The room is practically a furnace around you due to the open windows, and the floorboards are comfortingly warm beneath your bare feet. Nervous eyes quickly take in the empty room, then slowly sweep the length of it again. “What?” you whisper, confused. There is absolutely nothing amiss. Boxes lie, camouflaged in the darkness, creating a maze of obstacles. Dust flies through the room, illuminated by the soft moonlight. Besides that, there is nothing. You turn, befuddled in the absence of a body, and of a tangible reason to fear. Something like disappointment and relief mix deep within your chest, and a short little laugh escapes your lips. “It must have been my imagination.”

            Thunk.  

            You gasp; air crams itself down your throat so fast you choke on it, stumbling back with searching, watering eyes. There’s a startling crash as boxes tumble across the room, shadows curling into shapes and darting around corners. Panic seizes you with an iron fist and you turn in a rapid circle, attempting to follow the shape of your terror. The thought of running flashes in your mind, but by the time you’d even thought to act upon in, you see it.

            “A…snake…” you stare at the slithering beast in surprise, confused beyond reason.  How did a snake get in your attic? There are no snakes around there--not that you know of, anyway. Maybe it’s someone’s escaped pet? You frown and shift, wondering just how to approach said creature. Distractedly, you watch as it slithers across the floor, quiet.

            It’s beautiful in color, almost majestic. Its back is littered with what almost looks like sequins, or maybe jewels. They shine dimly in the pale light, catching your eyes. You’d never seen a snake like it before, and a fleeting thought of ‘poisonous’ crosses your mind. Before you could step away though, something strange begins to happen. Darkness incases the creature, tendrils of mist curling around it as it pauses mid-stride. Occasionally you hear a soft popping noise, and are alarmed to see it grow and morph into something bigger. You stare and stare, wondering if what’s happening really is, but the snake only continues to grow--changing into something taller, fuller, with a charming smile and eyes like the ocean. The jewels that had caught your eyes previously melt together to form a broad chest plate, and soon enough, there is a man.

            He looks like he belong in a fairytale; a Prince Charming from childhood stories. His hair is long and wavy, bright as sunshine. You squint, reeling from the glow illuminating the small room from his skin. Stepping back in confusion, you watch as he mirrors your movements with a smile. “Hello,” he calls, as if you’re meeting as old friends.  He continues to shift forward until you’re almost toe to toe, and you hardly realize how the edges of your vision are slowly turning a long myriad of color. So distracted, it takes a moment for you to stutter an answer.

            “H-hello…” He lifts up a hand, reaching out to touch your cheek gently, like he’s never seen anything like it. The moment his fingers brush your skin, everything freezes. A loud crack fills the space between you and alarmed, you look down to the floor. Pieces of the hardwood are quickly cracking, branching out to cover the entire area in a spider web of destruction. Panic grips your lungs tightly, and you step away from him as search for something to hang on.

            For a long moment you both balance on the precipice of reason, hovering in place. Too late you start for the door and the next moment, you’re falling. Pieces of wood follow, crashing below with a soundless impact. Air rushes past, thundering harshly in your ears, like helicopter wings against the atmosphere. Somewhere, someone screams. It takes a long time to realize it’s your own shrill, ear shattering shriek of fear. The man stares at you from his position of decent, looking completely calm and unmoving. Not a single hair lifts from his forehead; it seems as if he’s floating. If your thoughts hadn’t been so drowned in panic, you might have wondered about it; unfortunately the only coherent thought left in your mind is I should have just went back to bed as you continue your terrifying free fall towards the darkness.

            As you fall, things begin to change. Landscapes fly by, all a frightening rainbow of color; you float through deserts and oceans, across open skies and underground. Memorizes flash across your eyes like a videotape, each one lingering around the edges of your vision like ghosts, haunting. You see people--smiling, joking, laughing, crying. Again, confusion warps your mind. Questions fly through your mind at warp speed, barely long enough to ponder them.

            Why haven’t I hit the ground? Why is this man, once a snake, crawling in the dust, staring at me? Where am I? Why didn’t I stay in bed? How am I seeing this? What’s going on? How do I get out of here?

            The man who was once a snake smiles suddenly, leaning forward. His hands sit placidly on his knees, legs crossed comfortingly. His eyes sparkle with a kind of mischief that makes wariness creep up your spine. “Oh, and by the way…” he starts, glancing down. You follow his gaze and stifle a scream at the rapidly approaching cement. Terror grips your throat, squeezing painfully. You give him a panicked look, unable to do anything other than stare.  He chuckles; a soft, musical sound that’s hardly comforting. “…you might want…”

            Closer, closer, you get to the ground. The cement sparkles with shards of what look like glass and cracked wood from the floor. Your aims flail in a desperate attempt to stop your rapid decent, to no avail. Air flies by--if anything, faster than ever. Blood pounds like drums in your ears, echoing and almost drowning out his next few words. His eyes darken in gruesome amusement.  

            “…to wake up.”

 

            “Wake up!”

            You jolt awake with a shriek of terror, arms flinging out to find purchase. Someone yelps in pain to your right, and your eyes open involuntarily in surprise. Whiteness blinds you; sunlight combined with unfiltered paint is like fire to your retinas. There’s a quiet groan. “Dude, you just smacked me in the face…”

            Kel?” You manage to choke out, utterly lost. She gives you a strange look, rubbing her cheek.

            “Yeah it’s me, you jerk. Are you alright? The doctors said you should be okay…”

            “Doctors? What doctors?” You sit up, giving her a desperate look, “What happened to that man? And what cushioned my fall? That…couldn’t have been a dream. …could it?” Your words mingle and slur together, and Kel only stares in obvious bewilderment.

            “What in the world are you talking about? You got bit by this snake yesterday, and then passed out. We brought you here and you got the antibiotic. Thank god it wasn’t poisonous…” she trails off, then furrows her eyebrows, “…are you sure you’re alright? You don’t look so hot.”

            “No, no…I’m…I’m good. Thanks.” You rub your neck anxiously, looking around. The room is plain and simple, and the window curtains flutter with the heat of the summer air. Kel nods, heading for the exit.

            “I’m going to go call the others--they’re pretty worried, you know!”

            She closes the door behind her, and the room falls into an unsettling silence. You glance around uneasily; something whispers. The first time you think it’s only the wind, or the whipping of the curtains against the window. Then, it slowly increases until it’s a collage of noise in your skull. Voices, shrieks, laughter--they chorus around the room without a source. You place a hand over your forehead, trying to force your thoughts into some semblance of silence.

            Suddenly, a hiss. Your spine tenses, alarmed. What was that? What-?

 

            “Yes, she will experience some side-effects. Some may be serious, some maybe not. She’ll need to be looked after for a short period of time.” The doctor checks his clipboard, nodding. “She could have very serious hallucinations, so if you see anything out of the ordinary, contact me right away.”

            Kel nods slowly, a worried wrinkle creasing her forehead. She chews her bottom lip in anxiousness for her friend. “Like what?”

 

            “No!” You scramble backwards, eyes on the snake slowly creeping its way towards you. “Stay away!” You yelp, watching as it slowly morphs into him. The man from before, smiling that victorious smile; his laugh lines alter into something malicious. You pull the blanket over your head, eyes squeezing closed. “Leave me alone…leave me alone!”

            His only response is a enigmatically amused smile, and then all is dark.

 

            “Oh,” the doctor smiles, “you’ll know it when you see it.”

           


Working As A Team
Kyle Klausing, Delphos St. John’s
Sponsoring Teacher: Chrissy Elwer

       “Hurry up! Move, move, move!” I yelled to my team as I jumped over a fallen tree stump and scanned the surrounding area. I spotted a large clump of rocks at the base of a mountain to my left about a hundred yards away and signaled for my team to move forward. We reached it just as the enemy opened fire with machine guns. “Defend this position everybody,” I warned, “We can’t keep running.” I sat back against a nearby rock and tried to relax. The sound of guns continued, but they didn’t bother me anymore because I was used to running from them.
       I was exhausted and I tried to stay awake, but it was a losing battle. Before I fell asleep I thought of the war I was in. I thought about the reason I was here fighting and risking my life. It was the year 2020 and most of the oil in the world had disappeared but then an enormous source of the resource was discovered in Canada. Now all of the countries of the world started pressuring Canada for its priceless resource. The U.S. had decided that talking would take too long, and so it invaded Canada while trying to get  hold of any oil it could. So that’s how I got in that situation: under attack from Canadians and on the run trying to hold out. But then my eyes closed and sleep took over.
       I was taken back to two days ago when I was sitting in an Army helicopter with my team of special agents. We were on our way back from a secret mission. We had been sent deep into enemy territory to destroy a communication center. It had been relaying information about the U.S. advance into Canada. We were all relaxing and talking about how well the mission went. We had destroyed the center in under ten minutes, so the Canadians had no idea what was going on until we blew it up. It was also a pretty successful mission because there were no casualties, only a few bullet wounds.
       That’s when disaster struck, and it struck hard. Suddenly the helicopter lurched to the left hurling everyone into the wall. I got to my feet shakily. “What happened?” I yelled to the pilot.      
       “We were nearly hit by a missile,” he replied. “Luckily it grazed the side of the helicopter. Looks like those Canadians weren’t too happy about what you guys did,” he said with a grim smile. “Another missile is incoming. You might want to hold onto something.”
       And with that statement the helicopter went into a sharp left turn. I heard a “FWOOSH!” to the right of the ship, and I looked out the window in time to see a missile streak into the distance.
       “Get us out of range of those missiles and do it quick,” I yelled to the pilot.
       “I’m trying sir,” he replied, “but we took some damage when the missile grazed our ship. The helicopter is getting hard to control.”
       “Then take us down and land us the best that you can,” I yelled. “There’s no way we can make it home in this.”
       “Yes sir,” the pilot said.
       I could see the vast woods of Canada rapidly approaching. Yes, I thought to myself, we are going to make it. We were about a hundred yards from the ground, but then there was a huge explosion to the end of the helicopter, and then we were sent out of control. The helicopter started spinning around in circles downward, and suddenly there was a sickening crunch as our helicopter hit the ground.
       I opened my eyes and saw my squad mates lying on the floor of the helicopter. Then I looked at the rear of the helicopter and nearly fell over. There was no helicopter from about ten feet from the cockpit. The whole end of the helicopter had been completely destroyed by the missile right before we had hit the ground. It was a miracle that we had survived both the missile explosion and the crash. But then I realized something…did anyone else survive? I quickly did a headcount and found that all seven members were there.
       I knew their names like a book. You have to for a team to operate successfully. There was James, Ben, Jacob, Kyle, Anthony, Ryan, and the pilot. I didn’t know the pilot very well since I had just met him when he picked us up, but he seemed like a pretty nice guy. I then went around checking for pulses on my squad members and found that everyone except the pilot had a pulse. He had died saving us and I thought about how horrible war could be. We were fighting for oil while losing some of the most important things in the world like friends, brothers, mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons. I didn’t think that the trade was worth it.
       Then I saw one of my squad members stirring from unconsciousness. I quickly went around and woke up the rest of them. “We have to be ready for an attack,” I told them. “They will be coming to make sure that we are dead, but we aren’t going to give them that pleasure. All we have right now is each other,” I continued. My leadership abilities were kicking in as I looked into the faces of my squad members. They were scared and were trusting in me, their commanding officer, to get them out of this alive.
       “Set up some cover to protect this position,” I told them. “We are going to stay here as long as possible because the rescue team will be able to find us easier with the wrecked helicopter.”
       “How long will it take for the rescue team to find us?” asked Ben.
       Honestly, I had no idea. I wasn’t even sure if the Army would even send a rescue team. They were pretty busy with the whole invasion, plus the Canadian wilderness was pretty big, but I didn’t dare tell my squad that. Morale was already low enough.
       “It shouldn’t be more than a day,” I told them. “We need to defend this place at all costs. But we also need to be ready to run, too, if they get too close.”
       It took us about an hour to set up all of the defense positions, and by then daylight was fading. “We will take turns guarding tonight, and we will work in teams of two. Anthony and Ryan can have first shift and once you guys get tired, Kyle and Jacob can relieve you. Then Ben and James go after Kyle and Jacob until morning,” I said. “Get as much sleep as you can tonight because you are going to need it.”
       I woke in the morning feeling like I could take on the whole Canadian army. Everyone knew that we would be attacked today whether we liked it or not. We weren’t too scared, though, because we were ready for them. We were ready for a fight.
       For breakfast we found some energy packets in the cargo hold of the helicopter. They didn’t taste very good but at least they made us feel more energized and less hungry. Shortly after breakfast was when the battle began. First, James reported hearing noises from the South. Then suddenly, shots rang out through the woods.
       “Battle stations everyone,” I screamed. “Here they come!”
       We defended the helicopter for about five hours effectively with the weapons that we had. Every once in a while they would get close, but somehow we would drive them back each time. But they were slowly closing in each time, and we were getting tired. Eventually they got right in front of us and set up a pretty good foothold and defended it for a while. That’s when James ran up to me. “Sir, we have to pull out of here. They are getting too close!”
       “Fine,” I said. “You guys start to pull out and I’ll defend you.”
       “No sir. We are a team and we are not leaving you behind,” he replied.
       “OK,” I said. I could see that he was not going to give in. “Have everyone ready to pull out on my command.”
       James quickly ran off to the other defense positions to spread the word. Then the time came for retreat. I held up my hand, made a fist, and quickly pulled it down, the sign to retreat. But before I did, I grabbed a package of grenades lying on the ground and pulled the pins on each of them. I then threw them all in the Southern direction and took off running the other way.
       I made it about ten feet before I heard the explosions of grenades and then a short period of silence. I smiled knowing that I had bought my squad some extra time. I kept running with my team and yelled, “Hurry up! Move, move, move!” I then spotted a large clump of rocks at the base of a mountain……
       I was awakened by the sound of a grenade explosion extremely close to my position. I sat up and pointed my machine gun at an approaching Canadian and fired multiple times. I missed the first time but hit him the second. He fell to the ground and tried to crawl back to a safer position. I wouldn’t have to worry about him anymore.
       We defended our position behind the rocks for about five hours, but my squad started to tire. That wasn’t our only worry either; we were running out of ammunition. We wouldn’t survive the night.
       “Conserve your ammo, boys!” I advised them “Don’t fire unless you have a good clean shot.” Then I heard the sound that I had been praying for, the sound of helicopter blades slicing through the air. WHIPPA! WHIPPA! WHIPPA! It flew over our position, and we waved at it to get its attention. It was a U.S. Army helicopter for sure by its markings, but something wasn’t right. It flew back around and stopped suddenly about fifty feet away from our position and about a hundred feet in the air. We kept waving at it but it just stayed there. Something just didn’t feel right to me but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then I noticed that the Canadians were just watching the helicopter. They weren’t running away or shooting at it. Suddenly the door of the helicopter opened revealing five men inside with sniper rifles. 
       “Get down!” I screamed as the snipers’ bullets ricocheted off the rocks near our location. Unfortunately some of them hit their targets, wounding Ryan and James. We hid behind the rocks and pulled the wounded with us while trying to bandage them up. Luckily the wounds weren’t too bad.
       The Canadians were sneaky; I had to give them a point there. They had disguised one of their own helicopters as a U.S. one purposely in order to fool us and get some extra shots on us. The situation just kept getting better and better.
       The helicopter was coming towards us now along with the Canadians who were still advancing through the rocks. I had to come up with an idea, and I had to do it quickly. Suddenly, one came to me.
       “Anthony, come with me,” I ordered. “Ben, Jacob, and Kyle, stay here and defend this point. Ryan and James, I know you guys are hurt, but we need you to do your best to defend this place too. Let’s go Anthony!”
       We climbed upward, but when the helicopter flew around closer to us we were forced to stop if my plan was going to work. Eventually the helicopter was forced to fall back farther away from our point because of damage, and we were allowed to continue upward. My plan was to climb up the mountain a little higher so that we could have a good shot at the helicopter from above. There was only one flaw in it though, and that was we only had a few shots. Once the pilot found out that we were shooting at it, the helicopter would come up and shoot us. I tried not to think of that possibility as we climbed higher up the mountain.
       “Ok. This is high enough,” I told Anthony. We stopped on a ledge overlooking part of the mountain. It was the perfect place to carry out my plan. I then explained my plan to Anthony.
       “We will shoot down at the helicopter from here, and if we are lucky, we will destroy it in the process. Go for the pilot of the helicopter because once we take him out the whole ship should crash.
       The helicopter flew closer and opened fire on my men that were lower down the mountain. I saw Jacob suddenly clutch his arm in pain and drop his gun. Anthony reached for his gun but I quickly stopped him. “If we give away our position now, the plan will fail and everyone will die,” I warned him.
       He looked down at the helicopter with anger but lowered his gun. “Ok, but we attack the first chance we get.”
       “Agreed. It hurts me too to see our friends down there under fire and injured, but the best thing we can do for them now is to wait for the right moment,” I told Anthony.
       Suddenly, the helicopter got closer while continuing to pour heavy fire upon my men. Just hold out a bit longer, I thought, almost there. Then the ship stopped in the air just beneath the ledge we were on.
       “This is it, Anthony. Let’s do this for our friends down there. Remember, shoot the pilot and the whole helicopter will crash. Ready?”
       Anthony nodded and picked up his gun. I grabbed mine and poked it out over the edge of the ledge. I nodded to Anthony, the signal that we were ready to fire.
       “Three, two, one, GO!” I yelled. We fired our guns repeatedly at the pilot. There was a look of surprise on his face right before he was hit. Then the helicopter started spinning out of control and flew towards the mountain. I saw a couple of men jump out of the helicopter in an attempt to survive the crash, but once they hit the ground it wouldn’t make a difference anyway.
       “Get back form the edge,” I yelled while pulling him back. “The explosion could still hit us.”
       I heard a large explosion below us so I waited a moment and then looked down. The helicopter was down for good. It was sending up smoke and debris into the air.
       “We did it Anthony, we just took out a helicopter,” I said with a smile.
       He smiled back. “It wasn’t too hard,” he said with a laugh.
       I laughed too, and it felt pretty good. “Let’s get back down and help the rest of the squad,” I said as I stood up and picked up my gun.
       We hiked down for about fifteen minutes and found the rest of the squad. Luckily, the Canadians had retreated once we shot down their helicopter. They knew they couldn’t take us on without that.
       “They’ll be back,” I warned my men, “but take a long rest because you guys deserve it.” I then walked around and got informed about injuries. Besides Ryan and James who were shot from before Anthony and I climbed the mountain, Jacob had been shot in the arm and Ben was in critical condition. He had been shot multiple times in his right leg and had lost a lot of blood. He needed serious medical attention as soon as possible. Things were starting to look grim in spite of the celebration of shooting down the helicopter.
       Then I heard the now familiar sound of helicopter blades. “WHIPPA! WHIPPA! WHIPPA!” I looked up and saw that it was another army helicopter. “Get everyone behind the cover of the rocks,” I yelled.
       “What about you sir?” asked James.
       “I’m going to see if that is a real Army helicopter,” I replied.
       “But, Sir, that would be suicide!” he warned me.
       “Don’t worry about me,” I replied, “ I can handle it.” And with that statement I moved forward from the rocks still being careful not to let the helicopter see me. I had learned my lesson last time when I had given away my position to the enemy helicopter, and I wasn’t going to let it happen again.
       Suddenly the helicopter stopped and flew towards the fallen enemy army copter that I had shot down and landed. I slowly approached them and tried to listen hard to their accent to see if they were Canadian, but I couldn’t really tell. I also tried to look on their uniform to see if it said U.S. or something, but they were all wearing guile suits. These guys were professionals. Then they started getting back into the helicopter so I decided to take a major risk, so I stepped out into the open.
       I was spotted immediately and soon every gun was pointed right at my head. Now or never I thought and so I decided to ask them, “Are you Canadian or American.”
       Time stood still as I waited for their answer, and then one stepped forward and answered, “This is a U.S. Army helicopter, Sir, couldn’t you tell by the markings?”
       “Yes I could, but there was another helicopter that looked like the one you are in, but it was a Canadian one disguised. That would be the one over there.” I pointed to the twisted metal and flames. “It fooled me and my men,” I admitted.
       “I take it then that you are a part of the U.S. special squad team that was shot down,” he said. “Where are the rest of your men?” he asked me. “You aren’t the only survivor are you?” 
       “No, the rest of my team is at the bottom of the mountain. I’ll take you there.” Once I showed him our hiding point, everyone was put in the helicopter; and soon I found myself explaining the whole story of how I got there. None of the men from the rescue team could believe how lucky we were. By the time I was done telling the story, I was ready to take a nap. I curled up and quickly fell asleep.
       I suddenly awoke from sleep when the helicopter shook causing me to be thrown against the wall of the helicopter.
       The pilot turned around, “Sorry about that, there are some pretty strong winds today. Try to go back to sleep. We will be back at the base in about an hour.”
       I relaxed. “Calm down, its not happening again, its just a little wind,” I assured myself. I went back to sleep and woke up at the base. I had survived one of the scariest couple of days of my life. But I never forgot my friend the pilot who died to save my squad. He didn’t even do anything, he was just picking us up from our mission, but he was still punished for something he didn’t do. That’s why no one should ever be forgotten. Everyone is significant and plays a part in the world no matter how small it may be. Life went on for me but only because he gave his life. Sometimes sacrifices must be made for a cause greater than yourself.    

The Essentials
Corinne Metzger, Delphos Jefferson
Sponsoring Teacher: Vera White

            Things don’t always happen the way we want them to. I think that’s why they’re called mistakes. Everyone is trying to tell you; don’t try to go for more than you can handle and miss. Just take what you’re given. Makes sense, huh? Well, I guess I kind of missed that sign.

            I always bite off more then I can chew. And there’s really nothing I can do about it. The only reason I do all of the things I do is because I can’t go home. It’s too hard. I live in secrecy. Every time I speak to my mother, it’s a lie. It’s the only way I can survive in her household. I have to hide everything from her to spare her more hurt than what she is feeling now. There is no longer truth within her walls. The pictures of what was our family, scream the guilt I feel for all of the lies. I never thought I would ever have to tell my mother the truth, that is until January came along.

            It was the ugliest plus sign I have ever seen. It stared back at me, as if it were mocking me. It seemed as if the little white stick had a mind of its own. It’s a crazy thought but the pink sign, which brought guilt, regret, and panic upon me, just stared. It laughed at me, over and over again. I threw the test into my friend‘s trash can. At that moment I realized my future was now in the exact same place; the trash. A knock came on the bathroom door and I heard the sweet sound of relief call in, as Ally said to me,

 

“Hey. How’s it going in there?”

 

            I didn’t know how to tell her the news, but I also knew I could tell her anything. She was my best friend and still is. She was there with me at day one when I met the guy who I thought was the man of my dreams. But who now seems to be the cause of me not having dreams anymore.

 

“I’m alright…for now. But I won’t be in about nine months.”

“Oh my God.”

 

            I remember quite simply how she came in next and approached me. I don’t think I could ever forget that moment.

            Slowly, but in haste, she walked over to me as I was sitting on the cream colored rug that laid in front of the shower, watching my whole future disappear. She placed her soft, caring hands on my shoulders and looked me in the eye. Both of us were teary eyed, it was hard not to be at a moment like that. The only difference between her tears and mine were that every tear drop that fell from my face contained a little bit of everything I was about to lose.

 

“Everything is going to be all right. I’m here for you no matter what.”

 

            Those were her exact words and I will never forget them because at that time I knew that they would be the only truth I was going to hear for a long time. I had to tell Jarrod. How? I wasn’t sure. The pressure grew on me as fast as a bolt of lightning coming from the sky. He deserved to know but my nerves were stopping me. I had this feeling in my gut that he was going to leave me. I had to get it over with. I had to find out the truth. I needed to know if he truly loved me. The ringing of his phone was like the fast rhythm of my heart.

 

“Uh, hello?”

“Jarrod…You need to come over. I have something I want to tell you.”

“All right, I’ll be over in a minute.”

 

            The ten minutes it took for him to get to my house were the longest minutes of my life. Jarrod walked in my front door and took a seat on my couch next to me. I looked him in the eyes, searching for the right words to say. At that moment he knew something was up. My hair was a mess, and my face was free of make-up because of the many hours of crying. The next sentence was so hard to say, I thought I was going to pass out before I could even say it.

 

“I’m pregnant.”

 

            He stared at me for about a minute straight. At first I thought it was because he was looking me in the eyes to let me know he was going to stay by my side all the way. My thoughts quickly changed after he made his next move. He stood up, and without even looking at me or saying a word, he walked out. Not only did he walk out my door, he walked out of my life, and his child’s life. It was then that I realized that he didn’t love me. He only looked at me as a piece of meat. Something to play with, a toy. And when he got tired of playing with the toy he left it for someone else to pick up. I also realized I no longer loved him. He was nothing. He is nothing. Surprisingly, I’m not very hurt with his decision to leave us. Looking back now, I am glad he did. He would’ve given nothing to our child. Nothing but shame, grief and sadness.

            Just the thought of telling my mother was unbearable. She was already dealing with the grief of the loss of her husband. How would the pregnancy of her sixteen year old daughter affect her? I had to hide everything from my mother just to keep her from more misery and pain. But at the same time I knew she would eventually find out. Besides I wouldn’t have been able to get through it without her love and support. After I regained my composure from the devastation of Jarrod’s decision, I called her into the kitchen. She being my mother, she knew exactly when something was wrong and what to do when I was upset. She immediately gave me a hug and wouldn’t let me go until I broke down and admitted to her what was wrong. Saying it was harder the second time,

 

“I’m pregnant.”

 

            Her eyes widened, and her jaw dropped. Watching tears fall from her eyes because of me, hurt so much.  I had no other words to say. Nothing I could say, would make the situation better. She unloaded on me with question after question. There was no escape, no turning back, I had to answer every single question without delay or she would get even more upset. The confusion and disappointment in her eyes seemed to wrap around me, until I could no longer breathe. The strength of the squeeze was that of an anaconda. I couldn’t handle her being upset with me. A new, uncontrollable emotion took over my body; dismay. I was disappointed in myself for making the mistake, and disappointed in myself for hurting my own mother so badly. Without thinking, I got up, and ran. Just ran away, away from the house, and my hurting mother. I had no other choice. I didn’t know what to do. I panicked.

            After hours of circling the park, I realized I had acted just like Jarrod. I walked out on someone who needed me. I walked away from the problem I caused instead of facing it. I was being a coward. I had to go back; I just needed time to think first. My mind was filled with thoughts; I couldn’t protect me from myself. I had to patiently wait for things to clear in my mind. I knew there was only one way to do that quickly; the swings. I walked to the center of the park where the big kids’ swings were. I sat down on the middle swing, the one that gave me the most confidence because I could go the highest without fear.

            The winter air was cold on my face, but with my hood up, I would be able to survive for a few minutes. While sitting silently on the snowy blue rubber surface they called a seat, I stared. Searching for an answer somewhere, anywhere. In the clouds, the blue sky, or the sunset. Having no luck, I began to swing my legs.  I could feel the coldness within the metal chains, which commenced my tears. As I got higher with each kick, I felt more free. The tears seemed to freeze on my cheeks. No answers were coming to me. I couldn’t keep from crying.

            Unexpectedly, a young boy walked up to the swing next to me and sat down. He didn’t say anything at first, just swung for awhile, and then I decided to stop swinging and talk to him. I wasn’t sure why, something was just telling me to. He was only maybe about seven. Quiet and shy, but he did respond to my questions. Then he began to open up and talk more. I could tell there was something different about this little boy, I just couldn’t tell what it was. Once I ran out of questions, there was a slight silence, until he said,

            “Missy, I saw you crying earlier, that’s why I sat down next to you. Sometimes when I’m sad and crying I need a friend to just be with. I choose Ted. He’s my brown bear. He always makes me feel better…why you were crying?”

 

            I looked into his eyes, not knowing how to explain something at this level of complication. I knew his simple mind wouldn’t be able to comprehend the real problem at hand, I just said the easiest thing I thought he would be able to understand.

 

            “ I messed up, and it’s something I can’t fix.”

“Oh. Well, don’t worry. You have nothing to be afraid of.”

“How did you know I was afraid? I never told you I was.”

“I just know. And I know how to fix your problem too.”

 

I giggled a little to myself, thinking he was going to tell me to color a picture, or play in sand to get my mind off of my problems, just like he probably does when he gets scolded for writing on the walls like most children do.

 

“Oh, you do? How’s that?”

“Just talk to him.”

“Talk to who, Ted?”

“No silly. God. He loves you, and he would never let a mess up go unfixed. I have to go now. Nice talking to you. Bye bye.”

 

            I sat in the swing astonished at what I had just heard. A little boy, with the only answer I could not think of. The only correct way out. That was the sign I was looking for. That was the answer I had been searching for. He was the reason I could go home and face my devastated mother. I thank God everyday for that little boy. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help he gave me.

            On my seven block walk home, all I did was talk to God. I told him everything, even though he already knew. I told him how sorry, regretful, ashamed, and tired of everything I was. And as I walked over the bridge near my house, a feeling empowered me; sacrifice. I got down on my knees and I cried out to the Lord, asking him to be in my life. Joyful tears of relief streamed down my face, off my chin and onto my clothes. It was the first time in a while I had been okay with crying. I felt so much better and I no longer had fear because I knew my life was in His hands and I would be okay from there on out.

            When I got home, my mother was sitting on the couch, as if she were immortal. She was so still, I don’t even think I remember her blinking. I walked up to her gave her a hug and told her everything was going to be all right and she did not need to worry. I loved her, and she loved me and all we needed was each other. She gave me a look of confusion, but then she accepted the fact that we were just going to have to get through this as best as we could.

            Thinking back to that month, I seemed to have lost my ways. I went from doing no wrong, to causing problems for myself, and everyone else around me. So helpless, I just wanted to stop with those endeavors. But finally I asked myself, why give up? It’s not enough, and it would never end. So I decided I would push myself until the end. I wouldn‘t give up on myself, I couldn‘t. If I did who would see the good in me? To be loved, I had to love myself, and my mistakes. Just an experience to learn from, and I have learned from it. It’s not over yet though, not even close.

            Almost two weeks until my beautiful daughter will be born. I have less fear now than I did then. Knowing what I‘ve been through, and how far I’ve come, I know exactly what I’m going to do as a parent.  I’m going to teach her the essentials. I’m going to make her notice what’s really important in life. I don’t want her to make the same mistakes I made. I want her to love and respect herself, to understand God comes first, because she is first in His book. I want her to be the best she can be, but most importantly what she wants to be. She can be anything, even with making mistakes along the way. I want her to learn the essentials, without finding them out the hard way, like I had to. I want the best for her. She is my daughter, and she is one of the very few things I have left.

            In a way, I am glad I made my mistake. I see my daughter as a second attempt. She will be my new way of succeeding to what I should have been, the best. I went through all of it for a reason. God has me where I’m supposed to be, and I’m okay with that. I’m telling you, it all falls down. But only to be brought back up again. I’m doing what He wants me to do, and I couldn’t be any happier. Now that He has given me hints to what the essentials are, it’s my turn to teach them.

 

           


A Parent’s Nightmare
Megan Azzarello, Shawnee
Sponsoring Teacher: Heather Shatto

       I looked into my mind, searching for answers. There were endless questions that needed to be answered.  Many of these questions were why questions like why me? why did this happen? why did I leave? why did my friends come with me? . . . the list of questions could go on forever.  These questions ate at my brain like a tapeworm eating away at a digestive system; I had been trying to keep my mind focused on anything but the accident, because I found myself constantly thinking of the horrific scene. 
       I was lying on the freezing cold pavement and I couldn’t see anything because it was so dark that the area around me was almost indistinguishable.  Besides the frigid temperatures, from what I could see there were shards of glass all around me.  The sounds I heard were unbearable, the moans of my friends and the groans of strangers in the accident from excruciating pain, in sync with the constant hum of the other car’s horn.  In the air there was the smell of wet dewy ground all around the scene with a hint of leather from the car’s upholstery.  I tasted blood in my mouth and knew that that wasn’t a good sign. I swallowed but all I could taste was blood. The time passed. It felt like I was trapped underwater waiting for someone to save me.  That person to save me was the emergency squad; in the glass around me I could see the reflection of the blinding, alternating light of red and blue.  I tried to move my legs but I couldn’t: this made me panic and scream, which made a paramedic come running towards me.  He wanted to know what had happened that made me scream and I said I was pinned under a car, but there was no car. He then realized that this was more serious so I was rushed on a gurney and into an ambulance.  Then the same paramedic wanted to know if I could move my fingers, and I could, so then he asked if I could move my toes. I tried my hardest because I did not want go to the hospital; all the strength I mustered up didn’t help because I was then rushed to the hospital. I wanted to know about my friends but was too nervous to find out what had happened. I may have looked strong, but on the inside I was too afraid to face the truth since I knew it would hurt worse than any broken bone. 
       I was met in the emergency room by a doctor that had hands made of ice. Even with me being so cold that I could feel the difference in temperature.  I had always watched shows about the E.R. but I never thought that I would be in an emergency room because I was a good child that stayed out of harm’s way. The doctor told me to think back to what had happened that evening.
       I was at the movies with my friends and we were all ready to see the newest horror flick so that we could have nightmares.  Unfortunately, the movie was not what we expected so we decided to get the best ice cream in the state, which was just across town. My friends and I all got adjusted in the car and we were off obeying the rules of the road.  We decided to go the scenic route because it was a warm Sunday evening with hardly any traffic on the road due to the anticipation of the Monday morning.  The heat had died down from the blistering heat of the sun earlier and we were ready to relax because the school year was approaching and our last few days of summer were around the corner. I was on a straight away going forty-five miles per hour in a fifty-five mile per hour zone when I approached that intersection that changed my life. I will never forget the blaring stereo of my favorite song playing and watching as I passed under the yellow flashing beacon while having my car spin out of control.  I ended up on the ground in a lifeless position when I awoke to the horrible scene of the car accident. 
       I dozed off while talking because all of the stress had worn me out along with the emotional wreck I was in. I awoke in a hospital bed that was uncomfortable. There were sheets as walls and not much privacy.  My mother was at my side crying with the comfort of my father’s arm around her.  I could tell that she had been crying for a while because she had tear trails of mascara rolling down her cheeks. My brother was standing off in the background, not sure of how to deal with this tragic event and all of the tears to come.  My father told me that I had broken my back in an accident and that I would not be able to walk for a while because I had a minor surgery then I would be in a full body cast.  I thought of how my days of summer would be spent in surgery and resting at home.  My father told me that I would be going into surgery on Tuesday morning and that I had a long road to recovery.  The accident became known around town and soon ravishing bouquets of flowers were everywhere. My mother had fresh flowers always in the foyer and in the kitchen by the sink and next to my bedside so I could see them every day. The accident made me have to go to physical therapy and I also had to see a counselor so that I could get my emotions out and not have to worry what my friends or family thought.  After the accident I was relieved to find out that my friends walked away from the scene with just bumps and bruises and came over to visit me, in my makeshift bedroom by the kitchen, every now and then. Over that few months of not being able to get out of bed, I found a love of hockey.  Whatever I did after getting out of this cast had to involve hockey.
       The day I got out of my body cast I was in dire need of a bath and shaving, looking at my legs and the long dark hairs that covered my pale skin. The contrast between the hair on my legs and the color of my skin was like night and day, my hair as dark as night, my skin as light as day.  I was ready to shave my legs and as I did so I heard the razor blade come in contact with the hairs one by one. I heard them getting cut since they were so thick. I watched as I moved my razor up my leg like a farmer taking the crops off for harvest.  I was shaving peacefully when I cut my leg right below my knee the sight of blood and the stinging in my leg reminded me of the accident.  I realized how far I had come since the accident.  The next thing I wanted to do was play ice hockey.  I had watched hockey when I was out of school resting and was ready to play. 
       I found myself outside of the ice rink where I tried to skate.  I had to learn how to skate and I did;  my coach said that I learned fast and that I should play on the team.  I practiced all week and I played then that weekend and I was ready to score my first goal.  My friends and family were decked out in my team’s colors, scarlet and grey.  I heard the music pounding from below the stadium as I got ready for the game.  I got out and checked the opponents into the wall and played my hardest, with one goal in mind, scoring a goal.  It was the end of the second quarter in a scoreless game; I knew if I kept waiting I wouldn’t be able to score.  Time passed and I knew that my chances of scoring were running out.  I could hear my coach say my name; he was telling me to try to score or at least take a shot because it was the third quarter and we could have a score up on the board.  I took a shot as the last ten seconds were ticking away.  I shot the puck with all of my might and I watched as the goalie tried to dive down and save the goal.  My heart felt like it was going to thump out of my chest when I saw the net swoosh and knew that the goal went in and the game was over and our team won.  I realized how far I had come from the horrific accident.  

Junior/Senior Division
Gravity
Alanah Glidewell, Delphos Jefferson
Sponsoring Teacher: Christine Siebeneck

       “Do not be afraid.  When we jump, the wind against your face is going to sting at first, but don’t worry.  You will be fine if you do not struggle away from me,” the raspy voice whispered in my ear.  He slid his hands slowly over my shoulder blades, along my arms, until he held my hands.  “Are you ready?”  We could both hear the sounds of shouting, people searching through the forest.
       I laughed weakly, my stomach turning itself into knots.  “Yeah, like I’m ever going to be.”  I took a deep breath and closed my eyes.  I took his arms and pulled them to criss-cross my body, “Just…. don’t let go, okay?”  They were getting closer.  I could hear them, and so could he, his long, pointed ears twitching with each little sound.
       He smiled back at me and nuzzled his head against the side of my neck. “I could never let you go, Beverly.” 
       We stood there together, him and me.  It was silent for just a moment.  A brief moment before I took a deep breath.  A brief moment before we took one final look down from the side of that tall Colorado mountain cliff.
       Before we let the weight of our bodies go forward and plummet to the earth.

~ + ~ + ~

       This whole ordeal probably started about 11 years ago.  I was only seven years old during that long hot summer of 1902.  My brother, sister, and I went swimming down at the fishing hole to cool off.  Well, they went swimming, and I just sat at the rocky shore and watched.  I just tagged along to get away from Joseph, not to swim.  I couldn’t swim if my life depended on it, and if you go into deep water without knowing how to swim, your life really does depend on being able to swim, doesn’t it?  Ah, but anyhow, as the rest of the girls swam in their under garments, I stared up with my dark brown eyes at two or three lonely clouds, strewn across the sky as if it were unable to stay together.  But something in the air caught my eye.  A big bird.  No, a huge bird.  An eagle observing the ground from a high point, maybe?  At least, that’s what I thought.  The bird just flew above all of us, though I was the only one to actually see it.  I sighed softly when I spotted a huge white feather slowly wisp its way to the ground.  It landed several feet away from me and into the forest, landing on some nearby rocks.  I thought about it for a moment, before I walked over toward it, pushing the underbrush out of my way.  I stared at it for a couple seconds before bending down to pick it up.
       The feather was longer than my whole arm, shining a brilliant white light from the sun’s blazing rays.  The feather was so bright; I had to squint my eyes to dim it down a bit to look at it.  I felt the soft ridges along the vane of the feather.  It reminded me of the feathery down we had at home.  Bringing it to the side of my light brown face, I slid it along my jaw line.  I chuckled softly as it tickled a bit.  The feather sat quietly in my hand, still glistening in the sun.  Perhaps I was too concentrated on the feather that I couldn’t hear whoever was walking up from behind me.  A rough hand fell on my bare shoulder, “Um, excuse me…”
       The hand itself was enough to make me spin around so fast that I fell hard on the rocks.  I landed on my hands and my left knee, and I think I heard a crack in my knee.  I had broken the skin on my hands and knees, watching them bleed slowly.  I held my knee in pain with my sore hands, rocking back and forth as I cried.
       “Ah! I’m sorry,” the voice was that of a boy’s.  One I didn’t know.  “Hold still, Beverly,” he said.  The strange boy knelt down beside me and held my damaged hands gingerly.  He had long ears like the fairies in the storybooks mom used to read to us.  He wore a white robe that was only a bit paler than he was, making my already darker skin seem like black.  Atop his round head, he had dark red curls that bounced with each time he moved his head.
       “H-how do you . . .” I started to ask.  But in a flash, wings shot out from his back.  His wings were bigger than he was, most of the long feathers lying down beside him.  It didn’t take long for me to put two and two together: The feather I had found and claimed as my own was from his angel wing.  “What if he’s mad that I took his feather?” my juvenile mind was making things up, “What if he’s going to hurt me?”  I pulled my hands away from him and struggled to get up.  Once I did, I only took one step.  Another loud crack from my knee made me fall down, crying out loudly in pain.  I held my knee again, tears running down my face.  I ground my teeth to the point where I thought they would crumble out of my mouth and flutter to the ground as dust does.
       The boy walked over to me quickly and knelt down beside me again.  “Please, do not do that again.  I do not want you to hurt yourself,” the boy said softly to me.  He looked at my knee for a moment, “Well, more than you already have.”  He gently took my hand and pulled it toward himself.  Using his other hand, he made a soft gasp and squeezed his eyes shut as he pulled a feather out from one of his wings.
       “Why’d you do that?”
       “Just hold still.”
       And after that, I was still.  I didn’t make a peep as he moved the long feather to my hand.  He passed the feather along the scrapes on my palms.  The blood from my hands went onto the feather, and I felt an instant relief from the pain in my hands.  As I looked at my hands, I was amazed to see that the scrapes were almost completely faded.  My fingers traced along the near invisible scratches, eyes wide in awe.  “How did you do that?” I asked the boy.
       But the boy ignored me and continued to do the same thing with my knee.  Taking the feather to my broken knee, he wiped oozing blood off and splattered the blood from the feather onto the ground by flicking it toward the ground.  Then, after he pushed my yellow sundress up a bit, he wrapped the long (now stained a rusty red) feather around my knee and made a tight knot.  “Do not take this off, and your bones and wounds should be completely healed in a week or two,” he ordered, pulling my dress back down over my leg.  And for the first time, the boy smiled at me warmly, patting my head softly.  He traced the cornrows on my head, following them down to their full length, which was at about my shoulders at the time, I think.  His eyes told me that he was wiser than he appeared.  I wondered how old he was.  He looked my age.  “I bet this is all rather bizarre to you, isn’t it?” he asked me.  The boy laughed quietly, more to himself than to me. 
       I nodded, “How did you know my name?”
       “I do not think you would believe me if I even told you, Beverly,” he replied.
       “Try me, bird boy.”
       He scoffed bitterly, “Bird boy?  How insulting! Do you not know a guardian angel when you see one?”
       I looked at him with a raised eyebrow.  Did he just say…, I thought.
       “Yes, I did,” the angel boy said, as if he had read my thoughts.  “My name is Angelo, and I am your guardian angel.”
       Tons of questions surged into my brain, but I told them to shut up. 
       “I came down from heaven to see you up close for the first time.  It is rather difficult to keep a steady eye on you from the clouds,” Angelo explained as sweetly as a boy could explain something.  He gently took my arm and saw blotted circles of purple up to my shoulders.  Angelo’s eyebrows scrunched up to meet in the center above his nose, “Joseph again?”
       I made a soft sound that told Angelo that he was correct.  “How did you…. Never mind,” I began to ask, but figured out by myself.  This angel knows me as much as I know myself.  Well, that got explaining my life to him out of the way, at least.  Still, it was just so weird: guardian angels are real?  I was still skeptical about the whole ordeal.  But what could I do to oppose what he said any differently.  I saw him work his miracles as he used a part of himself as an alleviation to my wounds.  It was difficult arguing with that. “Angelo?  Is that it?  Um, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to get back to the group I was with before they realize I’m gone,” I said.
       He gave me one more look with those chestnut eyes.  Angelo sighed, “I suppose that that is best.  I do not know if the Big Man realizes that I am gone yet.”
       “Big Man?” I asked.
       He pointed up to the sky.  I nodded, understanding who he meant.  I twiddled my thumbs, not knowing what to say.  I got up, and so did he.  A moment passed, “Thank you for helping me with my boo-boos—uh, my wounds.”  I blushed.  I can’t believe I said something as childish as the word ‘boo-boo’.
       Angelo laughed, “No problem.”  He waved at me softly, “Take care of yourself.”  I nodded my head and started to limp away, when he said, “Uh, hey! Beverly. H-How about we meet here again tomorrow night?  I can take you flying with my wings.” 
       I blushed again, but I smiled at him, “Sounds like fun.  See you then!”  Making sure he had nothing else to say, I finally limped through the brush and back toward my group. 

~ + ~ + ~

       It was cold that night in autumn of 1913.  But it was freezing enough to make your bones ache if you had fallen into the water and struggled to make it to land.  Okay, maybe not a fall, more of a jump, really, into the freezing water below.
       But I didn’t have time to think about that.  I had to push my body to keep going against the elements.  Even after that crazy jump, they were still on my trail.  Eventually, however, I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I fell down on my side, my weak knee giving out.  The world was glazed over with a foggy film before it all went black as I shut my eyes.
       I thought about everything that happened over my lifetime, thinking I was going to die in that blank spot in the woods.  Most of the words involved in my memories involved hide, weak, hate, and fear.  I think Joseph hated me before I was even born.  I wouldn’t be surprised.  Joseph hated everything and everyone except himself and his guns.  Despite his terrible personality, he still had a lot of friends who were just like him, but with different names.  They were nothing but a group of gun-toting, three-toothed thugs with bloodhounds with their infinite drooling.  Hide.
       Momma and Joseph never married.  Joseph hated commitment, and momma wasn’t really in love with him.  Their relationship was complicated yet simple.  Joseph wanted children to work around the house, but no woman was interested in staying with him long enough to have any until he offered to pay the wife’s family 500 dollars a year if they gave her away to him.  Sadly, he chose my mom’s family, who never had any money because of the black and white inequality problem.  This was frowned upon by his peers, but nobody said anything to him ever since the last one who mentioned it mysteriously went “missing.”  Weak.
       Well, Joseph got what he wanted: two strong girls, including myself, and three working boys.  Being of a mixed color was never really approved of here, so things were always more difficult for us.  But we managed.  Hate.
       However, something conspired between Joseph and my family.  My family was biting the hand that fed them, trying to get more and more each year from him. They thought themselves high and mighty atop a white man’s money.  That is, until some men took them down by hanging them up from the trees.  When Mom heard about it, she tried to escape with all of us, which sounded like a good idea when I was only four.  But we suffered from that mistake.  Joseph got us and beat Momma so bad she was paralyzed from the waist down.  Fear.
       After that meeting with that angel boy (Angelo? I think that was his name), I remember my brothers and sisters asking me what happened.  They rolled their eyes and didn’t believe me.  We walked inside the cabin, seeing Mom smile softly at us.  Joseph walked in with a club and a dead rabbit.  He saw my leg and then the feather.  At first, he was trying to figure out what kind of bird such a long feather could come from, but he quickly shook that thought out of his head.  “Take that thing off.  You’re gonna spread infection in the house with those bird diseases.”  Remembering what Angelo said, I shook my head, the first time I ever refused Joseph’s orders and certainly the last.  Joseph wasn’t a man who laughed at childish rebellion, “I won’t say it again, Beverly.  Take it off.” 
       I limped back a bit, shaking my head again. “Angelo said I can’t take it off until a week or two from. . . ”
       “I don’t care if God himself told you to do it! You’ll do as I say!” he dropped the rabbit and clenched tighter onto the club.
       “One of God’s angels told me not to, and I won’t,” I scowled back.  My older sister pulled me away and looked angrily at me, shaking her head as a way of saying, “Are you stupid, Beverly?”  But it was too late to take back what I said.  He marched toward me and backhanded me across the face with such a force that it made me fall back.  He grabbed my sister’s arm tightly.
       “You listen here, and you listen good!  Get that thing off her leg right now!  If I see it ever again…” He brought the club in front of my sister’s fear-stricken face.  He looked down at me angrily, but went out of the room, stopping only to pick up the rabbit. 
       Mom and my sister both gave me a look of sadness and disappointment.  Mom sighed softly and wheeled her chair next to the window.  My sister knelt down next to me and unwrapped the feather of dried blood.  “I’ll ask one of the boys to get you some crutches.  Get rid of this before Joseph sees it again,” she ordered.  She walked away.  I looked at my hands, tracing the lines of the old scrapes that were just barely visible.
       I woke up in a jolt when I heard some loud shouting off in the distance.  It was dark outside, and I was shivering from my still drying clothes.  “Gotta keep going,” I said to myself.  After I got up, I quickly limped deeper into the forest.  After two minutes of running as fast as I could with that bad knee of mine, I stopped to breathe in the chilling air.  I looked at the ground and spotted something from my memories.  It was a brownish colored feather, put under a rock to keep it from blowing away.  I knelt down and slid it out from underneath the rock, feeling the ridges of the feather with my thumb.
       “Brings back memories, huh?” a voice from the past said softly.  I looked around, and there stood a young man with twisted, red curls on his strong face.  His ears were still like those fairy ears in the story books, with his skin still pale as a dove. 
       “Angelo. . .  It’s you … You came back,” I said with a hint of happiness that had been suppressed all these years.  However, that happiness turned to bitterness, “Why didn’t you come back that night all those years ago?  I went to that spot every night for a whole year, waiting for you to save me from this horrible place.”
       “I … It was not in my abilities to go back down to earth.  Please understand.  The Big Man, he got awfully angry with me for flying down without his permission,” Angelo said sadly.  “I came down here to help you escape this place and take you to the place in the clouds, where we can fly together forever.”  He walked up and hugged me gently.
       That was the first time in a long time that I had ever gotten any sign of affection from anyone or anything since Mom had died almost two years ago.  I wrapped my arms around him and dug my face into his chest.  He was warm compared to me.  I finally let him go and looked at him with my cold brown eyes, “Where do we go now?  I have to get away from this . . .”
       Gunshots echoed in the background.  They were calling for me, shouting my name across the skies.  They wanted their revenge for what I had done to their comrade.  They wanted to avenge Joseph’s death.  More accidental than premeditated, but with the evidence piling up against me, I figured it was a good idea to make myself scarce.  Angelo must have figured this out.  He took my hand and led me quickly through the maze of trees, past the lake, through the caves, under the bridge, until we came up to a cliff.  There was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide, and time was wearing thin for us.  My knee finally gave out on me again, so I couldn’t go anywhere even if there was anywhere to go.  We could still hear them, tracking us down faster and faster.
       “What do we do, Angelo?” I asked, starting to really lose my cool.  I looked at the rocky bottom below us.  The jagged earth looked excruciatingly painful.
       “We fly to the Heavens, where nobody can hurt you anymore,” he said softly.  Before I could ask him what was going through his head, Angelo stared at me with those warm eyes of his.  I understood without him saying it.  “Do not be afraid.  When we jump, the wind against your face is going to sting at first, but don’t worry.  You will be fine if you do not struggle away from me,” the raspy voice whispered in my ear.  He slid his hands slowly over my shoulder blades, along my arms until he held my hands.  “Are you ready?”  We could both hear the sounds of shouting, people searching through the forest.
       I laughed weakly, my stomach turning itself into knots.  “Yeah, like I’m ever going to be.”  I took a deep breath and closed my eyes.  I took his arms and pulled them to criss-cross my body, “Just…. don’t let go, okay?”  They were getting closer.  I could hear them, and so could he, his long, pointed ears twitching with each little sound.
       He smiled back at me and nuzzled his head against the side of my neck. “I could never let you go, Beverly.” 
       We stood there together, him and me.  It was silent for just a moment.  A brief moment before I took a deep breath.  A brief moment before we took one final look down from the side of that tall Colorado mountain cliff.
       Before we let the weight of our bodies go forward and plummet to the earth.

~ + ~ + ~

       A big group of men and their basset hounds were trying to track me down, and they finally did.  Or at least they thought they did.  I stared down at them from the top of the cliff, the men little ants from my high perch.  Some were exclaiming at the sight, but for the most part, they agreed that, ‘She got what was coming to her, little coward.’  After about fifteen minutes, they made soft, silent prayers for both the souls of Joseph and Beverly to reach Heaven’s gates.  The group of hunters finally made their way back home, leaving the body where it lay.
       I sighed softly, brushing some hair out of my eyes.  “Seems bizarre, does it not?” Angelo’s voice said.  I looked back at him as he fluttered down beside me.  He sat down next to me, looking sadly at the broken body below.  “I did not want things to happen like this.  I wanted you to be happy.  And now,” he snorted, more in regret than in humor, “You are not from here anymore.  Gone like the others who wanted to . . .”
       “Shut up, Angelo.  You talk too much,” I said with a slight bitterness to my voice.
       And he did so.  He didn’t say a word.  Angelo just sat there, still trying to figure out a way to make it up to me, like it was his fault.  But in the end, it was my choice to jump from that cliff, even if it seemed like I was pressured into it.  I do like this choice, though.  Heaven isn’t so bad, y’know.  A little boring sometimes, but at least I’m finally with my momma, my loved ones who passed away and, most importantly to me, Angelo.  I stood up and stretched my arms.  He looked up at me, “So, bird boy.  You ready to fly?”
       Angelo’s brows clashed in the middle of his head above his nose, “I am not a bird, Beverly.  You know that.”  I laughed softly.  I loved picking on him.  He made it too easy for me.  He smiled, though.  “But I would love to go flying with you.” Angelo put out his hand.
       I accepted his hand, holding it in mine.  We looked toward the sky, letting the warm light shine down on our faces.  And out of my back, a huge pair of white wings came out and shone in that warm light along with his.  We batted our wings a few times, watching our feet lose contact with the earth.  We slowly got higher and higher, now flying forward and up. 
       And for the last time, we left the earth and flew up to where others like us went, hand in hand.

The Cutting Edge
Jordan Vaughn, Elida
Sponsoring Teacher: Peggie Stubbs

       You take the blade in your hand and gently lay it across your chest.  Your heart races faster, faster!  You move the blade just enough so it’s lying on your heart.  Breathtaking, isn’t it?  The blade yearns to have just a taste of your flesh.  Take control – it will get what it wants soon enough.  There’s something you should do so you remember why you’re doing this.  You sigh and your fingers tremble – you don’t want to let go.  Ever so quietly you get off the bed and put the flesh-eating demon under the pillow.  You wouldn’t want someone to walk in and see it; glad to know you’re smart about something.  The closet doors creak as you open them; you see the box, and your heart jumps sporadically – endorphins release.  The adrenaline that’s rushing through your body gives you a high better than any drug you’ve ever tried.  Sit on the floor and rest the box in your lap -- don’t open it: breathing in and out is key at this point.  That’s it, deep breathe in; deep breathe out.  Congrats!  You’re ready to face your own worst enemy.
       As you lift the lid, your heart stops.  It’s been so long since you’ve opened this wound.  You flip the box over and everything you’ve been hiding is revealed.  The pain is almost unbearable: keep going, gorgeous.  The pictures, the clothes, the cds, the letters, and the ring all fall around you.  The ring – a promise was made when he gave it to you.  Do you remember that night?  As he slips the ring on your finger, his voice finds your ear: “You have touched my heart in a way that no one else has.  I can’t wait to spend the rest of my days with you.”  You fell for him; he was the one you wanted to spend the rest of your life with.
       What happened to all the promises?  He made the biggest promise – but like the summer, he was gone all too soon.  You need more than just yourself this time.  You need him, but he didn’t want you anymore.  The blade calls your name; your defense is paper thin ­-- chaos ensues.  You throw everything down, your body trembles, your mind races, and your heart skips a beat.  Sitting on the bed, you grab the blade and hold it tight.  The cool metal rests in your hand; your heart and mind slow down.  Your hands stop trembling; they are prepared for the demon.  You guide the blade gently up your arm, across your chest, and back down.  The gentle motion quickly brings back your high as the hair on your neck stands erect.  You lie on the bed and drown out your breathing.  Don’t you want to listen to the sounds of your family?  What’s that you hear?  A broken home or the American dream?  Your mother, so loving and tender, is humming along to “Clair de Lune,” such the classic.  You sigh as your favorite song is being played.  Your brother is in his room across the hall.  What movie is that he’s watching?  The familiar voice seeps through your door; he’s watching Twilight.  You try to vanish the thought quickly.  You thought you found your own personal Edward, and instead you found your own personal hell.  The memories flare up and lick the surface; how could he have broken your heart?  You find comfort in the blade.
       Block out those feelings that are telling you this is wrong.  Pull out the last memory of you two together; walk through it, step by step.  Sitting in his arms reminds you of heaven; his love envelops you.  There is just something about him that draws you near; something that makes it so easy to love him.  He kisses your forehead, but something is off.  It’s not his usual sensual kisses; it’s different, this kiss is determined, like it’s the last one you’ll share with him.  He grabs you hands and hangs his head.  Your heart sinks, it’s coming undone.  As he starts to talk, he drops a bomb.  “I’m sorry.  I will always love you, don’t you ever doubt that.  I just don’t feel like I can do this right now.  One minute you’re like fire, the next you’re like ice.  One minute you’re solid, the next you’re fracturing into pieces.  Forgive me; breaking your heart was never my intention.”  And just like that, it was over.  Everything you ever knew: life, love, and meaning, gone.  Your safety and security; gone. 
       Now here we are, days after, finally out of the ball you curled yourself into.  The hole in your chest aches and burns, the frayed edges long to be silenced.  As you close your eyes, you gather your thoughts.  You pull out the letter you wrote him and read it once more:
        “To Whom It May Concern, you made me believe again.  For the first time since my parents’ divorce, you made me believe that love existed.  You made me want to prove to the world that two people can be happy and love each other, forever.  It didn’t talk long for me to fall in love with you.  You did everything right, and you were there for me.  In my time of need, you were there.  I fell hard, and I was finally happy with how my life was going.  Soon, you were forced to move away from me. I remember the night we spent beneath the stars talking and laughing.  Sometimes the talks were serious, talking about what we wanted in life, but mostly how we would spend the rest of our days together.  How we would grow old together and watch our beautiful children learn and grow.  Sometimes the talks were scary, talking about what if we can’t make it through this?  What if this was our destruction?  There are so many ‘what ifs’.  I fought back tears, but I knew we would stick it out.  We were meant to be together, forever.  That is what we planned.  We promised to love each other until the day we both died.
       Standing in the driveway, it was hard for me to watch you drive away.  I didn’t want to let you go.  For the first few weeks, we talked all the time.  The majority of the conversation was spent talking about our love for one another, and how much we missed each other.  Then, one night, you called with tragic news.  Little did we know it would be the start of our downfall.  Your parents were determined to break us up.  They believed we didn’t need to be together, mainly that you didn’t need a girlfriend because you needed to concentrate on getting your life back together.  So we decided, in the end, that it was best, but that nothing was going to change.  We would still talk, and nothing would change.  We went on a week or so with that.  Then I found out something I wish I never had.  You had moved on.  You were with another girl.  My life was stopped once more.  How could this be?  I really wish things didn’t have to be this way.  I only wish my love would have been enough for you.”
       How tragic.  The words send you straight into tears.  You relived the hardest thing you ever had to do.  How do you feel?  On with the show then.  The demon lays its nasty edge on your wrist.  When you feel your skin split, you regain your high.  Deeper and deeper you drag the blade.  Is this what you wanted?  Attempting to make the scene aesthetically pleasing to the eyes, you drag the blade up your arm to your chest and start in.  “L…” starting in on the first letter of the word that you don’t believe in anymore.  Are you lightheaded yet?   Can you feel your precious skin tear apart as you bring the blade back down your arm?  Every inch of you can feel the metal against your skin as you dig into your beautiful vein.  Do you feel that?  Do you feel how amazing that feels?  Inch by inch, your skin tears apart.  Feel that pain you love so much.  Take your time; this moment is your life -- or lack thereof.  Gently, as you lay the demon on your bloodstained pillow, you pull yourself onto your knees and start writing.  In your blood?  A nice touch.  As you finish the sentence, your body falls limp, your eyes slide shut, and your mind goes inside itself as you softly whisper your long overdue goodbye.
       All is calm now.  All you are is just another teen statistic.  Your body lies on the bed right next to the thing that killed you, blood still soaking your sheets.  Your mother, your sweet mother, walks in.  Her eyes can’t believe what she sees.  Her scream -- it’s blood curdling.  Your ten-year-old brother rushes in.  What do they do now?  She shoves your brother out of the room and screams at him to call 9-1-1.   She runs over to you and pulls you into her arms.  No pulse.  No response.  Lifeless.  She screams at the 9-1-1 operator.  How touching to know they only care after you’re gone.  Rocking your lifeless body, she waits for the police and paramedics.  She takes a look around: the pictures, the letter, the presents, the engagement ring forever on your ring finger, and the blade that did you in.  Her water-filled eyes look up on the wall as she follows your blood trail.  She can’t hold it back anymore.  She cries as she reads your handy work, “Love doesn’t leave, people do.”

School Day
Mary Mierzejewski, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Tricia May

       She sat in the cold constricted hallway; this was to be her asylum.  Bound by the cream-colored walls, lockers, and floor, she started to wonder aloud, “Where’s the color, where’s the life?”  Everything started to mix together as she sat motionless, trying to meditate her way through the period.  Slowly, her eyes started to close, relaxing her toes, legs, then her stomach, chest, and fingers; shivers raced to her arms and then her face.  A breeze started to roll up her legs; she was surprised at how wild it felt.  Her eyes slightly fluttered.  The breeze kissed her skin causing light bumps to form over her mocha color.  The hairs on her body began to become erect and stand strong.  She felt as if magic began to soak into her spine, making her feel a divine ecstasy.
       The locker that once held her in a strict pose was now replaced with a giving tree that held her body close.  Her fingers decided to explore the new wonders of her mind.  The once freezing, smooth floor became a warm rough surface that both tickled and stung her fingers.  If she dug deep enough, she could feel the course dry dirt that now supported her.  It rammed its way under her finger nails, and she welcomed its luxurious delight.
       The velvet sun gave her skin a break from the chilled wind; slowly it enclosed her face in a warm glow and socked through her all the way to her bones.  The blackness behind her eyes started to turn into wild, luscious colors.  Progressively, the colors went from red to orange, and then a mix of both colors flowed in front of her eyes, intertwining and separating all at once.  In her chest, her heart began to race with the thrill of her skin becoming warmer and warmer.  It seemed as the earth and her body were becoming one.  Their rhythms were matching.  The Earth rose with every breath her lungs took in, and it fell when she exhaled the toxins from her body -- purification of body and of mind.
       A glance upward made her mind mad with the sight of a serene sky.  The colors content with its place in the world.  It was the true definition of peace, and she held it within her eyes.  Her eyes were no longer the eyes of an abused teenager, beaten down by life as it passed her by.  No, they were now the symbol of what all men longed for.  She had found the key. Here in this verdant field, her mind had explored all wonders of reality to only find its answer in imagination, in thought.
       A buzz drove past her ear and through her auburn hair, interrupting her thoughts.  It slowly landed on her knee-cap and crawled its way up her smooth leg.  She glanced down at the small, intriguing creature.  A simple ladybug stared back at her. She wondered about thoughts of God and his creatures as she studied the black and red mixture of the creature.  Just a thought, just a moment, and the beloved insect was gone.  She wished for its return; it seemed lonely in this perfect world.  She had the tree holding her, the ground supporting her, the breeze teasing her, the sun warming her, and the sky expanding her, but not a creature to love her.  She missed it, wanted it back, but it had to leave her; this she understood.
       Her eyes fluttered, and the tree began to morph into the hard surface of the locker, the ground became colder, and each breath no longer made her feel connected, as it once did.  The breeze slowly left her sitting alone, and she was once again chilled with the only lighting being unnatural, manmade.  Oh, a School Day’s Dream.

Decisions
Nathan Gordon, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Tricia May

 

            I sat up quickly and looked around. “It was just a bad dream.” I told myself, as I lay back down. I turned toward my clock to see it was only four A.M. I’m different than most people because I can see things before they happen. My name is Charlie Baker, and I'm a 16 year old high school junior. I don’t have many friends because they all think I’m a little weird, and as much as I hate to admit it, I really am.

            These visions I get of the near future aren’t very clear and change a lot of the time. It’s like just knowing the future can make such a difference. A lot of people believe that the future is written out for us all but I know this isn’t true because our choices change the future so looking more than a couple hours ahead seems pointless to me.

I got out of bed and headed down stairs because I just knew that I wasn’t going to be able to sleep much more. I went down stairs and into my kitchen and grabbed some bread for toast and a glass of milk. I sat down at my kitchen table and ate . I saw that my parents wouldn't be up for a few more hours so I decided to go for a quick jog. So I put on my sweats and headed out side. It was cool outside as I began to run. I just kept running in different directions to clear my mind. Then a vision hit me and I stopped. I saw a group of thugs attacking me and robbing me. I didn’t have any money on me so they just kicked the crap out of me. I decided to quickly turn down an alley that headed back to my house. Then I saw them, they were coming from where I just was, and heading up the alley toward me. I started to run and saw that I would be fine but just kept running. I ran up to my house and went inside and quickly locked the door.

No one else but me knew about my gift. I tried telling my parents once and just ended up in therapy for like two months. I live with my dad and mom as well as my annoying little sister. My dad is a supervisor for a huge company downtown called Drytech Inc and my mom works at the bank as a teller. We do OK, but were not rich or anything likes that. My little step sister is eleven and enjoys her time trying to make me miserable We live in small city known as Allentown, Pennsylvania..

After a while of just wondering around my house I got ready for school. I walked down stairs where my step mom reminded me of all my chores I had to do after school. Of coarse I attempted to ignore her as I grabbed my book bag and said good bye to her and headed to school.

As I climbed in my old 1993 dodge spirit I noticed a dark creepy looking man watching me from the ally across the street form my house. He was tall and slender with long black hair and his eyes looked black. He just stared at me as I drove off. I wondered why I didn't see him there before I actually left my house but decided that  it didn't really matter so I continued my long drive to school.

* * *

            After a long antagonizing day of school I was relieved when the bell finally rang and I was able to leave. I headed straight for my locker when I noticed that it was already opened and my jacket was hanging out and some of my books were scattered around. I didn't understand why it was open considering that I had locked it before I left. I picked up my stuff and shoved it all in to my book bag and rushed outside to the parking lot. As I got outside I noticed a group of people looking towards my car. I looked up and  noticed that my car had been broken into. I quickly ran to my car and looked to see if anything was taken but everything was there. So I got in my car and headed back to my house and wondered why I didn’t see anyone in my locker or in my car through out the day. It didn’t make sense to me. I would have seen someone in my car or locker the moment they choose to do it, and yet I didn’t see it.

I went inside my house and told my mom about my car and locker and she freaked. “Why didn’t you get call the police?” She shrieked at me.

  “Because nothing was taken. It’s no big deal”

“Yes it is!” She said. “We told you to make sure your car as locked”.

“I did lock it before I went in.” I said.

 “Obviously not.”,she said

 So I turned around and just headed up to my room. Of course she thought it was my fault. When I got to my room I slammed the door and flung myself on to my bed.  I closed my eyes and began to look to see if I could figure anything out. I saw myself wake up late tonight and head down stairs. Then It jumped and i saw my self running for my life and then I saw myself dead. Then I saw my family dead and everyone I cared about. I knew that they were all going to die because of me. I needed to leave to protect them.

I snapped back to reality and realized what was coming tonight and I had to get away from what ever or who ever was going to kill me. So then I packed up a small bag of stuff that I might need for a few days and wrote a note to my parents explaining that I was leaving for a little while and for them not to worry that I would be fine.   I grabbed some money from my dad’s wallet and headed to my car. Then I drove quickly away.

            I went straight for the highway on the edge of town. I pulled up to the stop light and waited anxiously. I looked quickly into the future and saw that my family would be safe as long as I didn’t go back. I heard a loud bang on the left side of my car and came back to see the man from the alley. He smiled at me before pulling his arm back and punching straight through the window. I slammed on the accelerator and pulled forward with a burst of speed. I thought I left the man standing there but he was running along side the car and laughing at my fear. I glanced at my speedometer and saw I was going 45 miles per hours. How could anyone possibly be keeping up with me on foot? I turned the corner quickly and noticed the man had disappeared then I heard a loud thump on the top of the car and the man knocked out my driver side window and bit down hard on my neck. I swerved and slammed head first into a car in parked on the road and the man flew off me instantly. It felt cool where he bit me despite the fact that I should have been in a lot of pain. The icy feeling began to travel down my body from my neck and everything seemed weird. I looked up only to see the man coming after me again.

            “leave me alone” I screamed at the top of my lungs

            “ but you taste so good” the man replied

            Then before I knew It he was right in front in me looking like a cobra ready to strike. Then in one fluid movement he was flying through the air away from me. A taller man was standing in front of me with his fist  forward as if he had just punched the man. I was suddenly pulled away from both men by a small woman that looked no more than eighteen. She picked me up as if I was weightless and began to run. Faster than I have ever moved before. I closed my eyes and held on tight as we moved through the streets so fast. I listened for a breath but she didn't seem to need one cause it never came. Finally we came to a stop and we were in front of a tall house on the edge of town. She pulled me inside and laid me on the couch.

            “Wait here” she said

            Then she rushed up the stairs as I sat there waiting. Then my neck started to burn as if someone was holding fire to it. The heat came from the place where the man had bitten me. The fire began to spread all through out my body and I screamed in pain. Finally it felt like my whole body was burning and I didn't know how to stop it. After a little while everything suddenly went dark and then there was nothing.

* * *

            I woke up and everything was different. I felt different, stronger,  no pain what so ever. I sat up quickly and jumped off the couch. To my surprise I jumped a lot higher than I expected and hit the ceiling and fell back to the ground. I heard some rushing around and before I knew it the girl who saved me that night was standing right in front of me. “be careful” she said as she pulled me off the floor

            “you will understand in time” she said. “My name is Tanya what is your name”

            “Charlie Baker” I replied

            “ Well you know things are a lot different for you now and I apologize”

            “ what are you talking about” I Asked

            Then she proceeded to tell me about what I had become, she told me that I was now a vampire. She told me that  I would thirst for blood above everything else and that I had to give into this thirst or I would suffer. At this point I jumped up and ran out of the front door. It was still dark out, and there weren't many street lights but I could still see very well. I ran and noticed that I was much faster than I was before. I was running blocks in under a second. Then I stopped, and a smell so delicious entered my nose. I had to see what was causing this  great smell so I ran around the corner to see it was a younger woman who looked to be about twenty. Then I realized why she smelled so good. It was because her blood attracted me. I plugged my nose and ran straight for the forest on the edge of town. There was no way I was willing to kill even one person no matter how hungry I would get.

            I felt a slight itch in my throat and knew that it would be hard to resist if another human was to cross my path. After about a min of running I finally reached the forest  and ran into it. I swerved around trees with ease and finally stopped and flopped myself on the floor. I laid there for what seemed like hours before finally sitting up, and I saw a vision. It was of the dark haired man who had tried to kill me. He was looking for me and  had made it to the house where I had just ran from   . He was standing in the dark waiting for my exit. I finally understood what he was and why he wanted me. I was his next victim and despite the fact I was now like him he wanted me dead.

            Sitting there I wondered why he could have wanted me that bad and what I meant to him. I also wondered why I could see him now in my visions when I couldn't before. None of this made sense to me. I sat there on that cold hard floor praying that this was a dream.

            I finally got up off the floor and headed deeper into the woods away from the town where everyone I cared about was. I knew that I had this new life to live and I had to live it away from here so I ran with no intention of ever going back.

* * *

            It had been days since my leaving Allentown and the hunger in me had grown rapidly. I had tried to eat everything from wild berries to some bread I had stole from a bakery in a small town which I didn't know. But nothing seemed to fill this hunger in my stomach. I knew is that I had to keep running and avoid humans at all costs. Every day I ran hundreds of miles as fast as I could. I would spend most of the night running and hide out during the day. This was because the first time I decided to try to run in the day I had a vision that I would be in a lot of pain if I ran into the sunlight by accident so I just stayed under the cover of the forest through out the day. I never had to sleep because I never got tired. This gave me a lot of time to focus on the future and see where I was going. The future was hard to see because I knew that I had a lot of choices to make and that my future could change instantly, so I stayed away from my future and occasionally glanced at my families. They would be upset at my disappearance for a very long time but they would eventually believe I was dead and move on with life.

            My thirst was growing a lot everyday and nothing I did satisfied it. It became much more painful as every day passed. I knew that I wasn't going to be able to resist much longer, so I had to come up with something. then I heard a crunch from behind me and quickly turned around to see a great big bear standing tight behind me. It swung its massive arm at me and struck me right across my face and despite my finch the bears claw did absolutely nothing. I grabbed the bears paw and flipped myself onto the bears back. The bear immediately roared in anger as it began to thrash about. The bear slammed into a tree and I grabbed a branch and pulled myself up. I then swung over the other side and kicked the bear heard in the gut. The bear soared across the small opening and smacked against a tree. Then I smelled a sweet scent and dived for the bear. It had no time to react as I sank my teeth right into its throat I felt the warm blood  pour into my mouth and down my throat. It tasted so delicious as it  covered the itch in my throat and filled me up. After a while of drinking I felt the heart of the bear stop and the hunger in my stomach lighten.

            I turned away quickly and left the corpse of the bear there as I began for my next hunt. My hunger was still there and I knew now how to stop it. I heard a small thud of a heart beating and knew an animal must have been by so I took a deep breath and realized that a buck was less than a hundred feet in front of me. I sprinted forward and with ease tackled the buck and pinned it down, as I began to drink its blood. I repeated this process with two more deer before the hunger in my stomach finally ceased. I had finally figured out away to stop my hunger without killing anyone.

            I ran again this time far up north to try and see where I was. I was in Missouri well far away from anyone I cared about so I decided to go into the city. I headed for the mall because I needed some new clothes to change into other that the torn tattered ones that currently clung to my body. It must have been early cause the mall was relatively empty as I walked to the first store I saw. I quickly glanced around to find a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. I headed to the register when I came across another smell so delicious it was mouth watering. That was when realized that no matter how full I was the temptation to kill was there so I diverted straight to the front door and quickly ran out. I was back into the forest in no time where I abandoned my old clothes and put on my new jeans and t-shirt. Then I went and sat down by the stream and wondered if I would ever be able to be around humans despite the fact that I no longer was.

* * *

            The spring quickly passed into summer and then into fall living this lifestyle that I had not chosen. I spent much of my time looking into the future of the family I had left behind. I missed them so much and was glad that they had stopped focusing on my so called death. Instead I saw my sister in her homecoming dress and my dad threatening her date. As much as I loved to watch I knew that I could never go back. I thought about them all the time and it seemed that the more I did the closer I got to Pennsylvania and my family but as soon as I realized it I would move further from it.

            Then one night while I was hunting a vision came to me of the man who had bit me and made me like this. He was walking around a familiar neighbor hood and towards the house that was once mine. He then moved in one swift move up to the second story window and peered through it. He was staring at my sister while she was sleeping. Preparing for another hunt, but this time of my own sister.

            I was over come with hatred and knew that I had to stop this from happening so  I turned and headed straight for my old hometown. I was far away so I knew it would take the full night of running to get there but I kept moving as fast as I could. Then I was stopped by another vision of my house and family, he was there and he had decided not to wait so he was going to break into my house and torture my family. He would take them out one by one ,tied up and gagged, and take them to the cemetery to torture them for his own amusement.

            My hatred turned into disgust as I ran faster and faster I was only fifty miles from Allentown and I was closing in fast. I decided to head straight for the cemetery where he would be at. I finally got into the city and raced down the familiar streets right to the cemetery I had seen in my vision. When I got there I found my father there bound and gagged and out cold I knew that I couldn't leave him there so I waited for the killer to return this time with my mother in hand he tossed her aimlessly on the ground and turned to go retrieve what he thought was the most prized possession, my sister. I hurried quickly to the place where my mother and father were laying only so see my mothers eyes wide opened and staring at me. I saw a big tear in her eye as I began to untie her. She wrapped her arms around me in tears as I started to explain but then I saw that it was to late he had already saw me and was planning killing me then I felt a rock hard slam on my back as I flew over my mother and into a tree.   “leave him alone” my mother shrieked

            But before she could even get another word in he hit her hard and she flew into a tombstone and was out cold. That's when I saw my sister laying on the ground close to where my mother just was this infuriated me as I dived straight for the killer. But he was faster he grabbed my arm and diverted me onto the ground before he kicked me up again. He then pulled a sharp steak out of his bag and lunged at me but I was ready I jumped up and flipped on to his back causing him to smash into the ground and the steak to fly out of his hand. He rolled me off of himself and flung me hard into a near by grave stone and flew forward and punched me hard in the face. It felt like my skin had cracked all the way through but I knew I had to fight so I kicked up with all my might and he flew up in the  air as I took off for the steak. As I reached it he landed on top of me causing me to slam flat to the ground. That's when I felt a sharp pain in my chest and rolled over to see the steak had pierced me right where my heart was. I gasped as I fell to the ground writhing In pain. I heard him laugh as he turned and headed for my family. That is when I pulled the steak out and launched it at full speed toward the killer and it made its mark right on his back and went straight through. He fell to the ground and I knew that it wouldn't be long before he was dead, and I dead as well.

* * *

I had never thought of how I was going to die but

I figure it is righteous to die protecting the ones I love.

 


Over The Edge
Brittany Mooney, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Melanie Peterson

       My life was perfect.  PERFECT?  Did I just say perfect?  I lied.  My life isn’t perfect.  I’m not sure when this all started, but I wasn’t aware of how bad I looked.  When I looked in the mirror, I expected to see something different than what I saw, something pretty and something not frightening.  This was not the case.  I looked through bloodshot eyes into a mirror to see ugliness.  What was wrong with me?  I looked like shit.  My hair, it was in a TERRIBLE mess.  Did I even brush my hair today, I wondered.  Black eyeliner was smeared halfway down my face, and the smile I once had worn on my lips was far gone.  There was no hint of color, just paleness in my face.  I was too close to a breaking point.
       No one understands me, I’m not normal, I thought.  All I saw was wasted time.  I hated the look of my face; I was an image of depression.  I felt fat.  Was I overweight?  What had happened to the athletic body I remembered?  The more I looked in the mirror, the more I disagreed with the image that was present.  “The mirror is just playing games with me,” I whispered.  The redness in my eyes took away the pretty.  I had enough; I decided to stop looking in the mirror and I slowly left the bathroom.  I headed to my bed.  Maybe I could sleep this off, and maybe I was dreaming.
       Before long, I was back in the bathroom.  Pacing, walking back and forth, four steps forward, turn around and four steps the other way.  I stopped.  My hands shook as I put my fingers through my hair.  I felt like my life was spinning, or maybe it was the room?  I continued to pace back and forth. What to do, what to do? “What should I do with myself?” I whispered.  Why wouldn’t anyone listen to me?  Why did everyone choose to ignore me?  Did I need attention?  Was that all?  I sat down on the closed toilet lid with my elbows resting on my legs and my hands holding my head up.  My stomach growled for attention for about the fifteenth time in the last hour.  I didn’t feel like eating. Here comes a wave of nausea.  I stood up, and I became dizzy.  The room started spinning, spinning.  Faster and faster it spun.
       I woke up on the bathroom floor.  I didn’t know how long I’d been there.  It must not have been long, because no one noticed my absence.  My head hurt; it was throbbing.  I wondered if I had hit my head when I fainted.  I did faint, right?
       I felt another wave of nausea.  I felt like I wanted to puke.  I opened the toilet lid.  I thought, no, please don’t, no don’t, but it was too late.  Up came vomit.  It was clear and not much came up.  I took a piece of toilet paper and wiped my mouth off.  I felt better.  I stood up, flushed the toilet and went to the medicine cabinet.  I needed medicine.  My head felt like someone took a wooden baseball bat to it, and it throbbed worse than before.  I took seven pills and put two in my pocket.  I plain out swallowed them; I didn’t need a drink.  Screw a drink.  I’ll just swallow them.  I didn’t feel like drinking anything anyway.  I felt sick again.  I went back to my kneeling position in front of the toilet and stayed there until I relaxed more.
       I got up from my knees where I had been in front of the toilet.  I left the bathroom and slowly walked to my room. I checked my clock; it was only 5:27 pm? “The day is going slow for a Saturday,” I muttered.  I walked downstairs slower than I had walked to my room.  My house was really dark.  Where the hell is everyone? I said to myself.  I found the kitchen; I knew I had to eat just to make some of the hunger pains go away.  I hadn’t eaten all day.  I don’t even think I’d eaten that much yesterday or the day before.  I am sure I am dehydrated, too.
       I didn’t want to eat, not at all, but I started to look for something I could eat. I found bread and the peanut butter.  I knew this was going to be hard, but as my hands shook even more as, piece by piece, I slowly fed my starving stomach.  What’s next?  What do I do?  My body shivered as I walked to the couch.  Maybe I could find something on TV.  I felt like I had just worked out nonstop to the point where I had very little energy.
       I’m glad my family and I do not eat a meal all together.  I wouldn’t be able to eat.  My hand would shake as I picked at my food.  They would see that something was up, that I wasn’t eating much.  I still am eating, right?  I’m not completely not eating, and most of the time, I don’t have much of an appetite.  Food is just a want.  I don’t need it, I don’t, I don’t, I told myself.
       I awoke on the couch to my family coming in the house.
       “We have pizza!  You better eat some before it gets cold,” my mom shouted.
       “Mom, I just ate.  I’m not hungry.”
       “I haven’t seen you eat recently.  Is everything all right?”
       “Yes, mom, I eat!”
       “Oh, okay.  I guess I have been kind of busy.”
       After that, I decided I would go upstairs.  I do not like being around my family very much. We aren’t exactly what a normal family would be.  Why did my mom say something about me not eating?  Maybe she knows I have not been eating much lately or maybe she has noticed my weight. What could have sent me this far over the edge?
       I went upstairs to my room and found my phone.  “Wow, no new text messages.  I have no friends,”I said.  There must be a way that I could cheer myself up.  All I wanted to do was curl up into a ball and sleep.  Not like anyone would care or notice anyway.  I have no one to talk to and no one to cheer me up.  This isn’t normal. Maybe I should go somewhere to pass time; it is a Saturday, but I’m not too sure getting in my car and driving would be a good idea.
       Even though I didn’t think getting into a car and driving would be a good idea, I decided to do it anyway.  I found my shoes and keys.  I calmly walked to my car without even saying a word to anyone.  I had a friend who lived thirty minutes away; maybe that would be a good place to go.  Just driving around on country roads sounded fine to me.
       One of my favorite songs came on the radio station.  I cranked the radio up very loud.  I then backed out of my driveway and pushed the gas kind of hard.  I wasn’t in a rush, but I wanted to get out of the house, get away.  I drove out of my neighborhood and made my way to country roads.  I didn’t care what the speed limit was.  In my life, I had no limits.  I pushed the gas, and as soon as I knew it, I was up to 70 mph.  There was no one around, so who cared if I sped?  Driving fast made me feel alive, and I liked feeling alive.  Speeding was addicting, and I couldn’t stop.  I got up to 100 mph and decided I was going way too fast, but I couldn’t stop.  I couldn’t stop speeding, just like I couldn’t stop the pain in my life.  There was an intersection with a stop sign coming up.  It was getting closer and closer.  It didn’t really occur to me that I should start hitting my brakes until the last minute.  As I approached the stop sign, I was still going 60.  I hoped no one was coming because there was no way I would be able to stop in time, so I decided I would just go through the stop sign and intersection without stopping.
       Right before I went through the stop sign and intersection, I looked to my right then I looked to my left. “OH, SHIT!” I shouted.  There were cars coming in both lanes, but I couldn’t stop.  I was pretty sure I was going to hit the cars.  I heard two honks and I attempted to slam on my brakes, but it was too late.
       I didn’t know what happened; I woke up in an awkward position in my upside down car.  I couldn’t move and I hurt really badly.  I was extremely confused and felt very lonely.  I heard sirens outside, and I could only hope that help was coming.  I was getting tired, and without even realizing it, my eyes closed shut.
       I woke up in a hospital bed, alone once again.  Where was my family?  Maybe they had already been here to visit.  At least I had gotten help right away.  I don’t really know what happened, and I was confused once again.  I must have been out because the last thing I remembered was that I was in my upside down car.  I didn’t realize that my life was this bad.  I was out of control and this was a huge wakeup call.

Ugly
Alisha Stirn, Delphos Jefferson
Sponsoring Teacher: Christine Siebeneck

       I feel my eyes slowly starting to close, and the dreams begin.  Space is closing in, and it’s getting hard to breathe. The chills run through my veins; the adrenaline makes my heart beat as if it will come out of my chest.  I’m running, running, running, and I can never seem to get away from the man behind me.  I fear him, but I know him.  I want him to stop; I want him to know how bad he is hurting me, but he never listens, never understands.  In the end, no one believes me.
       The angel picture on the wall is speaking to me.  The little girl is saying, “Shia, this is your life, as terrible as it may seem.  Someone has chosen this for you.”  I wake from this terrible nightmare to begin another.  If you look upon my life, it seems to be a nightmare, but no one has been killed.  I try to run from this man, but I also want to run to him.  This shadowy figure is supposed to be my father, my rock and my support.  His mistakes have become my life.  Then one day, this person, so inhumane and vile, becomes him, and I start to realize why I don’t remember some of my childhood or past relationships.  I struggle to remember my childhood, playing in the mud and going swimming.  I can only retrieve the mental pictures of pain and suffering.
       When I was little, we lived in a big white house with a grand evergreen close to the front support beams.  As you walked in the front door, there was a large dining room with hardwood floors and a very aged wooden hutch.  The large windows showed me the freedom I could achieve, but that I would have to work hard to achieve it.  I can remember the suppers at the table, but only the food, not really any faces or feelings of closeness to these people.  We would never really have “family talks,” just what went on in our day, and that’s only if someone was not too selfish to listen.  The next room you came to was the living room.  This was one of my favorite rooms, but I’m not sure why.  I had to share a room with my brother when I was little, but I would come downstairs and sleep on the couch.  Maybe I was just trying to give him his own space, since he was years older than I was.  I remember the kitchen because that’s where my mom spent most of her “free time,” as my father would call it.  It is one of my most hated memories.   I was so little that I should not have had to go through a traumatizing experience, even though it didn’t happen directly to me. “You’re fucking him, aren’t you?”  Those words rang through my head as I tried to cover my ears and make it stop.  “Why would I, when I have such a wonderful man at home!”
       No matter how hard I tried to drown out the noises, they kept rushing at me all at once. The slap was what brought me back to reality.  On this night, time seemed to stop: his fist came up and connected with her face in slow motion.  I lay with her that night.  I remember the frustration in her eyes.  My dad came in later.  “I’m sorry” was all he would say.
       “Just leave her alone.  That’s what she wants.”  I said those words, and they seemed to echo through the room.  “Shia, go to bed” was all she would say.  I felt like my eyes were going to pop out of my face.  I wanted to move, but I was frozen to where my little feet stood.
       Through the days of my adolescence, I can’t remember any more happy times, or any times at all, for that matter. My brothers and sisters came and went as I, for what seems like years, was frozen in time.  I struggle every day to remember what my childhood was like.  I wanted to be the little girl you see on the playground with her dad, being pushed on the swings or twirled on the merry-go-round.  But that wasn’t meant to be.  When I was six, my parents got divorced, which I hoped would happen.
       I moved with my mom and brother and sisters to a town close by.  It was hard, at first, to fit in.  I was alone most of the time, left to my own thoughts.  We lived with my mom’s best friend, Red.  She had three children of her own, and space to be alone was a struggle.  Her boyfriends were wonderful, only sarcasm, of course.  Most would come and go; others would stay.
       There was a little restaurant uptown where my mom and sisters worked.  I would come up sometimes to eat or to socialize with the regulars who came there.  I never remember seeing him, but he was obviously there.  One night after we had moved back to Red’s house, he came, my mom’s new “friend.”  She had one boyfriend before, but none of us got to meet him.  This new friend’s name was William.  The only real thing I remember about him was his big red nose.  He had a faint resemblance to Rudolph.  After what seems like moments later, we moved in with him.  William was a drinker, and when he drank, it was to get drunk.  He would act silly.  At first it was hilarious, but after a while, it got old.  My mom got a new job because of him, which was for the better.  She still has it to this day.  She is a Corrections Officer.  During this time, I would pretty much be left home alone with William.  I never really got to understand who he was.
       Then he began to touch me.  I don’t remember much about it, but I remember it was bad.  A rush of feelings, like hurt, betrayal and shame, was all I felt everyday during that year.  I was nine when it happened, but I knew right from wrong.  I told a friend.  We were just walking to my house one day, and we were telling stories.  “My step-dad molested me.”  After the words left my mouth, I knew it had changed my life.
       “Why wouldn’t you tell anyone?”  My friend was shocked.  My dad called the cops, and that was one of the only days in my life my dad ever hugged me.  I finally thought, maybe he finally understood my pain.  I told them my story the best that I could, but in the end, no one believed me.  I was just a small lost child who couldn’t decide between one parent and the other.  I went to live with my dad exactly the day of Christmas break of my 3rd grade year.  I was nervous.  I didn’t know anyone.  I wanted to be with my family.  I grew up a lot that year and in the years following.  I had to cook and clean and pretty much raise myself.  I did make some friends, but they treated me horribly. They would pick on me and make me do things I didn’t want to.  I kept coming back for more.  I don’t know if I realized it, or if I just thought they would change.  My dad was a piece of shit.  He would work all day, come home and do whatever he pleased.  I remember being in my room and him making me come out into the living room to go to the kitchen and get him a Pepsi.  All he would do is sit and smoke cigarette after cigarette.  I didn’t know it growing up, but I probably smelled like an ashtray every single day.  That wasn’t the worst of it, though.  I don’t remember when it started, but I remember the hitting.  I would say something “smart” or “talk back,” and I would get hit, and not on the butt like most kids.  That would have been nicer than a couple smacks across the face.  I can remember one time, on the way to my cousin’s graduation, he asked me, “Is it too hot in here,” here meaning the car, and I said something, maybe like “well, yeah?”  Then he hit me, literally.  I got like four smacks to the face.  After that, I tried my best to stay out of his way.  Another incident was when I came home late.  That was the first time he hit me enough to make my nose bleed.  I try to look back now and remember the rest of them, but my memory has blocked them out.
       I am seventeen now.  That was my life.  I have to live with the choices that other people chose for me.  I try to make myself a better person, but sometimes I just want to let go.  I see my step dad every few weeks.  I have to live with most of the awful memories, but hopefully, it brings him even more pain to see my face.  I tend to separate myself from my brother, sisters, and mom.  I love to be around them, but they don’t understand who I am.  I would love to tell them one day that they were wrong and that I was telling the truth.  But all truth comes in time.  My dad has calmed down a lot since the accident.  That was about three years.  My dad still gets angry from time to time. I tend to just not come home, and then I don’t have to deal with him.
       I do live everyday with lost memory and depression.  I wish sometimes I had a life like a “normal” person, a person who had both parents, some brothers and sisters, and never really had to face major problem.  This was my life story.  As I read back through, I feel sad that I had to go through things like that.  It’s in my past now, and that’s where I intend to keep it.  

Life After You
Brittany Etgen, Delphos Jefferson
Sponsoring Teacher: Christine Siebeneck

       Love is an empowering force that drives us to do crazy things.  It’s beautiful, ugly, incredible, and even sometimes most painful.  I wish I could say it’s easier to fall out of love than in love, but to tell you of such things I would be lying and making love out to be simple, when we all know it is no such thing. 
       “What are you doing tonight?” asked Landen.
       “I was thinking I would go over to Alex’s house, he’s having a few people over, you should go with me,” replied Matt.
       “Alright sounds good to me, we can meet at my house at 6:30 and we’ll go from there,” said Landen.
       “Okay, see you later,” Matt said as he hurried to his last class of the day.  Landen was sixteen years old with shaggy dark hair.  He was easy on the eyes, but he was no Brad Pitt.  He had his own sense of style, he wore no designers clothes, and he was more of a band shirts and jeans kind of guy.  He had never been truly in love, but he had said those three words before not putting much thought into the meaning.  He didn’t know that soon enough he would find the real meaning and it would surround him with feelings he had never felt before. 
       Matt arrived at Landen’s house and then they were off to Alex’s house for the evening.  When they got there they greeted Alex and saw that Alex’s other friend Aaron was over.  Aaron was talking about how his girlfriend would be arriving in a few minutes and was asking what we all would be doing for the night.  They all decided to go outside and started a conversation about music but soon switched over to Matt’s complaining of his girlfriend and how they had been fighting lately.  Matt said “She always seems to----“ Landen didn’t listen in on the rest of his words because something caught his eye.  Aaron was walking towards them holding the hand of a girl.  Them together isn’t what caught his eye though, the girl did.  She was beautiful; Aaron was a nice guy, but Landen couldn’t understand how he managed to get a girl like that.  She had brown eyes, brown short hair, wore a pink shirt and jeans.  Aaron and the girl were standing by them now and Aaron introduced her, “This is my girlfriend Allison.” They all greeted her and tried to make her feel comfortable because it was all the guys and no other girls.  She started to get to know them a little, but Landen stayed quiet.  He seemed to be shyer now that Allison had arrived.  Something about Allison really intrigued Landen, he couldn’t seem to take his eyes off of her beauty and he loved the way she seemed different from most girls.  After an hour or so they all decided to go inside.  They went into the kitchen to have some cake that was left over from Alex’s birthday just a few days before.  They all ate in the living room and talked about how they were excited about the rock concert they were going to attend soon.  As they finished their cake they went into the kitchen to put their plates away.  Allison and Landen were the last two to put their plates away and started to talk about how the cake looked better than it tasted.  That was the first they had spoken besides introducing themselves.  Landen didn’t know why he was so shy around some girls, but she wasn’t just some girl she stood out to him and he couldn’t exactly figure out why this was.  He thought to himself, “Am I really attracted to Aaron’s girlfriend, I couldn’t be, I didn’t want to flirt with or be attracted to someone else’s girl.” They all went upstairs and Alex and Aaron started playing Guitar Hero against each other and everyone else sat and watched them.  Landen was talking with everyone, but then noticed Allison looking at him.  This is almost how things went all night between the both of them.  It was getting late so everyone was beginning to leave and they all said their goodbyes.
       A month or so went by and Landen soon had his mind off Allison he didn’t think there was anything special to why he noticed her.  He thought he just thought she was an attractive girl and even if there was more to it he couldn’t act on it, she had a boyfriend.  Well that day when Landen arrived at home he went on the internet to get onto his Facebook.  He saw he had a friend request and when he saw the name of this person he couldn’t help but grow a smile across his face.  It was Allison and she also sent him a message saying “Hey weren’t you at Alex’s house? How you been?”  That’s when it all started what he couldn’t help to avoid was that he met the girl that would change his life. 
       Landen responded to her message and they talked for hours.  They soon made a habit of this almost every day and they connected in a sort of way he hadn’t experienced before.  He couldn’t help but like Allison, she was something special, he saw that.  One day Allison and Landen were talking and she was upset because her and her boyfriend Aaron broke up.  Landen told her she was better off without him because Landen had learned from Allison that Aaron didn’t treat her very well at all.  Landen was there to comfort her and it was then they connected most.  Allison and Landen went into a rather deep conversation and they both came to admitting they had feelings for each other.  They started to spend a lot of time together and it didn’t take long for Landen to get the courage to step up and ask her out.  She said yes to his proposition and things were great, but nothing stays that way forever. 
       It didn’t take long for Landen and Allison to fall in love.  They were young but this was real love, they both knew it by the strong feelings they couldn’t help but feel.  One night they were at Landen’s house and they decided to watch a movie.  Landen and Allison didn’t pay much attention to the movie because they couldn’t help but talk to each other throughout the whole thing.  When the movie came to an end Landen faced Allison leaned in and kissed her softly, kept his forehead to hers, looked her into the eyes and said “I love you.”  Once the words came out he felt warm inside, this was the first time he spoke of these words and really meant them.  Allison said it back and when she said it he felt happier than he ever had before. 
       Months went by and they had their occasional fights, but they were in love and it never took them long to make up with each other.  They were crazy about each other and nothing could keep them apart.  Things started to change some time later.  One day they started to fight, but this fight didn’t seem to get resolved, it was a constant guilt trip put on Landen.  They started to fight like this often and they didn’t know what to do.  Landen and Allison would talk about it but then would just fight more.  Landen didn’t know where to turn so he started to spend more time with his friends.  He thought maybe since they were spending so much time together they needed some space.  They had been dating for about ten months now and Landen didn’t want to lose Allison, but he feared that he would soon. 
       One of the nights Landen was out with his friends they decided to stop at Chief’s to visit their friend Alyssa at work.  Alyssa was a girl from school; Landen hadn’t talked to her too often.  She came off as a nice person but sort of odd in a sense.  Well Alyssa and Landen started talking and she asked him what was wrong with him and his girlfriend.  He explained and Alyssa comforted him.  In his moment of weakness Alyssa leaned in and kissed him.  He kissed back, but quickly stopped the kiss and exited the car.  Landen knew he had to tell Allison what happened between him and Alyssa.  He knew it would change things but he knew it was the right thing to do.  He walked up to Allison and he said, “I need to tell you something.” His hands started to shake and his cheeks must have been apple red by how hot his face was feeling.  The words admitting his deceit came out with his voice trembling.  “I’m so sorry and before I tell you this I want you to know it was a huge mistake that will never happen again.  I love you so much Allison and I don’t want to ever lose you.  Me and Alyssa kissed and it didn’t mean anything to me, I’m so sorry.  I’ll do anything to make it up to you and I will have nothing to do with her to prove this to you,”  said Landen.  Allison yelled at him, was very upset and started to walk away.  Landen grabbed her to stop her but she told him to leave her alone she just needed some time.  Landen let her go this time; he didn’t blame her for being so upset.  He would have felt the same way; he wished he could take that night back more than anything.  After Landen kept calling Allison, she finally answered and said they could get together and talk about things.  Landen was terrified about what was going to happen.  They talked it out and decided to stay together, Landen tried to explain how sorry he was and she knew he really was. 
       Things started to grow better between Landen and Allison.  They fought just as much but seemed to resolve their fights in better ways.  They were so in love they didn’t want to give up on each other.  It was their one year anniversary and Landen wanted to do something very special for Allison.  He had something on his mind for a little while that he wanted to do so he decided he would take a chance on it.  He went to Allison’s house when she wasn’t home and Allison’s mother let him in after he explained he was putting something together for her because of their one year anniversary.  Landen went upstairs and at the top of the stairs he started to spread out rose petals all the way through the upstairs leading into her room.  He dressed himself very well, looking as if he was attending church or some big event.  He fixed his hair making sure there wasn’t any sticking up.  He looked out the window and saw Allison had arrived.  When she came in she went to him and hugged him tightly.  He pulled out a dozen roses and said, “These are for you too, but you only get them depending on your answer to a question I want to ask you.”
       Allison just looked at him, smiled and said, “Okay what is it?”
       Landen pulled something out of his pocket and then held Allison’s hand, leaned on one knee, and a ring appeared in his hand.  Landen looked up at Allison and said, “I know we’re young and have only dated for a year, but I have never felt so strong about anyone and I couldn’t see me spending my life with anyone but you.  You’re my first love and I want you to be my last, we don’t have to consider this a real engagement, but I want you to know you have my heart.  You’re who I want to be with for the rest of my life.”
       Tears came to Allison’s eyes, she smiled ear to ear, and she answered, “I feel the same way about you and would like nothing better than to spend the rest of my life with you.  I want this to be the real deal, me and you engaged couldn’t make any more sense to me.  I love you.”
       Landen stood up, pulled Allison into his arms and held her tightly. 
       A few days later Landen and Allison were lying next to each other and Allison had been acting as if something was wrong.  Landen asked what that something was and Allison replied “I need to tell you something.”  Landen felt nervous on what it was that she needed to tell him but he just let her talk.  She explained to him that about three months into their relationship she had cheated on him.  Allison apologized for keeping it quiet for such a long time but she said she didn’t know how to tell him.  Landen was upset because of how guilty he felt for cheating on her and how guilty she made him feel.   However, she had already done it to him before he even cheated.  Landen and Allison talked it over and he let it go because he cheated and knew how sorry he was for it and she seemed sincerely sorry too. 
       The next few months felt like a dream to Landen.  He felt a great deal of happiness because he had a beautiful and amazing fiancée and things were what he almost could consider perfect.   Unfortunately, Landen was wrong on this thought, things were going to change and he didn’t even see it coming.  He and Allison went to Allison’s house to just spend time together like they usually did when Allison’s mother walked in.  Allison’s mother always seemed to treat her unfairly.  She always made Allison feel low about herself and was always yelling at her for minor reasons. Her mother had an abusive boyfriend that she let stay over every night.  Allison didn’t like being home because of her.  When Allison’s mother walked in she started to yell at Allison because she didn’t do something right and she called her useless.  Allison was no such thing because she was the one that took care of the household.  Landen had seen her mother yell at her before, but after so much he couldn’t hold back anymore.  He pulled Allison into his arms and yelled back at her mother telling her mother she always made Allison feel like she was nothing and it was going to stop.  That he wasn’t going to let her treat Allison like that anymore.  He also told her maybe she should try and get her life together before she went and pointed fingers at Allison.  Allison’s mother told Landen he wouldn’t ever see Allison again and to get out of her house.  Landen ignored her demands and turned to Allison and said “Don’t worry everything is going to be alright.  Nothing can keep us apart and I love you.”  Landen left the house and he went home trembling because of how angry he felt. 
       Things after that were difficult.  With Allison only being fifteen years old, she couldn’t get away from her mother until she was eighteen.  Allison and Landen made a pact to wait for each other till she turned eighteen even though they knew things were going to be difficult.  Landen and Allison had to start sneaking around when they spent time together, which wasn’t very often.  It was as if they lived a million miles apart because of how little they saw each other.  Landen still was crazy about Allison.  This didn’t change anything for him; he just grew upset some days when he missed her.  Another day came along where he could see Allison, he was very excited and he just couldn’t wait to hold her in his arms.  It was September 20, 2009. Landen remembers this because it was what he thought of as one of the worst days he had experienced.  Allison came over to his house and she was acting differently.  Landen could tell something was bothering her.  He asked what it was and she said it was because of how their relationship had to be between them.  She couldn’t do the situation and thought they should break up.  Landen was upset, angry and so many emotions ran through his body.  He told Allison that she knew how things we’re going to be between them but she chose to do this now.  He was angry and didn’t want to be around her.  He told her to leave and she did so.
       Landen hated having to see her every day at school; he just wanted to get away and never have to see her again.  They spoke to each other not many days later and every time they did Allison would tell Landen she still loved him.  This made things even harder, but Landen always told her he loved her back.  Later that day Allison’s friend came up to Landen and told him he should know something about Allison.  She told Landen the real reason Allison broke up with him was because she had feelings for another guy, Chase and wanted to be with him.  Landen was angry and he couldn’t believe she would do something like that to him. He never thought words from someone could hurt so badly, they felt like a knife stabbing him, twisting and turning making him cringe.  He rushed through the halls to find Allison and told her he knew the truth and the real reason why she broke up with him.  Landen told her he never wanted to speak to her again and he was done with all the confusion she had to put on him every day.  He told her he didn’t want to have anything to do with her anymore. 
       That day changed Landen, he no longer believed in happily ever after.  He believed love was never enough and it would never work out between two people.  He started to have flings with a bunch of different girls.  He started drinking often and getting into drugs.  He tried to do anything and everything he could to stop thinking about Allison.  He hated that he loved her and just wanted to do anything to go at least a minute without thinking about her.  Landen was so determined to do so that one night drinking such a great deal of alcohol landed him straight into the hospital for alcohol poisoning.  He almost died and it made him think things over, he realized the alcohol really didn’t help, it made him feel worse.  He thought it was time for a change so he dropped the drugs, alcohol, and all the girls.  He thought he would turn his head around and focus on important things to try and get his mind off of Allison. 
       Allison and Landen started to talk on a regular basis again.  Landen finally forgave her for what she did to him but he would never forget it.  Landen learned things between her and Chase didn’t work out.  It turned out that Allison wasn’t Chase’s type; well no girl was Chase’s type unless maybe they resembled a guy.  Allison told Landen that she missed him and wanted to get back together in time.  Landen thought this over and he decided to give it shot again.  He knew there was always that possibility that she would hurt him again, but he didn’t care he just wanted her to be all his again.  They talked about dating again when Allison’s mother wasn’t so suspicious of who she was hanging around with.  Landen waited patiently and didn’t care how long it would take.  There were a few girls that had been interested in Landen and wanted to date him, but he turned them all down because there was only one girl for him.  It had been nearly five months now and Landen just wanted Allison back.  He thought it was going to happen until one day he heard a rumor that Allison liked another guy and had been hanging out with him lately.  Landen went to Allison and questioned her about this and she eventually admitted to it, saying it was true.  Landen was back to where he started before he was angry, confused, and upset.  He didn’t understand why she kept messing with his head like this.  She knew how to get under his skin and how to keep him holding onto her.  She took advantage of that talent she had. 
       Landen started to spend his days feeling angry and upset all the time.  He felt this because he just wanted to get over her.  He thought it was finally time to start trying and to stop holding onto the past.  It was the hardest thing he had to do.  He saw her everyday and they talked occasionally, she still always told him she loved him and missed him.  This made everything worse, he wanted to be her friend, to be there for her, but she always knew how to make him hold onto her.  He started to talk to Allison less but still was there for her when she needed someone.  Things we’re hard especially when he would see Allison going for another guy.  Landen felt as if he was going through withdrawal symptoms from a drug because of how bad it was killing him inside.  He just would take one step at a time to move on from her.  Landen was walking out of a Wal-Mart when he accidently bumped into a girl causing her to drop her things.  He apologized and helped her pick them up.  She was a beautiful girl, had green eyes and long brown hair.  He thought she was attracted and was a nice girl so he asked if he could take her out to lunch sometime.  She agreed to go out with him and introduced herself “I’m Jennifer and your name is?”  “I’m Landen, it’s nice to meet you,” replied Landen.  After spending time with Jennifer often his feelings started to slowly fade for Allison.  He found himself happy more often than he was upset.  He couldn’t remember the last time he felt this happy.  It was easier for him now because he didn’t have to see her because he had graduated.  He hadn’t seen her now for eleven months and things we’re easier, but he still wasn’t over her.  A few days later he ran into Allison and they talked for a little while.  Allison told him she wanted to spend more time with him and apologized for all the things she put him through.  She also admitted she wanted him back and wanted things to be good for them this time.  Landen denied her offer, telling her he forgave her, but she lost her chance a long time ago and they were better off as friends.  He realized in that moment he really meant this, he was truly over her.  He dated Allison for nearly two years and it took him a year and a half to get over her.  He felt alive again when for so long he couldn’t understand how his heart was still even beating.  Allison smiled and apologized once more.  They said their goodbyes and wished each other good luck with wherever their lives headed.  He watched Allison walk away into the distance and knew things were how they were meant to be now.